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When privatization isn't privatization

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Joe Kent, a Hawaiian Libertarian running for US Congress, recently wrote a glowing report for the International Society for Individual Liberty on a town that privatized "everything."

In 2005 Sandy Springs, Georgia hired a private company that now runs virtually every function of city government except police and fire. The town is "run very efficiently" and most people "are happy with the change."

But this isn't privatization by libertarian standards. It's what even Kent admits is "outsourcing," or even worse, "the public private partnership platform."

Kent makes this clear when he reports that the town "generates huge surpluses," has "no unfunded liabilities" and has "lots of extra cash to work with."

What he's talking about is tax money.

Libertarians who accept the Zero Aggression Principle, that no one has the right to initiate force, intimidation or fraud against others, reject taxation since it's clearly a form of coercion.

Privatization should mean that everything is in private hands. Period. Any private company that takes public funds is not a private company; it's just an extension of the government. Think Military/industrial complex as a prime example.

People who champion public private partnerships always argue that it's a good "balance" between public and private because it benefits all citizens, even though all of the big public and private money that goes into it enriches the public and private operators themselves. You as a private citizen may get to use the finished result whether it's a park or a parking lot but guess what – you'll be paying for it; you won't be getting monetary profits from it like the developers did.

Yes, Sandy Springs' "privatization" may be eminently better than the standard "cronyism-as-usual" and should be considered as "a good start."

But let's keep an eye on these "privatized" towns that are actually public/private partnerships. While they may be working wonderfully as long as "good people" are running them they, like all power structures, eventually attract people who crave power.

Public entities have been known to cynically create false privatization. They make cosmetic changes to their policies and publically announce that they've "privatized" their services; then when costs go up and quality goes down they say, "See, privatization failed."

No libertarian should ever confuse the concept of privatization – all private, no public – with the dangerous compromise of "public private partnerships" and its bastard cousin "outsourcing" in which the public partner always maintains the monopoly on coercion.

Government is never a partner; it's always the master.

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