Human beings have a fundamental right to education, health, emergency services, safety, and justice. Individuals should have access to what is needed to be successful in these areas of life, regardless of income. In a free-market economy, this is where the government’s role comes in. Through public services, the government aims to implement programs that address these fundamental rights, making sure everyone has access. Unlike the private sector, public services goals are not profit-oriented, but rather are focused on improving the overall quality of life for the populations they serve.
The most basic explanation of public services is that they are programs put in place by the government to make sure its constituents have a minimum standard of life by making sure their fundamental rights are fulfilled.
Public services have come under scrutiny in the age of neoliberalism. As people begin to view any form of government intervention as an infringement on their individual freedoms, there is a direct conflict with the government programs intended to fulfill the fundamental rights such as education and health; that by offering these services they are infringing on the rights of individuals to get the type of health care or education that they want as opposed to what the government is paying for. Additionally, public services have long been scrutinized for wasting funding, being expensive, and being so regulated it hinders the functioning of the business hindering the ability to actually provide services. All of this scrutiny has led to the privatization of many public services.
Privatization refers to the transfer of functions of public services from government-owned programs and firms to firms in the private sector. One of the primary arguments for privatization is that the best minds for solving the issues associated with fundamental rights are often found in the business sector as opposed to the government sector. Few individuals actually have a favorable opinion of their government. While local governments tend to perform better in polls, the outlook is still bleak. Simply put, individuals do not trust their governments to establish programs that will actually ensure their fundamental rights.
The Economics of It All
There are many reasons for the privatization of public services, one of which is the economics of the entire setup. Funding for public services often comes from taxes as well as whatever other revenue can be allotted to the various projects. Many times, transferring a program to the private sector can result in the services that are cheaper and the government realizes tremendous savings. Additionally, private companies receive far less criticism over how they run such programs as opposed to when the government ran the program.
While corruption is typically reserved for the politics of the developing world, the truth of the matter is that it is alive and well worldwide. Government programs often see billions of dollars in funding. Many times politicians will succumb to greed, making sure certain companies get government contracts in return for campaign funding, votes, and personal riches. This issue is especially problematic as public services transition to the private sector.
Shift in Liability
Another reason the government is willing to shift public services to the private sector is that it allows the government to shirk liability for not achieving goals. Every public service is designed with a goal in mind. With privatization, these goals remain but are often mixed with goals of profitability. If the goals associated with providing the fundamental right to a certain population are not met, privatization means the government is no longer to blame.
Those that advocate in favor of privatization often argues that it will help with the efficiency of providing services to those that need them. Many times government agencies are bogged down with rules and regulations, affecting how they are able to operate and their overall efficiency. When services are shifted to the private sector, they are often less expensive and offer better (or equal) service.
While Federal agencies are created to provide the necessary public services, sometimes it is more practical to shift them to the private sector. In the United States, many towns and cities are shifting utilities to the private sector–contracting out trash collection, pothole repair, etc. Rather than take on this burden, the government has shifted these responsibilities. It’s also common to see infrastructure projects given to private firms, both in the US and worldwide.
Privatizing public services has the potential to be abused and there are certainly challenges with entrusting private companies to provide fundamental rights to a population. However, privatization helps prevent any government infringement upon individual freedoms, can lower taxes, can actually get more people to help, and political influence is minimized.
The concept of putting fundamental rights of a population in the hands of private firms has long been a debate worldwide. Therefore, it’s no surprise that this was the topic of a conference held by Servidor Popular de Información Electrónica (SPIE), a non-profit organization based out of Zaragoza in Aragón. One of the main tenets of the organization is to encourage the fight for human rights and to achieve equality of all human beings. The topic of privatization aligns perfectly with this mission.
This conference is one of the many conferences held by SPIE. These conferences give various NGOs the opportunity to communicate with one another about the topics and issues that are of concern. This intercommunication is essential in getting the best results possible to improve equality and human rights throughout Spain. SPIE has approximately 26 different member NGOs and organizations that participate in such conferences, all of whom focus on different segments of the population. Some of these organizations are solely focused on the population of Aragón, while others are more wide-reaching, focused on the entire Spanish population. Likewise, there are several different dioceses of the Catholic Church that are also members of SPIE.
It is through organizations like SPIE and the collaboration of its members that issues like privatization of public services and the impact it has on the people can be discussed and addressed.