Thank you for your short and sweet essay on this topic. You’ve given me some food for thought.
I think we have one word for those “centrists” — we call them neoliberals.
One of my favorite examples of the public sector outperforming the private to create public goods is “community broadband”. We often see this in small communities of people who left behind on the wrong side of the great digital divide. More than 500 communities across the country and counting, marshaled public resources to create public internet access services. They created that infrastructure because the slow, bloated incumbent ISPs didn’t need their patronage.
I use just such an ISP called “Utopia” here in Utah. For a mere $52 a month, I have a fiber connection with 250 Mbs up and 250 Mbs down. For another $17 a month, I can have a gig (1 Gbs up *and* down). None of the incumbents can match this symmetrical speed.
Another example I like to cite in this context are the TCP/IP and HTTP protocols, the foundation of the internet that we use every day today. I think it’s odd that no private company came up with those two protocols and put them to practical use before the government that funded the research did.
If those “centrists” would even bother to look around, they might see many more examples. The problem they have with the public option is that a public option keeps the private options honest.