The Market, News International, and Ethics

Posted July 7th, 2011 by The Environment Site with No Comments

We’ve had a little bit of a hiccup in the serene progress of our family life.  One of our children has had to spend several nights in hospital: nothing serious I’m happy to report, but the docs are puzzled over what caused the illness.  Good to know Homo Superioris knows so little when compared to Nature

Anyway, long and short meant that I bought The Guardian to keep me company (laptop’s useless without a WiFi data signal) .. and boy did my blood boil!

The article in question was about University tuition fees.  The UK has recently introduced fees for students and allowed universities to charge students up to £9,000 per year for their higher education (the debt to be repaid once they’re earning enough money).

The Guardian was shocked and surprised (gasp!) that most universities have opted to charge the full whack of £9,000 where the “normal” market expectation is that only the very best charge the highest and the rest undercut and compete on price.

Apparently (still according to The Guardian) this is because having a lower price gives the impression that the education is substandard, so you have to have the highest possible in order to compete. Double Gasp!!

Not for the first time I have to wonder which cloud cuckoo land The Guardian in living in.  We’re talking branding here, pure marketing.  It’s the reason you pay more for a VW than you do for a Skoda, more for an Audi than you do for a VW.  It’s nothing to do with the MANUFACTURE COST and precious little to do with the QUALITY of the product .. but EVERYTHING to do with the brand.

Thousands of everyday products are affected by this.  For example, one of those non-food essentials of life: batteries.  Over the years I’ve got used to paying up to £5 for 4 AA Duracell batteries .. you can imagine my surprise when I walked into a store and found I could buy a pack of 12 for under £3.  Needless to say, we bought several packs and counted our lucky stars.

Yes, Duracell is a brand, and yes I know I pay a premium for that brand.  But I also know that this store would not be selling these assets at a loss .. which means the mark up on the product from wholesale to retail (let alone manufacture to wholesale) must be huge.

This is the flip side of the market economy which I’m astounded that The Guardian is apparently innocent about.  Yes, it allows companies to compete and undercut one another on price; but it also allows companies to **charge as much as they can get away with**.

In other words it’s not just about the needs of the consumer but also about the greed of the supplier.  Once you establish a market in education (or healthcare) then that greed is what you’re encouraging.  So of course universities across the land ar charging as much as they can for their courses … in a society where monetary income and brand kudos is everything, wouldn’t you?

This article is not intended to be a hatchet job on the market economy or consumerism.  It is human instict to compete and strive to survive and nothing will change this.  However the way this has shaped our societies and economies does the majority of people no favours whatsoever.  As a recent report from the Austrian Society of Financial and Asset Managers puts it:

The financial, economic, and debt crisis, the nuclear catastrophe in Japan, and the crisis in the Arab region highlight the fact that we need to demand comprehensive global (investment) responsibility. We cannot carry on like this.

No, we cannot.  We cannot tolerate an elite making other peoples’ lives a misery to further their own ends.  We cannot tolerate the acceptance that because you are more wealthy you are more important.  And we cannot tolerate an economy which fleeces consumers and leaves them destitute and vulnerable to profiteering.

And yet .. we have a political class which refuses to challenge Rupert Murdoch because his owns over 20% of the country’s media (greater than the monopoly threshold), even when it is shown that his agents not only acted immorally but also interfered in a police investigation and may even have corrupted law enforcement officers.

So I invite you to choose your own word to describe this scene. Corrupt? Decedent? Fascist?  Either which way you have to accept this just isn’t working and we (WE, not the politicians) need to change things.

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