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Making the shift from public to private

As I have seen before, a lot of political news coverage in the UK (and in the US, for that matter) rather resembles sports coverage, if without the tone of hysteria covering the media’s reporting on England’s World Cup horror show. For instance, over at the Spectator’s Coffee House blog on the issue of public spending cuts, it goes into a lot of the arguments about who said X or Y about cutting A or B. In fairness, the Coffee House crew are pretty good at teasing out the statistics – Spectator editor Fraser Nelson has been excellent in hammering the former government over its debt – but there is something a bit missing from its analysis. And that is this: the scale of the shift that we might see from public sector jobs to private sector. If is true that hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs are to go, and the private sector is going to be encouraged to pick up the slack by new job creation, that is surely good news.

We are not admirers of Cameron’s style of Conservatism here at Samizdata (that’s putting it mildly, Ed), but I’ll give him and his finance minister credit if, at the end of the current parliament, there has been a significant shift away from the state and towards the private sector. We libertarian ideologues are hard to please, but such a shift will be pretty tough to pull off. If it means we have to put up with a certain amount of political BS along the route, I don’t especially mind. It is the general direction that counts.

Update: Guido Fawkes points out that certain leftist publications, reliant on public sector job ads, such as with the Guardian, have an obvious reason to fear the axe. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!

13 comments to Making the shift from public to private

  • We’ll be lucky if hundreds of public sector jobs go. I mean net numbers, not cut here, added there.

    And almost all the PS jobs that go will be at the very lowest levels.

    Actually read “Parkinson’s Law”, it’s short, amusing, and will tell you some amusing facts about the Royal Navy:

    http://www.spreadsheetdetective.com/berglas/Articles/parkinsons_law.pdf

  • Richard Thomas

    Nothing will change. The public sector will continue to grow at one rate or another (now most likely in a new department dedicated to controlling public sector job growth). Haven’t we learned anything?

  • Paul Marks

    As JP says – no where on radio or television have the basic facts been reported.

    How much (in total) does government spend?

    What proportion of the economy is this?

    Will the government spend less or MORE money next year?

    Not even what proportion of the money government spends is spent on what department is reported.

    All of these things were reported (and explained with simple pie charts and so on) when Brian Walden (ex Labour MP – but a man primarily interested in getting the facts to people) was the main man on “Weekend World” (the ITV current affiars show in the 1980′s). The ratings were very good indeed – people HUNGER for real information.

    However, this show fell apart when the pathetic Mr Paris (ex Conservative MP) replaced Brian Walden and no show (on any station) in Britain is now of any use in understanding news and current affairs – not just on government spending, but on anything.

  • Nothing will change. Government keeps expanding and does less and less of any practical use until Britain turns into something out of Latin America in the early 1980s. That seems the most likely scenario to me.

    With respect to the job ads, if I was Cameron I would simply state “It is the 21st century. Starting right now, no public sector jobs will be advertised in print media, and they will be advertised exclusively on the internet. Some money will be saved, and a body blow will be done to The Guardian a few businesses that have existed beyond their use by date.

  • RAB

    Paul is right. It is all piss and wind, smoke and mirrors, Govt spending will actually go up not down. This lot are going to be as bad as the last lot about announcing things that are never going to happen.

    The Guardian and the Unions are already howling about the millions of jobs that are going to be lost. Well not in the public sector they’re not. Why? Because it is damn near impossible to fire anyone in the Public sector the way Employment laws are currently set up, short of someone running amok with an Uzi in the workplace.
    Being an utter incompetent waste of space are not sufficient grounds you see.

    The best they can do is to stop hiring, and that is not nearly good enough.

    Time for the Private Frazier Cheer here I think folks…

    Gimmie a D, an O, an O, an M, an E, a D.

    What’s that spell!??

  • Jaded Libertarian

    I’ve never been happy with the “extracting money with menaces” aspect of government. I don’t have a problem with a public sector, even a bloody huge one, as long as the people paying for it WANT TO.

    If the government only charged you for things you wanted, what would be so bad about that?

    The only reason for mandatory taxation I can think of is that they fear that the citizenry would be unwilling to spend money on the sorts of things they want to do. They are supported by the sector of society that also wants these things, so they’ve got me outnumbered.

    Seems a bit like the TV License.

    “I don’t want to pay it!” screams me

    “Oh but I like the BBC’s quality programming” is the reply, as if that somehow explains why I should pay for another’s viewing pleasure….

    Or am I missing the point?

  • Paul Marks

    Jaded Libertarian.

    The BBC would say that if you did not pay for them, and deregulated television and radio – you would “just get Fox News”.

    Leaving aside that many Fox News shows are straight news shows not opinion shows (Mr Smith’s nightly news broadcasts for example) and also leaving aside that Fox News finds out more true news stories then any other network (gets more scoops – to use the language of when journalism was not a matter of reading out press releases and trying to remember what one’s collectivist college lecturers said – so that one can deliver a commentary on the press releases).

    There is also another point:

    In the United States as well as the government financed PBS there is also ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN.

    All of these networks (and their subsids – such as NBC’s MSNBC and CBS’s Comedy Central) are staffed by leftists.

    Only about half the people voted for Obama – but who in the “mainstream media” did not?

    “But it does not effect their objectivity”.

    If anyone really believes that, I have a nice bridge to sell them.

    There are many leftist stations in the United States and only one nationwide station that is not leftist.

    So the argument that “without the BBC all you would get is a British version of Fox News” does not appear very credible.

  • Rich Rostrom

    If Cameron can cut state payrolls by 1.3 million, I will hail him as the greatest Briton since Churchill. Even Lady Thatcher did not achieve such a radical shift, AFAIK.

  • Paul When I have called for the BBC to be axed in conversations in the pub I have been called un-British. Apparently I should feel instinctive loyalty and warmth toward this organization and respect it as the sacred cow that it is. The fact that I don’t throws my patriotism into question.

    Same with the NHS. The fact that you think it might be worth rethinking health care from the ground up instead of prostrating yourself before the tribal totem shows that you aren’t a true Brit . British Politicians know this which is why they wear their unwillingness to even think about alternative ways of organizing health care like a badge of honor.

    In regards to the NHS the British people believe that closed minded religious veneration is the proper attitude. Don’t fetishize it enough and you are unelectable.

  • If there are a million fewer people on the public payroll when David Cameron leaves office than on the day he started, he is GOD.

  • If the government only charged you for things you wanted, what would be so bad about that?

    Absolutely nothing, it’s called the free market.

    As you describe it you effectively want what are now called government services to be provided by a free agent dealing with other free agents – welcome to Rothbardian philosophy.

  • ian

    If the government only charged you for things you wanted, what would be so bad about that?

    Exactly – which is why I don’t understand the veneration offered up to St Maggie – all she ever did in the so-called privatisation of local government services like refuse collection was change the monopoly supplier. She was also instrumental in the state theft of the TSB. I’m sure that the enrichment of a few party donors in the process was purely coincidental…

  • Laird

    Ian, no one said that privatization is a panacea, it’s just an improvement. At least with privately provided services (even if a monopoly), the contracts are subject to bid periodically (so you have a chance of getting lower cost), the employees are not civil servants and so optimizing staffing levels (and discharging emplyees where warranted) are easier to affect, and if enough people complain about the quality of service the contract could actually be lost to a competitor. None of these are true where the service is performed directly by government employees. Also, privatization serves to minimize the overall number of government employees and thereby reduce the power of their union, another distinct plus.