In which Mark Serwotka lectures us about markets

It\’s a leeetle bit hidebound it has to be said. Archaic Marxism of the Janet and John type perhaps:

Listening to economics being discussed in the media is like being read a fairy story. In any fairy story you need a monster, and in this case it\’s \”the markets\”: unseen, but seemingly all-powerful. Job losses, public service cuts, wage freezes, privatisation, even cuts to benefits for disabled people can be justified by saying \”the markets\” demand it.

But what are the markets? Who comprises them and why are they so powerful? I didn\’t vote for them and I doubt you did either – yet they apparently have the power to dictate policies to elected governments and, in the case of Italy, to even select the government.

This is not an abstract debate. If we are to understand the economic system we live under, what went wrong to cause the crash, and how we are to change it, we need to deal with facts, not myths. At the height of the crash the curtain was pulled back, Wizard of Oz-like, to reveal the markets as nothing more than a cabal of rich men serving their own interests.

Strangely, that\’s not actually what markets are.

What markets actually are is the summed average of the actions of all us little human beings.

When what we really need is to assert our democracy over the tyranny of the markets, in the interests of the many.

And that\’s rather problematic. For democracy is based on what people say. Markets on what people do. And it\’s one of these little bits of that very economics that we\’re discussing, an idea called revealed preferences, that what people do is a much better indication of what they think, feel and desire than what people say is.

The markets are us freely expressing our desires in our actions each and every day and hour in each and every one of our actions. Democracy is failing to vote once every five years because they\’re all thieving loons. Which is a better guide to what the citizenry really want then?

Please do note that Mr. Serwotka owes his position and income to union politics rather than to the actions of any markets.

13 comments on “In which Mark Serwotka lectures us about markets

  1. The trouble is that the left has grabbed the high ground and when they refer to markets they have led the general public to believe it means those traders who we used to see shouting and bellowing at each other on trading floors. Now it is shorthand for those same traders who are nasty horrible speculators who don’t add value to the economy or even destroy the economy.

    So whenever you try to use the term markets in the way you describe you’ve already lost the public’s attention.

    I know this because my son has been involved in Occupy and try as I might I can’t get him to see markets in the way you describe, and despite being in Occupy he is reasonable intelligent.

  2. SimonF, at least you’re talking to him, which is a start.

    How about walking him slowly through the process involved in making a loaf of bread, from sowing the wheat (and what happens in a bad wheat year) to the shelf.

    Ask him to explain to you how he thinks he (or any state actor) could do it better.

    Finally, ask him to consider whether you should judge people (like Serwotka) by their expressed intentions or their actions, and do the same with any piece of legislation he cares to mention.

  3. Be interesting to know Mark Serwotka’s revealed preferences.
    Wiki doesn’t say much about his personal life but he does live in Chipstead, Surrey where:
    “Despite having some of the most expensive housing in the area, the residents of Chipstead continue to resist the installation of street lighting, particularly in the southern parts of the village.”
    Yes. I expect we all know what sort of villages they are. Homes for the horny handed sons of toil, they are not. Which, rather like that other non-believer in markets, Tuscan Pol, reveals how individually they’re quite happy to use their money in the property markets to keep themselves separated from the common herd.

  4. @SimonF

    You can’t reason someone out of a position they haven’t been reasoned into in the first place (I tried to explain to someone involved in Occupy why they were able to afford a nice cheap tent that could be erected without grass, and how that was down to ‘markets’. They had a reasonable grasp of literary theory and therefore couldn’t be stupid, but as far as economics goes I might as well have been talking to the cat.)

    Don’t worry; I assume he’s not paying tax yet. The second he finds the government taking a large bite out of his income, on which he has to support himself (at the very least) and spending it on things he doesn’t particularly want or care about he may well change his mind.

  5. oooh, let’s see if I can do this without resorting to wikipedia! Umm, Clifford and Buckingham I know. Ashley (or poss ‘Ashleigh’, not sure) I think.

    Can never remember the last two.

  6. “In any fairy story you need a monster,”

    All he’s doing is expanding on the characteristics the monster in his fairy story has.

  7. Serwotka wears sharp, expensive-looking(can’t say for sure how expensive they are as I am not into fashion) suits despite the marxist bullshit he spouts.

    He represents the problem of British Trade Unionists esp in the “Public sector”. In electing leadership you have generally two choices.
    1-”Moderates” who, these days, are mainly bosses men. Put them in and you might as well let the bosses run the Union as they will make a feeble protest and then rubber-stamp whatever shit the bosses want imposed on the staff.
    2-”Left-wingers”. These people will devote some small effort towards looking after their members. Not much and they are incompetant at it but they will make some effort to protect individuals being victimised (many more than you would imagine) and try and defend the memberships wages/conditions. Conditions for lower level CS are constantly under attack (while those for top-level scum get better and better all the time–odd that). Serwotka and his crew got voted in for that reason–they do spend a small amount of time on doing what a trade union is supposed to do. However that is far from their main interest, which is using the members contributions to promote socialist bullshit.(despite Guido’s bollocks about Union officials using public-funded time to promote socialism which is a gross misconduct sacking offense).
    It is the members contributions that Serwotka wastes to pay that slug Murphy as well as Serwotka’s own wages of £80000 odd a year(in fairness he is said to give £10000 back to charity of some sort”.

    Despite the fantasy peddled by conservative pundits the majority of ordinary civil servants are not well-paid (the senior boss class push the average up ) and are often treated badly by the useless “cult of management” scum who predominate in the civil service.

    If readers on this blog share my desire to see the civil service closed down completely along with the obnoxious laws that it administers then you can correctly say that the conditions of civil servants don’t matter in the long run. But since I think that most of the commentators on here would want to retain both a state and some form of civil service then these issues do have some importance.

  8. Mr Ecks (#9) a very valid point – my own mother worked in local government and from her I learned that:

    A/ as you say, it was the ‘Poor Bloody Infantry’ at the lower echelons of the Service, many of whom were doing jobs that actually were essential, that were always the first to be targeted for redundancy and reductions in Terms and conditions

    B/ The issue with the Public Sector was that it was almost impossible to sack someone for incompetence so Senior Managers could make a complete pigs ear of running the show, and at worst they would be moved sideways and more likely promoted out of the position they were doing the damage in. The Conservative party needs to be outlining that the interests of the skilled workers and lower echelons are far different to the Public Sector elite represented by Serwotka and the dreadful Murphy. Thatcher realized that – why don’t the current rabble?

    Tim adds: Snigger. You’re asking over promoted incompetents to publcily announce how awful it is if things are run by over promoted incompetents?

  9. Amazingly enough, VP, David Dimbleby got this right (gasp!) when he said (re the BBC fiasco) something along the lines of: When you have a public sector organisation with budget issues, the first thing they do is hire highly paid managers to do the cutting, which leads to fewer “front-line” people and even more managers.

  10. Serwotka is wrong, of course – the Monti government was imposed by Brussels, not the “markets”. But that’s the public sector, so of course he had to find someone else to blame.

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