Community Ownership

Honour sinks where commerce long prevails.

Walter Bagehot

“Was the earth made to preserve a few covetous, proud men to live at ease;

or was it made to preserve all her children?”

Gerard Winstanley 1649

Wessex Regionalists advocate community ownership – not State, not private – of land and economic resources.  We fundamentally reject the concept of a free market; the exploitation of the many by the few; the monopolistic tendencies of corporations and their ability to “buy” political favours.  We also reject the State-dominated form of socialism adopted by Labour.

Instead, we take our inspiration from the co-operative, agrarian, syndicalist  and  guild  socialist traditions.

The nationalisation of major enterprises and the growth of large corporations both have put power, in “socialised” economies as much as market ones, in the hands of a largely unaccountable managerial class, which serves the owners, be they the public at large or shareholders,  at arm’s length.  Managerialism rules the market – serving neither the interests of the users of the business nor the owners.  Neither form exists to serve the people.  The banking crisis of 2008 showed the extent to which managers, not owners, not the public, could mis-use a company for personal, stellar, gain.

Most market enterprises are no longer owned by individuals and small investors as shareholders but by fund managers whose only goal to raise share value for profit.  These fund managers handle not their own money but that of investors, peoples’ pension pots, yet they have a major influence on the direction a company will take only to move their funds elsewhere as soon as a more lucrative venture catches their attention.  Trading on the Stock Market is nothing more than gambling – gambling with employees’ futures.  The result is short term thinking; sacrificing long term plans which would secure the future of a business for short term gain; fuelling the drive for permanent growth using ever more of the planet’s limited resources.

An Economy for the Future

The solution is not to throw away the material benefits of modern industry but to re-instate, in new forms, the connections between the economy, society and the political process.  Apart from ‘internalising’ external costs by reforming the taxation system, the best way to reduce them is to make the impact of economic decisions as direct and localised as possible.  We must decentralise economic policy, localise production as much as possible and give everyone affected by companies’ activities a say in how they are run.

At the heart of this vision is the ability of the community to retain the wealth it creates. 

Wessex Regionalists stand apart from ideological debates over public versus private ownership.  We recognise that different communities face different circumstances, to which a variety of models of ownership may be appropriate: state, municipal, private or co-operative.  We believe that local preferences should be respected and we oppose the use of legislation or financial pressure from central government to force local authorities to sell community assets.  What works should be protected. 

We support legislation to safeguard building societies against de-mutualisation.  Assets built up by past generations are owed to future generations and should not become windfall profits for carpet-baggers.  We also support the development of co-operatives and community-owned ventures of all kinds, wherever they can be shown to be economically viable.  Future development must be based on increasing local enterprise and encouraging local innovation.  Such approaches will keep more money in the area and lead to a more successful and vibrant local economy.

There are different kinds even of private ownership.  We champion the view that ownership and control should be as local and as widespread as possible.  We recognise that the economics of production mean that some sectors will be national, European or global in scale, but reasons for concentrated ownership must be demonstrable and it must be shown to be in the public interest.  The distinctiveness of Wessex will be stronger if economic activity is owned and controlled from within the region.  This is particularly true of those sectors with the most visible presence in the community and those with a close relationship to the landscape of Wessex and its environment generally.  Examples include agriculture, food & drink, the media, retailing, tourism, transport and utilities.  We support stronger powers for the Competition Commission to prevent undesirable mergers and take-overs and wish to see local and regional distinctiveness taken into account as a factor in its decisions.