‘Economicisation’ of political issues
The Chinese Premier, Li Qiang, criticised “the politicisation of economic issues” at the Summer Davos. He is right to raise the subject. Economics, in a world where global trade is vital to any semblance of stability, should not become the weapons of cold wars. Starvation is as wicked as nuclear destruction and can become even more widespread. It is slower than bombing, and less dramatic, so it leaves its mark less spectacularly. It is no less dangerous for that. Economic constraint hits the poor and deprived first and most. Those who use this tactic to achieve or maintain dominance are cowards. What Li Qiang says is truly happening.
Meanwhile, as I pointed out in a recent Daily Paradox, business people should be more involved in the political discussions that increasingly revolve around trade and cross-border agreements. Brexit would never have happened if the business community had been given a serious say in the ridiculous referendum. International labour realises this and wants a say in how decisions about trade restrictions / sanctions are imposed and what damage they are doing to the world economy and international relations. Generating wealth is a reasonable and noble objective for the human race. Making use of it properly will be an even better one.
The danger of slipping into a widespread starvation disaster is not much talked about at present. There are enough problems already to make voicing any more unpersuasive. The crisis of world overpopulation is not a subject that lends itself to trenchant political rhetoric. Indeed, to discuss it at all may seem provocative. The only country of size that has tried to manipulate the birth rate, China, launched itself into the same ageing population crisis that all developed countries are now facing. ‘How many babies?’ is not a subject governments whose constitution includes the word ‘freedom’ can discuss.
Premier Li Qiang’s totally valid criticism would be more helpful as a positive suggestion for accomplishing the goal he claims China has. It’s a goal of real value, progress towards which can be measured by the contribution made to it by business, the engine of collaboration.
The time has come for the ‘economicisation of political issues’ – making them more subject to world economic needs and less to the desires of nations as sovereign and leaders as models of wisdom and emperors of brilliance. If we had effective leaders the world wouldn’t be as screwed up as it is. How will this happen? For the long answer you could read my article on the subject in 03July23 Singapore Business Times*. For the short answer you could look at the British Labour Party’s proposal to set up Business-Political Councils – talking shops at the start, but capable of being a real force in today’s needs for international cooperation. (Of course, they call them ‘Political-Business’. The change in precedence is unashamedly mine.)
Do business people need to be better politically educated for this? Of course they do. But so does everyone else in the world. To make democracy work you have to make those who vote reasonably able to do so for the majority’s good not just for their personal wishes. Politicians themselves need to be better educated about politics than they are at present.
Will the role of certain top business people change? Yes. It already is. A business Chair now needs to deal with the world outside the business while the CEO runs the business.
What will the politicians learn from it? That what drives people at the ballot box actually matters. Hopefully, too, that people won’t follow mediocrity. They will follow those who have the courage to seize the day and lead with guts and empathy.
The journey is long but the route is visible.
*I can always send you a copy after publication if you would like one.
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30 June 2023