Making a buck out of crime

I meant to write a little more on these posts by Will Wilkinson and Suzy Khim on the really bad side-effects of private prisons but they pretty much cover the bases. I think the same perverse incentives exist with private military organizations. Profiting off of war is one of the most perverse incentives I can imagine. I say, if we don’t have enough actual troops to go to war with then we should bloody well stay the hell out of the war in the first place. And if we intend to maintain a presence in Iraq, that presence should be U.S. military troops, not private contractors mercenaries. Profiting off crime and war should be left to novelists, filmmakers, and the video game industry.

On a related note, this sketch from Fry & Laurie about the ‘private police force’ is good for a laugh.

But this is the best Fry and Laurie bit of them all:






96 replies
  1. 1
    morzer says:

    I say, if we don’t have enough actual troops to go to war with then we should bloody well stay the hell out of the war in the first place.

    if you go on like this, ED, you’ll start liking good cheese, real wine and excellent health care. You might even don a beret.

    Just a friendly piece of advice.

  2. 2
    someguy says:

    Wrong? That’s a moral concept, correct? I didn’t think it was a libertarian one.

    So now what you’re saying is that the commission of violence against the individual ought to be solely the province of the state? Why does that sentiment ring a bell, and not seem very libertarian at all…

  3. 3
    ChrisS says:

    So there’s a few government programs you dislike, but otherwise, you’re a liberal.

    Welcome to the club.

    Shit I was turned off from privatization of public goods by utility companies and suburban strip malls (developers build-out their parcel, but then ring the fucker with curbs and strips of grass, so you have no choice but to drive back out onto the highway/roadway to go a block turn into another strip mall, just to go between a couple of different stores). Can’t wait until private development gets their hands on public roadways.

  4. 4
    Steve says:

    Private military organizations are just another subspecies of defense contractors. Since it’s totally impractical to nationalize the entire defense contracting industry, you just have to figure out a way to live with this huge mass of wealthy corporations who have an incentive to lobby in favor of war. This is what Eisenhower was talking about.

  5. 5
    comrade scott's agenda of rage says:

    The first Fry and Laurie piece isn’t “good for a laugh”, it’s a fucking blueprint of what privatization is all about. Believe me, much of the modern republican party would look at this and go “blueprint”.

  6. 6
    Gin & Tonic says:

    As a fairly new guy here I refrained from commenting in your earlier whining thread, because you were already being hammered and I didn’t see the point. But really, what the hell is the point of this post? Mercenaries are bad? Mercenaries, like prostitutes, have existed pretty much forever and will exist pretty much forever. Engaging in war without actual military troops is bad? Duh. Engaging in war without being willing to fucking pay for it is bad, too. Have you been arguing against that since 2003?

  7. 7
    J sub D says:

    I’m a fairly libertarian, free market sort of guy but there are some few things that have to be exclusively reserved to the government. Prisons and military operations are two of those. Yeah, the government will fuck it up (don’t they always?) but I fear the consequences of privatizing these functions even more.

    Policing and the courts also fit in here. Private security is fine but giving them police powers (always abused) is an affront to freedom. Private courts is just plain ridiculous.

  8. 8
    Crashman says:

    Amen.

    I can’t imagine why anyone would think that for-profit prisons were a good idea. It just seems so morally wrong. I guess this is what happens when there’s no tax revenue left.

  9. 9
    LGRooney says:

    I say, if we don’t have enough actual troops to go to war with then we should bloody well stay the hell out of the war in the first place.

    Let me tweak it…

    I say, if we don’t have enough actual troops to go to war with then we should bloody well stay the hell out of the war in the first place have a draft if the war is actually justified. If it ain’t justified, bring in the mercenaries don’t have a war.

  10. 10
    MikeJ says:

    @J sub D:

    Yeah, the government will fuck it up (don’t they always?) but I fear the consequences of privatizing these functions even more.

    I forget who it was now, but somebody on the News Quiz said, in effect, yes the government will screw up whatever job you give it, but that will be through incompetence. Turn it over to the private sector and they will be going out of their way to fuck you.

  11. 11
    Woodrow L. Goode, IV says:

    The whole “government-run”/”corporate contractor” issue boils down to two issues.

    1. Bureaucracies can be inefficient, which adds costs. But private businesses are always in business for profit, which always will add cost.

    Nobody has ever convinced me– or ever will– that this equation leans toward the right side.

