For three decades the idea has held say in most of our political class that “Big Government” was inevitably hopeless and only markets, competition, choice and private provision – even of publicly paid for services – will ‘work’.
If we ever needed reminding that life is not so simple the fiasco surrounding G4S – private sector providers of a large part of the security for #London2012 – makes the point. G4S fail to deliver and as a result 3,500 British troops – many of whom probably have redundancy notices in their pockets – are forced to give up their holidays and step into the breach. G4S managers – who probably have handsome bonuses in their pockets – will probably walk away from this shambles largely unscathed.
This reminds me rather forcefully of the point an American public administration academic made after 9/11 – as the Twin Towers burnt it was mostly public sector workers – police, fire-fighters, paramedics – who were going into the buildings whilst it was mostly private sector employees coming out. Many of the former died when the towers collapsed. This is not a criticism of private sector workers – it is merely to point out that public service has merits that private interests can never match.