Now that’s not something I’ve said before, and I may never say it again. But the fact that I agree makes me wonder whether they’ve really thought through the implications of what they’re saying.
The practice used by holiday companies of charging significantly more during the school holidays than they charge during term time does indeed make it difficult for many parents, and leads directly to the sort of case we’ve seen recently where parents find themselves before the courts for failing to send their children to school. The practice is, however, based on what economists call the law of supply and demand. When demand is high, prices rise, and when it’s lower, they fall. And what the Daily Mail is calling for is, effectively, government regulation to force the companies concerned to ignore that law of supply and demand.
As it happens, that’s precisely why I agree with them. Markets are a human construct; all markets work within sets of rules and the question is really about who should set the rules and in whose interests they should be set. I’ve always been in favour of the idea that governments should act in the wider social interest by setting rules and constraints on how markets should operate. Supporters of entirely ‘free’ markets believe, on the other hand, that markets are there to enable individuals to pursue their own selfish interests with no outside intervention; some will win and some will lose. There’s a significant ideological divide there.
One of the consistent themes of papers such as the Daily Mail during the Brexit campaign was that we should abolish all that horrid EU regulation which was constraining businesses from making profits by doing what they thought was most in their own interest. That is in direct conflict with the position which they’re taking today. So, has the Daily Mail switched ideologies overnight? No, of course not; they’re just taking a populist position on the basis that it will help them sell newspapers.It neatly underlines one of the problems with populism. Combining a series of policies which are individually popular can never create a coherent or consistent whole; quite the reverse. For that, we have to start from principles or ideology. On that, the gulf between me and the Daily Mail is as large as it ever was.