4 Reasons To Nationalise Some Industries

Left-wing politicians are usually more in favour of nationalisation.
Left-wing politicians are usually more in favour of nationalisation.

Forget the ideological waffling of your favourite orator, or the political dogma drummed into you by your parents. Most people will admit some things should be nationalised (e.g. education) while other things should be in private hands (e.g. food production). Unfortunately, most have no idea why this division exists; they instead rely on their political persuasion as a shortcut to answering questions on the matter. Far fewer people support their opinions with sound economics and political philosophy.

The point of this article is to help people abandon ideological commitments by developing a deeper understanding of the arguments for and against nationalisation.

1. Social Responsibility

Whether we like it or not, some challenges require a social effort. During wartime, for example, industries have been nationalised to ensure all resources go into the war effort. Other challenges, such as climate change, last much longer than wars. Climate change requires that we move from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy before the consequences become too severe or too permanent. However, as the past two decades have shown, energy providers cannot be trusted to develop and invest in renewable energies if such an investment is likely to dent their profits. They continue to produce and sell fossil fuels because that is what makes them the most money.

Energy companies lack “social responsibility” because they threaten our collective future for their short-term gain. What’s more, their short-term gain will likely insulate them from the initial consequences of climate change, while billions of poorer people suffer them fully.

Other industries have social responsibilities too. For example, banks are responsible for protecting people’s savings; a transport network (safe roads and rails) is necessary for keeping the economy moving; and waste collection is needed to ensure public health.

Global Temperature, 1880-2014. Does climate change require nationalisation of energy?
Global Temperature, 1880-2014. Does climate change require nationalisation of energy? | Source

2. Individual Rights

Libertarians are very protective of individual rights. The only problem is they don’t think we have many of them! Their opposition to nationalisation means they don’t think people are entitled to the public services that many countries take for granted.

Europeans commonly believe everyone has a right to education, healthcare, employment prospects, and social mobility. In more libertarian nations, such as the USA, these rights are held in less regard. As a result, people born in underprivileged areas tend to suffer from a poor education, no healthcare, and minimal chance of a satisfying career.

Most would say there’s no justice in letting wealth determine one's prospect of having a good life. Unfortunately, far fewer people are willing to take a stand against it. Thus, the level of nationalisation depends on the rights that people think they’re entitled to, but also on whether those rights are deemed worth fighting for.

Socialist Sanders vs Libertarian Paul

3. Guaranteed Demand

Most products are sold because a consumer chooses to purchase them. Consequently, if the price of bread quadrupled, many people would choose to stop buying it. Capitalism ensures a competitive, innovative, and largely fair market for products of this kind.

Unfortunately, there are products that don't fit into this model. Consumption of electricity, gas, and water isn’t a choice that people make; it’s a necessity. This means that companies offering these products have “guaranteed demand”, making it impossible for them to fail. If they quadrupled their prices, people would be forced to pay. The only reason they don’t is because they’d lose money from those who couldn’t afford it, and because the state would be forced to nationalise the industry to stop millions freezing to death. Nevertheless, having people over a barrel means they can push up prices as much as is profitable, which usually means letting only the poorest and most vulnerable freeze to death.

If an industry has guaranteed demand, it doesn’t fit into a capitalist system. It becomes a public service rather than a business, and to extract profit from a public service is immoral because there’s no risk attached. In essence, it’s a gravy train for those with the wealth to enter the industry.

Although utility companies clearly enjoy guaranteed demand, and this is a good argument for nationalising them, most other industries don’t. For example, people don’t have to invest in banks, use a land line phone, or ride public transport. Healthcare may be different because people are guaranteed to have injuries and diseases that require treatment. Furthermore, some are born or grow up with disorders and diseases through no fault of their own. Guaranteed demand is thus a good reason to nationalise healthcare.

Should people born with healthcare needs have to spend their lives paying for it?
Should people born with healthcare needs have to spend their lives paying for it? | Source

4. Preventing Oligopolies

An oligopoly occurs when a small number of companies dominate a particular market. For example, six utility companies share 95% of the UK electricity market, while four airlines operate the majority of US flights. This can result in a lack of competition, price collusion, restriction of production, and aggressive tactics to prevent new companies entering the market.

