Common Sense Comes to Town!

Common sense is the most fairly distributed thing in the world, for each one thinks he is so well-endowed with it that even those who are hardest to satisfy in all other matters are not in the habit of desiring more of it than they already have. (Descartes)

From Cost Center to Income Center

Posted on | September 24, 2010 | No Comments

We widely enjoy criticizing the state apparatus and the various program expenses at all government levels. These are, in the public eye, nothing more than gigantic cost centers, necessary to service a more and more gluttonous, capricious and greedy population.

Hardcore neoliberals lobby for the replacement of the State by private business in many sectors (healthcare, education, etc.). The left demands instead a wider social net, more expenses, a better distribution of available resources and a stricter control on private enterprise, seen as a threat to the rights of citizens. As is generally the case in such debate, the solution comes partly from the arguments of both sides, which would benefit from cross-examination under a different light.

The major problem here is that we insist on seeing the state as a cost center. Services aren’t free, that much is obvious. But why shouldn’t the State also be an income center? Our departments, agencies and government organizations have each developed an enviable expertise in their own field, and this knowledge can easily be cashed in. Let’s use two departments as examples.

We will begin with Immigration and citizenship. There is right now a cancerous growth of private immigration “advisors”, billing exorbitant fees to foreigners wishing to move to Canada, in exchange for services of debatable quality. But the best advisors should be those working in the Department of Immigration! Why not sell their services then, which would guarantee the quality of the information received by the customer, and would improve his chances of success? Let’s allow the government to compete with the private sector; this will force everyone to improve their methods, and balance the market, while protecting immigrants from crooks and putting the department back in the black ink.

The same pattern can be applied to health care. Seniors’s homes problems with certification have garnered a lot of press recently. Why not market a consulting service to accompany entrepreneurs as they set up their establishment, increasing their chance of obtaining quickly the necessary certification?

You can do this with every department. We must simply assume that, once fundamental rights are covered, everything else can be marketed on open and competitive markets, and nothing should prevent the state from entering these markets as well, to the extent that the State is not favouring its own businesses (in this case, competitive markets would vanish). In some situations, this could balance the market and protect helpless consumers. Everybody wins, socialists and neoliberals.

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