If like me you’ve marveled at the largely uninterrupted supply of food in the US during the pandemic, you might appreciate what The Economist had to say about that subject in The global food supply chain is passing a severe test.

It’s not just food. Never did I expect to be complimenting my wireless services, but from AT&T to Zoom, service is satisfactory and when problems arise they are addressed immediately.

Unfortunately, the same is not true of many services being provided by government. While the state performed excellently at the shut down that was critical to protecting our health, providing services has not gone as well. Millions have been laid off but obtaining unemployment insurance has been difficult. (As we wrote here, we don’t blame the current administration or legislators for that problem, though we certainly will if California doesn’t ascend to the highest levels of service in that regard.) Distance learning is spotty, including to households that have plenty of broadband access, even though the state spends more per K-12 student than the average private school, and as non-profit providers of post-high-school services we admire have successfully switched to all-virtual models while state-operated community colleges stumble.

One difference is competition. Mollie Stone’s doesn’t want to lose my grocery shopping to Cal-Mart, AT&T doesn’t want to lose my account to Verizon, and Zoom doesn’t want to lose my patronage to Google Meets. Ditto non-profit organizations to which my wife and I donate that, e.g., distribute food and finance park improvements. But the State of California is the only supplier of unemployment insurance and few families can afford private K-14 services. That’s why the state must be governed by lawmakers focused on the general interest.

While he was in the presidential race, Bernie Sanders never had a word of praise for the private sector. In sharp contrast, every day I praise that sector without which we wouldn’t have the vast majority of services and products on which we rely. But also I praise government without which we could not have achieved a quick shut down that saved lives and that will continue to be the only provider of unemployment insurance and public safety and the dominant provider of public education services. We must demand the same excellence in the provision of public services as we demand of private sector providers. Lawmakers cannot succeed in that quest without our help. To achieve that excellence, we must persistently support lawmakers who legislate in the general interest.

Govern For California supports lawmakers who legislate in the general interest.

Written by

Lecturer at Stanford University and president of Govern For California

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