The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Rave

February 15, 2013

No authority to auction off public property

The political atmospherics surrounding Attorney General Kathleen Kane and Governor Tom Corbett drew the spotlight to the collapse last week of the scheme to outsource Pennsylvania's $3.5 billion state lottery to a British company.

It fell to General Kane, barely two months in office, to review the state's contract with London-based Camelot Global Services. She found the contract did not meet the measure of state stature or constitutional standards, which left the lottery under state employee management and the Camelot contract in a state of confusion.

While the particulars are not trivial and may be argued within the wonkish weeds of legal opinion and revenue policy, there is a big picture measure being missed in the Corbett administration's commitment to privatization.

It takes us back to the "you didn't build it" national divide so frequently chanted at separate party conventions last summer.

Free enterprise enthusiasts emphasize the industrious, risk-taking, pioneering entrepreneurs unleashed from crushing taxation and regulation. They emphasize individualism.

Those who see strength-through-unity emphasize economic progress as the offspring of a social contract that creates the context for individual success through public investment in transportation, education, well being and peace.

Both viewpoints properly borrow from each other. But they should not steal, which, regrettably, appears to be the Corbett administration's definition of privatization.

The governor's policies bend toward the sale or outsourcing to private ownership and management such revenue-generating assets as the state liquor store monopoly and the state-run lottery system and market-capture opportunities that result from compulsory public education.

The very reason these enterprises are attractive to the private investment is that they are state-enforced opportunities. They are brands, markets and value created by laws, regulations and capital extracted and invested under threat of imprisonment.

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