Fear and Greed Are Privatizing the Public Good

Watching the Privatization of Public Goods

By: Todd Smekens

Muncie, Indiana BLOG – I ran across two interesting articles this weekend deserving separate attention because they explain what is taking place in Muncie and the United States. The first article titled the “The Soil of American Decline” is very insightful for the general public. I’ve been writing about the demise of public goods and the social contract for nearly a decade, but it’s getting worse. You’d expect more people to understand the problem and the cure, but it’s not that easy because money funds the problem and prevents the solution.

The author said he could boil it all down for us in one paragraph:

Many Americans want to deny life, liberty, and happiness to their fellow citizens. They only want those for themselves. Instead, it seems, they want for their compatriots the very opposite: cruelty, suffering, and servitude. They think that that way, they themselves can have life, liberty, and happiness — and everyone else be damned.

You must admit, it’s a pretty good attempt. The only piece missing is the motivation or intent. Why do certain Americans want to deny life, liberty, and happiness to their fellow citizens?


I could write book after book on the rationalizations and justifications of why, or I can just call it by its name – fear. And this fear motivates greed.

The author’s premise is based on the basket of public goods which help define an individual’s quality of life:

Life, liberty, and happiness depend first on public goods. Hospitals, schools, libraries, and so on. These things give us what money can’t really buy for any of us individually, unless we are billionaires, but we can’t all be billionaires in any society, ever. So a person’s quality of life first depends on public goods.

I’ve written plenty about Neoliberalism, mainly here and here, but one of the most important points of Neoliberalism is the privatization of public goods. We have been systematically removing public goods and placing them into the world of finance and free markets. We’ve privatized hospitals and health care and rising costs have caused more personal bankruptcies for Americans than any other event. The majority of Americans demand single payer to control costs, but the Medical Establishment (insurance, pharmaceutical, and device makers) lobby against it.

Not only do they lobby, but they also own most of our lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. It doesn’t matter if they’re republican or democratic, private industry owns them.

In case you’re not paying attention, public education has been undergoing privatization efforts for years. Charters, vouchers, and credits are means of extracting monies from public education dominated by teacher unions.

Does this register with folks living in Muncie?

How could it not? Our parks have been the worst funded in the state. Our school buildings are crumbling while the district has been downsizing for years with no end in sight. Meanwhile, the state intentionally underfunds public schools while lawmakers sit on $2 billion in excess tax revenues. So, if the author is correct and a person’s quality of life depends on public goods, is it any wonder why so many young people are escaping via drugs. Mobile families have already moved. More are threatening now that the state is running our local school system.

I think the author has a point, don’t you?

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Todd Smekens

Journalist, consultant, publisher, and servant-leader with a passion for truth-seeking. Enjoy motorcycling, meditation, and spending quality time with my daughter and rescue hound. Spiritually-centered first and foremost. Lived in multiple states within the USA and frequent traveler to the mountains.

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