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But nationalisation is about control, not making things ‘better’

Complaints about the water industry, meanwhile, are at an all-time low and, according to the independent water consumer watchdog, satisfaction with the industry is at record levels.

If there ever was a time when water customers were ripped-off it was when water was state-owned and millions of households were sometimes paying for a service that had been cut off.

Ian King

But I do think King is making a fundamental error by assuming the motives for nationalising has anything whatsoever to do with about producing better value, or improved management 😆, or in any way yielding more of the thing an industry does. Yes, I know what they say, and I can say I am a hippopotamus with opposable thumbs (I am, of course). Nationalisation is about a total world view, in which the state is all, and nothing must be beyond the reach of its unfettered power: the state is an end in and of itself. Quoting facts about the water industry at Corbyn supporters is not just an exercise in futility, it indicates a complete failure to understand the enemy. Indeed, the only reason to talk to them at all is for the benefit of third parties who may be listening.

21 comments to But nationalisation is about control, not making things ‘better’

  • monoi

    “Quoting facts about the water industry”.

    If only we heard even just that from the “tories” at least, it would be progress. Instead, we have price controls on energy thereby letting people think that labour is right.

    May is not only useless, she is actually a threat to our livelihoods and financial worth.

  • Mr Ed

    I suspect for many young people, the idea that you would have had to get water from a standpipe would seem inconceivable, but that was if not the norm certainly commonplace in 1976, I recall seeing for myself a dried-up reservoir in Yorkshire that summer, although rationing had not struck in my neighbourhood.

    It is nice to see a pro-private industry piece from Sky too. The immense cost of renovating the water infrastructure in England and Wales is now, as it were, a sunken cost, but one where a lot of it came from EU directives. However, we are where we are, and it is working as well as might be expected under our current water and sewage fascism of a highly regulated industry.

    It would take time for the decay of nationalisation to set it, and there would be no immediate change were it to happen. However, nationalisation needs to be portrayed as a backward step, a disaster both in terms of practical outcomes and moral outcomes. For the utilitarian-minded, the prospect of a water shortage should be reason enough to let things be, never mind the cost (although at the GE I never saw McDonnell or Corbyn asked outright if they would take over water companies without compensation, and they certainly left themselves wriggleroom for that) and for the liberty-minded, the outrage at the taking of property on any terms is reason enough to object to nationalisation, a step towards Turd World status.

  • Paul Marks

    If people want all basic services provided by collectively owned organisations – why not Puerto Rico? “But Paul the terrible storms” – NO as President Trump has correctly pointed out (and has been slammed for doing so) the power, water (and so on) systems of the island were already-falling-apart BEFORE the storms. Because just about every service on the island is STATE OWNED – not “mismanaged” BBC, STATE OWNED (like you BBC).

    “Yes but the Puerto Ricans are……. well you know what they are” in reply to this RACIALIST “argument” let us turn to Long Island New York – specifically the Long Island Power and Light Company. This company is regularly slammed for its horrible service by New York politicians – such as the Governor of New York State. However, these politicians do not mention that the Long Island Power and Light Company was regulated into the ground decades ago, and was taken over by the State, with the board that runs it being appointed by the very Governor who denounces it as an example of greedy capitalism (when it is not capitalist at all – greedy or otherwise).

    “How do the media let the politicians of New York get away with their lies” – the same way that Harvey Weinstein. got away with abusing women for decades (the “feminists” covered for him – as their leftist politics is far more important to them than preventing women getting abused, see their view on the rapeugees in Germany – being backed by the BBC only this morning) – and the same way that the left in BRITAIN get away with talking about “government spending cuts”, and the virtue of “public ownership” – with the utter disaster that state ownership was on this island, carefully covered up by the BBC and the education system (both still state owned of course).

    I listened to Colonel Stewart (DSO and now and MP) at a little gathering last night – he was baffled about how “public sector managers” (from the NHS to the schools the universities) on hundreds of thousands of Pounds a year could denounce “capitalist greed” and demand yet more statism. But why not? Why did he assume that well paid “public servants” should have any sympathy for the Conservative Party? Should he not have EXPECTED the teachers at the state school his children attend to instruct the children to persecute his own children (for the “blood guilt” of being the children of a Conservative Member of Parliament) – he seemed really shocked that the teachers (and the headteacher) should behave in such a way. Why be shocked? How the teachers behaved is exactly how Bob Stewart should have expected them to behave – if he had kept an idea on what was being taught in the universities and teacher training colleges for many years now. After all, all his children had to do was denounce their father – and the persecution would have been called off. Surely fair enough?

