Sunday, November 18, 2007
I hate to associate myself with one half of a proposal by the repellent Vincent Cable MP, but it seems very simple to me. If we have to pay for it, we should own it. Instead, the government seems set to indefinitely extend a £25bn loan to the company on the grounds that not to do so will leave thousands of jobs at risk. My suggestion, echoing that at the Respect conference yesterday, is to divide that money among all of Northern Rock's employees, barring the directors and managers responsible for the problems. That would leave them with about a cool £400,000 each. If you don't want to do that, nationalise the company - either buy it while its stock is exceptionally cheap or take it over and tell the shareholders to fuck off.
The credit crisis, if it is resolved in a capitalist fashion, will see large amounts of public wealth transferred to the private sector. Every previous crisis has resulted in the taxpayers bailing out massive corporations - whether it is Reagan bailing out Chrysler, Clinton bailing out the hedge funds, or Bush bailing out the airlines in 2001. The alternative of public ownership is obviously forbiden by neoliberal ideology, but there isn't a single good reason why nationalisation cannot or should not be carried out extensively. And the situation will plainly call for it as the crisis intensifies. The system has thrived for years on cheap credit, which will no longer be available. So, when companies stop investing because neither profits nor cheap credit permit, the vicious circle now consuming financial capital will extent to industrial capital. As long as the sole basis of production is what is profitable, then it will make more sense to cut staff and close offices - that contains obvious disadvantages for those of us who rely on the sale of our labour for subsistence. So, instead of subordinating our livelihoods and well-being to the profit motive, I suggest we take control of the systems of production and exchange that we depend upon and democratise them.