Editor’s Note – In this latest opinion article, Josh successfully conveys his concerns regarding nationalisation, a topic which is a battleground for political debate. He sets out to answer the question ‘Why do people in Britain, despite the growing debt and underfunding, consistently support nationalisation over privatisation?’
Nationalisation: is it too good to be true?
Ever since the liberal reforms in the start of the twentieth century the number of services run and funded by the government has massively increased. The government created a nationalised health service (or NHS), nationalised education (from ages 4-18) and other nationalised services like the railway service (National Rail), the postal system and many more. This lasted near eighty years basically uncontested with most politicians not seeing an issue with this support for the under-privileged who could not afford these services before. They raised taxes to pay for them and most people agreed that this was a necessity that we all would have to deal with.
Unfortunately, some of these services ended up being expensive and complicated organisations to run. So as a result, they started to cost more money due to: the high demand for these public services, the increase in non-practical workers i.e. admin staff and inflation meaning some costs spiralled. Unluckily for citizens these costs were covered by either increasing the cost of the service (like train tickets or postage), increasing taxes or cutting the costs in the service (like lower pay and worse quality). Whichever way the customers lost out. This lasted for up to 80 years until Prime Minister Baron (Margaret) Thatcher suggested re-privatisation. This was a shock and a horror for most people as they feared the idea of paying for something they had come to know as being free. This thinking has followed any suggestion of privatisation every time it is mentioned; people say that it is unfair on the poor as they cannot afford the luxury.
This idea is not one based on fact or evidence, merely fear. If the rest of these services were privatised, like a lot of them have been, it means that there would be no need for such high taxes as there would be less to fund. I would say that this privatisation creates a competitive market that lowers the price while also raising the quality of the good or service that is being paid for. The analogy I like to use is that access to healthcare and education are human rights, but so is access to food. Everyone can afford food because it is cheap due to the competition of shops. This results in people paying less than they did before but this way they pay to the service not the government.
One of the Labour Party’s major policies was the reintroduction of nationalised industries e.g the rail network and what I would call ancient relics such as the Royal Mail. I personally believe this is a bad idea as there was a reason a lot of these companies were sold off. Mostly this reason is funding issues either due to inefficiency or general economic problems nationwide. Although this gave Labour much support from the student vote they took a lot of criticism with this exact issue being pointed out. Even with the condemnation of their so-called “false promises” they still gained much support just for saying they were against privatisation.
However, this is not just a British issue; the allure of supposedly free services is nearly always supported by the majority. On 14th April 2013, the now president of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro won the presidential election. He was a leading socialist and came in on the promise of reform and help for the poor by nationalising most of the public services. This, as you can now tell by looking up any modern article on Venezuela, was a failure. This programme thrust the country into debt and allowed the corrupt leader even more power. Now it is suffering in poverty and starvation.
I know Venezuela is a very extreme example of a worst-case scenario but it was originally praised for its revolutionary support of the poor and its radical view on nationalisation to help everyone. Even though this is very far from what we have done in Britain it is worth mentioning. So, if as I think the private market is cheaper, more stable and more efficient than a nationalised service, why do so many despise the idea of it? And after reading this, do you?