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August 31, 2006

Comments

Alex

If there were no public sector workers, though, quite a few of their products would still be supplied, and would still be paid for. The police force, or healthcare, would be just as much an imposition on the rest of the economy - it's just an accounting shuffle. I would suggest many arguments about the private/public dichotomy only really hold for goods and services in genuinely discretionary demand - the decision to consume healthcare, for example, is qualitatively different from that to consume DVDs because you aren't going to die of DVD deficiency.

Similarly with policing. We can't do without it as a society, and the less we provide as a society, the less we can do without it as individuals. Even in an entirely privatised scenario, security costs will eventually be passed on to the consumer. In another sense, you can't stop consuming it because it has features of a public good - even if security is entirely privatised, presumably the guards standing outside doors will have some deterrent effect.

It's just a shift of equal amounts of expenditure and income from the public budget to the private or vice versa - unless you assume a huge productivity gain at privatisation, which is too close to assuming a pony for my taste.

Kimmitt

Surely the only consideration here is ..
.. does the receipt of state services cost workers more than they would if they privately provided? then you can put a value on it.

Phil

"If you find exploitation offensive, you should oppose the big state (at least) as much as you oppose capitalism. "

Arguments 1. and 2. both strike me as valid in outline but tendentiously overstated; I therefore feel quite happy to go on opposing the big state, but slightly less than I oppose capitalism.

Er, carry on.

Phil

...by which I meant 'your rebuttals of arguments 1. and 2', obviously.

dearieme

Alex "If there were no public sector workers, though, quite a few of their products would still be supplied" is surely wrong. The effect of the product might still be supplied, but not necessarily the product itself. The advantage of private searching for more effective substitutes is surely overwhelming in many cases. That's the trouble with The Left: so conservative.

tom s.

dearieme - Well, I disagree with most of what you write, but: "That's the trouble with The Left: so conservative." Ouch!

Alex

The advantage of private searching for more effective substitutes is surely overwhelming in many cases.

Providing that demand is actually discretionary and good substitutes exist. That's the trouble with Dearieme: so unwilling to read the fucking post.

Rob

Doesn't the claim that cutting public sector wages will decrease exploitation depend on it being true that public sector workers aren't being exploited? But for that to be the case, it'd have to be true that the services they provide are being sold at their true value to capitalists. It strikes me that Rupert Murdoch for example probably doesn't pay the full value of the protection his property receives from the British State.

That said, there's something to this particular critique of the idea of exploitation. As I understand it, the idea is that exploitation occurs whenever there are transfers from those who labour to those who don't. Thus, pensions, child support and unemployment benefit are exploitation. I'm not entirely happy about that.

dearieme

"providing good substitutes exist": but economic activities don't just passively exist. You find substitutes by innovation and exploration. Your worldview is hopelessly static.

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