Business is an important part of our economy – and our society – and business leaders, who are assumed to know about it, are usually listened to with great respect.

Most people, however, recognise that business leaders are not likely to be impartial commentators on public affairs. They all too evidently have "their own axe to grind".

They will, on the whole, be quite keen on profits and capital gains, but thy won't be so fond of taxes or trade unions or workers' rights or higher wages.


In the wider political landscape, they will usually locate themselves in the camp that regards the market as infallible and therefore not to be challenged, and that believes that the government should not concern itself with those things that the market cannot or will not do – nor, they think, should the government intervene when the market produces outcomes that are unfair or that leave some of our fellow citizens behind.

We saw many of these attitudes and prejudices manifested in last year's election campaign. It is a fair bet that the outcome of that election was not the one that most business leaders would have preferred.

But whereas most people, even if they didn't like the election result, will have learned to live with it, on the principle that in a democracy "you win some, you lose some", many business leaders have apparently decided to carry on the fight. We hear every day further evidence of the efforts they are making to roll back the tide.

Most economic commentators agree that the economy is doing pretty well, and is likely to carry on doing so. Perhaps the only cloud on the horizon is Donald Trump's "trade war".

But business leaders have decided to ignore the experts and to create a new obstacle to continuing prosperity.

We are constantly told that business leaders "lack confidence" in the economic future. It is as though they are grieving over the loss of a National government that had tilted the playing field so decisively in their favour.

They say this with such regularity that it has become an economic factor in its own right. The danger is that they will start to believe their own propaganda and that it will lead them to delay or abandon future investment with the result that there will be fewer jobs and less output.

No one expects them to be cheerleaders for the new government, but we are entitled to expect from them more than regurgitated political prejudice. It is almost as though they claim the right to have a second crack at the election result, on the basis that – even if they couldn't win the popular vote – they are within their rights to try to negate its outcome. Political preferences should not be a substitute for accurate economic analysis.


There is a further danger – that the new government, intent as it is on remedying the mistakes made over the previous nine years but fearful that the business response will be a further "loss of confidence" - will be deterred from making good the underfunding that has left us with inadequate housing, an increase in child poverty, a health service that cannot keep the vulnerable safe, and an environment that is seriously at risk.

As the news every day demonstrates, we desperately need a government with the courage to tackle these neglected problems without delay. The last thing we want is timidity, with decisive interventions not pursued for fear that business leaders will not approve of a proper use of government's ability to make good the market's failures.

It is sadly true that government of the left are all too often knocked off course by fear that, by doing what is necessary and valuable, they will be attacked by the business community. Let us hope that the present government is made of sterner stuff.

What about, for example, emulating the great Michael Joseph Savage, whose Labour government in the 1930s dragged us out of the Great Depression ahead of the rest of the world and built thousands of state homes, financed by credit issued by the Reserve Bank?

Measures such as these may not please business, but both business and the rest of us would be better off if they were implemented.