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Succeeding by Failing

Here’s a letter to the New York Times:

The presumption is now widely shared that America’s infrastructure is “crumbling” (Letters, Sept. 6).  Frankly, while I hardly believe that infrastructure in the U.S. is in ideal shape, I doubt that its condition is as dire as so many people now think it to be.  But let’s grant the truth of the presumption.

Apart from supplying national defense, policing, and courts of law, there’s no duty that people believe to be more central to the core role of government than building and maintaining infrastructure.  So if government can’t or won’t perform one of its core functions, why entrust it with additional functions – such as managing the costs of medical care – that are not at its core?

If, for example, Safeway supermarket routinely failed to adequately stock its stores with milk, canned vegetables, coffee, and other groceries, would its board of directors be acting wisely if that board approved management’s plan to expand into the business of retailing jewelry?

Donald J. Boudreaux

UPDATE: Karol here tells a telling account of one instance of private infrastructure provision in sub-Saharan Africa.