British Prime Minister Tony Blair has famously joked that he has trouble finding the on switch for his official laptop computer. Bill Clinton came up with a similar quip for reporters at the launch of his government’s electronic commerce policy statement. This affected naiveté would probably not be a vote winner in a country where a significant section of economic activity was happening in GEMs. Politicians would need to understand the dynamics of electronic markets, including the dizzying speed with which they can respond to events. In October 1997, for instance, the London stockmarket launched its SETs share dealing service with a speech from Chancellor Gordon Brown who, in the course of his remarks, appeared to suggest diminished enthusiasm for European monetary union. As his talk progressed the enormous SETs screen behind him progressively turned red as dealers used their new-found technology to immediately sell shares in companies reliant on the European market. When the frenzy abated, stock prices had been pushed way below their true value. Consumers given similarly fluid markets may conceivably respond in the same way to a report criticizing perhaps a specific make of car. Parliament, like the ruling bodies of Stock Exchanges, would need to decide whether the more illogical aspects of market forces were to be tempered with trading limits. They might, for example, rule that the price of any tangible asset on GEMs is not allowed to drop more than 15 per cent below its previous average in a 24-hour period, to put a brake on panic selling. Alternately they might opt for ‘capitalism red in tooth and claw’. GEMs would not force any ideology on governments, merely give them a new forum in which their convictions can be applied.
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