Return to 1950: Nationalisation in the UK and beyond

Today the Labour Party issued its latest policy announcement #BroadbandForAll – i.e., spend £15.9bn to improve superfast broadband (on top of the £5bn already earmarked by government) and nationalise BT Openreach (worth c£15bn). This comes on the heels of previous announcements proposing nationalisations of the energy, rail, and water sectors as well as Royal Mail.  The recreates post-war efforts by the first Labour government to nationalise swaths of industry. Although often seen as quite a drastic approach to state intervention compared to many other methods for the state to exert control over industry, the topic has come up in the current US election, and there is a long history in Latin America whereas in many countries there are few private firms to nationalise since these sectors have always been dominated by state-owned enterprises.

Of course, once you start to proceed down this line, the question is where to draw the line, or as Jimmy Wales noted, why not just ‘nationalize grocery stores and newspapers and every other business’?

For this week’s question:

1) Pick your favourite sector (telecoms, electric utilities, etc) currently in the crosshairs in the debate over whether to nationalise or keep the sector in private hands and apply it to the country of your choice. What is the case for nationalisation/renationalisation? How compelling do you find the logic behind nationalisation? Or if you are choosing a country that already has state control over key sectors, what is the case for or against privatisation?  (If you prefer to avoid being too political, feel free to play devil’s advocate!);

2)  If you wanted to achieve the goal of  #BroadbandForAll what would be your preferred approach?; or

3) Taking one of these key sectors in the UK (or your favourite economy) and you were given the power to spend an additional £30B where would you spend it? Why?

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