Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Resisting the hydra

"Nye Bevan, the driving force behind the creation of the NHS, gave a succinct description of the process now destroying one of the greatest achievements of the Attlee government – indeed, of any Labour government. He declared that: ‘In practice it is impossible for the modern state to maintain an independent control over the decisions of big business. When the state extends its control over big business, big business moves in to control the state.’
While he could not have anticipated the extent to which private companies have moved in to control and profit from the steady destruction of the NHS ), he did show an appreciation, rare among politicians, of the asymmetric power of private business.
It is a power which has grown enormously over the past half century, both pressing for and gaining from the political creation of a deregulated and globalised capitalist economy.
It is vital here to distinguish between capitalist markets and markets more generally. Indeed the economic historian Fernando Braudel referred to capitalist markets as ‘anti-market’, because of their secrecy, and their predatory drive to accumulate partly through eliminating and taking over competitors.
The problem is that the ‘naturalisation’ of the capitalist market – the uncritical acceptance of ‘the free market’ and the idea that there are unavoidable ‘imperatives’ of globalisation – has elided this distinction. It has created the impression that we face ebbs and flows as unstoppable as the ocean when in fact we face institutions driven by power struggles and flawed human decision-making, legitimately open to challenge."

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