What do you call a private, profit-driven, market solution to a public, collective concern? I call it a business plan masquerading as public policy. I call it TARP.
Those on the political right claim that the achievement of personal responsibility commingled with the privatization of public services and institutions will guarantee social equity, freedom, and inclusion. To this end, they champion an ideology intent on uprooting public institutions by architecting a world premised less, in the words of Pierre Bourdieu, “on the rational pursuit of ends collectively arrived at and collectively ratified,” and more on the suffocation of the commons.
Some days I wonder whether terms like “public good” and “the commons” will be recognizable to my children. At their core, public institutions are intended to support the public good. In theory, at least, they ought to reflect the indigenous needs of “everyday” people and remain both accessible and accountable to the communities in whose trust they’ve been chartered. But in an era of “the privatization of everything,” what successful examples do we have of public—not private— solutions to collective social challenges?
For nearly four years now the federal government’s response to the economic crisis has been characterized by a cavalcade of bailout programs for the largest banks and financial institutions, with notably little assistance offered to citizens. The U.S. unemployment rate, for instance, remains virtually unchanged since the beginning of the crisis in mid-2007. Instead of enacting programs aimed at reducing unemployment or the incidence of poverty the government has (without much oversight) introduced public funds into the private banking system in hopes of restoring private lending to pre-crisis levels through the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).
TARP was created by the passage of H.R. ...