Orange and T-Mobile merger

September 7, 2009

Orange and T-Mobile are merging. When some lad is playing deafening europop behind me on the bus, irritating the shit out of me, I could hazard a fairly accurate guess at not only the company who bills him for the use of that phone, but the manufacturer of that phone. In fact, I could tell you with reasonable accuracy, where he bought his clothes, where he shopped for grocerys, definitely where he banked- not by assessing this character, but just by repeating the same few brand names over and over. So few companies are there, providing the majority of us, with the goods and services we need.

Monopolies dominate our ‘free market’, yet they are supposed to be an anomaly. The scale of economic development in the past few decades is beyond anything that could have been imagined by the economic theorists who coined the term ‘free market’- we are now part of a global ‘free’ market. Although am not sure how ‘free’ comes into it.

When I was naiive and very young, I made a stab at completely ethical shopping- you know-not buying goods from companies who did nasty things.  Only when I was trying to ascertain who products were made by, did I realise how few people are responsible for whats on my cupboard shelves-all these different brands, I had grown up with- owned by so few people. With the same few supermarkets, giving you the same few companies products, wrapped up in a bewildering array of packaging, so that I feel like I am getting a choice. Go abroad- its the same few people, who own the mobile phone providers, the supermarkets- who are filling the shelves- providing the banking. It might have a label in foreign- but trust me- its not foreign- its global.

THe whole point of consumer sovereignty, which is supposed to be what underpins the worlds economy, is that I, the customer, have power. If the only way I can excercise my choice not to use a company, is by religiously reading the business section, and keeping a list, yet still failing miserably to avoid companies who I intensely dislike- – if I cannot choose not to use them- where is the power of the consumer? How do you have supply and demand, if the relationship  between the supplier and demander is meaningless? These companies arent even the suppliers any more- they have so little relationship with the goods they supply- money is king, not the consumer.

How does one have a free market- if this is the case? If these companies failures would jeapordise a country so much, that the biggest aid packages ever given need to go to them? If they are so large that governments are beholdent to them, because their decisions have such catastrophic consequences for the consumers?

Its not like me asking questions about is going to do anything. But I actually want to know. Who the fuck let this happen? Why is my share of the national debt larger than the cost of my first house, and I didnt get a single pair of fucking shoes out of it? Why do I owe so much on behalf  of the same companies who cripple me and my friends with unfair charges, credit agreements, and banking practices?

In my lifetime I have seen governments want to interfere in the most personal areas of life, telling me the gender of the person I can marry, getting legislation that lets Calderdale Council look for Osama Bin Laden in my bins, while handily monitoring my recycling- why werent they using their power to maintain an economy that would provide for the society it was the lifeblood of, instead of regulating and interfering, in the lives of the people they were supposed to be serving? Why the fuck didnt they have people who knew what they were talking about, advise on them on how best to regulate and maintain a free market economy-instead of the people who were milking it?  And specifically, why are mergers like the one between companies like Orange and T-Mobile still happening at the same rate? And why arent people madder about it?

I am not an economist, I dont even understand it- but I am shouldering debt I cant even imagine for these companies. And as a consumer and voter, I want to know how this is allowed to continue happening.


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