Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Privatization's Kernel

The idea that the private sector can do everything better than government isn't just slapdash political economy, not just a nauseating conservative/libertarian mantra, and not just the self-fulfilling prophecy of right wing politicians that strip government of resources and then point at its failings; no, sometimes it carries a kernel of truth, as in this instance (full story, via), where taxpayer-funded private contractors in Iraq have shown a terrific capacity for rape, abuse, evasion, and cover-up involving dozens of women:

All of them have been subject to humiliating and dehumanizing conditions, had crimes committed against them by their co-workers, and these corporations are claiming that they signed away their Constitutional right to due process of the law with a trial by jury. Not only that, but since the crimes took place in a foreign war zone, the military justice system doesn't apply to them, either.
This breeds lawlessness inside the contractor zones, for obvious reasons. When there's no accountability, why modify behavior?
I can't be certain, and I would only go so far in claiming to speak for them, but I believe the default libertarian response to a situation like this is sonorous praise for the virtues of competition. If only there were more private firms doing similar work in Iraq, these women could switch to a less rape-prone workplace, and the rape-prone firms would lose their talented workforce, suffer public scorn, and go out of business. Suffice to say Islam may not be the most ridiculous ideology afflicting Iraq right now; it certainly has some competition.

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