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Rolling Back Government: Lessons from New Zealand - Adventures in Engineering — LiveJournal
The wanderings of a modern ronin.

Ben Cantrick
  Date: 2008-04-14 16:38
  Subject:   Rolling Back Government: Lessons from New Zealand
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http://www.libertyforall.net/?p=1262
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Alex Belits
  User: abelits
  Date: 2008-04-14 23:13 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
When we started this process with the Department of Transportation, it had 5,600 employees. When we finished, it had 53. When we started with the Forest Service, it had 17,000 employees. When we finished, it had 17. When we applied it to the Ministry of Works, it had 28,000 employees. I used to be Minister of Works, and ended up being the only employee. In the latter case, most of what the department did was construction and engineering, and there are plenty of people who can do that without government involvement. And if you say to me, “But you killed all those jobs!” - well, that’s just not true. The government stopped employing people in those jobs, but the need for the jobs didn’t disappear. I visited some of the forestry workers some months after they’d lost their government jobs, and they were quite happy. They told me that they were now earning about three times what they used to earn - on top of which, they were surprised to learn that they could do about 60 percent more than they used to! The same lesson applies to the other jobs I mentioned.

Some of the things that government was doing simply didn’t belong in the government. So we sold off telecommunications, airlines, irrigation schemes, computing services, government printing offices, insurance companies, banks, securities, mortgages, railways, bus services, hotels, shipping lines, agricultural advisory services, etc. In the main, when we sold those things off, their productivity went up and the cost of their services went down, translating into major gains for the economy.


Sounds like a typical privatization campaign -- what once was done by government, went to private companies, out of sight and responsibility of government officials. When dealing with infrastructure, social services and natural resources this is not necessarily a good thing, considering that trying to get more profit from them inevitably decreases the quality of essential services that everyone in the country depends on.

The results are entirely determined by the quality of people and organizations involved -- just as government is often incompetent and corrupt, companies are (more) often run by incompetent people, contain massive middle management pyramids, and are seeking to not only make their profits but to secure those profits for as long as possible, what usually is done by monopolizing the market and pressuring the government (corrupt or simply too weak and poor to oppose them) into supporting their "claims" on different kinds of market by issuing patents, licensing natural resources, etc.
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
Alex Belits: mona
  User: abelits
  Date: 2008-04-15 08:34 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
Keyword:mona
Tell it to airlines world wide which cost less then a third airline seat mile then what they did pre-privitization in 1980.

The now-non-bankrupt ones?

There is more power in government, ergo there is more (risk of) corruption then even private business. Government without mandated checks and balances will always fall prey to corruption, whereas competitive businesses that become corrupt also become ineffectual and eventually collapse inwards on themselves - ala Microsoft right now, or IBM in the 90s, or Sears in the 80s.

It gives me ho joy to know that something is "collapsing", if it is "collapsing" for decades, leaving a poisoned wasteland around itself, consuming resources, holding back progress and ruining lives of generations of people. Your argument is along the same lines as:

-- Most US Presidents were incompetent, crooked or corrupt, doesn't it mean that your electoral system is dysfunctional?

-- But each of them only ruled for four or eight years!
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
Alex Belits: mona
  User: abelits
  Date: 2008-04-15 16:14 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
Keyword:mona
Sure. Southwest Airlines, for example, has the best profitability record of any carrier anywhere in the world.

And for how long is it going to last?

As far as your point about corrupt and ineffectual business go, the matter still remains that with such a huge amount of competition (how old is Google again?) it is only a matter of time with corrupt companies.

Google just happens to have better original developers than the rest of its industry (that, BTW, is "Internet-based advertisement", home of the most reviled things reachable over IP), so they out of pure love of the art developed things that were ABSOLUTELY NOT REQUIRED for actual competition.

To go back to the aforementioned privatization of airlines - the Legacy airlines saw that Southwest was a threat, but they had a representative - in fact, the speaker of the House in their pocket. So he called in markers, and passed a bill called the "Wright Amendment" which restricted Southwest to only being able to fly to states that directly touched Texas, to put them at a disadvantage.

This bad bill stuck around for 20 years, until Southwest had gotten powerful enough to have several friends in Capital hill who finally undid it. In the mean time, they figured out a way around it for their non-texas operations, but it's still the reason you can't get a direct flight from Denver to Texas.


A nice story. Too bad, every would-be monopoly has one.

Governments are more powerful, and thus more dangerous.

