Colouring “Competition”

by David D’Amato

Coloring “Competition”

CNN reports on the controversy surrounding discovery of horsemeat in beef products in the United Kingdom, France and Sweden: “UK food businesses have been ordered to test all processed beef products for ‘authenticity’ and report back to the authorities by Friday.” Calls for more stringent regulatory structures are already proliferating in Europe and the United States.

Professor Tim Lang of City University in London typifies the knee-jerk reaction, complaining that “for too long we have had light-touch regulation.” Elites in academia and government, uniformly regard competition as insufficient to produce quality consumer goods.

It’s commonly thought that unlimited, free competition, sans regulations and restrictions of any kind, would yield a “cutthroat” system, sacrificing consumer health and safety to the pursuit of profit. The state, this argument goes, must intervene to temper the natural tendencies of competition and safeguard hapless and vulnerable consumers.

Obviously, certain assumptions about the state are embedded in this narrative — assumptions that warrant scrutiny in their own right and entail far-reaching consequences in many areas of social theory. That the state or government exists to protect “the people,” versus the interests of a small, elite plutocracy is probably a relatively new idea (or at least its wide acceptance is).

One reason for that acceptance is a language of democracy and of social and economic justice which envelops the political process and its legislative and regulatory consequences. If the whole populace is conflated with the state, there’s no real reason not to accept the state as benign bulwark against the grievous effects of free market competition.

Market anarchists don’t accept such a narrative precisely because of the definitional and conceptual confusion built into it. In history, in theory and according to all the data we can gather today, the state neither serves the common good nor hinders predatory plutocratic interests. It intercedes in economic affairs not to aid ordinary, working people — who are in fact powerless in the political process — but to restrict their opportunities and options so that dominant corporate actors (today’s feudal lords) may prey upon them.

“Competition,” though constantly discussed and held out for criticism, is entirely unknown today, at least in its genuine form — a form untainted by the machinations of a political class that has only ever served the rich. Contrary to the imagined end products of competition that most unquestioningly take on faith, anarchists have long argued for free competition as the best means of protecting consumers and ensuring quality at low prices.

Indeed, American anarchists like Benjamin Tucker regarded free and open markets in a stateless society as the truest form of socialism, the only way to ensure that labor was reward equitably (i.e., paid with the equivalent of its full product) and to prevent outcomes like the horsemeat fiasco.

Leading corporations take advantage of consumers not in spite of, but through, state intervention, in the form of barriers to entry like costly regulations and licenses which cut those consumers off from the advantageous results of competition. When the London Evening Standard blames the Findus scandal on some “global free-market,” it shows a conspicuous lack of nuanced understanding where the subject of market competition is concerned.

The international blame game created by the horsemeat story, one company fingering the next ad infinitum, is itself a symptom of the present system of corporate capitalism. One reason that these international markets for food exist in the first place — that by and large people don’t eat food that’s from where they’re from — is governmental intervention to make shipping food across the world in a long, complex supply chain cheaper than it would be in a legitimate free market.

Today’s is an economy of big business cartels. And that’s exactly the point of the state in society and economic relationships — in the words of Dyer D. Lum to fashion privilege that “can be artificially bestowed upon capital by which he who has it can command an economic advantage over him who lacks it.”

Instead of smearing competition and exchange, we ought to be pressing for far more of it, empowering individuals and communities against the dominion of a handful of moneyed conglomerates.

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  1. I know a weak argument when I see one, and this ‘Colouring Competion’ piece is weak. Findus is owned by a private equity firm whose goal is to make the maximum profit for the minimum cost. Those who substitute horse meat and donkey meat for beef are able to buy a whole horse for £10 and sell the meat for several £100. They were caught out by DNA testing – something they never thought of. If they hadn’t been caught out they would have continued with their deception and continued to make large profits, by adulterating and possibly poisoning our food. Increased competition would mean the disappearance of our cats and dogs.   Best wishes,   Paul Rowlandson          

    >________________________________ > From: The Libertarian Alliance: BLOG >To: >Sent: Monday, 11 February 2013, 21:01 >Subject: [New post] Colouring “Competition” > > >Without Prejudice posted: “by David D’Amato Coloring “Competition” CNN reports on the controversy surrounding discovery of horsemeat in beef products in the United Kingdom, France and Sweden: “UK food businesses have been ordered to test all processe” >

  2. Well I eat horse meat all the time and it is absolutely fine. I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

  3. Of course this is a very serious issue, one should in law have the right to know what they are eating, as, I now understand the problem was initiated by a change of EU law, which made it illegal to continue to use horse and carts as a means of transport on the Romania Highways, this effectively caused a mass increase in the numbers of horses being sent for slaughter, obviously some bright spark came up with the idea as passing the meat as “Beef” albeit making a big profit in the process, although there may or not be any danger to health, some of the animals have been confirmed to have a virus that they carry for life and pass on via the blood when bred, tests are currently being conducted on the meat and results will be released by the end of the week, the government has again failed, with the FSA failing to carry out it’s duties, despite massive investment via the tax payer, of course the government has tried to brush the seriousness of the matter aside, but in reality it is the most primative human right we have the choice and knowledge of what we eat , this is indeed a very serious issue with very serious legal implications!

