Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

News that makes one go “gulp!”

Posted by Charles II on December 19, 2008

This give a whole new meaning to the Tom Lehrer song, “Who’s Next?”

Ben Russell, London Independent:

Britain no longer has any stake in the production of its nuclear warheads after the Government secretly sold off its shares in the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston.

Ministers agreed to sell the remaining one-third ownership to a Californian engineering company. …

A terse one-paragraph statement posted on the website of the state-owned nuclear firm BNFL confirmed that its one-third stake in the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) had been sold to the California-based Jacobs Engineering Group, a global engineering firm which already carries out work for the nuclear weapons and research establishment in Berkshire.

OK, so we now have nuclear weapons production being performed entirely by a private company, with no direct government involvement. If Somali pirates decide to invest in the company using the proceeds from the oil tanker they hijacked or if Jacobs gets into financial trouble and has to sell off assets to the highest bidder, who could say them nay?

And this is not the only asset that’s on the block:

The Treasury is considering privatising other state assets in what critics have called a recession “fire sale”. These include:

*Ordnance Survey [maps]

*The Met Office [weather and climate change]

*The Forestry Commission

*The Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in Westminster

*The Covent Garden Market Authority

*The Royal Mint

*The Tote [betting]

*Buildings owned by British Waterways

*British Nuclear Fuel’s stake in uranium enrichment company Urenco

*The Oil & Pipeline Agency, which manages the UK’s underground network of fuel distribution pipelines.

If the fuel distribution lines start working like British rail under Thatcher, I’d move to France.

4 Responses to “News that makes one go “gulp!””

  1. Stormcrow said

    It looks like there’s more than one root cause forcing the US and the UK into the arms of modern-day condotierri.

    I’m afraid my imagination failed here. I did not expect the present financial collapse to induce the UK to privatize virtually their entire government.

    Bad idea. We’ve been there already. But they may not have a choice …. And if it’s happening over there …

    I will tell you frankly that the situation in California worries the hell out of me.

    I hope that doomsayers like John Robb turn out to be wrong, when they talk about the implosion of the state in the 21’st century. But if they turn out to be right …


  2. Charles II said

    The state imploded long ago, Stormcrow. If one compares the revenues of the federal government with those of all state governments and with those of corporations, one discovers that the top fifteen corporations are more important than the Feds or the state governments. And, since they coordinate their spending to specific ends, while the Feds at least make some effort to depoliticize spending, it means that have far more influence.

    Even that crude analysis vastly overstates federal power. Here are some examples of why that is so:
    — A huge chunk of federal spending is Social Security, and half of that represents voluntary self-taxation.
    — Most of the regulation that is done is done at the behest of large corporations, to create entry barriers against smaller competitors. While many of the regulations are beneficial (think of what our pharmaceutical industry would be like without any regulation), they are not what an independent regulatory body would impose.
    — Many of the actions of the federal government are done to benefit large corporations. This is obvious with the bailout, but consider tax expenditures, which largely benefit corporations or the American presence in the Middle East, which is convenient for the oil industry.
    — Interlocking corporate directorates mean that the decisions of the top thousand corporations may be made by just a few thousand individuals. For this reason, they are at least as coordinated than the federal government and probably more so.

    The first American Republic disappeared some time ago. I usually say that it happened in 2000, out of respect for Al Gore, but a case could be made that it hasn’t existed for almost two centuries. And the second Republic… that is not yet on the horizon.

  3. Chris Grealy said

    How long will it be before AWE needs a bailout? If they get into financial difficulties, maybe they could ask for sponsorship. “Hey, there’s this incredibly rich organisation in the States who believe in the end times. We could ask them.”

  4. Charles said

    Exactly, Chris. As the song asks, “Who’s next?”

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