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With SCOTUS upholding the ACA today, I'd like to talk a bit about public goods and why we must disconnect them from the profit motive in order to have a functioning society. I admit that I am completely riffing off a Top Comment by Shawn Russell when I write this piece, and I thank him for the seed that sparked this diary, which I quote below:

Somethings must simply be separated from profit
Education being one, healthcare another, the justice system being a third and democracy perhaps being the strongest idea that must be separated from profit if it is to work for the common good of all citizens and not just a selected few.

When profits destroy human worth and dignity, erode society and divide it into haves and have-nots, and hold our future generations in chains (debt), then such profit is adverse and malicious to the welfare of society as a whole.

This is too important to downplay, folks. It's time to challenge the idea that everything human beings use and consume should be structured and produced only in terms of profit. Shawn Russell identifies four public goods - healthcare, education, justice, and democracy - that ought to be exempt from the profit motive. I can think of several more - politics, for one - but let's start with those four. Jump past the fleur-de-Kos, would you?

First, let's define "public good."

A public good, according to, is defined first as "a good or service that is provided without profit for society collectively," and secondly as "the well-being of the general public." I think we need to put those two together into one definition: a good or service that is collectively provided, without profit, for the well-being of the general public.

Conversely, a private good is a good or service that is provided for profit by and for individuals.

In short, a public good benefits everyone. A private good benefits only the people buying and selling it.

Therefore, law must be a public good, or we'd all be buying our court decisions. Education must a public good, or we'd all be paying the learn-to-read-and-write bills. So must health care, and democracy, and even the news media. So must simple things like public infrastructure, roads, bridges, etc. But more and more we've seen our society trashing the entire notion of the public good. That strong individualist streak in our nation's background and culture has been allowed to run roughshod over the notion that we are not just a collection of separate individuals but also a society. The problem is, a society deals in public as well as private goods. The more privatized those public goods become, the less likely we are to see them as obligations we have to one another.

Democracy, however, is built at least in part on the notion that we have obligations to one another. Otherwise, those who lost a debate or an election would have no obligation to obey the decisions of those who won, now would they?

Here are some public goods that have become more and more privatized over the past half-century.

The privatization of justice begins with the fact that if you are arrested, you need to win a case to go free again. In order to win your case, you need a lawyer. You also need a lawyer who has the time to do more than simply analyze your case for twenty minutes and then enter a plea bargain. Let's be clear, here - public defenders are not paid to defend you any more. They don't have the time or energy to defend you. They have the time and energy to, at most, create a paper for you to sign saying "yeah, I did it" but get a lower penalty or a shorter sentence. They do not have the time and energy to defend you vigorously in a courtroom, because their caseloads are enormous. Sure, the 6th Amendment to the Constitution guarantees that you will have a lawyer provided for you if you can't afford one on your own, but that lawyer is the public defender with 370 other cases to deal with at the same time (1). It means the minimum. For a real, argued defense, you need your own lawyer, and that costs money.

Where are you going to find the money to pay a private lawyer? Unless you're already well-off, you're stuck with that public defender. I'm not dissing public defenders, but they are overworked, underpaid, and unsupported. They can't do the same kind of law that a private lawyer can. It's just not logistically possible.

Civil courts are also privatized. If you are harmed by a business and you file for damages, well, you'd better be well-off. There are no lawyers provided in civil courts. This has always been a big problem in terms of folks harmed by carcinogens dumped into their water, or by banks playing games with their money, or employers who create horrible working conditions. Sometimes you can get a government agency like the EEOC to help you, or maybe you have a civil rights case that the ACLU will take, but representation in court when it's not criminal is largely driven by the profit motive.

We're also seeing privatization of justice in the operation of prisons. More and more, states are turning prison systems over to private corporations, which operate these facilities for profit, at the cost of about $30 to $60 per bed per day to the taxpayer. How do they make a profit? Simple:

Reduction of medical care, food, and clothing
Reduction of essential services inside prisons
Reduction of staff and guards, and pay reductions for staff and guards

Cost-cutting wherever possible, in other words (2). What this produces is prisoners who are warehoused, not rehabilitated, and then let out on the streets more dangerous than they were when they went in. I'm not saying that publicly run prisons are much better, but at least they're accountable to the public in ways that private prisons are not.

Let's also talk about how privatizing justice creates an incentive to define more and more actions and behaviors as crimes. After all, the more beds in your prison, the more you can charge the state for running it, and the more money you can make, right? There is a perfect storm of connections between private prison operators and the War on Drugs - which, by itself, accounts for 22 percent of all incarcerated individuals in the United States today (3).

It's no accident that the United States is ranked number one worldwide on incarceration rates. We've made prison into a business, and it shouldn't be.

Education has been attacked on a number of fronts. Cost to the public is certainly one angle, but did you see the recent diaries on the new Texas GOP platform which actively opposes the teaching of critical thinking in schools? How about the ongoing denigration of those who want to get a college education, or those who have one? Intellectuals - the educated - have become the Right's bogeyman. All those elitist Left Coasters with their Ph.Ds in their ivory towers can't POSSIBLY understand you, the undereducated Everyman, right? So let's make sure that fewer people get those elitist highfalutin' degrees.

