Thanks, Uncle Sam, For GPS! – OpEd


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 Beaconwill 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

Randall G. Holcombe is Research Fellow at The Independent Institute, DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University, past President of the Public Choice Society, and past President of the Society for the Development of Austrian Economics. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Virginia Tech, and has taught at Texas A&M University and Auburn University. Dr. Holcombe is also Senior Fellow at the James Madison Institute and was a member of the Florida Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors.

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