Why public ownership makes sense

If I need some basic repairs carrying out on my car or my house, I know that the cheapest way to get the repairs done is to do it myself.  It is faster and easier and cheaper.

Why should it be any different for the nation?  If we want cost-effective roads, railways and other essential infrastructure, it is common sense for us to own and maintain them ourselves.  It’s faster and easier and because we are not paying someone else’s profits it is far cheaper.  Public ownership simply makes sense.

Other nations make a success of it. They are even running our rail services and taking the profits for their governments.

Keolis is 70% owned by the French government’s national rail service SNCF. It owns 35% of Govia, which runs the Govia Thameslink, Southern, Southeastern and London Midland franchises.

Arriva UK Trains, which operates a string of services including Chiltern, CrossCountry, Grand Central, Northern, Arriva Rail London and Arriva Trains Wales, is owned by Deutsche Bahn – whose sole shareholder is the Federal Republic of Germany.

Abellio is the international arm of the state-owned Dutch national rail operator Nederlandse Spoorwegen.

If you really want to upset yourself about this, watch the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvagsSOlAy4

Do we think so little of ourselves that we can’t do the same?  Isn’t it time to bring essential public services back into public ownership?

About Minimalist Christian

Phil Hemsley is a graduate of the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in the UK. He works for a multinational company in the power industry, has presented technical papers at international conferences and holds many patents. He has published two books, the most recent is "The Big Picture, an Honest Examination of God Science and Purpose". He has lived on both sides of the faith fence. He is married, with two daughters.
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2 Responses to Why public ownership makes sense

  1. unkleE says:

    Hi Phil, I agree with you in principle. And in much of the detail I also agree. But I think it isn’t a simple matter.

    I worked all my life (44 years) for the NSW state government (I suppose somewhere between a large county like Yorkshire and Scotland in size and scope) and I believe government operation of services is in principle best, but doesn’t always work well. When I started, in 1961, the public service was highly bureaucratic, with many people doing the minimum work they could while filling in the hours. Innovation and motivation were generally low, and people did the job for pay and job security.

    By about the 70s, people were treated more responsibly, many people were well motivated (particularly those given responsibility in an area that was doing good things – such as environmental management, which was the area I worked in). I’d say that period, from about 1975-2000 was generally very productive, though that was just in the department I worked for – some others were still bureaucratic and hidebound.

    But things were still changing, and by about the turn of the century, the public service became more politicised, good work often gave way to keeping the politicians in power, assets were privatised and work programs slashed in an attempt to reduce taxes and pay for the growing social welfare spending. The public service became a more precarious and less motivating place to work, a lot of expertise was lost as departments downsized, and some silly decisions made because the remaining bureaucrats had no idea. Meanwhile, the privatised services were run more efficiently in money terms, but often less efficiently in human terms, which is the point of your post here.

    So there are difficult choices. Privatising brings the efficiencies of the profit motive but generally loses the emphasis on providing a service, especially to the more disadvantaged. But keep things public can lead to union, government and management rorts and inefficiencies. The best of all is having a motivated public service doing work they really believe in, as I experienced in that middle period, but that is very hard to sustain when politicians seek power more than serving.

    I conclude that public ownership of necessary assets is best in principle, but there are probably times when this isn’t the best. That’s my Australian experience, I wonder how much it applies in UK?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, no system is perfect without perfect people. Whoever finds themselves with the power tends to use it to their own advantage – whether power of wealth, or excessive union power.
      But for me, people are more important than profit.


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