Thursday, September 21, 2006



Many people has succumbed to the myth that that private ownership and/or management of public entities is invariably beneficial to this country and its people.

This myth is largely based on this supposition:

• Private operations are always more efficient and save the tax payers' money.

My opposition to this stance is based on several factors:

• Philosophically and politically I believe that certain entities should be
owned and operated by the public: federal, state, county, city....
For example-- prisons, parks, roads, military services, police, fire,
libraries and so on.

Why? Because it is the responsibility of the government in a democracy
to operate, manage and fund entities directly connected to the people and
its democratic government. Examples: Prisons house criminals who have broken the people's laws. The people should pay for and oversee prisons. State prisons should be used to house the prisoners of that state. Inmates
from New Mexico should not be shipped to private prisons in South
Carolina. Why? Because for the majority of the inmates visits from their
relatives is one of the ways that often lead to a better success rate
in rehabilitating those incarcerated.

National Parks are established by the government through action of the
the elected representatives for the use of the people. The people deserve
park employees that work for the people and their paycheck---not just
their paycheck.

In my mind having public institutions operated and managed by private
companies is akin to the rationale behind separation of church and state.
The churches represent their constituents in religious matters. Corporations
represent shareholders. Therefore to have corporations operating, leasing,
managing the public domain removes these areas from direct control by
the nation (which represents all the people)and has them run in essence
largely or even partly for the benefit of a small minority of Americans --
the shareholders.

The People should assume responsibility for financing and managing
their assets.

• Private corporations do not operate primarily to benefit the public.
They operate (solely, according to famed Chicago economist, Milton
Friedmann) for the benefit of their shareholders. Shareholders cannot
equate to the public or to the public interest since 90% of the stock in
this nation is owned by 10% of its citizens.

• How can companies/corporations save the public a great deal of money
since --- unlike public entities --- they must make the maximum profit

Take the example of private prisons:

• They hire fewer employees; pay them less; give them fewer benefits
and sometimes demand prolonged shifts. Often the new employees
hired are not of the caliber of the older ones. This is understandable
if the corporate prisons pay less and have less benefits.
This results in less safety for the guards, and a better chance for
violence among the prisoners

• They construct prisons in ways that will reduce their costs, but not
necessarily in ways that help the guards do their job better or enable
the prison to rehabilitate prisoners.

• Private prisons are considered holding or storage facilities for
those convicted of breaking public laws. Private prisons companies are
extremely active in promoting "law and order" issues on the ballot
including tougher sentences, less chance for parole and an interest
in anything that will increase the needs for more private prisons.
More convicted persons, longer prison terms mean a need for more
prisons and more profits for shareholders.

• The U.S.A. leads the industrialized world in the percent of its population behind bars. We also fall beyond nations like Sweden and
many, many others in not providing mental health care for those
who need it. The health care provided to the inmates has been
eroding. Programs should be in place to prepare as many inmates
as possible with training that will enable to fit into society when
their terms are up.

There seems to be a growing attitude among some Americans that
those sent to jail should be "stored" there in minimal space and
with little regard for anything else. This is short-sighted because
cost of each inmate "keep" is surprisingly high. We should be
wisely doing everything we can to reduce the prison population
by programs that would result in fewer inmates returning to prison. (Reducing sentences for non-violent offenses especially minor drug
use including marijuana would open up space in our penal institutions.)

• Very often those who work in the public sector's concern is not just
salary (which is often less, especially for professionals) but because they
want to perform a public service, one directly for the people and the nation.
Think of lawyers in district attorneys' offices and the forest rangers.
The public deserves to have employees working for them that have, on
the most part, some idealism imbued in their work, not just work for work.

• As for efficiency: think of Ford, General, Motors and many others in which the management has not only been maladroit at times in business
decisions, focused on the quarterly stock market figures, and loaded with
an excess of over paid management officers. Look at the Boards of Directors
of most corporations that instead of being overseers of the corporations,
keeping a watch, pointing out needs --- are frequently hand picked
by the corporate head(s) and do little than collect large paychecks, rubber
stamp the officers' decisions, and award golden parachutes when the chief
executive (even those who have been inept) are required to leave.
Many of the board members are chief executive officers of other corporations
and they anticipate a tit for a tat when having their salaries approved by
their boards.