There’s shock. There’s horror. There’s awe.
You could see all these editorial reactions from media cheerleaders in the days after the defeat of President Sarkozy and the election of Francois Hollande. Their pet ideology had not only been challenged but sidelined – by a Socialist. Oh Mon Dieu!
Even before the election you could hear in the questions of the BBC’s European reporter a tender concern for the health and well-being of the markets.
He asked M. Hollande what his priority would be if he won the election.
“Confidence” he replied.
“For the markets?” the Beeb’s man asked.
“No” said M. Hollande. “The people first.”
What a rare and wonderful sentiment in a world both dulled and chained by free market philosophy. Ideas outside the rigidity of market theory are considered dangerous and free market ideologues do not easily countenance alternative ideas. Like humanity itself they have to be curtailed or marginalised. Which is where they need the media whose role is to challenge, but….
‘We’re back to life on the edge’ said a headline in the Business Herald. The copy – unbelievably, given the fact that the market promotes choice – read:
‘Welcome to the austerity revolt – the democratic flaw in the European Union’s tough love solution to the sovereign debt crisis’.
And later… ‘markets will be on edge in the coming days…’
This is the language of war and indicates something resembling a wartime threat to that most precious legacy – the market. But the menace comes from nothing other than the democratic voice (the ‘democratic flaw’). This kind of reaction was best illustrated in the giveaway lines of a commentary from a correspondent for the Washington Post.
She listed the fall of European Governments which had resorted to austerity measures and in turn had been rejected by voters then added:
“I don’t foresee a new rise of fascism, and I’m not predicting the return of Stalinism, but should they get their way the parties challenging the European centre today will carry out a different kind of revolution.
“They would end the European Union, end the Nato alliance and drop out – or try to drop out – of the global economic order. They would turn back the clock if they could, to a time when national governments made decisions all by themselves - a charming fantasy that could end in various forms of disaster…”
A charming fantasy? Isn’t that how they got along before the EU? Isn’t sovereignty at the core of the European protests? But no we have to belong to what she describes as ‘the global economic order’. The same order which over-prices our milk and which puts that once weekly staple – roast lamb – out of reach for most Kiwis.
We know how irresponsibly our own sovereignty has been and continues to be diluted by political parties. What we perhaps didn’t realise is how much that process has been accelerated.
This was highlighted by Bryan Gould in his New Zealand Herald column, and in an open letter by a group of eminent lawyers, judges and academics. Their collective concern is that our Government is about to trade away – in secret – an important part of our powers of self government. In short, it’s taking another covert step to sell our sovereignty.
It’s being done through the Trans Pacific Partnership which Mr Gould says is being presented as a straightforward free trade agreement. But he adds that a provision allows companies to sue governments directly over alleged breaches. Australians, with their more muscular political culture, have rejected this provision and with good reason.
Corporations have taken governments to the cleaners for millions. And they can do so in private tribunals. Mr Gould points to the absence of any parliamentary debate or select committee scrutiny. Who will pay? One way or another it will be taxpayers who were never allowed to know what the government signed up for.
This may be business as usual for this government acting on a barren economic agenda, but it’s scandalous. The market’s media cheerleaders should be up in arms about this, not M. Hollande’s victory in faraway France. After all isn’t the holy trinity of the market transparency, efficiency and accountability?
Imagine that? What a nice little fantasy…