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Opinion
Noah Smith

Domino's Pizza Fixing Potholes Is an Ominous Sign

Either government is failing, inequality is worsening, or both.

Domino's Pizza wants to pay to fix potholes in 20 cities. Uh-oh.

Domino's Pizza wants to pay to fix potholes in 20 cities. Uh-oh.

Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

I recently noticed a string of interesting news stories, all with the same theme. Domino’s Pizza is donating money to 20 U.S. cities, to be used for fixing potholes and cracked roads. Salesforce has donated $1.5 million to reduce homelessness in San Francisco, and its CEO, Marc Benioff, has spoken of grander schemes to end homelessness in the city entirely. And Facebook is talking about renovating a defunct bridge that runs across the San Francisco Bay near its offices.

All of these initiatives, in and of themselves, are good things. It’s good for potholes to be fixed, homeless people to be housed, and traffic congestion to be relieved. But the fact that it’s private companies taking these steps is an ominous sign for the nation. It suggests a breakdown in the government’s ability or willingness to carry out one of its core functions — the efficient provision of public goods.