Sometimes, governments contribute to the creation of an oligopoly by making it difficult for new companies to obtain a government license. However, industries with guaranteed demand are also more likely to result in oligopolies because of their capacity for interdependence. They may have the same suppliers, together with perfect knowledge of each other’s costs, market share, and likely market actions. Thus, reducing costs is avoided as it might encourage a needless price war, while increasing costs can be seen as safe if the other companies do the same. Furthermore, as demand is consistent, there is limited opportunity for new companies to enter the market and limited capacity for existing companies to fail.

As each company wants to maximise profit, competition is avoided in an oligopoly, effectively turning the industry into a quasi-nationalised entity with the unwelcome caveat that profits are extracted for personal gain. One of the main arguments against nationalisation is that competition between private companies drives innovation and low prices. Non-competitive oligopolies remove these benefits. Thus, if an industry moves towards becoming an oligopoly because it has guaranteed demand and not because of government interference, then it makes sense to nationalise it to ensure all profits are reinvested.

Do you think arguments about nationalisation should address these four topics?

  • Yes
  • Yes, and there are other topics to discuss (please comment below).
  • Some of the topics are worth discussing.
  • No, I don't think these topics add anything to the debate.
  • No, nationalisation is always wrong / right.
See results without voting

Which Industries Should Be Nationalised? Examples:

The Energy Sector should be nationalised. It’s neglecting its social responsibility to produce clean energy, and it’s enjoying guaranteed demand that has resulted in the formation of non-competitive oligopolies in most developed nations.

Healthcare should probably be nationalised. If the public consider healthcare a right for every human being, the argument is clear. Furthermore, healthcare has guaranteed demand that has resulted in some non-competitive oligopolies.

Transport is a difficult example. Providers could be allowed to fail. Guaranteed demand isn’t certain, and people could conceivably find other means to travel (e.g. cycling, taxis, purchasing a car, car pooling, or car rental). However, this would adversely affect the poorest in society who rely more on public transport; so there may be a level of social responsibility that sways the argument in favour of nationalisation. Conversely, the creation of oligopolies in some areas of transport may be more to do with equipment costs and the conditions for obtaining and retaining a government license.

While transport companies could conceivably remain in private hands, the transport network could not. The economy would fail if roads and rail lines were not properly maintained.

Banks have a social responsibility to protect people’s savings. However, they don’t have a responsibility to be risk-free; only a responsibility to be honest. In other words, banks should inform savers of the risks involved when investing with them, and risk-taking banks should be clearly labelled so as to differentiate them from safe-havens. People should also have a choice to place their savings in publicly owned banks that adhere to even stricter regulations.

It follows that if a bank misrepresents itself and loses money it’s not permitted to lose, it should be bought by the public at below the market value (i.e. its value minus a large fine) so that future adherence to regulation is guaranteed. Furthermore, if a bank takes part in illegal schemes, such as manipulating the Forex market, or money laundering for drugs cartels, then they’re making savers complicit in this activity and should have to endure nationalisation.

Jeremy Corbyn On Nationalising Energy


Ideology is a way to remove thought from politics. When a subject is saturated with ideology, the specific reasons for a policy position become lost in the crossfire. Unfortunately, ideological commitments have defined the approaches of the `left’ and `right’ to nationalisation for decades (left is for; right is against), damaging our ability to see the pros and cons of each position in each context.

This article has sought to use political philosophy and economic arguments that can be understood, interpreted, and applied in an unbiased way to describe why some industries should or shouldn't be nationalised. It’s hoped that governments will choose to address these arguments when considering nationalisation or privatisation, rather than subjecting citizens to their particular brand of ideology.

© 2015 Thomas Swan

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bradmasterOCcal profile image

bradmasterOCcal 14 months ago from Orange County California

I wasn't sold on any of the four points in this hub.

Their is a difference between nationalization, monopolies, and free market.

The US Government, and your government couldn't make a profit making shoes. Government doesn't operate as a business, and businesses exists to make a profit, and work within their budgets. Otherwise they go out of business.

Products like energy, gas, oil, water, and any other staple or necessities need to be regulated when they become the single source operating as a monopoly. This is outside of supply and demand because on demand can be varied.

