Editor, the Gauntlet,
Re: "Flawed democracy," March 21, 2002,
I was rather disturbed when I read Mr. Young's article. Not only did it display an extremely limited knowledge of the issues concerning the upcoming G-8 conference, it also lacked any worthwhile observations or arguments.
First, Mr. Young attacks the undemocratic nature of interest groups. He states that members of interest groups are not elected and do not represent those they claim to. If Mr. Young had the urge to pick up a high school textbook concerning politics prior to writing his article he would have realized that there is
a very clear distinction between interest groups and political parties--a distinction he is obviously oblivious to.
Interest groups are not intended to be democratic. Members of a particular interest group do not attempt to win an election, instead they strive to shape government policy concerning a single issue. When business leaders meet in order to influence the government are they introduced as card-carrying members of a political party? No, they are introduced members of the business group they represent, as assuming this role will allow them to better fulfil their objectives. The same goes for those opposed to unrestricted free trade. Many are members of political parties but when confronted with this particular issue it is much more effective for them to participate in protest through interest groups.
Mr. Young later makes the insightful observation that "the heads of nations gather peacefully to discuss global cooperation." I simply do not understand this statement. Is he correctly predicting that Mr. Bush will not march into the G-8 meeting armed with a shotgun, and is therefore praising his show of restraint? Or is he expressing his surprise that Mr. Chrétien has not yet instigated a fist fight with Mr. Chirac?
Lastly Mr. Young sarcastically describes free trade as an apocalyptic phenomenon, suggesting of course that the opposite is true. In part he is right. For most Canadians free trade is not apocalyptic, barring of course the thousands of people who have lost their jobs as a result of the Auto Pact being struck down by the World Trade Organization due to the agreement's trade-restrictive nature.
But in poor countries free trade is apocalyptic. For many it is a matter of life and death. In Vietnam, the average daily wage for a Nike employee is $1.60 while the price of three meals is $2.10. In Zimbabwe, costs of free trade have meant a 35 per cent decrease in health spending which has corresponded to twice the number of women dying during childbirth.
Is this not apocalyptic Mr. Young? If you believe not I pity you. But for those in Kananaskis who will take to the streets in protest, it is.
Simon Jude McConnell