In case you missed it, our recent Reason.tv interview with former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson is well worth watching. In addition to discussing his latest endeavor, the Our America Initiative, and a range of economic, social and foreign policy issues, he reflects back on his two-terms as Governor and the experience of downsizing government in real life.
When asked specifically about his use of competitive contracting in corrections (at the 15:04 mark), he was very clear on the results:
"…in New Mexico we had over 600 prisoners housed out of state, we were under a federal court order—federal consent decree—regarding our prisons and how they should be run. I ended up—as a result of a legislature that was not wanting to address this issue—ended up privatizing over half of the state's prisons. Comparing apples to apples, the private side produced the same goods and services for two-thirds the price. To me that was good government. And that's what happened."
There's a powerful lesson here for states like California that are facing massive challenges with their correctional systems and budgets.
Watch the whole video for more thoughts from a government executive who managed to leave office while also leaving to his successor—and taxpayers—a smaller government than the one he himself had inherited. Seems like most Americans wish their own elected officials would be doing the same right now.