The private sector

No one should be surprised that National sees a bigger role for the private sector in some areas. The differing views on the role of the private sector lie at the heart of the differences between left and right.

I certainly don’t see the private sector as the enemy. The hysterical cries of profiteering and privatisation are no substitute for analysis.

Even in the most core state areas such as Defence, one has private sector involvement. The Navy don’t build their own ships, the army don’t make their own guns.

As Colin Espiner reports in The Press, Labour itself trumpeted with great fanfare legislation to enable public-private partnerships. Of course the rhetoric hasn’t been matched by substance.

In any area of public involvement, there are a number of sub-areas. Such as:

  • Who sets policy?
  • Who funds it?
  • Who delivers the primary services?
  • Who provide sub-contracting services?

Now the state almost always set the policy. There are some exceptions – industry self-regulation happens in some areas, but under an overall public policy framework and/or laws.

Who funds it tends to be the state also. The differences between right and left in terms of funding are not huge. The right tends to favour targetted funding much more (which I think is incredibly more sensible) while the left favour universal funding, but only in the more libertarian corners do you get arguments for no state funding at al.

Skipping over the issue of who delivers the primary services, I’ll note that in terms of sub-contractors, they are almost always private sector. Private medical labs often do hospital work. Community trusts often do work on behalf of MSD etc etc.

As for the primary services, I think a mixture of public and private sector involvement is good for both. I think private schools help public schools. They also free up more public money for public schools. I think the privately managed prison was light years better than the most of its public counterparts, and could have led to quantum improvements in the public prison service. I think having patients waiting for operations, when there are public funds and private beds available, is obscene.

But that is not to say I think we should tender out the military to competitive tender.

What I want is a Government which will be open minded about where there is a role for the private sector, and make decisions based on empirical evidence and analysis. If using the private sector will produce a better outcome, then that’s the main thing I worry about. I sure as hell don’t get jealous that someone may shock horror make money from being a landlord.

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