The ethics of privatisation
The main aim of the thesis is to provide an ethical evaluation of privatisation. We begin by sketching a history of privatisation in order to give an initial impression of how it has dramatically re-drawn the economic borders of the state in Britain and in many other countries across the world. We also show how privatisation has come to challenge the post-war Christian consensus which was supportive of the mixed economy. We then explain why we find a qualified Aristotelian-Thomist tradition offers us the best moral resource for our enquiry. To this end we set out Alasdair MacIntyre's project which seeks to respond to the interminable disagreement in ethics and to reinstate the classical and medieval tradition of the virtues. Then, while engaging with some of his interlocutors, we show why we are in basic agreement with the three main coordinates of his method: human wisdom, the Christian revelation, and rival moral traditions. Next, as the basis for our evaluation, we assemble as many diverse perspectives as the scope of this study allows by pursuing three main lines of enquiry. The first explores the political, economic and moral justification for the nationalisation programme of 1945-51, in order to identify the principal arguments used at the time for and against public ownership. Second explores the experiences of public ownership from 1951-79. in order to test the negative case for privatisation which claims that tin nationalised industries failed and therefore there was no practical alternative to privatisation The third explores the abandonment of public ownership from 1979 in order to explore the positive case for privatisation in economic liberalism. Having indicated why we are not persuaded by either of these cases for privatisation, as the final part of our evaluation we look at privatisation from the perspective of a broad Christian vision of the common good. In the light of tins moral tradition, we argue that privatisation fails our two basic tests of social justice, freedom and social equality. On the understanding that in the context of the modem global market it is no longer practicable to restore public ownership, we Old by outlining, as a postscript, a new project which looks to build on the strengths of both nationalisation and privatisation while avoiding their weaknesses.