This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

New idea: let's NOT commodify everything!

The public services have always purchased supplies from commercial providers. The police or NHS could not be in the business of manufacturing vehicles, paper or cleaning materials for example. When the NHS was established, GPs were brought on board as self employed contractors. The Police bring in outside specialist trainers rather than seek to employ them.

All this makes sense to me. How could it not be wise to source some materials and services from external providers. Since I have been one of those sourced for many years, how could I not believe in this!

But what began as common sense has now become a rampant ideology with the fundamental belief that all public services should be outsourced (or privatised) in order to achieve 'value for money' for  the taxpayer. All that the state has to do is set the contracts (or 'commission') and magically we will see the privatised public services delivering more for less etc.

I am not going to go over all the arguments about why such an ideology is completely daft, divisive and dangerous. Except: I just want to highlight the idea of commodification. For this is the process whereby everything that anyone does is given a financial value, human lives are objectified as having cash equivalents and so forth. This is a necessary ingredient in the ideology of privatisation: everything has to have a price.

Well, I say everything, except many acts of public good are not factored in. The proponents of this ideology would not dare do that. Why not? Because they are quite happy for the havelittles to continue helping communities for free because then the havelots can make even bigger profits and accumulate even more wealth. There is even a phrase for this: the Big Society.

So when we give blood (see below) as an act of human generosity and desire to help people, this is then exploited by money making businesses. If police services are privatised to the degrees being planned, ordinary people will probably carry on offering practical help, intelligence, sandwiches and cups of tea to hard working staff & officers (just as people have done in their hundreds in Wales this week) while the privatised company make even greater profits at their expense.

Our goodwill, our energy, even our blood is being exploited by money making businesses.

So since the privatisation ideologues want to atomise and price everything, then let's do it! The next time a G4S employed investigator comes knocking on my door for information about whether I have seen van or not, I am going to charge him a fee. The next time the local branch of Virgin Healthcare want my views on the services they provide, I will want a fee for my time.


Of course, I won't be doing this. But I remain bloomin' angry that as we privatise, outsource, fragment and commodify every part of our precious public services, the very people who are paying for this are then having their goodwill exploited as well. Who is gaining from all this?

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