If you are of adult age, do you ever ask yourself if the society you live in is better than the one you grew up in? At my vintage, I would have to say yes, but then I have the advantage of longevity, meaning my answer to the question can be measured over a long period.
In a material sense, everything is better. Public transport is better than what I used as an adult. The sporting facilities are better. Homes are built better. Everything would seem to be better. Our roads are. Airline services are much improved. More Australians travel the world than ever before.
Our motor vehicles are so advanced that they will soon drive for you. Sanitation has dramatically improved since I was a lad. A sudden rush in the advancement of technology has created a more affluent society. Health care has remarkably improved, as has education. The internet has changed the way we live, think, and communicate.
Science has extended my lifespan with the most staggering achievements, and they are embraced, recognised and enjoyed by all sections of society. On average, we even live longer.
Yes, as I say “materially,” Australia is a better place.
So how are we doing as a society? All the inquiries and Royal Commissions connected to us as a society would suggest something is drastically wrong. The Royal Commission into Banking revealed a culture of greed within several Australian financial institutions that financially ruined thousands of ordinary people. Of the commissioners’ many recommendations, not much has been done.
The Royal Commission into Aged Care told us that Australia’s quality and safety were substandard. It is said that thousands have died.
Domestic violence and the rape of women occurs every week. “Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability is rife” and Aboriginal deaths in custody continue unabated today.
We are one of the most technological nations on earth. However, in terms of social progress on matters of great moral importance, we are backwards in our thinking.
The term “authoritarian populism” is often associated with far-right conservative parties; it has also been used to describe the Abbott, Turnbull, and Morrison governments. They are people with their own elite special interests who govern for those who have. They project an authoritarian way in which they manage government together with a “know your place” attitude. They also exhibit a “we know what’s best for you” perspective in their leadership and policymaking.
It is said that thousands have died from the Robodebt fiasco and many more in aged care.
In terms of policy decisions, the sports rorts affair has created inequality. The Government’s unashamed bias toward private schools creates a class society and inequality in education.
Allowing political donations creates an unfair playing field. The buying of land at bargain prices that filter back to donors is corruption at its worst.
Morrison’s slogan: “A fair go for those who have a go” implies that some welfare recipients didn’t deserve the benefits they were getting.
Morrison’s authoritarian packed punitive policy plan has blossomed since the election.
The constant deliberate attempts to lower the wages is nothing more than an effort by the Government to reduce the standard of living for ordinary workers and should be combatted with whatever means available.
I concede that Australia is an excellent place in which to live. We are doing well by many economic measures, but while many have disproportionally benefited from our decades of growth, our poverty levels have also risen. There are those who have and those who have not.
We have more millionaires than ever before, but we are literally going backwards on the side that we might call social progress. Progress, as such, is no longer used as a term to describe social change.
Does the average citizen experience equality? Are they punished if they don’t conform to the recent economic models?
Have our First Nations People benefited from our new prosperity? Recent data on social inclusion show visible flaws in our social cohesion and assimilation.
Some key facts on wealth inequality:
These figures from ACOSS show that income and wealth inequality in Australia were rising before COVID-19.
- “Average wealth is relatively high and now exceeds $1 million for the first time ($1,026,000). Of this, 39 per cent is the main home, 21 per cent is superannuation, 20 per cent is shares and other financial assets, 12 per cent is investment real estate, and 9 per cent is other non-financial assets such as cars.
- However, wealth is distributed extremely unequally. The average wealth of the highest 20 per cent of wealth-holders is $3,255,000 – over 90 times the wealth of the lowest 20 per cent (with just $36,000).
- The wealthiest 20 per cent hold almost two-thirds of all household wealth (64 per cent), more than all other households combined.
- From 2003 to 2017, the average wealth of the highest 20 per cent grew by 68 per cent compared with 6 per cent for the lowest 20 per cent. This divergence has been driven by the asset types held by the top 20 per cent: investment property, superannuation and shares. Eighty per cent of financial assets like shares and property investment are held by the highest 20 per cent of wealth-holders.
- At the bottom of the wealth ladder, the most valuable asset holdings of the lowest 20 per cent are ‘other non-financial assets’ such as cars (48 per cent of their wealth holdings) and superannuation (38 per cent). At the top of the ladder, the wealthiest 20 per cent hold relatively less of their wealth in the main home (34 per cent) than those in the middle, and more of it in shares and other financial investments (26 per cent) and investment property (15 per cent).
- The average superannuation wealth of the highest 20 per cent is $496,000 – nine times that of the lowest 20 per cent ($58,000). The top 20 per cent hold 60 per cent of the value of superannuation holdings.”
What statistics never show, however, is that we live in a failed system. Capitalism does not allow for an equitable flow of economic resources. With this system, a small privileged few are rich beyond conscience, and almost all others are doomed to be poor at some level.
What conservatives have never achieved is a satisfactory marriage between our economics and our social progress.
Capitalism has failed because it has no understanding of society.
Culturally, our society has become a herd of self-loving narcissistic animals who want everything without questioning if they need it. Children have no idea of the difference between manners and civility. Possessions equate to materialism, so they are good for us.
Economic success, if used wisely, can benefit social progress, but if used only to benefit those who have, then it is useless. It can improve the wellbeing of a country only if it increases equality of opportunity and equality generally.
There is a growing awareness among thinkers “that economics alone” doesn’t measure a country’s success. Many thoughtful observers have highlighted the “limits of economic success as a proxy for wellbeing.”
In Australia, we have a government that measures social progress entirely on the success or otherwise of its economic policies.
Our moral landscape still occupies the darkness of unemployment, inequality and economic unfairness.
All our thinking on wellbeing, intellectual enlightenment and moral fairness has not advanced any understanding of the purpose in our being or the reason for our existence. Or, indeed, knowing the difference.
Substantial and worthwhile economic change often comes with short-term controversy, but the pain is worth it for the long-term prosperity of all.
My thought for the day
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