Why utilities need to be in public ownership

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I argued on Sunday that:

The sheer folly of thinking that the Royal Mail could be privatised was always madness. It is a utility. These need to be in public ownership.

And yes, that does mean I think water, gas, electricity, much of public transport, basic banking and the telecoms infrastructure does also need to be publicly owned.

Some on the Right have said I did not make my case: I merely asserted it.

The case is simply stated: when there isn’t sufficient capacity within an economy to create a market in a good or service then to permit the market to supply that facility is to grant a monopoly which is likely to lead to abuse. Part of that abuse will be denial of the facility to some who have need of it, and in the case of a utility access to that facility has reached the point where that access is now considered a basic pre-condition for a decent life.

In my opinion we do not have the capacity within our economy to build duplicate and universally available utilities to support and supply:

  1. Water
  2. Clean air
  3. Roads
  4. Railways
  5. Airports
  6. Ports
  7. International transport
  8. Education
  9. Health
  10. Law and order
  11. Post
  12. Telecoms
  13. Energy
  14. The means of exchange

You can add a few more to taste.

The point is that each of these requires an infrastructure that cannot be duplicated and its cost is such that local monopoly is inevitable. In that case any overlay of market provision is to impose a cost of regulation and pretence that is hopelessly inefficient and adds simple bureaucratic burden that makes no sense: take the NHS structure as clear example.

So, honest state ownership and regulation is better for all, and more efficient in lowering the cost of supply by eliminating duplication and the payment of a ‘profit’ when none is appropriate.