Here’s Granny Herald’s genius plan for economic development: if Meridian can get more money for its power elsewhere, it should let Tiwai Point close. 3,000 jobs would be lost. Invercargill and Bluff would effectively be killed. But, hey, market forces! Problem is, if Meridian only considers its narrow commercial interests, it ignores the cost to the country as a whole.
But that’s always been the problem with neoliberalism. This quasi-religious belief that what is good for the one must ipso facto be good for the whole (or maybe that should be, what’s good for the one is all that matters, fuck the whole). That logic might be OK for the corner dairy. It might be optimal for small companies in perfect competition. But it isn’t OK for major companies in monopolistic situations. And it definitely isn’t OK for the Government. Remember, that’s what Meridian is – our government, an artificial division of our government, but our government all the same.
So, what Granny Herald is basically saying is that part of our collective wealth (the government) should behave with the logic of a corner dairy and attempt to maximise its own profits even if that hurts the rest of us (ie its owners) more. This is the madness of neoliberalism at its maddest – our company shouldn’t consider our interests when making its decisions.
None of this is to say that the country might not in fact be better off if the smelter closes and the cheap hydro displaces fossil fuel electricity production elsewhere. Point is, the decision should be made on what is best for the country – and the world come to that, if Tiwai closes it’ll just be replaced by coal-powered smelting in China – not what makes sense in the narrow lense Meridian’s books, which is nothing but neoliberal accounting artifice.