Free money? Why you can't run away from BSP
Clency & Norman: Making impossible possible

Robbing the people to boost the profiteers

Blackbirding in Melanesia State Library of Queensland)
'Blackbirding' in Melanesia in the late 19th century was an approved way of stealing people's liberty to profit business. Later governments became smarfter and sold the people's property instead (State Library of Queensland)


TUMBY BAY, SA – In the world over, for many years now, both conservative and progressive governments have been privatising public services.

The argument runs that services like health, water, electricity, gas, transport and telecommunications can be operated much more efficiently, effectively and cheaply by business than government.

That this is a capitalist fallacy is now readily apparent.

Link here to articles by Professor John Quiggin, ‘Fallacies of Privatisation’ (Financial Review, 2008), and Andrew Hunter, ‘Modern Times: Power privatisation's failure is no shock’ (Adelaide Review, 2019).

These, and many credible books and rigorous academic articles demonstrate beyond refutation the range of public services which have been unable to operate better when the motive is profit.

Such a motive often means paring back services to a bare minimum so as to increase profit and returns to shareholders.

Aged care is an example of privatisation decreasing operations and diminishing the quality of the work being done.

In Australia, the privatisation of aged care facilities has seen private companies cutting employees, lowering the quality of food and generally lowering the standard of care provided because decisions were made with profit not care being the most important consideration.

One of the most tragic outcomes of this in Australia is the number of deaths from Covid as it rips through ill –protected aged care installations.

Similar undermining of quality has routinely occurred in other privatised services.

Public train or bus routes are cut back or discontinued, not because the need for them diminished but because some routes were unprofitable.

The same profit motive long ago infiltrated services run by governments, resulting in inferior and more expensive medical, internet and telephone services to regional areas. Often services are simply not established because they are considered to not be profitable.

Public need is less of a consideration than private profit.

The same thinking has deteriorated postal services and in Australia plans are afoot to curtail and discontinue letter deliveries because they are not profitable.

There is a lot more money to be made delivering the packages of internet driven shoppers than the antiquated letters of non-digital savvy members of the public.

The cost of subsidising essential medicines is not made primarily on the basis of need but on how high much pharmacy companies want the government to pay them.

If the subsidy offered is considered too low, in many cases the pharmaceutical companies medicines simply do not make them available,

Many governments go along with this because they believe they should not run these products at all or because they are offered kickbacks or donations by these companies.

The profit motive has them in thrall.

The end result, of course, has been increasing inequity. If you have the money to pay for certain privatised services you are lucky. If you haven’t got the money then tough luck.

And there is an increasing number of people who don’t have the money and may go without the medicines they need (Australia is a sorry example), or can’t afford heating in winter (England has seen the price of domestic gas double) or not visit doctors when they should (US health costs are enormous), or have seriously inadequate telephone services (as in Papua New Guinea).

The term ‘privatising profits and socialising losses’ refers to the practice of companies retaining their profits but passing on their losses to government (and so to the public).

This term has become a cliché in financial circles but it ultimately creates real pressures on the public, who most often experience these inadequacies which lead to poverty.

Another cliché, ‘bread and circuses’, means that governments try to divert the public’s attention from poor or non-existent services.

In Australia, sport is a major form of public distraction along with friendly media coverage.

In Papua New Guinea there is a deadlier form of sporting distraction called tribal warfare.

It is hard to fathom how these distractions work because they are mostly stupid. Maybe that’s why they succeed.

Another saying that has become a cliché declares, ‘nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public’.

This cliché – in a variety of forms – is still going strong 100 years after it was first created by US humourist HL Mencken.

Having a dumb public and keeping it that way is a key strategy of these greedy pirates, the profiteers.

Waking up people to what is being done to them seems impossible, but it has been done.

One can only hope.


