This article by Michael Lind in Salon argues that we can’t. In a nutshell, his argument is this:
Nowadays, American conservatives (other than the really radical hard-RWs and Libertarians) mostly are arguing, not for total privatization of public services and programs and utilities, but for their provision through “voucher socialism” – i.e., government would continue to pay for such services with tax dollars, but would not provide the goods or services or run the utilities directly, but, rather, would issue vouchers (like food stamps) to people who need them, and let them use those vouchers to buy the goods and services from private enterprise. This, conservatives argue, would be more economically efficient, because, instead of a government monopoly that allows cost-inefficiencies to flourish, there would be price-competition between the private-sector providers.
That reasoning is wrong. A voucher system works perfectly well in some sectors (e.g., food stamps). But many of the services in question are natural oligopolies or monopolies. (E.g., if you need a hospital, you are necessarily limited in choice to the limited number of hospitals near you.) Providing them through vouchers would enable rent-seeking behavior among the private-sector providers and drive the prices up.
Makes a lot of sense to me. Anyone see any flaws in this?