    (Government Inefficiency) +/- (Profit motive)

    In market economies, the the businessman will charge what the market will bear, not “cost plus profit.” That’s a basic tenet of Adam Smith.

    2. When it is possible to put maximize profits by worsening the quality of the product, the temptation to do so– when the buyer is compelled to purchase it– is almost irresistible.

    Is Hellman’s likely to buy “Deep Discount Eggs”? Probably not. Is Wackenhut or CCA? Yup.

  12. 12
  13. 13
    Bob says:

    You folks that criticize privatization need to understand one simple fact – Free markets solve everything. What’s so difficult?

  14. 14
    James Hare says:

    That’s the part that gets me sometimes. It’s not like my conservative friends are idiots. They are a little more concerned about spending than I would be, but for the most part they’re sane. The ones who watch Glenn Beck seem the most detached from reality. Often I’ll agree with some of their criticisms of the Democratic party, but I don’t see where they get from “the Democratic party is imperfect” to “I will vote for the criminally insane politicians of the Republican party.”

    I don’t enjoy party line votes. It feels like cheating not to give it that much thought and just vote for a party. I can get libertarians that refuse to vote or cast protest votes for the libertarian party. That’s at least consistent. I don’t get how any proponent of limited government could support today’s Republican party. How can anyone support a party that gives lip service to their ideals when out of power, and then ignores those ideals when in power?

    I also don’t get the fixation on taxes by so many libertarians. If liberty was their true concern, you’d think they would focus on the many far worse violations of liberty than taxation before turning to it. I can’t understand why keeping more of your money is valuable when the government restricts your economic freedom in so many ways. I can’t understand why the top marginal tax rate is all they bitch about when the President is ordering extra-judicial killings of American citizens.

    I would find libertarians far more palatable if they would fight remorselessly to turn back the tide on our out-of-control judicial system or our out-of-control military. Most of the libertarians I speak to are so scattershot on their priorities they’ll never get anything done. If your vision of change is to tear society apart and rebuild from the ashes, you’ll never get there.

  15. 15
    litbrit says:

    And if we intend to maintain a presence in Iraq, that presence should be U.S. military troops, not private contractors mercenaries. Profiting off crime and war should be left to novelists, filmmakers, and the video game industry.

    Hear, hear. I recently posted a link on my Facebook page, petitioning the president to cut the military budget as opposed to Social Security. Some of the comments from friends led me to realize that a number of people actually believe all that money goes to take care of the troops and their needs; certainly they are not aware of the enormous graft, the missing pallets of money, the fraud, the revolving-door climate in DC wherein elected officials and defense-contractor lobbyists go back and forth between careers–conflict of interest be damned–and the disgraceful, mind-bending amounts of money these companies poured into campaign funds (and this, before the Citizens ruling.)

    Anyone who doubts how much of our national treasure goes down that dark, tentacular drain need only check the DOD website for daily updates of contract awards. You can also, by looking at the durations of the contracts, get an approximate idea of how long the States is planning on staying in certain theatres. (Hint: we’re not leaving Afghanistan any time soon.) Hard-core nerds should read Jane’s, which I gave up doing some time ago in the interest of getting a (slightly) better night’s sleep.

    Every day, I’m reminded of ol’ Frank Zappa’s quip: Government is the entertainment division of the Military Industrial Complex.

  16. 16
    LGRooney says:

    @J sub D: As someone who is doing/ has done my fair bit of government contracting, I can say with little reservation that the feds are better at doing their job than almost any outsource I have met/ worked for. The whole incentive system for outsourcing is wrong where conscientious management of taxpayer funding is concerned since outsourcing requires finding ways to maintain that lifeline to the taxpayer teat. Government workers have rarely been overly concerned with increasing government spending. Companies that live on government spending, however, and are answerable to shareholders a/o interested in growth are concerned with it and, since so many of the contractors end up providing new feds, there is a sweet feedback with feds now managing programs of their former employers.

  17. 17

    I concur with your opinion. The privatization of the armed forces is disturbing and makes war and aggression more likely to happen in the future, not less.

    Call me a naive idealist, but I am strongly of the opinion that if the cause is just and necessary, the people will fight, whether its through joining up themselves or supporting conscription for all able bodied citizens without favor as to rich or poor.

