Thursday 2 November 2006

The privatisation of Fife

In response to my recent writing about the privatisation of roads Doctorvee wrote:
Whether you would actually have to ask permission to cross the road or not is a different matter. But in this world, if people are guaranteed the ability to walk to the shops it is described as “compulsory opening”. The easy and obvious answer to this is the fact that if you were to ask people whether or not they wanted to live in such a world, almost everybody would say ‘no’.
I know that some people are worried about getting permission to cross the privatised road and I thought that it might be a good idea to do a bit of future history...

Our story starts in North East Fife. The internationally renowned hedge fund Campbell, Khatami & Windsor has bought South Street in St Andrews. And yes, you do now need a ticket to get in. You need a ticket to get out. And you even need a ticket to cross to the other side of the street. At first the money is flowing into the coffers of the street's new owners. One does notice though that most of the ticket sellers are retired Lothian Bus drivers and the cry of "exact change only" almost drowns out the screeching of the local seagulls. But, all in all, everything's ticking over nicely. There is, however, a cloud on the horizon.

Over in Dunfermline, the High Street gets purchased by Carnegie Pensions Inc. of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For old times' sake, you understand. Now, these guys are a bit more streetwise, so to speak, than their rivals over on the coast. Doing business in the newly demunicipalised town centre requires only one ticket. It covers entry, exit and road crossing. Soon, Brian Soutar is bussing shoppers over from St Andrews in their thousands and the directors of Campbell, Khatami & Windsor are drowning their sorrows in the bar of the Old Course clubhouse. Well, two of them anyway - the third is understood to be abroad, having visited the town only rarely and he may well be teetotal. The Carnegie directors have realised that it's worth forgoing a little ticket income and making up for it by getting in those extra customers. But the Carnegie organisation also faces a cloud on its horizon.

Meanwhile, backed by a consortium of Scottish bloggers, the newly floated Doctor Vee PLC has acquired the High Street in Kirkcaldy. In an industry-shaking move, Doctor Vee allows free entry onto his street because, unlike the local MP, he knows his Adam Smith. As if guided by an invisible hand, Doctor Vee understands that by forgoing the cost of any entry ticket he can more than make up for the lost revenue as the former shoppers of St Andrews and Dunfermline flock to Kirkcaldy. There's even the occasional slightly superior person coming over from Edinburgh. Soon all rival shopping centres are forced to adopt Doctor Vee's radical innovation if they are to remain in business. Such is the power of the market.

And now Doctor Vee and his backers are about to retire from the business world and devote their energies to spreading the good news about private property. Who knows, this could even be the start of a new Scottish Enlightenment.


David Farrer said...

Comments made on previous template:

Steven Wood
Get a grip. You're argument is pathetic.

6 November 2006, 21:43:02 GMT
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Steven Wood, 
What business is it of yours what someone else does with their house? Get over it. Your appreciation of beauty doesn't make you a nice person in this case, it makes you a tyrant for wanting someone else to do what you want with their property. If you find something you like, buy it yourself and keep it up.

6 November 2006, 11:40:03 GMT
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Steven Wood
You miss the point entirely. I'm not arguing against private property ownership entirely. I'm saying that private ownership of certain properties - in this case a historic mansion near my old house, which was burnt down by its owner in an attempted isnurance scam, is not in the greater public good. This is not about insurance scams but about the mismanagement of a beautiful house by a private owner who ruined it forever in pursuit of his own short term interests. It is an example of how the blind faith libertarians have is misplaced. I dont expect you know what Mavisbank House is or its significance to scotlands heritage, but I wont call you a tosser for that. I will call you a tosser for your offensive comments though. Tosser.

4 November 2006, 10:54:59 GMT
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David Farrer
I seem to remember reading about that somewhere.

3 November 2006, 18:13:40 GMT
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Michael Stone
Isn't your scenario exactly what happend with Vaderbilt's ferries? He ended up charging nothing for passengers to travel his "roads" because he realised he'd make more money that way. The increased traffic lead to increased profits from the ferries' concession stands just like a street owner would make more from the shops lining the street (if he didn't own the shops he could charge them a fee for allowing their clients to use his roads). 
It worked very well for Vanderbilt. Until the anti-trusters stopped it because he was exploiting people with all the free travel.

3 November 2006, 17:24:54 GMT
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The Pedant-General
No Steven, it just makes you a moron. 
One of the side effects of private ownership is that, indeed, owners are completely free to do what they want with their property. 
It's just that as soon as the first moron to torch his house discovers that, errr...., the insurance company doesn't pay out, your ordinary reasonable person will desist - of his own free will - from making such a fucking obvious howler. 
Your example does nothing to say anything of any use about the downsides of private property ownership. Indeed, BECAUSE your example says nothing of any use, Andrew naturally assumed that you weren't trying to make this point. 
He then suggested two of the most plausible other points you might be trying to make. Which strikes me as being reasonable. 

3 November 2006, 14:34:45 GMT
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David Farrer said...

Steven Wood
Uhm, Andrew...I would have thought it fairly obvious that I'm saying that private ownership does not always serve the greater good. The above example being a case in point. Also, I thought it quite obvious that I was suggesting that such a building should be in the ownership of someone who wouldn't want to torch it and file fraudulent insurance claims. 
Now I learn that makes me a "socialist". talk about a knee jerk reaction,

3 November 2006, 14:25:02 GMT
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Andrew Duffin
What's your point exactly, Steven Wood? 
That in the socialist paradise nobody tries to pull insurance scams? 
That in David's imagined free country, insurance companies won't guard against such activities? 
Or are you being more subtle than I can discern?

3 November 2006, 13:19:01 GMT
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Steven Wood
Meanwhile, one of Scotland's earliest neo-classical gems, mavisbank house, is forever lost to future genreations after being torched by its owner, a dodgy car dealer, driven by the "invisble hand" to carry out an insurance job to best suit his own short term interests. Scots come to realise that the paradoxical and blindly optimismitic philisophy of Libertarianism should be treated by them in much the same way as all extreme ideologies.

3 November 2006, 11:22:52 GMT