Today, the US has deviated from anti trust to the mergers and acquisitions that create super global monopolies. They are so big that they eclipse the resources and ability to be controlled by the government. AIG and the 2008 Economic Meltdown is a perfect example.

Nationalization replaces companies like AIG with the US Government. They have made a mess of Social Security, and Medicare, and they will do the same with the National Health Insurance.

Great Britain is a perfect example of how nationalization is just fuel for taxation. The railroads, and transportation system are inadequate. National Health Care is doled out in minutes for visits and months for scheduling remedies. The same thing is true in Canada.

So why would we want to put more control in the hands of the incompetent and already obese federal government?

The simple concept of economics is supply and demand in a free market, but taxes and monopolies adversely affect this simple and effective system. Russia failed at their nationalization and their five year plan for producing and selling products.

Competition which doesn't exist under nationalization, and monopolies creates better and more ingenious products, at a lower price for the consumer. But when the government and monopolies enter the mix the result is chaos, high prices, and little to no choices for the consumer.

Why did Britain reject the idea of becoming part of the European Community which is really a nationalization concept.


jgshorebird profile image

jgshorebird 14 months ago from Earth

If one agrees with nationalization, based upon some vague notion that a common good must be served, one must first answer the question: by what right does one eliminate the right of ownership? There is no such right to steal. There is only force and that is immoral. Hence, to nationalize, is to steal. To use force against others, without their permission.

Whether 'force' is a decree from the 'people', as represented by their government, based upon the false idea that the good or service being nationalized (stolen), is immaterial. The government or the people have no right to steal. They never have. Ask a prisoner. One cannot ignore it. One cannot hide it (theft) inside the 'common good.'

If one states that there are no real rights or that rights are vague, then why do we have prisons? If theft is only theft, depending upon how we color it, then someone who steals a car is only nationalizing it on the micro-social scale, right? The car thief has needs after all. This reasoning is justified by nationalization.

To confiscate gold from the people to prepare for war, is immoral.

Hence, the idea - the position, that some have the right to confiscate the goods created by others, is a fallacy. A company which mines salt, since everyone must have salt, owns that salt. To take the salt mine from that company in the name of John Q. Public, is theft. Mine your own salt or trade for it freely. One cannot morally confiscate the salt mine and retain one's morality. One cannot 'blank out' the theft in the vague name of communal goods. What are they? Who decides? A majority? A gang of thugs with the most power? The most guns? Does the government?

To state that companies are only in it for the profit, is true. But profits drive the products to one's refrigerator. People and companies ought to be rewarded for their work. They should exist in a free and unfettered market. One has a choice to buy salt from many stores at many different prices (in the USA) freely. In a nationalized salt system, one would buy at a set price, based not up demand and supply, but a bureaucrat's decision at the State Salt Store.

It is never about what rights individuals think they are entitled to. This is meaningless. It means that rights are whims, traded against the power of government or sustained by the largest atom bomb. They are not.

One's existence on earth (natural rights) defines one's rights. One is alive. One seeks to stay alive. If another attempts to take one's life, one can fight back. The right to life.

One needs to sustain himself. One needs to move, think, take action, trade with others, go to the doctor, but one cannot force anyone to do these things for him. One has the 'natural' liberty to exist, to move about, but not to enslave others. Nationalizing anything is akin the slavery.

In order to live and eat and think and dress, one must own stuff. The right to own property. The right to dig for salt and sell it to the next guy, so long as you do not dig in the next guy's salt mine. To take the salt mine, based upon the alleged rights of society (a collection of individuals - all with different notions) is theft. It cannot be disguised with the argument that there are competing ideological belief systems, some which see nationalization as a necessary evil, because it is what it is: theft.

The are no 'rights' 'pros' and 'cons'. Human rights are by defined by being human. And societies do not have rights.

Kimberleyclarke profile image

Kimberleyclarke 14 months ago from England

Fab! I voted for Jeremy...we'll see what happens. After the abysmal May result, the only way is up!

chefsref profile image

chefsref 14 months ago from Citra Florida

The entire idea of a free market in the US is an oxymoron. Industries have become globalized and they control the government. There are revolving doors between Wall Street and the Fed as well as Federal agencies and the companies they regulate.

That said, I would add prisons to your list and remove health care. I believe in single payer health care but not allowing government to run the entire show.

