Monday, 14 September 2009

When only one element is ever allowed to interfere with the market ...

... you get an inherent unfairness, and it usually tends to favour whatever is supported by the market-fundamentalist Right and their well-meaning, unconscious allies on the Left.

If anything is allowed to interfere with the market today it is usually the criteria of Health and Safety, undoubtedly the only factors which actually have more power to interfere with the market than they did before Momus's "accident" of 30 years ago. As with "political correctness", the above phrase has of course been misused so often by all the wrong people that it has effectively become devoid of all meaning, and I would be the last person in the world to condemn the very real increases in public safety it has led to. But when it is the only non-commercial factor allowed to affect British life, deep inconsistencies come into play, and a case in point is the restriction on the sale of fireworks to two or three fixed periods in the year. I approve of this, for what little it is worth: restrictions may not have been needed when there actually still was a national culture that flowed subliminally and unselfconsciously (this isn't Mailism, in case anyone thinks it is), when 5th November was just one night which had an inherent, almost neo-feudal place in almost everyone's minds, but since the withering of that way of existence, and the coming of a near-universal cynicism about and disconnection from such rituals, such restrictions are necessary. If enough people are sufficiently alienated from the meaninglessness of their existence to throw fireworks around on any night of the year - and they are - you cannot allow them to be sold as freely as you could back when almost nobody would have dreamt of letting them off on any night but one (outside Scotland, New Year's Day was an ordinary working day until the 1970s) and so you didn't need restrictions.

But if the market can be bucked for things considered "dangerous" but not for anything else, you end up with an unfair competition. A case in point is that where I live the hard sell of Halloween (no apostrophe here: it doesn't deserve it) now begins on, at least, 14th September. In the context of the great battle for the turn of the seasons (bonfires at the beginning of winter go back to Samhain and predate Guy Fawkes by centuries, and continued in Ireland as part of the real Hallowe'en, facts which should be remembered and, indeed, remembered by those well-meaning soft-Leftists who decry the largely long-buried, outside a few well-publicised but essentially unrepresentative towns, "anti-Catholicism" and, as they have done so many times before, let naked commercialism through by default) such promotions should really be restricted to whenever it is - mid-October, from memory - that fireworks can be sold. It's only fair. Only then would you have what the unrestricted other than in special circumstances market is supposed to be provide but doesn't: the mythical level playing field. Only then could autumn perhaps become again the time of the year I most enjoyed, rather than the time I most dread.


  1. We seem to have fireworks everywhere, and all over the year. I have to be very careful to see that it is indeed fireworks, and not a train bombing or some similar disturbing noise.

    When Maslow said safety was a basic human need, I am sure he did not mean this.

  2. another main reason why we have to have restrictions in the UK: trick-or-treaters throwing them around (something that at least, obviously, doesn't happen in the US, where t-o-t is much more ingrained in the culture so, overall, is less unpleasant)

  3. throwing "them" around = throwing fireworks around obv