    This situation (where the Conservative Party makes up the government – but Conservatives, and their children, are persecuted by “Public Servants”) is called “being in office – but not in power”.

    The unspoken agreement used to be in Britain that senior people who worked for government got lower incomes than private businessmen – but had job security (unless they robbed the place). Then came the idea that if one paid government managers (not the ordinary workers, the left only PRETEND to care about them, the managers) a fortune government services would massively improve.

    Well it has been tried – in everything from education (although those Blairites who are now in charge of Oxford Collages – even though they have produced no serious scholarship – being paid hundreds of thousands of Pounds a year), to the endess managers in the NHS. It has been tried and it has FAILED – getting in “professional managers” with “special skills” and paying them a fortune does NOT improve government services – and it would not work in power or water either.

    “Market Socialism” – pretending a collectively owned organisation is a “business” and bringing special professional managers, works no better than any other form of socialism (i.e. it does not work at all), a pretend market (i.e. a “market” without the private ownership and control of the means of production, distribution and exchange) is not a market – see Ludwig Von Mises “Socialism” and “Human Action”. And Anthony De Jasay’s “This Square Circle” on “Market Socialism”.

    Actually when the left say “we are not Communists” they are telling the truth – at least in the sense that they do not want literal “Communism” (everyone equal in a big hippy commune), they want SOCIALISM. I.E. themselves (the top socialists) in charge of everything and paid lots of money – and everyone else having to crawl before them and kiss their boots.

  • Indeed, the only reason to talk to them at all is for the benefit of third parties who may be listening.

    To be fair, that’s a pretty important benefit.
    Just as socialists & cronyists overlook how markets have new entrants continually enumerated into them, so philosophers and debaters often overlook how the human population continually has new entrants continually enumerated into it. These new entrants usually spend at least some of their time as a third party who may be listening before making decisions, even if we don’t notice when they’re listening.

  • Laird

    Which is why posting here is important, too.

  • Thailover

    Collectivism is a crypto-religion. Whether religion proper or the crypto-(pseudo) religion of Leftism, if you are not a believer then the Believer’s usual response is that you “don’t believe in anything”, and that it’s impossible for you to be a moral, decent person, because all moral decent people believe in their religion or ‘religion’, subscribes to their world view and accepts their values and ideas of what constitutes virtue. The reason the Left think Trump is a monster is really the same reason atheists are the most distrusted people in America, coming in even less trusted than Satanists and Neo-Nazis. Ostensibly (I dont think in actuality though), trump is supposed to be the exact opposite and antithesis of Leftism. He does subscribe to the idea of earning your keep, which the freeloaders fear with a passion. You either subscribe to freedom or free shit. It’s one or the other. Freedom to act means you earn or produce your private property. With “free shit”, you expect others to provide you with what you “need” in order to live in relative comfort.

  • Thailover

    “the only reason to talk to them at all is for the benefit of third parties who may be listening.”

    I never bother to debate or “discuss” issues with a Leftist/Collectivist in private, nor theism with theists, unless they’re genuinely curious. It almost never happens that one changes the other person’s views when they’re busy defending their position. They become even more entrenched. The usual metaphor is a person grabbing more tightly onto the unneeded crutch the more you yank on it. The purpose of debate is to influence bystanders.

  • Thailover

    “they want SOCIALISM. I.E. themselves (the top socialists) in charge of everything and paid lots of money – and everyone else having to crawl before them and kiss their boots.”

    Paul, quite so. It’s a dead giveaway that they believe themselves to be morally superior when they suggest that THEY are concerned with the air and water, climate and homeless and children…etc, but they want the government to force EVERYONE ELSE to play along these “moral” issues…”morally” enforced of course by G-men with guns and cages, (jail cells).

    These days, Penn Jillete is sanctimoniously getting on my nerves, but back when he pretended to be modest in his views, he said something quite insightful IMO. He said he likes public libraries, but is against holding a gun to people’s head to pay for it. (He might have been quoting someone else for all I know). The government using “public” funds for such things is indeed holding a gun to people’s heads and threatening to put them in cages if they don’t play along.