All governments that ever existed, could only rule at the consent of the people -- no matter how cruel you are, no one would bother obeying you if you can't convince enough people to enforce your will, laws, etc. Modern governments on top of that have at least some more or less usable system that enforces its responsibility to the population.

On the other hand, businesses have no such mechanism -- modern governments voluntarily abandoned a power to enforce population's interests by enforcing all but very basic predefined rules when it comes to controlling businesses' actions. Businesses are treated as if the rights and freedoms intended for individuals apply to them, what ends up granting businesses massive amount of power that neither individual nor government can have.

American Social Conservatives such as yourself, do not recognize this as harmful because you automatically see "freedom", even if it's a freedom of a business, amorphous non-human entity that exists as a set of rules, to oppress real living humans, as a positive thing. I, on the other hand, don't see any need to agree with anything that contain trigger word "freedom" in it, and see it the other way around -- businesses exist to serve humans, and to be servants and not masters they have to be oppressed. Yes, I have said it -- oppression is a great thing if it's directed against things that should be oppressed. Businesses are mechanisms, they are not human, not sentient, not even capable of a response beyond capabilities of a bug -- do we grant any kinds of rights and freedoms to bugs of any kind? Neither are governments, but governments ARE oppressed by the population all the time -- people elect officials, governments have massive amounts of rules that prevent them from retaliating against people, they have requirements for openness, government officials usually fear losing their positions over bad press, etc. Current US government doesn't get oppressed enough, but this is because US population has enough brainwashed patriots to shield it, this is a tragedy (I would say deficiency, but you have demonstrated inability to distinguish between things applicable to the population as a whole and applicable to every its member) of American people, not an inherent flaw in the idea of government. Governments are supposed to have power but not rights, people have rights, and businesses shouldn't be treated any better because as opposed to the government, they are not even supposed to be created for benefit of the whole population.
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
Alex Belits
  User: abelits
  Date: 2008-04-15 21:32 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
Given their fuel hedges, a while probably. Not that it matters - the DL and NW merger, and the soon to be announced CO + UA merger - all of which are occurring without governmental command - will change things as well.In fact, it's the last stages of getting rid of the mess the US government created by mandating geographical routes, and therefore 12+ legacies. After this is done, there will be three, and it won't be so cannibalistic.

So few large airline companies are automatically more viable? By what mechanism? Economy of scale already applies to the current sizes of airlines, so making them larger does not help. Is it merely every airline claiming that grass is greener in the other (also failing) airline's region, so only "other" airlines are in trouble because of supposed incompetence but "our" airline would be a great champion of free market if it was allowed into "their" regions? Wasn't it the constant argument against any kind of antitrust action through the whole history?

A nice way to avoid addressing my point.

Your point is blaming the government for everything that ever happened.

That's a rather radical (and unfortunately incorrect) thought from a man who despises all things American. Incorrect because, for the most part, prior to the American government you could count the number of hands that actually did rule with the consent of their people on one hand, and that if you chopped off joints for problems like not being able to vote on the monarchy. Coercion is always a possibility, Tyranny didn't magically go away just because most of Europe adopted American style Democracy.

This is bullshit, unless you know of the ruler that was capable of personally physically intimidate thousands of people. Through the whole history rulers were overthrown if population as a whole was sufficiently dissatisfied with them. In fact a threat of being overthrown was a better deterrent against pissing off people than elections -- people can be tricked into believing that as long as 50% plus one person of population does not want rulers out, and it's not an election year, it's OK to for rulers to do whatever they please.

On the other hand, when people know that a coup or revolution is the only way out, they will start it whenever a sufficient number of people in sufficiently significant positions are sufficiently pissed off -- what usually isn't much of a threshold considering that all but most decadent societies required broad support for a coup to be successful. So, counterintuitively, a monarch may have to tread more lightly than supposedly democratically elected government because he doesn't have this magic "But you voted for me!!!" excuse for all kinds of extravagant abuse that he can imagine. Of course, it's possible to deceive people, create massive support structures in society that are hard to dismantle, bring religion on the rulers' side, etc., but those methods are equally applicable in authoritarian and democratic governments. In fact, current American government uses exactly the same methods European aristocracy used to cling to power from Middle Ages up to 18th century, and they work perfectly well. Obviously the level of technology in Middle Ages required society to be more oppressive toward the lowest classes, however that has little to do with the nature of power. Parts of ancient Greece and Rome had various democratic systems of governments, yet their level of technology, far worse than Europe in Middle Ages, required them to mix it with slavery.