    If a majority of citizens aren’t willing to put their own lives on the line and fight and die for a cause, then maybe it’s time to re-examine whether it’s worth fighting for.

  18. 18
    TomG says:

    J sub D, I know of quite a few anarchists who would vehemently disagree with you. There is nothing that should be exclusively reserved to the government.
    This has been discussed numerous times over the last century by better writers than I, and the reason most people think it’s insane is simply that they think of privatization as the “Blackwater” model – which is SO TOTALLY NOT what most anarchists envision.

  19. 19
    mistermix says:

    @Gin & Tonic: I believe the point of the post is that the arguments made by Wilkinson and Khimm apply, mutatis mutandis, to private armies. It’s the kind of post that I write all day long, yet when ED writes it, he gets a raft of shit.

    I’ll bet if ED posted pictures of his fat cat and two rescue dogs, he’d be accused of pet abuse. If he posted a fancy drink recipe with seven ingredients, he’d be called an alcoholic. If he posted a Thursday menu that included beef, he’d be called an animal killer, but if it was vegetarian, he’d be called a poser/appeaser.

  20. 20
    cyntax says:

    I would add healthcare and education to the list of the types of things that don’t map efectively to purely profit driven solutions.

  21. 21
    gnomedad says:

    The site protesting soshulist fire departments seems to have vanished, but there’s still this.

  22. 22
    LGRooney says:

    @mistermix: I was thinking the same thing. And, as far as your reference to “Pains of Being Pure at Heart” yesterday, as I’ve said before, get out of my iPod!

  23. 23

    @mistermix:

    It’s the kind of post that I write all day long, yet when ED writes it, he gets a raft of shit.

    It’s content-free, which is why I’m handing him a plank, not a whole raft, of shit. Even he says so: “I meant to write something on this, but I didn’t, so here’s a couple of links and some marginally funny videos.”

  24. 24
    Bnut says:

    If you look beyond the trigger pullers, I don’t see how it would be possible for the US military to operate without the contractors. Meal service, vehicle maintenance, carpentry and machinery repair…the list goes on. Something like 3/4 of the US Army are support troops, and that is obviously not sufficient for long term warfare. I shudder at how many civilians contractors will be needed in the case of a larger scale conflict.

    Note: this is not an agreement with the ways shit is run. Just the truth at this point.

  25. 25

    @mistermix:
    Fuck you, mistermix!

    There. Feel better?

  26. 26

    @Bnut:

    I don’t see how it would be possible for the US military to operate without the contractors.

    How did we manage food service in WWII?

  27. 27

    @Gin & Tonic:

    How did we manage food service in WWII?

    With a draft.

  28. 28
    mistermix says:

    @LGRooney: My message to the commenters today: “Underachievers, Try Harder”

  29. 29
    jl says:

    “I’ll bet if ED posted pictures of his fat cat and two rescue dogs,”

    ED is a Cole spoof? The fat cat is out of the (ginormous) bag.

  30. 30
    MattR says:

    @mistermix:

    It’s the kind of post that I write all day long, yet when ED writes it, he gets a raft of shit.

    Does this mean we have to start giving you shit all day long?

    Sorry, I actually agree with you but it was a shot I could not resist.

  31. 31
    slag says:

    @ChrisS:

    So there’s a few government programs you dislike, but otherwise, you’re a liberal.

    OK. Can we just put the labelmaker away for a little while? You guys agree on something. Good. Maybe he’s sitting there thinking that you must be a conservative. Either way, who gives a damn? Just be glad you agree on something and hug it out already. Jackasses.

  32. 32

    @MattR:
    Apparently, mistermix isn’t feeling the love.

  33. 33
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    This. At lest on everything in the first paragraph. I don’t know about the second: I don’t watch videos at work.

  34. 34
    mistermix says:

    @arguingwithsignposts: Feel free to suck on a bag of dicks or piss up a rope, your choice.

    And yeah, I do feel better.

    @Gin & Tonic: Well, if it’s just a plank, perhaps that changes the whole calculus.

  35. 35
    Ailuridae says:

    @mistermix:

    A new poster takes exception to what he views is a banal post from EDK immediately after EDK’s previous whining post and you take that as indicative of how he is typically treated? At the time I am writing this there are 22 posts including yours in this thread and there is exactly one tht can be construed as remotely unfair. Most are complimentary or expand on EDK’s point.

