Date: Tue Dec 17 2002 - 09:26:16 EST
State ownership poses very interesting problems. I may (or may not - I am not sure) disagree with Jerry on this. I think that the titles of ownership tell us very little, if the State has been subsumed by the requirements of capital. Let me put this in another way: the State has a fundamental role to play in the birth of capital (ie, primitive accumulation) - namely, the task of expropriating the direct producers, and the genesis of the capitalist and the working classes, is too big to be undertaken by individual proto-capitalists. It can only be achieved through the agency of the State. Otherwise, it is *impossible*. Even in the case of Britain and the US, where "laissez faire" at first sight was of the essence, detailed historical analysis shows that the State was indispensible - not only in terms of establishing and enforcing property rights, but also sending in the army and the police to do the dirty work of capital. If we accept this, and make a large analytical leap, it would follow that there is *little* substantive difference between State and private property of the means of production in modern capitalist societies. The fact that the British Crown owns large tracts of land is irrelevant - it may be a remnant of feudalism, but this does not affect the *nature* (ie, the essence) of land (or the State) in the UK. Pushing this point further, privatisation is generally *irrelevant* too. The disadvantage of privatisation, from the point of view of the left, is not because it displaces "social" ownership, and increases the "private" ownership of the means of production. This is not the point. The point is that privatisation reduces the potential leverage of the majority over State policy, and the provision of essential goods and services, it reduces the scope for State policy, and it increases the degree of commodification of life. But, emphatically, in my view privatisation does *not* imply a "retreat" of the State, or an "expansion" of the market. This opposition is misleading. alfredo.
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