Privatization: A Move Backwards

Republicans, neo-conservatives and tea party fanatics are all clamoring for “privatization,” characterizing it as the panacea for America’s economic woes. And, as privatization moves forward rapidly in the United States, there has been no overall collective discussion among the citizens of this country as to whether we want it or not.

The corporate oligarchs, who have stolen the wealth of the entire country (and are hoarding it for their own benefit) love privatization, because, for them, it translates into the demise of governmental control and regulations affecting their businesses. They can act without any need for accountability or adherence to the responsibilities that come from government oversight.

With privatization, the billionaires can ignore the environmental impact of their actions, as well as the social implications of creating non-union, unregulated working conditions. For them, it’s similar to re-instituting slave labor, with the minimal wages and benefits needed to placate an unorganized workforce.

The goal is simple. As Naomi Klein describes this “rapid-fire privatization”:

First, governments must remove all rules and regulations standing in the way of the accumulation of profits. Second, they should sell off any assets they own that corporations could be running at a profit. And third, they should dramatically cut back funding of social programs. ((Klein, Naomi, The Shock Doctrine, Metropolitan Books, NY, 2007, p. 57))

In short, for the super rich, privatization means that natural resources and human resources are controlled by the employer, and not by any public or community group. The only recourse individuals have for corporate abuse is to quit working for a particular employer, and seek employment from another tyrant, who most likely shares the same power and control as the first employer.

It is obvious why the oligarchs are fighting tooth and nail for privatization. But why in the world would anybody but the rich support such a system?

There are three possible reasons why the average American might assist the oligarchs in obtaining their goals:

1) The working class has been duped into believing that bureaucratic structures and governmental waste is the source of our crumbling economy. This theory suggests that if it weren’t for Washington insiders, the distribution of wealth in the country would not be so unbalanced and unfair, but would reflect the healthy growth associated with Apple, Exxon and Google.

2) America’s white working class has been persuaded by the oligarchs and their lapdogs in the media that minorities, foreigners, the unemployed and the mentally infirm are the cause of the failing economy; therefore, the theory goes, assistance provided to any of these groups threatens the economic security of working people. The only solution oligarchs put forth is to cut all social services and benefits to anybody but the rich.

3) A third significant factor is that the oligarchs have so devastated our natural resources and economy that the working class is barely surviving. Again, people who are struggling to survive hunt for scapegoats, and it points towards the weak and the dispossessed — not towards the rich and powerful. Working people look in the wrong direction for solutions to their problems.

What is so pathetic about this particular moment in history is that the drive for privatization is the worst possible solution for our problems. In fact, it will result in even more chaos and poverty for the great majority of our people. There are several reasons for this:

1) A healthy economy requires a healthy, educated populace. Because this is so, public education should be free, and a right for all. Instead of making a college education so expensive that it is a form of indentured servitude, it should be the responsibility of the state to make it available to all who can participate.

2) Similarly, a healthy population is a mentally and physically productive one. Health care should be the responsibility of the government, and 100% of the population should be protected by our health care system. An unhealthy population is unable to support itself.

3) Those who want to work and are able to do so should be assured of a job. Their employment should not depend upon the whims of a corporate oligarch, who is seeking to maximize profits; but rather, the representatives of the entire society who benefit from full employment.

4) A just society protects its citizens, and finds the best possible alternatives for those unable to work and live independently. Corporate oligarchs couldn’t care less about people who don’t bring them profit. But the society needs to nurture and assist those who, for any number of reasons, are unable to remain productive members of society. We don’t euthanize the elderly, the sick and the weak, simply because they can’t find employment at the local Walmart. Instead, a strong nation does its best to protect this segment of the population.

The underpinnings of why privatization is so counter-productive is that the resources of the entire nation should be in the hands of the majority, whose motivation for action is the collective need, and not in the hands of oligarchs, whose motives revolve around profit and personal aggrandizement. It is the government, and not corporate oligarchs, who recognize the waste and implications of short-term profit over long-term needs. Decisions about the allocation of resources, full employment, health and educational benefits should lie in the hands of the citizenry, and not as the personal property of a select few.

When one reviews the history of privatization throughout world history, one sees those institutions and periods in which that theory thrived: the feudal ages, private kingdoms, and ruling dynasties. Unfortunately, the direction of the future points to “privatization” as a right of an anointed royalty, and not of the people, who would seek to place the needs of all and the wealth of the nation in the hands of the many, and not the few.

Luke Hiken is an attorney who has engaged in the practice of criminal, military, immigration, and appellate law. Marti Hiken is the director of Progressive Avenues. She is the former associate director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and former chair of the National Lawyers Guild Military Law Task Force. Read other articles by Marti Hiken and Luke Hiken, or visit Marti Hiken and Luke Hiken's website.