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What Happens When the 'Free Market' Fails To Deliver Essential Goods and Services?

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Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed how the prices of all the essentials, like food, utilities and petrol (gasoline), are going up - not just a little either?  I thought we were 'all in this together'.  I just wonder if it's wise to leave our vital goods and services to the vagaries of The Market.  Is there really, "no other way"?

Correct me if I'm wrong - but don't these people in stocks and shares control the price of everything we buy?  You can't blow the snot from your nose, without that shower, putting a price on it.  This is supposed to be a free society, operating under a 'Free Market' system, but, if I were trying to thread a needle with an irate gorilla clutching at my privates, I'd feel less constricted than I do under this setup - and I suspect the unease is intended.  I think it makes as much sense as putting a paedophile in charge of a nursery, leaving that lot in control of our food and utilities - and it's especially dodgy, at a time when, governments have such enthusiasm for 'small government'.  There's nothing to stop them pricing us into our graves.  Suppose they don't like the way, we vote, for example.  These markets control everything that's vital to life, in the modern World, and they do little to deserve our trust. 

When I look at what's going on in Ireland and Greece, I think we're just starting to reap, what thirty-odd years of laissez-faire has sown - and the key to it all, is legitimacy.  That's what the rush to privatisation was all about: Publicly owned stuff, legally belonged to everyone (notice the past tense).  Privately owned stuff belongs to individuals or cabals (notice the present tense) - and that's what we opted for, when we put a succession of governments, hell bent on privatisation into power, whether we realised that that's what we were sleepwalking into or not. 

Taking a short step backwards in time, I just have to think of slavery, (that was legal once), and the Irish potato famines, to find examples of 'man's inhumanity to man'.  As a Scot, I think in particular of the Highland Clearances of the 18th and 19th Centuries, and I'm reminded how willing some people are, to shift the legal goalposts, for personal gain - leaving others destitute in the process.

In more recent times, we just need to look at our industrial wastelands to realise why 'we, the people' no longer have an industrial pot-to-p*ss-in.  All those assets, which past generations had toiled to build up over many decades of industrial hell, were sold off and the proceeds, no doubt, are now ensconced in far-off tax havens.  This went on, at a time when politicians were waving the Union Jack and singing Rule Britannia. 

However, we put politicians into power to make laws, and that's what they did - but to the advantage of private ownership - under the pretext, that what they did, was in the interest of their electorate.  I think we've been sold a pup for the good faith we we've shown by our compliance.  Laissez-faire doesn't assure us the value of our property - and now we find our pensions and social services under attack.  Soon, no doubt, to become cash cows in the latest round of profiteering.

Some say, 'you couldn't make it up', - yet there are others with all day to doss around the tax havens, doing exactly that.  Then, when the 'Free Market' fails, as it often does, it hands the tab over to the public, which means "austerity measures' that ironically get endorsed by those who purport to represent the majority.  Maybe 'you couldn't make it up' - and keep a clear conscience - but there are some who can, so they do, with neither constraint nor compunction.

I think we need much wider and deeper discussion going on, about the way we secure our essential goods and services.  We should at least have a plan B, against the vagaries of the 'Free Market' and the miseries that some people would blithely impose on others, in their pursuit of personal gain. 

Where once the general trend was homeownership, it might be wise now to trend towards self-sufficiency and better cooperation with one another.  We can survive without gadgets and trinkets made in sweatshops, let the 'Free Market' indulge in that, if it must, but food and shelter should be out of bounds to that sort of people. 

On the other hand, - to use the mantra of recent decades - we could just continue to 'leave it to The Markets'.

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David McBain wants people to read his articles and blogs. He was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1948, one month before the start of the National Health Service (NHS UK) and fears now that he will outlive its usefulness to future generations. (more...)

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