During the Cold War, STEM degrees were in high demand and overwhelmingly subsidized by the government. You could go to college on a grant-and-scholarship aid package and expect to be paying it off for a year to five years after you graduated, with low manageable payments, because most of your education was considered a public good and therefore subsidized by taxpayers. What you could do for society after you graduated was at least as important as what you could do for yourself. We needed - and still do need - scientists, lawyers, doctors, and researchers. We needed demographers and writers and poets and artists, too. We needed nurses, and engineers, and pharmacists, and managers. We needed, and still do need, all those things, so subsidized higher education was seen as a public investment in a public good known as an educated populace.

No more. Now we have graduates saddled with five- and six-figure debt who have no job prospects when they leave school, because we're so invested in the private market providing all. Most Ph.D. graduates are competing with 400 to 1500 other candidates for every faculty position that's open in their field. Government hiring of Ph.Ds is nothing like it was in the 1950s and 1960s. All that education, and what good is it doing any of us?

We must restore education to its former status as a public good, or we're going to be the biggest Third World country in the world sooner rather than later. We must fund education through taxes, and we must ensure that graduates have jobs to go to when they graduate that are commensurate with their education levels. And none of that is happening right now, and it needs to.

Here's the problem with the Citizens United decision. You can't have a democracy if the votes are purchased instead of given. And we have the problem of lobbyists buying lawmakers and handing them pre-written, friendly-to-corporations laws to promote and pass, compounded by Citizens United giving those who have a strong profit motive - corporations - the ability to essentially buy votes by drowning out their opponents through large media buys. Need we say more? This must end. Democracy is inherently a public good. The corporatists are privatizing it as quickly as they can, and if we don't find a way to stop it now, we're in such a deep hole that we'll never get out of it.

The first way we do that is by making sure Obama gets re-elected, so that when seats open up on the Supreme Court, we can get some liberal justices in there to counteract Citizens United. The second way is to get a constitutional amendment passed that clearly states that money is not speech and corporations are not people.

But the third way is to get our message out there. Remind people that democracy should be one person, one vote, not one dollar, one vote. Ask them if they aren't offended by the idea that lawmakers are being paid to promote laws that allow corporations to take away our rights in the unholy name of profit over all. Get people thinking, and get them outraged.

Health Care
Ah, here's a biggie related to today's ACA decision. Every other modern industrial nation in the world provides government-sponsored (which is to say, single payer) health care to its citizens. It's just a no-brainer. You need a healthy workforce in order to have a healthy economy, so one of the best things a government can do is ensure the healthy workforce by providing government-sponsored health care. We see it here in limited, broken form - Medicaid for those who are very poor; Medicare for the elderly and disabled; and the occasional state-sponsored single-payer system as in Massachusetts. But nationwide, we don't see it at all.

This started with Nixon, who was the first President to support for-profit healthcare (HMOs) in a big way. In 1973, he signed the Health Maintenance Organization Act, which was designed to reduce frivolous use of the medical system by creating economic incentives for both providers and patients to find cheaper treatments and forgo those that were not urgent. Sold as a way to increase preventive care for Americans, what the HMO Act actually did was make it more likely that Americans didn't get that preventive care.

Ever since then, medicine and medical care have been viewed by most American profiteers as another way to make money, instead of an essential need that should be a public good. As a result of the HMO Act, cost-cutting measures kicked in the same as they do in any other business, and patients bore the brunt of those cuts through increased premiums, increased deductibles, and inability to get necessary services through HMOs deeming them "experimental" or "not medically necessary" or simply not providing those services at all. And let's not mention the whole "pre-existing condition" debacle which exed out millions of Americans from ever finding coverage.

This must end. The ACA is a good start - it no longer allows insurers to refuse services based on preexisting conditions, and it forces them to compete with other providers on cost to the insured, as well as requiring them to spend 80% of the premiums on actual care, not administrative overhead, and refund anything that isn't spent that way to the consumer. It's a big step in the right direction.

But in all four of these cases - justice, education, democracy, and health care - we MUST work to uncouple the idea that public goods should be subject to the profit motive. We MUST work to get these public goods to be truly public again, funded through taxes and run through government programs, and make people see that impartial justice, correct treatment and rehabilitation of prisoners, an educated populace, and a healthy citizenry are vital to the success of a modern democracy.

I'll leave the discussion of the privatization of the news media for another day (although feel free to discuss it in comments).  

If you have ideas on how to get this message out, I'm all ears. Let's brainstorm ways to show people that not everything should be for profit. My first idea is to show people how having an educated, healthy citizenry and an impartial justice system benefits them personally. Any ideas?
(1) Donald Farole, Ph.D., presented at the Justice Research and Statistics Association Annual Meeting, demonstrating that in 2007, 15,000 public defenders had a collective caseload of almost 5.6 million cases. That works out to about 373 cases per public defender every years.



Originally posted to Killer of Sacred Cows on Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 11:32 AM PDT.

