Thursday, February 08, 2007

Renting It Out

As cities such as Chicago look at leasing infrastructure and other assets to private companies, George Will suggests that those cities may be confirming the view that governments could do more good by doing less.

Daley stresses that the assets sold are not "core competencies" of the city government, such as public safety and education. Actually, what competencies are really "core" is debatable. Leasing -- privatizing -- some cities' school systems probably would make the systems more competent. Perhaps the moral of Chicago's story is that what government can shed, it should shed.

This lesson was illustrated exactly 50 years ago by Murray Kempton, the finest practitioner of the columnist's craft, when he heard the great defense attorney Edward Bennett Williams deliver his successful closing argument for Jimmy Hoffa's acquittal. Kempton's conclusion: "To watch Williams and then to watch a Department of Justice lawyer contending with him is to understand the essential superiority of free enterprise to government ownership."

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