Public-Private Folly

If they were all like this I wouldn’t mind so much

And one of the biggest such partnership plans touches close to my home: The Gort-Tuam motorway. Yes, you read me right. Those are the words I actually wrote down there. A motorway, from Gort to Tuam. We have built a lot of decent roads in this country in the last decade or so, and I’m sure they all stimulated a great deal of economic activity. We needed them, they were a good investment. But you see what’s happened now, don’t you?

We’ve run out of places to build motorways to.

What puzzles me is how the private partners can hope to make a return on a new faster route between two such non-urgent points. I can only think of one way: They build the motorway over the existing road, giving people who actually have to get from Gort to Tuam (poor benighted souls) little choice except to pay. This is a worrying precedent. If it continues, free roads all over the country will be paved over with new pay-roads; in some cases, right up to our doors (perhaps). This will have the effect of transferring immense amounts of money from the general population to a few wealthy investors, but apparently that is what governments are for now.

When you think about it though, these roads don’t have to make a profit. They don’t have to be completed even. All they have to do is create economic activity. You realise what that is, don’t you. We’ve had it before, during the Famine. Landlords who believed that free food created what the rich like to call a “moral hazard” gave their starving tenants pointless tasks to perform. Sometimes they’d build a mad monument to nothing, a tower in a valley maybe, a brand new ruin. Sometimes, it would be a road.

This is a whole new class of folly: Faster, wider, vastly more pointless. A Famine Freeway, if you will.

5 thoughts on “Public-Private Folly

  1. This is the next step in The Shock Doctrine. First, you deliver a shock to a society so that they are more willing to do things they otherwise wouldn’t (Such as a terrorist attack in the United States, or a global economic catastrophe everywhere), then you begin passing programs under the guise of solving the problem that any rational thinker would realize doesn’t do anything to help (but all the rational thinkers are in shock and thus not thinking rationally). The Friedman/Chicago School of Economics (members of which have basically controlled the IMF for decades) has been using this for years to privatize functions of the government that should never be privatized.

    This has been done recently in post-Katrina New Orleans, in the “rebuilding” of Baghdad and Iraq, less recently in the “Democratization” of Russia, but it was started as far back as 1973 with Pinochet in Chile. Milton Friedman is even quoted as saying in a letter to Pinochet “If this shock approach were adopted,I believe that it should be announced publicly in great detail, to take effect at a very close date.” They used a bloody revolution to push through privatization, deregulation, and cuts to social programs (the “holy trinity” of Friedman economics (and modern Conservative economics) which had been democratically rejected repeatedly). Pinochet reduced government spending by 10% (while expanding military spending), privatized a significant chunk of the Chilean government (including banks), eliminated price controls, eliminated all tariffs and taxes on imports, and allowed speculative finance maneuvers from the banks (does any of this sound familiar yet?). Within 2 years, inflation in Chile reached 375% and unemployment reached record levels.

    Almost 40 years later nations all over the world are following the same advice Pinochet did. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

    Of course, the rich did learn their lesson: Because the friends of Pinochet and the Friedman/Chicago School of Economics were the people who were given ownership of those privatized functions of government (allegedly sold to the highest bidder, but you don’t have to look far in government to see that the “highest bidder” is always a friend of the people in power) and THEY got even more rich in the process, at the cost of 99% of the population of Chile.

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