…the markets. Many of the commentators and pundits who have been speaking on television about Thursday’s election have been saying how “the markets might respond” or how “jittery” the markets are, or how the “markets don’t like such and such”. Anyone would think that we are ruled by some abstraction of the financial world. One phrase that really annoys me is “let the markets decide”. The market(s) are a construction of the capitalist system and have been given a position in society that is unwarranted. Markets are run by people, not the other way around. The way in which the markets are discussed is in quasi-theistic terms; that is to say, they are the modern equivalent of the Oracle at Delphi. But the Oracle was a physical entity; the markets are not. The Oracle for all its obvious problems made no demands on the national economy.
But which markets are the pundits talking about? Well, because they refuse to be clear on this matter, I will explain: the markets in question are the financial markets (this includes gilt markets, bond markets and currency markets) and, sadly, not the local market where you pick up your fruit and veg and maybe a counterfeit DVD. Because our society has been organised around the service of such markets, no one is really free. We all have to serve the greedy who operate in the markets; the very same people who cause the financial crisis in the first place.
So who are out elected politicians working for? The reply given by the great and the good of the world of political journalism will tell you that is is the electorate. So if that is the case, then why do they have to please what is, in effect, the modern equivalent of an angry god who vents his spleen through weather phenomena or volcanic eruptions. We must make sacrifices to please the angry, vengeful gods.
All that needs to happen for markets to go bad, is for a couple of traders to wake up in a bad mood one morning and the mood spreads like a contagion. Too much faith is placed in markets and not enough in society, which exists – as the neo-liberals would have us believe – to serve the markets…the angry gods.