Beyond Apologies: Myth #9: Private sector efficiency

by Debra Efroymson

A friend gets an ear infection in the middle of the night. He visits various private hospitals but none have a doctor available. He finally gives up and goes to a public hospital, which is shabby and not particularly clean, but where there are doctors on duty. On another occasion his cousin falls ill and is hospitalized over the weekend at an exclusive private hospital; only on the third day is he seen by a doctor.

It is a common belief that the private sector delivers far better services than does the public sector. There is some truth to the idea, and the public sector does also regularly contract out services from private companies. But the idea that the private sector is always, by definition, better at everything than are governments is nonsense. We needn’t look far to find examples of corruption, waste, cheating, and other failures in the private sector. Whether it be with prisons, water systems, electricity generation, rail service, or health care, the privatization of government services tends to lead to drastic price increases, worse services, and a range of other disastrous results.

Rather than pushing for privatization of government services, we could push for more attention and funding to the services on which we rely. The services might not be as glossy, but it would be an enormous relief to know that they are reliable, affordable (or free), and readily available. We need to protest for our rights rather than be conned by the advertising of big businesses out to sell us shoddy services in order to increase their profits!


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