In December last year, before the government released MYEFO or the budget giving credence to the agenda we all anticipated with dread, before we repealed the mining and carbon taxes, before we went to war or started selling everything we own to lay thousands of kilometres of bitumen, when I was much more scared of Abbott than anyone in a burqa (still am..by far), I wrote an article about the role of government. It was largely based on an essay that I had read titled Responsibilities of Government.
After twelve months of an Abbott government, and considering where we are at now, I would like to revisit what I considered important at the time.
“The government of a democracy is accountable to the people. It must fulfil its end of the social contract. And, in a practical sense, government must be accountable because of the severe consequences that may result from its failure. As the outcomes of fighting unjust wars and inadequately responding to critical threats such as global warming illustrate, great power implies great responsibility.”
“The central purpose of government in a democracy is to be the role model for, and protector of, equality and freedom and our associated human rights. For the first, government leaders are social servants, since through completing their specific responsibilities they serve society and the people. But above and beyond this they must set an ethical standard, for the people to emulate. For the second, the legal system and associated regulation are the basic means to such protection, along with the institutions of the military, for defence against foreign threats, and the police.”
“Government economic responsibility is also linked to protection from the negative consequences of free markets. The government must defend us against unscrupulous merchants and employers, and the extreme class structure that results from their exploitation.
Governments argue that people need to be assisted with the economic competition that now dominates the world. But the real intent of this position is to justify helping corporate interests . . . siding against local workers, consumers and the environment.”
“Another general role, related to the need for efficiency, is the organization of large-scale projects. It is for this benefit that we accept government involvement in the construction of society’s infrastructure, including roads, posts and telecommunications, and water, sewage and energy utilities. Further, giving government charge over these utilities guarantees that they remain in public hands, and solely dedicated to the common good. If such services are privatized, the owners have a selfish motivation, which could negatively affect the quality of the services.
That such assets should have public ownership is expressed in the idea of the “commons.” They should be owned by and shared between the members of the current population, and preserved for future generations.”
“Indeed, while we of course still need a means of defence, including against both external and internal (criminal) aggressors, it seems clear that our greatest need for protection is from other institutions and from the abuses of government itself, particularly its collusion with these other institutions. (Many of the needs that we now have for government are actually to solve the problems that it creates.)”
It didn’t really need a crystal ball to predict our demise. Is there any hope to inform the electorate in time to avoid repeating the mistake of 2013?