The Government is NOT the Public
By David Henderson
There’s a proposition on the November ballot in my area to study having a government agency use eminent domain to take over a private regulated water monopoly. I won’t say anything about the merits because this blog cannot legally take a stand on a ballot issue.
But I will discuss something I learned last night that I found incredibly interesting.
A friend texted me and asked me how she should vote on the proposition. I texted back to tell her and I gave some brief reasons. She texted back and said that that was her thinking also but that some friends of hers were surprised when she said that the study was about having the government take over the private company. They had understood the proposition to be about having the public, not the government, take over the private company. That’s somewhat understandable. One of the main slogans of the government takeover group is “Public Water Now.”
In other words, her friends distinguished between the government and the public. I distinguish between the government and the public also. In my writing, I make sure not to talk about the two as if they’re interchangeable. But I have many libertarian and economist friends who use the words interchangeably.
This latest discussion suggests that it’s more important to make that distinction than many have thought.
Sidenote: That’s part of why I have never been thrilled that the study of incentives in government is called Public Choice.