When I asked Microsoft Bing to create a suitable AI image for the headline, 'Robbing the people to boost the profiteers', I received a blunt online warning that my use of the app would be banned if I repeated what this oligopoly has clearly chosen to view as words that should never be written to create images that should never be seen. Mencken would never had got to first base with Microsoft Bing in 2023 - KJ


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Keith Jackson

An excellent (and comprehensive) article by the ABC’s Gareth Hutchens reinforces the words of Phil and Chris. It's a profile of Bernie Fraser, former Australian Reserve Bank governor, Fraser has just resigned as chairman of the Climate Change Authority, three years into his five-year term. He recently criticised the federal government's emissions reduction targets, saying they fell well short of international benchmarks. Here's a brief extract - KJ

Bernie Fraser: “A couple of decades ago, Australia seemed well placed to move on to better things. It was not wildly fanciful to imagine that Australia might go on to become a rather special kind of society, combining a good measure of competency, fairness and compassion, and lighting a path which other countries might wish to follow.

"Fast forward to to-day and that vision has gone … on many measures, our society is now less fair, less compassionate and more divided than it was 20 years ago, and certainly more devoid of trust in almost every field of human activity.”

Link to Gareth Hutchens’ article here….

Bernard Corden

"When the rich make war, it's the poor who die" - Jean Paul Sartre

Philip Fitzpatrick

China in particular, but also India and Brazil (three of the so-called BRICS nations), have evolved a hybrid form of capitalism that seems to be not only sensible but highly successful, particularly in terms of equity.

The same kind of hybrid system has been successfully operating in Cuba since the death of Fidel Castro.

They have a roughly 50/50 mixture of private enterprise and state enterprise run under efficient regulatory systems.

This has led to good wages regimes, higher standards of living and an overall good economic outlook.

Such things as universal health and education systems thrive under these sorts of regimes.

There are indications that some western governments, such as that in South Australia, are edging back towards greater government engagement and stronger regulatory systems.

The metropolitan rail system in SA which was sold off by the previous Liberal government is in the process of being bought back by the state government.

Hopefully, these sorts of moves herald the demise of neo-liberalism.

Unfortunately, these moves also look like the birth (or continuation in China), of authoritarianism. This looks more likely as democracy struggles with issues like climate change, social equity, addressing pandemics, effectively fighting just wars, its own endemic flaws and is presided over by a nation whose culture is war-war not jaw-jaw. We're on the edge of transforming out of neoliberalism into various forms of despotism - KJ

Chris Overland

Phil has pointed to the now glaringly obvious flaws within the neo-liberal economic system, the most egregious being that it is deliberately and calculatingly loaded in favour of the rich and powerful.

The rising tide of economic success has not floated all boats, with very many people left behind. PNG is an exemplar of this process in action.

Australia looks better only because the established welfare systems have been maintained, albeit badly, mostly in order to create the illusion that all is well with the economy and that everyone can be a winner in the Casino capitalist system now in place.

The idea that 'everyone can be a winner' in the Casino provided they just work hard enough and long enough is not supported by the facts.

While it is true that some people can do well, or at least better than they might otherwise have done, the system requires that there are losers too.

The losers are, very conveniently, either located overseas in countries where gross exploitation of workers is the norm or, closer to home, the least capable of articulating their rage and frustration at being condemned to penury largely due to no fault of their own.

The systemic reform required to create a fairer and more equitable society, without necessarily rejecting in its entirety the notion that a well managed capitalist economy works best at generating wealth, seems as far away as ever.

Indeed, the ruling elites seemed very determined to maintain the status quo at all costs.

Our own Australian federal government, whilst manifestly competent and generally well intentioned, has shown a very marked reluctance to take on the various powerful interest groups who flourish under the current system.

This is deeply frustrating for me and others who share my view that wholesale and systemic reform is now seriously overdue.

The various problems confronting our societies across the globe arise from a consumption based, fossil energy dependent economic system and are not trivial.

In the case of the despoilation of the Earth's environment, they present an existential threat to many if not all of us.

We may ultimately be 'saved' if, as I expect, there is a full blown financial collapse, probably triggered by the explosion of the world's gargantuan 'debt bomb' or when a major power miscalculates by starting what it expects to be a short and decisive war that turns into a quagmire.

We truly are sleepwalking into disaster but our political and business elites seem quite unwilling to take any decisive action to avoid it.

Perhaps, as has happened in the past, we will have to resort to revolution in order to achieve a new balance between capital and the commons.

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