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Models of Fair Public Ownership

Further Reading:

No Debt, High Growth, Low Tax
by Andrew Purves

So often, the debate about public ownership is based on a narrative that sets the public interest against the private interest. In this debate in western democracies, one can characterise the period since the Second World War as having been a game of two halves. In Britain during the war, a social democratic narrative emerged, where the interests of society would be put first, in part to reward the collective effort to defeat the Nazi dictatorship, but also perhaps, to defuse the attraction of the alternative collective ownership experiment in the Soviet Union. This social welfare model was presented in the UK with the publication of the Beveridge Report in 1944, and its main recommendations were introduced during the following three decades. Living standards rose dramatically, and public service provision of housing, healthcare, and education among others became the normal expectation. We had ‘never had it so good’1.

However, this direction was challenged by many, including Margaret Thatcher, British Prime Minister 1979–1991, and Ronald Reagan, US President 1981–1989, leading to a reversal of public ownership and provision during the next 40 years, and the victory of the private interest. While this was driven primarily by ideology at least in the UK (see for example, Hayek, 1944), there was an appetite for change, due perhaps to the imbalance of power between the trades unions, management and government. The 1980s were as much about curtailing the power of the unions as the resurgence of free market principles, and the intended efficiency from competition.

We have now reached an intellectual and philosophical point at which voters are challenging the assumptions of globalisation, the dominance of financial interests and multinational companies protected by undemocratic supra-national organisations. This is in part a response to a sustained period of rising inequality, and a smaller share of national wealth flowing to labour, but also reflects a desire to rebuild the idea of local community, and sharing of resources at a time of environmental stress.

In this paper, I look at how two jurisdictions took a different path over these years. Hong Kong and Singapore have developed a somewhat unique approach, based on distinctive models of public asset ownership, which has been either missed, misinterpreted, or ignored by many economists and social scientists.

Read more From Models of Fair Public Ownership. By Andrew Purves, Int J. Public Policy Vol,15 Nos 1/2, 2019 Copyright Inderscience Publishers.

Tony Blair initiative to solve housing crisis

The Observer (3rd Dec) revealed a new initiative to tackle the housing crisis from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. Blair is proposing that council tax and business rates, which are currently based on the value of the site and any building or improvement on it, be replaced by a tax which relates solely to the value of the land under the buildings, arguing that it is a “fairer and more rational system of property taxation”.

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“You can become wealthy by creating wealth or by appropriating the wealth created by other people. When the appropriation of the wealth is illegal it is called theft or fraud. When it is legal economists call it rent-seeking”

John Kay, Financial Times 27th Dec 2009

“If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, they cannot save the few who are rich.”

John F Kennedy, Inaugural Speech, Jan 1961

“If science is defined by its ability to forecast the future, the failure of much of the economics profession to see the crisis coming should be a cause for great concern”

Joseph Stiglitz

“Today we live in a world that is divided. A world in which we have made great progress and advances in science and technology. But it is also a world where millions of children die because they have no access to medicines… It is a world of great promise and hope. It is also a world of despair, disease and hunger”

Nelson Mandela

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