Excuse the late start and what is, admittedly, an imperfect analogue. Saw this last night and thought it was worth sharing, especially as we get closer to election season. Imagine if instead of having the choice to go to whatever grocery store your heart desires, whether it be Costco, BJ’s, A&P, Kroger, Whole Foods, Safeway, Wegmans, SuperValu, Target or Walmart, you could only go to one market. Not only would you be limited to which market you could go to, but you could only get a certain number/quantity/variety of groceries each week; no spoiling yourself on a bag of Double-Stuff Oreos or a quart of Haagen-Dazs.
Does this seem like some sort of dystopian nightmare of epic proportions, of a totalitarian government concerned not with the inalienable rights and welfare of its citizens, but with maintaining power and control over them? Sadly, this is not science fiction. In fact, this is almost exactly how our government-run education system works. Never thought of it that way, did you?
Suppose that we were supplied with groceries in same way that we are supplied with K-12 education.
Residents of each county would pay taxes on their properties. A huge chunk of these tax receipts would then be spent by government officials on building and operating supermarkets. County residents, depending upon their specific residential addresses, would be assigned to a particular supermarket. Each family could then get its weekly allotment of groceries for “free.” (Department of Supermarket officials would no doubt be charged with the responsibility for determining the proper amounts and kinds of groceries that families of different kinds and sizes are entitled to receive.)
Except in rare circumstances, no family would be allowed to patronize a “public” supermarket outside of its district.
Residents of wealthier counties – such as Fairfax County, VA and Somerset County, NJ – would obviously have better-stocked and more attractive supermarkets than would residents of poorer counties. And, thanks to a long-ago U.S. Supreme Court decision, families would be free to shop at private supermarkets that charge directly for the groceries they offer; such private-supermarket families, though, would get no discount on their property-tax bills.
When the quality of supermarkets is recognized by nearly everyone to be dismal, calls for “supermarket choice” would be rejected by a coalition of greedy government-supermarket workers and ideologically benighted collectivists as attempts to cheat supermarket customers from out of good supermarket service – indeed, as attempts to deny ordinary families the food that they need for their very survival. Such ‘choice,’ it would be alleged, will drain precious resources from the public supermarkets whose (admittedly) poor performance testifies to the fact that these supermarkets are underfunded.
And the small handful of people who call for total separation between supermarket and state would be criticized by nearly everyone as being, at best, delusional and – it would be thought more realistically – more likely misanthropic devils who are indifferent to the malnutrion and starvation that would sweep the land if only private market forces governed the provision and patronizing of supermarket. (Some indignant observers would even wonder aloud at the insensitivity of referring to grocery shoppers as “customers”; surely the relationship between suppliers of life-giving foods and the people who need these foods is not so crass as to be properly discussed as being ‘commercial.’)