Decades of neoliberal political narratives have attempted to convince us that the only reason for public ownership is to subsidize private capital growth. Neoliberal economics are focused on the transfer of wealth from the public to private capital through commodification of public assets and services. The result has been a society tilted in favour of profit generation through public subsidies of infrastructure and services over human need.
The current economic crisis has led to unprecedented government spending. This spending is funded by borrowing or by 'printing money' (which has an effect similar to borrowing) to support furloughed and unemployed workers to the tune of roughly $80 billion and to subsidize corporate revenue. This has been necessary to prop up basic economic activity in an attempt to delay the impact of the economic consequences of the recession. Unfortunately, neoliberal policy makers are already trying to convince us that giving public services away to private interests is the only way to pay for this debt.
The cheerleaders of neoliberal policy are rising like zombies after the current collection of economic, health, climate, and political crises seemed to bury them for a while. It is not going to be enough for the left to defend the current economic wreck, we must advocate to build something better just to keep what we have. Socialists have the social and economic policy programs to deal directly with these challenges we face. It is time to dust them off and fight for them with abandon.
The fight against privatization is framed by liberals and the right-wing as a clear and unsubstantiated ideological position of the left. And, no matter how much research is presented exposing how privatization of state services and programs costs more and has no positive (but, in many cases negative) impacts on quality of services, the dominant narrative is privatization works. But, at this point, believing that privatization leads to increased efficiency and lower costs is akin to the denial of climate change and thinking vaccines cause Autism. Decades of real life examples, economic analysis, and trial and error policy show that there are so many ways that do not work when it comes to privatization. So, why do people still believe this nonsense?
In theory, debt generated by asset recycling is paid back through private sector partners finding efficiencies or increased government revenue driven economic growth. While this may work in the private sector, it does not work for governments. In practice, asset recycling is similar to other privatization schemes – such as public-private partnerships – that cost governments and citizens more money than traditional public debt-financed investment.
In Canada, universities are widely considered to be public institutions. They should be public, but for years Canadian provincial and federal governments and university administrations have acted to undermine the public aspects of higher education and the academy more generally.