How should we define the role of policymakers in improving the efficiency of the economy’s primary participants? Here are lessons form the first time business had a definitive say in politics.
Recently, a journalist friend of mine obtained an internal memo sent by one of the new-generation banks to their staff, ordering them not to engage in politics in any form, or donate to political parties. Jude Feranmi, until recently, the national youth leader of KOWA, was forced out of his job at a blue chip firm, because of his involvement in politics, an involvement which did not affect his work output in anyway.
Events over the last three years have shown that approach to be not only short-sighted, but actually suicidal as discussions about the appropriate role of the government in the economy have begun to dominate the business community.
It is worth reflecting on some of the lessons we can glean from the first time in history when an emerging economic class decided that it was in their pecuniary interests to have an active say in the political direction of their country. It all began with a political and religious crisis in 17th Century England.
During his four-year reign, King James II became directly involved in the political battles between the concept of the divine right of kings and the political rights of the Parliament. James’s greatest political problem was his Catholicism, which set him against the two dominant political parties in England. At the time, religion was a polarising issue because of the Protestant Reformation which had divided Europe between the rich Catholic monarchies of France and Spain, and the ascendant Protestant economies of England, the Dutch Provinces and Sweden. France was the pre-eminent military power but had been unsuccessful in subjugating the Dutch, the commercial superpower of the time.