30 Years of the Single Market: Can I kick it?
This week, the European Parliament celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Single Market. While conservative, liberal and right-wing MEPs took pains in the debate to emphasise the achievements of the market for the economy and the people – Interrail! A universal charger! Growth! Prosperity! – the world’s economic and political elites climbed into their private jets to meet in the Swiss ski resort of Davos at the World Economic Forum. At the same time, some 750 kilometres to the north, German police, hand in hand with the energy company RWE, are finishing the eviction of Luetzerath. RWE will demolish the village to mine coal. Climate activists had occupied the town.
The multiple crises – climate, energy, food, inflation, and the recent pandemic – result from policies that follow capitalist dogmas.
Thus, the internal market is based on the four freedoms – freedom for goods, services, capital and people. The very nature of capitalism means that one business’s unearned profit is the potential profit of another. Since the acceleration of the single market in the 90s, an unprecedented wave of privatisation has swept through Europe. Everyday essentials all faced privatisation in the name of market freedom. Postal services, telecommunications, hospitals, nursing homes, refuse collection and gas, electricity and water providers.
Competition was the fundamental principle; growth and profit were the goals. 30 years later, it still is.
The result was a race to the bottom for millions of people. Good wages, secure jobs and high environmental standards became barriers to competition, which is against the EU Treaties. At the same time, this competition did not lead to more jobs and fairer prices. Private corporations made huge profits while customers had to accept enormous price increases on energy and food. In the health sector, cuts prevailed everywhere profit couldn’t be made. Precarious work became the norm for millions.
Capitalism as an ideology, and the free market as its instrument, have had their day. The market cannot solve the multiple self-inflicted crises.
The rich are much richer, & corporate profits have hit record highs, driving an explosion of inequality.
There is a straightforward yet incredibly efficient solution:
— The Left in the European Parliament (@Left_EU) January 16, 2023
Oxfam’s inequality report quantifies the failure of the market:
For the first time in a quarter of a century, extreme poverty and wealth are increasing simultaneously;
Since 2020, the wealthiest one percent of the world’s population has collected nearly twice as much of the global increase in wealth as the other 99 percent of the world’s population, namely 26 trillion US dollars;
95 food and energy corporations made $306 billion in windfall profits in 2022, 84% of this was paid to their shareholders;
828 million people suffer from hunger – ten percent of the world’s population;
At least 1.7 billion workers live in countries with higher inflation than wage growth.
The world’s most significant risk comes from the class of people currently assembled at Davos. The ruling class still tries to maintain the old system that fosters inequalities and pushes the world towards climate emergency.
We need governments to tackle this out of control class. The interests of workers and the demands of the climate movement must be at the centre of the political agenda. It is high time to put the common good before profit interests and to build a system based on solidarity, sustainability and social responsibility.