J. Brad Hicks (bradhicks) wrote,
J. Brad Hicks
bradhicks

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Semi-Privatizing Core Government Functions? Been There, Done That

In response to something that somebody said about yesterday's journal entry (which I meant rather more literally than I think most of you are taking it), theweaselking wrote:
... Health care, like police and roads and national defense and electrical power, is a necessary public good that cannot be effectively or efficiently paid for or implemented except by contributions from every member of the society who are affected by it. ¶ What do you call it when every person in a society pays into a single collected fund? Oh, that's right, it's called TAXES. Who collects taxes? A government. ¶ Your problem is that you have health care for profit, and you're getting EXACTLY the same problems that you would if you had police for profit.
Ironically, we do have for-profit police in America. It was a Scottish immigrant to America, Alan Pinkerton, who invented for-profit policing, in Chicago in 1850. Since then, America has reached the level where for every one government-employed law enforcement officer, there are three employees of private security firms. Those private security officers have a large subset of the same authority and responsibility of a "real" police officer, usually by way of a law deputizing them with specific powers, but only while on their client's property, that is to say, only while protecting people who pay out of their own pocket or through their employer for law enforcement. And in fact, the government even hires one of those private security firms, the Wackenhut division of global multi-national Group 4 Securicor, to guard some of our embassies and military bases, and that's a core government function if there ever was one.

And on some level, that ratio of 1/4 government cops who theoretically defend everybody, 3/4 cops who only protect their corporate and wealthy clients and their property, looks really weird to me and morally indefensible, even though I used to be one of those privatized rent-a-cops, working for what was left of the company that founded the industry. However, even I have to grant you that it has kept taxes down, done a very good job of protecting some of our most expensive property and making it safe for people to work, and done very little harm. And even the Europeans have clearly learned from our example; Pinkerton, like several of the other early American pioneering privatized law enforcement companies, is now owned by Securitas, a Swedish multi-national private security corporation. So I grudgingly concede that privatized law enforcement has not been a particularly bad thing for this country, but only as long as the government and the voters continue to understand that there is a minimum level of policing that has to be funded out of taxes and provided without regard to ability to pay.

To me the parallel between that industry and how America ought to be running its health care system is intuitively obvious.

Hmm. Obviously we need to stop letting government-funded police respond to calls for assistance from the middle class and the wealthy, since they can afford to pay for their own rent-a-cops. Giving them government subsidized police just removes one more incentive for them to work hard. And if they want their children to be protected by police, it's clearly their responsibility to pay for those police themselves.

And at a bare minimum, that means that if we have to grudgingly accept that some poor people have to be provided government-funded police, even though it's probably because it's their own fault that they're poor because they're lazy or stupid or on drugs or have some other deviant thing wrong with them, we certainly don't want the public to be ripped off. So every 911 call to the government subsidized police will refer you to a "law enforcement benefits review specialist" whose job it is to collect information from you about your income, savings, health, and other factors related to your ability to pay for policing out of your own pocket.

Within at most 3 days, someone will get back to you about whether or not you're eligible to have a government-provided police officer come out and arrest the guy who is breaking into your house. Of course, he'll be gone by then, as will be the property he stole from you. And you might even be dead. And unfortunately, it will certainly cost a lot more to deal with the problem than if we'd just sent a cruiser by in the first 5 minutes. But that's hardly the government's fault. There's only so much taxpayer money to go around, so we certainly can't let just anybody act as if they're entitled to bill the taxpayers for their family's law enforcement needs.
Tags: economy, politics
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