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March 3, 2012 3:53 AM   Subscribe

Welcome to Omni Consumer Products. "First they came for the NHS and I said nothing because I was not sick. Then they came for the disabled people and those on benefits and I said nothing because I had an income and didn’t care what the ‘scroungers’ said. Then they came for the schools and I said nothing because I had no kids. Then they came for the police force with private/public partnerships and for speaking up, I received a baton to the face. The private guards looked at their targets and smiled: dissent down 35% this month."

Guardian link
posted by ClanvidHorse (75 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Surely this....?
posted by dash_slot- at 4:04 AM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Perhaps it's just a way of formalising the Met all being in the pay of Rupert Murdoch.
posted by Abiezer at 4:07 AM on March 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


What the fuck, Lib Dems? Is there no depth to which you will not let your coalition fall? I will work against both Lib Dems and Tories *so hard* at the next election. This government is destroying the fabric of what it means to be British. It genuinely disgusts me and makes me really extremely sad.
posted by jaduncan at 4:14 AM on March 3, 2012 [20 favorites]


I've got to stop reading MeFi at breakfast. Talk about a downer to start your day.
posted by sixohsix at 4:19 AM on March 3, 2012


UNISON say: "Privatisation means that the police will be less accountable to the public. And people will no longer be able to go to the Independent Police Complaints Commission if they have a problem."

Previously the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights made pretty much the best summary of existing ECHR caselaw findings:

"5. Independent Police Complaints Body

29. An independent and effective complaints system is essential for securing and maintaining public trust and confidence in the police, and will serve as a fundamental protection against ill-treatment and misconduct. An independent police complaints body (IPCB) should form a pivotal part of such a system.

30. Five principles of effective police complaints investigation have been developed in the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights on Articles 2 and 3 of the ECHR:

1. Independence: there should not be institutional or hierarchical connections between the investigators and the officer complained against and there should be practical independence;3

2. Adequacy: the investigation should be capable of gathering evidence to determine whether police behaviour complained of was unlawful and to identify and punish those responsible;4

3. Promptness: the investigation should be conducted promptly and in an expeditious manner in order to maintain confidence in the rule of law;5

4. Public scrutiny: procedures and decision-making should be open and transparent in order to ensure accountability;6 and

5. Victim involvement: the complainant should be involved in the complaints process in order to safeguard his or her legitimate interests.7"


If they seriously try to remove the IPCC as a method of resolution without a really very strong replacement they are going to get hammered in the ECtHR. I'll also note that it is well established that a company controlled by the state is considered part of the state for the purposes of the ECHR.
posted by jaduncan at 4:21 AM on March 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


It's really scary watching the UK sink into actual fascism. Normally I'd bracket that with some big disclaimer about how the US is always worse, except I don't think the US is worse any more. In fact, whenever I see news about the UK, I find myself hoping we can stave off what's happening to you - the constant surveillance, the crazy use of ASBOs, the insane brutality during protests (Alfie Meadows, that girl in the hijab, etc - and I know people who were seriously brutalized at protests, just not to the point of requiring massive brain surgery), now this stuff. And it all seems justified by poisonous appeals to Britishness on the one hand and a truly vile demonization of working class people ("chavs", "scroungers") on the other.

On the one hand, it looks like, say, Italy during early Mussolini or Spain during Franco- simply insane that things are spiraling down so fast. On the other, it seems so bizarre that only fiction can encompass it - V for Vendetta or one of those anti-fascist SF novels from World War II.

I've often wondered what it would be like if things went really rotten politically. But I always imagined it happening over here.
posted by Frowner at 4:24 AM on March 3, 2012 [32 favorites]


Yeah this is fucking frightening. Fascism is right, these evil fuckers really really don't care about the poor or anyone other than their rich friends who run the city, the banks and the corporations.

The media is full of hate for "dole-scroungers" and people who are on the sick but (according to ATOS) are fit to work. I'm shure I read about a British MP who wanted to change the laws regarding child working hours. (cant find the bloody cite now!) . And on the other side they are all championing all the right wing privitisation policies as the only and correct choice.

And as for Labour, jeez, all that PFI? and debt? and milliband, who condemened the strikes, is unvoteable, he will not win the election. And his more media-friendly brother is a real right winger anyway

so either right wing tory or right wing labour, more privitisation, no public services, we really are heading back to the golden age - when vicky was on the throne.

We. are. seriously. fucked.
posted by marienbad at 4:43 AM on March 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


So the Conservatives are blatantly evil, Labour is quietly evil and the Lib Dems are useless.

Anyone got any good ideas for a new, not evil political party?
posted by antiwiggle at 4:54 AM on March 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's the dismantling of the post-WWII social contract. A generation of politicians who think that the problem with Thatcher was that she didn't go far enough on privatisation, emasculating the unions or dismantling the welfare state.
posted by jaduncan at 4:57 AM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


the constant surveillance, the crazy use of ASBOs, the insane brutality during protests (Alfie Meadows)

It is interesting how it's going in the UK, this mix of traditional police ugliness with this new privatization stuff. We've also had more than ten police officers recently exposed as spending years infiltrating activist groups (never far-right ones though, obviously) and actually fathering children under their secret identities. No accountability for any of this.

