Public Utilities are Common Sense

Marxist Communism has generally shown itself to be pretty awful in practice whilst unrestrained Capitalism has also generally shown itself to be pretty awful in practice. In between these two extremes of left and right is a healthier mainstream.

The roots of the egalitarian British Labour movement go back into history. They can be seen amongst the poll tax revolutionaries of the Peasant’s Revolt or the Great Rising during the 1380s. Lead by Wat Tyler this attempted revolution sought to end unfair taxes and serfdom. Later the Era of Cromwell saw an upwelling of English Christian Socialism. Amongst the proto-socialist Diggers and Levelers we can see values and ideals that would carry on through the generations into the 19th century Trades Union movement and through to the 20th century Labour Party that would be borne from it. The question was asked by the early socialists ‘when Adam wove and Eve span where was the the gentleman?’ and of course the answer from the wise respondent was that God made human beings essentially equal. Classes and castes were things that human beings had developed and they were on the whole iniquitous.

From its inception the Labour Party was a party that sought to run society in a fairer and more benevolent way than had been managed by Whigs, Tories, Liberals or Conservatives before them. Indeed Labour Governments succeeded in establishing a welfare state that would be well loved, but their belief in nationalization of industry would be much more controversial and problematic. By the 1970s nationalized industry had become associated with inefficiency and economic woes. This was largely due to the powerful Capitalist press, but it was a belief with some foundation in truth. As in the Soviet bloc, government owned industry in Britain tended to suffer from complacent workers who felt able to do the bare minimum – safe without greedy Capitalist bosses to drive them on. Was this a universal truth? of course it was not. Did some industries thrive under national ownership? of course they did. Were the utilities generally better under public ownership? – yes they were.

I don’t think that I am the only person left in Britain with the firm belief that we should have a National Health Service, a British Rail, a National Water and Sewerage Service, a British Telephone service and a Royal Mail etc which are run purely in the interests of the people of Britain – not in the interests of fat cat executives and their shareholders. I don’t want to pay ridiculous amounts for London train tickets so that Richard Branson can buy more private islands. I don’t want to see Royal Mail as a commercial company. I dont want a private water company to tell me that I cannot use a hosepipe in my  garden for months on end when there is no drought (these same companies have also more than doubled the price of tapwater in the UK even if inflation is taken into account (1989 average annual bill £129 – 2013 average annual bill £380. Public ownership of utilities is not Marxism, it is not Old Labourism, it is simply basic common sense. :)


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