Tuesday, 29th October 2013

by Joshua Gaskell

‘Profit is not a dirty word.’ That’s what David Cameron told the Tory conference a few weeks ago, and it strikes me today that an analogous statement would be, ‘Sex is not a dirty word’: both are true, with qualifications.

Profit is not a dirty word when it’s obtained through selling consumer goods over the purchase of which we exercise genuine choice; when we are, in my analogy, consenting adults. But when it’s obtained through selling essential amenities and rightly subsidised, community-binding public services – healthcare, education, energy, travel – it is dirty. The local school, hospital, and railway station are where they are (if you’re lucky). No one has the power to withhold their consent, so to pretend that a principle of consumer choice can operate is laughable. The profiteers can introduce a market, but it sure as hell won’t be free.

So both statements are true, but sound false when uttered by one whose business it is to systematically transgress the necessary qualifications.