I’m not ideologically opposed to asset sales and privatisation. I don’t think the state should own the means of production, or, for that matter, a classical music radio station, the public utility of which is a mystery to me. I do have a very strong gut opposition to infrastructure asset sales for historic reasons: the fire sales in the 80s and 90s were arguably the worst policy decisions in our post-war history, and there was just as much corruption in the mix as there was ideology and incompetence.
So I’m somewhat open to argument. But thus far the battle of ideas seems pretty one-sided. Opponents to asset sales are recommending everyone read this column by Keith Ng, and this piece by Selwyn Pellet, and this by Gordon Campbell and this by Bernard Hickey and this by Brian Fallow. They all make very strong arguments and I haven’t seen much in response. Near’s I can tell the pro asset sales argument goes like this:
All our private companies are rubbish, so investors should be able to own equity in profitable, well-run government companies, which will improve their performance because the government is rubbish and private businesses are profitable and well run.
Obviously they never phrase it quite like that, but this is the basic argument Key, Weldon et al are selling us.
Up until this week my prediction for the election was that National would win > 49% of the vote and be able to govern alone. I no longer think that’s a possibility. Even with Stephen Joyce running their campaign and Phil Goff running Labours you’ll never get an outright majority with a pro-asset sales platform, especially not one this unconvincing.