Academic journal article Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council

The Profit Motive in Honors Education

Academic journal article Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council

The Profit Motive in Honors Education

Article excerpt

The following report appeared recently in the British media regarding the "privatization" movement:

UK rail passengers pay the price of privatization

Rail privatization has led to the UK having the most expensive fares in Europe, serious overcrowding and train operating companies entirely reliant on public subsidies, according to a study.

Long distance, day return and season tickets are all about twice the price of similar tickets in France, Germany, Italy and Spain, which have publicly-run rail systems, the study for the TUC [Trade Unions Congress] by academics at the University of Manchester said. Average train fares in the UK increased at three times the rate of average wages between 2008 and 2012.

The study also found that the average age of trains has risen from 16 years in 1996 to 18 years today. Just 1.9bn [pounds sterling] was spent on rolling stock between 2008 and 2012, compared with 3.2bn [pounds sterling] between 1989 and 1993.

More than 90% of new investment in recent years had been financed by Network Rail and came mainly from taxpayer funding or government-underwritten borrowing. (The Daily Telegraph, 7 June 2013: B3)

This bit of insight from the UK, which is still coping with the fallout of the recently departed Baroness Margaret Thatcher's "Thatcherism," reveals a British version of the American political right's obsession with the notion of privatization: that it always does things better; that it is cheaper, more efficient, and qualitatively superior; that it provides greater accountability; and that above all it creates profitability, the key benefit for the profit-takers. Thatcherism promised that privatization would unleash the forces of entrepreneurship, risk-taking, quality improvement, and thereby wealth enhancement while also lightening the taxpayers' burden. Thirty years on, the promise, not to mention the rhetoric (recently revived during her funeral obsequies), seems to have far exceeded the performance, as the Daily Telegraph article would suggest, at least in the case of the de-nationalized railways.

In the U. S. we frequently find the same story. For instance, the hue and cry against Obamacare, which is historically almost unprecedented, holds that the implementation of the Affordable Care Act threatens the so-called "best healthcare system in the world"--best only if you are wealthy and thus health care costs are of little or no consequence to you. The public record increasingly indicates not only that healthcare in the U.S.--with its emphasis on private insurance and privately functioning healthcare providers such as doctors, hospitals, treatment centers, and procedures--is the most expensive in the world but that the national outcomes--in terms of infant mortality, adult longevity, and many other measures--are inferior to most industrialized or "first-world" countries with their existing national healthcare programs.

On another front, we are still coping with the consequences of the radical privatization and deregulation of the financial services industry. Free to maximize their economic interests largely without government oversight after the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Banking Act was repealed, the "too big to fail" banks began their unalloyed pursuit of profit, dealing in highly risky and ultimately debilitating financial instruments, such as CDOs, that ultimately resulted in the financial implosion of 2008. The plaintive retrospective by Alan Greenspan, former Fed chairman, that he thought "banks would be more prudent in their lending practices" sounds breathtakingly naive in retrospect as we all continue to cope with the economic debacle of the Great Recession. The fact that this economic thriller did not become the Great Depression II was due, many analysts from all perspectives agree, to massive government bailouts of these privatized financial behemoths.

Additionally, the following news bites are of interest because they intersect nicely with the specific issues of the profit motive, academic freedom, and academic integrity in higher education. …

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