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TV typo provides lesson on core functions of government

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

Everyone makes mistakes, and if you’ve ever used a computer or smartphone, you know typos are a commonplace occurrence. But an oops on a Boise TV station this week caught our attention.

KTVB news featured a story about the city of Boise offering free wifi at city parks. Unfortunately, the chyron on the screen said the city would be offering a “free wife” instead of “wifi.”

Social media followers got a big laugh. One said “not sure how I feel about that!” Another quipped "I already have a wife!"

While a humorous mistake, it also provides an important opportunity to talk about core functions of government.

Obviously, providing a free wife is not a core function of government.

So, here’s a question – is providing free wifi a core function? It’s an important inquiry, because so much of what government does depends on its definition of “core function.”

In many governments, the concentration is on core functions – and nothing else. In other governments, elected officials seek to have government take on tasks that can typically be handled by the private sector.

Most would agree that police, fire, public safety, and building roads and bridges are all core functions of government. But what else should be on that list? That might depend on who you ask. Socialists might say free health care, housing and other "necessities of life."

For free marketeers, the answer is what can be referred to as the phone book test. If a private business found in the phone book offers a service, the government probably shouldn’t be in the business.

The free market isn’t given a chance to solve problems if the government takes the place of those working in the free market.

At the very least, when government considers what services to provide, it should undertake a “Priorities of Government” or “POG” approach. This method ranks all government spending by program, prioritizes what’s most important, funds those items first, and then seek to engage with the community regarding the items at the bottom of the list. Perhaps they can be funded by returning the issue to the free market.

Mountain States Policy Center’s slogan is Free Markets First. Put simply, it means giving innovators, small business owners, families and more the opportunity to solve problems.

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