Saturday, December 15, 2007

Privatization at its Best

If we privatize the Department of Buses and Taxis, what would its overpaid director and army of government clerks, statisticians, bus drivers, taxi cabs operators, and accountants do for a living? How could we allow this important, vital public good be left to greedy entrepreneurs who care about nothing else than to make a quick buck? Moreover, there is not enough money to make in our great territory to support the investment necessary to allow the private sector to assume such a tremendous responsibility essential to the general welfare of our people.

How could government keep accountability of how private bus and taxi owners operate their businesses? Without the not-for-profit integrity and honesty of government, wouldn’t these private entities waste precious resources in their operations of public transportation? If one operator is not accountable, he would lose the capital necessary to expand his business, and eventually, his unaccountability will reflect in the prices he has to charge his customers. Then an operator, who is accountable and wise with his limited resources, can charge a lower price than what the first operator charges or even expand his operation by buying another bus. The second operator will then take more market share from the first operator simply because of the first operator’s unaccountability! This is what we, liberals, call dog-eat-dog competition, and that’s what will happen if we privatize the Department of Buses and Taxis, and we don’t need it!

People need set routes and times for transportation, and that’s not guaranteed under private control. People need to be ensured that buses will service certain areas because we can’t rely on asking them to take a turn off the major roads for there’s no money in going the extra mile for the customer. Common courtesy and asking “please” and saying “thank you” are things of the past. Transportation is a right, and bus drivers and taxi operators should be forced into providing it for the common good of society.

Our government and the Commerce Commission have both the responsibility and the power to ensure that public transportation remains in good, orderly and uniform manner. If we privatize the Department of Buses and Taxis, it would be chaos and anarchy if left to the pursuit of profits.

But then again, isn’t public transportation already privatized?

7 Comments:

At 8:21 PM , Blogger Talifaitasi Satele said...

There is really no Department of Buses and Taxis in American Samoa, of course. In this commentary, I sort of play the role of an opponent of privatization using the typical arguments most opponents use. If there were a Department of Buses and Taxis, and thank the Lord there isn't one, then you would likely hear the sort of fear mongering that I write in the above commentary. Government workers laid off with no where to go, not enough money to make in the territory to support enough competition, or dog-eat-dog competition leading to chaos in the marketplace. Well, the private sector handles public transportation just fine in American Samoa, and federal and local taxpayers don't have to fund some ASG department to provide that service since one doesn't exist. There are some hiccups, however, with bus drivers rightfully refusing to pick up high schoolers for not paying what bus drivers demand in fees, for rude behavior or both. And it appears the governor is going to get into the act again, and may force bus drivers to pick up high students by law. He may prevail in this instance because our bus drivers may be an easier target for him than Hawaiian Airlines. How unfortunate.

 
At 2:14 PM , Blogger Stuart K. Hayashi said...

Tali Want a Cracker,

At your request, I will now play the devil's advocate. I will argue for the socialist position that I do not actually hold.

You write: "There is really no Department of Buses and Taxis in American Samoa, of course. In this commentary, I sort of play the role of an opponent of privatization using the typical arguments most opponents use. If there were a Department of Buses and Taxis, and thank the Lord there isn't one, then you would likely hear the sort of fear mongering that I write in the above commentary. Government workers laid off with no where to go..."

I think that this argument can be used against you. If I don't depend upon you for my income to begin with, then it's not inhumane for you to stop sending me money -- because you never sent me money in the first place. But what if you sent me money regularly for five years -- and I got used to this -- and then you suddenly announced today that I wouldn't receive any more money from you?

The argument is that if you never sent me money in the first place, it would not be cruel for you to resolve to not send me any more money in the future. But if you sent me money for a long time and got me accustomed to that, then it would indeed be cruel for you to cut me off all of a sudden.

The argument can be applied to your talk about privatization. It can be conceded that you are correct that to privatize what is already private is not harmful, because it does not create any economic dislocation or job loss, or force anyone to undergo an immediate, shocking change in financial circumstances.

But suppose that there was indeed a Department of Buses & Taxis for over 100 years, and it employed hundreds of people and they had grown accustomed to having it take care of them. Under this system, all of the complicated networks and private contracts and business relationships -- which normally would have developed in an unregulated market -- have not developed, because the governmental regulatory system precluded the need for businesses to form so many private contracts on their own.