When I described London's police on another thread here as some of the worst in the world for racism and corruption, I was immediately smacked down by people pointing out that the cops shoot who they like in Sao Paulo etc. I admit that the everyday violence visited on the underclass is no doubt far worse in places other than the UK, but it does appear we Brits may be finding novel ways to catch up.
posted by colie at 5:04 AM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anyone got any good ideas for a new, not evil political party?

Plaid Cymru are not complete arseholes, and if Leanne Wood wins the leadership could do good things for Wales, but it sucks to be a Saxon.
posted by Abiezer at 5:06 AM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anyone got any good ideas for a new, not evil political party?

My MP is Green. We got organised, we voted, we did it. It is possible. Interestingly the council is also a minority Green administration (actually where we built up from to get the Parliamentary seat) and Labour have been co-operating with the Tories to deny the Green budget that rejected cuts to services in favour of a 3% council tax rise. I kind of despair of modern Labour.
posted by jaduncan at 5:06 AM on March 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


The lack of an opposition is the worst thing right now. The policies that the Conservatives propose are so obviously vile yet nobody is hammering these bastards on them. Labour has a leader who is simply unelectable, and the Lib Dems keep quiet in the belief that the coalition is doing good for them. I'm a natural supporter of the Lib Dems, and am willing to vote for Labour, but were there an election tomorrow, I'm not sure it would be worth voting for either.
posted by Jehan at 5:08 AM on March 3, 2012


jaduncan: It's the dismantling of the post-WWII social contract.

Oh, you're thinking small. This is taking things all the way back to the 1820s, baby! And if they could get rid of the 1832 Reform Act while they're at it, they would.

More seriously: this is fucking horrific. It's one thing to privatise the forensic services, which has already been done and will, I'm pretty sure, be a total disaster. But contracting out front line policing services to private companies? That's a recipe for protection rackets, shakedowns, and corruption that would make the current Murdoch/Met business look like a sideshow.
posted by Len at 5:08 AM on March 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


That's a recipe for protection rackets, shakedowns, and corruption that would make the current Murdoch/Met business look like a sideshow.

As the title suggests, in fact: "any attempt to arrest a senior officer of OCP will result in shutdown".
posted by jaduncan at 5:11 AM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just read about this a week ago, though the byline was Alan Moore.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:25 AM on March 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


I see two of our publicly-funded finest are 'too stressed' to face allegations of corruption. Perhaps a nice, relaxing PFI deal would make taking backhanders a much less trying enterprise.
posted by Abiezer at 5:39 AM on March 3, 2012


"Oh, you're thinking small. This is taking things all the way back to the 1820s, baby!"

posted by Len

Yeah, I think these people read Henry Mayhew and thought it was an instruction manual.

(Special hat-tip to the mefite who randomly introduced me to this awesome book by mentioning it in a thread. Can't remember who or where, but seriously, thank you.)
posted by marienbad at 5:48 AM on March 3, 2012


Well, I have to say I've missed the jokes.
posted by edd at 6:11 AM on March 3, 2012


A top tip for Dave, if you keep telling public sector workers they're shit and they'd be better off working for half as much pay and no pension, don't be surprised if they decide to organise and kick your sorry arse into touch at the next election. When you do it to the police you're all kinds of fucked. Getting policemen to vote labour is like getting republicans to vote for a black man, impressive but not what you should be aiming for.

Also, I am still at a loss to understand why "private" automatically means efficient and competent service. It's like nobody has ever worked for anyone other than Google or Apple or something. Look around you, seriously everywhere is staffed with incompetent people who are just trying not to fuck up so much they get sacked*.

In fact, the only place where I've ever met people who really care about the job they do is in the public sector.

*except for me, I'm awesome.
posted by fullerine at 6:12 AM on March 3, 2012 [12 favorites]


Oh, and Cleggy has driven the Yellow Tories into unelectable for a couple of decades territory. What exactly are they getting out of this again?
posted by fullerine at 6:16 AM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


What exactly are they getting out of this again?

In his case, he'll not even hold his seat, but no matter, he's made the connections for some very lucrative directorships or the think-tank route.
posted by Abiezer at 6:20 AM on March 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


In his case, he'll not even hold his seat, but no matter, he's made the connections for some very lucrative directorships or the think-tank route.

Or being dropped into a safe Tory seat in the Shires, of course, although impressively I think his personal brand might actually be too toxic for the Tories to want to do that.
posted by jaduncan at 6:38 AM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


This isn't about fascism, and the word's meaningless anyway. It's simply about making money for their friends. 15 years of Labour has made the Tories very impatient about restoring the natural order, and they're making up for lost time.

