Sunday, 1 October 2017

The so-called free market has failed we now need a democratically driven alternative

For the vast majority of people in the world, after more than 200 years of capitalism, the so-called 'free' market has delivered little but poverty. The 'free market' economy is meant to deliver investment, innovation, efficiency and a trickle-down prosperity. In reality, it has meant privatisation - where public services are asset stripped and suffer under profit-led management and deregulation - leaving the banks and finance sector free to gamble national economies into debt and exploitation.

In the twenty-first century, we have faced increased prices, cuts to our living standards, lack of housing, long hours and insecurity both in work and in retirement. Here in the UK, unions suffer the most restrictive laws in Western Europe. Prosperity is increasingly seen to be reserved for the unaccountable few, who face none of the pay restraints imposed on workers and none of the regulations and burdens placed on unions. 'Free' market capitalism has been a social, economic and environmental failure.
What the left has to do is nail the lie of the 'free' market - which means deregulation and privatisation that only benefit the rich - as we have seen. What we need is a fair market which workers can benefit from without the fruits of their labour being expropriated by capitalists. The right has expounded simplistic bullshit - like the 'free' market - which doesn't exist and never can - and got away with it because the left hasn't adequately exposed what a fraud it is. That is now beginning to change as the left uses social media and the internet more effectively.

The 'free' market right have also always said that we couldn't afford to re-nationalise utilities, railways etc. Having seen the vast sums invested in propping up the banks after the great recession, we all know that is not true.
 We need to show people that an alternative economy is not only possible but achievable. That alternative needs to be a mix of state ownership and mutualism - to give people a real stake in the economy and their future.

We need to build on explaining the benefits of public ownership as a fair market alternative to free market capitalism. Many people already accept this. Labour has made a very good start on this with their manifesto and more and more people understand they have been ill-served by the cam of privatisation. The events of the past decade, and in particular the last few months since the General Election has given us the opportunity to get that message across in a way that we haven't had for at least a generation.

One consequence of 'free' market neoliberalism is the backlash against the 1% leading to the rise of the far right and, potential break-up of the EU, as well as the beginning of the end of America as a dominant global economic and military force. The very people who wanted this to be the American Century - the neo-conservatives and neoliberals  - have brought their country down. This was very well summed up in an article by John Gray in the Observer. The geopolitical tectonic plates are shifting as I write this, and the American dream has become a nightmare.

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