Saturday, January 14, 2006

Polly gets things the wrong way around.

Yesterday, I promised that I would have a go at Polly Toynbee, mainly because I really enjoy doing so.

Time then, to join her as she rides on a bus with some Tories.
Social enterprise is flavour of the month with all the parties. Everyone loves them, everyone claims them as their own ideological icon. Here the parties converge and you can see why. These enterprises are indeed heart-warmingly exciting. But to the politicians, above all they signify an alternative to the dreaded state. Right now, no one wants to be on the side of big government.

Apart from Polly, naturally. And all the useless pieces of shit hired by the government to ensure that all the paperclips match.
Stalinist, monolithic, rigid, producer-dominated, customer-unfriendly - no leader has a good word to say for the public realm.

Quite right. Did we mention that it's also extraordinarily bad at doing the job that it is supposed to, that it is massively inefficient, that its unaccountability and lack of need to make a profit means that it grows more and more year on year?*
It's about as popular as Bob Crow is with Londoners.

Yes and, have you noticed, that the unions simply wouldn't have the power that they do if the Tube were a properly private company?
But for the Conservatives now, what does it offer? It is the perfect Cameron political product - capitalism without the tooth and claw, symbolising the new gentleness. Visiting its great successes you can see the gleam in their eye. Eureka! Hand everything over to charitable and not-for-profit contractors and, hey presto, big government vanishes in a puff of smoke. The state is shrunk, Whitehall has nothing to do and soon these free-floating enterprises will make money all on their own, saving the taxpayer billions - all done in the nicest possible way. However, on board was one Tory who said his only interest in social enterprise was as an acceptable way of privatising everything the state now does.

Already it sounds like an eminently good idea; I'm sure that Polly agrees...
No doubt that lurks beneath the skin of many of them.

Ah, no. That evil urge to pull down the benevolent neolithic government structures amd replace them with efficient companies is just the worst thing in the world to our Pol. Mind you, she is as thick as mince.
Nothing is for free. Everything costs the state.

No, Polly, you useless piece of rotten old haddock, you've got it the wrong way around. Polly, my dear old trout, nothing costs the state because the state has no money but what we give it. Here's a more accurate statement...

Everything that the state does costs the tax-payers of this country.
Banks will not lend and risk-averse public commissioners give no contracts to small new social enterprises: no one was ever fired for hiring the same few mega-companies.

Well, they should be. You notice, however, that it is public commissioners who hire the big companies? And why will banks not lend to "social" contract competitors? Because they are usually being undercut by subsidied public services. These publically-run services would not be competitive, but they are funded by the very people who would wish to run a better service. In other words, competitors end up paying, through their taxes, to fund their rivals.
There is no escape: it is still taxpayers' money buying the contracts, even if they are better run by social enterprise.

Yes, but that encapsulates everything that is wrong with the state. All of these services should be devolved to small private enterprises because they, as Polly is about to admit, run it far better. Because they have to make a fucking profit to continue operating. The public sector has no such constraints; they overspend, we pick up the tab. They run inefficiently, we pick up the tab. In terms of value-for-money, the public sector forcibly anally-rapes us all.
A community steam railway line probably can't run Network Rail yet.

If they can run their wee section of railway profitably, as they must, then there is no reason why they shouldn't run a larger section. They could hardly do a worse job than Network Rail.
The community sandwich bar in the hospital probably won't take over the trust for a while.

See above: they couldn't do any worse than the state.
But consider the only major transfer of public to not-for-profit: the housing associations. Research shows small housing associations do run estates much better than council housing departments. But the gigantic ones are not necessarily better: they can be as variable, as bureaucratic and as unresponsive to tenants. Nor are they cheap.

Yes, Polly, bug organisations run much more inefficiently. So given this, how inefficient is the fucking massive NHS? The bloated Network Rail, and the vastly overblown public sector as a whole?
Social enterprise is inspiring, and fast may it grow. But it is wildly unrealistic to imagine it can supplant the public sector any time soon: politicians should focus most on what works in the public sphere; and citizens should boo loudly if they make fairyland claims that the public sector can ever be magicked away to another realm.

Look, Polly, my little socialist goblin, the voluntary sector is not private. None of this is of any use whatso-fucking-ever. The only reason that these things are devolved to "voluntary" organisations is because rampant spastics like yourself wail, moan and gnash your teeth when they are sold to properly competitive, i.e. private companies.

The public sector is the worst of all worlds; inefficient, expensive and ever-expanding. It must go. When we have swept away this crap, then the spectre of tax-rises will be severely alleviated. In fact, we must see considerable cuts, because the private services will often be more expensive: they must make a profit without being heavily subsidised by taxpayers. They will, in fact, supply services at market rates.

Give people their money back. Then those that wish to can afford to use the services and those who do not wish to use them will not have to subsidise those who do. We should see whole rafts of novel ideas and services springing up as people, especially the poor, have more money in their pockets.

And the first big step would be to sack useless, ignorant bigots like Toynbee.

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