Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Rumours Of Wars

Just A Little War: Bulgarian troops assault successfully the Ottoman lines at Kirklareli (European Turkey) during the First Balkan War 1912-1913. The manoeuvring of the Russian and Austro-Hungarian Empires in response to the changing balance of power in South Eastern Europe brought Europe to the brink of war. A century later, the manoeuvring of New Zealand business leaders against a shift in the Left's economic thinking similarly risks the outbreak of a much wider conflict.

ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO, in the Balkans, there was a war. Just a little war, involving four little countries, and one large, rather elderly and far from healthy Empire. Surprisingly, Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro and Greece won the war, and the Ottoman Empire, referred to by the Great Powers as “the sick old man of Europe” got sicker. 

Two of those great powers, the Russian and Austro-Hungarian Empires, both had a vital strategic interest in who controlled the Balkans. So vital, that while the Balkan War was raging, the Russian government thought it advisable to mass its troops on the Austrian border.
 
Now, massing troops on anybody’s borders is always a pretty provocative thing to do – and the Austrians, not unreasonably, began preparing for the full-scale mobilisation of their army. Unfortunately, when countries begin mobilising armies, all bets should be regarded as off.
 
In 1913, however, there was still sufficient common-sense at the highest political levels of the Russian Empire to prevent any further escalation from taking place. Soldiers on both sides of the border were ordered back to their barracks. Orders calling up reservists were never issued. As a consequence, the outbreak of a general European war was delayed for another year. 

But, in August 1914, the Russian stock of common sense ran out. And, just nine months after the Russian Tsar’s decision to mobilise his army had ignited World War I, thousands of New Zealand and Australian boys were fighting and dying for the Dardanelles – gateway to the Ottoman Empire.
 
It’s funny, isn’t it, how things work out?
 

LESS THAN A MONTH AGO, the Labour Party and the Greens jointly announced their decision to reform the New Zealand energy market. Using the drug-buying monopsony, Pharmac, as their model, the two opposition parties came up with NZ Power – a single, state-run buyer of all New Zealand’s electrical power. Energy generators would be paid a “fair price” for their product, based on the historic, rather than the marginal, cost of its production. The resulting savings, around $300 per household per year, would be passed onto consumers.
 
Well, the Labour-Green Opposition policy on energy has galvanised the New Zealand business community in much the same way as the Balkan League’s attack on the Ottoman Empire galvanised South-Eastern Europe back in 1913.
 
Senior business leaders, rightly characterising the Labour-Green policy as a decisive shift away from the neoliberal, “free-market” consensus which has underpinned the platforms of both the Labour and National parties since the mid-1980s, last week served notice that they would regard its implementation as a direct threat to their vital strategic interests.
 
In an open letter to Labour Leader, David Shearer, and the Greens’ Co-Leader, Russel Norman, and signed on behalf of some of New Zealand’s largest and most influential business organisations, including Business New Zealand, the NZ Chambers of Commerce, the Employers and Manufacturers Association, the Road Transport Forum and the Major Electricity Users Group, 10 chief executives called upon Labour and the Greens to: “withdraw these damaging policies”.
 
Massing His Troops: Business New Zealand's Phil O'Reilly reiterates the business community's opposition to the energy policies of Labour and the Greens on TVNZ's Q+A programme of 5 May 2013.
 
In military terms, this extraordinary démarche from the business community is the equivalent of their massing troops along the border. 

What the nation’s business leaders have delivered to Labour and the Greens is a threat. The fact that it is, for the moment, an unspoken threat does not in any way diminish its potency. They may begin their letter by saying: “We respect your right to announce new policy at any time.” But, its political content strongly suggests that the opposite is true.
 
Labour and the Greens are being told that unless they withdraw their policy the considerable resources of the New Zealand business community will be devoted to making sure that they are unsuccessful at the next election. And even if they do manage to win in 2014, they should expect neither the assistance nor the co-operation of New Zealand’s business leadership in managing the policy’s implementation.
 
Labour and the Greens thus find themselves in the same position as the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1913. Russian troops are massing on the borders. Orders calling up reservists are being drafted. Doing nothing means abandoning all strategic interest in the Balkans. But mobilising its own forces could start a war.
 
Somebody has to blink.
 
In 2013, it must not be Labour and the Greens who blink. Because, if they capitulate to this crude political intimidation, and withdraw their policy, then the rest of us might just as well hang a “CLOSED” sign on the doors of New Zealand democracy.
 
