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