Opinion: Ebay – Europe is the Politics that Counts

Internet firm Ebay are sending out an email, which I reproduce below, to its registered users, calling on people to sign a petition to support liberal trade and prevent luxury brand manufacturers restricting free trade in their product.

ebay petition

It is an obvious example of the importance of European Union law. It also reminds us how EU jurisdiction in trade law is logical. It is far better for consumers and companies in the 27 states to know that a common set of (economically liberal) laws apply across Europe than have the complication of different laws if they use Ebay (or other popular sites) to buy or sell to someone in another state of the Union. There would be a considerable economic cost.

This petition is a reminder that the EU is a democracy, not the ‘dicatorship’ of Eurosceptic fantasists. The law on this matter, and every matter of European law, is decided by the Council of Ministers and the Parliament. The balance of power tips further in the direction of the Parliament when Lisbon comes into force.

If the EU was a ‘dictatorship’ I doubt an organisation as busy as Ebay would bother collecting this petition.

You also have to ask, do the people who did not vote in the European Parliament elections really have no opinion on whether trade laws like this should take a liberal, socialist, or conservative direction? I think people would have strong opinions on these matters but need to hear more about them from us.

* Antony Hook was a Lib Dem candidate at the recent European Elections.

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29 Comments

  • Anthony is quite right. We need much more of a positive case for the EU in response to the fuckwit little Englanders in the Labour,Tory, Green & USHIT parties.

    The ads going out from the cellphone companies right now about how they “abolished roaming charges” strangely don’t mention that they were forced to do this by the EU, just as the EU legislated to force national telecoms companies such as BT to give competitors access to exchanges, resulting in cheap broadband. Steered through the European Parliament by our own Nick Clegg.

  • I doubt many Eurosceptics would be opposed to this. What they object to are things like the social chapter, working time directive etc.

  • Andrew Suffield 6th Jul '09 - 7:43pm

    Personally, I’m somewhere between the two. I support things like this, but oppose an EU in which an unelected Council of Ministers gets to write the laws and then quietly throw them before parliament for approval without debate. Unfortunately, this is what we have at present. I’m never going to forgive them for putting the software patents directive before the Agriculture and Fisheries council in an attempt to sneak it through while the opposition wasn’t looking.

    I have no objection to the idea that member governments should be able to veto things which they find unacceptable, but I cannot support a body which has as much power as the Council, which routinely follows corporate interests at our expense, and over which I have absolutely no control. Parliament does good work, but the Council (in its current form) has to go. Colour me euroreformist.

    Get rid of that insanity, and a lot of the “eurosceptic” opposition would probably evaporate.

  • Simon Titley 6th Jul '09 - 10:27pm

    @Andrew Suffield – Sadly, Eurosceptic opposition would not “evaporate” if such constitutional reforms took place.

    Euroscepticism is rooted in the prejudices of people who are ‘drawbridge up’ – generally those who are older, less educated and whiter than average; i.e. the demographic least likely to vote Liberal Democrat.

    As pollster Stephan Shakespeare wrote in the Observer (17 April 2005):

    “…there is a new line which separates one side of the electorate from another: recent YouGov research suggests that we no longer range along a left-right axis, but are divided by ‘drawbridge issues’.

    “We are either ‘drawbridge up’ or ‘drawbridge down’. Are you someone who feels your life is being encroached upon by criminals, gypsies, spongers, asylum seekers, Brussels bureaucrats? Do you think the bad things will all go away if we lock the doors? Or do you think it’s a big beautiful world out there, full of good people, if only we could all open our arms and embrace each other? Depending on which side we take, we regard ‘drawbridge up’ people as unpleasant, or ‘drawbridge down’ people as foolish.”

    It is a waste of time trying to appease the ‘drawbridge up’ cohort, partly because such people are beyond reason and partly because every other party (apart from the Greens) is competing on that crowded territory. The Liberal Democrats would be far better off campaigning for their natural constituency, the people who are ‘drawbridge down’.

  • “Euroscepticism is rooted in the prejudices of people who are ‘drawbridge up’ – generally those who are older, less educated and whiter than average”

    I think you will find it is also rooted in anti-socialism. Note how the Tories went from being pro-EU to anti-EU when they began to notice the “social” legislation being proposed. Witness also that the Labour Party’s position switched from anti-Eu to pro-EU about the same time. It is foolish to believe that Euroscepticism is rooted in xenophobia. I suspect most of the anti-EU lobby are hardcore free marketeers in favour of global free trade.

  • This is why the public is so sick and tired of politicians. What you call a democracy is the right of corporations – or, rather, their CEOs – to be heard, and the right for the public to merely buy what they make.

    I downloaded the EU “Online Commerce Roundtable Report on Opportunities and Barriers to Online Retailing”, which discusses the further restrictions to online selling that eBay opposes.

