Fred Schwarz comments on “stalwart libertarian colleague Charlie Cooke’s” surprise at “the frequency with which the distinction between public and private, vital for all politics, is ignored.”
Big-government philosophy can be summed up like this: Private entities (big corporations, wealthy plutocrats, fanatical organizations) are powerful, unaccountable, and purely self-interested. They exploit and manipulate us all, and our only recourse is to put a tight regulatory rein on them. The government, by contrast, is organized specifically for the common benefit and is directly accountable to the voters. Therefore: Public good, private bad.
A conservative would reply: A private entity cannot compel me to do anything, whereas the government can make me do whatever it wishes. By merely passing a law (or ignoring one) or issuing a ukase, it can take my money, make me buy things, or restrict my freedom in hundreds of ways. If I don’t play along, it can put me in prison. The worst McDonald’s can do is tempt me with cheap food.
Moreover, if I dislike a private entity’s behavior, I can simply ignore its appeals and choose not to do business with it. But disentangling the various functions of a hydra-headed government, and changing or eliminating the ones that need it, takes enormous amounts of time and effort, if it can be done at all (not to mention the problems of corruption, self-interest, or excessive zeal on the part of government agents). Therefore: Private good, public bad (except on a strictly defined set of functions).