Single payer Health care because treatment should not come down to profit or loss. At what point is it more profitable to let someone die? Letting the government run the all of health care would lead to a loss of innovation. New treatments and new drugs all arise from the profit motive.

Prisons because it is outrageous to allow someone to profit by keeping someone locked up and to generate more profits by convicting people

Thomas Swan profile image

Thomas Swan 14 months ago from New Zealand Author

Thanks for commenting bradmaster. Governments don’t operate to make a profit. Everything is reinvested, giving people the best possible service. The point is that some things aren’t businesses in the traditional sense; they’re essential public services that can’t be allowed to fail (businesses can be allowed to fail).

Creating regulations to try to force a competitive market is little more than a denial that the capitalist system doesn’t work for some industries. Mergers and acquisitions can be prevented with regulation, but it’s clearly not the only cause of oligopolies, e.g. if there weren’t many companies to start with and it’s a market that’s near-impossible to enter.

Great Britain is a wonderful example of how nationalization has succeeded. I don’t know what propaganda you watch (Fox News I suspect), but the National Health Service in the UK is the most efficient in terms of quality-to-cost ratio in the world:

The US spends more on healthcare per person and gets less for what it spends. Millions are left without healthcare in the US.

Privatisation of other services in the UK has typically reduced quality, increased costs, and has been carried out for ideological reasons:

Thomas Swan profile image

Thomas Swan 14 months ago from New Zealand Author

Jshorebird, thanks for commenting.

There’s no right to mass ownership of things that people have no choice about using. If I owned all the water in the world and said “you can’t use it”, would I have a right to that kind of ownership? I’ve taken my point to an extreme with that example, but it’s the same premise. There is no absolute right to ownership.

Nationalisation is not theft if the government buys the business at market value.

Yes, companies are only in it for profit and, if they compete with other companies for it, this drives innovation, new products, and low prices. I’ve said so in the hub. The point is it’s impossible for competition to exist in some industries, and this leads to the creation of oligopolies. The benefits of private ownership (innovation and price competition) are lost, while the main disadvantage (profit siphoned off for shareholders instead of being reinvested) is retained.

Rights change as civilization does. What rights do we have today that we didn’t have in ancient times? A great many! What if we’d made a bill of rights in Ancient Egypt and never added to it ever? We must continue to advance.

You say “one cannot force anyone to do these things for him.” but what about state schools? Are we forcing teachers to provide people with an education? Or are you against those too?

I do find it a rather ridiculous argument that doctors working in the UK National Health Service or any public service are "slaves". They’re employed, they earn a good wage just like any other job, and not one of them would call themselves a slave. If they thought of themselves as slaves, they’d leave, just like any other job.

Of course we have a right to own property. No-one is saying otherwise. All I’m suggesting with this article is that some small percentage of currently “sellable” products shouldn’t be thought of as property to be owned by private individuals. We still have (and should have) the right to own everything else.

Thomas Swan profile image

Thomas Swan 14 months ago from New Zealand Author

Cheers Kimberly, I'll be voting for Corbyn too. I worry that they'll find a way to stop him though; whether by deleting votes or abandoning the whole election.

Thomas Swan profile image

Thomas Swan 14 months ago from New Zealand Author

Thanks for commenting chefsref. I agree that the control corporations have over government is a huge problem. They’ve regulated in the opposite direction, to their advantage, while consumers suffer higher prices for everything and employees suffer poor working conditions.

Prisons are a good example to raise. It’s a bigger problem in the US than the UK I think, but it’s happening here too. The potential catastrophes resulting from private prisons would be a big tick in the “social responsibility” section. And yes, the incentive to get more people into prison could never end well.

Single payer healthcare sounds alright to me too as long as the profit motive is removed. The idea of “profit from pain” sickens me (perhaps that was their intent!). I think pharmaceutical companies and their innovations can still be kept separate from any nationalised system of hospitals. They’re another issue that I could rant on about forever though!

bradmasterOCcal profile image

bradmasterOCcal 14 months ago from Orange County California


Governments don’t operate to make a profit. Everything is reinvested, giving people the best possible service. The problem is that people are not getting the best possible service.

It is one thing not to get a profit, but it is another thing to drain the revenue without getting something good in return.

