I spend a lot of time criticising neoliberal policy here, and rightly so. But I also accept that the real right wing libertarian neoliberals argue that we have nothing like a neoliberal world right now and that we really live in a pretty left of centre social democratic environment. I suppose it's to some degree all a matter of perspective: if you're on the economic far right even the Tories seem like dangerous left wingers because they accept that government has a role beyond creating and enforcing private property rights which is all the hard nosed libertarians think it should do, bar waging war.
For some reason I was musing on this earlier this morning when well before dawn I was out walking with my dogs and a simple question occurred to me, which was who pays for street lights in the right wing libertarian model of society?
It's not such a daft question. After all, street lights are a near perfect example of a property which will always be subject to free riding if paid for privately. Suppose for a moment a private supply model was created. So suppose, when I left home this morning I had to put 20p in a meter on a street lamp for a limited period of lighting, and repeat the process every time I turned a corner. Even if I'd done that there would have been no way I could have stopped the couple of other early risers I met this morning enjoying the benefit of the lighting I had paid for. Nor the occasional car that went by doing so either, come to that. It would be inevitable that in this case positive externalities would arise. But in that case resentment would (in neoliberal eyes) likely follow and as a result each and every person might opt for darkness rather than share the light. And that would mean that the street lighting might then not 'pay' and so would be removed, and we'd all be worse off.
Who knows where this could lead, or how grossly inefficient such a model would be in terms of massive admin cost and failure to supply an effective service. It's hardly surprising is it that we came up wiuth a model of local government to do such things? And yet there is no doubt that the model of local government deeply offends neoliberal thinkers. This collectivism is an affront to market perfection.
Now the point may seem facile but I really don't think it is. The argument against government involvement in the economy being put forward almost constantly now has little more logic to it than the argument I have just presented about private street lighting. Of course we can have private sector involvement in health care, for example, but the moment we do disputes about who does and does not benefit from a payment, who is entitled to what and where boundaries are drawn become prevalent. Indeed, if the Health and Social Care Bill becomes law expect a staggering proportion (in the US up to 50%) of all health care spending to be absorbed in boundary disputes about who has contractual obligation to do what and a right to be paid, or not, as a result; all with the aim of stopping free-riding. But wouldn't it be so much better that we pay communally and require cooperation? As we do with street lights? Isn't it glaringly obvious that the model of collective supply on a coordinated basis is vastly more efficient than any private alternative?
And in that case why are the Tories destroying the NHS?