What Governments Do 5

Federal Highway System

Most governments provide at least some public services. Many provide educational services: some to inculcate national ideology, some to build a productive workforce, and others to ensure that citizen voters are well-informed.  Most provide at least some health care services.  Most also provide at least some infrastructure such as drinking water, sewerage, roads, electricity, and networks for information-communications technology. Some governments aim to satisfy those with power first.  For example, in Nigeria, in 2016 there was a proposal to spend more on the state house clinic (that serves the president and other high officials) than would be spent on all the country’s teaching hospitals.[1]  Other governments use the budget as a form of welfare: as much as half of their budgets goes to civil service salary and benefits.  Yet, many governments have managed to extend good quality public services to most of their citizens. (See for example World Bank data on World Development Indicators such as water supplies and sanitation services.)

Photo: Dietmar Rabich.

Excerpted from What Should Governments Do for Us?

[1] See

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