Where Government Incompetance is Used to Discredit Private Enterprise

Over at my Park Privatization blog, I look at an article in the Huffpo on privatization.  Apparently, the city of Chicago made at least five or six horrible contracting mistakes in outsourcing its parking meters, mistakes a private enterprise of any level of professionalism would never make.  The Huffpo's conclusion -- these mistakes by the city government are proof that privatization is a bad idea and that government needs to retain its size, scope and power.


  1. Xmas:

    See now, here's the problem. You assume that a situation where a private company, owned by a small set of city power brokers, makes a backroom deal which lets them come out ahead by a billion dollars is a mistake...in Chicago...by Mayor Daley...

  2. IgotBupkis:

    Xmas is correct. In Chicago politics, that's not a bug, it's a feature.


  3. Bob Smith:

    The present value of the last 45 years of that parking meter lease is practically zero. It's simple corporate finance, takes 30 seconds on an HP 12C. They could have easily netted 5x the money, on a present value basis, by limiting leases to 10 years.

  4. tribal elder:

    The sale of the city's meters, while not good stewardship, was NOT a mistake. The TRUE intended result of the sale was to push back, however briefly, the City of Chicago's insolvency, which is otherwise likely to on Richard M Daley's (Richard the 2nd'a) watch. Young Richie will step down in a term, be followed by 2 equally-democrat-party machine politicians running as 'reformers'(one black, one hispanic, order not yet determined), and the city's crash will happen then.

    Meanwhile, Little John Daley (son of Richard 2nd) will move into the ward of a too-be-indicted alderman and be appointed alderman by the Chicago machine after the indictment. Little John's no-bid and duplicative sewers inspection contract will be forgotten ancient history and he will ascend to the throne.

  5. Dan:

    I live in the Chicago area and I'm very angry at the city's actions with the parking meters. To me, it seemed like just another example of the city out to grab as much revenue as possible, regardless of whether violations actually occurred. Same thing with the city's decision to put cameras on traffic lights and then send tickets through the mail (they sped up the yellow lights when they did this so it would be harder to get through a yellow, allowing them to find more red light "violators").

    You do a very good job probing instances of government abuse and mistakes, of which there are many. I don't think government alone is incompetent, however. Mistakes and abuse by corporations is rampant. But it doesn't seem to get you in a lather the way government mistakes do. I guess you could say it's because we don't pay taxes to corporations, so if we don't like them, we can just not buy their products. But I think overall, your blog leaves the impression that government, at all levels in all places, is one big monumental screw-up, and corporations and business generally get off the hook. Just my two cents.

  6. Henry Bowman:

    A nit-pick, but incorrect spelling has always bothered me for some reason: incompetance --> incompetence.

  7. frankania:

    You're right, Dan. We don't pay taxes to private businesses and when they screw up, they go OUT of business; unless Obama bails them out, that is.
    I don't think the people in govt. are evil; they probably start out with good intentions. It is the OPM (other people's money) and generally complicated bureaucracy that makes them counter-productive, inefficient or dishonest. All governments and all parties.

  8. Dr. T:

    In reply to Dan: We, the citizens of the USA, are supposed to have some say in how our governments run and how they spend our tax dollars. In theory, we can do something about government waste and fraud by electing different people and communicating with our representatives. But, when a corporation screws up and wastes money, the only people who have a say in the matter are shareholders and board members. That's why this web site has more discussions about waste and mismanagement of governments than of corporations. Just my two cents.

    To frankania: I have worked for three state universities and the Veterans Health Administration. My sister worked for a county government and a town government. Our experience is that governments attract disproportionately high percentages of workers who start out with BAD intentions. They want to be petty bureaucrats. They want power without responsibility. They want to bully subordinates, hog credit for their few successes, and blame others for their many failures. They want positions where they can feel superior to the general public who uses government services. Government attracts such scum; it doesn't generally create scum from formerly good employees.

    No, not everyone in government is bad. Just too many of the ones with authority or power.

  9. epobirs:

    Dr. T,

    Corporations have competitors who can take away business if they are more efficient and deliver comparable product for a better price. This is a feature not found in governments.

    Imagine if consumers could pick and choose governments as readily as supermarkets. The USSR would have collapsed far sooner for lack of citizens as they all picked up and left for a more pleasant venue less likely to murder them outright.

  10. mahtso:

    This strikes me as a question for a philosophy class: If the government can't be trusted to run the parks properly, how can the government be trusted to enter a complex agreement to have someone else run those parks?

  11. Allen:

    @mahtso, because the decision on who to contract to is a lot easier than the day to day operations.

  12. Fred:

    Great website. But "incompetance" in the headline is misspelled. Is buying a dictionary not part of your political philosophy?