  4. And what is wrong with horse meat? Does anybody suffer from unknowingly (or knowingly) ingesting horse meat? I have never heard of such a thing. Now, granted, selling anything and claiming it is something that it is in fact not, is deceitful. But there is a legal doctrine of relevance too. If I contract to you to sell you coal from Newcastle, and I run into supply problems and ship some of the coal from Scotland, it will likely fail the relevancy test in civil court unless somebody can show real damage.

    And don’t tell me you feel sorry for the horses. They are already dead and, if not eaten by humans, will be ground down and sold as cat food.

    Back in my native Sweden, they sell a smoked lunch meat, where the fine print specifies that it is indeed – horse meat. The larger print sometimes says something like “A winner on your sandwich” (meaning it lost on the race track).


  5. I think that modern humans, mostly born after, oh, I’d say about 1960, are the very very first generation of people to even begin to approach the nirvana of “having choice and knowledge of what they eat”. This is due to the (free) Market, insofar as it is allowed by states to be “free”.

    It’s not clear to me that packaged-food-labelling-regulations were very strictly enforced from Paleolithic times, up until even recently. And certainly not in most of the world today, despite the triumphalist-posturings of all the mountebanks in places like the UN, about how “civilised” they are, and we are not.

    As that other mountebank Harlod Macmillan might have said, but didn’t quite… “You ingrate, whingeing bastards have never had it so good”.

    Horsemeat? Probably better than beef even. And what are we to do with thousands of sacked Romanian cart-horses? Burn them?

  6. Good point david, but even if I were a “Cave Man” I would still have the
    choice of what I eat, or what I hunt, not saying there’s anything unsafe
    about the ingestion of horse, of course there is not. But the allegations
    of disease and drugs do have to be clarified in order to establish if the
    meat is safe to eat.

  7. of course Thor, you make very good point, but Sweden is one of the more
    advanced states, similar to many in Europe and indeed the UK you do in fact have laws and regulation to protect the public.
    In the case of the meat from Romania, the media are suggesting the meat
    could be dieseased or subject to the ingestion of drugs, I would go to Sweden
    and eat any food on sale there, but I hesitate to eat meat which has an aura
    of question as disclosed by the media from Romania!

  8. I was alway’s under the impression it was a forward state with good health
    care, wealfare, housing, you must tell us more about Sweden. Thor.

    • Sweden has all of that – such as it is. But paid for by an effective marginal tax rate that goes up to 75%, including income tax, payroll taxes and 25% VAT. No thanks.


  9. probably a good place to live on wealfare I guess, with free house and medical treatment thrown in, presume they have a lot migrant influx now
    by the looks of things, the figures tell something immediate at least.

  10. If people actually want to know about the regulations (the vast web regulations that the E.U. has imposed upon the United Kingdom) they should read the works of Dr North and Christopher Booker.

    The idea that even more regulations will solve the problem is laughable. As for the whole thing being a dark plot by transnational corporations under the control Ming the Mercyless on the planet Mongo – I do not think I will waste my time on that.

  11. On the horse meat question……

    If people want to buy horse meat that is up to them. The thing here is that people were told they were buying one thing, and they were really buying another thing.

  12. Quite right paul, all this legislation being pumped out by the EU and westminister will result in the total economic and social destruction of the UK, it’s almost if it is being planned to acheive that primary objected. The horse meat problem was caused by the EU, new laws in Romania banning horses from the public highways, obviously people not being able to afford to keep them sent them to slaughter, as a result some bright spark decided to pass it on as beef, problem is this, some of the horses are “Virus” infected, they are currently testing also for drugs that could be ingested by eating the meat. It should be the most basic right in law, we know what we are eating, it is not unreasonable for anyone to complaint if they have been duped with horse meat when they purchased beef, what a state of affairs, they’ll be passing off Rat meat as Rabbit next !

  13. The FSA is a complete failure another example of a quango that does nothing, same as the SFO, job’s for the boy’s the old school tie, none
    of these so called policing agencies do their job, for example, the GMC,
    The IPCC, The OSS, The Bar Council, The Court Service PSD, The Police
    PSD, all a waste of time and tax payers money.

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