The Next Ten Years in British Social and Economic Policy

By G. D. H. Cole | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII THE CONTROL OF TRADE AND PRICES

Middlemen's costs too great—Need for improved marketing conditions— The work of the Co-operative Movement—The tendency of productive concerns to do their own marketing—Or to start joint selling syndicates —Similar to producers' Co-operative Societies—How far can such bodies control prices?—Bulk of distribution still 'unrationalised'—Dealers and their functions—Could these be performed more cheaply?—Desirability of stimulating the growth of consumers' co-operation—Co-operation and municipalisation: their respective spheres—Position of the small trader —Progressive socialisation of large-scale retail distributing agencies—The promotion of joint selling agencies under State control—The produce Exchanges—Lessons of war-time control of trade—The rebuilding of Control Boards—The problem of prices—The Food Council—Need for a better technique of continuous investigation and report—And for a public mechanism for the control of prices—The organisation of the export trades—The future of the merchant capitalist.

We have seen, in the case of agriculture, that the weakest link in the present economic system is the provision—or lack of provision—which it makes for the marketing of farm produce. No small part of the farmer's troubles arises from the disadvantage under which he labours in selling his produce. As the investigations of the Linlithgow Committee showed a few years ago, the farmer, for most of the foodstuffs produced at home, gets a price which seems, on the face of it, far too low in comparison with the price paid by the consumer. Either the farmer gets too little, it appears, or the consumer pays too much, or, more probably, both things are true. Nor is the problem confined to home-grown foodstuffs. One Committee after another has studied the conditions under which commodities of various types—imported meat, coal, textile goods—pass from producer to consumer, and has come to the conclusion that the services of the middleman cost too much. This view is confirmed

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