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PPPs are transforming  America

By Henry Lamb
web posted January 28, 2008

There's a lot to be said for laissez-faire, which is "a doctrine opposing governmental interference in economic affairs beyond the minimum necessary for the maintenance of peace and property rights," according to Merriam-Webster.  This is the economic doctrine that allowed the United States to build the world's most powerful civilization.  The line that differentiates the "governmental interference" that is the minimum necessary, however, has moved so far toward government benefit that the very idea of laissez-faire has been lost.

Laissez-faire describes truly free trade.  This is a system in which a willing seller can price his product based on the actual costs of production, plus whatever profit a willing buyer will pay.  This system insures that products will reach the market at the lowest possible price, and that producers will provide whatever products the market is willing to buy. 

Years ago, government assumed the responsibility of protecting buyers from greedy monopolies,
then, protection from faulty products.  Government discovered that taxes not only produced revenue, but could be used to "engineer" the entire society by using taxes to artificially increase the price of products and services government decided people should not buy.  Then government decided to protect employees from too little compensation for their labor, and from unsafe working conditions.  Government decided to protect the environment by limiting access to the materials available to producers. 

What government now calls "free trade," in reality, is not free trade at all, but trade that is dictated and managed by government through taxes, rules, regulations, treaties and even international institutions such as the World Trade Organization.  

A relatively new device government is now using to control the market and engineer the society is called Public Private Partnerships, or PPPs.  This device comes in a wide variety of shapes and colors, and is widely hailed by government, and government partners, to be the answer to virtually any problem.

In some instances, government uses tax dollars to "partner" with private organizations to do government's dirty work.  A good example is the rash of PPPs developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture which pays not-for-profit trade associations to force, or coerce their members to participate in the so-called "voluntary" National Animal Identification System.

Sometimes, private organizations pay the government to gain special privileges.  A good example is the Trans-Texas Corridor partnership.  This PPP gives billions of dollars to the state government in exchange for the privilege of building and operating a toll road - and all the related concessions - for fifty years.   This type of PPP is rapidly growing in popularity among cash-strapped states that have misused their fuel tax and are now suffering from inadequate transportation infrastructure.

A third type of PPP that is widely used allows a government agency to fund  private not-for-profit organizations to lobby Congress and promote policies the agency wants to adopt.    A good example is STAPPA/ALAPCO, two private, not-for-profit organizations that are regularly funded by the Environmental Protection Administration to lobby Congress and promote the desires of the EPA.

Still another type of PPP that is growing in popularity is employed by the Security and Prosperity Partnership.  In this type of PPP, the executive branch of government "partners" with private organizations, and sometimes individuals, to develop policies that can be implemented through changes in rules and regulations without having to bother Congress - or other legislative bodies that represent the people who must comply with the executive policies.

These PPPs bring obvious benefits to the government, and to those selected to receive government money, or the special privileges government bestows.  What they are doing to the economy and  to the American system of government is, in the long term, disastrous.

We have traded the benefits of laissez-faire, with its inequities, for the burdens of a government-managed economy, with its inequities.  We are trading the fundamental principle of government power controlled by the consent of the governed, for the principle of government control of the people.

Organizations that have sold their soul to the government will discover that the government is a cruel master.  They have, or will become, little more than puppets dancing at the end of government's string, only as long as they serve government's purpose. 

People who elect representatives who allow executive agencies to create PPPs such as the Security and Prosperity Partnership will discover that their purpose is not simply to "harmonize" rules and regulations, as boasted by the SPP, but to "harmonize" the freedom provided by America's representative government with the absence of freedom offered by socialist governments. 

Government management of trade and the use of PPPs is transforming America into a socialist nation - or worse.  Once individual freedom is usurped by government, it is rarely, if ever, restored. ESR

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO), and chairman of Sovereignty International.

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