Margaret Thatcher sold her arguments on privatisation to the British people in no uncertain terms. Some would argue that the privatised and resulting market-driven economy have resulted in the prosperity that the UK has enjoyed ever since. Others would point to individualistic attitudes of this approach which have had dire effects on society. Both are probably true.
However national assets were sold to the people. But the people were the mugs because they bought what they already owned.
Privately owned companies may function adequately only when driven by market forces, but we should not apply market forces to water and electricity. What stops such companies being efficient but running socially motivated public services? Why are market forces necessary to make companies efficient? Privatisation drives people apart. The motivation is individual not mutualised profit. Fellow against fellow. But what place is left today in western society for socialism?
Most politicians consider it a dirty word as if to be ‘social’ is not to care about the economic well-being of the country. What is left then of organisations that are founded to provide public services?
Sarkozy is using Thatcher’s approach to pander to the right, all too eager to sell off national companies. Shouldn’t his right-wing cousins question whether that is in the interests of the nation? Would any of them dare suggest that Sarko is motivated mostly by winning the next election?
My bets are he will at some point be claiming, as did the Tories, to be the champion of small government and low taxation. Don’t be fooled, France! You get what you pay for! And health and education systems cost money to maintain. And that’s a choice that even the Americans look set to make despite a generation of right-wing infiltration.
Beware the creeping advance of private insurance, the privatisation of EDF, the road systems and the delocalisation of power to the regions. All these are no more than tools to reduce central government spending and will be used by the right-of-centre government to claim good housekeeping. But check out the total bill after your taxes go down, but your insurance contributions, road taxes, electricity, gas and train tickets go up to pay dividends to private investors.
It seems like a pretty good way to suck out our national finances. Is the solution then globalisation? i.e. do unto others what they have done to us. Perhaps, as long as the playing field is even, that the tax regulations are the same and that governments agree. But they don’t. And maybe we should learn something from the global banking crisis of 2009?
The hard left is right to seek to adjust the proportion of profits to investors and employees, which is out of balance and banning big bonuses, but is it wise to nationalise everything? Large-scale central planning à la Russe has not been a success but to disown the responsibility of central planning by eliminating government from the national coordination process, leaving the decentralised authorities on their own to negotiate with private multi-nationals is no better.
The hard-right blame foreigners and talk about ‘Islamisation’. Too easy but sadly seductive for some. That makes it everyone else’s fault except our own, and in any case, we’re looking for solutions, not just someone to blame. Let’s not forget the scapegoat arguments of the thirties. Or are our memories so short? Sarkozy uses that argument but in a more subtle way. For him it’s insecurity!
And what about the middle road? No personalities there – not until DSK returns to election campaigning in 2012. By which time Sarkozy might have sold even the last of the assets the country owns. Wait and see. But be ready, because the fight will be on between the Left Front and the National Front, and our poor little FMI chief might find the squeeze is on.