Healthcare in the US and the UK doesn't provide a quality service. The propaganda I get is from your fellow Brits who have complained about their treatment, mistreatment, or non treatment. You evidently are a healthy person, and it isn't until you get sick that you see flaws in the healthcare system.

How many major diseases has the British Healthcare system cured. Using the Salk vaccine for Polio as an example of what I mean by cure?

The US Healthcare is not in the business of finding cures just expensive treatments and surgeries. Efficient in economics is not quality healthcare.

What other successes are there from British Nationalism, I am serious and I don't know of any. Maybe, I am ignorant, maybe just curious, or possibly I really want to know?

jgshorebird profile image

jgshorebird 14 months ago from Earth

Interesting. Why is there no right to mass ownership? One would need to cite an example, in a system predicated upon basic human rights, which I argue never changes and are naturally endowed, of soul ownership of an entire resource, such as water. Sure, one can argue that a single chief, of a large belligerent tribe in some South American Amazonian jungle, could, at least temporarily 'own' a well which provides all of the fresh water in a small area, but this is not what I would define as mass ownership.

A system where the government serves limited purposes (not in the U.S. or even the U.K.) being the only entity which can use retaliatory force, against those unwilling to practice the simple freedoms of life, liberty and property, as dictated by the 'properties' of being human, is the only moral one. All others, denying these basic rights, are, by definition, predatory, 'law of the jungle' type democracies or even regimes based upon the false theory of the bloodline dictators.

If one freely trades for all of anything, one has the right to own it, completely. But alas, as you have stipulated, and I will add, even on this mixed up planet populated by despotic governments and wannabe dictators, it has yet to occur. In fact, in a 'free' world it would be impossible, unless there was a population of one. There would be too many rational people indicating that they would also like to buy a piece of that the water action.

If one owns all of the water on earth, but was unwilling to sell it to anyone, because one was insane, that person would not last long. That person would require the world's largest army, navy and space agency – all drinking his water for survival. So let us speak plainly.

Taking the 'right of ownership' to such an extreme does in no way negate, that one does have the right of ownership, has always had that right, unless one is imprisoned or otherwise has one's rights removed by force or violence, which is the only way these things work. One owns the shirt on one's back. One might own all of the oil in the Arctic, if one purchased the land legally. If one stole the land, well that is another issue. Then, of course, one has used force to steal. There is no right to steal.

No government gave humans rights. They are absolutely a part of being human. Look at your hand. You own it. You own your body. In the winter, you choose to place gloves upon your hands or perhaps mittens made in China. You go to the shop and buy a pair. You absolutely own those gloves or mittens. I think we agree on this part.

Nationalization is nothing less than theft, because, just like one owns his mittens, one owns a particular well of water, especially if one owns the property where the well was dug by one's own hands. A government which forces the water well owner to vacate his property, even if the owner refused to sell, is practicing theft. Market value or not, force would need to be used to 1. eliminate one's natural endowed right to own stuff and 2. remove one from one's property. This, is nothing less than theft, be it by a government, a group of thugs or a man with a gun – there is no difference.

Nationalization is also a "weasel word". It means initiating force within social relationships to take things by force, even if paying for the items taken, especially when the payee has refused the sale. There is no "nation" of thugs. Nations consist of individual people. If 51% of the people agree to "nationalize" (steal) a coal mine in Alberta, it does not mean that such thing is a legitimate sale. It is what is: theft. It can be nothing else, unless one feels mankind is a mere herd animal, adrift upon the whims and wishes of those in power or perhaps a king, defining liberties based upon the alleged moral majority, the weather, pig entrails or even Church Dogma.

Competition is not impossible in any industry, unless that industry is very limited in scope or is given coercive monopoly power by government decree. As an example, in the early U.S. Railroad industry was said to have been the epitome of the giant monopoly system, created by competition, but this is not true. Many Railroad companies did not 'legally' buy the land upon which they built their tracks, but plied the hands of politicians with money who then forced the property owners to sell. This is not the result of free trade, but the result of bare knuckled confiscation. In a sense, they nationalized the land for the Railroads and ignored the unalienable rights of people. Millionaires were made, at the expense of rights. In other words, in a non-free system of governance, oligarchies are the norm. Competition is not.

