Mesmerised by a monopoly

‘Monopolies stifle innovation and keep prices high.’ This is relatively uncontroversial assertion and you’d likely struggle to find someone in the public sphere to speak in favour of maintaining a monopoly.

There is, however, a notable exception; an organisation which has managed to exercise a near monopoly in much of Western Europe for decades. It does provide important services, but it is secretive and — despite powerful influence over almost every aspect of people’s lives — minimally accountable. From its privileged position it garners billions of pounds annually from the collective pocket of ordinary people. Needless to say, its top people are paid huge salaries that place them amongst the infamous top ‘one percent’ of earners. Above all, it is an organisation that puts the pursuit of its own objectives first, before the provision of those services for which its subscribers look to it.

With so much wealth and power at stake, this outfit is understandably careful to maintain its position and quick to confront any threat. Allowing reasoned debate is too risky, so steps are take to discredit any opposition, dismissing their concerns as hysterical and impugning their motives. As one would expect, the favour of the broader public is sought via advertising and sponsorship, but there are also generously funded, rather creepy initiatives that target younger and more malleable minds. Potential competitors are, naturally, crushed at the earliest opportunity. Finally there is an almost apocalyptic claim: that if this group is not allowed to continue its protected existence then we, the people, should fear for our prosperity and even our very lives.

Thankfully there are both politicians and ordinary citizens who strive to highlight the unhealthy power of this entity and campaign for a boycott. Still, most opinion formers and a sizeable proportion of the population have been successfully inculcated with a profound fear — that were it not for this organisation’s existence, the vital needs it provides for would go wholly unmet.

Anyone familiar with my political hobby-horses may have guessed where this is all going; for everyone else, here comes the ‘reveal’. This is not some global bank, wicked multi-national corporation or other commercial enterprise, but the European Union. Yes, the EU — monopoly provider of trade and cooperation to the nations of Europe.

For too long the debate has solely been on the EU’s terms, with the binary choice of “do you want what we’re selling, or not?” being the only one offered. Yet on this particular issue scarcely anyone seems to respond with a response that would seem obvious and reasonable in any other context: “yes, but why should I buy from you?”.

For Europe’s sake the EU’s racket should to be broken up by the fostering of alternative forums for trade and cooperation, and cultivating a market in place of monopoly. The greatest threat to the European Union isn’t opposition, but competition.

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