Why The Private Sector Is Better

Ha! Fooled you. Clickbait, you see. It’s what the private sector is good at: discovering ever more devious ways of diverting you away from what you want to what it wants.

But I’m not here to bore you with pinko-commie anti-capitalist ranting. I want to examine more closely the often-heard assertion that the private sector does things better than the public sector.

(I should add, that I have time to write this post because my Southern Rail train has been cancelled and I’ve got time to kill before the next one turns up some time in late 2018.)

The alleged separation between private and public sectors is a bogus one, pushed by free marketeers, neo-liberals and self-employed men who ‘do a bit of buying and selling’ which entitles them to use the term entrepreneur and its derivative cousin ‘wealth creator.’

Private sector johnnies will support their argument by taking us back to the 1970s when publicly owned British Leyland devoured the British car industry, and publicly owned British Rail ruined everyone’s holidays.

The simplest response to this selective use of history is to ask private sector johnnie to compare the current car industry to that of the 1950s, and the privatised rail system prior to Dr Beeching. In other words, why did the private sector, once efficient and proud, become the hapless money-grabbing basket case it is today? Private sector johnnie won’t have an answer.

To anyone who insists on the virtues of the private sector lets take a moment to look at some everyday examples of it in action:

Customer services – long waits on the phone, distant call centres, patchy resolutions to problems.

A semi-monopolised energy market – we’re told there’s competition if we switch. People who have switched wished they’d never been born because of the resulting complications.

A broken banking system – the efficiency of the (private sector) banking industry needs a blog post of its own. Any industry than can cripple an entire planet when it fails is not something to turn to if you want to further the cause of the private sector.

Low wage/zero hours contracts/part-time work – because the private sector won’t pay a decent wage the tax payer subsidises incomes through in-work benefits. Private sector johnnies don’t often acknowledge their altruistic role in paying someone else’s wage every month. Low wages also lead to constraints on spending. Not good for private sector johnnies trying to sell stuff.

The ubiquity of advertising now means adverts are often the core of so many businesses. Google and Facebook wouldn’t exist without them. Seems harmless until you realise that up to half of your £25 a month phone contract is wasted by adverts hogging your bandwidth. The private sector’s response to this inconvenience: make adblockers illegal or unworkable and carry on annoying the shit out of us.

Of course the private sector isn’t all bad. By providing cheap credit millions of people in developing countries can now afford to take out mortgages. In China . . . actually, better not mention China; the notion of public and private gets a bit complicated in China.

All right then, Harrison, tell us why the public sector is better. No, I won’t, and I never said I would. The public sector can be just as ineffective, incompetent and corrupt as the private sector. And that’s my point. The private sector has its place, the public sector has its place and exponents of the two sides should recognise that. When the private sector goes arse over head (RBS Bank, Tata Steel) it’s the public sector that has to step in and clean up all the blood and snot that’s left behind. When the transport industry moans about a lack of lorry drivers, it’s the public sector that’s expected to train new ones.

The private sector wants its cake and eat it, and expects the tax payer to pay for the ingredients. (And then the public sector will come along and bury you in red tape to make sure the cake is safe to eat.)

So, next time you’re on the phone for three hours trying to get through to BT Openreach customer care, just reassure yourself that the private sector is always better and your money is making a lot of CEOs very wealthy. After all, you always fancied yourself as a wealth creator, didn’t you?



27 thoughts on “Why The Private Sector Is Better

  1. I match your British Rail and raise you one New Zealand rail, which represented 120 years of taxpayer investment and infrastructure worth billions, was handed over to the private sector for $300 million in 1993, then basically asset-stripped and run into the ground by foreign private owners. The lines were re-purchased by the government for $1 in 2006, then the whole thing re-purchased for $700 million (still with the same locomotives it’d had in 1993, which had been on their last legs then) and has been creaking and groaning ever since. Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. OK, first of all, that opening bait-and-switch is so devious you should offer cream at the end of this article to apply to the burned area of free-market thinking. Ouch.

    Your last couple of paragraphs put both philosophies in perspective, which is great. Both public and private sector institutions are run by people and for certain other people. Both can be corrupt and inept as you point out.

    For me, the distinction boils down to each system’s baseline ideals and long-term goals. Even as a liberal, I have no romanticized views of socialism, but at least when I work for, within, or seek advice from the government, I feel that they are at least, in theory, obligated to help at the communal level. Obviously they don’t always succeed, and can sometimes make matters worse, but I rarely worry that a government’s priorities are out of wack, or motivated solely by greed.

    I can’t say the same for the private sector, which is why I’m always puzzled at conservatives who believe “successful businessmen” will automatically make “successful politicians/public servants.” Really? How does one make that connection? Running a business has one motivation: To turn a profit. The government’s job is at least, again in theory, more complicated than that: Protect its citizens, provide jobs, encourage trade, uphold some democratic set of laws or constitution, etc. I don’t see how those experiences translate across one another.

    At the very least, I don’t understand why we can’t all agree that certain aspects of human life should be *immune from the profit-motive*, such as healthcare, humanitarian/disaster relief, military, and environmental regulations. You trust Walmart to do all those things?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I think it was in the ’80s when I first heard the phrase ‘knows the price of everything, but the value of nothing.’ Everything became a ‘market.’ Everything could have a price attached to it.

