Sunday, 17 August 2014

The 'Free' market is damaging our economy and well-being

About 18 months ago I was listening to one of those capitalist puff piece programmes which have become so commonplace on BBC Radio 4. A presenter, probably Evan Davies, was busy sucking up to group of 'captains of industry', who were telling the listeners what a great bunch of wealth creators they were. Amidst the general congratulatory backslapping they were talking about India and one of them, clearly a fully paid up 'free' market fundamentalist, said that  the reason why there was so much poverty in India was due to the fact that there weren't enough entrepreneurs. Well obviously... not! I can remember thinking that the problem that lay behind massive poverty in India was in fact the capitalist 'free' market economy so enamored of the speaker.

In India there are millions of people who live a hand-to-mouth existence and survive only because they have created jobs for themselves.  If they could I'm sure most would take a decent paid job. They can't because there aren't any. They have to create their own jobs because the capitalist 'free' market economic system is a failure. It has failed them. Its a system which creates massive fortunes for a few, loots the natural resources of the country, exports vast wealth, and leaves poverty and deprivation for the many, and environmental degradation, behind in its wake.

We are used to the idea that capitalism creates jobs because it used to but it doesn't have to. In the 21st Century arguably the most important sector of the capitalist economy - the financial sector - makes billions in profits yet does nothing which is socially useful and creates relatively few jobs. It is by far the largest part of the global economy. Since the crash in 2008 - 80% of net new jobs created in the UK have been through self employment by people who have had to create jobs because capitalism has failed them also. As Larry Elliot says in the article:

"A feature of the labour market is the increasing role played by the self-employed, who account for more than 80% of the net rise in employment since 2008. A large number of the self-employed may be former full-time staff in well-paid jobs in, say, the public sector or construction, who are now scratching a living where they can"
Note the 'scratching a living'. Sound familiar? The UK is becoming more like India with fewer jobs and increasing poverty. Much of this is thanks to the Coalition government with its class-war austerity attack on the public sector, low-paid, poor and disabled. Real wages have fallen 8.4% in real terms since 2008. As more of the public sector is asset stripped - i.e. privatised - and the market insinuates itself further into our lives and our economy we can expect the trend to accelerate. 

In the week in which Robin Williams died there has been a lot of talk about people suffering from depression and the inadequacy of support and treatment in the UK has been highlighted. How much of this depression is due to the desperation and anxiety of poverty and the lack of a future in the UK's failing 'free' market economy? Capitalism doesn't just cause poverty it causes alienation and despair. The triumph of the 'free' market is that it is making the UK daily more like India, a society with massive inequality, mass poverty with a vast reservoir of low-paid workers available to churn out ever greater profits for foreign shareholders. A society run for the benefit of the few rather than the majority. There is only one solution, to turn away from the marketisation and commodification of our lives to the commons and the mutualisation of wealth creation.

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