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Our greatest failure has been the decline of our democracy

When this corrupt conservative reign of appalling governance ends, as it must, and the COVID-19 virus has been erased – in the aftermath we will come to the realisation that everything must change. Not just Australia, but the world.

In particular, the way in which we conduct our politics.

Conservatives will be hard-pressed to explain how the science of climate that discovered our planet is overheating and threatening our existence is somehow different (and unbelievable) to the science that discovered a virus that also threatened great destruction.

We will also grasp the understanding that our current monetary system doesn’t work. Capitalism has failed because it has no understanding of society.

Capitalism matched to a government that is society sympathetic could work. One that has the common good at the centre of its philosophy.

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.

It cannot measure our humanness and its intercourse with economics. It only measures black and white or profit and loss. It does however measure greed.

“The gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages… It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom or our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.” (Robert F. Kennedy).

In this current crisis governments have had the very unique example of human health colliding with monetary systems and billions of dollars will have to be spent on a peoples’ health and propping up our financial systems.

It does, however, give the world an opportunity to pause and question whether capitalism without government regulation and greed without conscience should form a part of a modern world economy.

“Like moving mountains,” I hear you say. Well yes, to a degree, but a renaissance is possible.

We dislike and resist change in the foolish assumption that we can make permanent that which makes us feel secure. Yet change is in fact part of the very fabric of our existence.

Three weeks ago Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers advocated that the government deliver a social wellbeing budget, including environmental outcomes alongside traditional financial indicators in the nation’s books.

He was very serious about it.

Extending it further it would give government the opportunity to wean itself off the multitude of ways it opens for the rich and privileged to reduce their tax and make companies pay tax and for companies not to receive subsidies unless they could demonstrate a return for the taxpayer.

All Jim Chalmers got for his educated suggestion was a decent serve from Josh Freydenberg, reported Katherine Murphy:.

“Now I want you to picture this alternative,” Frydenberg said. “The member for Rankin is about to deliver his first wellbeing budget. He walks in, barefoot, into the chamber … robes are flowing, incense is burning … beads in one hand and speech in the other … gone are the seats, gone are the benches … and in their place, meditation mats for all, Mr Speaker … hugs for all, Mr Speaker”.

Besides an apology to those Hindus he had offended he ended up with egg all over his face when he found himself making decisions that, had they gone into the usual May budget, would equate to a wellbeing humanist socialist budget.

Of course he won’t admit to it but his rolling fiscal stimulus is an emergency wellbeing budget. More so because the regular budget has been put back until October. (A scandal in itself)

Wellbeing budgets can be refined over time as objectives and priorities are decided but at the core of there intent should be a fairer distribution of the countries wealth and equality of opportunity both economically and educationally. Economics must touch base with society.

If the conservative President Abraham Lincoln was looking over my shoulder he might repeat one of his famous quotes:

“Labour is prior to and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labour, and could never have existed if labour had not first existed. Labour is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

As I said at the beginning, these current tragic events have given us cause to reflect on our economics and our wellbeing but we also need to address the sort of democracy we want to be and the society that overlays it.

We must ask ourselves if we are content with the narcissistic, self-interested dog eat dog individualistic, stuff my neighbour, greed is good society we have now or can we dare for the want of something superior.

Will the events of this Australian summer, as ongoing and dreadful as they are, be the catalyst that might wake us from the political malaise that has bogged us down in a quagmire of narcissism? It’s the individual first second and third.

Every part of society, when you think about it, has been indoctrinated with a nefarious, conservative me first. Attitude that has seen the common good almost vanish.

“Is it not possible to hope that there are some people of integrity who might form a centrist party dedicated to honest government for all and the principles of “from each according to her/his ability, to each according to her/his need”? (Origin uncertain).

There will of course be various views as to what comprises a society. Here are mine (you may find them a touch idealistic, but that’s just my manner):

Simply put, my society Incubuses a collective of people who have a desire to express themselves in every human endeavour. A collective who have at the very centre of there being aspirations to express their humanity, work, aspirations, spirituality, art, poetry and play with the richest possible diversity.