Again, Americans believe that as long as magical word "vote" is involved, things automatically are good and right regardless of the mechanism how power in society really works. You also seem to believe that democracy was not known before US, something obviously untrue considering the very origin of the word.

Which is why it took how many years to get rid of Jim Crow laws in the most representative democracy of it's time?

You can't claim that those laws were not what actually the majority of population wanted. The nature of those laws is a problem with population itself, not the system of government it lived under. In any case I don't see relevance of this, it's still a failure of democracy to advance social progress.
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Alex Belits
  User: abelits
  Date: 2008-04-15 21:32 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
Please retract this statement. I have never described this as a positive thing, and I never would.

You never claimed that "economic freedom" is a positive thing? This is merely my description of it -- you may not recognize how I placed accents on it, but I describe this very foundation of American society.

You statement has the subtle discrimination that the best way for business to serve people is to be subservient to the government. I see no such link in a wide variety of situations.

How else can people oppress the businesses? Non-organized consumers' choice is usually way too late to react. Organized consumers' boycotts don't work until something truly monstrous happen. Employees' strikes either require government's support, or have to be so massive and violent, they can just as well be revolutions.

No, I'll rather have a government actually representing people against businesses when businesses act against population's interests. It's easier to keep one government under people's control than for each and every person to keep track and find his own ways to keep tabs on thousands of secretive businesses.

In fact, you yourself benefit from just such a relationship. Given your self-admitted dislike of Americans, I assume the advantage of being closer to the American tech markets is the primary reason for your prescence here. Thoose markets exist in American, and not in Europe, Russia because of that flexability.

Actually they are in US because US is awash with free money that US is allowed to issue for the whole world as a result of WWII. Dollar only started falling recently, and it's a long way down, long enough to sustain technology development for decades. But make no mistake, I am fully aware that I am merely use a bad thing for good purpose, and if it will end while I will be still alive, I will simply move to whatever place where technology development will continue. I am only concerned with advancement of knowledge and engineering -- I left Russia/Belarus when massive crisis in their economy prevented them from supporting such development at the extent USSR did, and so far mankind as a whole only benefited from that my decision (though not by much, as I am merely one individual with moderate amount of talent). But being grateful to your political system for hoarding world's wealth? That would be like being loyal to Italian aristocrats that funded development of science and art in Renaissance -- they did it for selfish reasons, each of them was a massive asshole, and we are all happy that they are all dead now.

Let me be careful here to dial back the argument itself. Capitalism must be regulated. Not owned by the government in any socialist sense, but rather the government must act as a check on business, and business and indivudals must act as a check on Governemnt. Pure captialism is destructive to Human rights.

Oh, I know your point of view. I just see US as an example why it does not work -- government is easily subjugated by businesses and is used as their attack dog against people. This is why I advocate reversing this relationship from the very beginning -- demanding that people control the governments and governments oppress businesses.
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Alex Belits
  User: abelits
  Date: 2008-04-15 21:32 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
You need only look at China with it's combination of tyranny and capitalism to see that you need a robust, but restricted government to be able to sustain a system that both allows innovation, and protects people from both government and businesses.

China's government now has only one concern -- developing the economy to the level that can support its enormous population, and prevention of a massive crisis that would happen if such development went by your favorite "free market" rules. This is why it sells you all kinds of products for cheap -- what they want is development of industry that can eventually support all needs of population, so actual products being made now are irrelevant as long as they require development of diverse set of production facilities, skills and knowledge, so products can just as well be thrown at US if US wants them. This is in contrast to, say, India that actually cares for what US businesses want, and therefore produces services Indian population can't ever use (outsourced software development, customer support), thus crippling the development of its economy in the future. And in contrast to Taiwan that is small enough to be entirely dedicated to production for export, and therefore focused on technology, what arrogant Americans believe to be the only way to run economy.

So Chinese government, contrary to the popular in US belief, does exactly what Chinese people want, even if not in a way the stupider part of Chinese population believes. Stupid Chinese believe that government is fine because government tells them so, smart Chinese believe that government is fine because they understand government's plans and can exploit them, ... oh, there are also some monks and peasants that think, US will feed them wonderful Big Macs five times a day for doing nothing if they only secede -- no one takes them seriously. Likely they all will be fine in the long run.
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