Edward Luce, an English journalist and the Financial Times’ chief US commentator and columnist based in Washington, DC, comments:
”The last people to grasp that things have gone wrong are the wealthy, the well-connected and the cognitive elites” . . .
“The wealthy’s share of the economy has risen sharply since the start of the century. The share of corporate profits in the economy has also soared. If you are rich you can afford what used to be normal for everyone — the privilege of interacting with human beings (in the service sector)”.
- high net worth individuals receive personalised banking, where their bank manager knows their name and needs.
- The wealthy also benefit from so-called concierge health services, which come with a human face.
- Many oligopolistic service providers keep clandestine lists of VIP customers who need not wade through robotic software before reaching a customer service agent. When they pick up the phone, a human answers.
Ordinary consumers, much like most voters, know there are different rules for them. They also sense that the big service providers pay more attention to regulators than to their disaffected customers. It is a perfectly rational thing to do.
The top companies have markedly increased their market share in the past decade and this has led to a lack of real competition — giving them licence to treat consumers with impunity in the telecoms, information technology, transport, retail services and banking sectors.
Politicians rank their priorities in much the same order. Voters come low on their list.
Lawmakers devote time to raising money from donors. In most areas, the voter barely matters since gerrymandering or the party elite will have has rigged the election. Politicians with large war chests are far less likely to be challenged for their party’s nomination. The same logic leads companies to keep a strong lobbying presence in government circles.
Luce asks “So what can people do? As consumers very little”.
But to elect a public-spirited prime minister with the nerve to take on corporate ‘titans’ would be great populism and smart policy.