My society would have empathy instilled in their learning. Common good at the centre of their politics regardless of ideology.

This common good with equality of opportunity for all would be enshrined in its constitution.

A society where one’s sexual preference or gender is not a judgement upon your character and the colour of your skin says nothing about you other than perhaps your geographical place of birth.

The common good, or empathy for it, should be at the centre of any political philosophy. However it is more likely to be found on the left than the right.

My society advances the right of the individual to pursue whatever desires he/she has including the pursuit of wealth, which would only be regulated by the principles of the collective common good.

In other words, everyone is entitled to an equitable share of society’s wealth.

Freedom of expression would be guaranteed.

An enlightened society in which the suggestion that we need to legislate ones’ right to hate another person is considered intellectually barren.

Health and welfare of all would be at the forefront of its common-good philosophy.

Sacrosanct for all and access to treatment would be assured.

Most importantly, the principle that we should treat others in the same manner as we expect them to treat us would be indelible in the mind of every citizen.

My society would have a healthy respect for science over myth and mysticism, but at the same time recognise that each individual has a right to express their individual spirituality in their own way so long as it doesn’t corrupt the aspirations of ‘commongoodism’.

My society that would be judged by its welcoming, and the treatment it provides for its most vulnerable citizens.

Accessibility to the law regardless of stature or wealth would be available to everyone.

In democratic societies (the best – or least bad form of government) our herding instincts are realised by the election of leaders who form government.

A ‘fitness to serve’ stipulation would seek a clause in our constitution so as to as much as possible guarantee the most qualified serve in our parliament.

The rise of narcissism and inequality and the demise of compassion illustrate the state of the world.

My ideal society would be one that acknowledges that a group mentality advances society better than dictatorial individuality.

If we are to live in a democracy then it is the government that decides and regulates the progress and ambitions of society.

Or at least provides the environment in which to do so.

The Liberal Party has always been a party of elites and would bes. The idea that economics and society are intertwined is abhorrent to them. Economics is the domain of the rich and privileged and society belongs to those of class and privilege.

In reality there is very little that is done in the name of progress that cannot be credited in some way to government.

Individual or collective ambition can only be achieved within a social structure built and controlled by a government that is sympathetic to it.

Those of you who follow my daily political mutterings on Facebook will probably know that first and foremost I am passionate about thwarting the decline in our democracy and the corruption that accompanies it. Amid the daily enraged voices of doing over one’s opponent there must be people with a genuine desire to change the way our democracy functions. There has never been a better opportunity.

My thought for the day

The notion that a few privileged individuals can own the vast majority of a countries wealth and the remainder own little is on any level unsustainable, politically, economically or morally.

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34 comments

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  1. Andrew Smith

    Conservative governments merely follow orders and policy direction on behalf of corporate (libertarian) capitalists while Labor governments are constantly under siege due to the perverse influence of US think tanks, mostly within the now global ‘Kochtopus’ network(s); few if any policies promoted by the LNP (via the IPA) are organic let alone original.

    If you want understand Australia and the U.K. one needs to look in the U.S. to find foundations of what we call politics, govt. and democracy.

    Amongst the main outfits is the ‘bill mill’ and lobbying group ALEC American Legislative Exchange Council:

    ‘ALEC provides a forum for state legislators and private sector members to collaborate on model bills—draft legislation that members may customize and introduce for debate in their own state legislatures. ALEC has produced model bills on a broad range of issues, such as reducing regulation and individual and corporate taxation, combating illegal immigration, loosening environmental regulations, tightening voter identification rules, weakening labor unions, and opposing gun control.’

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Legislative_Exchange_Council

    Sound familiar? Also interesting is if you search ‘Australia’ on the ALEC website, a major global news organisation’s Washington correspondent comes up….. easy to guess which news organisation 🙂

    Further, ALEC has become a meeting point for libertarians (including economists), white conservative Christians, fossil fuel oligarchs, Republicans, white nationalists, NRA etc.

