Fair Prices

Prices in Rare Albion are fair. That is, they are affordable to both parties to any transaction. The citizens of Rare Albion see little merit in pricing things so that the producers of them cannot afford to live or produce a replacement. For producers are also consumers. Rare Albion benefited from a well-known British economist who arrived on a boat one day, but was very ill, too ill to leave in fact and so he was given a special dispensation to remain.

He said he had been trying to get the world to create some form of global partnership and a shared world currency, so that it could escape what he regarded as the unfairness of leadership by the most powerful. But no one would have it. He had tried to show that a fake link to gold prevented people from understanding what he meant by global partnership and would result in all money becoming subservient to “unfaithful, unpredictable and unkind” capital. People would then borrow to spend, but pass thereby into a pernicious form of slavery which, however, they would call economic freedom.

He had been especially opposed by a group of economists, who also had the ear of key politicians, and who believed, quite genuinely, that the best thing for consumers was to push prices as low as they could go by competitive procedures. They, especially, spoke of gain coming after pain, but it seems they got their timing wrong. The lag was too great and what happened was that gain and pain became the attributes of two very different groups of people - the one few in number, the other immensely populous.

Because, he said, he had reached the age when visions of the future become existential in the present, he could not bear to see what his defeat would put in train and he had begun to fall ill at the very thought of it. In the end, prices the world over would sink to too low a level, and the whole world economy would fall into what he called the China Trap.

The experience was clearly overwhelming him and he no longer had the forces to endure it. After a life spent accompanying the central economic events of his time, often in the teeth of great resistance and scorn from lesser lights in his field, he was ready to give up the ghost. He began to feel that his absence might, perversely, have a greater impact than his continued presence. 

After a couple of days, he simply faded away and died, but with a steadfast gaze towards the future, as if he were divining what next he should do.

An elegant but intimate funeral was held, attended by all members of the Rare Albion Monetary Committee and the economist’s ashes were strewn on the surrounding sea. But his words had not fallen on deaf ears. At a special meeting of the Monetary Committee the perspicacity of the departed professor was adopted as the basic tenor of their economic thinking.

That is why here in Rare Albion prices are expected to be fair. Fortunately, because of our culture, which respects individual freedom, people do not support undercutting for the sake of it. We are not profligate, because prices that go relentlessly up are regarded as being as socially destructive as those that go relentlessly down. No encouragement is given to competition in prices. Everything is done to ensure that prices are fair all round. As a consequence, Rare Albion has hardly any environmental degradation or social dysfunction. Both exist, of course, but they are due to the natural propensities of human existence, rather than the application of economic theories predicated on one-sided notions about the inherent selfishness of human beings.

In Rare Albion we have a Prices Office, the task of which is to watch for trends, often unintended, that would lead to a price being unaffordable to either of those party to it. It is, of course, easy to see such trends after the event, because they become evident in the income and expenditure accounts of those concerned. But the trick is to see the problem coming. This is largely a matter of on-going education and pre-emptive discussion, most of which is done in conjunction with our Financial Literacy Colleges and quarterly financial plan review sessions, both of which are central to our way of life. Our aim throughout is not to fix prices in arbitrary ways, but to foster the economic conditions that make them fair and affordable.