Then, all of a sudden, suppose that you came along and called for the Department of Buses & Taxis to be privatized within one year. Then that would indeed come as a shock to everyone, and all of the middle-aged employees would have to look for new jobs. Their skills might be obsolete and they might have to spend thousands of dollars on going back to college if they expect to get a new job. All of the market-related developments that otherwise could have gradually developed over a century will still remain uncreated once you have completed your privatization, and so the industry will be thrown into pandemonium.

Hence, someone in the socialist position can argue that you are indeed right that the system has run smoothly without government regulation, but that if there really were a Department of Buses & Taxis running for 100 years, you would indeed wreck people's lives if you tried to privatize it.

What is your response?

 
At 8:17 AM , Blogger Talifaitasi Satele said...

If government has grown a dependency, I agree that it is understandable to have concern about the people who have been led into that situation. Some pro-privatization folks, like presidential candidate Ron Paul, want to phase out the status quo instead of just cutting it off right away for all the reasons you mentioned above.

You mentioned:

"But what if you sent me money regularly for five years -- and I got used to this -- and then you suddenly announced today that I wouldn't receive any more money from you?"

"The argument is that if you never sent me money in the first place, it would not be cruel for you to resolve to not send me any more money in the future. But if you sent me money for a long time and got me accustomed to that, then it would indeed be cruel for you to cut me off all of a sudden."

It would be cruel for me to cut you off all of a sudden, if I had led you into believing that you have some sort of right to my money on a regular basis with no conditions. In that case, I also share in the blame of making you dependant on me for income. The rest of the blame goes to you for expecting my money as some sort of entitlement instead of charity. You are not entitled to what is mine because I'm not you're slave. I don't work to pursue your happiness; I work to pursue my own. You are at fault to assume that the allowance that comes from own value of charity as something that is permanent instead of temporary. You also share in the blame if you're still sitting on your butt after I cut you off instead of using my allowance to stand on your own two feet.

So for me, blame should be shared by both the government who used taxpayer resources to make a dependency and those who choose to become dependent instead of self-reliant.

To privatize or not to privatize, that is the question. If most people in the socialist position agree that the system has run smoothly without government regulation, then that is the direction we ought to pursue for other functions that are also in government hands. Their concerns should be issues we would have to address along the way but not be the reasons for not moving from point a to point b.

 
At 9:17 AM , Blogger Stuart K. Hayashi said...

Hey Taliwood Boulevard,

You say to me: "You are not entitled to what is mine because I'm not you're slave."

o.O

You're . . . not?

. . .

That's news to me!

Hehehehehehhehee. :-P

To be more serious, the ordinary welfare-statist rebuttal is to get huffy and righteously indignant and say, "Whaaahhhh?! Why must you use such extreme and hurtful language? Just because I understand that your being richer than myself entitles me to some of your fortune, it doesn't mean that I think of you as my slave. For instance, Paris Hilton is a lazy bum who is inheriting millions of dollars. If I proposed that the government seize all of Paris's inheritance except for $2 million left for her, her condition would hardly be one of slavery. Most of her money would be spent on good uses like welfare, while she would still have $2 million to live on."

You also write: "I don't work to pursue your happiness; I work to pursue my own."

*Humph!*

Dude, that sounds totally selfish!!!! >:-(

You also write: "You are at fault to assume that the allowance that comes from own value of charity as something that is permanent instead of temporary. You also share in the blame if you're still sitting on your butt after I cut you off instead of using my allowance to stand on your own two feet."

. . .

How . ... how . .. how can you say something so hurtful?! That hurts my feelings!!!

*Sob*.

:'-(...

The above argument I wrote -- which relies upon emotional intimidation -- would be even more correct if it was made by a very sexy blonde female, like Scarlett Johansson. Now isn't that true?!!!

. . .

. . .

Well?!!

. . .

. . .

:-P

Okay, I was using a facetious tone, but people really do take those arguments seriously.

They indeed assume that most wealth comes from inheritance rather than entrepreneurial productivity, and that somebody should be penalized by force of law for inheriting lots of money, especially if that inheritor is a lazy bum.

And, yes, people would disagree with your argument if some famous hot blonde publicly expressed disapproval of it. And I'm not joking when I say that.

 
At 10:16 AM , Blogger Stuart K. Hayashi said...

Talinomial (as opposed to "polynomial"),

I think I should stress that you and socialists have entirely different conceptions of what constitutes "rightful property."

You believe that nothing comes to anybody automatically. Everything we have today, we have because someone somewhere exercised his mind in some form of entrepreneurial activity to create that wealth.

