Mark W. Hendrickson
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Selling properties outright is a great idea, but is “redeveloping … properties and consolidating … space” a great idea? Sorry, but I have no confidence in Washington’s ability to manage resources efficiently. Just sell the stuff and let private-sector experts in property management figure out how to make economic use of those properties.

Hopefully, H.R. 1734 would be a first step in a much larger privatization process. While the United States doesn’t have a large inventory of nationalized industries to privatize like the U.K. did in the ’80s, there are many assets that Uncle Sam could sell to the private sector to start reducing the national debt.

First, Uncle Sam could divest itself of vast swaths of federally owned land. Surely, the government needs nowhere near the 30 percent of our national territory that it owns.

Second, privatize AmTrak; privatize the Post Office and rescind its monopoly privilege; and completely privatize government-sponsored enterprises, so the taxpayer doesn’t get stuck with any more Fannies and Freddies.

Third, privatize the Government Printing Office and any other federal agency or office that unfairly competes with unsubsidized private companies.

Fourth, privatize any government activity that profits private businesses: energy research, the Export-Import Bank, the advertising programs in the Department of Commerce, etc. At a time when many large American corporations are sitting on record amounts of cash, we don’t need to increase the national debt to subsidize them.

Fifth, whether you can find a bidder or not, quit funding the PR and grant-bestowing desks in federal agencies. Their main function often is to use our tax dollars to promote their own expansion. If federal employees want to toot their own horn or give money to non-profits who will do their lobbying for them, let them do it on their dollar, not ours.

Finally, don’t waste time trying to reform bureaucracies or make them more efficient. Only the profit-and-loss calculus in competitive markets can do that. Put any federal agency on the block if it is performing a function that conceivably could earn a profit, and sell it to the highest bidder. (If there are no bidders, you’re looking at an economically unviable operation, so axe it—unless our lives depend on it.) If an agency isn’t fulfilling its purpose, and its primary function seems to be to provide well-paying jobs to otherwise unemployable holders of undergraduate and law degrees, then just pull the plug and abolish it.

Let’s hope that the whiff of privatization leads to far more than selling a few unused properties, and that there’s real movement toward shrinking the federal government by privatizing many of its properties and activities.

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Mark W. Hendrickson

Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson is an adjunct faculty member, economist, and fellow for economic and social policy with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.