I'm so glad I don't live in the UK any longer. The Netherlands has its own version of rampant fuckwittery, but at least the political model here makes it more difficult for a party to take power and rip apart the entire social contract.
posted by daveje at 6:44 AM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


So is there some sort of secret clause in the secret special relationship treaty suggesting the UK do things like this so US folk don't feel so bad by comparison?

If so, mission accomplished.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:03 AM on March 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


(Oops, considering I imagined G.W. Bush as a signatory on that treaty, that choice of phrase is unfortunate.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:05 AM on March 3, 2012


I think the story of the Lib Dems role in the coalition is already a complex and almost entirely unfortunate one, but the idea that it is driven by nothing but cowardice and greed seems to me largely a partisan myth being constructed by the Labour party, in the belief that eliminating the Lib Dems as a third party will bring them greater advantages than it will the Tories. But, just discount them, forget about the Lib Dems, please. It's a distraction, emotionally satisfying though it may be.

A really big question is why the Labour party is utterly unwilling or unable to provide any effective opposition. This leads to the central question of whether antiwiggle is correct in thinking we need a new major national political party (most likely the Greens), whether something can be salvaged from the post New Labour mess, or whether subversion at a local political level is all that can be hoped for. It seems to me that this is a decision we each need to make quickly. There are local elections on May the 3rd, and a Lib Dem collapse and a few ineffectual Labour victories will not be sufficient to fuel any kind of fight-back.
posted by howfar at 7:22 AM on March 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


This way corporations can loan police ponies to rich people so they can let politicians ride them with no pesky FOI issues! Efficiency Found!
posted by srboisvert at 7:53 AM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


About two years ago I read Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine, and while I could see in places she was stretching for a point, or leaving out people from the left side of the political spectrum who were also fond of the clean slate and using shock events to force through the changes they wanted, I was surprised by all the dismissiveness I found towards the book when I searched Mefi for comments on it. I would happily learn from more informed mefites about problems with the book and better alternatives, but since reading it events in the UK and elsewhere have made it incredibly prescient -- especially as it was written in 2007, pre-financial crisis.


relevant Fry and Laurie

Askmefi: I'm very angry about what's happening in the UK right now, including-but-not-limited-to: the unnecessarily savage and unequal budget cuts, the privatisation of our education, health and police systems, the scapegoating of vulnerable groups and the dishonesty and cynicism of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat politicians involved. Other than protesting, what active, concrete action can I take to fight or correct these wrongs?
posted by catchingsignals at 7:57 AM on March 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Live action Clockwork Orange.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:59 AM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Will this have implications for the Prime Minister's police pony rides with the Murdochians? Oh wait it's the Midlands. They are still in quarantine until those accents go away.
posted by srboisvert at 8:25 AM on March 3, 2012


Statist capitalism seems to be the big thing at the moment: there seems to be a section of western society - broadly speaking, the Republicans in the US and the Tories in the UK - who have looked at China and decided to replicate that here.

I have a sinking feeling that the great struggle of the twenty-first century will be between two ideologies: an increasingly corrupt, fascistic state capitalism propped up by quasi-religious appeals to actual religion and bankrupt economic theory; and a more decentralised, cooperative socialist approach that attempts to build a society that serves the needs and wishes of all members of the community, rather than a few rich short-term thinkers.

I think everyone who ever said that modern, market-oriented conservatism is basically fascism with a friendly face is being vindicated by recent events - there is no deeper ideology here, just a ruthless desire to justify the expansion of the power of an aristocracy.
posted by lucien_reeve at 8:27 AM on March 3, 2012 [13 favorites]


and a more decentralised, cooperative socialist approach that attempts to build a society that serves the needs and wishes of all members of the community, rather than a few rich short-term thinkers.

Which country is going in this direction so I can have a backup plan to move there?
posted by Talez at 8:31 AM on March 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've often wondered what it would be like if things went really rotten politically

I call that a target rich environment.

Really.
I give cops the benefit of the doubt. Even a corrupt police officer I'd have a problem with opposing with force. The apple/barrel argument aside, he's a link in a chain and to attack a link is to potentially snap the chain.

But a private company security worker? I wouldn't even hit the brakes to slow down. Might even throw it into reverse. Eat a big meal. Sleep like a baby afterwards. I'd remember it only as a 'Tuesday.'
posted by Smedleyman at 8:32 AM on March 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


and a more decentralised, cooperative socialist approach that attempts to build a society that serves the needs and wishes of all members of the community, rather than a few rich short-term thinkers.

Which country is going in this direction so I can have a backup plan to move there?


Inquiring minds really do want to know, but I have a suspicion the sad answer is going to be, "Nowhere."
posted by adamdschneider at 9:04 AM on March 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


The only proper purpose of a government is to protect man’s rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence. A proper government is only a policeman... -Ayn Rand

When you do things in the name of capitalism that even Ayn Rand wouldn't do, things are clearly getting scary.
posted by niccolo at 9:10 AM on March 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


Oh geez. This isn't just a recipe for disaster, it's a whole fucking cookbook.

