Tuesday, August 21, 2007

This Is What Passes For A Cohesive Argument Nowadays?

I've been spending my free time preparing for my upcoming fantasy football draft than blogging, but this stupid op-ed piece in USA Today demanded a response.

The piece argues against the privatization of public drinking water systems and against privatization in general, which is all good and dandy. Some libertarians may argue that the government shouldn't own the roads, the waterways, or our utilities, but I'm not one of those libertarians. And regardless, the trend toward privatization is based not on selling off government owned resources, but on auctioning off the management of these resources to for-profit companies. And therefore, any argument about the positives or negatives of privatization should be based on efficiency, costs, and quality.

Rather than relying on anything like, say, data or statistics, the piece focuses on the water privatization experiences of Stockton, California, which has apparently been a disaster. So score one point for public utilities, right? The piece then ends with this bit of brilliance.

Even so, whenever a bridge falls, a levee breaks or a steam pipe bursts, we invariably hear renewed calls to privatize. Let Stockton's experience testify that privatization is not the solution.

Instead, what is required is a new commitment by citizens and government to rebuild our infrastructure so that our water and other essential services remain in the public domain to be managed for the benefit of all citizens, and not for the profit of a few.

Hopefully the failings of this sort of argument is hitting all you readers over the head like a blunt instrument. Specific examples of private sector failings shows us that we can't privatize vital resources. But when the public sector fails, as we saw in the Minneapolis bridge collapse, it doesn't show us that the government is incompetent. Rather, it shows us that we didn't spend enough money. Or in other words, any business failure reflects poorly on all businesses, but government failure only reflects poorly on those who made bad decisions. Get it? Got it? Good.


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