    NOWHERE in the report is any mention made of a consultation with the GENERAL PUBLIC. Individual companies have been consulted, eBay has been consulted, but the public have been COMPLETELY LEFT OUT of the discussion.

    Had Ebay decided the upcoming legislation was in ITS BEST INTERESTS – as opposed to OURS! – eBay, and all the other corporations, would have continued to have kept the public IN THE DARK.

    WHAT KIND OF DEMOCRACY IS THIS?

    The EU is about democracy for corporations ONLY. The public’s role is to merely buy what they make.

    Labour = Liberal = Conservative = CORPORATE/CEO PARTIES.

    I am not a Eurosceptic. I am a Corporate-sceptic!

    (visit reclaimdemocracy dot org, scroll to the bottom of the page, and read “Our Hidden History of Corporations in the United States” – it equally applies to the UK!)

  • In reply to Mark: the public WERE left out. We were not informed, we were not consulted. The CEO of Which? was on the committee, supposedly representing CONSUMERS, not the public – THERE IS A DIFFERENCE! And it was yet another CEO.

    Here is the complete list, since, unlike politicians, I like transparency NOT dirty tricks:

    Ben Verwaayen, CEO of Alcatel-Lucent
    Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH
    John Donahoe, President and CEO of Ebay
    John Elkann, CEO of Fiat
    Roger Faxon, Chairman and CEO of EMI
    Sir Mick Jagger (he’s a “SIR”, everyone bow and courtesy!)
    Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Inc.
    Bernard Miyet, CEO of SACEM
    Thomas Houghton, CEO of Which?

    The whole committee was filled with CEOs, bar one: Mick Jagger – but even this is open to question, as many have called him a smart “CEO” of The Rolling Stones.

    And let’s not forget that CEOs avoid and evade hundreds of billions a year in taxes. These are the people running government now. To all intents and purposes, the public is completely excluded!

  • First, a correction: Thomas Houghton was apparently there to represent the CEO of which?, Peter Vicary-Smith.

    >Marvin: you call the head of Which? a CEO
    >and then talk about CEOs avoiding and
    >evading taxes. Can you point me at the
    >evidence for Which? avoiding and evading
    >taxes?

    I said CEOs, NOT any specific CEOs. CEOs are accusing the public – NOT any specific member of the public! – of theft, so their behaviour is relevant.

    It’s interesting how politicians allow CEOs to accuse the public of theft, but the public is NOT allowed to accuse them of anything. The class system in action!

    CEOs, collectively, avoid and evade – as individuals and acting for their corporations – hundreds of billions each year in tax – FACT!

    If you want me to go through each individual CEO in the world, pay me to do the research.

    EMI Group (the CEO of EMI was on the committee, he joined EMI in 1994 as senior vice president), along with Vivendi Music Group, Sony Music, BMG Music, Warner Music were accused of price fixing by the FTC and most U.S. states in 2002 – they settled out of court. Price fixing is theft of the public’s money.

    I can list CEOs who avoid and evade tax, if you want – if you want me to be THAT pedantic.

    In response to Jock who wrote: “He and his entire campaign is missing the point. CEOs are, as I understand it, people too. They have, as individuals, democratic rights.”

    I have NO campaign. I don’t vote for ANY party. I’m disgusted with politicians!

    CEOs are people, too? Have you NOT heard of conflict of interest? Clearly not! Your agenda is obvious to anyone with eyes.

    And what about THE PUBLIC’S DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS? The government is meant to represent the public NOT CORPORATIONS. That committee was made up almost ENTIRELY of CEOs. The public was excluded.

    This is why the Liberals will never win power. You’re just another Tory party. You’re the opposite of democratic.

  • To add to my post above, when music companies are taken to court for price fixing, the CEOs simply pay out of the corporate coffers – they do not pay personally. Yet, when it comes to people downloading songs without paying for them, these same CEOs are happy to sue individuals for astronomical amounts of money and ruin their entire lives.

    CEOs are at it again, accusing the public of buying their products at an unfair price online, or buying counterfeits, stealing from them the profits they deserve.

    If CEOs can accuse the public of stealing their products, I can accuse CEOs of stealing from the public.

    If I have a campaign, it’s a campaign against a one-sided situation that’s become obscene.

  • @Mark: “But you’re accusing them repeatedly. Aren’t you a member of the public?”

    What is your point? CEOs accuse the public repeatedly – why don’t you complain about that? Music and movie company CEOs want to impose blanket measures on the public – including, possibly, inspection (spying) of every packet of data that passes over our Internet connections – to stop unsanctioned downloads of songs and films. Why should CEOs have a right to treat us ALL like criminals?

    The mistake you make is to believe the CEO of Which? is somehow different to a CEO of a non-consumer organization. The fact is, tomorrow, he could be the CEO of a completely different company. Being the CEO of Which? does not qualify him as a strong consumer advocate.

