A tax is generally thought of as something that only a government can levy, but this is a semantic distortion that favours the free market belief system. If a payment to an authority, public or private, is compulsory, it's a tax. We can't do without electricity; the electricity bill is an electricity tax. We can't do without water; the water bill is a water tax. Some people can get by without railways, and some can't; they pay the rail tax. Students pay the university tax. The meta-privatisation is the privatisation of the tax system itself ... The commodity that makes water and power cables and airports valuable to an investor, foreign or otherwise, is the people who have no choice but to use them. We have no choice but to pay the price the toll-keepers charge. We are a human revenue stream; we are being made tenants in our own land, defined by the string of private fees we pay to exist here.Well. Firstly, his list is silly, mixing categories that should be kept separate. If can't do without it is to be a criterion, what about food then ? From first-hand experience, the public bakeries in Russia were pretty awful: everyone tried to get their bread elsewhere. The only tax involved in food provision is VAT (if any, generally not) and perhaps a payroll tax if it hits supermarkets particularly. The margin extracted by Mr Tesco is subject to competitive pressure. So can't do without it isn't right; and to include electricity in with the rest is only fair if you've proved or decided that competition is impossible in that sector. I say it's entirely possible - though also entirely fair to debate (as we often do) the regulatory shortcomings we currently suffer from. Is he proposing 'electricity-free-at-the-point-of-use', like health services ? We know where that leads. Airports shouldn't be included either: his list only makes sense if it sticks to genuine 'natural monopolies'.
Secondly, we all agree that monopolies need toughing-up rigorously on all occasions (see earlier post). Everyone knows that monopolies are what every evil rent-seeker desires above all else - they have changed hands for large sums of money or other consideration at every point in history. What's that got to do with privatisation? Again, it's a debate about regulation (and perhaps social subsidies for impoverished energy users etc), not private ownership. Any 'authority' in charge of a true monopoly service, however 'owned', is prone to charging too much - call it tax, rent or whatever you like. Why does the writer assume publicly-owned monopolies will be the more likely to act 'progressively'? It might be true if they are state-subsidised, or have a 'progressive' pricing policy - but again, this has little to do with the main thrust. More significantly, experience - see that earlier post again - is that they charge wildly too much in absolute terms because they are so staggeringly inefficient.
(Historical note: British Gas had its de jure monopoly taken away some years before it was privatised. this altered precisely nothing. It was then sold off with its de facto monopoly intact: again, this achieved nothing - at first. It was only when the regulator took the gloves off that the glacier started to melt - with very striking and highly beneficial consequences for consumers. By the way, the old BG did indeed have a 'progressive' pricing policy, entirely of its own devising and with no statutory mandate. It decided that medium-sized industrial customers would subsidise both the very largest industrials, and the residential customers. But it charged everyone more than was necessary, as eventually became evident.)
So - we will be 'taxed' by monopoly services however they are owned. Minimising the tax is the name of the game. If you want some examples of really outrageous 'taxes' on which no-one ever gave me any choice, how about:
- the extra amount on my home insurance to cover the activities of burglars
- the extra on my car insurance to finance the 'crash-for-cash' and 'imaginary whiplash' brigade
- the extra on my general tax bill to pay for treating pie-munchers on the NHS
- [ ... your favourite example here ... ]