Thursday, August 26, 2010

You don't always get what you pay for by Elliott D. Sclar

TequilaKid’s comment:

This is one hell of a good book. It is a serious study of privatisation that analyses specific cases. The outcome is the diametrical opposite of the pie-in-the-sky horse-pucky that is regularly disseminated by pro-system pimps like John Stossel, who has a regular column on Town Hall by means of which he entertains, confuses and stultifies the populace. As a matter of fact in one of his scribbles he promises $1,000 to anyone who can point to a case in which the government does a better job than private biz. I immediately took him up on it, citing a well documented case in which US bridges (practically all government-owned) were deemed better maintained than the electrical power grid (all privately owned). I never got a reply, which shows you what a hypocritical dirt-bag John Stossel is.

The following review is by the book's publisher (I think):

Today, nearly all public services--schools, hospitals, prisons, fire departments, sanitation--are considered fair game for privatization. Proponents of privatization argue that private firms will respond to competitive market pressures and provide better service at lower cost. While this assertion has caused much controversy, the debate between both sides has consisted mainly of impassioned defenses of entrenched positions.
In You Don't Always Get What You Pay For, Elliott D. Sclar offers a balanced look at the pitfalls and promises of public sector privatization in the United States. By describing the underlying economic dynamics of how public agencies and private organizations actually work together, he provides a rigorous analysis of the assumptions behind the case for privatization.
The competitive-market model may seem appealing, but Sclar warns that it does not address the complex reality of contracting for government services. Using specific examples, such as mail service and urban transportation, he shows that ironically privatization does not shrink government--the broader goal of many of its own champions. He also demonstrates that there is more to consider in providing public services than trying to achieve efficiency; there are issues of equity and access that cannot be ignored.
Sclar believes that public officials and voters will soon realize the limitations of "contracting out" just as private corporations have come to understand the drawbacks of outsourcing. After examining the effectiveness of alternatives to privatization, he offers suggestions for improving public sector performance--advice he hopes will be heeded before it is too late.

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