Weak arguments against privatization

Italy is planning to privatize many of its historic museums and buildings:

A portmanteau law affecting all aspects of the Italian artistic, built and environmental heritage was enacted last month. It is the product of three political tendencies. The first dates back to the late 1990s, when a Socialist government wanted to allow the private sector to become involved in a part of Italian life that for 50 years had been dominated by the State, in order to bring greater efficiency and better services to it. The second is the partial devolution of power to regional and local government as result of the electoral reforms of the 1990s, and the third proceeds from a 2001 Finance Act of the current, right wing government that aimed to raise money by the sale of public assets, including historic buildings and State-owned land.

This is a difficult policy issue, as national heritage can be a genuine public good. But the major argument being used against these privatizations is hardly convincing:

The proposal to sell State-owned buildings has been contentious, largely because the State does not know in detail what it owns [emphasis added], and the architectural protection lobbies are afraid that masterpieces may be sold to unsuitable owners.

Here is the full story.


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