Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Public ownership not private profit

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Every single economic survey shows the gap between the rich and poor is widening. In Australia the top 20 per cent of people earn at least 10 times more than the bottom 20 per cent! It’s obvious that there is enough wealth to go around but the problem is uneven distribution due to private ownership.

By Kirk Leonard, Socialist Party

On the basis of capitalism a tiny section of the population owns and controls huge sections of wealth. At the same time those that produce the wealth – workers – own very little. Instead of a plan being put in place to take society forward, the only plan that capitalism has is to make more profits.

If bosses don’t maximise profits they will go out of business and be replaced by another group of capitalists who will. This of course means that wages are driven down as low as possible, the environment is ignored and human need is not a factor unless it is profitable.

Even during the ‘boom’ times capitalism was unable to provide billions of people across the world with a basic standard of living. In the developing countries most people don’t even have access to clean water, let alone health care or education. In advanced countries like Australia people have only been able to make ends meet because of long hours and massive amounts of debt.

Socialists argue that there is much saner way of running the world. If big business was nationalised, or brought into public ownership, we could start to develop a plan to use the wealth created to provide for all. If production was for need and not for profit very quickly we could start to eradicate poverty, stop global warming and raise everyone’s standard of living.

Some governments, including the US and Britain, have recently nationalised some failing banks but unfortunately this has not been done to benefit the majority. The governments see this as a temporary measure where they prop up failing banks in order to hand them back to the profiteers at a later stage. While this is an acknowledgment of the failure of the market system, in reality these nationalisations are a far cry from what is actually needed.

Socialist nationalisation would be permanent public ownership under democratic workers control. Elected committees of workers would run things in the interests of the community. Huge payouts to former bank bosses would not be part of this process, and financial compensation would only be given to small shareholders with proven need.

If public ownership was applied to all of the main branches of industry like mining, manufacturing, construction, energy as well as the banks, it would be possible to draw up a democratic plan of production. Such a plan would enable us to produce what society needs rather than what produces the most profit.

Poverty, hunger, global warming and all the other problems faced by ordinary people could be solved if we replaced private ownership with public ownership, planning and democratic control. This is the socialist alternative to capitalist chaos.


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