Those of us opposed to the mantra of ‘The Market’ which is forever espoused by devotees of Free Market Capitalism, were pleasantly surprised when the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, spoke out last week against ‘Free Market Fundamentalism’. He was talking at a conference entitled ‘Inclusive Capitalism’ where he stated that if bankers didn’t give up the “heads-I-win-tails-you-lose” way of doing business, then their industry would collapse*. That someone in such a high position in the City of London should utter such words was really quite extraordinary, and a sign that some at least at the heart of our Free Market system are starting to wake up to its flaws.
Many of us are campaigning to build a system and society that provides social and economic justice for all, as well as caring for the planet we live on. The far left Socialist view of tightly planned, highly regulated, state run economies has largely been discredited after the collective failure of Soviet Russia and the old Eastern Bloc. However, in proving that Capitalism was the superior system, we’ve now swung completely the other way, in favour of private ownership of everything with minimal regulation. This directly led to the financial crisis of 2008, and ever greater levels of inequality, with the already-wealthy able to play the system to increase their riches, while the poor are forced to endure falling living standards under Austerity. In addition the endless pursuit of profit means environmental concerns are constantly left by the wayside, threatening the very eco-system we need to survive.
Unfortunately fundamentalist thinking, in whatever area, is very difficult to shake off once entrenched, and that’s what we’re seeing with those people who have so strongly wedded themselves to the ideals of Free Market Capitalism. Even with all the evidence of how broken a system it is, many still cling to its ideology with an almost religious fervour.
Capitalism is indeed a powerful, efficient and effective economic system, but in its pure ‘free market’ form it is utterly devoid of ethics, has no concept of social responsibility, places no value on the environment, and it encourages people to pursue short-term monetary reward over long-term social benefit. Therefore if Capitalism is to continue as our economic system of choice, it must be tightly regulated, with safeguards put in place to ensure it operates for the good of all, not just the few. Many of us have known this for quite some time, and perhaps, at last, some of those in power are starting to get it too.