    For example, from the 2007-2008 Which? annual report, the new chairman of Which? was the Operating Managing Director at Terra Firma Capital Partners, CEO of the airport owner BAA, President of Global Homecare and New Business Development, and spent 23 years at Proctor and Gamble. There is nothing in this individual’s background to qualify him as a strong consumer advocate.

    The government is happy to bend over backwards for biotech CEOs, giving them a say in government. Google, “Biotech Snake Oil: A Quack Cure for Hunger”, originally published by Multinational Monitor. A four-year study by the World Bank and U.N. concluded genetically modified crops have little role to play in alleviating hunger. The CEOs of two prominent biotech companies didn’t like this conclusion, however, so they pulled out of the study and deserted the hungry. The government, however, ignores such evidence.

    The point I was ORIGINALLY making is that the public is NOT being represented, and had eBay not mentioned this new legislation, we would not have known about it.

    eBay is NOT acting as a public servant – it is acting to protect its profits.

    However, British politics is thoroughly corrupt, right to the core, so I hold out little hope for the future.

    This country needs Oliver Cromwell to be resurrected, so that he can, once again, disband parliament, and end the corruption.

  • This is my last comment, because I have no say – only CEOs influence policy! And politicians are nothing but criminals.

    For Jock’s benefit: you seem to think CEOs respect democracy, so I can only assume you have not heard of the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI).

    The MAI was defeated in 1999, but governments plan to implement it piecemeal, and that is, indeed, what the British government is doing. Europe will become one, huge, economic zone vulnerable to such “agreements”. Google:

    “The Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) threatens to turn over powers held by democratically elected governments and their citizens, to international corporations, transnationals and a bureaucracy.”

    Also google:

    “Dangerous treaty (MAI) would threaten laws governing investments, currency, and property”

    and find out more.

    “Imagine an international treaty that empowers foreign corporations and investors to sue governments directly for cash compensation in retaliation for almost any local government policy or action that they allege cuts into their profits.”

    Today, almost every new public building (schools, hospitals, sport centres, etc.) is owned by a corporation. Perfectly good hospitals – public assets! – are knocked down so that new ones can be built owned by a corporation. The railways were supposedly privatised because there was no new money, but what the government didn’t tell us was that it MORE THAN TRIPLED the subsidies to the railways AFTER privatisation. The goal is to open everything up for corporate exploitation. I could go on, but anyone interested – and who has a brain! – can find out the rest for themselves.

    Politicians do nothing but murder people and ruin lives. British politics is nothing but a criminal enterprise.

  • I should have added, the government gave bank CEOs everything they asked for – and look what happend! An economic collapse staved off with hundreds of billions in cash and loan guarantees (the public’s money!), mass unemployment (more public money!), and rising government borrowing (yet more public money!), for which the poorest and most vulnerable in society will pay.

    The public funds the government, pays the wages of politicians, and all politicians do is abuse the public and throw away vast sums of our money. Parasites is word that comes to mind.

    Anger in this country will only mount as the political system continues to serve the interests of the few.

    CEOs are going to bring disaster to a lot of people. Greed comes with a price. When people have nothing left to lose – THEY LOSE IT!

    All I’ve had in response to my posts are sarcastic remarks defending CEOs. You think this is all a damn joke.

    Those involved in politics have no regard for human life. Britian is going to pay dearly for this corruption.

  • “Being the CEO of Which? does not qualify him as a strong consumer advocate.”

    It does in my book – he’s there representing the position of his organisation.

    To say he doesn’t by reference to previous activities is a bit like saying Shami Chakrabarti isn’t an effective advocate for Civil Liberties because she represented people who were less than paragons of virtue when in practice.

  • Here’s someone who, due to stress, LOST IT. CEOs and politicians lack stress because they create a system to benefit themselves and disadvantage and steal from the rest of us.

    The victims this time: a teacher and children.

    “A SCIENCE teacher was being quizzed last night on suspicion of attempting to murder one of his pupils in a classroom full of children.

    “The incident is said to have started when a girl pupil swore at Harvey, saying ‘F*** off, you bald c***”‘. She is then said to have ripped a textbook.

    “Jack [a 14-year-old boy] is said to have intervened and sworn at Harvey.

    “Paramedics found Jack unconscious in a pool of blood in the classroom doorway.

    “One pupil said: ‘He’d been off for the best part of the year. They said the pressure of the job had got to him.

    “Chris Holmes, 19, said: ‘He was an all right teacher and a decent guy.

    “‘He loved getting involved with drama productions. I never saw him lose his rag. He’d shout at you but he never got physical.’

    “One [pupil] described him as ‘one of the best’, and another recalled his ‘great enthusiasm and scientific mind’.