Hopefully, as happened in 1913, cooler and wiser heads will prevail. To preserve the democratic peace, New Zealand’s business leaders need to back down and back off.
 
If they refuse, then Labour and the Greens, for democracy’s sake, need to warn them that, when the Left next comes to power, all bets are off.
 
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 7 May 2013.

22 comments:

David said...

The Greens won't blink, but Labour might.

Interestingly, railways had a huge amount to do with the stalemate of World War I. Troops could quickly be rushed to the front so was no opportunity for either side to make rapid advances.

Gerrit said...

The lack of follow up by Labour/Greens indicates they have already blinked.

Won a battle but without a furhter push, they will lose the war.

By not answering simple questions (such as will an increased ETS levy result in more expensive electricity?), they are loosing the next battle (to keep up the war meme).

Dug in but no sorty out of the trenches till mid 2014. By which time the oppostion forces will have regrouped, been resupplied and reinforced, ready for the next battle.

Anonymous said...

Well, if they do back down, we should all just quit voting. All voting does is legitimize this crap.

Tiger Mountain said...

“They don’t like it up ’em” as Lance Corporal Jones used to say to Captain Mannering in an old pom TV show–“Dad’s Army” about UK home guarders in WWII.

If you support NZ Power and know some one in Labour or Greens it is now time to give them a call. This is a potential ideological circut breaker which is what the right are bitching about. What if all the individualist flat screen non voters reclaimed some power and interest?

Anonymous said...

I agree with David, Labour might well blink – we all remember "we won you lost" to which the public added "yeah right" after the big backdown of Michael Cullen. Actually though railways was only one contributor to the stalemate. It's a lot easier to defend a trench than attack it, and of course once you run out of railway when you make an advance, you're back to horses and carts basically. :-)

Davo Stevens said...

Agreed Anon @ 12.47pm.

OReilly and his band of merry men want
a Fascist State not a democracy. Big Business has no place in politics (although it often interferes).

It's good the see the Greens/Labour starting to get a backbone again but will it last?

Than said...

Chris, your own analogy suggests who blinks first is irrelevant.

If WWI had started in 1913 the outcome would not have been significantly different. Austro-Hungary would still have lost and been divided to suit the interests of the victorious powers. And if Russia had blinked in 1914, it is all too probable something would still have started a European war, whether it happened in 1914, 1915, or 1920.

As long as Labour and the Greens push a far-left agenda, they risk war with the center and the right. And (by your own analogy, which puts them in the Austro-Hungary role) that is not a war they are likely to win.

The Flying Tortoise said...

I hope I'm around to see what happens... if and when the bets are off...

Frank said...

Blink now, and the idea of democracy and voter participations becomes meaningless.

We might as well have tanks in the streets and armed soldiers rounding up dissidents...

Than said...

Chris, who blinks first is irrelevant.

If WWI had started in 1913 the outcome would not have been significantly different. Austro-Hungary would still have lost and been divided to suit the interests of the victorious powers. And if Russia had blinked in 1914, it is almost certain some other crisis (whether it happened in 1914, 1915, or 1920) would still have started a European war with a broadly similar outcome.

As long as Labour and the Greens push a far-left agenda, they risk war with both the center and the right. And that is not a war they can win. Not blinking when you are in the weaker position simply means your defeat happens sooner.

OneTrack said...

You think Business New Zealand shouldn't be allowed to express an opinion about the Power NZ brain fart and you call them fascist? (let me know when it reaches formal proposal status ie some real numbers and when the Greens and Labour agree exactly what they are going to do, including the status of the ETS/carbon tax. Or is that just another one of those inconvenient truths that we hope the people won't ask about until it's too late ie the left are in power again).

All they are doing is giving their warning abou what will happen, just like the Power NZ announcement was just to "warn innocent mums and dads investors about what would happen if they bought shares. Exactly the same.

Kiwi Riverman's Blogesphere said...

As you said, Labour and the Greens should not blink. There is a chance for NZ to move on from the Rogernomics climate that has pervaded the nation for a generation. I hope Roger Douglas stays alive to see it.

Davo Stevens said...

Oh Dear Onetrack, perhaps that refers to you state of mind.

Yes, Phil O'reilly is free to express his Point of View from a personal standpoint but to threaten big business interference in the Electoral process is Fascism.

