In today’s Wall Street Journal, Stanford economics professor Edward Lazear provides an economist’s view of the California drought situation:
In discussing one of her main achievements as British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher said, “privatization is at the center of any program of reclaiming territory for freedom.” One area where Britain reclaimed a lot of freedom is aviation. Since the 1980s, that nation has privatized airlines, airports, air traffic control, and in some cases airport security screening.
With the expiration of the current federal highway bill in a few months, the infrastructure issue is heating up. Newspapers are ginning up interest with stories about deficient and falling down bridges.
Britain privatized its Royal Mail in 2013, proceeding with an initial public offering of shares that raised about $2.7 billion. The government pursued the reform because the company faced falling mail volume, and it needed to reduce costs and increase innovation. Similar issues face the U.S. Postal Service.
How many buildings does the federal government own? 10,000? 20,000? Actually, it is a staggering 306,000, according to the U.S. General Services Administration. In addition, the government leases 55,000 buildings, for a total of 361,000. These include offices, hospitals, warehouses, and other sorts of facilities. The chart shows federal buildings owned by department.
To join their families for Thanksgiving this week, millions of Americans will face the drudgery of airline travel. Airports are crowded, flights are often delayed, and many travelers will get stuck in long security lines. It may get worse: a new study by the U.S. Travel Association (USTA) says that American aviation may be flying into a storm of “chronic congestion, delays, and frustration.”
An article on page 1 of Thursday’s Wall Street Journal describes the financial problems faced by some private infrastructure owners because of reduced demand from the Great Recession. The story features the Foley Beach Express bridge in Alabama built as a toll concession in the early 2000s. The bridge filed for bankruptcy in July after traffic volumes were lower than projections leaving taxpayers on the hook for millions.
A government study that finds a program doesn’t work and proposes to cut it is almost as rare as pigs that fly. But a new Government Accountability Office study on aviation does just that: it proposes chopping the Transportation Security Administration’s SPOT security program because it finds no evidence that it could stop airline terrorists.
My new study on the Transportation Security Administration mainly focuses on the agency’s poor management and performance. The TSA has a near monopoly on security screening at U.S. airports, and monopoly organizations usually end up being bloated, inefficient, and providing low-quality services.
The study proposes contracting out or “privatizing” airport screening, which is the structure of aviation security used successfully in Canada and many European countries.
A Wall Street Journal story today begins “America’s road to recovery may face a costly detour due to a fraying transportation network. One in nine of the country’s 607,380 bridges are structurally deficient …”