Government-Funded Public Services

(This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3 book contents.  An archived copy of this page is held at http://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/6711.htm)

There are several services which a government might choose to fund:

  • The cost of protection services – the legal system and defence forces – depends upon policy in the Legal Dimension and upon foreign policy. Defence spending is discussed in the next chapter (7.4.6).
  • The decision to provide public funding for healthand education, which can be classified as socio-economic rights, reflects people’s political ideology and moral attitudes.  There is a deep disagreement between individualists and collectivists on these issues (
  • Both education and health also affect the productivityof the workforce and, therefore, the health of the economy (3.2.5).
  • Decisions to fund discretionary public services to improve the quality of people’s lives, such as recreational facilities and support for the arts, depend upon a purely political assessment of what people want; views tend to be divided according to ideology, so some consultation and negotiation is appropriate before spending the money.

When these are publicly funded, as is the case in many Western liberal democracies, they are available to everyone and reduce inequality.  People’s preferences for public funding are mainly ideological, although there are some aspects which cross party lines.  On 27 March 2017 for example, the Washington Post published an article entitled How do Americans feel about single-payer health care? It’s complicated – which showed a 41% level of Republican support for the idea, even though it is a collectivist concept.

The politicians assess what the people want, and are prepared to pay for through taxation, but the economic impact has to be taken into account (  If they try to reduce the cost of public services, by making them free for those below a certain income threshold, they benefit the wealthy at the expense of the low-paid (; such decisions are likely to be affected by the politicians’ calculations on who are their supporters.