The Privatisation of America

Paul Raven @ 02-03-2010

Key West conch republic bumper stickerJohn Robb has just re-posted USA Inc.“, a speculative future-history essay he wrote back in 2007, meant to be read as if “written from the perspective of a think tank that’s operating in support of the status quo economic elites in 2025.” He saw the recession coming, predicted an increasing entrenchment of US forces in unwinnable open-source guerrilla conflicts, and riffed on these themes to predict a future where massive government debt leads to the privatisation of… well, pretty much everything. [image by szlea]

Roads, waterworks, military bases, schools, parks, and much more were quickly sold at appropriate prices. Attempts by government’s to retain ownership and rent them as multi-year leases were initially successful, but as the crisis deepened the market cooled to these schemes. Within a year of the start of what is incorrectly but popularly termed “The Great Theft,” outright sales of assets to global investment funds, corporations and individuals were by far more common. The speed of this transfer in ownership has been unmatched by any example prior or since. By 2015, less than three years after the panic began, upwards of 60% of all public assets from the national to the local levels were formally in private hands.

Note that Robb says this is not a future he desires or advocates, but that it seems nonetheless more plausible as events develop; for extra chewiness, compare and contrast with Tim Maly’s “The Free Freeways” Futurismic essay about the seccession of the US highway system.

I think I can safely predict that a lot of you will say Robb’s USA Inc. could never happen, and those of you who are American citizens would be better qualified to make that judgemnet than I… but I’d be very interested to hear your reasoning. Is Robb’s style of doomsaying just a symptom of the inherently self-critical character of American politics, and hence an indication that the problems he’s flagging up are already being grappled with at a subliminal level?

Or is the feeling that it couldn’t happen merely a form of knee-jerk wishful thinking and denial – “too big to fail” scaled up to a whole nation?