No, not really

Three things to note and use in conversation. This proves:

The state can do things better than the private sector;
The Tories now know this;
The government can take services back into the state sector.
The obvious corollary is that is this can be done for the probation service is can be done elsewhere.

Absolutely everyone agrees that the State can do some things better than the private sector. Just as everyone other than Nicolas Maduro thinks and agrees that the private sector can do some things better than the state.

The arguments are always over which. And here the claim is – claim note, not proof – that the state can do probation better than the private sector. Could be true too, this isn’t a ditch I’d be willing to die in. I’m interested to find out too. But that the state claims it can do it better isn’t proof now, is it?

18 thoughts on “No, not really”

  1. A friend of mine used to work for a private contractor to the MoJ, working in courts alongside the probation service, on tagging mainly. She then got transferred to probation as the MoJ took the work in house. She used to think that the private contractor was a shambles to work for, that was until she moved into the public sector……….

  2. No, what it proves is that *some* private companies can, *sometimes* do things even worse than the state.
    There are an infinity of prime numbers but prime numbers get rare and rarer as one moves from 1 to 1 million to 1 trillion to 1 zillion. The existence of a prime number in excess of 1000! does *not* make it a frequent occurrence. (OK I don’t know the value of one thousand factorial and it would take me days to caculate it as my computer isn’t big enough, but even I can prove there is a larger prime number).
    Secondly, we already know that the government can take services back into the state sector – just look at the rate of passenger complaints after it renationalised LNER from National Express! (And before it let the contract to National Express – the level of complaints about the state-run service was a factor in the decision to ask for a tender from the private sector). So the ability to do so is not the same as it being desirable (except to union bosses).

  3. @ Jim
    One of my friends used to work for the National Coal Board but moved into the private sector as NCB was running down. He was intelligent, conscientious and hard-working so his section of NCB wasn’t a shambles (while he was there) but he was staggered at the workload deemed acceptable in the private sector.

  4. I think it might have been possibly the legendary The Meissen Bison who said that Murphy spends so much time on the manufacture of straw men he ought to go into business. i have rarely seen a man of his age (and certainly not one working at an ‘academic’ institution who commit almost every known logical fallacy in the same week. He is either ignorant or the greatest satirist since Swift…

  5. If the state generally believed this then they would be happy to have state run companies compete on a level playing field with the private sector. When do I get my school voucher program? When do I get to use state funded medical insurance to choose which hospital I go to?

  6. ‘The state can do things better than the private sector’

    And Oprah is going to be the next President.

    The state is comprised of people. People who make decisions and take actions. Their decisions are based on their interests, not the people’s.

    They cannot run a business as well as the private sector. Businesses make business decisions; government makes political decisions.

    ‘The state can do things better than the private sector’

    In other words, the government will make better decisions that the private sector. And government employees will work harder than private employees.

    Yeah, it’s stupid on its face.

  7. The private sector always works better. the only reason government should do anything is where it has a monopoly. Even then, you should look for how you can outsource it, but only where you can really make a contract based on simple delivery: company bids for bins contract, gets paid with penalties for complaints.

  8. The problem BoM4 is that government is even incompetent at outsourcing. My brother refused to do business with the U.S. government. They were slow in paying, and they invented all sorts of reasons not to pay at all.

  9. Gamecock, not everything is a business.

    Your analysis also assumes that “better” is cheaper. For a lot of things that’s true, and I’m not a fan of the state running enterprises, but there are situations where it is not true. Especially where the operation is in no sense at base a commercial enterprise.

    I would be grossly unhappy about defence and the police being privatised. It would be far cheaper, but in no sense better.

    NZ has had to take back some prisons, because the private contractors aren’t interested in preventing crime and violence in them. Just keeping it cheap.

    I’m also not a major fan of fully privatised education. I’ve taught in private schools, and have no beef with them, but they aren’t interested in the bottom 10%. There’s no money to be made there, and the presence of the bottom makes it hard to attract the juicier clients. In a fully private system, the bottom would only be taught if the state made it compulsory to do so, and thereby regulating schools so they were no longer truly private enterprises.

