Thanks, Uncle Sam, for GPS!

John Stossel has often said “government can’t do anything better than people in a free market.”  I recognize that lots of readers of The Beacon will agree, so let me throw out one example that I believe counters Stossel’s claim: GPS.

Uncle Sam put up those satellites that produce GPS signals, and none of the GPS devices we use would work without that government infrastructure.  It’s easy to argue government does this better than the market, because government is the only producer of GPS signals.

I’m not talking about your GPS receiver, of course.  The market has done a great job of producing lots of devices that decode those GPS signals and put them to good use for consumers.  But those devices only work because government has produced the infrastructure, in the form of a set of orbiting satellites that broadcast the GPS signals that are so commonly used today.

What does government do better than the market?  Produce GPS navigation signals.

Randall G. Holcombe is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University. His Independent books include Housing America: Building Out of a Crisis (edited with Benjamin Powell); and Writing Off Ideas: Taxation, Foundations, and Philanthropy in America .
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