How privatization works

At the pretty University I sometimes walk through, I pass one of the campus’ three gyms, noticing its advertising for membership. I’ve heard students describing the membership system to friends. A “gold” membership gets you into all three gyms, while a “bronze” membership only gets you one of them… I suppose the students who don’t like to exercise are glad they don’t have to subsidize the muscle-heads. Who wants to pay for a service they never use?

I suspect student fees have not noticeably declined with the introduction of such policies. And public health advocates might argue that this system increases the activation energy required for preventative healthcare.

In essence these policies privatize social budgets. What I mean by that is that instead of collective pools of money being allocated through a collective, ideological political process, money is allocated through private decision-making. And while some might argue (and I might actually agree) that the consumer-as-citizen exercises more power than the voter, our choices are not as free as they seem.

When telephone and television were essentially public utilities, they were ubiquitous and cheap. Now that they are privatized, they are, to be sure, more “feature-rich”, and more expensive. The industries which magnetize our expenditures for these necessities magnetize our choices and we find that more and more of what used to be essentially public is now a “choice”, an item on the household budget, even a status symbol, and displacing other possibilities (including savings and charitable expenditures). So as public transportation, healthcare, education, museums, and parks become privatized, we will have to make some choices, indeed. Unpopular (or ill-advertised) industries may disappear, like craftsmen and their well-made goods, in the unidirection motion of global economics.