- John Edmundson
One thing we’re supposed to value about living in the capitalist West is “choice”. We can choose our representatives, we can choose where to work, we can choose how to spend our money.
Socialists, including myself, often argue that those choices are an illusion for most people. Under capitalism, real choice exists only for capitalists. So it’s interesting to think about how quickly the capitalists hide behind lack of choice. Margaret Thatcher famously announced “there is no alternative” to ruthless neo-liberal restructuring, the slashing of jobs and wages, and the gutting of British industry. Successive Labour and National governments here have parroted the same line.
This month two of the poor suffering oil companies, Caltex and BP, complained that they had no choice but to put up petrol prices by a second six-cent hike in the space of two days. The first six-cent increase of the week involved all the oil companies. Blaming market forces beyond their control, they announced that the market robbed the oil companies of choice. Shell held out for a few hours before raising its price by four cents. The others quickly followed suit.
Recent discoveries by oil exploration companies off the southern coast of New Zealand means that within a few years New Zealand could be self-sufficient in oil. Will this mean cheaper oil for us? Well, no, actually. The oil will be sold at market prices. The oil companies have no choice.