Daily Archives: March 25, 2014

Nationalisation Costs Nothing and Privatisation Raises Nothing!

There is some discussion in British Labour Party circles on the question of bringing the railways, and other key industries, back into public ownership. Those opposing the idea usually argue along the lines of “we can’t afford it”. They say the capital, or money, required would be far better used on housing, education and other growth promoting projects.

They either don’t understand the economics or they are deliberately misrepresenting them to suit their own nefarious political purposes.

Apart from the administration costs of making it happen,  renationalising the railways, or nationalising any other industry, in Britain, or anywhere else, costs nothing. This must be true when you think about it. Otherwise, how possibly could they have been nationalised in the first place, by the Attlee Labour government, immediately after WW2 when the country was said to be virtually bankrupt?

It works in the same way as QE. Before the repurchase of railway shares, or whatever else such as govt securities from the banks in the case of QE, there are two zeros on either side of the balance sheet.

After the repurchase, the assets of the shares or securities, on one side of the balance sheet exactly equal the liabilities , created by any payments, on the other. So the balance sheet still balances. You can’t do this, and I can’t do this but Government is an issuer of its own currency, and it is really no problem at all.

Conversely, it must be true that if nationalisations cost nothing, then privatisations don’t actually raise any extra usable money either. And they don’t. The recent sale of the Post Office/Royal Mail  in the UK didn’t raise a single extra spendable penny!