CROTTY'S ANALYSIS and prescription were apt as events were to show, especially from 1997 onwards. In 1997, the Irish economy was buoyant. Our GNP was rising rapidly, the tide of emigra�tion had been reversed, inflation was low and both employment and productivity were on the up. The Fine Gael/Labour government was performing well but the populist right-wing Fianna Fail party was convinced it could do better. With the support of Ireland's media baron, Sir Anthony O'Reilly, other corporate backers, some catchy slogans and a well-run campaign, they narrowly snatched a general election victory by persuading the moralising right-wing PD party and a handful of "independent" candidates to join them in coalition. From the outset, the new govern�ment made clear this was "pay-back time", as they put it, and launching their programme for what turned out to be a boom on top of a boom, the "gi-normous" property bubble of recent years; the rampant land price inflation and speculation; excessive borrowing and unsustainable development; all of which are characteristic of neo-liberal excess.

If land rent is, as Ronald Banks estimates, 17% of the UK's GNP, we can safely esti�mate that it is a larger portion in Ireland. If public expenditure for the benefit of landowners is a further 16% of UK GNP we can safely estimate it is more, and quite probably much more in Ireland. The owners of Irish land have never had it so good but it can hardly last forever. A global downturn could bring the bonanza to an abrupt end. For the time being, however, it seems that Ireland's first-ever economic boom is not yet over, and the IMF and the EU seem satisfied that our only excess has been one of neo-liberal orthodoxy. It is also possible that Ireland might soon awaken to a harsher economic reality and provide very fertile ground for the seeds planted by Raymond Crotty and Henry George, although there are few now to tend to their precious legacy.

- from Land & Liberty, Autumn 2001


The Corporate Takeover of Childhood

Schools are being privatised in order to develop a new export industry

George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 8th January 2002

For many children, a new school term begins with apprehension. But yesterday it wasn't just the children who were worried about what they might encounter. Every term now brings another government scheme, to re-finance, outsource, subcontract, reclassify, zone or cluster some aspect of the handling of our children. And parents, reasonably enough, are becoming ever more suspicious.

What these changes mean, confusing as they are, is privatisation. It won't happen all at once, as Labour is anxious to avoid the confrontations which have taken place between parents and private companies in the United States. But we should be foolish to mistake the government's purpose. The general privatisation of schooling in Britain has begun.

Several theories have been advanced to account for Labour's strange enthusiasm for disposing of our schools, but the most convincing I have seen is the one articulated last year by a lecturer at the University of Central England called Richard Hatcher, in the journal Education and Social Justice.

A few years ago, prompted by the powerful European Roundtable of Industrialists, Tony Blair identified the "knowledge economy" as the driver of future British growth. The UK would specialise in industries such as information technology, biotech and second generation services. As the export value of manufacturing, farming and even some of the traditional service industries declined, Britain would become a market leader in exporting a new international business: privatisation.

This strategy has so far been resoundingly successful. The private finance initiative, for example, was pioneered in the UK, then exported by British companies to countries as far apart as Finland, Canada and South Africa. Though their sales of hospitals, roads, prisons and waterworks are of dubious value to the recipients, they are massively profitable for our corporations, not least because, having arrived on the scene before anyone else, they are all but free from foreign competition. Now Blair wants to do the same for education.

The UK's private education industry, Hatcher argues, "has to be fostered and nourished by the state until it is strong enough to compete with US and other competitors". Once they have gathered enough money and experience from the domestic economy, schooling companies can then try to penetrate the markets of other countries. While the United Kingdom's schools might one day be worth some pounds25 billion a year to potential "investors", the US system has been valued at $700 billion. Worldwide, education is worth trillions. If the UK can seize an early, substantial share of this market, our economy will become, to all intents and purposes, recession-proof.

So our own children are, in this picture, simply the crash dummies with which the UK tests its future export policy. Companies will practise on them until they find the right economic formula and attain sufficient economies of scale. Then they will apply that formula worldwide.

This theory appears to explain the remarkable variety of privatisation and part-privatisation schemes currently being tested in Britain. Education action zones and city technology colleges have failed to produce the necessary cash, so they have been superseded by a new experiment in the shape of the city academies. These schools receive 80% of their money from the state, but are controlled by private companies. Elsewhere, existing comprehensives, like King's Manor in Guildford and Abbeylands in Addlestone (both in Surrey), have been franchised to corporations. Private schools are now considering the purchase of parts of the state sector.

The government has also been experimenting with the management of Local Education Authorities, privatising either some of the services they offer, or, in the case of Leeds, the entire outfit. In some places, it has sold off school inspections, in others teachers' pay and pensions. It has been "market testing" several different versions of the private finance initiative, in which companies provide buildings and services to education authorities for a fee. It has developed a private market, already worth some pounds1 billion, in "e-learning", or computer-based education.

These efforts have established a climate in which corporations are able to gain unprecedented access to schoolchildren. Last