Privatization and Private vs. Public Profits

My new column is up at  A sample:

The most frequent argument I hear is that "its wrong to make a profit on public lands."  Most recently, I heard this from a manager of a large campground and lakefront day use area who works for a federal agency.  I was not normally in my usual diplomatic mood, and I snapped "so you work for free?"

If my company operated that park for the federal agency, a park that nets about $300,000 a year in visitor revenue, my company would probably make $15,000 or $20,000 a year in profit doing so, if all goes well, which it seldom does (this is a very low margin business).  I have no idea what that park manager makes in salary and benefits, but I would be surprised if it were less than $55,000 plus benefits, and probably more.  Why is his $55,000  "clean" but my $15,000 for the same task "dirty"?  Particularly when the increase in his and his staff's salaries and their increases in benefits has left the park financially tottering and on the brink of closure?

Go read it all.

Update:  I have added some comments on privatization design on the Privatization blog


  1. marque2:

    " I was in a meeting with two California state legislators discussing initiatives to improve the financial health of their state parks organization. "

    California state parks are actually one of the few profitable departments in the state. the problem is that the State raids the park fund for other dubious purposes, and makes them raise the gate fee. Just 10 years ago it was $3 to get in now it is $10 all because the state is trying to sap more and more funds.

    We do hear whenever we have to vote for a tax increase that they are going to close a whole bunch of marginal parks, but that is to scare us into voting for a tax. Last time they closed the parks to scare us the state actually lost revenue rather than save money.

  2. Greg Swann:

    If rent-seeking is a poor business decision, is it then somehow not rent-seeking?

    Would you disagree that "privatization" as you use the word is simply crony capitalism, socializing the proceeds of state-owned assets to yourself?

    Moreover, would you insist that "privatizing" public parks will not create a permanent lobby for the maintenance of the statist status quo -- much as "private" prison operators are big fans of the drug laws?

  3. marque2:

    No, because he is actually renting the state owned property for business purposes, much like I could privately rent my store front to you. State benefits because it gets the rent for the business, instead of losing money on the property, and the business benefits from the profit of the operations.

    I am not sure what laws could be passed to make parks used more. I guess Warren could campaign for mandatory vacation days? High speed rail to remote regional parks? Seems like your last point is quite a stretch.

  4. Greg Swann:

    If the state owned black people, or if you did, would Warren not be committing a crime by renting their labor? Would he have the right to seek profits from an imputed business asset you have no right to own and he has no right to control?

    No one here understands rent-seeking, apparently, starting with the host.

  5. marque2:

    So Federal and state park land is in slavery?

    Free the parks. They shall overcome some day!

    The parks shall not be forced to sit in the back of the bus!

    Maybe you can come up with a good analogy instead of this tripe - going on about slavery is similar to comparing things to NAZI's - a poor mans Godwin argument.

  6. Greg Swann:

    No, it is not wrong, because coercive rent-seeking ALWAYS consists of human slavery, taking the labor of one person and conferring it unearned upon another.

    Warren Meyer himself has no problem seeing this when it's a state-employed aparatchik sucking on the tax-payers' tit. But seemingly he can't see his own image in the picture.

    Do you want to understand what I am talking about, or are you just making a public display of sticking your fingers in your ears? This link

    illustrates why all coercive rent-seeking is necessarily slavery.

    I've won this debate, hands down, from day one. This is plausibly why our host is only willing to talk about his rent-seeking praxis from a remove and in the abstract.

    My contention is that there is no longer any room for doubt that Warren Meyer's business is a crony-capitalist, rent-seeking enterprise.

    If I'm wrong, I can be proved wrong. If all you have to offer up is insults, spare yourself the ignominy of an ugly, back-handed public concession.

  7. marque2:

    I don't know what you have won - you come off as a raving loonie, and your article has no bearing. Warren isn't forcing anyone to let him use the land. He is negotiating fair payments for the use and actually in most cases saving states money. Nothing illegal immoral or coerced that I can see. Even in CA where the parks are a cash cow he could make it a bigger cash cow.

    I think you need to iron out a few of the bugs and reconcile your philosophies a bit better before you can claim victory. All I see is an incoherent rant.

  8. Greg Swann:

    Uh huh.

    1. The land is expropriated.

    2. The proceeds to maintain the land are stolen by taxation or by other types of coercive rent-seeking.

    3. Warren Meyer makes his living exploiting assets stolen for him by armed thugs.

    4. This is one of many flavors of crony-capitalism, which is itself one of many types of coercive rent-seeking.

    These are all factual statements -- and you know it.

  9. marque2:

    I can't even argue with this. If you believe all this you have won, but you have a bizarre definition of stolen, I can tell.

    2: doesn't follow from one, or any of your arguments. Most park revenue is from entry fees from people who voluntarily go to the park, in CA, there is a positive cash flow.

    3: Armed thugs - again just a random assertion that has no bearing on reality.

    4: OK, so the Warren supports armed insurrection to steal land from citizens, and tear down their houses, I suppose, so he can profit from a natural park. OK

  10. Greg Swann:

    The patented Elizabeth Warren quibble came up at Facebook. Here is my response:

    Living in the only way possible, under the master's lash, is very different from deploying that lash to one's own advantage.

    The distinction is easy to see: Am I being exploited by a criminal state, or am I seeking to exploit that criminality in my own behalf?

  11. Greg Swann:

    Bless you. Thank you. Soiling yourself to effect revenge upon me is silly, but your self is yours to deface.

    I trust we are clear: I have been right about this all along.

    Warren Meyer surely knows this, as do many others reading here.

    The spitball-flingers may or may not know that they are the stout champions of the very evils they claim to oppose, but since it's all spitballs all the way down, who cares?

  12. marque2:

    ??? :-S

  13. Greg Swann:

    > ???

    You lost. Publicly. You can't admit it. Ho hum.

  14. gblack:

    I actually would prefer Warren over public management. At least he can be fired for not doing his job, while a government employee can only be promoted or transferred to deal with bad behavior.

  15. Greg Swann:

    What Meyer proposes is the economic model of fascism: public ownership, private control. It's always a disaster, since the standard of value becomes not market superiority but political pull. Cf., e.g., Atlas Shrugged.

  16. Greg Swann:

    Hey @coyoteblog If you knowingly rent a stolen car, what's your culpability?……— Greg Swann (@gswann) May 22, 2013