Well, well, it seems that my anti-privatisation post seems to have caused quite a stir. It seems like even a hint of socialist thought unsettles (threatens?) much of the right-wing discussion in this bloggosphere. It needed a bit of dilution anyway. I am going to try and avoid turing this into a war of words between myself and the guys at Commentary, so I’ll just clarify some things and move on.
Yes, Laurence, you are a capitalist and I am a socialist. I think anyone reading this would have figured this out. Lets move on then, shall we. It is a pity that Laurence doesn’t share Wayne’s economic logic, so I’ll focus my comments on Wayne’s post.
My issue with economic growth not necessarily meaning an improvement in living standards needs to be qualified. I meant an improvement in the lives of the majority of South Africans, who happen to be poor and earn only a fraction of the country’s GDP. The question is how you measure an increase in the standard of living. If it is by per capita income, then that hides any amount of inequality. A true measure of increase in living standards can only be made by using a whole range of qualitative and quantitative variables, over and above income, like social security, personal security, access to resources, relative inequality, access to employment, etc.
So if the rich are getting richer, with a simultaneous growth in the Gini coefficient, then we are no better off than when we started. My argument is simple. One can have economic growth without the improvement in the living standard of the poor (yes, even if the growth is higher than the population growth) and one can have an improvement in the standard of living of the poor without major economic growth – but in order to achieve this one needs to follow a socialist economic model.
It seems we do agree on a couple of issues: firstly, that some state functions should remain in the public sector. Wayne suggests public education and health care as well as “some form of minimal welfare system”. To this, and he would probably disagree, I would add service utilities, housing (I will write more about this another time) and transport networks that serve the lowest economic group. This excludes SAA which serves an elite group and as such should not be state-owned. I also agree with Wayne and StrawDog that Telkom is inefficient and its monopoly needs to be broken. Fortunately the government is showing signs of backing down on that one.
The final point on which we agree is that some sort of a compromise needs to be made to avoid the nonsensical blowing of hot air from the extremes of the political spectrum. That was the main issue I was dealing with in my previous post – that right-wingers are so keen to jump up and shout as soon as privatisation gets raised without looking at some valid reasons for public assets. In the same light, lefties like me get all hot under the collar as soon as they hear the trigger word “privatisation”. I’ve enjoyed the healthy debate and now we all know where we stand. Now we can wait and see what happens to Transnet and whether Spoornet can get their act together before the 2010 World Cup.