Monday, August 09, 2010

Laissez-faire Britain loses another brick in the wall



This article of mine appears in the First Post:

Non! Neil Clark bemoans the imminent sale of International Power to a French state owned group

Just over 30 years ago, Britain's infrastructure, its public transport and its leading manufacturing industries were all in the hands of the British state. Who could have predicted that three decades later, much of our economy would be in the hands of the governments of other European countries?

You can read the whole article here.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

well it might have been predictable if people factored in conservatives' getting into power, the declime of Keynsianism,,.,and the rise of the Chicago boys.

Brian

Anonymous said...

'We were told by the Thatcherites, and neo-liberal think tanks such as the Adam Smith Institute, which pushed aggressively for privatisation, that reducing state ownership would improve economic efficiency and be good for the country. But while Britain put up a 'For Sale' sign on our national assets, other European nations have played a far more intelligent game.'

Wasnt Thatcher inspired by the Friedmans Chicago school..which also ttaught Chile under Pinochet? That connection alone should have served warning.

also Privatisation nearly always results in a decline of services.....look at the fate of QANTAS! from being an eg in the movie: Rainman, to its current crisis...
and if you missed it:
http://www.counterpunch.org/brown08062010.html

Brian

Robin Carmody said...

I think Tom Sutcliffe has some good points over at The First Post; from the curse of Britain having invented the railways and not having had either the impetus (as the rest of Europe had when their railways were bombed to bits during WW2) or the money to reinvent them, to the fact that Britain is naturally appealing to continental business people who find their own economies too restricted. I can't help thinking, as Tom hints, that Britain is by its nature a trading nation, though it's also a nation that recoiled in horror at the industrial model it had conceived as soon as everyone else adopted it.

Certainly, if faced with a straight choice (which is all we'll have under Cameron), I'd rather our industries were owned by our fellow European states, with their more sensible mixed economy model, than by American capitalists - it fits much better with my own preferred alignment for Britain.

Robin Carmody said...

I think Tom Sutcliffe has some good points over at The First Post; from the curse of Britain having invented the railways and not having had either the impetus (as the rest of Europe had when their railways were bombed to bits during WW2) or the money to reinvent them, to the fact that Britain is naturally appealing to continental business people who find their own economies too restricted. I can't help thinking, as Tom hints, that Britain is by its nature a trading nation, though it's also a nation that recoiled in horror at the industrial model it had conceived as soon as everyone else adopted it.

Certainly, if faced with a straight choice (which is all we'll have under Cameron), I'd rather our industries were owned by our fellow European states, with their more sensible mixed economy model, than by American capitalists - it fits much better with my own preferred alignment for Britain.

Mr. Piccolo said...

I wonder why Continental Europe is so different from the Anglo-Saxon world when it comes to economics, perhaps the values are different? People I know who have spent time on the Continent say the people there work to live, as opposed to living to work. Its is just a different outlook on life.

On the other hand, it seems like the Anglo-Saxon world lives according to a kind economism, where all aspects of life are subjected to economics, while on the Continent, other values, such as patriotism, trump pure economic values, although one has to wonder if keeping some industries in public ownership was a better idea based on economics as well. The performance of some privatized industries seems to indicate that in some instances, public ownership does work better.

jack said...

"Evil" Chinese government seems to be the only country in the world that has embarked on large scale infrastructure projects building one of the best high speed rail systems in the world which I think is a good model of state working with foreign companies.

Nick said...

Yup, the trouble with practising economic cannibalism (aka unrestrained global capitalism)is that you aren't always the guy sitting at the dinner table; sometimes you're the food. Funny, though, how the Brits always seem to vote for that.

Mark said...

'not having had either the impetus (as the rest of Europe had when their railways were bombed to bits during WW2) or the money to reinvent them.'

Robin Carmody- Correlli Barnett addresses this point very well in his book dissecting the economic policies of the Attlee government, 'The Lost Victory'. In the chapter 'Parlours before Plant' he highlights the decision of the Attlee govt. NOT to invest a large chunk of Marshall aid monies into railway electrification. For most of our European neighbours, this was the top priority when Marshall Aid came on stream. The UK govt,however, had other priorities, in particular, the building council houses (in part explained by the woeful failure to build 'homes fit for heroes' at the end of WW1), and the assumption of a 'leadership role' East of Suez (in effect the role of junior partner in the new 'pax Americana' trumpeted by Anglo elites on both sides of the Atlantic at the time).

The Attlee government's decision not to invest Marshall aid was the first of several 'missed opportunities' not taken over the last 65 years to revive the UK's now over-priced, privatised, railway network.

Robin Carmody said...

Mark - yes, and the result (as documented a while back on BBC Four) was that as the rest of Europe was forging ahead, Britain wasted millions on an attempt to reinvent the steam locomotive, building hundreds of locos which barely lasted 15 years (sometimes much less) in regular service. A disastrous piece of short-termism. The thinking was that because we still had *some* railways, whereas some other European countries barely had any, they'd be alright forever ... and we're still paying the price. Later on, a false either/or dichotomy was established - Wilson was effectively trapped by his "white heat of technology" speech into not doing anything to reverse Beeching; also, the fact that many opponents of the Beeching axe were unrealistically rose-tinted, quasi-feudal Peter Simple types probably tainted more sensible arguments against it in Labour circles.

I think building council houses was the right thing to do, but I think it could have used Britain's limited resources far better than on desperately lusting after a power that had in reality been lost forever in the war, aiming for someone else's reflected imperial glory rather than accepting reality. I know it was willing to let go of India etc. which the Tories probably wouldn't have been, and I *hope* Labour wouldn't have tried anything as futile as the Suez adventure had it been in power in 1956, but while I greatly admire many of the Attlee government's achievements (welfare state, etc.) I think it has been sentimentalised by some on the Left, and it is certainly misremembered by some as something it wasn't in terms of foreign policy.