Ed Miliband and the ‘limited market’ discourse…

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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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4 responses to “Ed Miliband and the ‘limited market’ discourse…”

  1. ianrobo says :

    sometimes you have to draw a red line Darrell on how far a market should go. I think the majority of labour members believe the aim of our party should be to use socialist tools to limit the impact of the raw free market on the people.

    Few of us would actually believe that we do not need the free market but there is an extent to how far it goes.

    I was so happy to hear ed say this on two levels

    1) clear blue water between the parties, no room for compromise

    2) I firmly believe he carries the majority of the country with him

    you can not have the NHS run based on ‘any willing provider’ at the lowest cost because many many operations are not available elsewhere other than the NHS.

    We know the arguments and they will be well rehearsed in the forthcoming weeks but Ed and labour are on the right side of the argument.

    Lets be 100% CLEAR over this, the NHS was not doing badly under us, quite the opposite, the narrative the tories wish to portray is not backed up by either the evidence nor people’s own experience of the NHS.

    We need to reform how we deal with an increasing old population and how that can be supported (never mind the rip off on drug costs) but not THIS.

    And we know all the major representative organisations are on our side.


  2. Robert says :

    I thought that should be clear red water, ah well must be my colour blindness.

    Look since Blair took over and that great leader Brown, the NHS has been using private companies BUPA carried out two of my operation according to my consultant because they were lower price then the NHS, I had my MRI scans read by a private company in Spain, labour used private contractors to carry out operations on knee’s and hips. I think the NHS is already sold to the USA it just does not know it yet.

    The dentist I have in my area that carries out NHS work is America, my GP has a section which carries out paid work you can have a small operation on an in growing toe nail for example for £75 again USA.

    So the real problem for me because I’m disabled is the sell off to the Tories of welfare without welfare what is labour.

    Miliband is telling us he will die for the NHS, but the fact is thats all he has.


  3. Gillig says :

    Big Brother is watching you!
    Labours problem is everyone watching Big Brother.


  4. darrellgoodliffe says :


    But then your not a socialist because in reality your arguing for the continuation of capitalism albeit in a ‘limited’ form.

    I am perfectly happy to argue for the end to the free capitalist market. I want a market that is heavily regulated in all aspects by the democratic control of the means of production. Capitalist markets are ‘free’ for capital, not people. Freedom for people matters more to me.

    Nothing you say is untrue but its limited and it rather ignores the point that market forces have been operating within the NHS since its very birth as I pointed out. This is hidden away by the socialised aspects but you like Ed are trying to pull the wool over our eyes by pretending the operation of the market within healthcare has never been when it has always been the case. All this government is doing, wrong though it is, is actually taking that existence to its logical conclusion.


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