Furthermore the "innocent Kiwi Mums and Dads" is not the target owners of our power companies, Phil's mates are!

Perhaps a lesson in the shenannigans of politics is in order? Nothing is ever what it appears to be.

peterpeasant said...

Actually the braggadocio and sabre rattling of the business lobby groups will only reinforce fears that the share price set will fall low.

This will benefit buyers who will get more shares per dollar spent.

Electricity utilities are cash cows.

Share buyers, institutional or not, love cash cows.

How many of the business lobby group membership are going to benefit from a low share issue price.

A hell of a lot of them, they have the dosh to buy up big.

The mythical "mum and dad" investors are largely ruined by the finance company disasters.

Most "mum and dads" do not have spare cash that they could lose. They are too busy finding money to pay for rent/ mortgage/power/food/school fees/clothing and medical bills. Key, English and most senior politicians (plus Gilmore)are just out of touch with reality.

It is precisely the NZ big business sector that is going to make a killing out of low share issue pricing. Especially as first preference is given to NZ citizens and companies.

Get extra shares for hanging on for couple years? Cool!

After that watch the outraged big business sector flog their cheaply bought shares off to overseas interests with "front" NZ companies.

Wall Street traders love this stuff just like Gordon Gecko and John Key.

Clockie said...

@"Than" 7.04

Please define what a "far-left agenda" is in your terms so we have a clear idea where Labour and / or the Greens stand on your political spectrum with, lets say Stalinist Russia at one end of the Spectrum and Randian style Libertarianism on the other. We've been hearing a lot about the "far left" from people like you lately and frankly I laugh every time I hear it..

Jigsaw said...

I wonder if 'Clockie' laughs out loud when people constantly refer to anyone different as 'far right'?Or maybe he thinks that anyone slightly right is 'far right'?
I find it incredible that anyone will seriously think that there will be savings on power charges if the Labour/Greens get their way. The Greens will make sure that any possible savings there might be on power charges will be much more than offset by extra charges on almost every other energy sources you can think of. Gas now at just over $2 a litre - just imagine what it will be under Greens/Labour......

Clockie said...

Jigsaw 4.29

Now, you see your comment is what we call a straw-man argument. I made one comment about one subject, to which you replied WONDERING what I MIGHT think about another subject. You might like to have a go at answering my ACTUAL comment on behalf of your mate "Than" who doesn't seem to be coming back for afters.

Jigsaw said...

Well Clockie it's just that if something is 'far right' or 'far left' depends on you actually understanding just where you are actually standing. You seem to think it important. I am much more interested in the issues. Beside straw men are not much fun - even as leaders of the Labour Party....

Clockie said...

@ Jigsaw 1.18.

I understand within a hairs breadth where I stand on the political compass. I can also tell you without a shadow of doubt that neither the Green Party nor Labour (especially), are "far left" unless you leave out half the political spectrum. It is clear however that people like "Than" and yourself have not the slightest clue how to measure such things or what to measure them against. Like most politically illiterate (to be charitable) or intellectually dishonest (in some cases) commentators,you just throw terms like "far left" around in the rather vain hope that it will have exactly the same effect as the dancing Cossacks of Muldoon era fame. Never mind about little things like truth and honesty. Any canard which achieves the desired aim is acceptable isn't it?

danial young said...

There is only on call and its investment.Tick the box if you whant profit,tick the box if you whant lesser.
I like taxation, profits tears.
I like the idea of taxing money transactions for the sharing idea. I also like public ownership of our warmth,the power that we warm and produce.

Shoot the hippie,what is that about.Farm house without gib board you will never sell that.

Jigsaw said...

Clockie - Just as well you and you alone know the meaning of truth, that's an incredible relief I have to say. Your apparent anger should fuel you pretty well for the next few centuries.

Clockie said...

@ Jigsaw 7.47

"Clockie - Just as well you and you alone know the meaning of truth, that's an incredible relief I have to say. Your apparent anger should fuel you pretty well for the next few centuries."

Well now, I wasn't particularly angry when I wrote my comments, but I have enough fire left in me to notice dirty tricks and react to them. Maybe one of the problems with our society is that so many people just accept rotten behaviour as if it's a natural part of the scenery instead of something to be treated with the contempt it deserves.

As for the rest of your comment, what does it consist of? The bitter whimper of a man with no real reply.