Idea: Deprivatization of Vital Industries

After reading this––I had a thought.

What if companies that made over a certain percentage of gross income of the industry at large were automatically absorbed into and regulated by the national government as an infrastructurally-vital industry?

Structurally, it would be similar to a legal monopoly, like that of the utilities companies: the government buys out the company, then continues to run it as a for-profit industry, but with all executive control (elections, etc.) kept in the hands of the voting public.

A system like this might have prevented the destruction of Detroit and East St. Louis at the hands of the automobile industry’s sudden outsource. It also would have fundamentally altered our relationship to pharmaceutical and health-care companies. Under the current free market, a system that’s “too big to allow to fail” like how the U.S. banking industry gets bailed out by the government while also being free to act recklessly with no repercussions, much like a teenager with rich parents; as a result, you end up with bratty kids that don’t take responsibility for their actions.

We’re willing to recognize that certain industrial and corporate entities are vital to the functioning of our society, yet we, as citizens, have no direct influence over them due to an increasing oligarchical divide. You can “vote with your dollars”, but it seems that as America becomes increasingly specialized (the common metric of social growth), individuals become less capable of making meaningful consumer choices. (Consider the limited options a rural citizen has when the only place they can get groceries locally is a Walmart SuperCenter.) It might also help curtail the influence of wealth in our electoral system, by de-privatizing those companies which have the most economic sway.

It would also help out the workers within such industries by maintaining standards of health care, retirement funding, and workplace safety, with direct governmental oversight. A right-to-work system rarely protects employees, particularly those who cannot afford to go on strike. (Consider the plight of unsafe work conditions in warehouses.) Then again, failures within American bureaucracy are pretty commonplace (and often swept under the rug), particularly as regards politics around law enforcement, so maybe not.

Even so, however tangled American bureaucracy can get, the road to redress is still infinitely shorter within the political system than in trying to effect change on a company outside of it, particularly when the industry in question is so vital to the nation. (See: pollution of American meat industry and chemical manufacturing.)

(Idea for strikers: hire “toxic scabs” that are plants, who allow themselves to be hired on, waste training resources, and then immediately quit to go on strike as well, further damaging the company’s recovery.)

The cut-off point would have to be staggeringly high to keep it feasible, and a system which fails to make the same profits might backslide back into private control.

I’m sure there are tons of reasons why this wouldn’t work. Still, in the face of politicians who tout “keep government out of business” and raise devout followers among a class of Americans that really should be fighting for the opposite, it’s an idea.

©2013 by Blake Vaughn. The text of this story may be redistributed freely in its original form with attribution to the author, Blake Vaughn, and his website,, as under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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