Friday, March 04, 2005

Subjects and Constituents

Marco asks why I want to nationalise the banks.

If you are the absolute ruler of a country, then it will often be easier to let your subjects starve then to take more difficult action to solve a problem. They're subject to you, after all. If you are a democratically elected leader, you do not have the luxury of letting your constituents starve. This is why the last serious famine in India was in 1945.

If you are a business, customers that you can make money out of are in the position of constituents; customers who will only ever cost you money are in the position of subjects. Human nature being what it is, you will suck up to the first, and treat the others with the minimum amount of consideration you can get away with.

Generally speaking, any service that absolutely everyone needs to consume should therefore be provided by an organisation into which everyone has input- i.e., the public sector. Privately-owned banks will always have an innate tendency to piss on the poor, as long as these uneconomic customers are foisted on them. If everyone had the option of taking their wages or government benefits as cash, and opting out of the banking system, then by all means let it be private. But if people are going to be forced to participate, for the love of God let them participate as constituents, not subjects.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

That is odd, so very odd... You could make the case that food is something absolutely everybody needs as a case to nationalise the food industry. I only use food as an example because you believe in free trade of agriculturals. Do you believe that there can be free trade in the money market if banks are nationalised? Can there be free trade in grains if food industries are nationalised (and presumably subsidised?) Can there be free trade in knowledge and ideas if Universities are all nationalised? These elements are also correlated as the freedom of one encourages movement of others, including people.

Dr. Clam said...

Good to hear from you again, Anonymous!

Everyone who buys food buys food at a price that is profitable to the producers, and thus is in the position of a constituent rather than a subject. I suppose I am taking this opportunity to backpedal slightly: it is possible for everyone who consumes a privately provided service to be in a non-peon position, if the product is sufficiently cheap and the market is sufficiently competitive. Thus my post should read "e.g., the public sector",rather than, "i.e., the public sector."

The free movement of capital is already so far ahead of the free movement of labour that it is creating strong stresses and inequalities globally. We don't have to worry about keeping the trade in money free.

Knowledge and ideas are not commodities, and they flow most readily when they are not given any monetary value. The commodification of such things is a sign of the Last Days. Property may or may not be theft,as Karl said, but intellectual property is certainly theft, as sure as eggs are eggs. I struggle with this horrible impediment, 'intellectual property' every day of the year. It is a vampire that sucks the life from the world of knowledge and ideas. There are only discoveries, not inventions: all possible knowledge is already there, in the mind of God, awaiting discovery.

Marco said...

I think that private banks are getting to the stage where they will offer "no frills" banking services at sufficiently cheap rates such that poor people are adequately provided for. They would do this for "brand Image" reasons, much as Woolworths and Coles sell milk, bread and other staples at below market rates (seemingly subsidised) to attract all kinds of customers, while the more well off go for the more expensive low fat milk, or DHA additive breads etc.
I think you are in denial about knowledge. Whether it is public or private, people who teach and research need to be paid. Knowledge can be used to gain market advantage in industry, hence earn money. In these ways, knowledge has a certain convertibility hence value (intrinsically). Admittedly, there are non-convertible kinds of knowledge worth learning, but that may well be funded by curious rich people as well. Whether the government pays for higher education through taxes, or students pay for it directly is immaterial - it is still a market. Students paying the universities directly is just cutting out the middleman of the government. The government could then concentrate the money saved on scholarships for the clever poor.