It’s not the taking part, it’s the winnings
After the epic Great British summer we have had, the drug of competition has got many of us hooked. We want more.
We want more sprint finishes, more dives for the line, more forehand winners, more ippons. Hell, we don’t just want to see it again, we want to do it all ourselves.
So shouldn’t we be happy, then, that we have at present a government determined to inject competition into every facet of our lives?
Won’t it be such fun to see profit-hungry healthcare providers racing to win NHS contracts?
Or to see property developers jumping over each other to build the ugliest buildings they can in the least appropriate places, all thanks to newly-relaxed planning laws?
Aren’t we already enjoying the spectacle of independently-run academy schools competing to win the best pupils from council-run comprehensives?
Aren’t we loving the fight between two abominable train companies bidding to win mountains of taxpayer subsidy and the right to run painfully abject services on the West Coast Main Line?
Competition is a great thing when you need to split winners from losers. As we have seen this summer, it makes for a stunning spectacle in sport. But it has other practical uses besides an exciting canoe slalom or omnium track cycling event.
In business, competing for custom, and thus profit, is what drives innovation and technological advancement. That you are able to read these words on a computer right now is thanks in part to the motivational influence of a competitive market place.
Not for the first time, however, a British government has confused healthy competition for a healthy society. Where competition should end is when, quite obviously, you wish for there to be no losers.
In the health sector, a loser is a dead patient. In education, a loser is an illiterate or innumerate school-leaver. In transport, a loser is anyone who needs to get somewhere on bloody time.
In energy, a loser is someone unable to heat their home because of soaring bills. In banking, a loser is the economy. In the arms trade, a loser is a Syrian family shot to pieces by their own government.
These are no places for competing interests. We all want people to be healthy, to be well-educated, to be secure, to be warm, to not be afraid to step outside their front door.
Whenever our government, as it seems to do at present, states its intention to ‘inject more competition’ into this sector or that, be afraid.
Our emergency services, our hospitals, our libraries, our schools. All are being encouraged to compete instead of provide. The government also calls it ‘choice’ to try and con you.
Moreover, the spirit of fair competition is being abused by desperate governments all over the world.
Businesses are unsurprisingly keen to expand into foreign lands where they’ll be better able to give a beating to the opposition. But for so long as an imbalance exists between the welfare standards and laws of nations, global competition will be an unfair sport. Like a team of 12 against a team of six.
Standards should be universal, not a bargaining tool to win business. Poor countries aren’t dubbed ‘Third World’ because they won a gold medal in the index of human well-being.
Compared to such nations, Britain has high standards of labour laws and wages, thus deterring labour-intensive industries from investing here. But we also have low tax thresholds and even laxer tax enforcement, encouraging global finance companies here in their droves.
So in Britain, unless you’re a banker, you ain’t winning. You’re getting fucked sideways.
And in the name of competition, wherever David Cameron travels, he takes a slew of immoral business execs with him hoping to find a nice regulatory hole to exploit abroad.
Hypocritical doesn’t even begin to describe a prime minister who is happy to hire foreign companies to do the jobs his own government should be doing, at the same time as begging other countries to hire our own struggling firms for their dirty work.
Of course, the Tories like competition because they know those with money are better placed to win. And they’ll take any chance they can to introduce more competition, in places where it is unnecessary and even dangerous, just to increase the opportunities for the rich to score another victory.
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