BEWARE ARGUMENTS FOR PRIVATIZATION
October 15, 2019 at 6:31 AM - Views: 8 #186239
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OCTOBER 15, 2019
Advocates of corporate takeovers show dysfunctional public airports and ignore functional ones…
by NATHAN J. ROBINSON
Why are American airports so bad? If you ask CNBC, it’s because too many of them are public. This recent video from the business channel examines airports around the world and compares them to airports in the United States. Singapore’s Changi Airport, it says, has a butterfly garden and a movie theater. Qatar’s Hamad Airport has a swimming pool and a gym. Munich’s airport has a pop-up holiday market at Christmastime. And then there’s LaGuardia which… just sucks. In fact, American airports generally are depressing and decrepit.
The culprit, CNBC suggests, is government. “For the most part, in the U.S., airports are publicly owned,” it tells us. Europe “has taken the lead on privatizing its airports” and more than 50% of European airports have some form of private ownership. The video quotes a senior vice president of Moody’s saying that in the U.S. “there is no profit motive,” and the European airports have found “better ways to extract higher dollar values from their passengers.” But “in the ace of decaying U.S. infrastructure, a handful of airports have started to abandon the public model,” we are told, such as LaGuardia’s public-private partnership on a new renovation. An official from the Port Authority says that “the government has limited funds” and “there are many things that private enterprise does better than public agencies, and one of them is actually operate both the commercial and the operational side of an airport.” Private companies are funding all sorts of upgrades at airports now, the video says, and as airports get older and more crowded, they will be forced in coming years to “seek out new sources of financing” to “compete on the world stage.”
The message of the video is clear: the problem with American airports is that we haven’t let corporations run them. If we’re going to keep up with the rest of the world, we need to privatize now. If we want nice things like the other countries have, we need to dump our inefficient public model and allow profit-seeking companies full control over our airports.
It is a familiar message, of course. You hear it about schools, too: our public schools are decaying and inefficient, we must privatize them and introduce a profit motive in order to improve them. In the case of schools, it has always been quite obvious why the argument is stupid: the countries with the best schools, the ones that are beating us, have not privatized their schools. They have just invested in having good public schools, which we haven’t. If we want to “compete,” we don’t need a corporate model, we just need to spend some money making our schools better. (Personally I have never been tempted by the pro-privatization argument in education for the simple reason that I attended an excellent public school, and so I know there is nothing about a school being public that prevents it from working well, if it’s well-funded and well-staffed.)
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