  • It almost never happens that one changes the other person’s views when they’re busy defending their position. (Thailover, October 13, 2017 at 5:01 pm)

    That is correct but C.S. Lewis was also correct when he said that if you argue fairly instead of arguing to win then “ten years later, the person who shouted you down may prove to have been influenced by what you said.”

    (Some background context: when C.S. Lewis was young, he did sometimes catch himself “arguing for victory” as he and his friends called it, and even when he was older, his ‘arguing fairly’ was not arguing weakly. 🙂 )

  • bobby b

    When you nationalize an industry, you convert its employees to government employment. Generally, they are then subsumed into government employee unions. These unions support large-government policies, with their newly-increased employee dues money. It’s a smart and proven strategy for growing even more government.

  • Mr Ed

    Every socialist believes this at heart.

  • Runcie Balspune

    The “Corbyn plan” for water is to nationalize the companies using a “government bond”, which will then be paid off using the “massive profits” the water companies were producing, like the evil corporate capitalist exploitation machines they are.

    Of course, the obvious flaw in the plan is the assumption that Corbyn’s cronies, with hardly an brain cell between them and zero business experience, will be able to run a water company as efficiently and continue to generate these “massive profits”, despite there being no longer an apparent reason to do so.

    As those of my generation know, the last thing a government run organization does is run at a profit.

    The ctrl-left is an entirely appropriate tag.

  • Mr Ed

    Runcie B,

    I may be cynical, and thank you for reminding me of the turgid details of May’s botched suicide mission of a General Election campaign, but I now recall that I inferred that if the ‘profits’ didn’t materialise, the bond yield would be nil so the shareholders would get nothing, thereby devaluing many a pension far less subtly than Gordon Brown’s ACT grab.

    BTW were May and Brown dizygotic twins, separated at birth? It’s just that we seem to be back around 2008 again.

  • Laird

    Aside from the “obvious flaw” noted by Runcie, the economic flaw is that if the water companies could actually throw off enough free cash flow to pay those bonds plus a market rate of interest, the best result the state could hope to achieve is break-even, and more probably a loss. A company is worth precisely the discounted present value of its future cash flows. Someone will buy a company only if he believes that he can improve on those cash flows, through increased efficiencies, more sales, better management, etc., none of which the state can hope to achieve. So it it were to achieve some benefit from ownership of the water companies, it would either be because it paid less than fair market value (i.e., it stole them) or it has somehow achieved the financial equivalent of a perpetual motion machine. Somehow, I doubt that Corbyn or his brain trust is capable of that.

  • Lee Moore

    Good article. You have to remember that back in the 1990s, the £130 billion figure mentioned by the Sky fellow was serious money. After thirteen years of Gordon, 2008 crises and deficits coming out of our ears, £130 billion doesn’t seem so much, even for those who appreciate the difference between billions and millions.

    And yet, it – the water industry’s capital investment over the past twenty years or so – is a staggering sum. And since the EU water directives were the usual one size fits all nonsense, the regs required huge amounts of unnecessary spending in the UK. So I’m guessing about two thirds of the £130 billion was money down the drain, so to speak. Boris would do well to mug up on a good figure to quote for the pointless EU contribution to water costs, in time for the next election. For we surely won’t be hearing anything on the subject from the rest of the Cabinet of Remainers.

    £1,000 for every man, woman and child in the realm has a nice ring to it.

  • Paul Marks

    By coincidence Mr Corbyn will be defending himself against the charge of just wanting power-and-control today – he will be making a speech on WORKER COOPERATIVES – which (he will argue) are the answer to evil capitalism. And should be in charge of all robots – and in control of uber.

    So we are back to J.S. Mill and the rest of the 19th century group who undermined liberalism – with such as ideas as that land rent is evil (it is not) and that industrialists exploit workers (actually they did NOT – low wages and bad conditions were due to the inferior technology of the time, the lower level of productivity, they were NOT a conspiracy of capitalists – as Karl Marx openly declared and J.S. Mill implied).

    Sometimes I think that the economics of Mill family friend David Ricardo (with its false view of land, refuted by Frank Fetter, and its false Labour Theory of Value) is like Dracula – no matter how many times one stakes it, it keeps coming back.

