Public-private partnerships?

By Nathan Barton

One of the many ways in which people seek to “reduce” the corrupt power of government is to restrain government agencies by reducing their workload through contracting out, thus reducing government direct employment.  It sounds good, but its a nasty business.

A basic “biblical” principle of “be not unequally yoked” is generally applied to marriage.  But the concept seems equally applicable to business relationships (partnerships, employment, and clients and customers).  And especially to political and governmental relations. Although this is a religious concept, does it not apply as well to lovers of liberty? I submit to my readers that indeed it does.

Consider, for example, the very popular idea of “public-private partnerships” in which various government entities and agencies enter into agreements, (short or long term) relationships with one or more private business entities (usually but not always corporations or limited-liability companies of some sort).

These can be very limited and small; the local county governing board which contracts with an attorney in private practice to represent and advise them, rather than hiring on an attorney. A short-term contract in which a local telecommunications company acts as an answering service for a local government agency to get feedback on a proposed project or a issue generating debate and concern.

Or they can be massive, involving hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of man- and equipment-hours, including everything from hiring mercenaries for overseas to contracting for speed-cameras, surveillance, inspections and enforcement of environmental laws, operating prisons and jails and schools (school districts), and much more.

Whatever form they take, they represent a threat to liberty.  Sometimes that threat is significant, and sometimes it is just a potential threat which risk is offset by the advantages, especially for those opposed to government.

Since government is almost ALWAYS the dominant, more powerful, partner, these partnerships are usually situations in which the private partner (whether for-profit or non-profit) submits to the demands of the state.  Although usually driven by profit or altruistic motives, fear is a strong element in the binding together.  That binding, that yoke, is very, very unequal.

Indeed, without much time or effort involved, the private-sector partner becomes little more than a puppet, a hollow shill, for its government ally.  Oh, the private sector is well-paid (indeed, probably paid far better than those who do not accept the tyrant’s coin).  Its love of money betrays it to a future of servitude and play-acting.  Why?  Because even the largest of corporations, scattered across counties and states and nations, are but a small fraction of the people and wealth at the command of the governments facing it.  And all too often, the private organization has already sold its birthright and its soul for a bowl of porridge; the “benefits” and gratuities that government uses to woo people and groups to the dark side.

And as I wrote earlier, it happens on a very wide range of scales: the PTA or parent-teacher organization teamed up with the local government-run, tax-funded school is quickly just a mouthpiece for the school’s administration and parasitic teachers’ union.  The “big construction” firms are lapdogs to the highway department and the special interest groups – even when it seems that the bureaucrats are puppets of the contractors.

Oy! Public-private partnerships are as unequal a marriage as the nine-year-old girl married to the 50-year-old “prophet” and warlord.  And about as sick a relationship, as well.

Mama’s Note: Underlying all of this is, of course, the false belief that any non-voluntary government has the authority to do any of these things – with or without the private sector involved. Questioning that “authority” is the rational first step to solving the problems. Rejecting that “authority” completely is a very serious step that must be taken before individual liberty will gain any real traction in our lives.

About tpolnathan

Follower of Christ Jesus (christian), Pahasapan, Westerner, Lover of Liberty, Free-Market Anarchist, Engineer, Army Officer, Husband, Father, Historian, Writer.
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