    There is no “there” there when claiming that ED is getting beat up because of ideological predisposition. If either you or DougJ had written some of his more fact-free posts I suspect the vitriol would have actually been worse.

  36. 36
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @arguingwithsignposts:

    With a draft.

    Right. Which answers Bnut’s question of how it would be possible to run the military without contractors. It’s not impossible at all.

  37. 37
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @ChrisS:

    So there’s a few government programs you dislike, but otherwise, you’re a liberal.

    Fixed, though it is getting tiring having people trying to “convert” EDK, just like it’s tiring when he tries to “convert” us.

  38. 38
    slag says:

    @Woodrow L. Goode, IV:

    1. Bureaucracies can be inefficient, which adds costs.

    My other word for bureaucracy is checksandbalances. But I’m a traditionalist in that way.

  39. 39
    MikeJ says:

    @mistermix: I just don’t buy it. What I’ve seen is:

    ED: The sky is green!
    200 comments citing art, history, poetry, NASA, the Weather Channel, my bedroom window, Pantone books, and the ghost of Willebrord Snell.
    ED: Epistemic closure!

  40. 40
    Ailuridae says:

    @Bnut:

    You do know that for most of the US military’s history those jobs were done by actual enlisted men right? That used to be how someone would end up with a Class C license or with some basic skills like being a fry cook etc. And it was far far cheaper (privates make next to nothing) and has all sorts of tactical advantages over not having to protect civilians if the enemy engages.

  41. 41

    @Gin & Tonic:
    With the added bonus that it (a draft) might keep us out of so many excellent adventures on the other side of the world.

  42. 42
    MikeJ says:

    @Ailuridae: Not to mention that in old service comedies people had to peel potatoes. Bud Abbott was on KP so much they made him an admiral. He was in charge of all the vessels.

  43. 43
    J sub D says:

    @MikeJ:

    > I forget who it was now, but somebody on the News Quiz said, in effect, yes the government will screw up whatever job you give it, but that will be through incompetence. Turn it over to the private sector and they will be going out of their way to fuck you.

    They certainly will if their “customers” can’t go anywhere else.
    Prisoners and occupied countries don’t exactly have that option.

  44. 44
    DecidedFenceSitter says:

    @MikeJ: You forgot the 10-25% of people just generally insulting him. I’d argue that ED Kain made a bad first impression, he came into a hostile audience and made assumptions and thus poor arguments that we disagreed with, and tore them apart.

    All the while waiting for him to back-up why he felt that way. And in the absence of evidence, counter-points, being humans, we created patterns and reasons. We, as a community, have little good will towards the conservative side of the spectrum – once again, not fair, but it is what it is.

    And considering the confirmation bias is alive and well, every single time Kain makes one of the more conservative arguments, we remember the 100-200 post fest that occurs with little to no support for positions. And get frustrated as there’s no dialogue. Just him posting and apparently ignoring us, which frustrates, which irritates, which means we, as a community, get mean.

  45. 45
    Violet says:

    I say, if we don’t have enough actual troops to go to war with then we should bloody well stay the hell out of the war in the first place.

    Oh, Erik. What kind of piss poor conservative are you? If we don’t have enough troops to go to war, we go anyway, lower standards so anyone who is breathing can join the military, pay them less, refuse to support them when they come back and then blame Democrats for not being patriotic and “supporting the troops.” That’s how it works.

  46. 46
    KG says:

    @slag: @Belafon (formerly anonevent): This is actually getting kind of funny, to me. “OMG he agrees with me on something so he must be a [praise worthy term of the day]… No wait, he doesn’t agree with me on something else he must be a [derogatory term of the day]”

    Though the part where people care more about labels and ideology rather than about policies and making things work is getting old fast. I come from a school of thought where there is only one person who you will agree with on everything, and that’s the person in the mirror. Short term political alliances seem like a useful idea to me: hey, I can work with these guys on this, and those guys on that, and I might actually accomplish something.

    (also, shameless plug of my new blog – very narrowly tailored for my particular industry, but if you’re interested in short sale real estate transactions, feel free to take a look)

  47. 47
    Bnut says:

    @Ailuridae:

    The increased technical specificity of so many military jobs has led to some of the more menial tasks being outsourced. When it costs so much to train a soldier up to code, and they are equipped with lots of expensive gear, you don’t waste that time making them peel potatoes anymore. It’s so hard to recruit and retain good service members that you can’t lose a fresh body to mundane things. They were pushing grunts through training in WW2 in 8 weeks. It took me 7 months to train up before I got to a unit.

