Privatization Is Theft

I occasionally snark about means-testing the public library:

To use an absurd example, we could means test the public library, offer a series of different borrowing plans based on verified income and so on, or we could just… lend out the fucking books. A less absurd example would be means testing K-12 education. Never mind there’s a simple way to de facto means test things: progressive taxes.

There’s more than just wanting to nationalize the means of donut production erect large programs for their own sake. I don’t think this is as much about a desire for transformative bigitude, but a reconsideration of what pragmatic means. Bigger might be politically easier. Sometimes larger in terms of dollar amount is better.

I’ll have to up my snark game, and go whole hog with privatizing the public school system entirely (boldface mine):

Imagine if we funded public schools the way we funded hospitals. Instead of giving schools a lump sum “global” budget to take care of all their students, we required them to issue per-student bills that were to reflect each student’s unique educational needs, and the precise mix of services they received. Assume also that teachers had to issue bills for every episode of instruction provided to each pupil daily, using a complex fee schedule incorporating the length, complexity, and/or intensity of every interaction. Finally, imagine that the tsunami of resultant bills went not just to the local government, but to a welter of different “educational insurance” plans, with varying rules and requirements; that these insurers frequently contested the charges; and that schools were required to collect co-pays and deductibles from parents, which varied depending on how much education a child “consumed” and their particular insurance plan.

Among other issues, the waste would be colossal: large bureaucracies would be needed to issue and process the bills, and the paperwork would suck up large amounts of teachers’ time, taking them away from, say, teaching….

Assume that once schools were done billing, they could retain revenues that exceeded their costs, i.e., they could turn a profit, even if they remained legally not-for-profit. And let’s say that these profits were the source of funds for capital projects: schools could use them (together with private debt) to upgrade their facilities, construct new wings, acquire new technology, or even build whole new schools. Finally, assume that schools competed for students — especially from well-off families — and that some avoided the poor kids.

In this scenario, highly profitable school systems would, predictably, enter a self-perpetuating cycle of expansion, upgrades, more business, more profits, more growth, hence rising operating costs. In contrast, unprofitable schools would fall behind, and could even go bankrupt, resulting in entire districts (especially poor ones) being left without a single school. (Obviously, large inequities exist among schools today — but they would be massively exacerbated by this financing system).

This, of course, is not a comment on our healthcare insurance system. Nor is it a comment on the privatization of municipal services like Chicago’s parking meters. Not at all.

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