Commentary

State parks proposal highlights the ongoing march to vending machine government

Well, that didn’t take long. Yesterday in this space, I wrote the following about the conclusion of the Dix land sale to the city of Raleigh:

“Though they were dragged kicking and screaming to the deal, the folks on the right wing remain unrepentant. Even as Raleigh moves toward the creation of a major public ‘destination park, the privatizers and conservative ideologues continue to push to dismantle all thing public — including institutions like parks, zoos and aquariums that ought to be forever public. Don’t think for a second that yesterday’s  success will stop that effort — either in North Carolina or around the country.”

Today, the folks at a local conservative think tank were only too happy to confirm the warning by distributing an essay in which they called for making North Carolina parks “pay their own way” via the initiation of an admission fee system. After that, of course, will come proposals to sell “naming rights” to state parks (get ready for “Duke Energy Park at Umstead” or “the Smithfield Foods Park on the Eno River”)  and then, of course, the big kahuna: full privatization.

A few years back in a column entitled “Vending machine government,” I laid out what this is really all about:

“These ideologues simply hate the idea of a strong, well-funded government in which the people come together democratically and intentionally to a tackle society’s problems. Instead, they favor a weak, decentralized, privatized government modeled after our modern, consumerist private economy.

Rather than a system in which citizens hire and empower a corps of skilled and well-funded professionals to help them build a better society for all, the market fundamentalists want a government in which ‘consumers’ ‘shop’ for services and public institutions ‘compete’ for ‘customers.’

Hence, the moves to privatize pre-K and K-12 education, jack up college and university tuition, add new toll roads, eliminate public financing of campaigns, defund public health care, and enact a new package of fee increases that will extract nearly $100 million annually from persons who ‘consume’ things like services of the court system and driver’s education.”

Sadly, as this latest proposal makes clear, nothing has changed. The Right still hates the idea of strong public institutions that are free to all and remains bent on their elimination — even if they have to nickel and dime them to death.

2 Comments


  1. Governor McCheese

    May 7, 2015 at 6:51 pm

    I love all these “think” tankers who wax righteous about the free market, the glories of competitive enterprise…while opting out of these activities in favor of cushy jobs at plutocrat-funded nonprofits.

  2. Alan

    May 11, 2015 at 9:50 pm

    They only opt out as many of these “academics” (that was a joke…) couldn’t survive in the real world.

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