Party Point – October 2014

John Clark writes…

First published: October 2014

“The Chief Executive of the xyz company earns £3m per year”, “A footballer earns £150,000 a week”. Earns? The user has not read much Oscar Wilde. This may be their price but it is not their value.

The common link to these and other financial abuses is ‘the market’. Energy is controlled by a handful of companies. They increase their prices when the world price goes up but forget to decrease prices when the world price falls. This is capitalism abusing the public – the Tories do nothing. Labour had thirteen years to bring energy back into public ownership, but didn’t. The public suffer in order to create profits for the energy companies.

Housing, another essential commodity has also been wrecked by ‘the market’. Mrs. T. introduced the sale of council houses. This resulted in two dramatic twists: massive discounts produced lower receipts than the cost of rebuilding; the Tory government prohibited councils from using most of the money they received for building replacement housing. The Labour government in 1997 did absolutely nothing to stop, let alone reverse this disastrous housing policy. There are those who have become very wealthy from the massive increase in house prices by buying houses to let out to others. This enables them to charge exorbitant rents and pay off the mortgage on the additional new property. Anyone paying rent in the private sector pays so much that their chance of buying a house is extinguished. In Ryedale we need over 200 affordable houses a year. Ryedale District Council manages to deliver less than 50 each year. ‘The market’ is failing to house our people at an acceptable price. The low waged in Ryedale should be housed; instead they are being driven out.

The latest case of ‘the market at any price’ is in milk production. It costs over 30p per litre to produce milk. Milk companies have reduced their prices to farmers to under 30p per litre. Milk production is not a commodity that can suddenly be stopped. All the costs remain whatever the price. Instead of creating and calling for a ‘Guaranteed Farmgate Price’ the NFU spokesperson said “It is what farmers must expect as the world price has fallen”. In other words we must all worship ‘the market’.

Most people recognise that a ‘minimum wage’ is essential. It is the state telling the market that there is a limit below which it must not (by law) go. This intervention should and must happen in other areas where the public are abused by ‘the market’.

  • Councils must build sufficient affordable houses. If this approach doesn’t stop the abuse then other controls will need to be used.
  • Energy must be brought back into public control, if not ownership.
  • Commodities (particularly farm produce) must not be bought at less than the cost of production.

We must introduce these curbs on ‘the market’. If not then the richest 1% will get even richer – the rest of us will pay.

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