The case for public ownership

This is making a useful point about the arguments for public ownership of the major natural monopolies such as water, energy, transport, communications.

These industries all vital to life. No one has a choice about whether to consume them or not. As such they should be run in such a way as to be accountable to the public. That means being publicly owned. Artificial competition – such as exists in the electricity and rail sectors is just that – artificial. It doesn’t in practice deliver accountable services. And, while the video does not say as such; the other case for the natural monopolies being publicly owned is the socialist one. Regardless of anything else everyone should have affordable access to services vital to life. The market just isn’t going to deliver this.

There are also strategic arguments. There are strategic national reasons for the state to control significant industries. Such control allows the government to implement social policies. For example; a large state sector means that the government can control wages and prices. The ultimate strategic argument is that the natural monopolies are key in times of war and therefore should be in the hands of the state. Of course; all these arguments are related to the concept that there should be a political entity which controls what is going on in the country. In the contemporary Western world this idea has been replaced with the idea that everything that goes on should be controlled by ‘markets’ – which means by large and private financial interests. Since these interests are outside of democratic control (parliament answers to them and not the other way round) the (unspoken) corollary of this idea is the complete abandonment of democracy.

Of course the New Observer is skeptical about hospitals and schools. Privately owned or stated owned they are about creating and managing dependence. But that is another story.



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