Owning Democracy

Last week, Callme Dave Cameron raved that “the dream of a property-owning democracy was alive“. This, in spite of the fact that most people these days, are lucky just to be renting someone else’s property, let alone imagining owning some. This, in spite of the fact that, as far as assets go, the Cons seem to prefer that multinational corporations and other countries own chunks of our property than the citizens of the country they so ardently purport to love and serve.

And, too, this week, Callme has been spouting on about Britain being a ‘share-owning democracy’. He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr on Sunday that “being able to own shares in healthy, successful banks is the sort of country we should be building” even though he has done nothing to champion us having a proper, fully publicly owned national bank – one of those people’s mutual thingies.

It’s funny, really: I, too, think that we should be the owners of shares and the holders of stakes. You know, of things like the public assets that successive governments keep selling off; the public services they outsource to the profit-first sector; the infrastructure they fragment into financial packages. But no, Callme wants us to help buy other people’s houses for them and some shares in a crummy old bank with a public/private identity crisis. Twice.

The cognitive dissonance is so stark in its irony. The Cons want us to own private property as private individuals but not to own public property as a national collective. They bang on about the principle of inheritance and proclaim concern about the future we are leaving our children but make a complete mockery of our common inheritance. They want us to have shares in private financial institutions as individuals but not in public infrastructure and services, together. They want us to look after ourselves as proud, independent private citizens or as small, non-threatening groups that they can pass off as being entrepreneurial or beacons of localism – or responsible citizens in that creepy patriotic do-the-right-thing way – but they don’t want those services and resources upon which everyone depends for their common and basic needs to be in the control and interests of the people who need and use them. They don’t want us, as a population, owning assets in common, responsibly pooling our resources for efficiency, uniformity and affordability. No, because we might push for ethics, quality and sustainability; for reliability and ease of access. We might say we want Energy, Water, Railways etc to be monopolies if we can own them, so stuff your silly notions of choice and competition. We might factor in those inconvenient externalities such as the long-term costs of environmental and social impacts into our decisions.

Besides, a property-owning, share-owning democracy requires they not only approve of the existence of the State but also recognise and concede that the State is all of us – We, the People. No, of course they don’t want us to be sharing the ownership of national assets because if that was the property our ‘democracy’ owned shares in, that might look a little too much like actual devolution.

Pah.

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