Political Systems: M&S and Public Toilets


Godfrey Bloom, who has recently written for us and who has also recently been announced as one of the speakers to this year’s Traditional Britain conference, has previously used the analogy of shareholders at M&S to describe the difference between a private and a public government as defined by Hans-Hermann Hoppe. Shareholders at M&S get a ‘vote’ on how the company ought to be run because they own a share of it. Consequently, they will tend to prefer company policies that will increase the value of their shares. However, Bloom continues, if you buy your knickers at M&S and you are now able to ‘vote’ then you will vote for free knickers. However, perhaps there is a better analogy.

The following analogy came to me yesterday when using the ‘facilities’ (I’ll continue with these euphemisms for a bit) at my college; they are surprisingly well kept. Now, because I’m not an ordinary person, but instead an incredibly odd person, I then went on to consider why that might be. I decided that it was because the students of a college will almost all of them inevitably use each one of the rest rooms each week. It is simply not in their interest to see the WCs flooded or whatever else might happen through careless use of them. But, the students do not own the lavatories. However, the college does, for all intents and purposes, own them and so does make an effort to maintain them.

Therefore, instead of two, I see three systems illustrated by the analogy of the state of toilets: anarcho-capitalism; private government; and public government.

One’s own bathroom is, usually, in good condition: there’s lavatory paper where there should be and there’s an absence of lavatory paper where it should not be (e.g on the sole of your shoe, on the walls, hanging from the ceiling); there’s no drawing of a male member on the door nor is there an invitation to call someone ‘for a good time’. At least, that is the state I like to think most household bathrooms are in. This is anarcho-capitalism. There is no separation of ownership and control, as Butler Shaffer might put it, and thus the scope for inefficiency or conflict is reduced to a minimum.

The next system after anarcho-capitalism is private government. In a private government, ownership and control are separated, but those in control act as if they are the owners. The toilet situation for this system of government is akin to that of a college toilet or an office toilet: those who use it know they will be doing so for the foreseeable future just as those who are responsible for its upkeep can to some extent be pressured into taking into account the concerns of the toilet users. And so, while you do get the occasional mobile telephone number scribbled on the wall and while users may be a little overenthusiastic with the soap dispenser, the facility remains functional.

However, if governance of the toilets become ‘public’ or socialistic, then, you get a situation like that of a public toilet in Torquay.

From now on, that is the way I want you to think of democracy: a pub toilet in a state-funded pub at closing time in a popular tourist site.

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One comment

  • I hope nobody bites my head off…..and I cannot claim to be any kind of expert on it…….but why do so many people and wider society as a whole completely ignore ‘distributism’? We are often presented with either “capitalism” or “communism” as being the only things on offer to us.

    From what I understand, our current system not actually true capitalism. When it comes to my “nationalist” leanings, I do tend to support some aspects of socialism in terms of how key sectors should be operated. However, that does not necessarily mean that that we are stuck with strict socialism and governmental control, which, I would agree is at times, is inefficient and cumbersome.

    In contrast to that old system, we were told under the Conservatives that all these national institutions ought to be opened up to “competition”……because it will “bring the prices down” and “improve services”. Well, I think that kind of claim has to be taken with a pinch of salt given what has happened.

    We seem to be paying more for everything in a greatly (perhaps deliberately) confusing marketplace (think phones, gas, electric, train tickets) – which in some cases have been accused of manipulating the markets to their collective advantage and we rely on toothless bodies and regulators to both investigate and try and prosecute when it is uncovered.

    As a nation, we do not have any real say upon our own long term national future either. We cannot vote for what happens or kick out governments who are either messing things up or working to destroy the way things are.

    It seems to me that we are hemmed in with globalism and international mega-brands working for their own interests at the expense of the nation, doing whatever they like and in the process, shifting their excessive profits (such as the electricity/gas company in Scotland that hiked up the prices by 40%) around the world in order to kind of ‘asset strip’ the general British wealth.

    Furthermore, like with the banking sector, ownership is in fewer hands. When people talk of competition, they seem to fail to acknowledge that there are only around 7 companies that own every ‘brand’ in the world. You have your Proctor and Gamble, your Coca-cola, Unilever.

    True competition is perhaps going out the window and it would be making it very difficult for new people to start up without having the massive buying powers, the economies of scale, and the government ministers and parties locked into step for their own mutual interests.

    These collaborations can (and probably do) control the markets, just like banking and finance have been controlling the markets with the LIBOR scandal and the scandal with manipulating the prices of precious metals and foreign exchange rates.

    I do not know what model Marks and Spencer’s is running on, but if or when people unconnected with the actual store get to be shareholders, they do not tend to care what happens in their name as long as they see a financial reward.

    It can therefore be very unethical (think the sweat-shops and collapsed building making clothes for Primark) and also be of the ultimate detriment to their own workers and their own nation, think ‘cheap labour immigration’ or ‘outsourcing’ of jobs or whole companies, or both.

    Ordinary shareholders often don’t know what is going on in their name, such as arms dealing at their bank, or, like in the case of Barclay’s, funding Robert Mugabe’s ‘land grab’ policies against white farmers. They are satellites to it all, do not really care as it does not really affect them.

    So in the case of M&S knickers and shareholders…… wouldn’t distributism be the better alternative?

    I think this is where the shareholders are the actual workers. This means the government has little to do with it, that the workers would have no interest in pushing for ‘free knickers’ because it hurts their own futures – and nor would they be voting for the chain to import cheap foreign labour – effectively replacing their own jobs!

    Why could elements of this not be carried out for wider society as well? If we are all shareholders in our futures, wouldn’t that lead to betterment out of the basic human nature of self-interest that communist systems seem to lack?

    Sports Direct and John Lewis appear to be doing marvellously. So, I don’t tend to see the options on the table as only being “communism” or “capitalism”. They are both full of problems.

    I don’t think there is a perfect system of either, so why not aim for something like distributism that can perhaps curb some of the excesses of the ‘capitalist’ system in a globalist structure and curb some of the ‘communist’ excesses yet remain in the better interests of local peoples, societies, nations?

    (I hope no distributist people are reading my hackneyed and half-baked explanations of something I acknowledge I am no expert on! But hey, at least I am having a go! lol. I know I need to do more reading upon this subject, but one reason for this is that all we ever hear about is communism and capitalism!).

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