Of Mice And G-Men

An inspection by the Pennsylvania Agriculture Department found rodent droppings “just about everywhere” in the cafeteria at the Pennsylvania state capitol. The cafeteria, reportedly, also has a severe rodent infestation.

The now-closed cafeteria has not only been open to legislators but also to the common people (including children and the elderly). The cafeteria is run by the Aramark corporation, which is a Philadelphia-based food service company.

Some have already begun to argue that the cafeteria is privately run and hence the problem lies in the privatization of the cafeteria – which in turn should give caution to privatization of other entities, like the State Liquor Stores. However, that would be logical only if all restaurants that are regularly inspected had the same problems (or states with private liquor stores had rodent problems). But inspection ratings prove that they don’t!

The privately-run cafeteria, though, is a government-sponsored entity. The incentives to deliver better quality food are far greater for genuinely private caterers or restaurants competing for customers than for those seeking government contracts. The fact that this was the only inspection since November of 2005, largely due to jurisdictional disagreement among government agencies, indicates that government sponsored agencies lack the same accountability to the needs of the people. The capitol cafeteria fiasco represents a failure of government, not a free market.