  48. 48
    Violet says:

    @KG:

    Short term political alliances seem like a useful idea to me: hey, I can work with these guys on this, and those guys on that, and I might actually accomplish something.

    They should be useful. In the climate we’re in now, if a Republican works with a Democrat on anything they’ll be hounded out of office and maybe the party. Democrats are not a lot different.

    @DecidedFenceSitter:

    every single time Kain makes one of the more conservative arguments, we remember the 100-200 post fest that occurs with little to no support for positions. And get frustrated as there’s no dialogue. Just him posting and apparently ignoring us, which frustrates, which irritates, which means we, as a community, get mean.

    A significant percentage of comments in the previous thread complained about his lack of engagement with the commenters here. I hope he addresses that in some way, even if it means yet another post on the FP. I know he’s already posted that he can’t comment, but something addressing some of the workaround suggestions that were made might be good.

  49. 49
    slag says:

    @MikeJ: Pantone books? Somebody’s been watching HGTV. And, for once, it isn’t Cole.

  50. 50

    @Bnut:

    They were pushing grunts through training in WW2 in 8 weeks. It took me 7 months to train up before I got to a unit.

    Because there was a *draft.* An all-volunteer army is fine for peacetime, but when you’re in a war (or whatever we’re calling IraqAfPak these days), you start calling numbers and fill those potato-peeling slots with soldiers.

    Part of the reason we’re 9 years into this round of military adventure is nobody at home is affected, other than those people with the stars on their houses.

  51. 51
    Ailuridae says:

    @Bnut:

    They were pushing grunts through training in WW2 in 8 weeks. It took me 7 months to train up before I got to a unit.

    It might take seven months to train someone for soldiering but it doesn’t take seven months to train someone to have enough basic proficiency with his rifle and then having him be a fry cook or to drive a decent sized truck.

    Now one can argue that its in each branch of the armed forces to have everyone go through the same length training before joining their unit but that doesn’t make any sense whatsoever financially.

  52. 52
    parsimon says:

    @DecidedFenceSitter:

    And get frustrated as there’s no dialogue. Just him posting and apparently ignoring us, which frustrates, which irritates, which means we, as a community, get mean.

    Not to turn this thread into another referendum on E.D. — please, no — but if the original poster is too busy or otherwise unavailable to reply, I’m not sure why commenters wouldn’t turn to engaging one another in order to have a dialogue, rather than continuing to scream at the original poster.

  53. 53
    MikeJ says:

    @slag: Nah, I worked for a print design firm. Always fun in the early days of the internet (when 256 colors was a common color depth) explaining to clients and designers that no, we can’t match your identity pack’s pantone colors precisely on a web site being viewed on Mosaic.

  54. 54
    mcd410x says:

    Remember how the right screamed about getting into Bosnia? Good times.

  55. 55
    MattR says:

    @Violet: He actually updated his previous post to discuss that, among other things. I did not realize that until I saw a comment from someone responding to the update.

  56. 56
    Woodrow L. Goode, IV says:

    @slag: Point taken. The use of the term “inefficiency” comes from my Business Analysis training. Inefficiency and redundancy should not be used as pejoratives, any more than “liberal” or “conservative”.

    It’s not desirable for a business to be 100% efficient, any more than a body should have 0% fat. Backing up your data is not, strictly speaking, efficient. It is, however, very helpful when disaster strikes.

  57. 57
    DPirate says:

    Sacrilege!

  58. 58
    Roger Moore says:

    @Comrade Dread:

    Call me a naive idealist, but I am strongly of the opinion that if the cause is just and necessary, the people will fight, whether its through joining up themselves or supporting conscription for all able bodied citizens without favor as to rich or poor.

    I don’t think you’re a naive idealist for believing that people will volunteer to fight in just wars. If anything, it’s probably too easy to get people to volunteer, so that you get plenty of volunteers even for unjust wars. If you’re naive, it’s for saying:

    If a majority of citizens aren’t willing to put their own lives on the line and fight and die for a cause, then maybe it’s time to re-examine whether it’s worth fighting for.

    I think that’s a noble and correct view, but it’s not the one that’s controlling policy in Washington. There’s a strong group of militarists who believe they should be able to push the country into a war any time they feel like it, and it’s our job as citizens to support it once they do. That’s why the militarists are so consumed with chewing over Vietnam long after the war is over; it was a concrete rejection of the militarist program.

