Could we actually make Free Market Capitalism Humane?

What with mainstream bands allowing “buyers” to pay what they like for their albums, and restaurants allowing their diners to pay what they think the meal is worth, what we’re seeing is the birth pangs of a new capitalist paradigm – where we trust the consumer to recognise and reward merit. Will it catch on? I hope so.

It dovetails nicely with a proposal I’m working on, which is to improve the free-market economic model by insisting on complete disclosure. Wot that mean?

It means when you buy a bag of coffee beans, or a bottle of milk, or whatever, you can see – at a glance – what it cost to produce, to distribute, to package, to market and retail etc. You can see what share the producer gets from the price, what goes to the distributor and what profit the retailer is left with after all that attribution. You can see what carbon (or other environmental) cost is incurred and, of course, you can still see all the standard nutritional and safety data etc.

All this data will either be displayed where possible, on the packaging, or at least the shelving. If that’s not practical it must at least display a web address where we can browse the info at our leisure and/or a bluetooth (or equivalent) download we can import to our mobile phones.

The point? To provide what the economists call “perfect information” which is what they claim the consumers and producers need in order to run a perfect free market. Trouble is, up to now, their vision of what constitutes “perfect information” has been decidedly limited and one sided. The producers and retailers always know about our side of the equation but the only economic data they let us in on is the price.

But price is not enough information for the modern intelligent consumer to base their decisions upon. I (and, I’m sure, millions of other consumers) want to know who exactly is getting the benefit of my purchase. For example, I want to know that no workers or producers are being exploited on my behalf. For another example, all other factors being equal, I will choose the product with least carbon cost. And so on. Put these two ideas together – Consumer voluntary pricing and Perfect Information and we have no less than a revolution within capitalism itself.

I think it might indeed even make Capitalism humane. Not only that, it will automatically “democratise” those social choices represented by market choices. People will vote with their cash.

From here on in, I’m going to add a “Perfect Information” tag to any relevant stumbles and add my two-pennorth to explain how I think they support or, at least, illustrate my point. Here (used to be [update 2014]) the link to what should become a growing list of “Perfect Information” tagged sites (unfortunately that’s one of the things deliberately fucked up by Stumbleupon and although the material is still there it’s no longer possible to find it – which is why I’m now here on WP). You are, of course, perfectly free to use the tag yourself, but if you do, may I ask a favour? Send me the link. Not to the relevant story, but to your comment on it and how or why you think it supports (or refutes) the “Perfect Information” Proposal.

About Harry Stottle
Refugee from the Stumbleupon Blogicide of October 2011 Here you will find my "kneejerk" responses to the world and what I happen to bump into. For my more detailed considerations and proposals, please visit my website or my previous main blogging site.

One Response to

  1. skypixiezero says:

    Ooooooo……… I see lots of logistical problems with this!!

    If I were a manufacturer of anything smaller than a breadbox, I could make up a list of ingredients and a list of who gets what and why, that would have as many pages as a volume of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Two things that will stop people from reading it would be its size and their financial situation. The notion that having “perfect information” will effect people’s choices when purchasing goods, presupposes that people actually HAVE choices and are not constrained to buying the cheapest items because of their low income situation.

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