Privatization Often, But Not Always, Makes Sense
Hernando TodayThe issue: Privatization of county government services. Our opinion: In some cases it makes a lot of sense, but officials should examine prospects carefully.
Published: March 22, 2009
Published: March 22, 2009
When government provides a service, it often costs more and takes longer to deliver than its private sector counterparts.
It's the nature of the beast.
Private companies exist to make a profit - acting quickly, efficiently and with excellent customer service to help ensure bottom line results for the company's owner. Otherwise, he or she is soon out of business.
Government entities are driven to serve a public need. Making money isn't a consideration, as well it shouldn't be. While that can lead to cost overruns, inefficiency and looking out for the overall public good as opposed to an individual's needs, government is the only way to make sure many community needs are met.
If there's a niche - a way to make money - private enterprise will usually find it. When there isn't a money-making way to provide it but a vocal segment of the community wants it, government oftentimes steps in.
Both do an outstanding job at many functions. Both fail at others.
Still, it does make sense to explore the privatization of government services whenever possible.
For too long, government has expanded its role to provide more and more services based on smaller and small groups' needs even when those same or similar services can be provided by the private sector.
THE Bus, a complete failure by anyone's estimation - except those few who depend on it for the inconvenient transportation it provides - is a good example. Private enterprise could get those same people to the places they want to go at far less cost and with much better service, but it still wouldn't make a profit. That doesn't mean a public/private partnership wouldn't be a more efficient and cost-effective way to deliver the vital service.
But that's another story.
County officials currently are looking at the ideas of privatizing county libraries and courthouse security.
Privatizing courthouse security sounds like a great idea. Privatizing libraries, on first blush, doesn't look like such a hot idea.
Still, we're glad to see that county government is exploring options to cut costs in these troubling economic times. Such moves would also open up more opportunities for private business to prosper.
We like the idea of privatizing courthouse security because it doesn't take a well-trained deputy to do such a job. It's far too costly and a waste of manpower. Security companies often hire retired law enforcement personnel, and they are better suited - and less costly - to serve that role. It's an opportunity for government to save money and for private enterprise to fill a niche and make money.
Privatizing libraries is a dicier issue. We're not sure exactly how that would work to fulfill the community's needs, but we're interested to learn more. We're glad to see county officials exploring the idea, even though we're not convinced it would serve the public's needs as well as government can.
We're watching and we're interested, especially when government can be made smaller and private enterprise can successfully fill the niche. That's a true win-win for the taxpayer and businesses that pay taxes.
Now, what about the county's fleet department?