In Britain and America, there is a business of overriding national importance employing restrictive practices to keep out competition: one where both the major brands have a market share far above those allowed by monopolies commissions and anti-Trust laws. It is State-owned, and the salaries of its executives are entirely supported by the taxpayer. In over 100 years, only three new brands have ever tried to break into the market, and all have failed thanks to restrictive distribution practices and media access.
The business hasn’t made a profit in either market in over 40 years, and the debts accumulated by profligate management are measured in the trillions of dollars. In order to service its debts (which stretch way beyond the means of taxpayers) this last remaining public sector dinosaur has granted itself a monopoly of issuance of shares in the concern, resulting in so much dilution of shareholder value over time, the taxpayer’s voting power in the enterprise now borders on the homoaeopthic.
The company has steadily slipped down the list of international competitors, and – alongside both falling income and sales – has inevitably resulted in a product so adulterated, between a quarter and a third of former consumers no longer use the company’s product at all, believing the output of its marketing department to consist almost entirely of lies. And yet – unique among advertisers – this State-created monster is granted immunity from the media rules governing the truth of product claims.
It is a scandal and a hypocrisy beyond belief, not least because the CEOs in both markets claim to be standard bearers for free-market capitalism.
I refer, naturally, to the UK and US political governance systems.
In America during this Presidential Election year, the 2012 contest once again leaves the electorate with a choice between an economically illiterate Democrat, and an ethically bereft Republican. This may be enough to define ‘choice’ for Newscorp, but it doesn’t work for me.
‘Yes we can’ has turned into ‘Oh no you didn’t’ for Democratic President Barack Obama. And as for the Republican challenger Mitt Romney, the media started last week by saying Mrs Romney was the reason to vote for Mitt, and then changed tack to say Paul Ryan was the real reason. Yes, the candidates are that convincing. Obama wants to control the banks, but lacks the bottle to do so. Ryan has presnted a roadmap to recovery entirely constructed from old dead-end roads.
In Great Britain, former media man David Cameron has reluctantly joined forces with a former bureaucrat to try and gain market share in the duopoly battle with former media man Ed Miliband and his deputy, a madwoman preserved in feminist amber. Neither the Conservative nor Labour brand leaders has the desire to control the banks or even construct a roadmap.
When new product innovation cannot afford the price of market entry, this is what happens: tired, stagnant ideas fester in a context of corrupt aims that bear no relation to consumer needs. In an open market, such a slide into mediocrity would result in lost market share and bankruptcy. The moral bankruptcy is there for all to see, but the duopoly is still very much in business….because a tilted playing field keeps the others out.
Equally depressing is the way in which this blatant desire to rig their own permanence infects everything they touch: the Libor rate, QE, zero interest rates, the gold price, bond yields: all of them are manipulated in concert with their agents of survival, the central and private banks.
And the pretence that they are somehow working for us – whereas the other brand is a disgrace that should be obliterated – represents a growing stage of intolerance using the media as a catalyst. Fox News, the New York Times, The Daily Mail, The Guardian: in these newspapers, one brand is always right, and the other always wrong. There is no debate, only rabid vilification.
Be it Bush, Obama, Brown or Cameron, their actions are all precisely the same once in office: Bush uses Paulson to save his banking pals, and War to save his oil pals. Obama uses the banks to break Iran, troll swarms to screw up Republican sites, and the ISPs to get independent radical sites taken down. Brown courted bankers and left them alone to commit their excesses, used media smears to destroy any and all opponents for the Labour leadership, blackmail to get Blair out of Number Ten, and taxpayer’s money to save Labour seats after Northern Rock. Cameron ignores calls to control his City mates, uses Newscorp to ensure Labour investigators are threatened with press exposure, and corrupt enquiries to try and wipe out a Left-biased BBC.
These brands will never reform the market structures that allow them to maintain oligarchic power, buy support from pressure groups, and salt the mass media with their lies. And violent revolution always ends in the same place: malign dictatorship.
The only answer is to work from the outside. To organise online demonstrations of our power, make life difficult for their monied lobbyists, and provide a sphere of truth watching their every move.
But even then, apathy will remain as an insouciant obstacle, tax cuts can bribe the mentally idle, and tabloid sensationalism in both the press and on TV will continue to distract Mr & Mrs Pizza from what’s being done to them.
Since 2006, The Slog has argued that econo-fiscal collapse will do for these oligarchic brands. It has also tried to suggest what some of the dimensions of new and better brands might be. My general impression (based on hits and comments) is that beyond the Pizzas, there are three schools out there: the self-styled cynics who laugh at the idea of successfully changing things, the headcases who know everything and wish to destroy everything, and those who declare themselves too busy to be bothered ‘with all this nonsense’.
The deadly duopoly will never change until those attitudes change. That is the straightforward, bottom line: it’s up to us, the Citizens, to replace bad with better. If we do nothing, then we must share the blame for the continued existence of this roadmap-building crew of control freaks who offer us the choice between a Trabant and a Polska for the road ahead.