It makes sense, doesn’t it? Google is one of the very few products we use every day to perform functions that give a dangerously explicit insight into our personal lives. We share our names, our mobile numbers, our home numbers, even sometimes our addresses and bank details. Google regularly breaks both EU and UK laws, exploits private data and is accountable to no one. It seems to tick all the boxes for an industry that’s in desperate need of nationalisation.
Now, of course this is impossible. Google is a multi-national company, is worth billions of pounds and the UK government would never be able to build an internet based service to the scale and efficiency that Google has, but nevertheless, a point still remains. We complain about rail fares, strikes, delays and so on and so forth, and demand renationalisation. We demand energy to be nationalised because energy companies are taking us for a ride. Why then, is Google, or in fact any of the internet, out of bounds? If we complain at the extortionate prices we pay for energy, might we just as well complain about the way in which our own personal data is used as currency by Google? If it upsets us that rail companies don’t listen to our complaints, oughtn’t we to be irate at how Google blatantly ignores complaints from the EU?
Between them, Google and Facebook have more data on you than the government. If we are to indulge ourselves for once and talk purely idealistically, isn’t it a travesty that a private company knows more about an individual than a government? Surely an organisation that knows more about you than you know about yourself shouldn’t be able to sell that information?
Perhaps rambling too much in the world of fantasy isn’t good for the soul, so let’s return to reality. The fact is that the left has missed something crucial. Physical services are the tip of the iceberg for what we should nationalise. If the only criteria for considering nationalisation is whether or not the sector has lost its moral compass and is no longer working in the public good, then every aspect of life around us ought to be run by the state. But if we are to delve further into the harsh world of reality, we also have to look at who runs the ‘state’ and most importantly, who will run the nationalised services. If only 37% of a 66% electorate turnout voted for the Tories this year and we bemoan the injustice of our current electoral system, your vote will seem like a luxury compared to the voice you will have in the running of nationalised services. Nationalised services will become rife with unelected bureaucrats, shuffling papers, sipping tea and postponing deadlines. Could we run Google like that? Could the state run Google? Of course not, as the people of government are the absolute antithesis of the people that run Google. At the end of the day, politicians are not businessmen, nor should they be.
Why talk so much about Google? With a rather extravagant example, I am trying to point out that the government isn’t qualified to run companies. What the government is especially not qualified to do is, run profitable companies. However much we may dislike it, every industry must make a profit in order to survive, and making a profit is not what the government is used to, and it’s definitely not designed for it. When centrally-planned Romania was in its heyday of state run services, everything ran smoothly. It was only when the system was dismantled did people realise that no service that the government ran made a profit, or was even sustainable. Every one of them was making a loss and relied heavily on subsides from the national bank, and every one of them collapsed when the government pulled out. Why? Fundamentally, governments should be benevolent and accountable to the people. If a government runs a nationalised service and fulfils the above criteria, the only option it has when citizens demand lower prices, is to give them lower prices. Because otherwise the politician’s worst nightmare of the backbench after the next election begins to surface on the horizon.
Better regulation of all sectors is a far more sustainable alternative to nationalisation of all sectors. If our only justification for subsuming private companies into the state is to instil in it some form of moral compass, then this is done far more simply with decent laws. Why don’t we make decent laws? Because with the legal system so mixed up with the House of Lords and judges, and sponsors and lobbying, that the people who make the laws benefit from their lack of enforceability. We completely violate Montesquieu’s separation of powers doctrine. If we completely separated the law makers from the law enforcers, and the law enforcers from the politicians, and the politicans from the influence of private companies, we would essentially have no need to nationalise, because the law would enforce a moral compass on sectors, whether they supported it or not.
So, the solution to ‘big evil corporates’? Montesquieau’s separation of powers doctrine.
But perhaps that’s for another time.