  59. 59
    Bnut says:

    @mcd410x:

    They should have been all for it, they almost clipped Hillary.

  60. 60
    Violet says:

    @MattR:
    Thanks for letting me know. I had missed the update. Sounds like he’s going to work on the commenting situation. Hopefully that’ll help smooth out some of the rougher edges of the discussion.

  61. 61
    Chad N Freude says:

    @J sub D:

    Private courts is just plain ridiculous.

    I have two words for you: Arbi Tration.

  62. 62
    Bnut says:

    @Comrade Dread:

    If a majority of citizens aren’t willing to put their own lives on the line and fight and die for a cause, then maybe it’s time to re-examine whether it’s worth fighting for.

    There are always people who need killing, and there is always a war that needs fighting. Who needs to die and where we need to fight are too varied across the American mind. Some think it’s AfPak, some thought it was Iraq, some thinking its in other ME countries, or Darfur, or Sri Lanka, etc. We’ll run out of people long before we run out of wars.

  63. 63
    gex says:

    I generally find that discussing issues is useless with someone who argues like this:

    1. Posit that C4C is a failure.
    2. Get pushback both on the actual goals of C4C and the reasoning behind the C4C makes used cars more expensive without addressing it.
    3. Escalate it to a ridiculous level (book burning?)
    4. Whine how mean we are and that we have epistemic closure.

    And then finally says:

    All I was doing is pointing out a possible unintended consequence of that program on the availability of used vehicles.

    I don’t think this will be found in the other thread – but that is not what he was doing. He came in with a very inflammatory title because he wanted to make a big splash with the counter-intuitive point he had. And now, rather than admit error, the goalposts have moved again.

    It’s one thing to exchange ideas with people when we have different understandings of the facts. It is another to exchange ideas with someone who won’t acknowledge whole sets of facts AND approaches the discussions in an adversarial way. Three posts and an update to the third. And all we get is that he is backing away from his point but without admitting error.

    Utterly useless to engage. Still worth reading, much like Sully. Both bright and good thinkers. But the thoughts that come out are not particularly valuable because of the blinders they wear.

  64. 64
    MikeJ says:

    @Chad N Freude: I know a guy who does almost nothing but arbitration, and he’s told me that a lot of companies are changing their minds on the concept. It’s because they learned that it doesn’t mean no lawyers, it doesn’t mean that it won’t drag out, and in the end, it’s not really any cheaper or easier. In fact, there have been cases where the megacorp would have been much better off in a real court since all the laws are already written in their favor.

  65. 65
    Tonal Crow says:

    Privatizing prisons incentivizes their owners to lobby to criminalize ever more acts and to impose ever-harsher sentences.

    Thus we trade our precious liberty for — what again?

  66. 66
    ChrisS says:

    @Ailuridae:

    And it was far far cheaper (privates make next to nothing)

    And because management was already paid for. The fun thing about government contracting, and I am a government contractor*, is that there is the contractor’s management team, the military’s contractor management team, and the management team that supervises the sub-contractors. I’ve been to meetings where there are 30 people supervising 10 people doing the actual shovel in the ground work. It’s a giant cash-cow that does the same thing as two E-2s, an E-4, and an E-6 but with the added layer of capitalism.

    *in a slightly different form than the military industrial complex (I’m on the good side, we’re cleaning up old DoD hazardous waste sites).

  67. 67
    WereBear says:

    @Woodrow L. Goode, IV: What really emphasizes the difference is accountability. It’s a lot easier to change the rules, and get at who is breaking them, when it is government run.

  68. 68
    Ailuridae says:

    @ChrisS:

    That’s pretty much the experience of the many IT contractors within the military. that I know.

  69. 69
    FFrank says:

    all I ask is you back your content up with genuine content not crap.

    Decent writer but still feel you are too much of a generalist that can’t back his facts up.

    LINKs Please…

  70. 70
    Anna Granfors says:

    I propose a one-world government, with Stephen Fry as king. Erm, queen. Erm, whatever. (I claim queer right to use “queen”, and suspect Stephen, near-deity that he is, would have a laugh.)

  71. 71
    J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford says:

    Don’t folks remember this private prison nightmare from early last year?