Profits are only given to shareholders if they sell their stocks or utilize some dividend. This is not siphoning, but their ROI. (Return on Investment). It belongs to them. It is their property. The very fact that shareholders purchase stocks, at least initially, is to seek remuneration from a profitable company and give it the life blood to be born in the first place, with all the investment risk such an endeavor requires.

The benefits of private ownership are never lost. Where do they go? The loss only occurs when things like nationalization are used to ply the hard earned profits, the property, the freedom to own, from the risk takers and innovators in the name of "you don't have any rights".

Again, rights never change. Sure, immoral governments use force to strip us of individual liberties, but our rights never change. Rights are unalienable. Whether a Roman soldier was conscripted 3000 years ago or today, we are required on pain of fine, to pay for nationalized healthcare, individual rights (as I previously mentioned) never went away. They were only stolen, suspended, abdicated, like 'nationalization' steals property. You have it backwards.

The Bill of Rights is a piece of wax paper, just like Thomas Jefferson always warned. We must first recognize that bills and laws only codify what is already unalienable. The advancement would be to further secure these rights, not ignore them. To make sure the laws and our rights, are not so easily melted away.

As for state schools, correct, they do use force to conscript students in the U.S. Such a system is immoral. Schools must all be voluntary, not compulsory. Teachers, at least in the U.S., are not forced to be teachers, however. I'm not against education, quite the contrary, I am for the freedom of individual to go where ever chosen. Whether that is a trade school or law school, paid for by hard work, rich uncles, church monies or charities, but never by the taxpayer – without the permission of same.

I am not too familiar with the UK National Health Service. But if the doctors in the U.K. are in any way required to 'give' their time, whether they are paid or not, such a requirement would be a form of involuntary servitude and by definition, immoral. If the U.K. doctors choose to work in government service, they are not so enslaved, nor would any job create a slave, where one works voluntarily. On the other hand, taxation required to pay for studies to determine why people play football, is a form or slavery, with the small 's'.

But I still vehemently hold to the course that there are no boundaries of personal property ownership, so long as one trades for the items or resources in a free and fair market. Again, such markets are not easy to find.

And there is no "we" to "own" everything else. "We" necessary means a collection of "me's". It means one person at a time. There are no group thoughts or mind-melds, but each individual brain encased in each individual head. Each brain has its own thoughts. Some brains think there are no unalienable rights. These types are responsible for much mayhem in our world from the deserts of Syria to the old Gulags in a former union of Soviets. A few brains, damned few these days, reject the "we" for the idea of "I" as in "individual liberties". These "I's" break away from the lemmings heading for the cliffs. They hold certain truths...etc.

Thomas Swan profile image

Thomas Swan 14 months ago from New Zealand Author

Bradmaster, I provided two examples in the previous comment: the NHS and the East Coast Railway. The Royal Mail is a third recent example. It was a nationalised postal service that made the government lots of money (to be reinvested) and provided a reliable service until right-wing ideologues sold it off cheap to their hedge-fund buddies. The stock price went up about 50% after the sale. The taxpayer was fleeced.

I’ve cited two successful public services that made money, but which were privatised for ideological reasons. And the NHS, which is the most efficient health service in the world.

That’s strange. Most of what I hear about the NHS is positive, although there’s been some anti-NHS propaganda in the British media lately (presumably at the behest of our right-wing government who want to privatise it too). Could looking at unbiased research on satisfaction levels help? -

I wouldn’t mind knowing where you found those fellow Brits. On a message board? On a forum, community or facebook group?

I don’t think saying “You evidently are a healthy person” and therefore can’t “see flaws in the healthcare system” cuts it as an argument. I know my own health service and the views of my fellow Brits better than you do. I’ve lived here most of my life and used the health services as much as anyone else. Perhaps not listening to people who praise the NHS is why you think everyone hates it.

I don’t know how many diseases the British healthcare system has cured or developed vaccines for. I don’t think that’s its job. That’s the job of the pharma industry. I suspect the NHS would do a better, more efficient job if it had responsibility for it.

