Privatization woes

I was listening a bit ago to a piece on NPR about the privatization of Ghana Telecom, which is being protested by folks who think that Vodafone isn’t paying enough. This seems to be a frequent problem when state-controlled industries are privatized — consider, for example, Russia’s oligarch problem.

Now, it may be that simple corruption, or its lemon-socialist cousin, “what’s good for General Motors is good for the country,” adequately explains this phenomenon. But I also wonder if there may be a problem of an inadequate market. It’s not easy to assemble the resources to bid on a large national company, and many of these sales have a handful of potential buyers at best.

Perhaps worse, however, is that there often seems to be no reserve price in privatization sales; the government commits to sell, and then goes looking for buyers.  And as every negotiator knows, a party that has to make a deal is going to get absolutely worked over.

It also reminds me of a hypothesis I developed a while back.  One hears bandied about (though less so in these post-Washington-Consensus days, largely because no one seems to want to nationalize industries anymore)(Ed. Note 2021: OK, more so in these post-post-Washington-Consensus days) the principle that nations with leftist tendencies suffer from a dearth of private investment because capital shuns the risk of nationalization. I wonder if there may be a parallel phenomenon where nations with rightist tendencies suffer from a dearth of infrastructure because the electorate shuns the risk of privatization.

This was, for example, what I thought when I heard about the high-speed rail plan proposed for California; I think it’s a good idea on the merits, but I think it’s highly likely that we would wind up spending ninety hojillion dollars on the thing and then Sacramento would sell it to private investors for eighty-five cents and a meatball hoagie.

Originally published on LiveJournal

That was creepy

Last night, someone knocked on our door. I’d been sort of expecting this, because there’s a vacant unit in the complex, and the management always puts their “RENT” sign on our shutters, so people decide to come talk to us, and then Finn has a conniption and we have to calm him down. However, I did not expect people to come knocking at ten at night.

So I open the door, and there stands a sort of portly middle-aged guy with a mustache and a just slightly lazy eye. He says “What room is Elizabeth in? ‘Cause I think she’s in a situation that she doesn’t want to be in.”

“I…don’t know.”

“Yeah you do.”

“No, I really don’t.”

“Don’t play games. You know. She lives in the complex back there.”

Now, I think maybe I’ve met Elizabeth in the parking lot, but I’m not sure which of the other tenants she is, and I certainly don’t know which unit she’s in, and I’m not really comfortable unleashing this guy on her.

“Look, I just live here. I don’t know the other tenants.”

“Oh.” He seems slightly taken aback. “You’re not the owner?”

“No, I just rent this unit. I don’t know where Elizabeth lives.”

“Well, she’s drunk, and this guy drove her home, and I … followed them back here, and I waited five minutes, and he hasn’t come out yet, and I just want to go check on her, and if she’s OK, then I’m out of here.” He pauses. “She’s a friend. We work together.”

…OK, so now we’re out of mysterious hostile creepy and into stalker creepy.

“Sorry, I don’t know which unit she’s in.”

This is a little bit of a lie. I suspect it was Elizabeth who came home about an hour ago and felt bad because we disciplined Finn for barking at her. She parked next to our car, and that spot belongs to unit 3. However, I have no reason to help this guy, and a general “don’t be complicit in the creepy” reason not to.

“Do you mind if I go around back?”

I kinda do, but it’s not really my business, and I’m not sure what I could say.

“Go ahead, if it’s open.”

I guess it was, because I didn’t hear from him again. I feel sorry for Elizabeth, though, and complicit in the ew.

Originally published at LiveJournal