This is the heart of Capitalism. The means for doing so are unconstrained except by two forces; a) the law – what can be ‘got away with’; and b) what the public, the consumers, will accept
Thus this level of freedom allows a proliferation of goods and services to come about in the marketplace; anything which is not unlawful and which will sell, or which people can be persuaded to buy.
Within these very broad limits there exists and has been built up by great artifice a massive edifice which comprises the convoluted machinery for marketing products and services.
These are things like branding, copyright, licensing, and advertising, specialisations, tie-ins, and all kinds of differentiations, the great majority of which are artificially raised up so as to create evidence for Capitalism’s famous boast of it being able to encompass and produce all things to suit every need.
This is also Capitalism’s vaunted freedom – which allows traders a free hand to enter the marketplace with their particular goods and services and compete there for position and for custom.
Nonetheless, like Newton’s third law of motion, this freedom for traders trading under a Capitalist regime has equal and opposite consequences elsewhere within the political economic system. In other words, this positive freedom is not without its negatives. As The Book of Job has it: ‘The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away’. And again, as Milton Friedman, one of the High Priests of capitalism himself said famously: ‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch’.
Within this locus of operation then wherein Capitalists operate, is ample scope for a vast complexity of purely human artifice and ingenuity erected deliberately to complicate and multiply the workings of the marketplace; and the whole thrust of such complexity and multiplicity is ever to interpose wherever they can be placed what The Bible calls ‘stumbling blocks’ for the people this marketplace presumes to serve
Such a vast edifice has been created by the entrepreneurs and their well-wishers and it is their prime generator for their amassment of wealth.
Of course it is true that ‘variety is the spice of life’, but it is also true that when a person is seriously ill a she is likely to suffer ‘complications’ and when drugs are introduced as medicine to help her she will most likely suffer ‘side-effects’ from taking them.
So it is that what we have created into our political economic status quo is a monstrous illness held back from mortality by the administration of tailored drugs which further antagonise the social body.
A few examples: In the field of electronics, its products and services; one is too often tied into a network; into a number of created-as-essential accessory items like batteries and adapters; into a required Operating System; and into deals and regulations imposing exit fees and minimum contract periods and penalty clauses, and so on and so on endlessly. This is not freedom for the guys called ‘consumers’ – this is freedom for the big guys to elaborate complexities of arrangements with the deliberate and sole intention of claiming turf which ought to belong to others, that is, to the people whom the boast they are serving.
The general rule applies for the big guys that any wheeze or ruse, any sleight of hand or ingenious trickery is fair game provided it is not answerable in law. And they will work to keep people called consumers in the dark about the more nefarious ones of these trickeries buried in their common policy.
Likewise in the finance services sector the effort is always to multiply and complicate for their own sakes, so as to boot-up the stakes and so enlarge the returns; all with a minimum of risk to the big guy puppet masters – all risk if possible being borne by the guys on strings who have bought their house-of-card services and products.
Like in the field of politics, to be a cool trader is to couch words and deals in fancy dress; to deliver a minimum which might be understood to fulfil the written and spoken promise of the deals and the advertising. The caution is to keep sweet the persons and companies who have a capability to wound severely one’s operations, whilst doing all that is able to be imagined to extract the maximum return from that body of persons who as individuals are not greatly capable of doing them harm – that is, from those customer consumers who buy from them.
A religious example: The Lord Jesus turned over the tables of the money changers in the Jerusalem Temple precincts. He did so because by way of an artificial set regulation imposed from above, and in cahoots with the money changers, an arbitrary limitation had been placed on the type of coin which was deemed acceptable to be used in religious observances there.
The money changers were in effect making money out of a false and artificial differentiation arbitrarily raised so as deliberately to allow the making of money by them thus. This is nothing other than extortion, of a kind able to bypass the force of the law. It has as much logic to it, in terms of an honest and equitable treatment of others, as that notice to naughty boys in the park which says: ‘Any person caught throwing stones at this notice will be prosecuted’.
Branding itself often carries out a similar heist upon the shopper. It is known that many companies supply supermarket ‘own brand’ items to British supermarkets, who also market the same product under a well-known international brand. The product is identical; the price is different; the customer knows nothing – is deliberately kept in the dark – and too often goes for the international brand item – for quality.
Is economic freedom a bad thing then? Is it allowable for service providers and manufacturers to differentiate unnecessarily by policy and place needless hurdles for their customers to jump so as to tie them into deals or else to wring that bit extra from them? Clearly one size does not always fit all and some variety is desirable, even necessary. A ladies shop filled only with size 18 dresses only which are all the same pattern would not draw a wide variety of women. And shoppers and customers without doubt have an element of choice whom they buy from.
It is the vast differences in scale and in the weights of resources available to the parties which allow the balance to tip always in favour of the corporate provider of items and as against an individual buyer.
Even this lack of equal resources need not necessarily lead to inequity; it leads only to a temptation towards and an opening up of the possibilities for exploitation. The political economic system provides the opportunity and the means; the low levels in the big guys of self-understanding, listening to conscience, apprehension of a higher reality, of a due car for others, and of ability to curb their avarice and greed – these are their motives.
The Lord Jesus states very clearly:
‘Where your treasure is; there will your heart be also’
The question might be raised with good reason whether it is our human nature which has created such a monster of a political economic system; or whether our political economic system has made monsters of us? If the first we are locked into something we cannot control and which is inevitable. If the second, then we are enslaved to our own creation – but perhaps not inevitably so
My own opinion is very strong that we humans have power to change things. Simply put, the power is given to us by the historical fact of The Lord Jesus Christ and his life and work seen in the Gospels. I believe he is the Son of God, but a person only needs to understand him and his deeds and his words as these present in the Gospels, so as to gain fully spiritual and immensely practical answers to our self-inflicted, self-engaged and self-interested political and economic systems for self-harm.