Cartels do not have to operate where we can see them. We do not have to know about them. In fact, their real success is when we do not have a clue they are in operation. Cartels can happen formally, or informally. They are corporate in nature. Several corporations can “informally” operate to stay out of one another’s way so that citizen consumers “accidentally” have limited choice. Or they can meet out of sight from public view and decide on cooperative measures to assure corporate well-being.
Uniform practices within the Health Care corporate world suggests at least informal cartel. If all the major health care insurance players “agree” to refuse some individuals, or treatment for some conditions, they remove competitive risk among themselves.
(A variation along the lines of a cartel is for corporations to buy out one another and to buy out smaller players.) Limitation of free consumer choice is the result with informal cartel, formal cartel, or practice of buy-out.
In our anti-governmental, pro-consumer freedom passion, we are also inclined to overlook corporate-governmental co-operation at the Big Money, Big Player level.
Interesting that the “socialistic” concept of “co-operation” to enhance shared interests is at work when cartels and buy-outs happen. It is also at work when Big Players of both government and corporate interest get together to influence one another.
High level government and high level corporate Big Players work well together in large part because they personally know one another quite well! They emerge from the same universities, they re-cycle themselves at board and advisory positions. There is smooth flow among those whose lives are of similar background, life-style, experience and knowledge. They appreciate one another’s different political memberships, because it offers fun, entertainment, and opportunity for lively debate. They can still enjoy dining together at the end of the day!
The same human tendencies to join together with those of similar background, life-style, experience, and knowledge happens within all communities. The practice of doing so usually does not take “agenda” of the groups very seriously at community level. Folks forming to create a fund-raiser for a local high school football team are not seen as “up to something sneaky.”
So first, we have to accept the behavior, the tendency, as “normal”. Second, we have to realize that sometimes sneakiness is afoot, and more likely to be so when Big Payoffs are the outcome.
Signs that “sneakiness may be afoot” are secrecy, non-disclosure of information, and reassuring phrases such as: “We have your best interests in mind but can’t tell you what we’re doing.” Another is “let us take care of you” when lots of evidence suggests such care is not forthcoming.
Not all phrases indicating “sneakiness afoot” are reassuring. Many phrases inform us of an “enemy”. “Divide and conquer” is stunningly effective if we take “there be the enemy” at face value without considering the source. Reassurance, along with encouraging “fear of other” can’t be beat as strategy to keep the citizen/consumer unaware!
Cartel behaviors might be said to include any corporate, and corporate-governmental co-operative behaviors that reduce citizen/consumer freedom to have full knowledge of who’s running the store, and thereby keep citizen/consumers in the dark.
In the end, citizens have less than effective votes, even when they cast them. And consumers have less than clear choice in purchasing power, even when they spend their money.