by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Politicians say there are so many things only government should do — explore outer space, provide airport security, supply utilities, etc. But even those things work better when the private sector does them.
NASA put rockets into space. But the private company SpaceX found a way to bring those same rockets safely back to earth. SpaceX now puts satellites in orbit for much less than NASA thought possible.
Private, competitive enterprises routinely find ways to do things more efficiently than lazy bureaucracies. After all, government can keep screwing up forever and just tax you more. But private companies must make a profit or die.
“Everybody loves the space program,” says Lori Garver on my TV show this week. Garver was President Obama’s former No. 2 at NASA, but now she admits, “It’s a government bureaucracy. Their incentives are not to do things more efficiently.”
Obama actually tried to privatize more of it. “NASA uses test stands that cost $300 million to refurbish, says Garver. “When I went to (Amazon’s) Jeff Bezos’s facility, Blue Origins, they were building the same quality test stand for $30 million. …That is crazy.”
Airport security also works better when government doesn’t run it.
After 9/11, politicians wanted to show they were making airport security tougher. Republicans at least vowed that TSA workers would not be unionized. But a few years later, Democrats won, and TSA became unionized. Now, lines are extra long, and the union whines that it needs more resources. That would be more money wasted.
Fortunately, Congress allows airports to beg for the right to opt out of the government-run system. Security lines move faster at airports that have. At San Francisco International Airport, the largest to privatize, travelers even told us the screeners were nicer.
They’re also better at finding stuff. The TSA tested them and found them twice as good at finding contraband as TSA screeners.
Private companies try harder. San Francisco’s company has screeners practice racing to find mock contraband. The fastest wins $2,000.