Column: Who’s left, what’s right?

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Published: October 28, 2015 12:42:06 AM

The pendulum of change swinging too far to the right has brought us to where we are today.

I recently read a wonderful phrase that seems like it’s been around a long time:

Your politics, like your heart, should be slightly left of centre.

The world—or certainly North America—seems to be re-awakening to this almost physiological requirement, to judge most recently by the stunning victory of Justin Trudeau, generally described as leftist, in the Canadian national election. He immediately said he will pull out Canadian troops from the battle against ISIS and will legalise marijuana—classic knee-jerk “leftist” responses. However, as reported in the Financial Times, he has also pledged to run only modest budget deficits for three years to kick-start the economy. He argued that Canada should borrow more, taking advantage of low interest rates, and invest in public transport, affordable housing and infrastructure.

Clearly, the left, at least as defined by Trudeau, is no longer the “socially liberal and fiscally thoughtless” animal that has been so derided over the past few decades by the same people who brought us the movies “2008” and “The New Inequality”.

Looking south from Ottawa, we see, again, the electorate looking for more heart in its government. The strong showing by Bernie Sanders, the only avowed socialist in the US Senate, in the Democratic primary, has helped Hilary Clinton move closer towards her real beliefs. She has already made it clear that she won’t allow any backtracking on the hard-won financial sector reforms. Perhaps she will also take a leaf out of that crazy Donald Trump’s book and prevent US companies from moving their tax domiciles overseas to defraud (in essence if not in name) the Treasury—a recent report showed that as of last year, 285 large US corporations have over $2 trillion as permanently-held assets overseas, enabling them to defer something of the order of $600 billion of taxes.

Actually, the shift to the left has been on the cards in the US for some time now, coming into particular focus after the 2008 meltdown. Barack Obama, in his second term, has been able to leverage this atmosphere to good advantage not only in terms of Obamacare and the nuclear deal with Iran, but, most importantly, in bringing the NRA into the sights of the majority of Americans who are saddened and disgusted with the accelerating number of gun crimes in the US. Witness Hilary’s forthright attack on the gun lobby, something that was unheard of in an election campaign even four years ago.

While it isn’t a done deal yet, most of the smart money is on Hilary to be the first woman US President in 2016. Assuming she does succeed, she will be joining the already wonderful list of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, US Fed Chair Janet Yellen and Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF, to create a world run by women—and about time too.

Indeed, women are rapidly becoming the force to reckon with. In 2015, 27 women CEO’s in the US control stock market capitalisation of over $1 trillion; Malala Yousafzai, the 18-year-old Pakistani girl who jointly won last year’s Nobel Peace Prize is arguably one of the most immediately influential Nobel Prize winners in recent times; and while women continue to be under-represented in most lists—Fortune magazine’s list of the 50 most influential people in the world includes only 13 women—it is increasingly clear that a sign showing the way to the toilets at the offices of one of my favourite clients is onto something. It reads:

Men left, women are always right

While there will doubtless be many who disagree with me—though, in these increasingly politically correct times, few will have the courage to mouth off—and point to the relatively small number of women scientists, mathematicians, football players and the like, I would, rather than getting into any discussion, simply ask them to train their sights squarely on prisons around the world and point out that women are hugely under-represented in prison populations.

This means, critically, that women understand how to live within the law, even when that law is often horrifyingly skewed against them. As women take charge, we can expect fundamental changes in the social order, including in some of the more horrifying laws that perpetuate prejudice against women. Of course, it will take time but then political cycles always do. Indeed, the last time women—or, more correctly, one woman—took charge of world affairs, things had lurched too far to the left. Maggie Thatcher immediately saw the problem and, undeterred by anything, turned good housekeeping into a set of strict and stern policies that, in time, shifted the global economic path. That her approach was distorted by the socialist forces of rigged capitalism is a tragedy, but, perhaps, it was simply the pendulum of change swinging too far to the right that has brought us to where we are today.

So, welcome ladies. And thank you in advance.

The author is CEO, Mecklai Financial

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