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Howard's End: Beware those public-private partners

Published: Wed 23 Oct 2002 09:35 AM
Howard's End: Beware those public-private partners
"For all their flaws, government institutions are at least partly controlled by democratically elected representatives, but if power leaks away from these institutions to unaccountable private institutions, then important decisions - including decisions for peace or war - might also escape public control altogether." (Walter Read, Los Angeles Times)
Beware those public-private partnerships. Maree Howard writes.
The saga of the Ross Armstrong affair has brought to light that legislation is almost ready to be introduced in Parliament to allow public-private partnerships.
WorldNetDaily editor, Joseph Farah, wrote the following in 1997.
Governments all over the world are waking up to the fact that they can no longer directly tax citizens to fund all their grand schemes.
That may sound like good news. Unfortunately, it is not.
The result of this realisation is something far more hideous than big Government.
Big Government has an address. It's tangible. You can see it work. You can defend yourself against it. There is some measure of accountability to the people.
What is emerging today in its wake is far more slippery, far more nebulous, much tougher to identify, much tougher to combat and almost wholly unaccountable to average people.
When Ted Turner gifted $1 billion to the United nations, Bill Clinton said; " Innovative partnerships with the private sector....and the international financial institutions can leverage effectiveness many times over. His (Turners) gesture highlights the potential for partnership between the U.N. and the private sector in contributions of time, resources and expertise. I hope more will follow his lead."
And what exactly does that mean? It means the elite who want to reshape the social order can do so without asking for our cooperation - without convincing us the direction they want to go is the right one. They'll do it not solely with our tax dollars, they'll do it through public-private partnerships.
It sounds like privatisation which some people like. But it is not.
It's more of a way to blur our thinking about where we are headed. It is, simply, a way for the rich to get richer and the already powerful to grow more powerful.
It's a way to turn politicians into little more than useful idiots for forces and trends too large for detection on most people's radar screens.
Why is the private sector more effective and dangerous? Well, it has virtually unlimited resources, yet faces none of the messiness of public scrutiny, policy debates or constitutional limitations.
In other words, the private sector is free to run like a dictatorship - and, at least in the short run, dictatorships are always more efficient than democracies.
Thus, the elected officials of the world are not nearly as powerful today as the Bill Gates, the Ted Turners or the George Soroses - and the people who manage the world's wealth.
Sovereign national Government's are in retreat. Nation-states are not as powerful as they were a generation ago. Many are cheering this development. But they are missing the point and the looming threat to our democracy that it represents.
So while the public alternately laughs or cries over the latest raging debate in Parliament, the fact is that it may be irrelevant to the larger threat to our society.
The real power today is moving away from the people of the Nation-state. Beware those public-private partnerships.

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