George Graham

What’s Wrong With a Little Competition – from the Government?

According to the Associated Press, U.S. senators are meeting “behind closed doors” to consider establishment of a government-run health care program that would compete with plans offered by private insurers. The tone of the news report made this seem somehow sinister, as if the senators are secretly plotting to undermine “private enterprise.”

healthBut I think a government-run alternative to private health insurance would be a great idea. I don’t see why it would put the private insurers out of business – as the AP article quoted them as saying. After all, the free-market folks insist that anything run by “bureaucrats” cannot possibly be efficient. Isn’t that the main argument in favor of “private enterprise”? So why would the private insurers be afraid of competition from bureaucrats?

I would like to see government-operated alternatives to all kinds of essential services now offered by the private sector. I think there should be government-run insurance for homeowners, motorists and business operators, for example. I think the government should operate utility companies, too. In fact, if I ran the government I would explore opportunities for public ownership of at least one auto manufacturer. I would even consider letting investors buy shares in government run companies. That would offer pension funds an alternative to investing in those shady derivatives and other risky securities.

The way I see it, this kind of healthy competition would not be unfair to privately run companies. Those super-efficient tycoons, who insist they deserve huge salaries, multimillion-dollar bonuses and lavish perks, should be able to outwit dull, underpaid bureaucrats hobbled by government red tape. Surely, it would only be a matter of time before private companies put the government owned operations out of business. Or would it? My guess is that privately run businesses are no more efficient than those operated by the state. It would be interesting to see how “private enterprise” fares against “socialism” on a level playing field.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for