What really makes me angry (or want to cry, I can't quite tell) is two things from the Guardian article. Firstly, the chillingly euphemistic phrasing regarding the goals of this proposal:

"Combining with the business sector is aimed at totally transforming the way the force currently does business – improving the service provided to the public. The areas of service listed in this notice are deliberately broad to allow the force to explore the skills, expertise and solutions a partnership could bring."
At best, this is just meaningless business-speak. At worst, they are actually serious about "totally transforming" the force.

Secondly, there's this gem:
The West Midlands police are already planning to cut 2,764 police jobs over the next three years and this privatisation programme is not designed to meet the immediate budget gaps. The savings are expected to show after 2014.
[emphasis mine]

So they're selling out the public trust for the ghost of a promise of future savings.
posted by jcreigh at 9:56 AM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


So it sounds like they're heading for the police equivalent of the TSA. Wonderful.

From the Guardian article, the phrase "improving the service provided to the public" sets all my alarm bells ringing. Whenever you hear that phrase, you can be sure that's the one thing that *won't* be happening...

*sigh*
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 10:04 AM on March 3, 2012


From the Guardian article, the phrase "improving the service provided to the public" sets all my alarm bells ringing. Whenever you hear that phrase, you can be sure that's the one thing that *won't* be happening...

Heh, yeah, just like back when the first calls for telecom deregulation et al wer ehappening, and companies were arguing that it would bring more competition and better prices for people, and my response to that was, "Then why in the world would they be in favor of it?"
posted by adamdschneider at 10:22 AM on March 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


HOLY SHIT. I thought it'd be tin whistles and up-for-liberty in the US. Good thing I've still got that UK passport.
posted by Slackermagee at 11:26 AM on March 3, 2012


Is this what it felt like to be a left-winger under Thatcher? This horrible frustrated powerless anger? Because I've got that going on.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:45 AM on March 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is what it's felt like to be left-wing for the last 30 years at least. But yes, I imagine that the moderates feel about the same now as they did under Thatcher. It probably won't stop them convincing themselves that the next soft-faced capitalist poodle who turns up offering a "third way" is a real deal democratic socialist.
posted by howfar at 1:04 PM on March 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Jesus. I'm getting so old and bitter. I'm like that ancient and little used bottle of angostura lurking in the back of your mum's cocktail cabinet. ;)
posted by howfar at 1:10 PM on March 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm getting this horrible feeling like when someone you love is diagnosed with an illness, and you keep hoping against hope that somehow tomorrow they'll be better, and tomorrow comes and they're worse. Only it's as if they were sick in just the same way decades ago, and only just made it through, and you've spent the last decade and a half watching them get out of breath as they walked upstairs, wondering how different things would have been if it had never happened. And you can't help wondering, now, what sort of shape they're going to be in even if this does finally come to an end, how much of the damage is the kind that just doesn't ever get undone. Other people you know, people who barely know this person, are so compassionate: It's awful, they say, it's so sad, you must be so upset. And part of you feels angry, you want to yell at them that they don't understand, that it wasn't supposed to be this way, things weren't meant to be this fucking sad.

Then some arsefaced Tory vicar comes along and tells you this is all part of God's plan for a better world.
posted by Acheman at 2:21 PM on March 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


So it sounds like they're heading for the police equivalent of the TSA. Wonderful.


Technically, no. Bizarrely, the TSA was the product of the nationalisation of airport security. Got to be the only thing the US has ever nationalised.*

I'm sure there's another example, but I can't think of it. That time Reagan broke the aircraft controllers strike?
posted by hoyland at 3:25 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


The best part will be in several years hence when there's a big protest in the centre of London and all the unemployed people forced to do unpaid work experience in the privatised riot police decide its not worth the hassle and scarper, allowing the Big Society to ransack Whitehall.
posted by Damienmce at 3:31 PM on March 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


But putting my sensible hat on, despite what the Daily Mail tells you the UK is safer and healthier than it's ever been, crime has been going down for decades yet the fear of crime gets ever higher. I think it's entirely reasonable to cut some positions in the public sector esp police. If a budget goes up 5% one year everyone cheers yet if it goes down 5% the following year its the end of the world. The police especially seem to get away with murder (ahem) compared to teachers and nurses as none of the rightwing papers are every baying for cuts to our unblemished boys in blue. For a job that requires no qualifications or otherworldly abilities its a cushy number.

Parts of privatisation I can even understand, why pay a final salary pension for someone doing a not particularly dangerous admin job that would offer much less generous terms and conditions in the private sector. Actual frontline coppers with the ability to arrest people answering to shareholders. Nuts.