Also republished by Political Language and Messaging, The Federation, Community Spotlight, and Promote the General Welfare.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Just from your title and scanning (18+ / 0-)

    your diary, I say YES YES YES you are right.

    How can people not see that it is wrong to make a profit off of education and healthcare?

    If profit is your primary motive, you will cut corners.  And if the whole industry does it, people have nowhere to turn to.

    Behold, University of Phoenix and BC/BS of California.

    I'll now go and read your entire diary.  :)

    I blog about my daughter with autism at her website

    by coquiero on Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 11:35:42 AM PDT

    •  Not to mention Cigna, Kaiser Permanente, (8+ / 0-)

      ITT Tech, the various culinary and art "schools,"... yeah.

      This is why I hate the profit motive.

      Science can tell you how to clone a dinosaur. Humanities explains why this is a bad idea.

      by Killer of Sacred Cows on Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 11:56:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And of course, (9+ / 0-)

        Kids for Cash

        This is what happens when you privatize things that don't belong in the private sector.

        I blog about my daughter with autism at her website

        by coquiero on Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 12:11:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  One very important PG is missing from your list... (4+ / 0-)

        Banking services.

        In a modern economy, basic banking services are essential, but the profit motive adds nothing, really, to the quality of service that consumers of those services receive.

        But it does give the investors gamblers of the FIRE sector (Finance, Insurance, Real Estate) a powerful incentive (especially when combined with the knowledge that they are 'too big to fail') to take tremendous risks with other people's money.

        There is nothing of value that privately-owned banks provide to society that a government bank couldn't provide at better rates/service to banking customers.

        I'm not saying all private banks should be socialized; let them have their niche, competing for the $$ of the One Percent, offering higher rewards (than a govt. bank would offer) for greater risk (the government would not insure any such 'deposits').  If private banks fail due to the risks they take, then they go under, restoring Moral Hazard to the banking industry.  

        This is what Congress should have done (and Obama should have proposed) during the 2008 crisis.  Buy up the assets of the failing banks at fire sale prices, write off all the un-performing assets, fully capitalize them with taxpayer $$, sack the upper-level management, higher finance professors---those who teach bankers how to do their jobs--- to run the banks according to new lending policies.

        (Oh yeah, and no lending to the troubled financial sector companies.)

        At the same time that the Banksters were all losing their shirts, the Taxpayers' Bank would have been able to take care of all of Main Street's banking/financing needs: business loans, mortgages, installment credit, basic credit card services for low-risk customers, etc.

        Given recent history, I think you'd have to say that THE most important public good the government should take over---even before health care, as important as it is---is banking services.

        •  Banking is legal thievery. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Killer of Sacred Cows

          If crime is, essentially, the deprivation of another's rights, then we've had deprivation under cover of law -- legal crime -- for a very long time, ever since slavery was declared a legal status.  Which it had to be, if the ownership of persons was/is to be legal.  
          Property rights had to trump human rights.  It can be argued that, if people have property, their individual rights are secure, but that's a lie. Ownership is a sop, a hollow promise, and eminent domain proves it.

          Willard's forte = "catch 'n' cage" People to Wall Street, "let our money go."

          by hannah on Fri Jun 29, 2012 at 04:42:24 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  You certainly won't get an argument from me... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Killer of Sacred Cows

            ...defending the Banksters.  But there is a need for basic banking services that a benevolent government could easily provide at extremely low cost.

            Doing so is the one way to provide The Public with the security it deserves from the immoral transgressions of banking thieves.  Forget about all this 'regulation' poppycock.  

            The best regulation is to not allow them to ever put us in a position of risk again.  If they gamble and lose, then they should lose BIG.  That is simply moral justice.

          •  re: property 'rights' (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Killer of Sacred Cows
            Property rights had to trump human rights.
            You may be interested in how I've previously addressed the topic of property 'rights'... Libertarian Lunacy On Taxation & Property Rights
          •  Banking and finance are legal slavery (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Killer of Sacred Cows

            on their own theory that corporations are people, my friend. I personally hold that chattels are ipso facto incapable of Free Speech.

            Say, doesn't the Constitution say something about no slavery or involuntary servitude? But I bet that if you ask a corporation whether it would prefer freedom, it would say, "No, suh, ah sho loves me mah Massas who get all of the profit off mah work!" (sorry about the "Ebonics", which I am using only in snark against Whitey and the banksters. But I repeat myself.)

            How about a modern Abolitionist movement to make the banks and the media, and any corporation that owns any of them, and so on, into non-profits? ^_^

            Hands off my ObamaCare[TM]

            by Mokurai on Sat Jun 30, 2012 at 03:42:43 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Sounds like a grand idea. (0+ / 0-)

              Frankly, I think that banking, education, health care, utilities, internet access, and many other modern necessities should be nationalized and run by the state.

              Science can tell you how to clone a dinosaur. Humanities explains why this is a bad idea.

              by Killer of Sacred Cows on Sat Jun 30, 2012 at 04:56:44 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  kaiser permanente is a nonprofit organization (2+ / 0-)

        so maybe that's not the best example.

