To Regulate or Deregulate?
Privatisation has done wonders for the advertising industry and for merchant banking. It has achieved some of the largest ever company share flotations, as with the sale of British Gas to 4.5 million shareholders for £7750 million. It has established a number of national companies in the private rather than the public, state owned sector of industry. What may be its most durable effect, however, is to convert a generation of small savers to the habits of share ownership. People who previously would have been content for the government to be responsible for the conduct of essential public utilities found that they could easily claim a share of the action. Most of the nation’s customers could not afford to or did not choose to buy shares, but those who did gained ownership of important companies at terms significantly below the eventual market price. Margaret Thatcher’s dream of a nation with more shareholders than trade unionists moved that much closer.
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