Listen. I'm middle-aged and I'm allowed to have some entrenched opinons. Here's what I believe and don't even bother trying to convince me otherwise.
I think there are some things that do not work in a for-profit business environment. When you have an eye on the bottom line first and foremost in these areas, these businesses will eventually suffer. No wait, the BUSINESSES won't suffer but the product or people they serve? WILL SUFFER. So no more push polls, Phoenix University. Bottom line, yes, the bottom line has to exist, but it can't be the main goal of ANY OF THESE SERVICES.
Scientific research (at least some of it can't be product driven)
Help for the poor
Help for children at risk**
Well, well. Isn't that interesting. So many of these things are run by the government. Maybe because it makes freaking sense? No one else is going to run this crap as a non-profit .... or in some cases as a charity. There will be no return on any investment in some of these areas--it least not in terms of hard, cold cash. And for people who can only measure success using profit as their tool, this has to be a nightmare.
It is possible to live in a world where we don't use public money to solve problems. After all, we have a history of small government in the good old days.
First to go in this new no-or-low-government intervention world: the kids, the mentally and physically impaired, because they don't have the funds to pay for anything. Most of us no long pay a tithe to a centralized church to take care of our poor. Beggars are already part of the landscape. A few more would make the cities more colorfully third world.
About the other services. There are other ways to run them, of course. We could pay a group like the Bow Street Runners and anyone who had money could get crimes investigated. The rest of us would usually be SOL if any sort of investigation is required.
Education. So we have to pony up for our kids. What percentage of the population really needs to know how to read? For the rest of us, maybe we can send our 12 years olds to be apprentices again.
We'd have to pay for fire insurance again so only the people who paid would get the pumpers to show up when their houses are burning down. So what if in the past some of those "fire companies" tended to show people what would happen if they forgot to pay their dues?
Defense....well. . We could reinstate the nobles system. I guess rich people could pay groups like Blackwater. One guy with a private army. Of course that army would have the employer's interests at heart.
And there's the stuff like infrastructure. Toll roads! They worked for centuries. Seriously, that one actually makes sense to me (until I try to drive into NYC. Grrr.)
So, sure. It can be done. But I suggest anyone who wants the good old days actually should read about how horrendous life could be. And we didn't even get into the fun stuff like researching the causes and cures for diseases.
Oh and medical care... well. That dropping-through-the-cracks archaic for-profit system is still part of our life, isn't it? Only these days we can't pay for our babies' births with a goat or two. Just do a search on Medical Insurance Nightmare and get stories like this one. or this one. or this one. or. . .
oh, and speaking of which, prisons should also not be for-profit. (and when we stop educating kids and feeding the poor we'll need more prisons) Why? Because when money comes to the forefront of the equation we have things like this happening. Or this