Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Profiteering from other people's misery: the immorality of modern capitalism


Jacking up prices to make an even greater profit from people’s hardship is one of the most inhumane elements of modern neoliberalism. While the closure of Europe’s skies has been terrible news for stranded travellers, for some greedy companies, it‘s been a chance to make a quick buck.

Today’s Daily Express reports:

Stranded Britons last night told how they had been held to ransom as they battled to get home.

Travellers returning through English ports complained of being forced to pay exorbitant fees for car hire, hotels and train fares.

Teacher Steve Hancock, from Gloucester, said: “We have been ripped off by everyone.”

Mr Hancock, 51, and wife Karen, 49, were in southern Italy when their Flybe flight to Birmingham was cancelled last Thursday.

On Saturday, we tried to hire a car. Europcar said we could return a rental to Germany. But we had to pay 570 euros (£501) to drive their car back to Frankfurt. From there we got trains to Paris, Lille and Calais.

“We were charged 65 euros (£59)each as foot passengers.”

Eurostar is charging £223 for a single train ticket from Paris to London over the next two days, more than three times the £69 for a similar journey in two weeks’ time.


Don’t you just love ‘market-based’ pricing?

It doesn’t have to be like this. When asked to name his ‘Grand National Legend’ in this year’s Grand National race card, the jockey Mick Fitzgerald, didn’t name a horse or a fellow jockey- but ‘the people of Liverpool'.

‘I would love to nominate the people of Liverpool as legends for opening their doors to the world the year the National was put back to the Monday (because of a bomb scare) in 1997. I am confident it would not have been possible in any other city, for the people of Liverpool were amazing. They opened their doors to everybody- pauper, jockey, trainer, all were welcome- and it made restaging he race on Monday a possibility'.

By 1997, the people of Liverpool had already had to put up with 18 years of selfish neoliberalism- which they‘d never voted for. But by opening their doors to all- comers, and helping those stranded in the city, people like the wonderful ‘Auntie’ Edie Roche, showed that they rejected the tenets of a heartless creed that says that profits should always come before people.

6 comments:

Mr. Piccolo said...

Great post. I'm currently reading R.H. Tawney's "The Acquisitive Society." It is a very good read and Tawney touches on the immorality, or perhaps amorality, of capitalism, and how that system was a major break from older conceptions of economics that had an ethical component, something we would do well to rediscover.

neil craig said...

The overarching problem with this is not a few capitalists making use of the laws of supply & demand but of the incompetence & irresponsibility of massive EU state bureaucracy. It is becoming increasingly evident that there is not & never was a real danger from this volcano. It was just the massive reaction of bureaucrats whose default position is always that their job is to ban something.

This is why the USSR fell. It is inherent in such bureaucratic centralism. If socialism is to become a viable option again it must separate itself from big state centralism.

Madam Miaow said...

So much for the spirit of Dunkirk — Eurostar. What a criminal mentality. And now some of the airlines are grasping for excuses not to honour their legal commitment. Don;t we need laws and regulations to protect the public?

Peter Eyre's Place said...

Hello Neil

I am Peter Eyre I have a column in the Palestine Telegraph....would you be kind enough to contact me via Sameh Habeeb of the Palestine Telegraph and then we can discuss Harry's Place etc

Peter

Anonymous said...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/talking_point/8632901.stm

"In the past six days manufacturers (of both jet engines and airframes) were brought together by the civil aviation authority to look at the scientific evidence and establish a safe threshold for a concentration of ash below which jet engines will not be damaged.

This threshold has been set at 0.002g per cubic metre of air and the latest data indicate a concentration in UK airspace of 0.0001g per cubic metre."

ie. The companies who make jet engines couldn't tell us how much ash their engines could cope with - until the CAA forced them to do so.

How reassuring.

Neil Clark said...

Mr Piccolo, many thanks. Tawney is excellent, but sadly not read as much as he should be these days, the same goes for Erich Fromm.

Neil, I think 'The overarching problem IS a few capitalists making use of the laws of supply & demand. Forget the volcano debate and whether or not there was an over-reaction- and think back to 7-7 when hotels jacked their prices up in London, or other occasions when people have been caught up in some travel disruption. Or when some traders took advantage of the events of 9-11. Is it nice to rip people off at their hour of need? It's a moral question and my view is that our shift to a more aggressive, profits-obsessed capitalist system has made things a lot worse.

Madam Miaow- quite. We hear a lot of talk from our neoliberal political masters about 'the Dunkirk spirt' but the very economic policies they advocate destroy solidarity in society at large. We definitely need new anti-profiteering laws.

anonymous: good point. thanks for the link.