        "Okay, until next time. Keep sending me your questions, and I will make fun of you... I mean, answer them." - Strong Bad

        by AaronInSanDiego on Fri Jun 29, 2012 at 01:30:38 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Agreed. And same thing goes for environment, (11+ / 0-)

      public health, natural resources.

    •  Or *prisons.* nt (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Killer of Sacred Cows

      The founding fathers knew of the mutually corrupting influences of Church and state, wisely sending them to opposite corners.

      by emidesu on Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 09:19:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Corrections Corporation of America (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Killer of Sacred Cows, SaraBeth

      The Mafia is now running the prisons.  This is a scandal that has no coverage.  CCA does not report the crimes that occur within the prison, because that is bad publicity for the corporation.  Therapeutic Community for treatment of the drug addicted is non-existent.  Counseling and education - what a joke.

      Prisons for profit.  The criminals have figured out a way to make crime profitable!  Run the prisons and let the state you to run the prisons.

      "As long as Corporations control Government, there is no reason for Government to regulate Corporations!" John Roberts, Citizens United (SNARK)

      by NM Ray on Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 09:26:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Some humans, because they have no (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Killer of Sacred Cows

      practical talents with which to sustain themselves, have to exploit their own kind to do for them.  Many can rely on their gift of gab to persuade or cajole the producers to share their inevitable (because humans are clever and get better over time) surplus with them.  Also, the producers of surplus have an incentive to get rid of it before it turns into waste (gets consumed by rust, rot or vermin) or the surplus takes up so much room that there's no space to produce more.
      But, people who have to rely on others to provide often don't see the two sides to an exchange and perceive themselves as having to extort what they need and/or the producers having to be bribed. That perspective, I think, is what accounts for the assumption in classical economic analysis that

      "man prefers leisure and must be made to work"

      --i.e. that enterprise and production have to be coerced and, since coercion implies the use of force, which the coerced would not want used against themselves, demand gets transformed into the genesis of virtue. Demand prompts obedience and obedience is defined as good, despite the fact that free creatures do not obey.

      The culture of obedience has evolved to make the exploitation of humans by their own kind and to their detriment unobtrusive.  That is, most humans, whose exploitation is on a par with the objects of animal husbandry, don't really notice because it is being perpetrated under the rule of law and behind the shield of money.  When people labor from dawn to dusk and still don't have enough money to buy the necessities of life, as well as what reproduction of the species demands, that there is not enough money is a verity that's impossible for them to dispute because they don't know where the responsibility for the scarcity lies.

      "Who's got the money," is a good question.  "Who's responsible for the money," is a better one. Because, the answer to the latter is that the Constitution assigned the management of the currency to the Congress, which conveniently reassigned it to the banks.  Why did the Congress do that?  The answer I'd suggest is that, like Pontius Pilate, our lawmakers wanted to wash their hands of being responsible for the welfare of the people, preferring to punish them, instead.

      Why punish?  Because that's how power is manifest. People without practical talents feel powerless, so they feel compelled to compensate.  Not content to be cared for, they have to coerce just to enjoy a modicum of certainty that they are in charge of their own futures.  Being dependent is very debilitating when one has no talents with which to sustain oneself.

      Just look at Willard.  Is there any evidence the fellow can do anything for himself?  Is it any surprise that he can't look out for the welfare of the family dog, his wife or his children?  Willard can't even think for himself.  All he's got is a gift for gab and a certain physical recklessness, which leads him to aggress against people whom he perceives to be weaker than himself.

      Willard's forte = "catch 'n' cage" People to Wall Street, "let our money go."

      by hannah on Fri Jun 29, 2012 at 04:35:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thorstein Veblen (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Killer of Sacred Cows

        The Theory of the Leisure Class

        The institution of leisure class is the outgrowth of an early discrimination between employments, according to which some employments are worthy and others unworthy. Under this ancient distinction the worthy employments are those which may be classed as exploit [reaping where one does not sow]; unworthy are those necessary everyday employments into which no appreciable element of exploit enters.

        A distinction is still habitually made between industrial and non-industrial occupations; and this modern distinction is a transmuted form of the barbarian distinction between exploit and drudgery. Such employments as warfare, politics, public worship, and public merrymaking [what we now call the entertainment industry], are felt, in the popular apprehension, to differ intrinsically from the labour that has to do with elaborating the material means of life.

        It is impossible to understand either economics or politics without understanding these motives and these invidious distinctions.

        Hands off my ObamaCare[TM]

        by Mokurai on Sat Jun 30, 2012 at 04:21:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Rightly Placed (10+ / 0-)

    I think you have dropped the analytical knife right on the naturally serrated edge, thanks

    "It's only a movie"--1960's era PR Man for B-grade Hollywood flicks

    by williamjustin on Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 11:43:42 AM PDT

  •  This should be required reading (12+ / 0-)

    Very well done -- smart, concise, complete -- so tipped and rec'd, and I'll republish it to a couple of groups.

