Debate Magazine

"Nationalisation Vs Privatisation: the Public View"

Posted on the 08 February 2018 by Markwadsworth @Mark_Wadsworth

Here's what DBC Reed linked to in the comments to the previous post on the topic (click pics for links):

It's not as revealing as the previous one we looked at:

Discussion here.
Suffice to say, any serious debate about whether something should be run by the government or private businesses doesn't include waffle about the private sector being more efficient or 'customer focussed', they usually are.
The government is pretty crap at running all but the most simple things, agreed.
But would you really want competing private police forces, or competing private land registries?
Some things have to be run by the government. In a proper democracy, we, the people, decides what counts as a crime and what doesn't, and the police are paid to reduce those crimes as much as possible. Not crap like arresting Twitter trolls. That's yer 'customer focus' right there. Would you want one land registry showing you as owning your home but a competing land registry showing that it belongs to somebody else? How would that work?
The other limit of the private sector is where something - if privatised - would lead to blatant rent seeking. Clearly, we can't have competing private land registries, but what if the Tories had really gone mad and privatised it as a monopoly instead? That business would effectively be able to collect Land Value Tax by charging people 'annual renewal fees' and staff would be bribed into transferring titles.
As (I think) Sobers said, there are some things that are better off in the private sector, even monopolies like water - on the proviso that a government regulator imposes serious price caps, quality and environmental standards etc (or in my view, let's them charge as much as they like and tax them at swingeing rates). This applies to all the natural monopolies on the first list (railways and water).
Health and schools are not natural monopolies or the natural preserve of government but there's too much opportunity for rent-seeking. I see no good economic reason for the government to be involved in delivering letters, broadcasting, generating electricity, telephony, banking or airlines. Bus companies are borderline, private companies are fine for long distance but in larger towns they have to be co-ordinated.

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