Friday, December 2, 2011

Privatization as crime


Hal Pepinsky,,

December 2, 2011

The movement to sell off state assets to for-profit corporations at bargain basement prices took hold when Margaret Thatcher became British prime minister in 1979. I ask my criminological self how to label this privatization movement, and I call it criminal in its real world effects.

From my own Anglo legal tradition, this movement constitutes organized robbery of state resources. That is, politicians force sale of public assets with threats that unless public services are sold to private investors, no one will feed and satiate the political appetite of youth who compete for jobs with their elders. And so prevailing politicians from Ms. Thatcher forward have accelerated global ripoffs of state services.

When I lived in Magomeni Makuti on the outskirts of Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam in 1990, young girls walked community streets during the day because their families could not afford the school uniforms required by the International Monetary Fund to secure IMF loans. Now in my country and in Europe in particular, financial “technocrats” are requiring Greeks and Spaniards and Italians and Portuguese and Irish to sell off state assets and workers to whatever private corporate bidder comes along to reduce this or that national debt. What a racket!

I don’t believe in personal blame or punishment. How many of us who can afford it invest in Wall Street to pay for our retirement? Privatization is steeped in innocence and “best evidence” of how to achieve “stability” in our ever-changing world. Still, privatization is a crime.

“Socialism” and “class warfare” have been politically vilified in my country since before Karl Marx started writing. During the Cold War in my country politicians pointed to the Soviet Union as a drab and intrusive alternative to “neoliberalism.” Now when in my part of the world public sector workers are singled out for privatization (as in public schooling), I seek appreciation of public ownership of social assets. Love and peace--hal

1 comment:

  1. In a context of private capture of public wealth through "mitigation of risk," wherein private gain is financed and insured on the backs of taxpayers at zero risk to investors, public sector wealth is all the more vulnerable to "privateers." Pirates who organize schemes to pilfer public wealth in the name of democracy and good work ethic, are themselves financed by predatory hedge funds that will employ them after leaving office. Yet the public utterly lost in the rhetorical war over "laziness" and homeless who "need a bath." Where are the pitch forks?