    Profit and schooling aren’t a great mix. There are lots of great private schools, but they are almost all non-profit, because non-profit actually out-competes the profit motive in that field.

    So while I want a small state, waving the “private is more efficient” flag because it’s true in *commercial* sectors doesn’t make it true everywhere. Not every state provided service is amenable to profit-driven thinking.

  10. “I would be grossly unhappy about defence and the police being privatised. It would be far cheaper, but in no sense better.”

    It certainly couldn’t be *worse*. I mean, have you seen the state of your military, let alone what your police force has become?

    So privatizing it would get you the same crappy service at lower cost.

  11. Chester Draws

    The point of private education is that parents would have the choice?

    Crap school, that didn’t focus on particular groups of pupils, would (should) quickly get found out, get itself a crap reputation. At the minimum, those groups discriminated against would (should) choose elsewhere.

    Longer term, a fully private education system (voucher) would provide a far better end result. And without all the batshit crazy CM nonsense (most parents wouldn’t want it, and those that did, they would know where to send their poor little darlings).

    Some inequality, I’m afraid, is always necessary. That’s what drives the impetus (or incentive) to do better, even if it’s the next generation that more widely sees the gains.

    Much better than a slide to the bottom (or lowest common denominator).

  12. Reading your post again, I’m not sure that non-profit is the problem. An option would be that all non-profit would get full charitable status (ie create advantages); ultimately all would get the vouchers.

    Lower proportions that no one wants to teach? I’m not convinced. You’d quickly get brands – most would successfully “strongly target all levels”, because that is what would appeal to most parents? The key being that (active) parents would drive the process over time.

    Rural would need more creative thinkjing in that context.

  13. Private can be better. Public can be better.
    The mentality and the driving forces in each however can be very different. I’ve worked both.

    Business should be working to the contract, if its a badly written contract or the premise its based on is crap then its not the fault of the business.
    Locally we had a ‘sex workers’ project put together by the council. Its premise was somewhat off base. The organisation that was currently providing the help bid on the contract. Should have been an easy win, current provider if they are any good has an advantage.
    The contract was awarded to an organisation that had no staff for the project and no base in the area.
    But they could match their application to the details released about the bid.

    So locally we went from a full time on site provision of service to a twice a week call and visit for 15 minutes in their own flat service.
    Poorer service but it met the tender details and was exactly what was in the application.

    The state run help for these girls in the public sector? Its the sexual health clinic, nothing more. Free condoms and treatment for STDs.

    The state has its own ideas of what it wants, the private sector then work to provide that service – even if in reality the state should figure out what it wants better.
    Cheap service – but not effective.
    Rather than much more expensive service that was quite effective.

  14. ‘Absolutely everyone agrees that the State can do some things better than the private sector.’

    Wrong, not everyone, I don’t. ( I mean not better in a positive way of course.)

    Next… name one thing that the State can do better, illustrated with results of the comparative trial where State and private sector had a go at the same thing at the same time.

    In fact can you name one thing the State now does now that was not formerly done by private enterprise and which the State took over?

    No? Me neither.

  15. “I would be grossly unhappy about defence and the police being privatised. It would be far cheaper, but in no sense better.”

    I’ll give you defence, but the police? I’d prefer having the opportunity to sue Tesco Police Force for wrongful arrest etc far more than the State. Tescos might actually care about shelling out their profits when their employees behave like cunts, illegal cunts quite often, the State doesn’t care a jot. Plus the courts always side with the State over the individual, in a dispute between a private company and an individual they might be more even handed.

  16. “Plus the courts always side with the State over the individual, in a dispute between a private company and an individual they might be more even handed.”

    Maybe not. The courts are paid for with taxes; if companies are paying the bulk of the taxes, they’ll get favor.

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