      Maybe that’s why business people go into politics: to make sure politics follows what business people want.

      I don’t know about the US, but in Britain we have ‘career politicians,’ people who have never known anything other than politics, and they can be as idiotic as the private sector incomers; politics needs a balance of experiences that represent all aspects of society. But that’s moving away from the central theme of the post.

      We do need a return to a rational distribution of private and public sector funding. I don’t want Stalinesque microplanning any more than I want Google running the NHS.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. AT LAST ….someone who ‘gets’ it ……public services ACCOUNTABLE to the public ….private sector accountable to shareholders ….profiteering from ‘care’ and cherry picking who they provide a ‘service’ to …..I could go on and on but think it’s ’nuff said’ really
    Oh I WILL just say one last word in relation to hanging on the telephone at premium rate charge ….ATOS!!!
    A new swear word meaning ‘shitting on’ or ‘ripping off’ some of the most vulnerable in society ….a privately funded agency commissioned by the Goverment at great expense to deny disability benefit wherever possible.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Didn’t ATOS get the boot? I can’t remember, but they’re like a lot of shyster corporations running government services. Group 4 come to mind here.

      How anyone can think a profit-orientated company can run a service that in a large part requires compassion is beyond me, but that’s modern politics. Maybe one day it’ll be different.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well I spoke to them just last week so I’m afraid ATOS is still very much alive and kicking.

        And I actually think it’s deliberate ….an overt ridding of state responsibility FAR more radical than even Thatcher dared to go.

        The Care Act 2012 was the final nail in the coffin …this was an act of parliament is LAW which did not go thro usual process but instead was passed by the EXTREMELY rarely used privelage of ‘Royal ascent’

        This piece of legislation is all dressed up in flowery language ….a language of ’empowerment’ and ‘personal choice’ and abdicates Goverment ( state ) responsibility for health and social care in the UK.

        And if you don’t believe me …ask a lawyer to check it out

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Well that’s depressing news about ATOS.

          I just looked at the Care Act 2014 on Wikipedia and two things jump out at me: it was supported by all three major parties. The old New Labour did nothing to stop this kind of vandalism; and the responsibilities contained in the Act are dumped on local authorities, so when it goes wrong the Government can say, it’s not us, blame the councils.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Yep …correct …all parties were involved with this …on first read it all sounds wonderful …but as you say having funding cuts beyond realistic levels to function yet being held to account …local authorities are pretty much screwed …nothing really adds up ….the legislation implies a focus on individual wellbeing …creative approaches via personal budgets to purchase support to meet individual need …which is GREAT in principle …but if the old ‘direct payment’ is anything to go by …its fraught with problems

            It’s also interesting what you say about ATOS no longer existing …you’re right that another company was supposed to have taken over earlier this year …but I have definately spoken to a company via the DWP calling themselves ATOS just last week ???

            Ahhh well …we’ll see how it all pans out I guess

            It’s being called ‘transformation’ which all sounds lovely doesn’t it?

            Hmmmm …..just bring on the ‘Independant advocates’ with those magic wands to resolve everything :D:D:D

            Liked by 1 person

      2. Sorry …meant 2014 act it was the health/social care bill 2012 ….all very controversial …lots of lovely ’empowerment’ language …but in truth in many areas there are NOT lots of alternative service providers currently beating down the doors

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Indeed….several indeeds!
    I will restrain the old-fashioned, grim socialist that is within me (Jeremy Corbyn’s alright for a moderate I suppose).
    The one argument which Private Sector fans have trouble with is as follows:
    A Public Service provides a service and thus a support to the public. How can a Private Sector organisation provide a service while profit driven? Add to that all Private Sector organisation as subject to ‘the market’; if one goes under then what happens to the service to the public?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s another old chestnut that private sector johnnies throw out: companies are legally obliged to act in the interest of their shareholders. Which explains why BP shareholders blocked a pay rise for the CEO and were promptly ignored! Legally obliged my arse.

      I remember the BBC running an experiment last year in which a group of householders lived without public services for a fortnight. No police, street lighting etc. I can’t remember how many of them survived.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What I’d love, private or public, would be to actually speak to a person straight away when you dial a company’s number, instead of ‘Press 1 for sales, press 2 for Customer Services’ etc. I was waiting at least eight minutes in a queue yesterday, listening to soothing music to calm me down (that I was paying for) before I could get a car insurance quote.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That wasn’t Esure by any chance, was it? I spent three days trying to get through to their customer care section. My phone bill just for those calls was £14.

      When I had Tiscali broadband I had to tell them they weren’t taking any payments by direct debit, so they sent a debt collection company after me.

      And the phone call music is an offence to the ears: We Can Be Heroes when I was ringing Esure. Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now would have been more appropriate.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The one with the bulldog logo. I’ve since cancelled it because I found a cheaper quote with QuoteMeHappy. I’m sure all these companies are in cahoots with that phone company we know so well, and they share the dividends out at Christmas.

        Liked by 1 person

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