    Despite Red Flags About Judges, a Kickback Scheme Flourished

    “In what authorities are calling the biggest legal scandal in state history, the two judges pleaded guilty to tax evasion and wire fraud in a scheme that involved sending thousands of juveniles to two private detention centers in exchange for $2.6 million in kickbacks.”

    Luzerne County Judges

  72. 72
    Bnut says:

    Or how about the new DOJ prison rape report.

  73. 73
    Woodrow L. Goode, IV says:

    @WereBear: Having consulted for both the government and private business, I don’t see a substantial difference. To oversimplify a lot, one usually can’t change and the other usually won’t.

    To put it another way, the U.S. didn’t do such a bang-up job of operating a prison at Abu Ghraib.

  74. 74
    J sub D says:

    @LGRooney:
    Some of your points are true (revolving door) some I’d argue with (government workers give more bang for the buck) but this one is flat out wrong.

    Government workers have rarely been overly concerned with increasing government spending.

    Growing your fiefdom is a time honored tradition in all bureaucracies, government ones don’t have the burden of proving their value so they are more likely to hire unnecessary people, spend more on travel and other expenses etc.

    Add the fact that government workers are (usually) better compensated than their private counterparts (salary, health care benefits, retirement etc.) and you find that often better services can be delivered at lower costs by non-governmental organizations (trash pickup, parks groundskeeping, anyone?). One need only look as far K-12 education for a sterling example. Or your friendly neighborhood suburban SWAT team (because, you know, we might someday have a use for the damn unit).

  75. 75
    Zifnab says:

    @Woodrow L. Goode, IV:

    To put it another way, the U.S. didn’t do such a bang-up job of operating a prison at Abu Ghraib.

    Worth noting that the folks busted for prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib were (wait for it… wait for it…) private contractors. :-p

  76. 76
    Steve says:

    @J sub D: The only reason private schools can handle K-12 education more cheaply is that they get to pick the students. Force them to take all comers, particularly the special-needs kids who consume a disproportionate amount of resources, and the magical free-market powers of the private sector would disappear pretty rapidly.

  77. 77

    @J sub D: Have you been to a town or county budget hearing in the last couple of years? Wage freezes, furloughs, mandatory unpaid days off, supply budgets cut to the bone, equipment being used well past its normal useful life. In the states/towns/districts I am familiar with, K-12 teachers have not gotten increases in two years, are being required to contribute more to their insurance, their wages are shrinking. It’s not whether services can be delivered at lower cost by the private sector, many services are being eliminated completely. Rather than municipal vs. private trash collection, it’s no trash collection, drive it to the dump yourself, and pay per bag.

  78. 78
    Joshua says:

    @litbrit:

    Anyone who doubts how much of our national treasure goes down that dark, tentacular drain need only check the DOD website for daily updates of contract awards.

    I remember well a career day at an engineering college. Every other booth was a military contractor, and all were proudly trumpeting the insane billions of revenue they brought in. I had never even heard of 90% of them, but they were all bringing in as much or more money than Microsoft…. all on the taxpayer’s dime.

  79. 79

    @Steve: This. A profoundly special-needs kid can cost a public school system $50-80k/yr.

  80. 80
    neil says:

    @Crashman: For profit health care strikes me the same way – but that’s the American way. If you can make a buck off of it, we’re there!

  81. 81

    I love Laurie & Fry, and the police skit is spot-on. How many more times do we have to see private contractors fucking up in the military before we (collective we) get it through our thick heads that there are some things the private sector should not be doing?

    @MikeJ: You are so right with this, ellipses added by me:

    …yes the government will screw up whatever job you give it, but that will be through incompetence. Turn it over to the private sector and they will be going out of their way to fuck you.

    I would take the government over the private sector in many areas. The government’s mistakes are usually because of bureaucracy and bumbling; the private sector is just ruthless.

    @mistermix: I usually don’t have a beef with you, but fuck you for calling Tunchie fat! Feel better now?

  82. 82
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @J sub D:

    One need only look as far K-12 education for a sterling example.

    Studies have shown that, once adjusted for the income of the parents, public schools do at least as good as private ones and better than charter schools.

  83. 83
    Bnut says:

    @Zifnab:

    I think Lynndie England would disagree.

  84. 84
    Mayur says:

    J sub D: Bring statistics or else fuck off.

