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Loss of wealth? No, a redistribution of wealth

Written By: - Date published: 8:50 am, April 23rd, 2013 - 29 comments
Categories: capitalism, class war, energy - Tags:

Eddie explored yesterday who stands to lose from falling asset values in electricity companies resulting from lower power prices. The answer: the Crown and foreign investors. Now, JBWere has estimated those book value losses at up to $1.4b for Contact and Trustpower, meaning $4b all up. But, despite the cries from the Right, that doesn’t mean wealth is being lost, it’s moving.

It’s moving to households and businesses in the productive economy. They’re the ones who will get the wealth that the electricity companies are losing through paying less for their power. Work out the new present value of $700m a year worth of savings on power to households and businesses starting in four years’ time (with odds of Lab+Greens winning at 50%, 8% discount rate) and it comes out at about $4b. The electricity companies’ loss is our gain.

And that’s just the first round impact. Once you consider the economic benefits of having that extra money circulating and the removal of an incredibly inefficient tax via infrastructure (which is what electricity superprofits are) then the wealth gains for everyone far outweigh the electricity companies’ losses. That’s what BERL’s analysis shows – 5,000 more jobs, nearly half a billion a year more in the economy.

And, remember, this is only undoing the redistribution of wealth away from families and businesses to electricity company owners that has been going on for the past two decades.

Funny that the Right’s so-called economic experts aren’t even admitting that side of the equation exists as they run around like chickens with their heads cut off. Why would that be? Could it be neoliberalism is all about grabbing public ‘rents’ for the capitalist elite’s benefit, and they’re now seeing not only that snatched away from them in the electricity asset sales, but also the threat that other rent-seeking will be tackled?

29 comments on “Loss of wealth? No, a redistribution of wealth”

  1. Good post.

    After the past few decades of increasing amounts of wealth being transferred to the already wealthy from everyone else it is time to take a stand and start to change things back.

    And power prices are a good way to start.

  2. Ad 2

    Most people think about how they will sustain their retirement.

    Essentially Labour have said that they will destabilise really stable share asset classes, so don’t bother, so revert, again, to rental property, or far more risky asset classes, or they re-assess their Kiwisaver contributions and perhaps their fund class.

    It is incredibly helpful that there are good Kiwisaver fund managers with over five years of track record on them. And this was a Labour policy.

    Labour need to make these investment connections for the public right now. Investing is by and large not a task individuals can undertake with any reasonable knowledge, because the knowledge simply isn’t available. Investing needs to be done by Labour’s own policy instruments, guided by professionals who act for the collective.

    It’s a strange dynamic to be in when you have your chequebook ready and prepared to commit part of your future to it…

    …but the underlying political theme is the same: acting together makes us more powerful, wealthier, and more secure. That’s not socialism. That’s simple collective interest.

    • McFlock 2.1

      Stable shares?
      No such thing.

      Stability = lower risk = govt bonds.
      But they pay less than shares. Because of risk.

      • Coronial Typer 2.1.1

        “Stable share asset classes” means there are kinds of share class that are more stable than others.
        Sorry you needed that spelling out.

        • McFlock 2.1.1.1

          Funnily enough, my retirement options were were simply “lower risk” (mostly govt bonds), “higher risk” (share-market), or a 50/50 mix of both.

          Basically, all you’re saying is that the “stable” assessment of the shares included an incorrect assessment of the risks presented by party policy changes.

          “Stable share asset classes” are just another myth of speculators and investment advisors sales-staff.

          • Ad 2.1.1.1.1

            I agree that shares are less secure than bonds. I certainly remember 1987 and 1988. I disagree that all shares are equal in risk. Shareholders in electricity generators should expect a low and stable rate of return, like any other utility. Unless there is massive forecast regulatory upheaval, and that hadn’t existed in New Zealand since the mid 1990s.

            I hope that Labour/Greens don’t destabilise the bond markets as well.

            The end question, under a Labour/Greens government could otherwise be: why would we invest here?
            – CGT tilts the field one way
            – Electricity regulatory reform tilts it another
            – KiwiBuild tilts it another
            – Who knows if Norman will get to QE and hence bond markets

            Labour/Greens can of course redistribute wealth any way they want. But since they are clear about what they don’t want NZ citizens to invest in, they have a responsibility to promote a positive investment path as well.

            • McFlock 2.1.1.1.1.1

              They have.

              Investments that create things and have a genuine real-world value, not gambling or Winter extortion.