Thomas Swan profile image

Thomas Swan 14 months ago from New Zealand Author

BTW, Ebola could have been cured decades ago if the pharma industry considered it a profitable venture. Thousands had to die before they gave it another look.

jgshorebird profile image

jgshorebird 14 months ago from Earth

Thomas...was Pharma required to cure Ebola decades ago? By what right were they so required? Profit or no profit, by what "order" should Pharma operate? Such a dictate would be required if one asserts these things. Are pharmacological companies to ignore the bottom line, consume as much taxpayer funds as governments can remove from the pockets of citizens, and cure the known world, because it is just the right thing to do? Isn't such a philosophy, such a mindset, absent the substance which allowed the medical industry to rapidly evolve in the first place - but only in relatively freer countries? Are we to now "enslave" Pharma in the name of the "common good" - which not a soul can define similarly?

Thomas Swan profile image

Thomas Swan 14 months ago from New Zealand Author

Jgshorebird, there’s no right to mass ownership of a publicly-needed resource because it would also have to include the right to cause harm to others. You cited one example of a tribe owning and refusing access to a well. I define that as mass ownership of a resource because it’s “all” the drinking water for that area. That right to ownership must therefore include the right to cause harm to the people they’re denying the resource to.

In the same way, there’s no right to mass ownership of electricity and gas. If they decide to double the price, hundreds could freeze to death. Is that their right? It’s actually been happening, so there’s one real world example:

You say companies that cause harm in this way wouldn’t “last long”. Well, they do! It’s just the people they harm are the poorest and most vulnerable (e.g. elderly or disabled). If the poorest and most vulnerable 5% are left to suffer, nothing gets done by the richest and most privileged 5% who hold all the power. What can they do anyway?... short of nationalising the company and making them adhere to the basic moral commandment of “do no harm”? They could fine them, but these companies hold all the power so it wouldn’t happen… and I’m guessing you’d be calling for them to have more power (less regulation)?

I’ve never said the right to ownership doesn’t exist (and said so in my last comment). It just doesn’t apply to every resource that can be owned. It’s not absolute. An absolute right to ownership includes an absolute right to restrict access to what is owned. That last sentence is the crux of this argument. So, if what is owned is a necessary part of life, it could lead to people being harmed if their access to it is restricted. Thus, there’s no right to mass-own a resource to an extent where such a situation could occur and result in harm.

I agree that if 51% of people agree to nationalize something, it shouldn’t automatically be nationalized. That’s why I wrote this article. Nationalization should have to satisfy criteria other than just a majority verdict.

It’s not theft if it prevents harm or punishes those who do harm. It’s a form of justice. If it was theft, then our entire legal system of fines and imprisonment would be theft. Taxes would be theft. Not every example of taking something from someone else is theft. Regardless, nationalization usually doesn’t mean not paying for what is being nationalized.

Of course competition can be impossible in some industries. You gave some examples. Usually though, it’s a “lack of competition” rather than no competition. Would you agree that there can become a point when competition and innovation is so low, and extracted profit is so high, that nationalization would improve the industry simply by ensuring all the profit is reinvested in a better service and lower prices (even if this reduces competition from near-zero to zero)?

You’re blaming governments totally for oligopolies. They are a cause, but guaranteed demand must be another cause as explained in the hub.

Of course we always had rights. My argument was that these rights weren’t realized or discovered at the dawn of time. Over time, we added to our list of rights, but I'm not saying the right never existed before it was discovered to be a right. It was always a right. Call healthcare the right to be treated with compassion if you like. It was always there.

What’s the difference between teachers employed by a state school and doctors employed by a state hospital? Why are only the latter slaves? You say they’re “not forced to be teachers”, well doctors aren’t forced to be doctors! And no, there isn’t any “involuntary servitude” for doctors in the NHS. It’s just like any other job.

So you are for wealth determining someone’s access to a good education and you call this freedom? I think you may have it backwards. What freedom do the poorest have to go a decent school, college, and university? Education is a right (and always has been); at least I think so.

Thomas Swan profile image

Thomas Swan 14 months ago from New Zealand Author

Jgshorebird, yes, Pharma had a social responsibility to cure Ebola decades ago. They refused because it wasn’t profitable. Thousands died for that profit. It’s blood money. Pharma should operate to develop drugs and vaccines that stand to help the most people in the quickest time. They’ve been given that responsibility. To disregard it is to willingly do harm. They do not have that right. I fear it will take thousands of dead Americans before this is properly understood, as dead Africans seem to be of little consequence unfortunately.

