The privatization of public goods seems to me a system for plundering our nation under the ruse of improving services and lowering costs. What are public goods? They are institutions and systems we develop to benefit the whole body of the people of the state or nation, rather than certain people but not others. They are the goods and benefits we maintain together, as a people, for the welfare of all, not merely as a collections of individuals and families, but as a whole. The premier example is public education for all, which was designed to benefit the society as a whole, advancing shared knowledge and undergirding our democracy. Public education is not established to benefit only its current students and their families but to strengthen the democracy of the United States and in so strengthening us as a whole, to make our nation an increasingly better citizen of the world.
What we see these days is plundering on such a large scale that it seems the powerful in our land envision no future for our nation and could not care less. What is being plundered? The answer includes public education, our correctional (!) system by which I mean the penal system (prisons), public lands, our entire infrastructure, and our public insurance programs (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment insurance, and welfare). Systems already private, including the whole complex of food industries and businesses are being deregulated so constraints imposed to keep our eating safe as well as to see that animals and humans are treated humanely can be removed so they too can be plundered. It seems our supposed leaders and their financial masters do not think America has a future, nor earth either.
From my shared faith perspective, we are created and charged to be stewards (care-takers) of the earth and for each other. “Me and mine” (and to hell with everybody else) is the essence of sin. Human life is relational, which keeps it personal so the individual matters, but utterly individualized life is dehumanized existence no matter how wealthy.
For years, the pirates have been taking over. Now we have reached the point where the piracy is out in the open and lauded. People are appointed to run agencies by deliberately running them into the ground. Public goods are pillaged, then judged insufficient and ineffective, so they can be destroyed, but the pubic money will not be saved. Rather it will go into private coffers.
It was William Henry Vanderbilt who uttered the famous response, “The public be damned!” Apparently he was annoyed because he was forced by competition to run express lines that didn’t turn a profit or, at least, not a profit sufficient to satisfy him. Today, we have a “public be damned” system of government in place. Wherever there is money for some public good, that public good must be raided and plundered, and the plundering goes more smoothly if the public can first be turned against that public good. Hence the denigration of public schools and teachers (and, of course, the cutting of funds to ensure ineffectiveness and failure).
How long will we allow our nation to be plundered? I think we will allow it as long as we are divided angrily against each other and fooled into thinking government causes our problems. The plunderers can laugh, as we say, “all the way to the bank.”