After the orgy of nationalizing the economy, freedom’s foes ought to be snoring it off somewhere, glutted and stupefied. But there’s no rest for the wicked, so they’re corporatizing airports instead. They don’t call it that, of course, lest we imagine little grey bureaucrats filling der Führer’s orders for more poison gas and barbed wire. No, they’re "privatizing" airports. Chicago Midway is their first conquest. Others will follow.
Far from selling property government has no business owning to entrepreneurs who then do with it as they judge best, privatizing is just another gimmick to boost the State’s power. It tries to harness the trust, friendliness and efficiency of the free market for Leviathan’s benefit by leasing, not selling, airports and other assets. The beast retains its stranglehold, decreeing that the property must remain what it was (an airport cannot become a housing development or amusement park, for example), regulating its operations, and subsidizing it with bonds, taxes, and other thieveries. Tragically, businessmen who owe their fortunes to the market cooperate with this fraud, while snakes in the grass — excuse me, think-tanks ballyhoo it as "free market."
Midway’s deal stinks from the get-go. First, it’s part of a "pilot" (don’t blame me: that’s AviationWeek.com’s pun) from the FAA, which is "allowing" up to five airports to "privatize." Here’s our first clue that this scam bears about as much relation to the market as George W. does to George Washington. Free markets never force participants to beg Our Masters’ permission for their transactions.
Our second clue comes from the fact that this has nothing to do with pleasing customers and everything to do with plunder — always Leviathan’s primary motive. Indeed, the Chicago Sun-Times brays about the "windfall of cash" soon to blow through the city’s coffers thanks to the lease its rulers signed with Midway Investment, "a consortium of New York-based Citi Infrastructure Investors, Vancouver-based YVR Airport Services and Boston-based John Hancock Life Insurance." For the next 99 years, the city will funnel the airport’s profits to Midway Investment while the conglomerate manages and maintains the airport. Midway Investment also ponied up a signing fee of $2.5 billion, though neither side uses that term. In fact, both parties avoid calling a spade a spade whenever possible. Fleecing the sheeple is forever an exercise in euphemism, propaganda, and deception.
You can buy a lot for $2.5 billion, but not autonomy. The nitwits at the Sun-Times find it reassuring that Our Masters will be looking over Midway’s shoulder: "Before the city closes this deal, it must nail down specifics on how those services will be maintained," the editors pontificated, "and it must show taxpayers exactly how it plans to oversee the contract. Whenever the private operator falls short, we need to know it will be held accountable." Yeah, right. Give me lazy, incompetent, venal bureaucrats holding private operators accountable instead of the market’s incorruptible, unavoidable competition and choice. Then again, since we’ve left every semblance of the market far behind, bureaucracy’s all that’s left.
A few savvy souls already sense something amiss in the speed with which the city’s aldermen approved the deal — "just four days after most of them received copies of the plan.…In this town," continues Greg Hinz of Crain’s Chicago Business, "fast deals and little scrutiny often mean someone is making off with a boodle." He notes that "various lawyers and financial types, none of them a stranger to City Hall" want $19 million for abetting this swindle.
Indeed, the only stranger at City Hall is Sam Citizen, taxpayer and "customer." Sam has no choice about the first categorization and precious little about the second: if he wants to fly, he must patronize the corporatized airport since Leviathan prohibits entrepreneurs from building competitors (and no, O’Hare doesn’t count since the city owns it, too). Ditto for the roads that Chicago and other localities are also corporatizing. Leviathan thereby kicks Sam in the teeth yet again: not only does Sam continue forking over the taxes that subsidize leased infrastructure, corporatizing transforms him into a "user" who must now pay a "fee" to avail himself of what his taxes bought.
And so toll booths and transponders sprout on corporatized roads without a corresponding reduction in taxes. At airports, higher prices reflect the abuse. Even the Sun-Times acknowledges in the midst of its cheerleading that "Midway customers are almost guaranteed to pay more for a burger and to park their cars…" They’ll also pay more for what brings them there in the first place: airline tickets. No wonder "airlines have argued that privatization can exacerbate an airport’s natural monopoly if landing fees and other economic concessions are not regulated." Substitute "government-granted monopoly" for the do-do of "natural monopoly" and take this as further proof that corporatization is only another of Leviathan’s many monstrosities. Free markets never "need" regulation. In fact, regulation harms them since it stymies their inherent discipline, honesty, and protection of consumers.
Sadly, Chicago’s cahoots with Midway Investment are part of a trend. Governments increasingly lease the infrastructure we buy them to corporations. Not only do the aforementioned think-tanks justify this, so do policy wonks at the unconstitutional and dotty Department of Transportation [DOT]. These bozos fancy themselves free-marketers because they "[seek] to turn highways into commodities that can be sold or leased to private firms and used by motorists for a price." Only bureaucrats pretend that licensing corporations to extort fees from forced consumption of the State’s monopolies will "[unleash] the private sector and [introduce] market forces [that] could lead to innovation and more choices for the public."
Nevertheless, "critics" fear a massive market coup. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D [sic for socialist]-Ore.) hyperventilated, “Everything they’re doing is designed to drive things to privatization." Pop a pill, Pete. These pencil-pushers have "introduced" about as many "market forces" as Marx and Lenin did. Their pet scheme, the one that "turns highways into commodities," is plain old double dipping. Known as "congestion pricing," it charges drivers whose taxes have already built the roads another tax for using them. No wonder Pete described one congestion-pricer at the DOT as "a little pointy-headed neocon with grand ideas about the future of transportation.”
You and I have grand ideas, too. The difference is that Congressional cretins haven’t handed us $1 billion in other people’s money with which to foist them on a helpless public: "Last year, Congress decided not to dictate how the [DOT] could spend its discretionary funds. … top department officials were staring at nearly $1 billion. And they knew exactly how to spend it." Indeed. By staggering coincidence, many of the "officials" wind up working for the companies with whom they share the loot.
Whether it’s corporatization, "private-public partnerships," or "out-sourcing," Leviathan’s mating with the private sector is vilest bestiality. Those who promote such unnatural union despise Liberty, however much they prattle about markets or quote Milton Friedman. And when the collaboration fails, as it must, these cowardly traitors never shoulder the blame: they let the market take the rap. With friends like that, freedom needs no Demopublicans.
Ah, privatization. We used to call it "fascism."
Becky Akers [send her mail] writes primarily about the American Revolution.