Government as a co-op

If you think about how government grew- it was to join and pool resources for the greater good. At first we had mutual firehouses where you bought “fire insurance” from different private mutual groups- until we let government take over. It was the one-stop shop for public safety- and as a “public organization” we owned it- and it responded to our needs.

That all changed somewhere starting around the sixties- where politics and marketing started to raise the cost of politics to the ridiculous prices we have now. The same has happened with public education- trying to meet all these standards that have been established by lobbyists. In fact- the whole shooting match has been corrupted and tainted by the  campaign money monster.

We’ve also failed to change and adapt our political systems and jurisdictions that were set in place in some cases in the 1800s. Why hasn’t government adapted and changed? Simple- lack of competition if you believe the free market dogma.

We’ve seen moves to counter the idea of government as a monopoly- charter schools, outsourcing public services- and “privatization” with little effect, other than to make things a bigger mess. We’ve got more rules, more regulation, more bureaucracy- and no one working on the plain old idea of “how do we improve the lives of our constituents every day.”

And it seems to me- there are some ways we could bring the power of the group together to improve the quality of life. If we just did a few of these things locally- we could create competitive advantages for our region that could help grow it back to health. For instance:

  • With energy deregulation- we now have all these “billing companies” that promise lower rates- yet still deliver the same products from DP&L and Vectren. Somehow- we don’t trust any of them and both the big energy companies keep a majority of the business direct. Why isn’t there a public non-profit co-op to negotiate best rates for everyone? We’ve seen the municipalities cut their street lighting plans by joining forces.
  • With the virtual duopoly in both health insurers and health providers: United Health Care and Anthem, Premier Health Partners and Kettering Health Network- it would seem that there could be room for the local governments along with a few major employers- joining together to “self-insure” and provide- and open enrollment to small businesses in the region- to create a public health option- with our own doctors- and a county hospital- at more competitive rates. I’d rather pay the doctors directly a flat fee – than give it to insurers that are an unnecessary middleman.
  • We’ve also seen the inability of the private companies to get us up to speed with internet connectivity- while our stop lights are on fiber optic- very little of the rest of us are- this is a prime place to band together to connect everything as a public utility that is critical to the growth of our community.

I’m sure someone will claim this as socialism- but, these efforts would be entirely opt in. In Ohio we have a “Public Utilities Commission of Ohio” or PUCO- but- other than Muni light in Cleveland- there are very few true public utilities.

It shouldn’t cost millions a year to pay an executive suite to run a monopoly power company- a duopoly health care- or something as simple as an ISP. It’s time to start taking back the necessities for basic business in Ohio so we can be competitive.

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