    • freedom 2.2

      “Most people think about how they will sustain their retirement. ”
      would love to see a citation for that one.

      how to sustain their immediate morgtage payments seems more of a concern for ‘most people’

  3. vto 3

    That’s right.

    In the good old days the parameters governing wealth distribution resulted in a far greater share of the country’s wealth going to workers and wage and salary earners.

    Todays parameters governing wealth distribution result in a far greater share of the country’s wealth going to the elite non-working capitalists.

    Wealth redistribution is a reality on this far right National government.

    Wealth redistribution is a reality for all previous and all future governments in NZ. They all set and re-set the parameters which change the distribution of wealth. This is nothing new.

    The new (or old) question in fact is: What sort of wealth distribution pattern would you like to see in NZ? One that pushes more towards the workers or one that pushes more towards the owners?

    They all redistribute the wealth. Make your choice folks.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      How about one where it’s recognised that we all own the resources of the country and thus all have an equal say in the distribution of those resources?

      We could call it democracy.

  4. Rhinocrates 4

    I really recommend Hoots’ inadvertent comedy routine on Monday morning when he forgot to take his ritalin:

    [audio src="http://podcast.radionz.co.nz/ntn/ntn-20130422-1106-politics_with_matthew_hooton_and_mike_williams-048.mp3" /]

    “They have destroyed wealth, they crashed the stock market, they gave me dandruff and turned me into a newt!”

    Undeterred by chuckles, he goes on like some crazed psychic.

    “Yea, and this I foresee, there will be wailing like a Welsh choir of dying cats playing the bagpipes, yes, and verily and forsooth, volcanoes will erupt, spewing earwax, and there will be plagues of locusts with the tails of Boeing 747s and the heads of chartered accountants, and they will devour your stamp collections!”

    Well, not quite, but almost, and I hope it was just ectoplasm he left behind in the studio – that stuff evaporates by itself.

    • geoff 4.1

      It was great to hear the way his voice changes when he gets all wound up. Starts sounding like Viggo Mortensen calling a battle charge.

      • Rhinocrates 4.1.1

        Yeah, he’s quite funny, isn’t he? Key does something egregious and it’s all smarmy “Oh well, let’s be calm and reasonable, it’s not a good look, but you know…” but when anyone on the left sneezes, it’s “OMG, geysers of menstrual blood are erupting from my toilet destroying my property values!!!!!!! Teh Apocalypso is here!!! Stupid Maoris are gonna CRASH THE MARKET!!!!Mummy won’t let me watch TV after nine o’clock!!!!Waaaah!!!!!1111111ELEVEN!”

  5. Simo 5

    The really disappointing fact here is that whatever economic recovery we could be enjoying in a year or two is now been sabotaged as more uncertainty is piled on the every small business owner. Are these business’s going to expand and employ more staff? Probably not. The net effect is a financial loss across the economy in every sector, in every business and in every employee’s superannuation scheme. The lack of confidence that the left has generated will stall that economy and we can only wait until 2014 election to see if the voters will buy into $500 voucher from your nationalised power company. I’m am picking they won’t.

    • vto 5.1

      You are actually exactly wrong Simo.

      labour type policies have a history of revvng up economic activity. Hell, I even had a dyed in the wool National Party member no less tell me that whenever the Labour Party gets into power he arranges his investments to take full advantage of the rise in economic activity that always follows.

      Similarly, it always dives when the Nats get in.

      Go read some history. And do some thinking.

      • Simo 5.1.1

        This “economic activity” is always offset by increasing stealth taxes and personal tax rates going up, and other financial lunacy endemic to the left.

      • Rob 5.1.2

        You base this analysis on a fictional “dyed in the wool National Party member”, and then criticise someone for not reading & not thinking. You pratt.

        Things are improving in NZ , tradespeople have more work, consumer durables spending is up, building starts are up. GDP for the quater is up right back to 2007.

        Labour and the greens have blundered in and stomped all over it , and they don’t even now if they are happy about it , eh Clint. Good job fellas.

    • framu 5.2

      its not a nationalisation program

  6. aerobubble 6

    Yeah, I’m a power company, my assets are fixed in the ground, no loss there. The loss is on the continued over charging of consumers for power, and that wealth is consumers wealth being siphoned off by my greedy dead hands.

  7. Redistribution of wealth?
    What is wealth?
    It is nothing if not value.
    What is value?

    Bertram documents the inflated ‘value’ of the Gentailers. What Marx called ‘fictitious capital’.

