In fact, it’s the social welfare state that’s growing by leaps and bounds. By the time Congress finishes reauthorizing the SCHIP program, for example, even middle-class children will be on the dole, eligible to receive government-supplied health insurance.
Barber even manages to blame the free market for problems caused by the government. About Hurricane Katrina he writes, “Only in an advanced market society already privileging private philanthropy and market voucher programs would [President Bush’s] preference for religious philanthropy and housing voucher approaches have any legitimacy at all in responding to a public disaster on this scale.”
But it was government organizations that failed (FEMA with its rusting, unoccupied trailers) while private charities such as Habitat for Humanity built homes. In fact, government red tape kept the private sector from being more effective. While Habitat for Humanity built 6,000 homes in Asia in the year following the 2005 tsunami, it expected to take two years to build 1,000 homes along the Gulf coast. A big reason for the difference is government-mandated building codes.
“The market had already played a role in weakening New Orleans’s defenses against category-five hurricanes,” Barber also insists. For example, “safety standards for levees had been pushed aside as too expensive or circumvented by corruption.”
But if the levees had been built by private companies working on a for-profit basis, those companies would have had every reason to build them well. It’s because the levees were left in government hands that lawmakers were able to divert money away from them toward pork-barrel projects.
The best way to improve post-hurricane New Orleans would have been to make it into a free-enterprise zone with low taxes and minimal government interference. Instead, Washington has poured more than $130 billion into the area -- and has little to show for it.
“Privatization, whether of education, housing or social security, makes us less of a public,” Barber writes. But that’s exactly wrong. When citizens are responsible for educating their own children, when they own their homes and when they control their investments they’re forced to behave as responsible adults. When they can allow the government to teach them, house them and provide their retirement, they have no reason to set aside childish behavior.
Things are good, and getting better -- specifically because of the international growth of the free market.