The Costs of Capitalism

Two recent stories demonstrate the exploitation that lies at the heart of capitalism, and the ways in which ordinary people pay for the profits of huge corporations.

The first is a tragic story from the US, where a seasonal worker at Wal-Mart was trampled to death at the beginning of the annual sales there, called Black Friday. The company, which is known for cutting all available costs to keep profits high and opposing union rights, had hired extra security, but the police said not enough. Obviously the consumers – who apparently complained when they were told to leave, some saying they had been waiting for 36 hours, are to blame for this incident, but it says much about the culture of consumerism on which much of the modern economy is based.

And, more mundane, but still indicative, the fact that rail travel in Britain after the next approved price rises will cost more in real terms under the private companies than it did under British Rail. As we all know, the companies that were privatised under the Tories and New Labour were undervalued to sell them more cheaply, in order to make them more attractive investments. The price has been paid by the consumer. Actually, with the privitisation of the rail network, that price has been in blood as well with a decline in safety forcing the reversal of the privitisation of the rail network, though not the services themselves.

It is good to have such reminders that the market operates in the interest of us all isn’t it?

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