In an article in "The Guardian" Will Hutton has supported the theivery of the Argentine government, based on zenophobia, boundless faith in government and argument from personal belief. Here is my disection of this particular piece of the rotting corpse of government worship. "Suppose the British government knew that a key shareholder in Centrica, our last great British energy company and owner of British Gas, was to sell its stake to Gazprom, so making Russian state ownership inevitable. I hope that, in this scenario, the government would expand the provision of the Enterprise Act that allows Britain to block takeovers that are against the national interest to include gas and nuclear power. (The act is currently confined to defence, financial services and the media.)" The fact that you hope for something doesn't mean it's good.
"No country can be indifferent to the ownership of strategic assets and thus the use to which they might be put. Its first obligation is to the well-being of its citizens."
Which you haven't shown is at all served by not being indifferent to the ownership of "strategic assets". In fact government control of such assets has crippled investment in them in more than one country.
"The Argentinian government was faced with just this dilemma last week. YPF is its national oil and gas company, which it sold to the Spanish oil company Repsol for $15bn in 1999 as part of its privatisation drive. It has not been a great deal for either party. Argentinian oil and gas production has slumped, exploration for new reserves has been run down and this oil-rich country is now an oil importer, with Repsol accused of looting the company and betraying its obligations.
Repsol's excuse is that Argentinian price controls are absurdly tough."
When there is a lack of investment leading to a shortage of supply and price controls any economists worth his salt points out the obvious connection. But instead the author calls this an "excuse". If he's so certain that the price controls didn't lead to the lower production let him and likeminded people buy the company and see if they can lift production without going broke.
"It has wanted to sell its holding for some time and last July finally found a potential buyer: the Chinese state oil company Sinopec. On Monday, fearing that the deal was about to be done, the Argentinian government seized the lion's share of Repsol's stake to get majority control. Better that YPF is owned by the Argentinian government than the Chinese Communist party is their reasoning.
Many governments would have done the same. Ownership matters. Yet Argentina has been roundly condemned – the EU, Spain, Mexico and even Britain have all weighed in. The Economist thunders that President Cristina Fernández's antics must not go unpunished; nationalisation is a sin beyond redemption. The inference is that Repsol should have been allowed freely to dispose of its shares to whichever buyer and at the best price it could achieve. Argentina and its citizens have no right to intervene."
When Repsol bought the shares the government clearly didn't set any limits on who it could sell to, if it had they wouldn't have to confiscate shares. So the government clearly did what nobody has a right to do, make a deal, get the money and then change the terms. Argentina has no right to intervene because to do so is simple fraud, and it's citizens have no right to "intervene" in property that isn't their's.
"But to portray Repsol as an injured innocent whose natural rights have been unfairly suborned is to traduce economic and political reality."
Actually it's entirely accurate at least as far as the author knows. If Repsol wasn't innocent then where is the proof? Where is the legal decision, hell even the legal proceeding, against it? In the absence of such the companies shareholders have the right to have the company presumed innocent, and yes that is a natural right. The idea that someone should have their property taken from them because of unproven and untested allegations is obviously unjust.
"For too long, companies and the rich worldwide, egged on by American Republicans and British Tories, have shamelessly exploited the proposition that there is only one proper relationship between them and society: they do what they want on their own terms."
Who says this? Nobody. In fact free market thinkiing is that people have to deal in mutually acceptable terms, and this is what the author has a problem with. He believes the government should be able to deal with people on it's own terms, regardless of rights, facts, justice, due process or any other limit on immoral behaviour.
"And society must accept this because it is the sole route to "wealth generation". Capital exists above state and society."
Note that the shareholders were quite willing to accept the State being above their capital (a moral and practical mistake in my opinion) and the author makes direct reference to this (price controls). The capitalists were quite willing to accept the rules, it is the government, that made the rules that objects to following them and instead makes new rules as it goes along.
"Fernández's actions, however clumsy and unfair in their execution, are part of a growing worldwide reaction to the excesses that this proposition has brought. Repsol does not, and did not, have a God-given right to sell control in YPF to whomever it pleases while Argentina's interests can go hang."
Quite right, it's rights come from the objective nature of reality not a mythical god.
" It exists in a symbiotic relationship with the society in which it trades. The right to trade and to own are privileges that come with reciprocal obligations as the Ownership Commission, which I chaired, argued earlier this year. "
Yes there are reciprocal obligations, the obligation not to violate the similar rights of others, i.e. the oblations not to steal. This obligation the author apparently finds too hard to live up to.
"They cannot exist in a vacuum because companies' actions have profound effects."
So what? Ghandi's right to speak had "profound effects" that doesn't mean the government had the right to control it, nor did it make it a privilege.
"Moreover, companies, especially energy companies, need public agencies to help mitigate the risk of undertaking huge investments in a world where the future is unknowable."
Actually it's blatantly obvious that public agencies create not mitigate risk. What do you think the GFC and the Euro debt crisis were? That alternet is pushing this fascist, corporatist codswallop that government should mitigate risks of businesses, is nothing short of astounding. Why not just take a job as a shilll for Goldman, Sachs if that's what you're going to vomit out into the public discourse?
" Across the globe, business and the rich insist on denying these elementary truths. "
Well aside from the fact that nothing you said appears to be an elementary truth business and the rich have in fact been pushing what you just pushed, that "public agencies" should mitigage the risk for companies.
"The reaction [against supposedly free market capitalism ] is long overdue and is producing some long-needed corrections. For example, in the last fortnight alone, Goldman Sachs' Lloyd Blankfein, Barclays' Bob Diamond and Citibank's Vikram Pandit have all faced angry shareholders, responding to the new mood, protesting about the extravagance of their bonuses compared to their institutions' paltry performance. They are being forced to accept less."
God that's a moronic conclusion. Shareholders insisting that failing executives get paid less is not a reaction against the free market, it's a reacion within the free market. It's not the 1% being forced to get less, it's the 1% paying someone (who happens to be in the 1%) less.
"But the mood needs to be channelled. Argentina may have done everyone a service by forcibly reminding global business that there are unpleasant consequences for neglecting economic and social responsibilities,"
Well no, Argentina, or rather Fernández has shown their are unpleasant consequences for doing something that a politician doesn't want. Whether they neglected their "economic and social responsibilities" which conveniently enough, weren't defined either in the article or the law is unknown. What is known is that a politician reacted to something they didn't like by stealing.
"but summary nationalisation without compensation is hardly a solid template for the future. It is a harbinger of Chinese-style arbitrary government; a move from crony capitalism to crony statism."
The author clearly doesn't know what crony capitalism or statism is.
" It is time to reassert that while capitalism may be a proven route to prosperity, it only works in a complex interdependence with the state and society. There have to be rules at home and abroad to make a desirable world of open borders, free trade and free business work. "
If there have to be rules then why is the author cheering on those who violated the rules at the expense of those who followed them? What he really wants is for their to be the illusion of rules, lots of little laws that change whenever it takes the whim of "the people" or their "representatives".
" The mood is changing. It needs to be channelled: the creation of a new and different compact with business, finance and the rich. It is what electorates across the world want to see. President Fernández, in her gauche way, has tapped into a global mood."
Yes the mood is changing, people are in the mood to steal. This is understandable but naive, for the governments that steal for them will steal from them.