Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Riddle me this…Do the Money Men believe in Democracy?

Early in the morning, prior to leaving for work, I watch the Business News on Television. The ongoing falls and rises of the stock market and the latest developments in the Business Community provide an informative start to the day as well as something additional to digest with my breakfast.

Often they will bring on Business Analysts to discuss the various and possible outcomes of company mergers and government policies on the market place. These may be ‘independent’ commentators (that is they belong to no particular organisation, but might be contracted to provide advice and or opinion) or representatives of organisations such as NZX (formerly the New Zealand Stock Exchange).

While, a number of their opinions are apparently made with a dispassionate ‘toss of the head,’ they are, anything but dispassionate. Prior to the Election, the NZX Analyst noted that the problem with public ownership was that people had agendas, that they and Governments could be ideologically driven, that Governments and people could be passionate about who or what company owned assets and that this was a distinctly unwelcome thing. This morning, the NZX Analyst commented that businesses were pragmatic in their approach. Unfortunately, the present Government had put itself off side with Business with the unpragmatic approach of some of its policies. The message that I got from these two comments was clear, the Government was not acting pragmatically rather it was ideologically driven, where as, the market was dispassionate about ideology. The Government was extreme and the Market was moderate.

If only this was the case, any serious (or indeed cursory) investigation of the ‘market’ and its various players over the past several decades would establish that they are far more ideologically focused than recent governments. Key individuals and organisations, who claim to speak for the market, oppose labour market reforms and such like not on the basis of accountancy, but on the basis of ‘freedom of association’ or ‘individual choice,’ which are ‘value’ judgments.

This is why I was feeling disturbed about the Greens recent discussion with the Business Community. I got the distinct impression that some in the Greens feel that a compromise might be able to be worked out with the various doyens of the market place. (Hey! We’re not scary!) However, since several of the key players in the ‘market’ are ideologically driven, no such relationship will be gained without one side compromising more than the other. My guess is that the Greens would be forced into compromising rather more than the leadership of Telecom.

This brings me to the nub of my argument; which is that these people just don’t like democracy. Why shouldn’t political parties or Governments have ideological leanings or ‘anti-business’ agendas? what is wrong with it? In a democracy, people should be able to vote for and support those parties and individuals of different shades. It’s not the fault of the political parties if they reflect a diverse range of popular opinion – that’s democracy.

Yet, I get the distinct impression that the NZX analyst feels that society would be better if people and parties just did what they wanted and put forward the reforms that they approved of. Well, there are names for societies like that – they are not called democracies.

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