Friday, June 10, 2011

Free Market Follies

In general, I like the New York Times, but they have a few blind spots that drive me crazy. One is that there are different standards for the United States and other countries. Another is that they are "free market" fanatatics, to the point that they rarely notice the instances where capitalism fails.

Today they managed to demonstrate both blind spots in their two lead articles. First, from a mostly good (though sad) article about how Egyptians hoped that their revolution would improve people's lives, and are finding out that a stagnant economy doesn't just start moving -- in fact, in the confusion of a revolution, things are likely to get worse for awhile -- you find this:

Many Egyptian economists and Western scholars say that the government of former President Hosni Mubarak tainted free market ideas like privatization because the spoils were distributed to the well connected.

Damn that Hosni Mubarak...making people think that privitazation -- taking things that are normally done by the government and turning them over to private individuals and companies so they can make a profit on them -- is just a scam to funnel money to people who don't need it.

That certainly isn't the case in the United States where privatization is...

...a scam to funnel money to people who don't need it.

The United States government, after all, was the one prosecuting a National Security Agency official for the crime of telling a reporter about a plan to adopt a $1 billion program run by private contractors rather than a $3 million dollar program for the government to do the same thing.

Let me repeat that: The government wants to pay private (and, I'm pretty sure, well-connected) individuals a billion dollars to do something government employees could do for a fraction of the cost. And the person who spoke up about the stupidity of that nearly went to jail.

The US really did not need Hosni Mubarak to demonstrate that privatization is all about giving taxpayer money to powerful people. We are one of the world's most skillful practitioners of such corruption.

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