So, the Punch and Judy Show — otherwise known as the Newfoundland and Labrador election — is over. It high-lighted the centre-rightand the far right duking it out in fine fashion, slagging and sloganeering. Honestto God, it’s enough to put you right to sleep.

It all rang as hollow as ever, both sides promoting their individualvariations of an essentially pro-business agenda, the voters blinded by thespectacle, totally oblivious to the ventriloquist, the mighty fist of big biz,manipulating both dummies from behind the scenes.

Newfoundlanders were promised a change — a new approach,“real” leadership. Theway to achieve it? “Run the province like a business,” says Danny. Boy, that’s refreshing. I can’t wait for all the profits from this littlebusiness venture to trickle down into my pocket.

Williams’ business plan might be a more extreme approach but it is nothing new. Takingcare of business made Newfoundland what it is today.

Economics based on fundamental business principles is the framework for theorganization of western society. This is a model which, as any grade 10economics textbook will tell you, upholds self-interest as its driving force,and competition as its engine. It is based on the premise of scarcity — thatthere is never enough to go around. It unabashedly acknowledges the gaping chasmbetween winners and losers as the reality of progress.

Decimated resources and uprooted communities are not an unfortunateconsequence of “bad deals.” They are the inevitable byproduct of economicsgoverned by a business agenda.

The priorities of running a business are diametrically opposed to those ofrunning a government. In any business venture, the prime directive, and theprimary legal responsibility of any CEO, is to maximize profit for corporateshareholders. We like to believe that government, on the other hand, isconcerned with providing the necessities of life to all of its citizens.

In business, anything which contributes towards making a profit for investorscounts as having value, while anything which does not is regarded as an“externality.” Forests, for example, which do nothing but provide habitat forcountless animal species, prevent soil erosion and flooding and provide oxygenfor the planet are considered externalities until they can be logged and turnedinto money. People are externalities until they can be exploited as labour.

Likewise, at the macro-economic level, anything which involves the exchange ofmoney is counted and contributes to the Gross Domestic Product and economic growth, while activitieswhich do not generate cash flow receive little or no attention.

In modern-day economics, GDP is God. It is almost universally upheld as theprimary indicator of well-being. During Roger Grimes’ campaign, he often braggedof Newfoundland leading the country in economic growth under Liberal leadership.

But as it has become blatantly obvious here, GDP and economic growth haveabsolutely nothing to do with the well-being of Newfoundland communities. Many activities which contribute to GDP are not good for people orthe environment, and many things which are good for people and the environmentdo not contribute to GDP. The biggest of big businesses — weapons manufacturingand the fossil fuel industry may contribute billions to GDP globally, but aredetrimental to human and environmental health. Self-sufficient agriculture,clean water and unpaid work however, do not generate wealth and therefore arenot counted as contributing to the economy.

After the collapse of the cod fishery in the early 1990s, Vic Young, CEO of Fishery Products International, wasvoted “entrepreneur of the year” after selling ocean-raping trawlers to Namibia,reaping record profits for shareholders.

The ocean doesn’t count when it’s empty. Neither do devastated communities andneither do you.

We’re all externalities now — gone the way of the cod.

Danny’s solutions to our problems have been acquired over 30 years inbusiness. “Just as they worked in the private sector, they will work ingovernment,” he says.

While poo-pooing Grimes’ GDP stats out of one side of his mouth, he statesthat his priority is to “grow the economy” and “orient new spending to areasthat enhance economic growth.”

Danny wants to “put the province’s fiscal house in order” through deficitreduction — that same old right-wing excuse for selling off public services.The “new approach” is sooo nineties.

As Marilyn Waring, David Suzuki and others have noted, the word economycomes from the Latin economia which means “to look after the house.” This is aprofoundly different organizing principle from running a business. Looking after the house means everyone gets enough to eat; everyone getsmedicine when it’s needed; everyone gets an education and a viable future.Taking care of business first turns the house upside down.