The Government Superstore

Posted 5 months, 1 week ago | Originally written on 5 Jan 2024

Suppose you read a announcement that the government would like to take over the operation of the largest supermarkets with a view of ensuring quality and affordable prices. "In the wake of the current economic woes," it read, "we believe that the public will be assured of higher quality and better prices unlike the scheming middlemen who are trying to impoverish our beloved citizens."

If you're like me and have grown up knowing that supermarkets know best how to achieve their objectives which, in some wierd way, just so happens to work out in our interest, then you would be more than baffled at the suggestion. It is clear that there are certain things we rely on which operate so much better in private hands than in the government's hands. The most we expect from the government is that it would ensure that all such private hands operate on a level playing field.

However, when it comes to social amenities - like employment, healthcare, education etc. - we seem to give the government as wide a berth as it requires to shower us with platitudes on how much better it is to have these resources in its 'able' hands. It is either that our natural intuition about these amenities is correct or how inconsistent our reasoning is to believe this.

Social amenities are no more special than the goods and services we procure from the local supermarket; they are subject to the exact same laws of supply and demand. There are shortages of doctors making treatment expensive either financially or temporarily (if you don't pay in cash then be prepared to pay in waiting times!); better education does exist but is not as widespread as we like to imagine; and the prevalence of good employment relies on such a wide range of factors that anyone who persuades you on their ability to increase employment is lying to you that they have the best snake oil on the market.

In a word, if you are appalled at the thought of having the government run your local food stand the you should nigh well do as much be when you hear of 'government employment schemes'.

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