Name a government program or effort that has not worked well – particularly a huge one.
Can you do it? If not, is it because you aren’t thinking hard enough, or is it because you can’t fathom that something done by government is a failure? Surely it can’t be the case that EVERY program has been a good one, is it?
I would venture to argue that almost everyone could argue and demonstrate private programs and businesses that have been abject failures, regardless of political disposition. Why is the same not true of government? After all, the existence of failure is part of our humanity, it is insane to demand and expect that all programs work all of the time and for all people.
The real distinction ought NOT be whether some entity has failed at something, but rather what the responses to those failures have been over time. Nor do we require that failed programs necessarily go away, but surely the failure should induce some changes in behavior and resource allocation, no? So the right way, in my view, to be arguing “pro-” or “anti-” some program probably includes SOME measure of how successful it may or may not be, but rather what happens if and when it fails. And this is the point to emphasize about private versus government programs – name for me a major government program that has disappeared after its failure?
I can think of elements but not entire programs. For example, NASA closed down its Space Shuttle program. Why? Is this just one of many examples, or an exception that sort of proves the rule.
Finally, the distinction really ought not be about governments versus the private sector … it really should be broadened to any collective institution – a look at any “private” college campus is good enough evidence that this question need not only apply to governments versus markets.