Tuesday 7 May 2013

Private good, public bad?

For more than thirty years, we have been taught to believe that the private sector is automatically superior to the public sector. Another mythbuster by nef (the new economics foundation) demonstrates the falsehood of this dogma.

For Liberals, the point is the distribution of power and the human element. The private and public sectors can both be well or badly run. They are equally capable of remoteness, alienation, bad service, waste and incompetence.

As Britain’s experience with the railways demonstrates, privatisation is no guarantee that things will improve. Furthermore, when politicians repeatedly tell public sector workers such as teachers or nurses that they are rubbish, it hardly works wonders for the quality of public service.

Few push the dogma of nationalisation anymore. No one should push the dogma of privatisation either. The guiding principle should be to put people first, which is why social liberals prefer voluntary, mutual, cooperative and social enterprise models to private or state monoliths. As David Boyle points out on his blog today, we should be exploring ways to enable local communities to develop and run their local economies and local services, instead of pushing them into dependence on large organisations.

Transferring bus services from the National Bus Company to Stagecoach, or care homes from the council to a big private operator, fails to address that need. So there is no reason to believe that a private monopoly is somehow morally superior to a public one.

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