And even if I accept privatisation isn't a bogey man (worked well for telcoms, bad for trains) I know in my heart that this won't be fair and transparent. It will be a badly managed feast of pork barrel for Tory acolytes, worse than the disastrous PFI. All we can do is hope that John Lewis or some moderately not evil company will bid for it.
posted by Damienmce at 3:56 PM on March 3, 2012


The Daily Mail's comment section is boiling with indignation at these plans. Surely Cameron should realise that if even his core demographic reacts to these plans with the words "corporate fascist state", then maybe he's gone a bit too far. Although my cynical core also suggests that perhaps he isn't altogether unhappy to see Theresa May, once seen as a potential leadership challenger, embarrass herself like this.
It's, however, a sad testament of the sorry state of both Labour and the Lib Dems if neither one is capable of raising a big stink about this.
posted by Skeptic at 5:04 PM on March 3, 2012


ArmyOfKittens: Is this what it felt like to be a left-winger under Thatcher? This horrible frustrated powerless anger? Because I've got that going on.
Nah. Give it another ten years and get back to me.
posted by genghis at 5:34 PM on March 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mr. Vimes will go SPARE. (One can hope.)
posted by nicebookrack at 7:26 PM on March 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm er, going to go out on a limb here and, if not defend the tories then at least explain them.

The reason why the tories want this and the die hard tory supporters on the Daily Mail comment boards hate it is the root of the problem.

There isn't enough cash in the pot to pay for the services that the UK electorate wants. More specifically, the older UK electorate who look to their final decade or two and want to make sure that they have it all - retirement at 60 or 65, keeping the taxman off their property value, and a nice full service police force and NHS waiting for them.

This is why the Daily Mail commenters are up in arms. Well, they're largely up in arms because policemen these days are so young and they're more interested in 'elf and safety than solving crimes, aren't they?

So the tory solution is better productivity - and there is no doubt the police force needs to become more efficient - and lower cost. And it just so happens there is a whole industry of policy wonks and a bunch of moneymen who have studied the American experiment and are more than happy to propose an experiment.

Someone upthread mentioned that there wasn't an effective opposition. Correct: Labour presided over many of the ills that the tories can't or won't change. This tory government is actually more left wing in many ways than Tony Blair's Labour: a 50% tax rate, proper political pressure on bonuses as just two examples. And now Ed Miliband can't work out what to do. His party's left are telling him to tax and spend, which is absolutely bonkers. And his party's right are telling him to sit tight, not tie himself to too many firm policy positions and wait for both disaffected Lib Dems to join them and for the government to keep enmiring itself in sleaze.

So we're left with the tories trying to square the circle - delivering services to keep our aging electorate happy while forcing through the economic reforms that might mean the UK doesn't become Spain, Ireland, or Greece.

In short: this is pitched as a class war, but it might actually be more helpful to see it as battle between generations.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:59 AM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


MuffinMan, your comment might make more sense if the Tories weren't the ones who'd been pitching it as a class war. Every cut they've made has been preceded by a PR blitz on the target - scroungers, students, the disabled etc. They're the ones who've created this political atmosphere - the Daily Mail just runs with it.

Your narrative also doesn't take into account the moves that are not saving any money, and in fact can be shown to be costing more.

Workfare doesn't save money - it costs more in terms of admin and failure rates.

The NHS re-organisation is going to cost much more money in the short term, and isn't being argued as a money saver in the long term.

Other moves such as the attempt to push people off DLA save pennies in the scheme of things, and cost huge amounts to service.

In the face of all this, it's difficult not to see Tory policy (not all of it cuts, much of it re-organisation) as ideological, not financial.
posted by Summer at 3:22 AM on March 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Every cut they've made has been preceded by a PR blitz on the target - scroungers, students, the disabled etc.

Or, in other words, young scrounging immigrants (and their families), young students, and working age people who should be working, not disabled.

I didn't say is was all about cost cuts. It is about productivity and cost cuts.

As for ideological, not financial - all politics one disagrees with sufficiently is ideology. I'm not saying the tories are right, but all substantial organisational change will have dogmatic believers in the end result and dogmatic naysayers that it'll come to nowt.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:20 AM on March 4, 2012


MuffinMan You leave Summer's main criticism unanswered, namely that many of those reforms are unlikely to increase public service efficiency, and that similar past privatisation drives turned out to be counter-productive (although nicely filling the pockets of well-connected individuals and companies). Also, of the three countries you cite, two (Ireland and Spain) were at least as market- and privatisation-minded as Britain in the past, and indeed their current economic woes originate in the private sector. Moreover, their current economic numbers aren't much different than Britain's, unemployment excepted, and an argument can be made that Britain hides much of its unemployment under disability benefits...
posted by Skeptic at 5:53 AM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


the tory solution is better productivity

The problem with your argument MuffinMan, is that this was the case in the 80s too, suggesting that your battle of the generations hypothesis is, at the least, insufficient. The Tories professed and still profess a belief in the efficiency of private enterprise, even in the case of private monopolies. No reasonable argument for this blanket belief is given, and the examples of monopoly privatisation (most notably water and trains) suggest that all we get is a higher cost to the public with no improvement in service. But here's the real historical lesson that the Tories have learned: even though everybody acknowledges rail privatisation to have been a disaster, nobody has any idea of how to go about reversing it.

