One of the greatest myths of our time is that public services can be made more efficient if we run them as businesses. The commercialisation of our public services has been a manifest failure, and the response offered by the mainstream parties is that we simply haven’t commercialised them enough. What they fail to understand is that a public service and a business are inherently different beasts and asking one to behave as the other is like asking a fish to ride a bicycle.
The primary aim of a public service is to provide a service to the public. This service exists to avoid negative social impacts and protect crucial social utilities from the instabilities of capitalism.
Within living memory it was considered basic common sense that essentials like food, water, energy, access to health services, housing, sanitation and sewage, social care and core manufacturing industries were too important to expose to the volatilities of the free market. Aside from this practical view, there were also two core value statements:
1) A person or entity should not seek to profit from a person’s need to eat, heat their homes, drink water, be treated when sick or have a roof over their head.
2) A person’s access to such necessities should not be based on their ability to pay.
Public services are democratic. If a service fails to deliver our needs we can hold those responsible to account at the ballot box. Important matters like wages, pensions and working conditions are the result of negotiation and subject to internal and popular support.
Public services are funded by public money, paid to public workers, managed by public representatives working together to deliver social utility – every penny put in recycles within the public economy.
Neoliberal Capitalism is inherently unstable, creates inefficiencies and gaps in supply and demand, and does not create full employment. For these three reasons, critical services must be independent of capitalism, commercialisation and profit. In short, they must be universal and eternal.
This is the purpose of a public service.
- Low pay is damaging the UK economy and holding back growth (Guardian)
- Quarter of UK firms use zero-hour contracts (Press TV)
- Zero hour contract growth sparks anger in UK (RT)
- Your confidential medical records for sale… at just £1 (Daily Mail)
- Prisoners paid £20 a week to ask families if they want save money on house insurance (Daily Mail)
- EDF and SSE customers face higher bills (The Times)
- The wrong side of the tracks: Lobbyists for HS2 rail line funded by the taxpayer (Independent)
- Privatising the railways was a disaster. It’s time to renationalise (Guardian)