From schools to prisons, outsourcing government's works typically ends with cronyism, waste and unaccountability
By Mike Konczal
Sunday, Feb 5, 2012
Privatizing the government is one of the most active projects of the early 21st century.
Everything we once expected the government to do — from education to regulatory rule-writing to military operations to healthcare services to prison management — it now does less of, preferring to support markets in which these services are done through independent, profit-maximizing agents. Tools such as contracting out, vouchering and the selling-off of state assets have been used to remake the government during our market-worshipping era.
Privatization is one of the few political projects that enjoys bipartisan support: Conservatives cheer the rollback of the state, and liberals like to claim that the virtues of the free market are being used towards the egalitarian ends of public policy. The fraud and waste that often come with outsourcing these services has been well-documented. The private management in Iraq and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and the lobbying efforts of corporate prisons have all provided horror stories of what happens when cronyism guides decision-making on behalf of the state. But privatization as standard government practice has problems that go far beyond the abuses of any single incident.
Rather than solving problems with government, privatization often amplifies those issues to new extremes. Instead of unleashing market innovation, it often introduces new parasitic partners into the decision-making process. Instead of providing a check on the power of the government, it allows the state to circumvent constitutional and democratic accountability measures by merging with the private sector. And ultimately, the practice replaces the set of choices and constraints found in democracy, with another set found in the marketplace. Today’s political conversation is blind to these problems out of a mistaken faith in the efficiency and fundamental equality of markets, contrasted to the ineffectiveness and corruptibility of the state.
Continue reading at: http://www.salon.com/2012/02/05/the_privatization_trap/singleton/