Quite a few people seem to glorify the "free market" based on some old theoretical framework while giving little attention to how actual reality develops, which incidentally is very different.
The ever repeated (false) mantra is that a free market is good for the consumer because it lowers prices... which it does not (in the long run - or short run depending on circumstances). Nor does lead to higher quality.
When transitioning from a public service to a private "free market" or even the development of some "free markets", the general process tends to work along the following lines:
1) Public property is improved with significant investments to make it attractive to buy (incidentally at a loss to the public overall....)
2) Private business establishes itself
Now we have two options, A and B:
A 3) Prices do drop for a short term to gain customers.
Supported by wage drops (people now need social benefits to actually survive) as well as quality drops (cheaper) and "outsourcing" (who cares what the now unemployed do or how they buy things...)
A 4) The market condenses down to a couple of competitors - or even a single monopoly. People no longer have a choice, profit is everything, prices rise.
B 3) The private company has a dominant market position, prices increase right away because people have no alternative.
The so called "free market" mechanism and "capitalism" have in some ways worked during the cold war - not because it is inherently better but because "the west" wanted to show that it was better. As a result, the aim was to be better than the Soviets - to produce better goods, better services - and then come along to say "look we are better".
With the cold war over and no competition there is no need to improve services to try to be better - people have no other continent to point at where they could say "look how they live". Yes, some countries offer significantly higher quality of life, the Scandinavian countries as well as Switzerland, but few people for some reason look at them as role models. Ironically enough, some UK politicians or was it activists made a claim that the UK could mirror Norway if it left the EU... not really. Nor has the UK any source of wealth, nor has it a functioning society, social system or good education. (All are available in Norway.)
The key point is that the "choice" offered by a free market is a false choice - you get to chose between bad and bad. The same is true for our so-called "democracies". If a country only has two parties which have both disqualified themselves in one way or another, you can vote for bad or bad...
Officially you have a choice - and practice it is a non-choice.
In a free market, the customer is not the focus of a business - the focus is to maximize its reach and then to maximize profits, at any cost. (Which includes a disregard for human life - toxins in toys? Reducing service intervals? Why not...)
Having moved from (West) Germany I cannot find many positive things to say about the UK in a direct comparison. Incidentally, my observation in Europe is that "the bad stuff" spreads eastwards - what happens in the UK moves east and reaches Germany a few years later and also spreads through the rest of Europe.
Theory is one thing, practical reality another. Which is where I asked my question - "qui bono" - who benefits? In the free market it is the investor - always. The customer might benefit for a short time if he or she is lucky during a transition struggle, or just benefit not at all as if frequently the case.
In politics it is those who finance things behind the scenes - big business, "investors". (Across all parties.)
The worst part though is that we do not learn from the mistakes of others. Policy that has failed in one country is for some inexplicable reason seen as attractive in another - at a cost to the peoples. (PFI in the UK for example.)
The same goes for "free market policies". Privatizing the railway in the UK has cost the peoples billions, caused accidents. Bits were renationalized (the public paying the cost of fixing it again) and yet the government wants to sell it off again...