Changing a Form of Government, One Privatization at a Time

A Big Picture Argument against Privatization of Government Services

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It seems Republicans want to privatize everything having to do with government services, from schools, prisons, and health care, to water, public lands and even the Post Office.

Privatization of government services is a transfer of ownership rights and duties to privately operated businesses.  The term includes: “any shift of activities or functions from state to the private sector” and “any shift in production of goods and services from public to private.”

As a movement, privatization has gained strength in our country, and as rapidly around the world over the past four decades.  It is not happening all at once, but incrementally, bit by bit we are transferring ownership rights of people in a democracy to private corporations.

There are many examples of successful privatization efforts, especially when looking at the money state and local governments can save by outsourcing government jobs.  State and local governments need revenue, sometimes desperately.  Millions of dollars are being scrounged up for government budgets, but the money can be blinding.

The reality is that transferring or selling the public’s interest away by privatizing a government function, can also go steeply off course and contrary to the best interests of the people.

Imagine if Congress and State officials privatized all the government services, which by all accounts appears to be the republican agenda.

Water and Food Resources
Social Security
Medicare and Medicaid
Public Lands
Civilian and Military Police Services
Post Office
Armed Services
Veterans Administration

Does the public want to give away ownership rights in these vital areas of our government?

Water, for example, it is a human right by most definitions.  Without it, people cannot live.  The Nation’s John Nichols defended that underlying principal in relation to Detroit, Michigan and its governor’s privatization efforts through the experimental use of a public manager.

The private water company in Detroit had shut off water service entirely to a swath of residents in a low-income area because of people’s inability to pay water bills and accruing late fees.  Since water is a life necessity, a government-operated agency would handle the community’s inability to pay with compassion, a foundation of American culture.

To a private business owner, the bottom line dollar is on their mind, and compassion goes out the window for profit.  Our government works for the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness for everyone, not just those who can afford to pay a private business owner’s price placed on life’s necessities.

The neighboring Flint, Michigan water crises stem from similar efforts to privatize water resources.  A Public Manager appointed by the governor made a decision to switch the city of Flint’s drinking water intake from lake water to river water without implementing proper safety precautions, recklessly thinking only of the money.

The entire city’s water pipes became contaminated, and people were poisoned with lead.  The damage from lead poisoning is severe and irreversible, and government accountability has been hard to find for the residents of Flint.

Newly privatized business owners simply are not accountable to operating in the best interests of the public the way government officials are via fair and free elections.  The people elect representatives to work on behalf of the best interests of the people or face consequences from constituents.

Private businesses are accountable to shareholders and profit margins.

By privatizing government services, rights and responsibilities of the people are being sold to private interests who get to make the rules because they own the businesses.

If all or a majority of our government services were to be privatized, it would be equivalent to changing our form of government to an Oligarchy.  An Oligarchy is a form of government that rules “by a few”.  A group of Oligarchs, who decide everything for the people of a nation.

In our country, the corporate interests would rule the day and control the wealth of our nation, our blood and treasure, our destiny, and our individual livelihoods.

Oligarchy is a fun word to say, but being bossed around by Oligarchs is not something Americans want when faced with the direct question.  We may often take our form of government for granted, but Americans treasure our unique and free society–our form of government.

There is no referendum on ballots asking voters to approve a new form of government, but by privatizing rights and responsibilities one by one from public to private businesses to operate for profit, it is as if the issue is on every ballot, in invisible ink.