Resolved: The Privatization of Civil Services Undermines Democracy.
Debate Rounds (5)
Hey. Mittens here, doing a debate.
If you forfeit, I win.
If you mess around too much and I correctly call you out for it, I win.
If your arguments are too weak, I win.
1. Privatization - the transfer of ownership, property or business from the government to the private sector.The government ceases to be the owner of the transferred entity.
2. Civil Services - the permanent professional branches of a government's administration, excluding military and judicial branches and elected politicians.
3. Undermine -to weaken or ruin by degrees
4. Democracy -a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.
I will be Pro - if that isn't obvious already. It means that I will be taking the side that says: "Yes. The privatization of civil services does undermine democracy."
Whoever takes this will be Con. You will be arguing the side that says: "No. The privatization of civil services does not undermine democracy."
That should be obvious. I think. If it isn't, then I don't think you should take the debate.
No offense. ^-^
The first round is for you to write your acceptance letter. I will judge it carefully, and if I like you, we shall proceed with the debate. Your acceptance letter must be at least 300 words long.
I will allow an exception only on one condition.
You must write: "I accept." and insert some interesting tidbit about yourself.
And for the last round, you are not allowed to make any new arguments. That's just abusive.
I like abusive.
But not here.
Write even one new argument in the final round and you lose.
No pressure. :)
Go crazy, but stay respectful. Basically don't say anything that is intended to hurt my feelings and you will be fine.
Hi! I'm Mittens. I love writing and discussing things, and well - that's pretty much debate. :P
'Tis a pleasure!
There are many points to cover, and before I get into any of it, let me give an intro to the topic in discussion. I will begin by going into something I'm sure many of you are wondering. What exactly does civil services entail?
While the definitions are good and all, they leave much to be desired. So allow me to clarify.
Historically, civil services has been and still is synonymous to positions in administration and bureaucracy. While the exact job descriptions of civil service employees differ from state to state, they all serve a similar function, and that is to aid in the processes governance that run
In fact, that is what the definitions tell us. Civil services are the permanent professional branches of a government's administration. Civil services are by definition the positions that run the government.
Ancient China was renowned for running Civil Service Exams as part its meritocratic system for selecting civil officials for positions in the bureaucracy(1).
France's civil services is split into three: the State civil service State civil service (central administrations, regional and departmental services of the State, public establishments of the State), the territorial civil service (civil servants of the municipalities, departments and regions), and the hospital civil service (administrative and nursing staffs of the public hospitals(2).
The U.S. offers civil service positions that work in foreign affairs, human resources, management analysis (gauges U.S. government departments), general accounting
The takeaway point here is that the totality of a state's civil services is what runs its government. To privatize a nation's civil services is to privatize its government.
I will go into why that runs contrary to democratic principles in a second. For now, let me segue into an in-depth on democracy.
What exactly does it mean to be a democracy? Well, as per the definition provided, democracy is the system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of the state (i.e. citizens). Typically, this type of governance is facilitated through elected representatives, but ultimately, it is the interests of the whole or, more typically, the greater majority of the population that is to determine what goes on in terms of government.
The idealistic democratic system is formed directly from the desires of the majority population. That's what it means to be a democracy.
And because privatization narrows its interests to the minority's profitability, it directly contradicts and undermines the base principle of democracy. A privatized government is nothing less than a dictatorship of the few and the rich, which leads me to my next point. What exactly is privatization? What does it mean for ownership to be transferred to the private sector?
The benefits often cited for privatization policies are the reduction in costs, an increased quality of service, etc(4). While all these are certainly possible, it is also often the case that they don't actually happen. A New York time article issued two years ago, titled: "When Privatization Works and Why It Doesn't Always", explains it nicely with several extensive examples. In the 60's to 70's, British oil company, BP, was privatized and transformed from a nearly proftiless organization to a business of soaring profits. Costs were cut, pay reduced, and profit-generating efficiency was maximized.
A happy ending?
