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It’s time to revive public ownership and the common good

Ann Karpf, in The Guardian UK (4 July 2014) discusses a new book The Tragedy of the Private, the Potential of the Public by Hilary Wainwiright.  Karpf writes:  ‘Privatisation is touted as a panacea and cliches are trotted out about the evils of the “nanny state”.  

We need to develop a new language to talk about public ownership, one that detoxifies it and taps into the wide recognition that natural resources and essential public services should not be treated as commodities.  Instead of talking about the state, Wainwright describes water, health and education as “the commons” an excellent term.  What’s remarkable, and hitherto fairly undocumented, is how all over the world a quiet process of remunicipalisation is taking place.  Wainwright gives examples from Newcastle to Norway. In the UK, she found over half of 140 local councils bringing services back from the private sector.  In Germany, by 2011 the majority of energy distribution networks had returned to public ownership.  Even in the US, a fifth of all previously outsourced services have been brought back in-house.

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