For me this has always been an absolute red line in terms of how our society is organised. I’ve never been opposed to the free market, even though in my experience in business the free bit is usually very far from free.
But there are certain services that society needs to function, and our economy is also dependent on. These are broadly health, education, social care, welfare, transport, police, fire services, the military and local infrastructure. I may have missed something but you get the gist.
Over the past 10 years we know that these have all been the subject of cuts, and we’ve all seen the results. Not only has this left us impoverished as a nation, it’s also applied serious downward pressure on our productivity and our economy.
It’s analogous to the way that businesses are run when they start to get into trouble. First you cut the things you don’t really need, then the things you think you can do without but would like to have, then you cut they think you do need but try to work around, then things you actually need to operate like stock and equipment and then finally you realise you’ve removed your ability to actually do anything productive.
We’re pretty much at the end of that process now, and we need to fix it.
Additionally, we know that many of the things that were cut didn’t need to be cut. The Tories are never one to let a good crisis go to waste and used the financial crash as an excuse to decimate social services and welfare, dismantle the NHS and remove many of the support services for those in the greatest need.
This was driven more by ideology and the Tories obsession with reducing the deficit at all costs, even though this had very little discernible effect on the national debt. When productivity and the economy stall, you end up with less money coming into the coffers and you have to borrow more. That’s where we are now.
There should be a real end to the culture of austerity and public service cuts. We’re one of the richest nations in the world, with everyone paying their fair share we should be able to care for and protect all our citizens and keep the infrastructure we all rely on well maintained and working properly.
The cost of train fares for example is absolutely ludicrous at the moment and are some of the highest in Europe with some of the worst services being provided. This gives lie to the idea that privatisation makes things more efficient. That said, I know that nationalised services gained a bad reputation back in the old days, but I think that was more an issue of management culture. There’s no reason why things can’t be run completely in the public sector by staff and management who are properly motivated.
Overall though there are vital services keep our economy moving, and they should be properly supported by government. I’d like to see all of them eventually brought back fully into public ownership and run collectively for the good of the people who rely on them on a zero-sum gain basis. If private businesses can make a profit out of these services now, there’s no reason why they can’t be revenue generating for society or provided at a reduced, subsidised cost where appropriate. It may even be possible to provide some of them for free! Hopefully much freer than the so-called free market!