The ideology of privatisation is adopted by the Conservatives and New Labour as a way of freeing up a stagnant and uncompetitive market which supposedly should improve service and products. However there is more to providing a good service than seeming ruthless efficiency and profiteering. People inevitably suffer when profit is priority. Unprofitable bus services in isolated villages that elderly people depend on will go; efficient targeting of medical resources will mean that treating the terminally ill and elderly is incompatible. A dangerous juggernaut of profiteering and seemingly moral-free efficiency is the dangerous decedent of privatisation. Public ownership ensures vital services and utilities are run for the good of the taxpayer as a national body, not a small boardroom of six figure salary executives. Services in public ownership are run with a conscience and not an overriding sense of duty to money.
Privatisation is often lorded above as providing better service, but this isn’t always strictly true, as is the case with East Coast. Free markets have a limited lifespan; eventually one company becomes top dog either by buying out the competition or buying the competition. This comes at any expense. A company for example that will look to buy another multimillion pound will need to generate enough funds to make the purchase. This can only be done by either rising fees or reducing quality of goods or service by using cheaper suppliers. Arguably, bank services have, on the whole, not improved in one hundred years, with people still left out of pocket when a bank goes bust. However, the people at the top sit comfortably with their engorged salaries or inflated bonus package. It is inevitable that when a company operates for profit that services will take a hit. There’s not enough money to give the best possible service and generate high profit with executives earning millions. A state-run company can deliver a quality service with any profit going back to the taxpayer.
It’s often said that privatisation gives ordinary people a say in how the company should run and perhaps mean that that company operates more in the interests of people nationally as is the case with nationalise companies, but this is a deluded fantasy. Private and enterprising individuals will work for themselves. Not everyone can afford a stake in a company too, meaning that shares only go to the very rich. These shares are bought with the interest of making as much money as possible, not improving the service of the company. Even if shares were available cheaply so a wider range of people could buy them, this still doesn’t guarantee that your average person can exercise any kind of power over a privatised company. The only way to guarantee a good service in the interest of the majority is for services to be government run, as the government is answerable to the democratic process.
Furthermore, private education and healthcare has taken up much more than their share of resources and expertise. The best professionals are poached away and this effectively adds a ceiling to the quality of service available to those who are less well-off and rely on state run services. Often what draws these professionals is the promise of higher pay, not the drive to help people as is their job description. Privatisation of these universal services further embeds a class divide. People who succeed should function with reciprocal altruism; helping the less well off by helping to provide a better universal service. Cutting of quality service to those who need it by putting economic restrictions via high fees is unbefitting of modern society.
Privatisation is a dangerous idea pursued by New Labourites and the parties of the Right. Relentless privatisation even in the face of success in state ownership further extends an increasing gap between the rich and poor and prevents equality. Privatisation for the sake of privatisation can only lead down a dark alley, one that may be truly inescapable when it’s too late.