Domino’s Pizza and road construction go together like pizza and pineapple – not at all. As we all know, fruit does not belong on pizza, and Domino’s Pizza does not build roads… right?
As it turns out, the Earth’s poles must be shifting because the pizza company has been filling hundreds of potholes in four cities across the United States, including Athens, Georgia. It’s not done, either. Domino’s is currently accepting nominations for additional cities whose roads are in need of repairs.
The driving force behind Domino’s actions is the fact that deplorable road conditions pose a hazard to pizza. Bountiful potholes can violently jar delivery cars and ruin their precious pizza cargo – a tragedy by any stretch of the mind.
Sure, Domino’s isn’t acting solely out of the defense of pizza’s sanctity. The pizza giant also benefits from a massive marketing coup and is permitted to leave its logo on the mended potholes with a message reading, “Oh yes we did.” Even if Domino’s efforts are self-serving, the public benefits from them.
Through these actions, Domino’s has turned a prevailing notion about government on its head. Many of us were taught that road construction and maintenance are fundamental government roles. Yet when a private company like Domino’s voluntarily assumes one of the government’s most basic functions – and does a better job – people should take note.
Domino’s campaign signals that it may be time to revisit how much government is actually needed. In Georgia, private enterprise could greatly improve upon a host of government-run activities. These include, but are not limited to, the transportation and electricity sectors, as well as various regulatory regimes.
Domino’s efforts have exposed America’s government-run transportation woes. Like the rest of the Southeast, Georgia’s roads aren’t in especially good shape. This is because the state and federal governments have mismanaged transportation funds and neglected roads for years.
Rather than continuing down this path, Georgia should consider more public-private partnerships to help reduce those pesky potholes. These partnerships could take the form of private companies maintaining roadways in exchange for toll collections or – as in Domino’s case – free advertising. Either way, these options can improve the status quo.
The Tennessee Valley Authority is another government-run monopoly through which private enterprise could assume government operations. The TVA generates wholesale electricity for 12 Georgia counties, and retail electricity providers within this district are only allowed to purchase the TVA’s electricity.
The TVA monopoly suffers from systemic flaws and has drawn its fair share of controversy. The agency’s CEO is the highest paid federal employee – earning millions more than even the president of the United States. The TVA recently purchased two luxury jets and a helicopter with captive ratepayer money. Meanwhile, residential electricity prices in the TVA’s region have been rising. Rather than pursuing this electricity model, other states have permitted private electricity competition and have subsequently experienced a reduction in electricity prices. Thus, divesting the TVA’s assets and/or control to private companies could prove highly beneficial for consumers.
Non-government organizations can also replicate some forms of state regulation without the attendant costs. As it stands, in order to work, nearly one-third of Americans must obtain occupational licenses from the government. The purported reasoning for these requirements is to protect consumers, but licensing tends to protect industry insiders instead.
Occupational licensing is particularly problematic in Georgia. In fact, it has the nation’s 14th most burdensome laws. Some occupations in which there are no public safety concerns – like auctioneers, pre-need cemetery salespeople, and librarians – could be deregulated without harming public health. Rather than relying on Georgia’s current job-killing system, we could depend on private third-party institutions, like the Better Business Bureau or Yelp, to inform consumers of unscrupulous practitioners. In this way, fewer people will be barred from working due to onerous government regulations, and consumers can gain greater knowledge of businesses’ practices.
Allowing private enterprise to take on roles normally associated with the government is not without precedent. In fact, the affluent, 100,000+ person city of Sandy Springs, Georgia, is largely a privately-run city. Though the locality has nine city hall employees, nearly all of city hall’s operations have been farmed out to private businesses. This proves that private enterprise can effectively replace many government functions.
Sandy Springs and Domino’s have provided valuable lessons that we can apply to government operations almost across the board. A pizza company may not be able to run the entire government, but private businesses can certainly play a major role in bettering existing government programs. While there will likely be disagreements over what private participation in traditional government sectors looks like, in the end, we should all be able to agree on at least two things: government programs can benefit from private partnerships, and pineapple still doesn’t belong on pizza.
Marc Hyden is the Southeast region director for the R Street Institute, and he is a longtime Georgia resident. You can follow him on Twitter at @marc_hyden.