  85. 85
    Joshua says:

    @asiangrrlMN: Private companies aren’t just ruthless. They are bureaucratic and stupid too. “Dilbert” isn’t about a government agency, after all.

    Almost every time I have seen some clown push his company being a Galtian Superengine, it turns out he treats his employees like shit and he’s on the dole anyway. It’s a joke, but all the elites need are that narrative.

  86. 86
    brantl says:

    So, let’s let all that profit go to the defense contractors, shall we? And their accomplices in the high ranks of the military? What a great big difference that makes! B-game, E.D.

  87. 87
    Belvoir says:

    On the subject of big government, small government, drowned-in-the bathtub government and the Goldilocks fantasy of just-right-sized government:

    Just recalling something John Ralston Saul wrote in “Voltaire’s Bastards”, in a chapter called “Courtesans of Power”. He pointed out that the Roman Empire, the British Empire, and even the Roman Catholic Church centered at the Vatican were all vast sprawling beauracracies that managed to hum along efficiently for centuries. The scale of these “big governments” was irrelevant to their efficiency; their giant size was a neutral factor in how well they operated and functioned. “Scalable”.

    Ascribing an inherent moral and political value to the “size” of government seems a very modern and especially American obsession, mostly from people with their own capitalist agendas. They declare “big government” to be intrinsically evil, but are never very convincing as to why, exactly. Because it would reveal their own self-interest and misanthropy if looked at too closely. In the discourse now, it’s just taken as a given, big government=bad.

    But sprawling interconnected megaconglomerates acting malevolently against the common good, like the Kochs or financial services behemoths are lauded by some- “free market” and all that.

  88. 88
    JGabriel says:

    E.D. Kain:

    Profiting off of war is one of the most perverse incentives I can imagine. I say, if we don’t have enough actual troops to go to war with then we should bloody well stay the hell out of the war in the first place.

    And if the only way we can get enough troops is to resort to private mercenary corporations who pay them better, then we should start giving our troops better pay in the first place. It would probably be cheaper.

    .

  89. 89
    Bill Section 147 says:

    @Bnut: They also outsource a lot of the actual killing and mechanisms for killing.

    I think at its height GWs wars had 10 times the ratio of contractors to troops needed for Desert Storm.

    And as a bonus we make special rules for contractors that preclude them from the legal ramifications of their actions and the rules and oversight that apply to our soldiers.

  90. 90
    Batocchio says:

    Points for one of the best Fry and Laurie sketches.

  91. 91
    mnpundit says:

    Aren’t all wars fought for profit?

    Look at Africa, people are horrified but generally speaking that’s the norm of human behavior if you look at history. It was only in the last century when we became able to kill ourselves so well that we scared ourselves into toning it down. Even though the world wars had significant aspects of profit to them and these were not incidental to any of the nations that fought the war.

    Myself I don’t mind using mercenaries that much and I am a lonely figure on the left for it but I figure that’s what they’re for right? To fight and die and I don’t have risk my ideological or patriot well trained expensive soldiers. If the mercs do well, pay them and if they catch something or are wounded? To bad, you’re a merc. Turn traitor or get to unruly? You get shot. That’s how it works.

    But even myself in this case, does not like the use of mercenaries in Iraq or Afghanistan because we need soldiers that can think and mercenaries are not paid to think.

  92. 92
    Belvoir says:

    @mnpundit: Well, how great that you don’t mind using mercenaries, no matter that they cost much more. I am unaware of mercenaries (“contractors”) fighting and dying so our soldiers don’t have to. No, it’s our soldiers who get to die, mercenaries seem to not actually do much of the dirty work of these current wars at all, they seem quite good at avoiding it while we pay exorbitantly for their alleged services. They seem a shoddy and amoral bunch of shit-talking fake tough-guys, actually.

  93. 93
    Murali says:

    @J sub D:

    Private arbitration??? I mean it is certainly objectionable in cases where the employer just picks the arbiter, but in issues of international trade where the parties are more equal, private arbitration sems like a good idea.

  94. 94
    MNPundit says:

    @Belvoir: Exactly, they are perfect cannon fodder. If they die we don’t need to pay them. But like you said, right now they aren’t being used in that way so that’s another good reason not to use them in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  95. 95
    E.D. Kain says:

    @JGabriel: I agree.

  96. 96
    LGRooney says:

    @mistermix: Saw them live here in DC not too long ago. What is it with Scotland and its ability to crank out such great music?

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