The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Continued Privatization

Last year I wrote a fairly long article on why everything was being privatized: Western elites are in a duel where those who lose are squeezed out of the actual elite. They may still be rich, but they don’t have power. This duel is particularly dire in the US and the UK, but affects all Western countries to some extent and Anglo countries severely.

Since the real economy isn’t growing as much as it used to (and certainly less than measured), they have to steal from the commons and from government.

Consider the British Mail privatization of 2015, done by the Conservatives and the Liberals: the mail service had been owned by the Crown for five hundred years. Britain has privatized all its railways. Service has gone to shit. More literally gone to shit is the water system, where millions of tons of raw sewage are being dumped into Britain’s rivers and coast, while the water utilities pay massive dividends.

In Ontario, where I live, alcohol sales were, for generations, restricted to the “Liquor Control Board of Ontario” and the “Beer Store.” Are most recent Prime Minister, ex-drug dealer (this isn’t a slur, it’s a fact) Doug Ford, has reduced the duopoly,  and continues to do so. The most recent step is to allow corner stores to sell beer. Thing is, the LCBO and Beer store routinely make billions for the government.

(The Beer Store is run by Ontario’s brewers, they had a contract that ended in 2025 and the 225 million is buying out that contract early)

So this is going to cost Ontario a low estimate of 800 million or so a year. There’s also the fact that the LCBO and Beer Store are very good at checking IDs, so there’ll be a lot more under-age drinking, though I personally don’t care all that much. But social conservative types, one would think, would.

Ontario, since Covid, has a huge problem with hospital waiting times, both for emergency and regular services. Perhaps instead of giving away government money, Ford should spend it on that?

But the point is simple: this is privatization of profits, and ordinary people will pay for it: it has to result in increased taxes, reduced spending or increased public debt.

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  1. Revelo

    Poor and middle class rural residents would love nothing better than for public lands to be sold off to “ordinary folk”. Meaning you can’t just sell the land wholesale to highest bidder, because then the “ordinary folk” would understand that an out-of-area oligarch or corporation would be the buyer. Instead, you do something like modern “homestead” act, whereby every Americans citizen has the right to buy 160 acres of public land whatever at market price. Maybe juice the deal by allowing people to forfeit their right to Social Security and Medicare, with value of those rights, (assessed at actuarial value or value of contributions, whichever confuses and cheats more rubes) as part of purchase price. Within a generation, majority of land will pass to the rich just as surely as if they had right to buy it initially. Support for a cleverly packaged scheme (scam) like this would be overwhelming in rural America. If I’m wrong about support being strong, I’ll eat my cowboy hat.

  2. Ian Welsh

    If what you want to do is give land to ordinary folks, what you do is give 99 year leases which cannot be assigned to anyone but relatives and only after death.

  3. somecomputerguy

    re; Revelo, my understanding is that this is what happened to public housing in Great Britain.

    Instead of maintaining privatized commons, as Hardin asserted, it is individuals who immediately destroy it by over-exploitation. Individuals want to realize the greatest short term benefit, not manage responsibly.

    That is where clear-cutting comes from. That is how we got the dust-bowl.

    Without shared ownership, there is no one to stop them.

    As their property, it is legitimately, theirs to destroy.

    If someone bought all the food, would they have the right to burn it, for the fun of watching everyone die?

    That isn’t actually an extreme case; Amartya Sen got a Nobel for showing that famines are often not caused but a lack of food, but a lack of money to buy it.

  4. For my Guelph residing in-laws, the LCBO/Beer store is a shorter walk than any of the corner stores.
    I think that Premier Ford wants to cut services so giving up revenue allows for the inevitable austerity. My Canadian wife and I regret seeing Canada devolve to the entrenched heartlessness of the States.
    It seems that the property value bubble in Ontario is fostering bad judgement among home owners. Canada is losing its soul.

  5. Jan Wiklund

    Swedish governments have kept privatizing since early 90s. A very serious evaluation was carried out by the “Expert Group for Studies in the Public Economy”, an evaluation group under the Ministry of Finance. It found, at no surprise for me, that the only privatization that MAY have led to EITHER lower costs OR better function was the privatization of tele services. But the report stated unequivocally that the higher performace could as well have been caused by the shift in technology.

    The report also stated that “everyone”, including the proponents of privatization, agree about this. But the proponents think that “free choice” is so important that one may well take some extra costs and/or reduced standard. Better being able to choose between two bad alternatives than having one good.

    For those of you that can read Swedish (or have a good translation program) the link is

    In several cases, of course, it is not the public that can choose, it is the politicians who can choose between different contractors. Probably that is the thing: in that case they can allow themselves to be bribed.

  6. Mel

    If you could clarify, Foodland here, and our local corner store have been selling booze for maybe a year now. I suppose the new information in this article is that the big retailers are now demanding that it shouldn’t cost them anything to get this business. So the billion dollars is lost (annual?) revenue that the Ontario government has been getting up to now?

    The independent corner store here seems to be doing quite well with the deal as it stands. They also sell rifle ammunition, so checking ID and recording purchases comes naturally to them I doubt that they will be the ones to cause regulatory trouble.

  7. GrimJim

    The end goal, of course, being that the Elite own everything and everyone.

    When Trump wins, expect the 13th Amendment to be turned completely on its head, and the exception, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction,” to become the rule.

    No more half-measures like For-Profit Prisons, true chattel slavery will make a roaring comeback. Black Codes will return, and anything “20 to Life” will become “Life sentence as a slave.”

    Same for “illegal immigrants,” their sentences will be a lifetime of slavery in concentration camps. Their children will go into a separate “foster” system where they work from the moment they can walk and talk, and they will go straight from the foster barracks to the camps when they are adults.

