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Wednesday, June 27, 2012


As I observe the growing lust for privatization on the part of so-called conservatives, I'm reminded of another time when government was largely privatized. One corporation, duly chartered, had everything--and I mean everything--in its hands. What happened? The officials of that company became, with horrifying speed, 'drunk' on power and on greed. Many of this company's employees spent most of their time illegally accumulating fortunes rather than attending to business. One way of getting rich quick was to force the land's inhabitants to buy company goods from them at gouger's prices and compel those same inhabitants to accept (literal) starvation prices for their goods. As a result, famine gripped this actually quite rich, and fertile, land because the corporation and its servants were sucking it dry! And yet, because the corporation's servants were so engrossed with making themselves quickly rich, the company itself was chronically on the edge of bankruptcy until the body that had chartered it (and many of whose members owned stock in it) put together what we'd call today a 'bailout package'.
At the same time, there was another land where the officials were reasonably paid and known by the people they served. And they were dependent on the people for their jobs through the people's chosen representatives. Knowing this, they did what they were reasonably paid to do and sought no dishonest gain. They had no reason to seek it and plenty of reasons not to. The land thrived, not least because the working people were highly paid and had money to spend and thus, as the money moved, so also did goods and services. Any guesses as to which is which, and when?
For answers, open a copy of The Wealth of Nations and go to page 84 of the paperback Modern Library edition. Also, look on page 93 for what Smith had to say about the beneficial effects of the liberal reward of labor. Then consider those who want to revoke even the minimum wage as part of their obliterate-the-middle-class program and propose to substitute for a decent wage the pinch of real hunger on most of us coupled with empty by-and-by false promises!
I would say that those who now push less government and more privatization are acting with all the greed, rapacity and almost the brutality of the East India Company in the 1760s. I also say that the end will be at best deplorably similar. At worst we may see real famine for the first (and let's hope only) time in our country's history. Government is all of us together both helping each other and keeping a watchful eye on those who might be bullies if we weren't watching. Properly supervised government bureaucrats cost a lot less than corporate bureaucrats preoccupied with fattening their own pockets and this is why Medicare for ALL will also cost a lot less per person than does our current system with overpaid executives (i.e., bureaucrats) at the top!
It's worth remembering that the real Tea Party was an act of protest against the collusion of government with corporate power. Many colonists knew the bad rep of the East India Company and the reasons for it. I think it's also worth remembering how corrupt Parliament was then and to ask ourselves, does Congress (and our state legislatures) have all that far to go before their corruption by money equals that of Lord North's Parliament? I wonder. I hope you do too.
Privatization to the current extent is not a good idea at all. Government of, by and for the people needs to be brought back and privatization scaled way back--if not completely abolished, but let that judgment wait a little. If anyone can tell me a reason why privatization will work better here than in the Bengal of the 1760s, speak now or, indeed, forever hold your peace!

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