Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Lightbulb-above-head moment

Reading "Critical Mass" by Philip Ball, which is about the analogies between physics and economics, society and a whole lot else has provided a lightbulb moment with respect to understanding CAMRA.

p313 of the paperback edition – "Capitalism's opponents, meanwhile, often portray, the free market as a system in which big fish inevitably swallow up small ones, leading to a homogeneous world of commerce dominated by a few major players".

Certainly, influential people in CAMRA may be described as opponents of capitalism and this outlook is strongly evident in the organisation's rhetoric.  

I believe this type of naive "opponents of capitalism" economic thinking is what leads CAMRA to its misguided support of the tie system. CAMRA is still mired in the battles of the nineteen-seventies - the regionals versus the (inter)nationals: Davids versus Goliaths, small fish versus big fish.

The Davids-v-Goliaths view of the beer market is a surrogate for the political beliefs of key CAMRA figures.

CAMRA defends the tie system because they see it as a key to the defence of the regionals (who are anti competitive chain owners themselves) versus the (inter)nationals.

The rest of the world has moved on. This overly-simplistic view of the beer market fails to pay heed to the views of the microbrewery sector in which brewers struggle to find outlets allowed to sell their beer i.e. pubs not straightjacketed by the tie system.

Today, CAMRA's energies ought to be directed at freeing the market from the deeply entrenched anti-competitive practices rather than promoting the thinly-veiled political obsessions of an influential clique.

(I would like to point out that I am not a bonkers right-wing radical free-market neo-con,  just a humble observer of, and participant in, the beer market who sees small brewers efforts and drinkers' choice inhibited by the tie system.)

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