The Tory intent here is clear. Push through as many privatisation measures (or reorganisations transferring operational control and financial benefit of publicly held assets to private hands) as possible and gamble on an economic upturn. If there is an upturn, claim responsibility and spend the loot on some shiny baubles to bribe a second term out of the public. If there is no upturn they'll probably lose the next election, but much of the wealth that they've expropriated from the state into the hands of their class will be likely as irrecoverable as the trains or the water infrastructure.

Heads they win, tails we lose.
posted by howfar at 7:39 AM on March 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


"In short: this is pitched as a class war, but it might actually be more helpful to see it as battle between generations."
posted by MuffinMan

It can be both. It can be a war between the paid and the unpaid, between indiginous and immigrant, between classes, between state and private. What was it Diane Abbot said? Divide and conquer? The rulers of this country are expert at it.

And don't forget, Cameron is descended from the King, he is part Royal, and all the front bench are rich, Eton-educated toffs, and you don't think there is a class war?

Also, as for ideology, their ideology is moneterist neo-libralism, "the markets know best" "private is better than public/state". Hayak and The Chicago school would be loving it.
posted by marienbad at 8:04 AM on March 4, 2012


MuffinMan You leave Summer's main criticism unanswered, namely that many of those reforms are unlikely to increase public service efficiency

As much an article of dogma that it will achieve efficiency, IMHO, than that it won't. Summer dismissed it as ideology,I'd question anyone on either side that really understands whether it will or it won't.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:13 AM on March 4, 2012


and the examples of monopoly privatisation (most notably water and trains)

With respect, if you don't at least have the honesty to point out that most public utilities were basket cases pre privatisation - notably the water companies failing to upgrade the infrastructure and BR relying on huge public subsidies and ancient rolling stock - and that there is one very good example in BT of a privatised business that delivers a vastly improved service, then we can't have a sensible debate.

I don't think the tories are blameless, and dislike the free market extremists as much as the next man. But the simple truth is there are cost savings and efficiencies to be found in the public sector and the average voter doesn't want to pay more but will be making more demands on the public sector in the future.

On that basis, characterising the tory response as pure dogma and expropriation of wealth is a highly selective reading of events.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:21 AM on March 4, 2012


water companies failing to upgrade the infrastructure

Anyone could receive a free debt write-off and massively increase prices in order to pay for infrastructure upgrades, it doesn't take the invisible hand of the market to achieve that. The simple expedient of spending more of the public's money has achieved exactly what would have been achieved without privatisation. Replacing my "water rates" with a higher "water bill" wasn't a cost saving to me.

BR relying on huge public subsidies and ancient rolling stock

We currently subsidise privately owned rail-transport at the rate of 8.1p per passenger mile. If you're going to throw around accusations of dishonesty, you might want to try not using such an obviously dishonest argument. I wasn't born yesterday mate, don't try to bully me.

there is one very good example in BT of a privatised business


Which is why my criticisms were strictly limited to private monopolies.

there are cost savings and efficiencies to be found in the public sector


The mantra of the Tories for the last 3 decades. You and your party (because let's not be "dishonest" here) haven't made any argument as to how ordinary members of the public will be better off by having to pay a private monopoly rather than a public one. You never do, preferring to chant the mantra of "cost savings and efficiencies" as if these are necessary products of the magic wand of privatisation.

Go and stick your magic wand in someone else, we're fucked enough already.
posted by howfar at 9:44 AM on March 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Summer dismissed it as ideology

That wasn't the ideology I was referring to. I don't think their ideology is based in economics, I think it is based in morality. I think, judging by the language they have used in their assault on various sectors of the population that the Tories believe allocating taxes to public sector wages/pensions and general benefits is morally wrong. If they could scrap the entire public sector and benefit system without public outcry, they would.
posted by Summer at 9:45 AM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


there is one very good example in BT of a privatised business that delivers a vastly improved service

BT, post-privatisation, had to be forced by Ofcom to open up its exchanges to competition. If it hadn't done that, we wouldn't have reasonably priced broadband now, we'd all be paying whatever price BT thought it could get away with. BT had to be forced by the regulator to not be an arsehole.
posted by Summer at 9:50 AM on March 4, 2012


Anyone could receive a free debt write-off and massively increase prices in order to pay for infrastructure upgrades

Privatisation is really that simple for you. Seriously?

We currently subsidise privately owned rail-transport at the rate of 8.1p per passenger mile

And I didn't suggest we didn't.But then I'm not arguing that privatisation is always a bad thing.

One of the reasons we still subsidise it is because rail operators can't raise prices as they want nor close grossly unprofitable services. That's a good thing.

