During the first half of the century, people looked at their schools, hospitals, transport systems, mail companies, prisons and a whole host of other services and realised that if they all got together and paid for them to be run by the state, they'd be more efficient and distributed/run fairly. So we gradually acquired state railways, a National Health Service, pensions and other benefits and government-run schools.
Then governments stopped investing in such services properly, because while taxpayers demanded top quality services, they didn't want to pay for them - except in genuinely civilised countries like Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. These services declined - not terribly, but appreciably.
Then a new bunch of lying, smart-suited gits came along and said that 'efficiency' was the preserve of capitalism, because 'competition' would drive prices down. The Conservatives fell for this hook line and sinker, because they don't believe in all of us pulling together anyway - they want competition between citizens. So the rich can buy better services and the rest of us have to put up with whatever we can afford. If you think that's fine, look at the American health service, which takes up far more of the national income than the British one, yet leaves 46 MILLION people outside the healthcare system, on top of a decline in wages since the 1970s. So much for efficiency. The drive to make a profit contradicts the desire for quality - you only have to look at private prisons, 'outsourced' school meals and hospital cleaning or privatised railways to see that profits are derived by cutting corners.
The little things get to me on a daily basis - not being able to afford dental work, Coke machines in schools, 'sponsored' roundabouts, adverts on everything. Prisoners given no chance for rehabilitation because education, drug treatment and pyschiatric help are expensive - and now my institution never mentions the social and intellectual benefits of education: instead, we have a 'business' model in which 'efficiency' conquers all. How 'efficient' is opening a new world to a student through a good book or a fiery discussion? Not at all - so let's get rid of it. O Brave New World.
Think of this: imagine a world without the BBC. No licence fee, you might think. Brilliant. Then you notice that the news is a bit lightweight. Fewer overseas correspondents. Less politics - your advertisers don't want you upsetting the government. Then perhaps the consumer investigations will disappear - your advertisers certainly don't want you criticising them. Perhaps Top Gear, already a whore for the car industry, stops saying anything negative at all. Your soaps start featuring little plugs for products. The weather report tells you to get down to B and Q to buy a barbecue - and suddenly your world has no space not festooned with adverts.
You kick in the TV and lacerate your foot. You dial 118 999 and after a while, it's answered somewhere in Southeast Asia. After some negotiation, a private ambulance arrives, meter running. You look through the brochures, trying to decide which hospital you should go to - the ambulance driver's suggestions carry a hint of 'on commission'. They all look the same - reassuring doctors, smiling nurses, TV in every room, but there's no price list and you can't tell which one's best. You give up and pick the first one on the pile. Oh dear - 15 miles is expensive, and your insurance doesn't cover the ambulance trip. Nor, when you arrive in a state of considerable delirium, does it cover self-inflicted wounds, and treatment will max out your credit card, so you accept an expensive, branded aspirin from a tired doctor wearing a Boots the Chemist white coat and a bandage and hope you get better. Oops - the hospital cleaning has been outsourced to a company which provides inadequate numbers of ununionised, untrained cleaners who, unmotivated by the recently-reduced minimum wage and long hours, don't make the best job of it. So you pick up MRSA.
Time off to recover? No chance - benefits have been cut and privatised, and you're not 'deserving' - you hobble back to minimum wage work and never walk properly again, and lose your job as a postman for one of the private services. You turn to minor crime and end up in a privatised cell for 23 hours a day, losing your skills, getting ill on no exercise and the worst, cheapest food available and picking up a drug habit and some useful criminal skills. On your release you find that your kids, having departed Coke High with no qualifications but a conviction that fizzy drinks help the world to sing 'in perfect harmony', can't support you or even themselves.
All this is because you don't want to pay taxes. Of course, it will only happen to other people. Poor people. You and your kids can go to private schools, elite universities and professional jobs - unsullied by the predations of companies owned by your pension fund and encouraged by the governments you vote in because they talk about 'hard-working families' needing tax-breaks, about 'choice' and efficiency. Not your fault. When they steal from you, smash up your SUV, rob your mobile phone, it's because they're evil, feckless scum who don't want to work or better themselves. Isn't it?
(I gather the US isn't far from this dystopian vision already).
All this, actually, is just a plea for you to read John Harris's piece in today's Guardian, in which he warns us all of what to expect over the next few years. It's grim. Here's a little bit on hospital cleaning:
Don't vote Labour - they love this stuff because it's not socialism and they're all joining the boards of private service providers. Don't vote Tory. They love this stuff because it's not socialism and they own the private service providers. Oh dear.
Sorry. I seem to have become suddenly rather angry. The sooner I move to Norway, the better.