I was asked (along with a number of other people) if I bought shares in Mighty River Power (MRP) and if not, why not. The answer to that question is set out in this post.
Corporatocracy* is the control of our political and economic systems by corporations. Its relevant to this post because it helps to succinctly articulate the problem with privatisation. I acknowledge that not all privatisations involve corporatocracy but there are enterprises that I consider no government should have the right to transfer to corporate control, such as, electricity companies.
Rather than selling electricity companies we should be acquiring them. As a developed country, we have come to rely on electricity and we could not thrive without it.
My view is that we should supply electricity to all households the way we supply water and waste services. Electricity would then properly be a public utility rather than a profit driven company that limits public access.
Note: public utilities do not require State management they could be managed instead by publicly elected bodies or associations.
So when asked the question set out above, my reason was not that I think the State should own them. But because I consider that removing MRP from State control takes it further away from the potential control by the people.
Electricity belongs in the commons and I do not think that resources that belong in the commons should become the subject of competitive markets. The logic is that power prices are cheaper when there is competition. My point is, power should be a service supplied to all people through publicly generated revenue and therefore would not require a competitive market.
By divesting state control of MRP and other electricity companies, we place a resource that belongs in the commons under the control of corporate elites. This control over our electricity (and other sources of energy) allows corporations to dictate the prices we pay and who has access to electricity despite the necessity of it in our households.
The difficulty is funding electricity as a public utility. Under our current tax system, we would require another tax or increases to an existing tax or rates. Untenable. We need tax reform urgently. Irrespective of your preferred economic model (i.e. capitalist, socialist), we need to simplify our tax system and find a more just way of collecting public revenue. A single land tax would help address many of our underlying socio-economic issues. I was reading an article this morning that sets out how a land tax would work.** See the link:
My closing remark is that if any of our political parties were serious about effecting real change, then tax reform would be top priority. Of course, feeding kids, building houses, improving healthcare and education are extremely important, but there would be better outcomes in all those areas if we reformed our tax system.
Note to readers: increasing personal income tax is not tax reform neither are tax cuts for the wealthy. My assessment of parties going in to next election will focus on what their intentions are around tax, because this will tell me how badly they want the change we need.
* h/t @AAMCommons
** h/t @TaxLandNotMan