    -7.75, -8.10; All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

    by Dave in Northridge on Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 12:02:19 PM PDT

  •  yes yes yes (10+ / 0-)

    i've been ruminating on a comprehensive diary tackling the steady dismantling of the "commons" in our country.

    this is it.

    thanks, killer.  privatizing public resources/services inverts the purpose of those resources/services in an almost tautological way (public resources made private are not public).

    I will believe corportions are people when Texas executes one.

    by patchmo13 on Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 12:49:34 PM PDT

    •  I would be interested to read such a Diary! (6+ / 0-)

      I'm glad you mentioned the term "Commons", as I think we need to emphasize the importance of this idea to the health of our Democracy.

      The commons were traditionally defined as the elements of the environment - forests, atmosphere, rivers, fisheries or grazing land - that are shared, used and enjoyed by all.

      Today, the commons are also understood within a cultural sphere. These commons include literature, music, arts, design, film, video, television, radio, information, software and sites of heritage. The commons can also include public goods such as public space, public education, health and the infrastructure that allows our society to function (such as electricity or water delivery systems)

      (Wiki - Commons)

      This ties in well with kmackle's comment just down-thread...

      Responsible stewardship of The Commons to provide the greatest good for the greatest number is a moral imperative.

      Progressives need to assert the authority and absolute morality of our political ideas beginning with a clear and concise definition of the public good!

      I kinda screwed up with a careless uprate so (for now?) I'm a "No Rate" pariah. So when I give a comment "+110% n/t", please consider that a recommend. (That's my workaround fix to participating in this community!)

      by The Angry Architect on Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 04:36:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  On Justice and priovate lawyers: (4+ / 0-)

    My SiL married a man who could most politely called as asswipe (personally, I hope reincarnation is true because this man needs to start over as a pebble on the beach on which thousands will step every single day). He makes 110K a year, she 35. Every bloody year he takes her to court over custody. If there's nothing real to use, he'll make it up. He actually accused my MiL, owner of a Pre-K and teacher for the last 40 years at various Pre-Ks, of beating the child because she climbed on a chair to fiddle with the heat. The DFCS person promplty apologized when she realized that the A/C controls were set at adult height, WAY too high for a 5 year old to reach even if she climbed on a chair--because the chairs are the size for 4-year-olds.  My poor SiL owes the lawyer 45K to fight these suits, and she flatout can't afford it. Justice is NOT equal.

    The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

    by irishwitch on Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 12:56:40 PM PDT

    •  Two lessons from Law School (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Killer of Sacred Cows, SaraBeth

      1.  Cheap Legal Advice:  Avoid any situation when you might need an attorney;

      2.  Expensive Legal Advice: Don't get an attorney when you need one.

      I know it sounds cynical, but if you are in court without an attorney, you will lose more than the cost.

      "As long as Corporations control Government, there is no reason for Government to regulate Corporations!" John Roberts, Citizens United (SNARK)

      by NM Ray on Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 09:29:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The guy didn't seem like an asswipe (3+ / 0-)

        when she married him. Ge became one about a month after they married, and went downhill--she stayed married after she got pregnant, but by the kid's 2ndbirthday, they were divorced--she caught him cheating. A bunch of us had some issues with her marrying him in the first place because he played his "I'm such a good Christian" BS enough tomake us gag--yet told his brother, dying of AIDS, that he wouldn't be dying if he hadn't led "that promiscuous, sinful gay lifestyle". This from a man who'd been divorced twice before he met my SiL--and is now a four-time lsoer, having been divorced vy the woman he cheated with.

        The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

        by irishwitch on Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 09:39:44 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Ever hear of the K.I.S.S. principle? (6+ / 0-)

    "First, let's define "public good.""

    Why?  Essentially, every tax dollar that ends up in the pockets of privateers in the form of profits is a tax dollar not being spent in the service of the taxpayer.  

    Why must it be any more complicated than that?

  •  I completely agree and would like to add to (3+ / 0-)

    the list water, sewage, electricity, telecom, the internet, cable TV, terrestrial radio and GPS. Also perhaps railroads. These can be run through the original sense of a public utility. All of these things would not exist without public investments and these should be run in the public interest. The profit model does not meet all needs and is not necessarily the most efficient method of getting goods and services. Greed is not always good. Nor does greed always work. Capitalism is a method, but not the only method. And the Europeans have proven that a mixed economy works better for a high percentage of the people.

    Corruption exists and the profit motive does not diminish corruption. One who is motivated to make money does not do a better job than does one who is motivated by love or passion or duty.

  •  To be honest I have no idea (5+ / 0-)

    What sold me was my trip to Europe and seeing how people were treated in counties like Britain, Ireland, France...especially France, and Germany.

    I saw a government that seemed to genuinely care for its people.

    --Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day. - Thomas Jefferson--

    by idbecrazyif on Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 03:39:29 PM PDT

  •  What a brilliant diary. (8+ / 0-)

    You have laid it all out here and well done. I'm bookmarking this for when I next get into it with a Tea Bagger.

