Thomas greeted the two men from his seat in the glass cage as they drove slowly past his post. He looked as sloppy as ever, with his unruly hair and a jam stain clearly visible on his sweater.
"So, that's your sage," Bjorn commented mockingly as they drove by.
"Judging the book by its cover again, are you?" Ante countered with a smile. "He's a slob, that's true, but his views are worth listening to. Even if you don't agree, you're bound to pick up a thing or two."
"Like this whole child protection thing that you've been going on about. He got a pretty interesting view on that too."
Ante stopped the car outside the barracks and turned off the engine. Then he proceeded with his thoughts.
"The problem is not that they want to help children, but the way they go about it. They barge in and make a terrible mess at times. And there's hardly any consequence for them when they are caught making huge mistakes."
"Yeah?" Bjorn asked blankly.
"You know, my sister got caught up in this stupid thing when she got her divorce," Ante continued undeterred. "Her ex-mother in law told them these lies about her, presumably to help her son get custody of the child, and the whole thing ended up in court and dragged on for months."
"This is your sister in Oslo, the one helping out at the homeless shelter at times?"
"Yes. And you know, they even accused her of being a bad mother for socio-cultural reasons, as they called it. Basically insinuating that Samis are somehow inferior parents to you Germanics."
"Yeah! It's ridiculous, and the whole thing got thrown out of court eventually for being just too stupid. Yet it took months to get through this, and you can imagine the stress, not to mention the time wasted, and the money spent on the lawyer."
Ante reached for the handle to open the door of the car.
"And the ones behind the whole charade went away from the mess with nothing but a suggestion by the judge that they come up with better arguments next time," Ante continued, opening the door on his side. "So, had they been a little bit more careful in their fabrication of evidence, the whole case could have ended up very differently. She might have lost her kid to those people."
The men stepped out of the car. Bjorn tucked the bottle from David's pharmacy into the pocket of his jacket and grabbed a cigarette while Ante locked the doors.
"Imagine if that was a service provided by a private charity," Ante continued. "It would have been all over the news, and the charity would have gone out of business. Or they would at the very least have had to fire the scheming little rats."
Bjorn nodded thoughtfully as he lit his cigarette.
"But there are plenty of cases where the child protection service does not interfere in time, with tragic consequences," Bjorn commented.
"Sure. But they are not getting any better by letting the incompetents stay, are they?"
"No, that's true."
The two men found a sheltered spot in the sun, next to the barracks, where the dark wood panels had soaked up heat during the day.
"So, what's Thomas' solution to this problem?" Bjorn asked.
"He'd split it in two. He'd let the police take care of criminal negligence, and let charities take care of the orphans. And he'd privatize everything, of course."
"And that would solve it?"
"It would work better than what we got today."
"Because they would run out of fundings if they screwed things up."
"But what if the state just kept paying them regardless?"
"Yeah. The state splits up this service, like you say, and then hand everything over to private investors who are then guaranteed an income. If the state just keeps funding those guys regardless, nothing will improve, will it?"
"But that's not privatization. That's fascism."
"Really? But this is what privatization usually means. Just look at the way our new government is privatizing the hospitals and the old people's homes, and even the jails. They hand it over to private companies who in turn are guaranteed an income. Heck. This whole Lundby thing is nothing but one big privatization."
Ante looked at Bjorn momentarily lost for words.
"But Pedro isn't being paid by the state to operate this village," Ante ventured thoughtfully. "So Lundby is fundamentally different from the jails and the other stuff they are privatizing. In fact, Lundby has been privatized the way things should be privatized."
"And what about Thomas?"
"I bet he'd agree with me. But you have to ask him."
"Okay. So, how exactly would you go about privatizing the child protection services?"
"I'd split it up, like Thomas, suggests. Then I would let private companies come in and take care of the policing and the charity work. And I would cut all funding coming from the state."
Bjorn tossed the butt of his cigarette into a small pile of wet snow where it hissed as it quickly died.
"You'd privatize the police?" Bjorn commented dryly. "That's a pretty silly idea."
"Because it won't work. Who's going to control them, and who's going to pay them?"
"It works in Lundby. And you know, it's not that unusual. We've always had private security companies. Just think of Securitas. They provide watchmen, and they turn a profit. You don't go around worrying about them, do you?"
"And if they screw things up, they have to clean up their act. But if the police screws up, they make an internal audit, conclude that they need more money, and that's it."
"Well, that's Thomas talking again, isn't it?" Bjorn commented with a smile.
"Yeah, you're right," Ante replied, also smiling. "Let's go in, It's getting chilly out here."