Jack Ketch And Truly Radical Free-Marketry

We are told of the virtues of the outsourcing of government services on contract as if such a thing had never been attempted before. We are never told of the previous ages in which this was done, how it worked out, and why it was abandoned. It is early days yet. The Americans in Iraq may have taken the first steps back to the age of the mercenary company – under the euphemism of “civilian contractor” – but there were centuries in which practically all military forces were “private”. The state saved money by paying for no standing forces in peacetime, except for the ruler’s bodyguard and a few garrisons; in time of war, it either hired mercenary armies from someone else (such an army was necessarily either already employed, or had turned bandit) or commissioned private individuals to raise them. That is why an officer has something called a “commission”, he was commissioned to raise and lead forces; thus the colonel was originally neither a rank nor a state employee but a private military contractor. A great landowner could recruit troops on his own estates; the modern equivalent would be for Washington to commission important CEOs to raise military units, giving us the First Wal-Mart Infantry or the McDonalds Armour. Why are the free-marketeers stopping short of this?

The government used to pay the colonel for the services of his regiment. To make a profit, therefore, he would need to do two things: cut costs and acquire extra revenues. Cost-cutting could take the form of not supplying his troops properly; they could make it up by looting – both the enemy and their own side’s civilians. Why should he care if his contractual partner in consequence lost the battle? The other major management technique was to have the state pay for soldiers who didn’t exist. Yes, there were reasons why military forces were “nationalised”, and it wasn’t because of “communism” – the burden of incompetence and corruption was simply too great.

Readers of the Jack Aubrey novels will know that the British were better seamen than the French, but that the French, with their national dockyards, built better ships. Tourists are never told how many of the “stately homes of England” were built by crooked army and navy contractors from the proceeds of fraud, larceny and corruption. This may have something to do with the proud British tradition of losing all the battles except the last one.

Privatisation of the police function is well under way, we have private security in shopping malls, gated communities, private prisoner transport and even private prisons. But the prison authorities still feed the prisoners, and are paid by the government. Much money could be saved, and thus returned to its rightful owners the rich, by having the inmates’ families responsible for bringing them food and clothing, as was done for most of human history. Governor and warders should again be remunerated by what they can extort from the prisoners, as they used to be; let the indigent or obstinate accused be cast into oubliettes to starve. (Sweep the bones out once a year.) The condemned should pay extra to have a relatively painless execution, or face the consequences of their inability to compete in the free market for Jack Ketch’s high-priced mercy.

Moreover, owing to the shocking moderation of our modern free-market wusses, our courts and prosecution services are still public. This is also quite unnecessary; in 17th century England men banded together to prosecute the malefactors who had injured them, hiring thief-takers to catch them first. We eagerly await the citizen’s freedom of choice between competing police services, and advertising campaigns offering discounts on arrest and indictment. Even this assumes royal courts; but a truly fearless outsourcing of government services would encourage private jurisdiction. Corporations are already gaining new levels of control over their workforce by means of their responsibility for health insurance, often binding workers to their desks as peasants were bound to the soil. Let the CEO of a company, therefore, have full judicial powers over all his employees, and be able to pocket fines and hang the disloyal.

Posted on April 26, 2012 at 14:50 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: THE ENSLAVING MAMMAL, The Return Of The Feudalist

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