I've always found the idea of a "business community" rather strange.
Why, when the capitalist imperative requires that all firms are engaged in a permanent death tussle with their competitors, do we unquestioningly accept that there exists some kind of monolithic business community?
Surely, there are relatively few policies that are good for all businesses? You could argue that even something as uncontroversially "pro business" as a cut in corporate tax rates would spell bad news for those companies that rely on the public sector as their main customer.
Of course, as Margaret "there's no such thing as society" Thatcher observed you could make this argument about any form of community.
But I'd suggest that while we tend to accept that most social communities are made up of numerous individuals, we are much less inclined to accept that the business community is as loosely defined and prone to conflict and contradiction as any human grouping.
So it was a welcome surprise this weekend to see 13 of the UK's top business leaders come out and express categorical opposition to plans for a third runway at Heathrow.
As they noted in their letter to The Times: "To say that all those from the business community support the third runway is wrong. It is a misconception and one that we wish to put right."
For too long, the government and BAA were able to point to the economic advantages that would arise from airport expansion and suggest, unchallenged, that the "business community" was behind the proposals.
But who was this "business community"?
It certainly wouldn't contain Eurostar or any of the other train companies in the UK, nor would it be likely to feature those emerging green businesses who regard efforts to cut carbon emissions as their top priority. Many of those small firms in West London who would have to put up with increased noise and air pollution may also be reluctant to be counted as part of this "community", while an insurance sector that expects to see costs soar in the coming decades as a result of climate change may be similarly conflicted.
In fact, this "business community" always consisted of little more than the aviation industry, the CBI, and those Old School multinationals who bought the government's claims that Heathrow expansion would deliver net economic gains.
And now we learn that even that community is seriously fragmented.
The interesting thing about the 13 signatories of The Times letter is that they could hardly be described as the usual green business suspects. In fact, many of their businesses are heavily reliant on the aviation industry.
Taking just two examples, Justin King's Sainsbury's still ships in vast quantities of food each year using air freight, while James Murdoch's Sky must see thousands of man hours wasted each year with its reporters stuck in airport queues.
Yet these firms, along with 11 others, have clearly concluded that the business benefits that would arise from a third runway would be far outweighed by the costs. It would be interesting to know how many other firms have reached the same conclusion.
At a time when the Australian government is this week moving to postpone the introduction of a carbon cap-and-trade scheme at the behest of the "business community", it is important to remember that when it comes to climate change policies the global "business community" is far less coherent and united than the mainstream media suggests.
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