Here in Australia we have had and continue to have both privatised and public companies. I’ll give you a run down, IMHO, of how well (or not) they are going.
Telstra (formerly Telecom Australia). This is the national telco, for many years they were the only telco. Under 100% government ownership there were large waits for getting a phone line installed, customer service was bad and call costs were high. The cost of line rental though, was very low. The government has now sold off 49% of Telstra and pretty much told it to become an autonomous company. This was also combined with the deregulation of the telco industry, so now other telco’s could start up. There is now a shorter wait to get a phone line installed, and call costs are lower. Customer service is still shitty and now the costs of line rental are many times higher than before. In order to get a phone line, one must get one through Telstra as they still own 90%+ of the national telco infrastructure, from there you can choose to go with another telco provider. Internet access was never the total domain of Telstra though, however their position of market dominance has led to Australia having some of the most expensive broadband in the western world. In the last 3 years Telstra’s broadband services went from being unlimited downloads per month to a 3gig/month transfer limit, which is actually a few large leaps backwards. Telstra also have a commanding interest in most of the data backbones and foreign connections to the US/Asia, and charge other telco’s a lot of money (which they have no choice but to pay or have access to almost nothing on the internet).
Now for health care. We have several different schemes that provide the different parts of health cover.
Medicare is run by the federal government. It is basically a payment to doctors for treating patients, ie you go to your doctor and it costs $25 for a consultation and the government will pay the doctor for you. The doctor can charge more and you pay the difference. The payment rates vary depending on what kind of doctor it is.
Public hospitals are run by the state governments. If you have a Medicare card (see above), which all Australian resident’s are elligible to apply for, treatment in these hospitals is free. Times to get into the operating theatre differ depending on demand and cost, though you are never turned away. If you go to the emergency ward and have a life threatening problem you will almost invariably be seen immediately, however non-life threatening problems can take anywhere from instant to many hours wait.
The pharmaceutical benefits scheme is run by the federal government. If you have a medicare card, most medications will only cost you $AU27 or so per prescription, whether they cost $30 or $1000 to buy. If you are a holder of a health care card, which is a card that only low income people are elligible to recieve, the cost of those prescriptions go down to $AU3.70 per script. Not all medications are on this scheme, but most are, so there will almost always be medication available to treat your various illnesses that are subsidised.
It is worth noting that if you feel the public health care system is not your thing, there are many private hospitals available. We also have private health insurance companies that you can go to to cover most of the costs of those private hospitals. To get private health care, one only has to walk into a branch and apply for it and hope they accept you. AFAIK they are not required to accept you.
We also have public housing, which is funded by the states. The quality varies between the states depending on how much they fund theirs. The way it works in my state is as follows - Everyone who’s income is lower than $AU530 or so per week is elligible to put their name down on the list. You can specify which suburb/s you would like to live, with corresponding waiting lists based on supply and demand. Waiting lists usually aren’t more than 4 years, with a lot of suburbs around 1-2 years. Once you are offered a place, you don’t have to accept it, though you do go to the back of the list if you refuse. Once you are living in public housing it is essentially yours for life barring you doing something very stupid. If your income is lower than the previously mentioned threshold, you pay $25% of your income as rent. If it over that amount, you pay the “market rate”, however those rates are actually far lower than the real market rate. The quality of housing varies between each house or block of apartments, though I’ve found quality to be rather high most of the time. Public housing is designed to fit into a suburb, so it’s actually very hard to find out which places are private and which are public a lot of the time. There is currently a move towards building “designer” apartments and houses, rather than boring brick shaped buildings, further blurring the line. There are a number of public housing buildings near to where I live and I didn’t know they were public housing until I was told by people who knew people who lived in them.
We also have a number of companies that were 100% state owned but are now 100% sold off, these include one of the major banks, the postal service. I’m not really old enough to say how good the service was when they were publicly owned. I am satisfied with the service and prices of Australia Post, but banks are another ball game. No banks are now state run, however there are 4 major banks which have most of the market, and who have a very bad reputation within Australian society, mainly for large amounts of fees, bad customer service, constant branch closures for cost cutting (leaving entire towns without any banks) and so forth.
Hmm I’ve gone a bit off-topic, but that’s how I see some of our public institutions performances. Our private sector is very similar to what you will find in most western countries, so draw comparisons there if you wish.
Overall my opinion is that for some things the private sector is far better, however other things are better served by the public sector