I wasn't born yesterday mate, don't try to bully me.

Don't worry, anonymous internets toughguy. I wouldn't dream of it.

Go and stick your magic wand in someone else, we're fucked enough already.

Stay classy.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:48 PM on March 4, 2012


Privatisation is really that simple for you. Seriously?

That is what happened when water was privatised. As I was speaking directly in relation to something you said about water privatisation, I assumed you'd be sufficiently familiar with the history to draw the inference? Apparently I was operating under a misapprehension.

Stay classy.

Nice comeback. Is that something you wrote yourself?

You plainly have no answer to the grist of my response, nor to the responses of anyone who has questioned you on the subject. That's fair enough, we all get out of our depth from time to time. But if you start holding your nose at the possibility of having a debate with someone as dishonest as me, you need to expect that I'll point out how much your bullshit stinks too.
posted by howfar at 2:05 PM on March 4, 2012


howfar - I'm afraid you're arguing with the same person you always argue with: some ideological nemesis who neatly fits every intellectual and moral weakness you want them to have.

I'm not going to indulge the tough guy talk: I suggest a long session in front of the mirror, preferably with gnarled lip and the bullshit stinks line or the one about the magic wand. They were good lines. Keepers even.

The grist of your argument is that privatisation is always bad. But this isn't the case, as BT shows, regardless of OFCOM involvement [and I've not argued that regulation of privatised industries is not necessary] and your view of water privatisation is simplistic, in which just pouring cash in - whether within a nationalised or privatised environment is all that is needed to fix latent problems. No: anyone can't receive a free debt write-off and massively increase prices in order to pay for infrastructure upgrades. How organisations are run, and by whom, and within what regulatory framework matters.

Indeed, the continuing problems of train operators shows exactly that if privatisation were simple, and were as simple as just transferring ownership from state to private investors, then train operators would all be doing just dandy.

Your views are as simplistic as the free marketers who believe in unbounded competition and its impact on delivery of services.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:11 AM on March 5, 2012


Wow. I predict an arsefaced self-justifying Tory and, as if they were the kind of demon which regards all utterances of its name as a summons, one appears. MuffinMan, you're not addressing the substance of what howfar is saying, which is that

1. Monopolies shouldn't be privatised. Trains and water are a natural monopoly because it isn't realistic to have multiple, competing railway systems or networks of water pipes. There really isn't a way to have market forces operate within a natural monopoly without massive convolutions. You are creating a market-failure situation straight out of the first pages of an elementary economics book.

2. If the only supposed benefits from privatising a company were strategic decisions (like investing in infrastructure) that could have been taken while it was still state-owned, then it wasn't privatisation that caused the improvement, it was different and better management. Privatisation seems like a rather convoluted, expensive way of getting different and better management.

3. The Tories' current policy has fuck-all to do with sustainability. You have this 'generational conflict' idea which you clearly think sounds very clever, but you haven't demonstrated at any point that it actually works as a model of what's taking place. When people have pointed out the parts of reality it fails to describe or predict, you fall back on some washy and contentless bleat about privatisation inevitably leading to efficiency savings (see above).

The fact is that everyone who is actually involved with the NHS or social services or youth unemployment is saying that the current plans are setting us up for years of both inefficiencies (because the system does not join up properly, is ill-designed, is poorly incentivised) and also frankly greater spending needs, because if you take a mentally-ill person's benefit away and as a result of that their condition deteriorates so that they are admitted as an inpatient, you have not saved money. If you take away a young person's ESA so that they have to try and get a job rather than getting A-Levels and they never do get steady employment and draw benefit on and off for the rest of their life, you have not saved money. If you cut government jobs in areas where, because of previous Tory action, the government is the main employer, and you therefore force those areas into a downward economic spiral where nobody spends money so people in shops and pubs and hairdressing salons lose their jobs, you have not saved money. And if you force through an elaborate and hugely expensive re-organisation of the health service against advice from all major health bodies, you have not saved money. The only demonstrable result of all Tory policies is that a few rich people get even richer. And guess what? Those people just happen to be friends with members of the cabinet. What coincidence!
posted by Acheman at 2:14 AM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the ad hominen, Acheman.

Monopolies shouldn't be privatised

And yet, telecoms was a monopoly. In Sweden, sales and distribution of alcohol are a monopoly. I don't disagree that privatisation as a de facto solution is a poor one, which is why I am amused by how vehement you and howfar are to characterise my position as a free marketer. I just disagree with the view you hold that all privatisation is bad, and that all privatisation of former monopolies is destined to fail.

Privatisation seems like a rather convoluted, expensive way of getting different and better management.

I agree. But then I don't hold privatisation as a holy grail. The opposing view is that nationalisation is an expensive, very bureaucratic way to deliver economies of scale and operational consistency.