Thomas Swan profile image

Thomas Swan 14 months ago from New Zealand Author

Oh dear jgshorebird, I see you've taken this down a less pleasant route elsewhere. What a shock I got in my daily digest today! I didn't have time to read your last comment, despite approving it the other day. I have now deleted it without reading as I see no reason to trust this discussion will remain civil.

chefsref profile image

chefsref 14 months ago from Citra Florida

Hey Thomas

I'd be very interested in hearing your experiences with the British healthcare system.

We have a lot of people here that love the system of health insurance provided by employers in spite of the millions left uninsured. They are actually fighting to kill Obamacare thus taking health insurance away from millions.

I was uninsured for a time due to pre-existing conditions and Obamacare came along which allowed me to buy into the private market.

So, how does your system cover the people, what are the issues?

Do you write Hubs by request?

Thanx Lee (Chefsref)

Thomas Swan profile image

Thomas Swan 14 months ago from New Zealand Author

Hey Lee. I don't know whether to laugh or cry when I hear Republicans and Libertarians saying Obamacare is evil and should be removed. On the one hand, they fail to understand that people who don't have healthcare work hard to afford it but are cut off from it deliberately. The point of maximum profit in an economic system is a point that excludes the poorest from any service at all. As prices go up, people have to pay more, but fewer people can afford it. So there's a sweet spot at which healthcare is priced so that as many people as possible pay as much as they can afford. Not understanding that could be forgiven if someone has lived a sheltered, privileged life, and is happy to philosophize from their armchair. ...On the other hand, it's a fact that Obamacare is saving lives and preventing substantial suffering, and that those who want to get rid of it would quite happily let those people die because of the ideological commitments they treasure. I can't forgive that.

The NHS is payed for by taxes. It's there for everyone who needs it. There's no wastage on calculating bills for this and that. It just comes out of the public purse. Most people use it as their only health service. Some wealthy people choose to use private firms. That's their choice, but they still have to pay their taxes. Compared to what they earn and own, it's not much anyway, and they get a backup in case they blow all their money on the stock market.

There are local doctor's practices in all towns and villages. People make an appointment. If it's not serious, it can take a week to see a doctor. If it's fairly serious, you can see one within a day. If it's an emergency, you go to the hospital and get seen immediately. I needed an emergency operation almost 10 years ago. They assessed me in the afternoon and operated in the evening. It took 5 days to recover, but I had a bed, no cost. Flawless service.

I've also visited the local NHS doctor's practices (and dentists) dozens of times in my life with no cause to complain. They receive the best training.

The doctors are well paid. Although, I read somewhere that doctors would earn 4x more if the system was privatised. Despite this, doctors are the biggest supporters of the NHS with patients not far behind. I've often said: "who should we trust? The doctors who deny themselves a 4x pay rise because they believe in the NHS, or the politicians who also happen to sit on the boards of private healthcare companies?" It's an easy answer for anyone not burdened by ideology.

There's something quite beautiful about all chipping in to make sure everyone around you is healthy and taken care off. I would be devastated if we reverted to an "every man for himself" insurance style system. If a country has the means to take care of everyone living within its borders, should there even be an argument about whether to do it?

The problems are hard to judge as the current government is keen on exaggerating them. Most just center around individual complaints about doctors and nurses that are inevitable in any system but still get prime time coverage. I don't think there's anything fundamentally wrong with it. Some say the NHS can't be afforded, but the UK spends less on healthcare per person than the US and covers more people. It's a silly argument too, as it's publicly funded and is only as unaffordable as the current government want it to be.

There is a problem with some people using the NHS more than they need to, putting unnecessary strain on it. This could be fixed by offering people better information on what they can use the services for.

The pharma industry develops new drugs. Though you're right that profit drives innovation, rich teenagers with acne problems drive profit, so I'm not sure what's best in that department. The NHS pay pharma for drugs, of course, and one problem may be overcharging. I don't think the NHS necessarily gets the best deal it can for drugs. Perhaps the incentive to get the best deal isn't there either, leading to some wastage.

I only write about things I care about when I have time to write about them, so I don't take requests. Cheers, -Tom

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