Archive for Privatisation

Endangered Species Saves Itself

Dave Killion — July 21, 2014

From CBS, comes the happy news “American Wood Stork taken off endangered list” –

The tall, bald wading birds that nest in swamps and coastal marshes from Florida to the Carolinas are now a “threatened” species, a step up that indicates the wood stork is no longer considered at risk of extinction, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced during a visit to Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, home to a large wood stork colony on the Georgia coast.”

The article cites habitat loss as largely responsible for the initial collapse of the Wood Stork population, despite a concurrent boom in the population of zebra finches, turkeys, budgies, and chickens. Worse yet, credit for the save is being given to the Obama administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Endangered Species Act, when in fact, the birds took matters into their own hands –

Researchers say the species has made a remarkable resurgence by expanding its territory from southern Florida – where 70 percent of the population once lived – to establish nesting colonies in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. After nesting season, wood storks also can be found in parts of Alabama and Mississippi.”

Were it not for the initiative shown by these determined creatures, the government would very likely have seen them shot, shoveled, and shut-upped into extinction rather than doing the right thing .

Another Path To Charter Cities

Dave Killion — December 6, 2012

As I wrote before, things were looking good for the development of a Charter City in Honduras. Sadly, the Honduran Supreme Court has crushed the possibility, and one of the organizations created in anticipation of participating has closed shop. Observers were not caught by surprise –

“Even before the Supreme Court’s bad decision, the immediate prospects for getting actual “free cities” moving in Honduras were seeming grim. The government, after its initial hugely popular vote to theoretically create a RED program, failed to define the actual boundaries or locations of such zones, or get moving with official appointments of either a Transparency Commission or an executive governor for the project.”

The failure showcases what may be a fatal flaw in the idea of charter cities, which is that at least one of the participants (the host country) is going to be a country led by a corrupt and untrustworthy government. Don’t be too quick to embrace that notion, though. The Chinese government has been (with varying levels of success) teaming up with many poor countries to create special economic zones (SEZ) within those other countries. Africa hosts a number of them, as does Pakistan. There are also many examples of countries creating  SEZ successfully within their own borders. But so far, no one has proposed the path which led to the creation and success of Hong Kong; the military option.

It works like this; although I think that the attacks of 9/11 were perhaps provoked by incessant U.S. intervention in places where the U.S. has no business, I am also open to arguments that the initial U.S. response to those attacks (that is, attacking Afghanistan) was justified. Perhaps, in this case, the U.S. government could have simply carved out a largely unpopulated, city-sized portion of the country, and forced the Afghan government to accept a 99-year lease. Then, just as was done in the case of Hong Kong, govern with a policy of positive non-intervention, and add a dash of liberal immigration regulation with no state welfare of any sort whatsoever. Ta-da! Charter city! Goodness knows, I don’t want the U.S. going out picking fights, but if there is ever another legitimate case for U.S. retaliation against an aggressor state, I hope someone in the U.S. administration will have read this post.

Double Standard

Dave Killion — December 4, 2012

Don’t worry… it breaks down naturally!

Governments in general, and their militaries in particular, are the greatest polluters and most environmentally destructive institutions that exist. However, environmentalists, voters, and the media seldom hold the state to account for its ecologically unsound practices. Witness the government road network, from which has spewed countless tons of toxic gases and minerals. Were this network in private hands, is there any doubt the public would be baying for protection and restitution? Sadly, the outrage of those aforementioned groups (manipulated by politicians to their own benefit) is reserved entirely for private entities.

For a more current example, recall the response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The howling of the media and the professional environmentalists was deafening, and predictably accompanied by the stern assurances of the U.S. administration that B.P. would not only pay, but pay and pay and pay and pay….

Contrast that to the numerous accounts of raw sewage flooding east coast waterways during and after Hurricane Sandy. Although the media was able to rouse itself to report some of the spills, its tone was very temperate, even compared to the non-response of environmental groups. The very fact that sewage is treated  prior to disposal is sufficient evidence that it, like oil, must be extremely detrimental to both human health and the environment, particularly when contamination occurs on a large scale. But has the government condemned its own irresponsibility with the same vigour it exercised over the Gulf Oil spill? Not on your life –

“Officials say there are no cleanup plans because raw sewage breaks down and gets diluted in large bodies of water. But they advise people to stay away from flood waters and assume they’re contaminated. (Connecticut) Gov. Dannel P. Malloy quipped that people should avoid eating clams and oysters from Long Island Sound.”

