Ed Miliband and the ‘limited market’ discourse…
I should perhaps, so we all know where we stand, say before I carry on with this post inform my readers that I have, yet again it seems, failed to fill out the requisite form and submit it too the leadership. I hope you, the intrepid reader, has not been so tardy and has done all the necessary form-filling. With that tricky admission out of the way, I will proceed.
This little nugget caught my eye today. In it, our illustrious leader takes the government to task for the impending destruction of the NHS. Nothing uncontroversial there but what piqued my interest was Mr Miliband’s assertion basically that the market has no place in health care. I am prepared to concede this is a change and a change for the better from previous administrations. One can scarcely imagine Tony Blair (and to a lesser extent Gordon Brown) even thinking, let alone saying, there is anywhere that should be a ‘no go’ area for the market.
Shockingly, given previous form, it also is relatively consistent with something Miliband said before he was elected as leader. He defined himself as being a socialist in the following terms:
“My socialism is about being willing to critique the injustices of capitalism. We’re not about to replace it, but there are different forms of capitalism we can have . . . My socialism is not about a blueprint for the perfect society, but it is about saying we can have a more equal, just and fair society.”
So, saying markets can and should have limits is pretty much in line with this way of thinking. I would expect more of this to come from Ed especially as the anti-government mood starts to blow more strongly from the left. Sadly, it doesn’t make you a socialist; more, it pretty much makes you a big-state, Keynesian in economic theory and practice, social democrat. The operative problem with saying this makes you a socialist is that you make it quite clear, as indeed Ed does above, you don’t want a new society.
A ‘limited market’ discourse also makes the rather basic assumption you can control markets which is only partially and not entirely true. Markets have, in reality, been in operation in the health care sector ever since the birth of the NHS in terms of private provision and areas like pharmaceutical production which even in the hay-day of the NHS was not socialised. So, Ed is pulling the wool over our eyes to a degree in saying that even he would make health care a ‘no go’ area for markets.
Unfortunately for Ed, and this will become a problem when/if he is elected, capitalism at the moment really is fundamentally knackered so the cash to support a social democratic splurge is in short supply. Furthermore, because capital by and large feels comfortable, insulated from the possibility of overthrow, it won’t provide for or sanction this kind of action. The only way Ed could really achieve a social democratic second coming is legally enforceable inflation of wages and therefore a attendant increase in tax takings along with vigorous state action against the excesses at the top.
This will probably be basically the route he takes us down. In the short term, this would be something of a boon for us all and may go some way to tackling the current crippling levels of debt which is dragging the economy down. Harmony and balance would return. Longer term, the capitalist watchdog against increasing wages and better conditions, inflation would destabilise the balance and plunge us into yet another crisis. This is the fundamental issue that Ed cant tackle because he doesn’t want too – yes you can limit the market and maybe even make things a little better to some degree – but fundamentally capitalism is a flawed system which simply cant overcome its own contradictions. The solution to the last crisis, to smash organised labour and depress wages, is exactly what has caused this one and so it will ever be under capitalism.
Now, if only our leaders level of vision wasn’t sub-myopic most of the time, what we could achieve would know no limits….
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