It’s long been a trend for local and state governments to create agencies and entities that are supposed to enhance commercial activity in their area. There are myriad legal and logistical arrangements, but they all have some common features. They’re all reliant on government in structure and law, they all use taxpayer funds to accomplish their projects, and they all love to use newspeak phrases like, “public-private partnership” to describe their activities.
An online dictionary definition of partnership is useful:
“A legal contract entered into by two or more persons in which each agrees to furnish a part of the capital and labor for a business enterprise, and by which each shares a fixed proportion of profits and losses.”
“A relationship between individuals or groups that is characterized by mutual cooperation and responsibility, as for the achievement of a specified goal.”
Clearly, government economic meddling projects do not fit either of these definitions. How can “the public” enter into a partnership? How can “the public” share in profit or loss? In reality, governments take money from people in their vicinity by force, then they give some of it to suits in an agency who give it to favored businesses and investors. “The Public” never agrees to anything. There is no mutual cooperation and certainly no responsibility or profit/loss sharing.
The absurdity of calling it a partnership can be illustrated with the following thought experiment. Imagine your friend took some money from your wallet, deposited it in his checking account, kept most of it for himself and gave the rest to another guy to start a business. No strings attached, just a gift of start-up capital. Then your friend started publicly talking about how this was a partnership between you and startup guy. After getting over your initial anger that he took your money and didn’t even consult with you before throwing it after some business venture, you try to consider the possible upsides of this unjust act. You ask him if that means you will own shares in the company. No. Does it mean you get some percentage of any profit? No. Do you get an interest payment on your stolen and loaned money? No. He assures you it’s OK though, because neither are you on the hook for any losses (besides of course the loss of the money he already took, which you’ll never see again.) In other words, this is nothing like a partnership.
What you get is money taken from you, spent on middle-men who are paid to give the rest to whatever business they want to. You are not a partner, you are a victim. Partnership implies consent. Partnership implies shared benefit and responsibility Partnership implies choice. There is no such thing as a public-private partnership.