In the Stone Age, it wasn't as if cavemen could just pick berries off bushes all day, or they'd run out of berries. They had to forage for plant food and hunt for meat, which required planning and thought, and it was a form of entrepreneurial work. The same goes for farming.

So you believe that rightful ownership comes from the homsteading principle. That is, there are three ways to rightfully claim property:

(1) If there is something in the wilderness not yet claimed as property, then you have a right to use it for yourself and claim it as you own property. That's homesteading.

(2) An item becomes your rightful property if somebody consensually gave it to you, and your benefactor didn't spoliate anyone's person or property to get that item in the first place.

(3) An item becomes your private property if you consensually traded to get it. You own the gold bar, and I own the computer. We mutually consent to exchanging one for the other. When you give up the gold bar, rightful ownership of the computer is transferred from me to you.

All of those three consensual means of attaining rightful property create new wealth. Someone may also get items for himself by stealing or spoliating people or their property, but that is only destructive and creates no new wealth.

I have just defined what is "rightful property" according to John Locke, Ayn Rand, the Objectivists, and Tali Satele.


Anyhow, the socialist has any entirely different conception of what is rightful property.

The socialist says that for something to rightfully be your property, it need not be the case that you first homsteaded it, received it a a gift, or voluntarily traded something for it. Instead, food and shelter are your rightful property simply because you were born. And on those grounds, everyone has an equal rightful claim to everything consumable.

So if you have a big mansion and lots of food, and I don't, then I have a rightful claim over part of your mansion and your food.

So if I try to steal your fortune and the police stop me, then -- according to the socialist position -- the police are depriving me of my rightful property. That you have more than me actually means that what is yours by law is actually mine by moral right. And if the police stop me from forcibly snatching your food and occupying your house against your consent, the police are helping you steal my property.

That is what socialist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon meant when he said "all property is theft."

The socialist will ask you: "Why should anybody accept your Lockean conception of 'rightful property' over my socialist version of 'rightful property'? Why is your definition of 'rightful property' more correct than mine?"

I have my own answer to that question, but I was wondering what your thoughts on it were. What do you think?

 
At 4:26 PM , Blogger Talifaitasi Satele said...

I think that the socialist idea of rightful property is both arbitrary and contradictory.

It is arbitrary in that the amount of wealth a socialist would constitute as excessive would be highly subjective and inconsistent. As the leading Democratic presidential candidates have demonstrated in their calls for increasing taxes on the “wealthy”, they all had different definitions of who they considered “rich”. They went from defining too rich as a person making over $1 million to anyone making 500k, and now it’s down to 200k.

It is contradictory because it says that no one has the right to own property or the right to protect that property. However, saying that you’re entitled to something just because you were born still implies that you will own that something once you received it. And once you received it, will you not have the right to own it and protect it? If so, why did the original owner not have the same rights? Oh… because of the arbitrary standard in the first paragraph. The question then is how can you have the right to receive something if the owner who produced the wealth does not have the right own it and protect it.

So the issue comes down to how wealth is created. Wealth is resources turned into valuable uses. That takes a man’s mind to make that happen. There is no rice on your dinner plate unless someone farms it, someone harvests it, someone ships it, someone buys it, someone cooks it and someone puts it on your plate. Saying you have a right to rice is to say that you have a right to the work of every person in the process.

Minerals, coal, oil, wood and all of the earth’s resources were not wealth until someone used his mind to put such things to valuable uses. Wealth is therefore something that is created, and not some fixed pie in the sky.

Some resources may be in fixed quantity, like oil, while others are renewable, like lumber. But even when a resource has a fixed quantity like oil, then like you pointed out before, the entrepreneurial mind will likely find a way to use that resource more efficiently or find another resource or method that will fulfill the same valuable purpose.

You mentioned:

“They indeed assume that most wealth comes from inheritance rather than entrepreneurial productivity, and that somebody should be penalized by force of law for inheriting lots of money, especially if that inheritor is a lazy bum.”

Paris Hilton may be a lazy bum, but her parents created the wealth that they may hand down to her. I understand that Warren Buffet may not be so generous to his children with the wealth that he created. But if these parents have rightfully gained their property through the homesteading principle, then they have the right to dispose of their property as they please. That includes allowing their children, lazy or not, to inherit that wealth.

 
At 6:02 AM , Blogger Stuart K. Hayashi said...

Awesome explanation! I like it. :-)

 

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