    This is the difference between historic costs and book value that justifies putting up prices in excess of actual price of production (all costs plus average profits assuming a competitive market).

    This excess is actually monopoly rent, profit in excess of the average profit (ass. competitive market) that is, superprofit, which entails a redistribution of profit from non-monopoly to monopoly producers.

    (Note Shearer is not a Marxist. For Marx superprofit was not ‘unfair’ compared to Shearer’s ‘fair’ profits. Of course for Marx, the extraction of profits has already taken place by means of the distribution of the means of production – capitalist ownership of same, workers selling their labour power).

    Monopoly rent (superprofit) is possible only by preventing competitors from entering a branch of production and sharing in and therefore eliminating those superprofits. Bertram’s case is that the big four Gentailers act as a cartel and impose a monopoly in power generation.

    NACTs claim that the market reforms have or will break up this monopoly. This is a dystopia however, monopoly is a fact of life that has defined capitalism since the beginning of the 20th century when competitive capitalism turned into state monopoly capitalism.

    Basically the competitive market died as a historic force for the development of capitalism and was replaced by massive monopolies backed by big state powers. And in the smaller countries like NZ with weaker economies there could be no capitalist production without massive state intervention at every point to conceive, grow and protect the private sector.

    Monopoly was the logical outcome of capitalists concentrated their power to the point that they could concentrate their assets, particularly those that are finite, such as land and energy resources, too exclude competition so as to monopolise the value produced by the worlds workers.

    Therefore, there is however, only one paradigm operating today, state monopoly capitalism (SMC) in which the monopolies continue to concentrate state power to centralise their wealth.

    Within this paradigm the Right uses the state to shift the production of value (wealth) to those who own the means of production eg bankers, landowners, gentry, to capture ‘founder’s rent’ historically and monopoly rent today. The Left tries to use the state to shift value back to those who produce it but can never achieve this within the state monopoly capital paradigm.

    The neo-gentry (the rent rorters today) are rushing to grab what is left of scarce, finite assets as the system goes into terminal decline. Rip, shit, bust. As the cost to the producers increases there is pressure from below to resist this. But so far this has not challenged the dominant SMC paradigm.

    No capitalist state centred reform will bring about the redistribution of wealth that is necessary to allow us to survive let alone do so as equals. That will require the redistribution of the means of production, distribution and exchange, to allow the working class to collectively control production for need and not profit. A Fabian version of this was once part of historic Labour’s program.

    To challenge the SMC the producers have to overturn the SMC paradigm and expropriate the historic value that is now concentrated as the assets of the 1% or disappear into a morass of destruction.

    It can be done because it has to be done. We don’t know what is possible until we do what is necessary.

    http://redrave.blogspot.co.nz/2013/04/socialism-vs-climate-catastrophe.html

  8. Draco T Bastard 8

    Could it be neoliberalism is all about grabbing public ‘rents’ for the capitalist elite’s benefit

    That’s exactly what neo-liberalism’s about and I find it both amazing and disgusting that we have an entire departments in universities and schools dedicated to researching and promoting this theft as if it’s the natural order.

    • The Gormless Fool formerly known as Oleolebiscuitbarrell 8.1

      Let’s close the universities down.

      • One Anonymous Knucklehead 8.1.1

        …after all, it’s not as though wingnuts have any use for them. Or their difficult entrance exams.

      • Draco T Bastard 8.1.2

        Why? Generally they do a good job. It’s only in economics that they seem to be failing so consistently.

      • Murray Olsen 8.1.3

        I’d be happy to see economics departments closed down. I suspect you mean the mythical “basket weaving as a weapon in the hands of lesbian carnivorous snails and the taonga of constructivist feminism” departments that I’ve heard a lot about, but never been able to find anywhere. Like so many things so beloved of the right, such as the free market and the benefits of capitalism, they seem also to be completely nonexistent.

        • The Gormless Fool formerly known as Oleolebiscuitbarrell 8.1.3.1

          No. Draco and Draco alone should get to decide what is a worthy area of study.

          Command and control, everyone’s doing it.

          • Draco T Bastard 8.1.3.1.1

            Economics is a worthy area of study. Unfortunately, the idiots studying it wouldn’t know an economy if they tripped over one which is why, when we follow their prescriptions, the economy inevitably fails. You’d think that, after two hundred years of being wrong, they’d finally realise that they’re doing it wrong.

            • The Gormless Fool formerly known as Oleolebiscuitbarrell 8.1.3.1.1.1

              Draco has spoken. You can study economics.

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