Monday, 18 November 2013
Big business globalises whilst politicians nationalise
A couple of weeks ago I attended a lecture by Hugo Radice, writer and recently retired lecturer on international political economy at Leeds University. The lecture discussed the nature and soundness of the present economic recovery in the UK and examined who will be the most likely major beneficiaries if it continues: not the majority of us, I'm afraid.
Not mentioned in the lecture but was raised in discussion afterwards was that, whilst politicians are increasingly lowering their vision to the boundaries of their nation states, big business is increasingly thinking globally and stitching up the global market rules in its own interests. UKIP and EDF in Britain, AfD in Germany, FN in France et al are all banging their nationalist drums, mainstream parties are increasingly occupied in accommodating them, and the encroachment of national sovereignty by international business goes unchallenged, and even unnoticed
As a result our democracies grow weaker whilst business goes from strength to strength. A recent article by George Monbiot describes how investor-state dispute settlements written into international trade agreements enable business to sue supposedly sovereign governments if the businesses feel their rights to make profits have been infringed. Argentina has been forced to pay over $1bn to international utility companies for freezing the people's energy and water bills (so watch out, Ed Miliband). The tobacco firm Philip Morris is suing the Australian government for the alleged loss of profit arising from their decision to allow cigarettes to be sold only in plain packets.
The courts which make these decisions meet in secret and there is no right of appeal.
So while here in the Britain UKIP and the Tories splutter about ceding sovereignty to Brussels, where decisions are made openly and subject to democratic accountability, our democratic rights are being ceded to big business without a murmur.
Someone, not least Liberal Democrats in government, should be making a big fuss. Come on Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, our very own Vince Cable - lets hear it for the people.