In fact, why free marketers and antiprivatisation refuseniks fit in the same box is because they fail to recognise the benefits of the other's model. Privatisation can deliver other benefits - quicker access to capital, the ability for companies to use different operational procedures etc. The tory obsession with BBC's "monopoly" is equally odd because it seems blind to the benefits of the funding model and operational goals.

And that is the substance of it. If you want the debate to keep being a pro/anti privatisation debate I'm afraid I don't care enough about it either way.

You have this 'generational conflict' idea which you clearly think sounds very clever, but you haven't demonstrated at any point that it actually works as a model of what's taking place

It's an opinion, and was ventured as such. You've given a bunch of opinions too with zero facts attached. But I'm not calling you a self justifying communist arsehole because, hey, you're welcome to your opinions. Welcome to the internets.

If you want to read more about the generational conflict issue then I'd recommend The Pinch. A good read. Written by David Willetts, but not a traditional tory take on things.
posted by MuffinMan at 4:02 AM on March 5, 2012


Inspectorgadget's POV (always an interesting one) here.
posted by longbaugh at 5:50 AM on March 5, 2012


MuffinMan, it's not so much that I'm a tough guy (although I am, and bless your heart for following my Metafilter career with such interest) I just write things when I think they're funny put-downs. You attempted a put down yourself, in the very first sentence you wrote to me. I presumed that that was the way you wanted it, but I apologise if it wasn't and I hurt your feelings.

I shouldn't bother, in any case, because you're making an absolute prat of yourself without my playground taunts. You're deliberately refusing to see others' arguments, and casting yourself as the moderate while offering not a single substantive argument in favour of the measures you are defending. An example. When Acheman said:

Monopolies shouldn't be privatised. Trains and water are a natural monopoly...

You entirely ignored, indeed snipped out, the key qualifier, and proceeded to give examples of things that are, in fact, not natural monopolies. Your argument is thus far more disingenuous than that of anyone disagreeing with you, despite your accusations. Your sole point appears to be that "not all private things are bad", and you're willing to fight any straw man who says otherwise. But you go all wishy-washy when someone addresses what is bad about these particular measures, and say you're not here for a "pro/anti privatisation debate". What on earth are you here for then?

And with that, I bid you good day. From one tough guy to another, Power to the People!
posted by howfar at 9:45 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


You entirely ignored, indeed snipped out, the key qualifier, and proceeded to give examples of things that are, in fact, not natural monopolies

Because the qualifier equally applies to telecoms, and is irrelevant. Why do you think trains or water are a natural monopoly but BT isn't?
posted by MuffinMan at 9:57 AM on March 5, 2012


For the same reason that road freight is not a natural monopoly while rail freight is. Multiple competing services can offer a real and effective choice to consumers. But as no-one apart from you is interested in having the "all privatisation is bad" argument you have deluded yourself into seeing levelled against you, I don't think there's anything more to be said on the matter. Watching you project your beliefs about left-wing people onto us while squeaking about how I'm projecting onto you is just embarrassing for us all.
posted by howfar at 1:38 PM on March 5, 2012


For the same reason that road freight is not a natural monopoly while rail freight is.

I hate to tell you this, but BT wholesale owns the infrastructure, i.e. the "rails" in your analogy. It is no less a "natural" monopoly than a company owning the gas pipes or water pipes.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:23 PM on March 5, 2012


Oh do give over. It is perfectly possible for infrastructure owned by one company to be used by different organisations and offer real competition in the correct factual circumstances and legislative framework. Telecom privatisation shows us exactly this. Public ownership of the infrastructure is irrelevant, as the train fiasco shows absolutely. You seem to think you're making a lot of smart points without realising that everybody else is operating at a level that takes your brilliant insights for granted.

But as a favour, since you really don't seem to understand how to make your own argument, I'll explain it to you for future reference. What you need to do, if you want to defend the current moves toward privatisation, is show that this is in some way similar to the privatisation of the phones, rather than the privatisation of the trains. You need to show that there is some way in which competition will be introduced by allowing consumers to choose effectively between service providers.

But, really, don't bother. If it takes someone who disagrees with you to explain how you would go about proving them wrong, you're really not the person to be making the argument.
posted by howfar at 2:53 PM on March 5, 2012


Oh do give over. It is perfectly possible for infrastructure owned by one company to be used by different organisations and offer real competition in the correct factual circumstances and legislative framework

Then I'm at a loss as to why you were so sure that my snipping of Acheman's comment about how natural monopolies are a model for market failure was some nefarious question avoidance.

Look, at this point I concede. You're super smart. I'm clearly not, and I thank you through all of this for taking the time to explain to me what I need to do to satisfy the rather exacting criteria that you need to be OK with any form of privatisation. Award yourself maximum awesome points.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:08 AM on March 6, 2012


Oh dear. Just try arguing with what people say, not what you imagine them to believe.
posted by howfar at 5:58 AM on March 6, 2012


That's actually quite funny.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:50 AM on March 6, 2012


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