Friday, 9 October 2015

No, nationalisation is not social enterprise scaled up


Some people really don't understand the 'enterprise' thing at all do they. Here's a chap called Robert Ashton (who describes himself as a "social entrepreneur"):

I happened to be meeting a local MP who had read the blog that morning. He said that whilst he largely agreed, and knowing Jeremy Corbyn felt he was a decent chap, he said that on one thing I was wrong: Corbyn he said doesn’t champion social enterprise, he champions nationalisation.

I’ve been reflecting on that comment ever since and conclude that the only difference, in an ideal world, between nationalisation and social enterprise is scale.

This is, of course, manifestly untrue. The point about social enterprise is that it is a business that, in providing a valued service or product, also makes a wider social contribution. Indeed Robert describes such a thing:

Yet now that school campus is managed by community cooperative organisation. Led by local people, the site now hosts a wide range of community groups; the canteen is now a thriving cafe and new organisations are moving in to the town, renting space, creating jobs and making a lasting difference to the lives of those who live there.

Nationalisation isn't anything like this. It is the forced creation of a state-owned monopoly designed primarilty to promote and protect the interests of that monopoly. The reason why socialists are so keen on nationalisation isn't because it leads to better business or makes a lasting difference to people's lives - it's because nationalisation allows the government to organise business and industry in the interests of the workers (i.e. those who are employed in the nationalised business).

Robert's question as to whether government is a social enterprise is more interesting. But nationalisation is a different matter - its main impact is to destroy social value rather than create it.


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