Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Candidates have a habit of considering the value of privatization without counting the costs

One of the more objectionable traits of the previous Metro Council (pre-2007) was their shameless tendency to funnel Metro "infrastructure" dollars toward non-profits as a way of pandering to and exercising influence over them. Karl Dean claims that he has reformed that process, and yet he still panders and uses them for influence.

Source: Dean campaign
An example is the way he recently delivered donated supplies from his campaign meetings to Second Harvest Food Bank with re-election signs plastered on them. So, I don't believe much has changed in the present term other than the Mayor's Office cues others as to the favored non-profits to privatize public services.

And it does not seem that that the current crop of candidates are deviating from mayoral cues. They seem bent on seeing the value without counting the costs of privatization. And in electoral terms why not? Non-profits bring with them networks of potential donors and voters and prestige associated with non-profits that enjoy most favored status within the Courthouse class.

Yet, those of us not interested in sucking up to the Metro elites and those who find ourselves at the business end of municipal service delivery systems cannot ignore the costs of privatization in the same way the candidates seem to be doing. Here are just a few I have considered:

  • Government officials feel less responsibility to citizens when the work is done by private organizations. Bureaucracy already defuses personal responsibility; privatization dislocates it.
  • Non-profit leaders do not have to be accountable as elected officials do every four years.
  • Independent organizing efforts without government contracts are at a competitive disadvantage in influencing policy to the most favored non-profits who can mobilize their networks during elections and legislative decisions.
  • Not only does privatization itself not guarantee government reform, but it tends to distract attention and deplete energy from internal reform.
  • Privatization is an obstacle to campaign finance reform even as it numbs people with utopian, kumbaya-infused dreams about "partnerships." Religion was once considered an opiate; non-profit ideals are now.
  • Large sums of government money go to non-profits, many of whom rely on volunteers; governments save money without considering questions of living wages or fair labor practices.
Plainly, it is opportunistic, bad faith for Metro Council candidates to embrace the value of piratization without counting the costs.


  1. You forgot to mention all the fundraisers for these events where "elite" council-members, various board-members, Karl Dean, social rounders and those looking up the ladder go to stuff their faces with food, get drunk, hob-knob and dance like white people to a live band.

  2. A couple comments:

    - Spreading tax money out to non-profits has the benefit of diversifying its use among different groups and allowing one to target its use to groups that specialize in certain activities. Frankly, I don't believe the government can do as effective a job as certain private entities. Sending some money to outside organizations that have proven themselves good at what they do gives me some hope that the money will be better spent than if left to a goverment bureaucrat's discretion.

    - That said, many of these programs should be killed and taxes reduced. I am confident that the non-profits would adapt either their scopes or their marketing, and that individual tax-payers would vote with their wallets as to which non-profit projects should go on.

  3. I think Byrd would agree with you.

    However, I think the point of his post is that in Nashville, there is a systemic and incestuous relationship among the larger and more well-known non-profits and their board-members, "elite" volunteers and involved business entities.

    You could say these folks get most of the cream (When the wealthy ask the wealthy for money, they have more success than a non-profit run by someone of less means).

    These "well-to-do" non-profits tend to be better represented politically through-out our city.

    So, it all tends to stack up in "favor" of a few non-profits.

    And from this web, politics and power is spun.

    Dean will shamelessly court any of these folks if he thinks it will solidify his "base" or garner him more strength.

    In the long-term, our non-profit system suffers.