Seumas Milne really is a national socialist, isn’t he?

No, a socialist who is a nationalist, not a National Socialist.

What began with wholesale privatisation became an international corporate free-fire zone, in which huge swaths of Britain’s industrial economy were bought or closed down. International investment by British-owned firms has long been disproportionate, but the scale of the reverse takeover has been unparalleled: in the decade before the crash, foreign ownership rose from 25% to half of national output. No other major advanced economy has allowed such a shopping spree.

Johnny Foreigner sending his capital into Britain. Shouldn’t be allowed, should it?

That’s why this deal isn’t just bad for Britain, it’s bad for the US. In both countries, as the economist Mariana Mazzucato has shown in The Entrepreneurial State, it has been governments that funded the research and development into most groundbreaking new drugs, which the private sector then developed, jacking up the profits through monopoly pricing and preferential taxation.

Mazzucato again, eh? And everyone keeps forgetting that it’s the trials that cost the money, not the research.

Not only that, but the case for publicly-owned stakes in strategic sectors such as pharmaceuticals – kept afloat by state funding and the NHS – is made much stronger by the dismal record of the tax-gaming, subsidy-gobbling private empires that control them. It would even give the public a return on its investment.

And there’s the socialism.

What both Milne and Mazzucato are too dim to understand is that we initiate government in the first place in order to gain those public goods. So, government then subsidises those public goods which is why we have it in the first place. We end up getting those public goods, that research in the universities. Excellent, government is working. That is our return on our investment: that we get the public goods that we have government to get for us.

Trying to also take some public stake would be double dipping. And the really great joy of Mazzucato’s argument is that she uses DARPA as her proof that there should be such stakes and returns on investments. And one of the reasons that DARPA works as well as it does is that it doesn’t take stakes in return for research contracts. It quite deliberately avoids doing so on the grounds that it would only complicate matters and make the subsidy to research far too complicated. Because, you know, they’re subsidising blue skies research and who the fuck knows what’s going to come out of it or what it’s value is? So, use taxpayers’ money to produce the public goods and the public gets the public goods. Excellent.

6 comments on “Seumas Milne really is a national socialist, isn’t he?

  1. Very naive, Tim. Milne is indeed a National Socialist, capitals. ‘Foreign ownership’ is just code for ‘the Zionist capitalist conspiracy’. It’s always ‘the Jhooz’ with these people.

  2. They always want autarky, however “internationalist” they are. Stafford Cripps, import substitution, and all that.

  3. It’s a bit rich to insist that the NHS is the single source of health provision and then claim private pharma ccompanies are only propped up by NHS spending.

  4. Don’t we get the best of both worlds?

    When I new drug succeeds we get the benefits of the drug and a share in the profits.

    When it fails it’s the capitalist who (should) bear the losses.

  5. Reading the Ritchie on AstraZeneca piece and this I am wondering which describes those two and their ilk best:

    Private capital = bad, taxpayer capital = good

    or

    Foreign capital = bad, British capital = good

    Are they capital socialists or capital nationalists?

  6. I don’t think Ho Chi Milne is intellectually coherent enough to be categorically labelled. I simply think of him as Stalin’s jizz rag and have done with it.

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