9 July 2014

the principles of state provision

I propose the following as a working hypothesis.
A service, the provision of which is taken over by the state (directly or indirectly) and which faces no significant competition from the private sector – that is to say, no competition on a scale comparable with its own – will soon cease to play the role of fulfilling consumer demand.
Within thirty years of complete or partial takeover, the activities it performs will begin to deviate noticeably from what is actually wanted by individual users.
If there remains a small component of private provision, the characteristics of the entire sector will nevertheless be determined by those operating in the state sector, and the private version will begin to change to match the state version.
After forty years the private version will cease to differ from the state version in any significant qualitative ways, though there may continue to be minor advantages – slightly more respect for customers, slightly less inefficiency, etc. – and those differences may be important.
After fifty years the majority of the state service’s operations, while superficially resembling what would be provided in response to consumer demand in the absence of state involvement, will have the effect of causing harm or frustrating, rather than satisfying consumer wishes.