Outsourcing Of Government

The classical paradigm of “feudalism” can be summarised in six words: “outsourcing of core government services on contract”. Historians writing at the peak of twentieth-century statism, whether welfare-capitalist or socialist, clearly had no sympathy with this phenomenon and usually employed “feudal” as an adjective qualifying the noun “disintegration” or something even worse. Nationalist historiography was particularly liable to assume that bigger was better and that anything that delayed the emergence of the omnicompetent nineteenth-century state was of the devil. But by the year 2000 politico-economic orthodoxy was requiring not only greater freedom for non-governmental players but also the reversal of state centralisation, the destruction of the professional civil service and the privatisation of what had been regarded as core government functions. In the “feudal” paradigm, police, justice and the military were all outsourced, and in England remained so until the 19th century, with privately engaged thief-takers, prisons run for profit, military units raised by landowners, and the squire sitting as Justice of the Peace.

This means that our experience of truly public administration is actually quite brief. The proponents of privatisation, however, appear to have no idea that it has all been done before, or what happened when it was, or about the very good reasons why it was abandoned.

Posted on April 15, 2010 at 11:54 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: GETTING MEDIEVAL, Economic Universals In Funny French

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