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?