SORRY, PAL- YOU CAN’T CHARGE THAT MUCH.
December 14, 2010 § 2 Comments
I asked myself a question the other day:
Why do things cost more than they did ten years ago??
Or twenty for that matter? We’ve all played the fun game of comparing today’s prices to those of our childhoods. A movie ticket was seven bucks! Someone exclaims. You could get a good seat at a ball game for ten! Another shouts.
Not only is the sentiment behind these protestations clear (it is our nature to be nostalgic about the positive elements in our past), the inherent complaint within it is also justifiable.
Why do prices continue to rise? Why does inflation exist? Why is it a given that the cost of goods and services will continue to ascend?
Ah… you may think I’m about to don my economist’s hat and attempt to answer complex questions. I’m not. What I will do is attempt to continue to ask simple questions, for which there may be more concrete, accessible answers.
I often hear conservative (read corporate, in most cases) commentators and businesspeople talk about the evils of ‘regulation’; of how entrepreneurs should be free to maximize their profits and expand their businesses as they see fit, because in the end the ‘free hand’ of the market will be good for ‘all’.
I’m fascinated by the lines that these people draw when it comes to rules. I looked at a definition of regulation in an online dictionary (not the Oxford, I’ll admit, but good enough). It says “a law, rule, or other order prescribed by authority, esp. to regulate conduct.”
A rule. That’s what regulations are. Rules. To regulate conduct. We have them in all areas of our society- heck, devout Christians (usually the very people voting for no-regulation corporate politicians) are fanatical about the rules that their god laid down for them. But that’s the crux of it: most people in our society, right-wing and not, seem to be fine with rules governing our social behaviours. Which is strange: if they truly believe that Business will take of its business, and will be fair in its practices, thereby not needing the shackles of regulation, why do they not believe that in the greater society? Why aren’t all these corporate cronies in the Republican and Democratic parties (and those surrounding our President) advocating the abolition of laws which deem it illegal to steal, murder, rape? After all, if businesses can govern themselves and be trusted to do the right thing, why can’t the rest of us?
We all know, in this current version of human society at least, that it’s not realistic to do that. To suggest otherwise would be political suicide- the person who did so would be labelled at best a quack and at worst a dangerous anarchist.
Yet we have anarchy raging across this land right now. Where is the evidence?
Hmm… where do I start:
A beer at a ball game costs nine dollars.
Comprehensive health insurance costs several hundred dollars a month.
College costs… too much. You fill in the blanks.
A closet in Manhattan, to be shared with roaches, can cost over a thousand dollars a month. Maybe more by now. I haven’t lived there in a few years.
You get the picture. So the question is: should businesses be able to charge whatever they can? Should a corporation be allowed to exploit high demand by being completely unfettered in their pricing policies?
Some might say… why not? Others might say it’s too ‘intrusive’ to have government dictating limits on prices. I guess in the same way that it’s too intrusive for police to be able to intervene in situations of clear and brutal domestic violence. Or in cases of theft. Or any other kind of abuse of the vulnerable by those willing to commit it.
The word regulation has been marginalized, stigmatized. Just like liberal. Let’s call it what it is. A rule. In plain speak in would go something like this: you’re allowed to make a decent profit as a business/corporation, but that profit must live within a fair domain for both seller and buyer. How do we decide on the breadth of that domain? The same way we’ve come up with every law that protects the innocent: a honed intuition combined with educated analysis of what is fair and just. Because right now, in this United States, corporations are living in a Wild West where something is only wrong if one gets caught. And even then they will find a way of wriggling out of it- or just get bailed out.
Let’s start the conversation about fair prices in all areas of our lives. The good old days were good for a reason.