Global Trade Day: power to big businesses or power to the people?
Global Trade Day: power to big businesses or power to the people? By Morten Thaysen
Anti-TTIP protesters in London, July 2014. Global Justice Now under a Creative Commons Licence
The UK election is very soon and the media are talking about ‘the most important election for thirty years’. But in 2012 a report from the Democratic Audit said that our democracy is dying because big business is taking more and more power.
How has big business taken our democracy? First, big business has very strong links with parliament. A third of government ministers have links with fossil fuels and/or the financial world. Lord Browne was the boss of a fracking company, Cuadrilla, and for years the British government gave him a job as an adviser. The big energy companies are making billions of pounds of profits. But when the Labour Party suggested keeping energy prices the same, the big energy companies said the lights could go out in the UK in 2016. It is difficult to see how keeping prices the same would make a difference to their profits.
Big businesses also have power by controlling our energy, our food, and our water. The Big Six energy companies control more than 90 per cent of Britain’s household energy; only four companies control 76 per cent of food sales, and private companies control water in England and Wales.
The power of big business is not only a problem in Britain. Around the world big business has taken more control of politics. New ‘free trade’ deals could take more power from national parliaments and give more power to businesses. This is through making public services private, weakening rules and regulations, and giving businesses more powers to sue governments in court.
On Saturday 25 April 2015, people will take action in more than 400 places around the world on Global Trade Day to save our democracies and stop the new trade deals. In Britain people will protest against the EU-US trade deal, TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). TTIP could make it difficult for parliament to look after our health, our environment, and our public services. TTIP could also give businesses more control over making new laws.
It is certain that TTIP could kill our democracy faster. If you are worried about the election, or if you want more choices, join the protest to stop TTIP.
It is not necessary for big businesses to have all the power. In Southern Europe parties such as Syriza and Podemos are popular now and they show how people and not big business can have power. Around the world, from Germany to Puerto Rico, people have shown how we can take back control of our energy with plans for sustainable and democratic energy.
Of course the result of the general election is important. But if we want a democratic society, it is time to take power back from big businesses and give people control of their lives.
Morten Thaysen works with Global Justice Now, Fuel Poverty Action, and Reclaim the Power. He tweets as @viabank.