Sunday, December 15, 2013

UK PLC: How Britain is ran like a corporation

Back in October the latest "success story" that the UK government declared was that a new generation of nuclear power station would be built at Hinkley point in Somerset, ran by the French energy giant EDF with Chinese support.
Around that time I mentioned that this event was simply another in a long line of government actions that are meant to improve Britain's fortunes, but achieve the opposite.

There is a tendency in Britain for foreign companies to run essential services and national assets, more than in any other comparable Western developed country.

The term "UK PLC" became widely-used during the Blair years, when the government was looking for a way to turn "Cool Britannia" into a brand that they could advertise the UK to foreign investment. Britain was marketed as "a good place to do business". Laws were loosened so that foreign companies could have a greater and greater role in The UK.
The spate of privatisation of government assets from the eighties onwards has led to segments of the energy industry and other utilities being owned by foreign companies (in the case of EDF, a government-owned foreign company).
When the transport network was sold off, buses and trains were sold off to whichever company offered the lowest price, regardless of if this meant effectively selling national assets to foreign governments. This was the case with companies such as "Arriva" (owned by Deutsche Bahn); the Dutch national rail carrier also owns rail stock in East Anglia and Merseyside.

I made these points in my earlier article on the subject, so don't want to repeat myself. The main observation to note here is that the actions of the British government, and even more the actions of the current Conservative-led government, are the same as those seen in the boardrooms of multinational companies.

Working in the "national interest"

The key here is how government ministers define "national interest". To the electorate, the "national interest" is would be what is in the electorate's best interest. To the government, the "national interest" is what will create the most money for the government. They are not the same things.

To understand how "UK PLC" works in reality it's easier to have a thought experiment and to imagine the British government as "a corporation that happens to operate within a national border", or a wannabe multinational company.
Like all multinationals, it has shareholders and employees. Who are they?

Its shareholders are the ones that really matter, because this is they who UK PLC's revenue is aimed at. The shareholders are the private businesses that have invested money into the UK, for it is they who really generate the income for the British government (as far as they see it). Therefore, the more future investment the government can generate, the more UK PLC's "shareholders" (private companies) will be willing to invest further in The UK. The happier the "shareholders" (i.e. investors) are, the better the fortunes of the British government. The "shareholders" want to make sure that their investment is a sound one; otherwise, they will sell their shares and go elsewhere.
In this description, it may not sound a lot different from a Ponzi scheme.

UK PLC's "employees" are its electorate. Multinationals are not renowned for treating their employees well; almost all of them seek the cheapest workforce possible. UK PLC, like other multinational companies, doesn't care where its employees come from. Limited by the resource of land, UK PLC's workforce is still constrained within the territory it contains, so therefore over-population would bring disadvantages to UK PLC over time. But apart from the long-term threat of over-population, it is to UK PLC's advantage to have a workforce that is composed of immigrants from poorer countries, in order to help limit wage demands and keep down overheads.
Of course, there will be some employees that are also shareholders, as in any multinational. But this is incidental. The main point here is that, like employees working for any multinational, those at UK PLC are expendable, and can be easily replaced. Fundamentally, they have no rights of their own, and UK PLC owes them no loyalty.

Why UK PLC loves Europe

Seen through this lens, a lot of what happens in the UK today makes much more sense. The rise of UKIP in recent times has been a result of the (correct) perception that the mass influx of East Europeans to The UK has brought about a labour crisis for some parts of the "native" population.
The government has blamed the freedom of movement around the EU for this, which is accurate, but fails to mention that it is also part of the government's intention. Much of UK PLC's "shareholders" (British and foreign investors) are strongly pro-EU because it helps them to lower wages by using workers from elsewhere in the EU (from Southern Europe as well as Eastern Europe).
At the same time, however, British people are far less likely to have linguistic ability compared to foreigners. Lulled into a false sense of security by the government, the electorate were led to believe that their economic stability would last forever because English is "the world's language". Now the UK government blames their own electorate for not taking advantage of the EU's freedom of labour mobility by not bothering to learn foreign languages.

It is not surprising that some people are left feeling "betrayed" by their own government.

The future of Britain looks more and more like that of a multinational company looking for new ways to find foreign investment and "partnerships". David Cameron's recent work with China demonstrates that is really what he sees The UK as. Rather than invest in "native" resources, it is cheaper and easier to ask foreign companies to do the work. This explains why an ever larger part of Britain's assets and services are being offered to foreign companies: because they are cheaper.
Rather than invest in Britain's assets and make them more efficient (which would be a longer-term project, but obviously better for the native workforce), it is easier and faster to simply hand them over to foreigners; like how multinationals "out-source" their services because it's cheaper.

In this way, the government has little real sense of loyalty to its own electorate: they are just "employees", and can be easily replaced with others who are more suitable to their needs.

It is the multinational cartels that are calling many of the shots because it is they who are the real "shareholders" in UK PLC, and other governments like it. UK PLC is far from alone in this regard; much of 21st century government across the world runs on the same principle.

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