Thursday, February 4, 2010

What Shall We Do? "Privatize" He Said

When Cal Poly Pomona President Michael Ortiz was asked by a student this past summer what could be done about the budget crisis, he replied: "Privatize. It seems the only way."

In light of this, and since Sir Michael Barber, last of the Tony Blair Administration, is now being touted as the solution to our ills, I came across this posting from a British website named "Campaign for Public Ownership" as I searched the term "privateer," a word that I thought would convey the nature of those whose solution to all ills, perceived and illusory, is privatization. For such people, things that are working just fine are to be broken by their "fixes." As an illustration of this fact, the effort to restructure the university predates the budget crisis, an effort by the top administration that they dubbed "Prioritization and Recovery" on my campus. The budget crisis is now being cited as the rationale for restructuring.

As it turns out, the term "privateer" already exists, prior to my coining it. (Alas, the advantages and disadvantages of the web!) Its denotative definition, however, does not convey the pirate-like connotation that I am using the term for.

This excerpt from the Campaign for Public Ownership is from last summer:

"[T]he leading parties ignore public opinion on the most important issues of the day.

"Take public ownership. Despite opinion polls showing a clear majority in favour of renationalising the railways, not one of our leading parties even considers the measure.

"The neoliberal, pro-privatisation model has never been so unpopular, yet here we have an election where the four leading parties, according to opinion polls, can only offer more of the same.

"Labour offers little for supporters of public ownership - the Labour government, despite Britain's disastrous experience of privatised railways, has been pushing for other European countries to 'liberalise' their excellent domestic rail services.

"The prospect of Virgin Trains, First Great Western and Arriva being allowed to run services in countries like Belgium is too depressing for words, but if Labour has its way, it could be happening a few years down the line.

"In their Euro manifesto, the staunchly neoliberal Conservatives boast of being 'strong defenders of the single market' and say that their aim is 'working to open up new markets.'

"At the top of the party's list in the South East region in the poll, is MEP Daniel Hannan, an enthusiastic privateer.

"In a recent appearance on Fox News in the US, Hannan claimed the NHS was a 60-year 'mistake,' which made people 'iller' and he urged US viewers not to support plans for socialised health care.

"The Liberal Democrats are singing from the same pro-competition hymn sheet. While the party did call for the renationalisation of Britain's railways in its 2005 manifesto, it has embraced a more 'free-market' approach since the elevation to leadership of the Blairite banker's son Nick Clegg."

For the rest of this entertaining essay, see here.

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