My friend, Neil Remington Abramson, originally intended to comment in relation to some points I made, questioning the wisdom of destroying educational infrastructure. His sentiments ended up covering a wider territory, so I wanted to publish them separately, and do so with permission:
The trouble with selling the schools, or even just the large attached playgrounds (which could make sense), is that a huge cash flow would be placed in the hands of a bureaucracy that has never shown any fiscal responsibility, be it school trustees or a provincial government. Cash-strapped provincial governments could use the excess cash as a justification to cut further school allocations. A school board ends up once again trying to balance budgets, bloated with bureaucratic salaries, unnecessary expenses and boondoggles. Trustees could buy more temporary labor peace with bloated teacher salary increases, setting up further unrealistic expectations for future increases. Soon the lands would be gone, and also the money, and we would be back where we started, and where we are already. So there’s no point in selling school properties in the first place.
Perhaps instead of selling the school grounds, we could “sell” the bureaucrats instead. Get rid of them. I bet that private corporations could provide more efficient governance than what we have. Instead of voting for a mayor (or premier? or prime minister?) every three years, we could vote for which company gets the governance contract. That preserves the democracy, with less potential for boondoggle.
On a related note, I bet we could collect the trash a lot more cheaply, using contract employees. In Calgary, we discovered sanitation engineers made $70,000 a year, though maybe this included overtime. Years of easy contract negotiations made it all possible. I bet the same principle applies throughout the public sector. Here in Vancouver, Translink has 19 senior managers all making $250,000+/year plus 20% bonuses for “meeting their goals.” Some of us just get fired for not meeting our goals. Translink let 1 manager go, due to public outrage. What about the other 18? It’s not like they’re the ones driving the buses. I’d be willing to take on one of their jobs for 40% less and I bet lots of people could be found to do it for 25% of what they are paid. Why not?!
I wonder if the same principles of public versus private engagement could be applied to health care or education. The Japanese have public/private healthcare and their system works better than ours, if you are assessing in terms of costs, relative to how long people actually live.
I fear I am suggesting sacrilege, but the cost of government is out of control. We truly need education, healthcare and transportation networks. Maybe we need foreign affairs. On the other hand, do we really need an armed forces capable of liberating foreign countries from themselves? I bet that Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas, will be shown to be correct. There would be a lot of government we could scrap, if democracy actually extended to we, the people, getting to say what we were willing (and not willing) to pay for.