Securing economic change is a key part of the process of bringing about enterprises that can challenge those powerful economic players that are controlling resources and dominating markets. Typically, maintaining their dominance by a system of patronage that supports the status quo. Whilst governments can sometimes make positive intercessions on behalf of their citizens, challenging huge international businesses in no easy task for any single nation. Self-help enterprises can provide such a challenge, but only when they are authentic, and they command a solid commitment from their membership. Political power counts for little wherever corporate business is more powerful than the state.
Even in long-standing democracies, that have laws that exert a degree of control over corruption, the largest and most scrutinised companies still try to cheat consumers and other stakeholders. They do this by colluding with other businesses to manipulate markets, by taking secret commissions (bribes), and by misselling and other dubious marketing practices. In the poorer countries of the world, embezzlement, monopolistic behaviour, and other forms of cheating are often endemic. Dictatorial rulers dole out entire industries to their friends, who then find ways of diverting money into their own pockets via offshore bank accounts. Undermining competition does not always mean a crime has been committed; often it’s the government that franchises a legal monopoly, thereby sanctioning protectionism by allowing only one or two companies to participate in a market.
The market works against ordinary people whenever they can’t access the goods and services they need, on terms that are both fair and reasonable. And, when powerful businesses dominate the market. We are all both buyers and sellers of goods and services in a wide variety of markets, one of the leading causes of people living miserable lives is that they have unequal power in the markets they rely upon for their wellbeing. The masses don’t get a fair deal in multiple aspects of their lives. When the market doesn’t work as it should people with less power lose out. Especially where there aren’t any effective S.H.E.s*, because those dominating the market reap excessive profits at the expense of all others using a market.
*For example: cooperatives, community enterprises, credit unions, building societies, friendly societies.
If ordinary citizens are to prosper the state must implement a range of policies to make certain that the market works in the best interest of the bulk of citizens. This requires a raft of policies to make sure that markets are open, fair and regulated to ensure that they cannot exploit consumers. Such measures will provide effective limits to prevent near-monopoly, including the exercise of limits on the slice of any market that any single player can control. In most markets the limit needs to be set at between 10-15% of the total market and at least one of the players should be a genuine self-help enterprise.