Thanks for the tip! Of course, it was pointed out that oil in the Gulf would also break down and dilute in that large body of water, but no one found that response particularly satisfying. Luckily for Governor Malloy and his peers, accountability appears not to be something politicians need worry about.


Free The CBC!

Dave Killion — October 29, 2012

... just not enough to "$" for it!

On November 19, 2012, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) will begin public hearings on the renewal of radio and television licenses for the CBC

“The CRTC will examine the public broadcaster’s role in light of its powers under the Broadcasting Act. The following are some of the issues that the Commission plans to discuss:

  • CBC/Radio-Canada’s overall strategy
  • equivalent quality of services in French and English
  • representation of official language minority communities
  • regional reflection and the services offered in northern Canada
  • the accessibility of information relating to the Corporation’s management and the effectiveness with which public comments are handled
  • the addition of advertising on Espace Musique and Radio 2, and
  • commercial agreements.        “
I suspect the CBC will be with us as a publicly-funded institution for some time. After all, the cost of the CBC is spread out amongst so many Canadians, that no one really has any incentive to invest much time and effort in getting the government to sever the relationship. However, those ‘public’ funds get concentrated into the hands of a relatively small group, and that small group stands to lose a great deal if funding is withdrawn. In addition, those who enjoy CBC programming get it at a much lower cost than they would have to pay otherwise. Those two groups (Baptists and bootleggers) are highly incentivized to lobby for funding. However, federal funding for the CBC is slated to be around $1 billion. Given the wintery and uncertain economic climate faced even by Canadians, perhaps that is a sufficient amount to rile ever more people to protest. One can only hope.

Excellence Is Ignored In The Public Sector

Dave Killion — October 5, 2012

There have been a lot of videos documenting ugly behaviour by cops, but I bet you haven’t seen many like this. Watch it (2:40), then come back for the rest of this post.

Finished? Seriously, watch the post first.

Alrighty, then. Here we have a feel-good news story about what appears to be a decent human being doing the very tough job of law enforcement very well. And since libertarians know there are so very many feel-bad stories about LEOs, I hope this video did make you feel good. But realize this – this video is also a testimony to the failure of the public sector.

The LA Sheriff’s department has had twenty years to study this deputy’s performance, and share his techniques not only within the department, but with law enforcement agencies everywhere. But since there is no profit motive, and none of the competition that drives excellence, twenty years passed before anyone even noticed what a great job Deputy Simmons has been doing. Subject that kind of ineptitude to market forces, and I doubt the LA Sheriff’s department would last six months, much less twenty years. And in a libertarian world, Deputy Simmons would have gotten the attention he deserves a long, long time ago.

Such a waste.


Lack Of Government Regulation ≠ No Regulation

Dave Killion — September 25, 2012

The CEO of MKG Group, Michael Strong, has declared that the model city his outfit will be building in Honduras will be organized with the goal of being “the most economically free entity on Earth“. For Paul Willcocks, the prospect raises questions he appears to be incapable of answering for himself. Perhaps I can help –

“…does that mean no minimum wage, no employment standards, no health and safety rules?”

No. It means that wages, employment standards, and health and safety rules will be negotiated by workers and employers, rather than politicians and activists. The willingness of poor Hondurans to accept low wages for tough, dangerous working conditions means that there will be a flood of investment in their country, offering them levels of prosperity and opportunity they have previously only dreamt of.

….”who will pay for the vision of better health care, education and policing(?)”

Consumers will pay, but they will be paying for their vision, rather than that of some elite. Each one will pursue the goods and services in the quantities he desires most, based on criteria only he himself is capable of evaluating.

Honduras is an unhappy place, and has been an unhappy place for a long time. The government is untrustworthy, and investors will need strong incentives before they are willing to come to the table. Demand too much in the way of regulation, and entrepreneurs will take their money to places that may be less profitable, but are also less risky. Let the state keep its distance, and great things will happen.


Will There Be A Libertarian City In Central America?

Dave Killion — September 11, 2012

Dream a little bigger, Patri.

I wrote a few days ago about the imminent groundbreaking of three charter cities in Honduras, and I am happy to bring you further good news on that front

The seasteader-in-chief is headed ashore. Patri Friedman (that’s Milton Friedman’s grandson to you), who stepped down as the chief executive of the Peter Thiel-backed Seasteading Institute in August, has resurfaced as the CEO of a new for-profit enterprise named Future Cities Development Inc., which aims to create new cities from scratch (on land this time) governed by “cutting-edge legal systems.” The startup may have found its first taker in Honduras, whose government amended its constitution in January to permit the creation of special autonomous zones exempt from local and federal laws. Future Cities has signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding to build a city in one such zone starting next year.”

