Capitalism. An incredibly simple, powerful and good force in the world.
If only we had it.
Adam Smith made it so simple (though it took him three volumes of his Wealth of Nations to say it). He understood that that inexorable tendency of capital was for the powerful to eliminate the weak until, ultimately, only one super-supplier of everything dominates every transaction, sucking every skerrick of surplus back to its owners and effectively enslaving everyone else.
The only force capable of and charged with stopping this: a government elected by the people to defend the people, breaking up emerging monopolies, constantly resetting, levelling, the market. Imposing regulation to ensure fair play. A beautiful concept, a workable system. America became great because it understood this better than anyone else. The breakup of Bell Telephone. Ditto Hollywood’s control of cinemas.
When Hollywood studios ruled the exhibitor business by a complex web of sweetheart deals, threats, exclusions and other practices, they were crunched.
News to you? Read this elegant summary of the issues by the 1948 Supreme Court:
‘The gist of the Court’s unanimous Paramount decision can be summarized in four points: first, the mere existence of monopoly power, whether lawfully or unlawfully gained, is basis enough for an antitrust judgment; second, it is not necessary to find specific intent to restrain trade, simply that such restraint results from the defendants’ business conduct; third, the Sherman Act can be violated by prevention of competition as much as by destruction of competition; and finally, any theater under any ownership is subject to an antitrust judgment if the theater was acquired or maintained as a result of unreasonable restraint of trade.’
What sweet music that would have been to Adam Smith’s ears.
Now ask yourself: could such a ruling conceivably come down today? I think not. Never happen. Courts, politicians, civil administrators, the media – they are all in bed together and the consumer is pinned face down, taking it where it hurts most.
I don’t know this. I can’t prove it. I am convinced solely because it happens, just as the 1948 Supreme Court concluded that the mere existence of the circumstances satisfied the criteria for the break-up under the Sherman Act.
Doubt it? Just listen to BBC’s scandalous consumer non-protection farces “You & Yours” and “Money & You” as the affable, supine presenters (Peter White and Paul Ellis, respectively) obediently read out press releases from companies from whom ‘no-one was available to appear on the programme’.
But hang on. Don’t these companies pay PR flacks fortunes to get them onto programmes they want to be on?
And hang on again. Under media rules requiring balance, the broadcaster’s only obligation is to give the company the opportunity to put its point of view. Should it decline to front up the programme is free to air only the views of its critics. If they started doing that, the companies would start showing up for interviews quick smart, as they do in my own country. And taking the hammering they so often deserve from genuine journalists.
How is it the job of a presenter of a consumer rights programme to read out companies’ press releases? Answer: it isn’t. It’s b**lsh*t. Phony crony capitalism, funded by your licence fees.
What happens when the companies or their industry reps do appear on the programmes? They get a velvet cushion shoved under their arses.
Money & You, today, June 22, 2014. Some poor bugger got caught in China when martial law was declared. He didn’t know. Reasonable, since he was on holiday and didn’t speak Chinese. He runs into trouble. His travel insurance fails him.
He describes how, right through the crisis, he kept getting marketing emails from the company, but no warnings or advice, in spite of the fact that the Foreign Office had advised travellers to get out.
Paul Ellis: (I paraphrase) “How was that? Could you not have warned him?”
Answer: “Well, every company has websites that send out marketing messages to their customers. But we are not able to send out specific Foreign Office advisories to our travelling customers.”
Ellis’ charming, affable response: move on to the next question.
Correct response: “Excuse me? You get the advisories, surely. Why not use a simple web-script to sort them by country and automatically bounce them on to travelling customers on your database? You can’t be telling me this is too hard?”
“Well … I’m not a computer expert …”
“It sounds to me as if you’re too busy marketing to your customers to attend to their safety. Surely the travelling public has the right to expect better than this from an industry known to use some of the most powerful and sophisticated computer systems on the planet?”
Aahh, we dream.
Until this issue is addressed, the disenchanted will espouse broken, failed and fatally flawed systems or non-systems such as communism and anarchy. But capitalism is far more efficient at delivering safe, affordable and useable goods and services to the people, in accordance with the will of the people, including their desire for simplicity, environmental care, fair play and quality first.
If only we had it …
The bollix argument in favour of our government serving their interests is … well, read this.