Monday, 7 December 2009

The free market fanatics

I caught a bit of a discussion on the Today programme on Radio 4 this morning as I was travelling to work (held up by traffic jams and roadworks as usual). It was a debate between Raj Patel, author of The Value of Nothing who had some sensible ideas about the social implications of capitalism and Mark Littlewood a free market fanatic from the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) . As you can probably guess the fanatic was going on about how the 'free' market can solve all our problems if only we would get rid of regulation, big government etc. etc.

Ok, so here is why that fanatic was wrong. Lets just imagine that the 'free' market did run everything. Take transport as an example. Start with roads. You would only be able to travel on main routes - busy motorways and A roads. All other roads would fall into disrepair. Why? - because they would be 'uneconomic'. Same with the railways. You might be able to travel on what they used to call 'Intercity' or mainline routes. All other lines would be closed - for the same reason as the roads.

The take the Royal Mail - its still a public service - just. But if that was left to the 'free market' you would lose the universal postal service. In large swathes of the UK you would be unable to post or receive any mail - apart, of course, from commercial junk mail and packages from Amazon and the like.

Take another example. Housing. We have a housing shortage in this country which has contributed to the house price boom and a crisis in accommodation. Why? Because successive governments have left housing supply up to the 'free' market. The market only wants to build the most profitable houses i.e. four bedroom detached houses with tiny gardens and double garages on greenfield sites. Not for them social (or 'affordable') housing or housing on brownfield sites which isn't as profitable. In fact if it wasn't for the fact that sometimes developers were compelled to build social housing we would never have any built at all. Result - yet more misery and deprivation for working people and the poor.

Then there is healthcare. If that was privatised we would go back to a situation like we had in the 1930's where people couldn't afford medical treatment. I could go on......and on.

Does anyone actually want any of this nonsense? Apart from the rich - who won't be affected - and twerps from the IEA like Mark Littlewood - I think not. Lets never forget that these fanatics are directly responsible for most of the social problems that we have in the this country today.

What we need to understand is that these fanatics for the 'free' market are impervious to any kind of commonsense or notions of social justice. They are are more akin to religious fundamentalists than economists - and just as dangerous. If the numpty (northern word meaning one who is stupid), Mark Littlewood, from the IEA wants to debate this with me anytime I am more than happy to demolish his potty arguments.

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