The latest New Economics Foundation / Tax Justice Network economic mythbuster is out. It's featured in the Guardian and on the NEF website. It's by my good friend Andrew Simms, working with Stephen Reid and challenges the idea that the private sector is more efficient than the state. As they argue:
Towards the end of 2012 a telling interview with the head of the London Olympics, Lord Coe, was published in a national newspaper. "I actually don't believe in big government," said Coe "and half the time I'm never quite sure I believe in government, generally." Dumbfounded, the interviewer Decca Aitkenhead responded: "But without government we wouldn't have had the Olympics." Coe conceded, "No, that is true. That is true."
The myth of private sector superiority says that the private sector is efficient and dynamic, the public sector wasteful and slow; that the more we can get the private sector to run things the better. That the head of a massive public enterprise like the Olympics can so blithely discount what underpins it demonstrates its reach. In fact, while billboard adverts said we had commercial sponsors to thank for every minute of pulsating Olympic action, as little as 6% of costs were met from sponsorship.
The myth is effectively government policy. In 2010 David Cameron spelled out his priorities for government which were to use, "all available policy levers," to make it easier for the private sector to "create a new economic dynamism". The following year Cameron announced that he was "taking on the enemies of enterprise", which included the "bureaucrats in government departments" and the "town hall officials". The chancellor, George Osborne, claimed it wasn't just that the one sphere was generally better than the other. He argued that the public sector was "crowding out" the private sector and needed cutting back.
But, what of the evidence of private sector efficiency?
Read, enjoy and realise that your instincts that this was always a load of old baloney were right.