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.

 

 

Advertisements

Spoken from the heart – is it time to vote?

Tony Taylor of the In Defence of Youth Work group (a grassroots campaign supporting a real form of youth work) has written a piece on the election.

He speaks for this writer. Who is almost almost moved to vote Corbyn, despite some major reservations, not least the one touched on by Tony Taylor in this article, that voting only encourages what Lenin called the “Talking Shop”. (Meanwhile the real power lies elsewhere).

Whichever you decide to do read and enjoy Taylor’s article. I especially liked:

Yet the majority of his own party’s MP’s suffer in stunned silence, unable to get their heads around the collapse of their pragmatic accommodation to the status quo.  Can you believe it, they are now being expected to believe in something other than their own careers?

and

Indeed in 1997 many workers were seduced by Blair’s ‘Third Way’ with its championing of what has come to be called ‘identity politics’.  The price paid was a heavy one as New Labour abandoned class politics and solidarity, embracing both neoliberalism’s masturbatory self-centredness and its fetishistic belief in an iron law of the market.

 

Report on PSPO’s

This is an excellent report into Public Space Protection Orders from the Manifesto Club.

A few extracts:

On one Council which has introduced a ban on parking outside a school the report says:

There is a similar issue with Havering Council’s ban on parents parking outside schools. No doubt the surge of the school run can create problems, but there can be other solutions – broadened stopping areas, for example, or more school buses. One way or another parents have to get their children to school. Yet the public authority, with supposedly public service interests at heart, instead creates a crime of parking outside a primary school.

And that is the point. In our dreams public sector bodies exist to promote and cultivate everything that is public. In reality they, increasingly, are waging war on the public. An excess of policing will eliminate all social life other than public actions carried on in a manner approved by and controlled by the authorities. Quite like North Korea really.

This good too:

In a similar vein, Croydon Council had planned a PSPO banning rowdy and/or inconsiderate behaviour. Politeness is very important but it cannot be enforced by a PSPO. Once civility becomes the subject of an order it becomes an formal, coerced demand, rather than the consequence of one’s relations to others in a community. Therefore, PSPOs enforcing politeness misplace the problem: it can only deepen the estrangement of youth when they are faced with nonsense criminal law which seems hostile to their very presence.

What all these orders reflect is not a strengthening of ‘local community spirit’ but the exact opposite. If matters of ordinary civility have to be enforced by ‘officers’ and fines this means that these people have simply given up on doing anything to contribute to building social cohesion.

As the report points out the legislation behind this gives local authorities the power to dream up new laws at will:

PSPOs take local authorities into unprecedented terrain, as law-making and policing authorities. Certain council officials now have the powers to write laws, creating new crimes, which are then policed by their own officers such as neighbourhood wardens, environmental or community safety wardens, and largely punished through on-the-spot fines without passing through a court of law.

In reality it is probably worse than North Korea.

Not just new laws – but new ‘policemen’. Under this legislation local authorities can delegate any member of staff as someone who can enforce the new laws and extract fines. They can even, according to the report, delegate these powers to private contractors. A previous Manifesto Club report suggested that contracting out the power to levy litter fines partly explained some of the more extreme cases of such fines being levied. This legislation appears to create a more or less infinite power for local authorities in cahoots with private contractors to profit from punishment.

The author of the report gives some examples of what constitutes a public consultation exercise for a local authority planning to impose a PSPO. There is quite a nice example of local authority manipulation of the truth in this one:

Ashfield’s consultation on its dog and alcohol restrictions received only nine responses: two from councillors, two from the police, one from the Kennel Club opposing sections of the order; and four responses from members of the public, two were neutral, one was for the order, and one against (these consultation responses were obtained by an FOI request by the Kennel Club). Hardly an overwhelming mandate in support, yet the report to the council summarised these results as follows: ‘The Council has undertaken full consultation with organisations and groups associated with dogs and dog walking as well as the general Public‌ There has been minimal opposition to the order (only 2 people formally objected), with the majority of the comments received, including from the Police and Crime Commissioner, and Nottinghamshire Police fully endorsing all aspects of the Order.’

As usual excellent work by the Manifesto Club who are worthy of our support.

Article on Foucault and the current refugee crisis

This is an article by academic Stephane J Bale in which she discusses Foucault’s ideas about biopolitics and how his ideas about an excessive pre-occuptation with the health of the population might explain current European responses to the refugee crisis. One small quibble; the author mentions that Germany is an exception to a trend of putting up barriers against refugees. It is a huge exception and it would be interesting to discuss this.

The article can be found here on theconversation.com

The attack on masculine values

This is an unusually insightful piece. The theme is the attack on masculinity in the West.

The author links this to the weak response to sex crimes by immigrants. Given that masculine virtues are effectively outlawed in the the West – the West is struggling to find a response.

Incidentally – the problem of visitors from other cultures losing their heads when presented with the sight of modern European women – who are used to striding about confidently in public not wearing a veil, did not start with Cologne. For example; there was the fiasco of soldiers from Libya being trained in the UK who had to be sent home after a number of sex crimes were committed.

I’m not 100% sure about linking the theme of the attack on masculine values to the soft and ‘inclusive’ response to the refugees. Some of that ‘softness’ may be genuine compassion. So; I’m really linking to this piece because of its analysis of the lack of masculine values in the West, rather than the arguments about immigration. That said; there does appear to be a certain naivety around what is likely to happen when young men from traditional and sexist (by Western standards) cultures meet with loose Western values.