In 2005, one of British Petroleum's oil refineries exploded in what is known as the Texas Refinery Explosion, killing 15 people and wounding 170 more. The cause? The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reviewed the circumstances and found a number of shortcomings:
"Organisational failings included corporate cost-cutting, a failure to invest in the plant infrastructure, a lack of corporate oversight on both safety culture and major accident prevention programs, a focus on occupational safety and not process safety, a defective management of change process (which allowed the siting of contractor trailers too close to the ISOM process unit), the inadequate training of operators, a lack of competent supervision for start-up operations, poor communications between individuals and departments and the use of outdated and ineffective work procedures which were often not followed. Technical failings included a blowdown drum that was of insufficient size, a lack of preventative maintenance on safety critical systems, inoperative alarms and level sensors in the ISOM process unit and the continued use of outdated blowdown drum and stack technology when replacement with the safer flare option had been a feasible alternative for many years."(6)
In short, the company long had had the option to invest more capital into updating its technology and its human resources. In an effort to cut costs, British Petroleum chose to sacrifice safety for profitability. Many reports have noted the poor state of BP's plants and its low spending on maintenance.
"Consulting firm Telos had examined conditions at the plant and released a report in January 2005[. two months prior to the accident,] which found numerous safety issues, including "broken alarms, thinned pipe, chunks of concrete falling, bolts dropping 60 ft and staff being overcome with fumes." The report's co-author stated, "We have never seen a site where the notion 'I could die today' was so real."(6)
In the high risk environment that the company had created, if anything goes awry, it is the lives of the people that suffer the consequences. If things had gone perfectly, of course the accident wouldn't have happened. But it begs the question: Why do these high and very much preventable risks even even exist in the first place?
The answer is simple. Privatized property is oriented almost singularly toward profitability, even if profitability runs contrary to acceptability in democratic or human-rights standards. Privatization often undermines the central priority of a democracy: it's people.
Now in terms of undemocractic priorities, British Petroleum is not alone.
A nursing home in Michigan which allows contractor-hired employees to work alongside its state-hired employees provides a nice contrast. The state employees are paid $15 to $20 an hour with health insurance and pensions. The contractor's employees work for $8.50 an hour - still billing the state $14.99 - and provides no employee benefits.(7)
In July 2011, the U.S. state of Wisconsin privatized it's state economic development agency, transferring its ownership to the newly minted Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), managing over $500 million of taxpayer money in its first year alone in its promise to create new jobs. It initiated many contracts and payments, giving as much as five hundred thousand to ten million dollars in ventures such as rewarding corporations with tax credits for 'retaining jobs' despite many instances where corporations actually cut down hundreds of employees. Of the 250,000 jobs pledged by WEDC's chairman, Scott Walker, only 5860 jobs actually resulted from the WEDC's expenditures. In the same course of WEDC's lifespan, 12,000 jobs were simultaneously lost. The article later cites that the majority of the funds went to the WEDC's supporters.
Who benefited? The wealthy minority.
Was this shady? Oh definitely.
In the late 1900's, Britain sold a bundle of public industries and monopolies to the private sector. Amidst cost cuts (i.e. lowered costs of labor) and soaring profits came one general issue: "Prices did not decline proportionally to cost cuts and productivity gains. Many services were cut back, especially on the least utilized transport routes. The largest privatized bus company was charged with cut-throat monopoly practices. The water system broke down, while consumer charges leapt. Electricity prices were shifted against residential consumers in favor of large industrial users. Economic inequality widened as the industrial labor force shrunk by two million from 1979 to 1997, while wages stagnated in the face of soaring profits for the privatized companies. The tax cuts financed by their selloff turned out to benefit mainly the rich. Opinion polls showed that voters had opposed privatization at the outset"(9)
I could go on and on and on and on and on, but I believe I've shown enough to note a generalized pattern about privatization:
1. Privatization is profitable and generates revenue. This is a good thing.
2. Privatization focuses almost exclusively on profits. Workers often get paid less, and general standard of living is diminished amongst privatized vs. public employees.
3. Hazards are more likely to be risked. Hazard costs aren't strictly necessary and are often neglected. When an industry is controlled by private individuals rather than the public, the public's interests are generally brushed aside
4. Majority of profits go toward making more profits and toward the minority, which directly contradicts the majority - 'whole population' focus that defines a democracy.
The simple conclusion: privatization focus often produces undemocratic results. To privatize civil services is to undermine democracy itself.
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