On a couple of occasions in the last week I have had to make clear that in my opinion the political left in the UK should not have problems with the idea of markets. I do not have any such problem.
I do have problems with market abuse. That happens when a natural monopoly is privately owned, or is in the ownership of a few private operators. That’s always a recipe for abuse and many former state owned businesses are now run in this way.
I also have problems with entirely artificial markets, such as the NHS internal market.
And I have problems with rigged markets. That can just be the result of corruption, opacity or the consequence of unaddressed tax abuse. Such markets always concentrate wealth unjustifiably.
And markets without progressive income and wealth taxes have the same unjustified outcome.
So my belief in markets is conditional, as should anyone’s be, in my opinion. But, if these issues can be addressed (and that is entirely possible to do with the appropriate political willingness) then there is no doubt markets gave an essential role in society.
To imagine why just imagine all businesses in a community were cooperatively controlled. It is far from impossible to think of such a situation. This would then mean that the return to labour and not the return to capital was maximised. It would be a radically different situation from that we now have. But these businesses would still need a market to distribute their products and consumers would still need a market in which they could indicate their preferences. The alternative would be a command economy, which is something very different indeed, and which we know gets things horribly wrong.
We need markets. We don’t need market abuse.