Sunday, April 17, 2005

What kind of "privatization" is this?

Florida Privatizes Child Welfare Programs:
MIAMI - Florida has become the first state in the nation to fully privatize its child welfare programs, after signing a $75 million contract to hand over those responsibilities in its last two counties.

The deal Friday with Our Kids Inc. gives the group the right to handle all foster care, adoption and child welfare licensing operations in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, where about 5,000 children are now under state care.

"The entire state will now benefit from qualified experts that are equipped to know and meet the needs of their communities," Department of Children and Families Secretary Lucy Hadi said.

The effort has been a cornerstone of Gov. Jeb Bush's plan to improve the state's troubled child protection system.

The Miami-Dade and Monroe contract is the 23rd community-based care agreement between the state and a privately run agency. But in a shift from the other contracts, the state has agreed to pay Our Kids more money if the number of children it handles rises more than 3 percent, officials said.
Read that excerpt closely: that's not full privatization, that's only privatization of one segment. True privatization means funding too, not just administration. Nice try, Florida and Jeb Bush. B for effort, but a D+ for actual performance.

I'm not denying there are children we need to take care of, but when we leave charity up to government, government does it so badly. Private agencies compete with each other by doing the best jobs possible. There is no competition within government for performing the best service -- why else do we joke, "Close enough for government work?" And since government doesn't have to be efficient, because it can always raise taxes or borrow instead of worrying about a feasible business model, government can fail over and over.

I'm not accusing government employees of not having hearts. After all, they're human like the rest of us. But in the case the article cites, when a little girl was placed in the wrong hands, government had no competition. The case worker's only incentive was to do the right thing. On the other hand, a private agency's incentive is not only doing what's right, but staying in business. If it screws up and lets a little girl die by negligence, it loses its contract.

And as I've said before (at the end of this entry), government-induced "charity" deprives our spirits of an ineffable American quality. We need to demonstrate our charity as free and compassionate individuals, not good little citizens who figure government will do it because we pay our taxes. Letting government take care of those less fortunate is no different than letting other individuals do charity for us: though we don't want to admit it, we're afraid to do it ourselves. We're afraid to get our hands dirty. We're afraid to face the harsh realities of life, that there are those less fortunate who need our help. Letting government do it for us "sanitizes" our perception of the world.

I say that the world is an ugly, horrible place, and if we saw that up close and personal, we'd be compelled to do more than just pay our taxes. We'd be truly pushed to make things better.


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