The Birmingham Press
News, views and comment from the West Midlands
The editor of the Birmingham Press and contributor Alan Clawley [opposite] have given permission for the reproduction of part of a recent article : No. Not ‘all in it together’:
“. . . Our most powerful institutions – the law, politics, sport, and banking – are built on an adversarial model that has its roots in social Darwinism and which relies on predatory competition, ruthless exploitation, and the need for winners and losers.
“The counterbalancing grass-roots co-operatives and mutuals that were developed in 19th and 20th centuries have almost been wiped out by the forces of self-interest and private profit.
“Small local building societies have become international public limited companies with shareholders and the ‘co-op’ that began life in Rochdale now struggles to retain its democratic mutual structure.
“The few housing co-ops in Birmingham funded by government during the 1970s and 80s lie on the margins of housing policy. Most of the community-based credit unions promoted by Birmingham in the 90s as part of an anti- poverty policy have been merged into one big credit union to compete with the banks and other lending institutions.
“But, judging by the state of the British economy, the British way has not been a huge success for most of its people.
“Andrew Lydon, an economic historian working with Localise West Midlands, has been studying the German way and last Saturday he presented some of his findings to the West Midlands New Economics Group. Andrew’s main focus is the big energy companies which were derived from post-war coal and steel businesses . . .
“In Germany, consumers influence the price because local workers make up half of the board that makes the decision. As a result prices in Germany are kept lower than they are in Britain where there is no such restraining influence . . .
“The Co-op in Britain has recently started selling energy and hopes to eventually become one of the Big Seven. Their entry into the market is in itself unlikely to result in increased price competition but it will be interesting to see if the Co-op with its much advertised ethical values and democratic principles is prepared to take a stand on prices and thus emulate the ‘German way’ in this country.”