Better Government at Half the Price, by James Bennett and Manuel Johnson, Aurora, Ill.: Caroline House, 1981, 115 pp., $5.95.
"The Bureaucratic Rule of Two"—that a service provided by a public agency rather than a private firm costs more by a factor of two—receives stunning economic proof in Better Government at Half the Price. The book should be destined for the hands of every taxpayer with an income of more than $500 per month and an IQ exceeding 67.
The authors commence with Ben Franklin's old axiom, "In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes." This axiom, coupled with their concluding statement that "taxes can be cut dramatically, yet no government services need to be reduced (though perhaps many should be)," captures the flavor of the authors' argument. They proceed to itemize an amazing array of services that can be and have been provided by private enterprise at prices consistently following the Bureaucratic Rule of Two. Many of the services are sacred cows of traditional governmental operations, such as fire and police provision.
Carefully documented with data drawn from private research and governments' own files, the book submits proof of its hypothesis. It then offers a fascinating chapter presenting the opposing views of labor unions, which frankly admit that their words are self-serving and then trot out the old negative myths about big, bad business.
The book can be read easily in an evening. The Internal Revenue Service in its infinite wisdom and caprice should elect to mail it out with all tax returns (and charge for it) when we next are invited to contribute "our fair share." The world as we know it would change overnight.
Lou Witzeman is the chairman of a firefighting company operating in Arizona and a founder of the Private Sector Fire Association.