Dunno about public standards, but industry standards often suffer from the problem that the standards groups which publish them are essentially unfunded, and selling "official" copies of the standards is one of the primary mechanisms for supporting themselves. To fix this, we need to find a better way to support them.
Since information can't be copyrighted (though an instantiation or collection of that information can be), one solution has been for folks to rewrite/republish standards in expanded/annotated/rephrased form -- eg, books which discuss the practicalities of implementing the standards. That still costs money, since someone has to support the authors and publishers.
I wholeheartedly agree that "public" standards should be paid for up front and should be available for the cost of copying (which, in digital form, is very low.) I'd be glad to see some of my tax money go in that direction. Unfortunately too many people aren't willing to pay for something until they, individually, need it.