    They will be joined by political dissidents, in droves after Trump takes his third term in 2029. At least, that’s the plan…

    We’ve seen this all before. History does not repeat, but it sure is starting to rhyme. Fortunately, it can’t last long, and will crash down far sooner than later.

    Frankly, I’m hoping the whole damn thing crashes down before he can even take office. I’d rather die in a collapse while still free than in a pogrom being carted to some camp.

  8. Carborundum

    I’m not so convinced this is the best example of privatization. The arrangement was already pretty privatized and, bluntly, the booze business is a terrible business (rather reminds me of the pot business, where every stoner appears to have decided they can convert their passion for apathy into a entrepreneurial fable). I’d be looking behind the curtain towards more capital intensive / regulatory variance dependent endeavours (relatedly, if one takes a ride along the northern perimeter of just about any of the peripheral CAs, one is struck by the kilometres of signs advising of applications to revise zoning provisions).

  9. mago

    My first morning in Costa Rica l requested a cup of hot water from my hotel hosts. They complied and demanded payment upon receipt and I was like, you’re charging me for a cup of hot water?
    To which I received the response, there’s a price for everything.
    To which I responded, good thing there’s no charge for the air we breathe, but damn, looks like that day’s arrived.

  10. someofparts

    Years ago I said to my lawyer that I should have gone to law school so I could make an adult income. He said that law school is good for the intellect but not necessarily a good preparation for making a decent livelihood. He said that if making plenty of money was the objective I would be better off opening a liquor store.

  11. GrimJim

    I’m just going to hang this thought here, as it is relevant.

    Project 2025 has a significant number of government functions that the authors plan to sell off to the highest bidder. That alone might be worthy of a whole post.

    More food for thought, though, is if these monsters are showing their hand by openly publishing Project 2025, and the bulk of what they include is already monstrous, imagine what they are planning that they are not even publicly hinting at.

    Think about how trashed Democracy and the Republic will be if they put only their publicized plans into place.

    Now imagine how bad things will get once they have secured their power and enact the plans they dare not yet mention in public?

    This is why I do not believe we have much time left…

    Enjoy your life now, while you can. Because after they come to power, you won’t have anything, and if you still live, your life won’t be your own.

    You will be owned.

  12. bruce wilder

    The “Red Queen’s Race” is one of Ian’s most important insights.

    It is one thing to see the prey-predator cycle embedded in the relation of elites to masses — that’s the level of insight that many of my own comments are stuck on. And, there are plenty of people who are stuck in the polarization generated by the propaganda of out-of-control elites: who can see Trump as evil or fascist or ominous, but not Obama/Hillary/Biden. Whatever.

    But, there’s a whole ‘nother level of despair waiting for those who begin to grasp that elites are not the masters of the games they create and play.

    It is one thing for despairing idealists like me to complain that ordinary people are handicapped in political organizing and policy-making by their numbers, inability to concentrate resources and lack of acquaintance with the levers of power and control.

    It is quite another to realize that people in positions of immense authority or wealth and power are much bigger fools than even we down here at the bottom are. In large part, because they, too, are not so much organizers, as we naive idealists might suppose, as they are simply organized, cogs in machinery they do not understand and no one controls.

    The way in which industrial civilization has marched forward toward “climate change” oblivion, with all the b.s. about “sustainable” and “renewable” scarely moving the needle at all is alarming enough. Those paying attention to the way the Blob moves the world toward WWIII through Ukraine, Israel-Iran, Taiwan are duly alarmed, but it does not seem to matter.

    And, at the center, is this mindless neoliberal momentum toward fantastic levels of wealth and private power concentration and consequent political corruption. There are no apparent brakes on this.

    I foolishly look for some emerging political consciousness, though I would make fun of more airy fairy types who look for salvation in an emergent higher consciousness. The brakes that were there in earlier eras — and there were some in academia and in the professions and in dissenting political creeds and religions in various cultures — in our present time, they seem to me to be drowned out.

    Once in a while, a billionaire expresses some alarm about some aspect of the extremes we are reaching but it recedes quickly. Elon Musk is a comical figure, popping into these conversations the elites are having with us and themselves — a champion of free speech for ten minutes or saying the quite part aloud about the war in Ukraine and the like, before launching into some new con game. We live not in interesting times, but bizarre ones.

  13. StewartM

    What? Making everything a capitalist for-profit enterprise doesn’t unleash the “magic of the market”? I’m shocked! /snark

    (In the end, of course, unregulated capitalism always end up with the ‘winners’ taking control of all markets, so there is no more markets to do any magic; you end up with ‘feudalism with cable’ with a few nobles and many serfs. Oh sure, the nobles will fight one another, and even kill each other, but the history of every peasant revolt in Europe showed how quickly nobles will put aside their grievances against each other and unite to crush the peasants).

    Bruce Wilder

    who can see Trump as evil or fascist or ominous, but not Obama/Hillary/Biden.

    As I have tried to tell you man times, you cannot show me an example of any social change or any cause that was wholly good. It’s always the choice of a lesser evil. Even the best of people and the purest of causes have a dark side.

    That’s life, Bruce; even in our daily choices. If you don’t eat; you’ll starve to death. If you do eat, you’ll damage your DNA via oxidative degradation, eventually to the point that this causes aging, age-related diseases (cancer, etc.) and death. There is no third choice. Most people choose the lesser evil.

  14. bruce wilder

    Most people choose the lesser evil.

    Most people just choose evil and claim against all reason and evidence that they can just tell that their choice is “less” evil and there was never a good option. It is lazy and foolish and wrong and irresponsible.

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