“Citing laissez-faire entrepots such as Hong Kong and Singapore as examples, the company’s founders believe that strong property rights and business-friendly regulation are key to creating jobs, stimulating investment, and lifting millions out of poverty, a la China’s special economic zones. “

This won’t just be an economically free city… since residency in the new cities will be voluntary, no one will be subject to regulations on behaviour to which they have not previously agreed. Competition between the three cities for good workers will help insure such regulation is not overly restrictive.

Having a libertarian personality at the forefront of one of these projects is an exciting and promising development. Stay tuned for further development on what continues to look like a Very Big Deal.

Charter Cities May Provide Alternative To Violence

Dave Killion — September 5, 2012

The proposed charter cities of Honduras have come one step closer. With the government signing of a memorandum of agreement, construction may begin as soon as March 2013

“The project’s aim is to strengthen Honduras’ weak government and failing infrastructure, overwhelmed by corruption, drug-related crime and lingering political instability after a 2009 coup.

The project “has the potential to turn Honduras into an engine of wealth,” said Carlos Pineda, president of the Commission for the Promotion of Public-Private Partnerships. It can be “a development instrument typical of first world countries.”

As I have said before, this strikes me as a Very Big Deal. Making the transition out of a corrupt, authoritarian regime usually involves violent revolution, but charter cities may provide the means for reform-minded government agents to work around those with vested interests in maintaining the status quo. Keep your fingers crossed!

For-Profit Justice

Dave Killion — July 10, 2012

A. Barton Hinkle wants to remind us that justice is harder to come by when you’re not a attractive, youthful, caucasian female –

“Not many have heard about Amilkar Figeroa. The 26-year-old was shot and killed in South Richmond in 2009. A year later – the last time it got any coverage – the case remained unsolved. Ditto for Levon Alford andJomond Lightfoot, two other open-case homicide victims in Richmond. And Ashraf Alatiyat, who was killed during a robbery at the Come and Go Food Market he owned on Jeff Davis Highway. During the past five years Richmond alone has racked up 31 unsolved homicides of black men and women. When was the last time you saw one of them on TV?

We hear a lot about the disparate treatment of minorities in the criminal-justice system. Young blacks are arrested for drug crimes 10 times more often than whites, even though five times more whites than blacks use drugs. But there is also widely disparate treatment of minorities in non-judicial realm as well.”

“This is not a new or original insight. There is even a name for the phenomenon: Missing White Woman Syndrome (MWWS). “

The article suggests some reasons why pretty young white female victims get all the attention, but I want to point out that the damage created by the phenomenon is greatly exacerbated by the type of legal system we have. Currently, when police must choose between expending resources on a low-profile case or a high-profile case, they will get more positive publicity and bigger budgets if they solve the latter. However, in a system where the expense of pursuit, trial, and incarceration are borne by the convicted, the pay day for solving the slaying of a black or hispanic woman is likely to be equal to that of a white woman’s. Private detectives would be lining up to take on cases even where the victim cannot be identified! Until that happy day, I’m afraid we are stuck with a system where too many minorities disappear, and perpetrators can get away with murder.

Contracting Out Public Services, Part 2

Dave Killion — June 27, 2012

As I wrote in yesterday’s post, there are legitimate concerns surrounding the contracting out of public services. My chief apprehension is that what governments like Sandy Springs are doing is not actually ‘privatization’, despite liberal (and often pejorative) misuse of the word. In order for a government to privatize a service, it must remove itself entirely from the provision of that service. For example, if a municipality decides to privatize rubbish removal, it simply announces that it will be out of the trash business by a certain date. It then arranges to auction off all its garbage trucks, and whatever equipment that was used for running the waste management system. After that, the only state involvement will be enforcing prohibitions against the use of force and fraud by waste removal companies and their customers.

Contracting out, on the other hand, is a form of public-private partnership (PPP or P3s) in which the government is still involved up to its elbows. When done badly, P3s can wind up merely replacing an expensive and inefficient service staffed by government employees with an expensive and inefficient service staffed by private sector employees. The consumer still has limited choice, and the supplier is protected from the market forces which would drive innovation and thrift.

Although a well-done PPP can go a long way towards easing the damage government does to taxpayers, I don’t consider ‘contracting out’ to be very libertarian. I defend them when I need to, and I’m happy to see them succeed, but I prefer to use my limited time and resources to advocate for taking services out of the inefficient and corrupt hands of the state, and handing them over to the private sector. Why settle for less?