"The first step toward public ownership is recognizing that it is not the radical departure most imagine it to be. Two of the most cost-effective health providers in the United States—one a far-reaching insurance system, Medicare; the other a direct hands-on healthcare delivery system, the Veterans Administration—are run by the government. So, too, the largest pension manager in the country is a public entity: the Social Security Administration.
The US Postal Service, which employs 645,000 men and women, is another public enterprise that is generally regarded as well run by most experts—despite the recession, a reduction in the volume of mail because of electronic communications and a highly unusual 2006 Congressional requirement that the USPS pre-fund its pension benefits for the next seventy-five years. Recent cost-saving proposals for closing many small-town post offices and reducing services have triggered a popular backlash against the possible loss of an institution the public still values.
Another public enterprise, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), is one of the largest energy companies in the nation...
Recent research also challenges the familiar knee-jerk claims that private corporations are always internally more efficient than government-owned enterprises. Before Margaret Thatcher’s famous gutting of the British public sector, for example, productivity growth in the country’s nationalized mining, utility, transportation and communication companies consistently outpaced that of similar privately owned companies in the United States. To be sure, there are many bureaucratic public corporations, and sclerotic enterprises in the Soviet era were a breed apart. In the modern era, however, as Francisco Flores-Macias and Aldo Musacchio document in a recent Harvard International Review article, state-owned enterprises in many areas are, or can be, as efficient as their private counterparts.
Private companies also all too frequently run off to China or Mexico looking for cheap labor, leaving behind unemployed workers and wasted cities. Public enterprises stay here, maintaining jobs and sustaining rather than abandoning our communities. Public enterprises do not force cities and states to pay millions in “incentives” to encourage them to locate in a particular area—often only to move on later, leaving discarded people and deteriorating schools, houses, roads and public services.
Also, public enterprises do not spend huge amounts of money undermining the political process through extensive pro-corporate campaign advertising and lobbying. And public corporations are open to public scrutiny, while private corporations keep most of their internal decision-making secret."
Gar Alperovitz is a Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland.
to read "Beyond Corporate Capitalism: Not So Wild a Dream" published in: The Nation, May 26, 2012, click on
to hear Richard Wolff on "Occupying Our Future: Solutions to the Capitalism Crisis," click on