    You can fight without ever winning, but never ever win without a fight...

    by Purple Priestess on Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 03:43:29 PM PDT

  •  How about the military? (10+ / 0-)

    Does anyone think we would have stayed in Iraq that long if not for the profit for Halliburton, et al? During Vietnam, I wrote to a guy who was a cook in the army. Nobody peels potatoes anymore.

    Your left is my right---Mort Sahl

    by HappyinNM on Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 03:51:04 PM PDT

    •  Another good point. (7+ / 0-)

      I don't like the military, but I don't deny it's a public good and should be managed on the public dime. Private military forces are just mercenaries.

      Science can tell you how to clone a dinosaur. Humanities explains why this is a bad idea.

      by Killer of Sacred Cows on Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 03:58:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Dick and W went after that profit Center (3+ / 0-)

      Before 2000, who would have ever thought of the military as a profit center?  I know that we always had the Military Industrial Complex, I'm not naive, but Dick and W chose to fight wars off the books and created the concept of the private armies.

      Halliburton was an oilfield services company, specializing in cementing oil wells, before they hired Dick Cheney as CEO. After a few years, Halliburton became a leading military services contractor, but still nobody knows what kind of military services they offer.

      "As long as Corporations control Government, there is no reason for Government to regulate Corporations!" John Roberts, Citizens United (SNARK)

      by NM Ray on Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 09:34:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  May we republish this at The Winning Words Project (3+ / 0-)

    ? Thank you!

    Stop the party of Gut & Spend policies that gut our Earned Benefits programs like Social Security and Medicare and spends on tax breaks for the wealthy elite.

    by jillwklausen on Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 03:59:53 PM PDT

  •  For a recent book related to this topic... (6+ / 0-)

    I can recommend "What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets" by Michael J. Sandel. The is the same Michael Sandel who teaches the "Justice" undergraduate course at Harvard that became the wonderful multi-part PBS series (you can also view all episodes of which online here:, and it's accompanying book "Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do".

    If you've seen the "Justice" series or read the book, then you know the Socratic way Sandel approaches questions like "What is just" and "Are there things that money cannot and should not buy, and what would they be". "What Money Can't Buy" is an excellent and thought-provoking book along the lines of "Justice". If you've seen the series, or been fortunate enough to attend Harvard, then you know why Michael Sandel is so revered, and not just at Harvard. He makes you think long and hard about difficult and subtle ideas, looking at topics from multiple points of view--and that's a good thing to be able to do. Too bad more people (who shall remain unnamed) can't or won't do that.

    Liberals think the glass is half-full. Conservatives think the glass is theirs.

    by dewtx on Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 04:07:06 PM PDT

  •  Being realistic (3+ / 0-)

    One has to look to the possible. Not dreamland.

    Public Corruption. This should be number one. Nothing is possible to correct with lawmakers having the ability to institutionalize public corruption. Lets not equivocate between parties either. It's everywhere. It effects everything. We don't get to square one until it is eliminated and that is only by taking apart the congressional and executive regulations that have been made to immunize members from the rule of law. It's real simple; if it's illegal in the US , it's illegal for the Govt. If it's against the constitution, it's illegal. That also goes for the executive branch and all other areas of govt.

    The spirit and the intent of the law should not be circumvented by tortured legal logic that essentially says "It doesn't say you can't do it".

     1. Patents for products that are defined as "Public Good" products should have a built in reward for the inventor within reason and then the patent is released so manufacturers are free to buy reference designs and other directions from the inventors to compete in the market place. This neuters drug companies, diagnostics etc from paying large amounts of money to either shut down a product or demand huge fees from it. The Blockbuster drug approach and yearly double digit price increases are history.

    The patent system is the most abused legal framework we have when it comes to the public good. Yet, profits must be allowed by competing companies in order for products to be made.

  •  This discussion, and any discussion (4+ / 0-)

    focusing on individualism vs. communitarianism, would essentially address 99% of all issue-specific political debate in this country.

    The most violent element in society is ignorance.

    by Mr MadAsHell on Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 04:40:31 PM PDT

  •  Great Diary! (3+ / 0-)

    Great quote that inspired you!

    Great comments!

    These are the kinds of discussions and ideas that get me "fired up", and why I love this place!


    I kinda screwed up with a careless uprate so (for now?) I'm a "No Rate" pariah. So when I give a comment "+110% n/t", please consider that a recommend. (That's my workaround fix to participating in this community!)

    by The Angry Architect on Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 04:41:48 PM PDT

  •  Awesome diary! (4+ / 0-)

    I can't agree more. Concise and clear, even a Rightwinger could understand it (and perhaps be swayed? Or do I dare too much)

    Wise men talk because they have something to say, fools, because they have to say something. - Plato

    by eashep on Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 04:43:15 PM PDT

  •  excellent diary Killer of Sacred Cows... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Killer of Sacred Cows, SaraBeth

    public good versus private profiteers, cause i can't seem to call it private good.

    the profitization of america is a fail imo

    most americans identify themselves as middle class when they really are working class

    let's face it,  if you have to work to provide yourself with essentials like food and shelter you are in the working class

  •  Under the subheading Democracy: Elections (3+ / 0-)

    Not just Citizens United financing, but actual casting and counting of votes. I never understood why anyone should expect with a still growing population that we should expect to "save money" by replacing paper ballots with black boxes.

