Govern best by intruding least

It’s been aptly said that government is best which governs least. Add to that another truism: that government is best which intrudes least into the private sector.

The controversy over the operation of a grill at a city owned golf course in Grand Junction has renewed the age-old debate over what services government should — and shouldn’t — provide.  We’re heartened the Grand Junction City Council appears to have come down on the side of business in that debate.

The council decided to reverse a decision approving city operation of the grill and is looking for a private company to resume that operation in a few months. Moreover, the council has decided to put out for bid the operation of non-emergency ambulance transportation services, a function the city took out of the hands of the private sector five years ago.

At a time when the City of Grand Junction and other government entities are scrutinizing operations to cut budgets in the wake of declining revenues, it makes good sense to re-examine what services government should provide and what services might be better offered by the private sector. There’s potential for a two-fold benefit if government can save money and the private sector can gain business that creates new jobs. That’s not to mention the possibility of generating additional tax revenues that help fill those budget gaps.

Clearly, there are services government is well-equipped to provide: police and fire protection as well as street maintenance, for example. But then there are services government has no business in providing. Managing a downtown theater comes to mind.

Here’s the message for government: govern less and intrude less into the private sector.