I have a prediction: there will be widespread but minor incidents of disruption, perhaps the largest likely disruption is to the schools, but the thing is this: the world will not end. We will get back to normal pretty quickly and the most of the disruption will be avoided by the simple expedient of working from home, coordinated volunteering, or taking a taxi or whatever. Annoying, expensive maybe, but not a disaster.
However, the idea of a strike is to show what the employer – in this case us the public – what it’s taking for granted; that they can’t do without the particular people going on strike. Its right to consider it on that basis, rather than focusing on one day of disruption.
I’m going we imagine we can legally and might actually, sack the entire public sector and then, as a public, replace it with something better.
This is exactly the set of circumstances simulated by the BBC in The Street that Cut Everything but we wouldn’t have the silly rules imposed by TV crews to make interesting viewing. So what would happen?
Well, I’m sure we can do without Tax Collectors, who with no sense of irony whatsoever have come to express solidarity. We can definitely loose them, having shut down the entire public sector. After that, the Adam Smith Institute’s analysis of The Street that Cut Everything applies:
If [as in real life] private money could have been used to replace services, any entrepreneur in the area would have jumped at the chance to make a profit providing lighting, or collecting rubbish. But then six weeks for just a handful of households is not enough to merit that kind of endeavour. Instead of rationing public services within strict limits, a whole service industry involving growth and increasing productivity could have been created, particularly if done on a larger, longer-term scale
I notice I’ve made some assumptions, that the Unions think that this is about the particular strikers who consider themselves practically irreplaceable, and that we can in fact replace them legally. The fact is that, according to the socialist party, we can sack workers with impunity after 12 weeks, and any sensible employer would do just that, unless they valued the skills and experience and the continuity made possible by retaining the particular workers.
Of course, it doesn’t matter. If the Unions want to argue that it’s their labour that we can’t do without, then they should take note:
[In the Street that Cut Everything the] residents were also called upon to devote their personal time to council services. However, this neglects the fact that we have a medium of exchange. Instead of effectively bartering their labour, the reality is that the residents would have used their wages to pay for expert services.
That’s right,it’s the skills that make the free-market efficient, the division of labour among specialists so that less labour has to be done for the same outcome.
You can be sure that with a single indication that a General Strike won’t be resolved, a small army of wide-boys, taxi-drivers, coach companies and white-van men (and more than a few of the smarter strikers) would be unleashed to solve the little problems of stuff not working, particularly in transport and infrastructure maintenance. I’ve known people to step outside and fix their own phone lines after a storm, its a small step to seeing them fix traffic lights during a strike. Given some time, a little leadership and rapid deregulation, every single area of public sector involvement could be replaced. Private companies do run waste disposal, they do run hospitals, they do run public toilets, they do run rail roads, they certainly provide schools, and they do provide security patrols. Charities do even more useful things, and they would continue to do so. I might lay a bet, and invest my savings in Veolia. I’ll be chuckling all the way to the bank.
Of course, it isn’t going to happen. David Cameron doesn’t have the balls to say “okay, sod you, we don’t need you”, and would cave in, but we don’t need them. If the only the public sector would do the job for him. Go on, force Cameron’s hand and go on strike for the rest of the year, just one year, and let’s see what happens then. I dare you.