    It was all a ruse, of course, to subvert the process as needed.

    I am a fan of enhancing voting with available technology. But any use of technology should only facilitate the creation of a paper ballot that can be verified and easily hand-counted when the need arises.

    When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. --Martin Luther King Jr.

    by Egalitare on Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 05:00:29 PM PDT

    •  I agree, as a Founding Member of (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Killer of Sacred Cows

      the Open Voting Consortium. We have designed a Free Software/Open Source voting system using electronic ballot printers. The printed ballot is designed to be secure and auditable, while the software is designed to prevent overvoting and other errors and to implement the security features that get printed.

      We are now working on getting this into the One Laptop Per Child Sugar education software suite, so that millions of children around the world can have the experience of believable elections and learn how to administer them.

      Hands off my ObamaCare[TM]

      by Mokurai on Sat Jun 30, 2012 at 04:43:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Why are we still gilding 2nd-best yachts (3+ / 0-)

    of insurance execs?

    In single payer systems like Medicare, premiums pay for health care for you and your neighbors, reasonable salaries for those who do the paperwork (and there aren't many) and that's all.

    It is probably the best system that could possibly be invented, Why can't we have the best?

    Don't let millionaires steal Social Security.
    I said, "Don't let millionaires steal Social Security!"

    by Leo in NJ on Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 06:02:59 PM PDT

  •  So.. are doctors and professors (0+ / 0-)

    considered profiteers in your view?

    Why are only insurers the bad profiteers?  Why should surgeons charge $10,000 for a half hour's work?  Been to a dentist lately?  (I haven't - can't afford it)

    •  Doctors and professors profiteers? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Not if they work through the government which regulates them and keeps down costs. Professors really do not make that much even after twenty or thirty years on the job, and they don't hang out a shingle and work from a storefront as sole proprietors in any case, so I think that's irrelevant.

      Doctors that charge exorbitant fees are definitely profiteers. For-profit schools are profiteers. Health insurance companies that disallow basic medical treatment or certain diagnoses payment are profiteers.

      And about the dentist - as a matter of fact, yes. I had to go to an oral surgeon last summer in order to have a badly abscessed tooth pulled so that I didn't die of septic shock. Fortunately, I had dental insurance through my graduate school. If I hadn't, I wouldn't have been able to pay for it and I would have died.

      I'm not sure what your point is, here. Part of me thinks you're challenging me on my stance that medical care and education should be public goods, and part of me thinks you're supporting my position, but I'm honestly not sure. Can you clarify?

      Science can tell you how to clone a dinosaur. Humanities explains why this is a bad idea.

      by Killer of Sacred Cows on Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 08:49:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for this great diary! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Killer of Sacred Cows, SaraBeth

    Beautifully written, to the point, and easy for anyone to understand.  I will use this when dealing with all of the luvable (not) right-wingers I know.  I will also send it to fire up and provide ammunition to, all of my progressive friends.  This is a great topic of discussion for teens and new voters, maybe even could get folks who don't vote at all to actually take the plunge and get involved, at least to vote.  You should get this all over the internet, send it to newspapers and magazines, etc., it really is that good and that important of an issue.  Thanks again.

    "Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." - John F. Kennedy

    by helpImdrowning on Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 07:44:55 PM PDT

  •  Provide for the Common Good (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Killer of Sacred Cows, SaraBeth

    I think this would make a terrific DKos group that publishes at least one diary a wek on this subject. I've been saying this for years, we have lost the idea of the common good. Would anyone be intersted in committing to writing diraies on this subject or joining such a group?  This is the critical differnce between us and them. It needs to be put pack into the public discourse.

  •  Well stated. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Killer of Sacred Cows, SaraBeth

    Far more concise than I could manage. I hope it gets read widely.

    The founding fathers knew of the mutually corrupting influences of Church and state, wisely sending them to opposite corners.

    by emidesu on Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 09:21:28 PM PDT

  •  I'd also add in "Infrasctructure" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Killer of Sacred Cows, SaraBeth

    Having a patchwork of for-profit roads, for example, would be a disaster.

    •  I think I briefly mentioned that (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      but I just wanted to focus first on the four things that Shawn Russell brought up. I might make this a series, focusing each diary on a different thing that needs to be a public good.

      Science can tell you how to clone a dinosaur. Humanities explains why this is a bad idea.

      by Killer of Sacred Cows on Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 09:46:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  under this principle (0+ / 0-)

      There should be no private contractors working construction on infrastructure projects (and therefore no competition). Is thisa correct interpretation, and if so, is it a good idea?

      "Okay, until next time. Keep sending me your questions, and I will make fun of you... I mean, answer them." - Strong Bad

      by AaronInSanDiego on Fri Jun 29, 2012 at 01:37:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't think that is what is meant at all. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Killer of Sacred Cows

        I DO think that private companies doing work on the Commons should be under control to keep down the greed and corruption.  We HAVE controlled the corporations before, we can do so again.

        The United States of America was born of a revolt not just against British monarchs and the British parliament but against British corporations.