    The economics of David Ricardo is not all bad – it is against subsidies (today Ricardo would be denouncing government subsidy payments in healthcare, and “student loans”, and “housing benefit” and…… as just increasing costs) and it was anti Credit Bubble and pro physical gold (David Ricardo made a fortune in the City during the paper money days of the Napoleonic Wars – he did not need anyone to tell him it was based on fraud “do not let other people do the things I did – we are robbing you blind” might as well have been what he said). But his followers today forget the good side of his economics – and remember only the bad things, such as the theory of land and the labour theory of value in industry.

    Now over to you Comrade Jeremy.

  • Reading Paul Marks (October 14, 2017 at 6:39 am) on Corbyn’s enthusiasm for workers-collectives (proclaimed today) just after reading the remark of Lee Moore (October 14, 2017 at 4:11 am) – that” Boris would do well to mug up on a good figure to quote for the pointless EU contribution to water costs” prompted a thought.

    Boris could also mug up the old history of Corbyn-like Tony Benn’s enthusiasm for worker cooperatives. Benn used his ministerial position to start up several (with start-up funding help from the tax payer). It was so long ago that I got most of my information about it from left-wing sources but the words ‘dismal’ and ‘failure’ drifted into my mind when Lee’s comment recalled that episode to me.

    In 1917, Lenin found the slogan “all power to the soviets” a good one to hide his totalitarianism. The communists then effectively sabotaged any trace of workers control in these ‘soviets’, so that the word ‘soviet’ has acquired quite different connotations, but ‘The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics’ literally meant ‘The Union of Workers-collective Socialist Republics’. This tells all who know that history just how to assess Corbyn’s attempt to use this issue to “defend himself against the charge of just wanting power-and-control”, but I fear propaganda directed at possible Corbyn voters had better not assume such historical knowledge.

    Corbyn’s own understanding of the Russian revolution is doubtless ridiculous in some ways, and I both think and hope Mr Two-Es massively lacks the abilities (and the luck) of a Lenin to seize power, but Corbyn probably knows some of the tactics they used back then all too well. Both the British trade union movement and the entryist fringes of the Labour party have at times been good places to learn – and practice – the milder of them.

    (The insolence of the name ‘The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics’ prompts thoughts both 🙂 and 😡 . In the same way, the emperor’s legions went into battle under standards proclaiming “Senatus PopulusQue Romanus” – “The Senate and People of Rome” – long after the imperial system had deprived the first of almost all its power and the second of what power they had ever had. I am also reminded of Bryce’s remark that the mediaeval Holy Roman Empire “was neither holy, nor Roman, nor much of an empire.”)

  • Alisa

    [linguistic nitpicking] Niall, not to disagree with your main point, but in this context ‘soviet’ literally means ‘council’ (in other contexts it can mean ‘advice’). [/linguistic nitpicking]

  • Paul Marks

    Quite so Alisa – but those “councils” became fronts for the new state. Just as Mr Corbyn’s “cooperatives” would soon become no more independent than the “collectives” of the Soviet Union.

    There is, of course, no law against cooperatives – indeed they have (and have had for a very long time) lots of tax and regulation advantages. But they have been a declining form of enterprise for a long time.

    Sorry J.S. Mill but you were wrong – coops clearly have not proved to be the future, Unless of course the government backs them – and they will not be independent if the government does that.

  • Alisa (October 14, 2017 at 5:03 pm) is correct as regards the literal meaning of the word ‘soviet’. ‘Workers cooperative’ captures the semantic meaning for an English-speaking audience. These councils, chosen locally by the workers (or by the private soldiers in the disintegrating army, or by the peasants in the countryside) emerged spontaneously after the first revolution as rival forms of political control to the government and therefore also to the bolsheviks when they seized the government. Lenin therefore pretended to support them while using various tactics to undermine them simultaneously from within and from without.

    There is an interesting, albeit debatable, discussion of the phenomenon in Hannah Arendt’s “On Revolution”.

  • Runcie Balspune

    the communists then effectively sabotaged any trace of workers control in these ‘soviets’, so that the word ‘soviet’ has acquired quite different connotations

    This is what the left does.

    Elevating the concept above that which it represents, separating a collection that is comprised of people, so that the “collection” becomes a separate entity from the people, this is how the left control, by then purporting to be the final arbitrar on what is good for the entity (and not necessarily good for the people), it just becomes a sham of its original definition.

    It’s just like a god, really. Marx condemned religion because it was a competitor, not because it was bad.