    “A third pupil wrote: ‘He made science fun.’

    http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/2009/07/10/teacher-arrested-over-attempted-murder-of-school-pupil-86908-21507074/

    SOCIETY IS GOING TO HELL, and politicians and CEOs have played no little part in it.

  • For the edification of Jock, I am NOT advocating taking away the democratic rights of CEOs. As citizens of this country, they have EXACTLY the same rights as everyone else.

    However, when a person is acting in the capacity of a CEO, rather than as a “mere” citizen, this changes things.

    First, CEOs have already had their “democratic rights” curtailed – by the legislature! Under the law, CEOs must make money for their companies, NOT show largesse to orphans or champion human rights, for example. They must serve the interests of their investors, and NOTHING ELSE!

    Sounds fine in theory, but what does this mean in practice?

    Let us say a corporation, NiceGuys PLC, is struggling to make a profit. All the other corporations in its industry are using child labour abroad, but the CEO of NiceGuys PLC refuses to do so – he is exercising his democratic rights! Let us further assume that due to the harsh conditions in which these children work and live, most of them die before they reach their eighteen birthday, making it utterly impossible for the CEO of NiceGuys PLC to contemplate offshoring jobs.

    The investors of NiceGuys PLC are very unhappy: the company’s profits have plummeted, and the share price has nose-dived. Industry experts and consultants have given the CEO two choices: offshore jobs or face bankruptcy. The CEO digs in his heels.

    It is a year later, and NiceGuys PLC is no longer around. The CEO is now facing criminal charges for knowingly allowing his corporation to go bankrupt.

    So, Jock, where are the democratic rights of CEOs that you talk about? They either make money for their firm or face imprisonment! A CEO must not KNOWINGLY allow a PLC firm to go bankrupt – he or she must either enter the corporation into bankruptcy because there is NO OTHER CHOICE, or take action to avert insolvency.

    This situation is not too bad if a country has a government that does its job – i.e. protects the democratic rights and freedoms of its citizens.

    However, this situation is made deadly if CEOs who believe in this PROFIT-ABOVE-ALL-ELSE philosophy get involved in politics and become part of government. In this scenario, we would be facing a situation where all our rights – or at least those that are most meaningful to us – may be taken away. There will be no recourse to any elected representatives, as the CEOs, effectively, ARE the government.

    This is why it should be illegal for any corporation to make political donations. This is why CEOs should NOT be allowed to have a vote on governmental decisions, or influence them in any significant way.

    If you don’t believe me, take Alan Sugar, who was welcomed into government with open arms. He compared government ministers to CEOs, saying they are NOT to blame for the recession, just as CEOs are NOT to blame for a business cycle downturn. If government ministers are CEOs, what does that make us? It makes us their EMPLOYEES – who DO AS WE ARE TOLD!

    Funny, I don’t hear Jock screaming about the democratic rights of CEOs to turn their corporations into charities. If Jock had invested his life savings in a company, only to see all his money disappear – due to the CEO donating every penny to charity – Jock would be lining up with all the other investors in a lawsuit, not SHOUTING ABOUT THE CEO’s DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS!!!

    And isn’t it funny how a CEO can be imprisoned for his or her failure to make money, but not for violating human rights. If a CEO wants to exploit child labour or work with dictatorships, he or she can. Economies were meant to serve humans, to make humans happy, but now they increasingly serve corporate interests, with humans subordinated to the profit motive. Human happiness isn’t being measured – only the amount of profits! Let’s dismantle the entire safety net to pay for corporate profits, let’s force those suffering from stress back into work when they’re not ready, let’s have more children knocked unconscious and more people locked up, let’s drive others to suicide (a janitor who rescued a burning man from the WTC towers committed suicide before he was made homeless – in his suicide note, he said he could not face being made homeless).

    Under the terms of the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), if a government bans products made using child labour, animal cruelty, or because they think the products may be harmful (e.g. GM crops), foreign corporations can sue the government for restricting their access to markets. Also, every government service – including education and health care – must be opened up for corporations. Under MAI, we have almost no democratic rights – even minimum wage laws may be overturned.

    This is the nightmare we’re blindly racing towards.

    A final point: despite what Jock thinks, executives are under enormous peer pressure to keep quiet. Speaking out can mean paying a heavy price.

    I used to be a subscriber to BusinessWeek (www.businessweek.com). There was an article written by a man who went from executive to whistleblower. A few company officials were up to no good, so he spoke out. He said he knew that becoming a whistleblower would ruin his career, that no firm would ever hire him again as an executive. Yet this guy is honest, and for that honesty, he has been severely punished.

    You should also read “The Rich Man’s Michael Moore”, published in the Wall Street Journal – http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120371859381786725.html – Warren Buffett threatened to disown an adopted granddaughter for being too vocal about how the rich have loaded the economic dice in their favour.

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