[governance] Parminder's exchange with Bertrand

Parminder parminder at itforchange.net
Wed Mar 3 02:56:14 EST 2010

Jeremy Malcolm wrote:
> On 03/03/2010, at 12:42 PM, Parminder wrote:
>> I agree with Milton's doubts whether the MS framework contributes 
>> anything new (in a positive sense) for organising our political 
>> systems. What does the term stakeholder groups bring in beyond what 
>> we already know as 'interest groups', a basic and a widely used 
>> concept  of  representative democracy. Unless those arguing for 
>> MS-ism as the basic new governance form clearly articulate a response 
>> to this question, it is difficult to go any further in this discussion.
> It can be justified on the basis that each of the stakeholder groups 
> draws its legitimacy from a different source.  For governments, it is 
> their democratic representation of their citizens; for the private 
> sector, it is that free markets offer superior efficiency in the 
> distribution of goods and services; and civil society promotes 
> substantive values for their own sake, including transnational values 
> for which governments can claim no democratic mandate.

Only (real) people's interests are sources of political legitimacy, not 
ideas and beliefs like 'real markets offer superior efficiency in the 
distribution of goods and services'. Ideas and beliefs do however get 
enshrined in constitutions etc but that is a different level of 
political authority. For this reason, only entities like governments, 
who are elected, and civil society bodies that represent interests of 
different groups of (real) people, have political legitimacy.

Now, even if for the sake of argument if we agree that abstract ideas 
like 'markets offer superior efficiency in the distribution of goods and 
services' should have people representing them at policy tables, two 
problems come up.

(1) There are counter different ideas, even in the economic field while 
many many more outside. One can never be sure which one should be 
represented, and by whom and how much. There could be the idea that 
centrally planned systems offer best resource allocation, or mixed 
systems do that best (you would know that upto 50 percent of GDP of 
developed countries is spent by governments, in creation of public goods 
as well as in redistribution). Should all of them be given equal (?) 
space on the policy table. If so, how? Also, arent these different 
ideas/ ideologies already represented in different kinds of governments, 
political parties (from right to left), and also civil society groups?

(2) Perhaps even more importantly, it is a wrong belief that reps of big 
business represent interests of 'free markets'. Faster we disabuse 
ourselves of this notion the better. They represent shareholder value - 
simple and clear, and would be as happy to get it through non-free 
monopolistic markets, as most big business often do, more so in digital 
arena, as from free markets.

Therefore the notion that big business should be present, in the huge 
mass and force that they are present in MS bodies, because they 
represents the ideal of 'free markets' is patently untenable.

> But at the end of the day I agree with Avri that largely it is largely 
> a pragmatic thing, because the three (arguably more) stakeholder 
> groups were formally recognised at WSIS, so why not let's run with 
> that while it helps us, without assuming it is either a panacea or a 
> fundamentally new paradigm of governance.
To that pragmatism I too agree and subscribe. But that should not 
preclude engaged social analysis of what MS systems in their actual 
operation often do. Also, I am quite sure that MS-ism has often been  
presented on this list with the presumptuousness of it being 'a 
fundamentally new paradigm of governance'.

> -- 
> *Jeremy Malcolm
> Project Coordinator*
> Consumers International
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