        "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." ~ Edward Abby

        by SaraBeth on Fri Jun 29, 2012 at 04:44:42 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  it seemed as if the diarist was advocating that (0+ / 0-)

          there should not be profit involved, which would disallow for-profit companies having any involvement. If what you are saying is the case then I think I agree.

          "Okay, until next time. Keep sending me your questions, and I will make fun of you... I mean, answer them." - Strong Bad

          by AaronInSanDiego on Fri Jun 29, 2012 at 10:25:13 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Sure, let them bid on the work to do the roads (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            but the project belongs to the people, not the private company.

            Science can tell you how to clone a dinosaur. Humanities explains why this is a bad idea.

            by Killer of Sacred Cows on Sat Jun 30, 2012 at 04:59:02 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  That seems reasonable, but (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Killer of Sacred Cows

              I don't think that would be literally eliminating the profit motive from public good. I guess I misunderstood your intent somewhat.

              "Okay, until next time. Keep sending me your questions, and I will make fun of you... I mean, answer them." - Strong Bad

              by AaronInSanDiego on Sat Jun 30, 2012 at 07:38:12 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Let the public hire the private workers (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                to create things for the public good, with the understanding that once the work is done, it will not be run for profit, and with the understanding that we will not let any private company make an excessive profit on the public dime.

                Frankly, I think we should nationalize all utilities (water, gas, electricity, internet access), all education through graduate school, all health care (single payer), and many of the other public goods mentioned in this thread. We can employ private contractors to build them, but not to operate them.

                In California, until the stupid deregulation of electricity, the electric company was allowed to make 10 percent profit over their costs by law. That's a decent profit. It wasn't until Enron came in and started mucking with the way things had worked, and worked well, for the past fifty years that we started seeing brownouts, blackouts, rolling blackouts, and summertime bills that were in the $400 range instead of the $100 range.

                We need to re-regulate and nationalize/make public again all these things that have been discussed in this thread.

                Science can tell you how to clone a dinosaur. Humanities explains why this is a bad idea.

                by Killer of Sacred Cows on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 10:17:32 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

      •  Certainly not. We need public ownership (2+ / 0-)

        of the commons itself, with public management and public funding. We do not need to own everybody that we can hire who also works in the true private sector. Road builders can build private roads, driveways, and parking lots. Builders of public buildings can build private buildings. Builders of public engineering systems, whether dams or sewage treatment plants, can build private engineering systems, including manufacturing facilities.

        Having the government own everything that contributes to the creation and maintenance of the commons is necessarily the disaster of Communist or Fascist central planning. (The difference is that under Communism, the government owns the companies, but under Fascism, the companies own the government. ^_^)

        Hands off my ObamaCare[TM]

        by Mokurai on Sat Jun 30, 2012 at 05:17:13 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Do it in corporate law. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Killer of Sacred Cows, SaraBeth

    Corporate law is where corporations are born and where we give special protection and privledge to the owners and officers. In return we need to assure that we arent licensing greed and a destruction of society.
    I wrote about it here:

  •  I think that in the minds of Teapublicans, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Killer of Sacred Cows

    Public Good = Socialism

    "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." ~ Edward Abby

    by SaraBeth on Fri Jun 29, 2012 at 04:07:54 AM PDT

    •  Who cares? (0+ / 0-)

      They are, quite frankly, ignorant and uneducated on many points.

      Teapublicans are like teenagers who never grew up beyond the age of 14. They're at the height of the "it's all about me!" and "what do people think of the way I look?" periods in their lives. They have very little concept of the good of the group - that only comes with maturity. Almost every Teabagger I've ever met comes across like a selfish teenager, no matter their physical age.

      Time for us to demand they grow up.

      Science can tell you how to clone a dinosaur. Humanities explains why this is a bad idea.

      by Killer of Sacred Cows on Fri Jun 29, 2012 at 08:07:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Some aspects of healthcare are problematical (0+ / 0-)

    There are some aspects of healthcare that require taking big risks. I'm thinking specifically of medical devices and pharmaceuticals. Each of them starts with an idea -- in the mind of an instrumentation engineer or pharmacologist -- but requires years and years of development and testing before we know if the new device or pharmaceutical is safe and effective.

    The system we have now encourages private (or publicly traded) companies to risk their own money in exchange for potential profits. I enthusiastically agree that this system should be closely regulated to insure quality and prevent profiteering. But I think the current system is superior to an alternative, political system, where all investment decisions are made by committee, and funded with public money. There are terrible risks inherent in such an alternative.

    The system we have now works pretty well for medical devices and pharmaceuticals. Cutting-edge research is done by publicly funded researchers though NIH, but then the heavy lifting is done by private entities. It's not a perfect system, but it's hard to see how the profit motive can be eliminated without putting huge quantities of public money at risk.

    “No, Mitt, corporations are not people. People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs, they get sick, they love, they cry, they dance, they live and they die. Learn the difference.”-- Elizabeth Warren

    by Positronicus on Fri Jun 29, 2012 at 04:40:50 AM PDT

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