    Another summary here:

    ‘Through the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council, global corporations and state politicians vote behind closed doors to try to rewrite state laws that govern your rights. These so-called “model bills” reach into almost every area of American life and often directly benefit huge corporations.

    In ALEC’s own words, corporations have “a VOICE and a VOTE” on specific changes to the law that are then proposed in your state. DO YOU? Numerous resources to help us expose ALEC are provided below. We have also created links to detailed discussions of key issues, which are available on the left.’

    https://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed

  2. Keitha Granville

    It would be nice.
    But I fear that once this latest crisis is over, the conservatives will return to business as usual, and punitive policies to claw back what they have spent will further decimate the working poor to rebuild the mega businesses that will hold all the cards, as most of the small ones will have vanished never to recover. There will be no shining light of realisation that there direction was skewed, no spotting of the bleedin’ obvious.

    You’re dreamin’.

  3. Hotspringer

    Let’s be realistic, the rich didn’t get to be rich by being the sharing caring types; they will not give up their wealth (and the power it brings) without a fight – and they own all the armies and police there is.

  4. Ray Tinkler

    Keitha.

    You only have to listen to Morrison and Co’s rhetoric that a return as quick as they can to all as before is their main consideration. That what he is shaping with his unelected swill are the arrowhead on the shaft he’s going to give us, is unmistakable.

  5. Keith

    People on low wages suddenly without pay are going to find it very difficult between now and 27th April when promised funding will be made available. For some people they will need to go into survival mode prior to the 27th which would mean taking food from shops without paying. We have the wrong government, for the wrong time.

    I believe we are seeing a rehearsal of what can be expected when climate change hits harder; rather than be for a limited time, it will continue. We are getting a small taste of dystopia. Climate change could hit hard in twenty years or fifty years; longer or shorter, depending on how emissions are dealt with after the COVID-19 crisis. We are not sure whether some tipping points have been reached; for example , the current rate of sea ice melting which has ramifications other than sea level rise. During 9/11 with fewer aircraft flying temperatures went up, we can expect the same to happen now. March global temperatures will be interesting. What happens now will have an influence on the future of our children.

    Of interest, an area where most corruption, or overstatement of results of research in science has been found is in the area of medical science. Yet, our conservative politicians kowtow to medical science yet dispute climate science … the LNP try to say they are onboard with climate science but actions speak louder than words.

  6. Terence Mills

    Josh Frydenberg was less that helpful in giving us some basic understanding of what economic measures will be announced today particularly wage subsidies.

    What he did concede was that some measures would require legislative approval from the parliament which will mean that at a parliamentary sitting will have to take place even if it is a ‘skeleton’ sitting.

    For some reason the coalition want to keep the Labor opposition at arms length and will not include them in any decision making at a time of national crisis. Clearly they are doing this for political purposes to keep themselves in the forefront but inevitably they are going to have to convene our parliament before the scheduled date in August.

    A National Cabinet in times of national emergency must have input from the alternative government.

    John Rain, Rein or Reign

  7. Peter F

    “rich beyond conscience” . . . . . . Thank you John

  8. Matters Not

    RE:

    A National Cabinet in times of national emergency must have input from the alternative government

    Might be seen as a backflip – historically speaking, at least. As Mungo reminds:

    There is a precedent: Labor took precisely the same approach in World War II. The party’s great leader, John Curtin, was in minority government in desperate times, but when he formed his war cabinet he was adamant that expanding it beyond his own members was not an option, not negotiable.

    Then as now – it’s more a case of ‘executive’ rather than ‘legislative’ government.

    https://johnmenadue.com/mungo-maccallum-team-australia-on-the-corona-virus/

  9. leefe

    “incubuses”?

  10. ajogrady

    The hallmark of Democracy, the USA, is about to have an election about who has more and who can get the most. A majority of Americans will not vote as they feel that neither party represents them. This is particularly the case for workers and the underprivileged. Once so many are alienated it is not democracy.

  11. Pagnol

    “Like moving mountains”. On the other hand how can the world afford people like Trump and Morrison any longer?

  12. andy56

    you cant degrade what you never really had.

  13. andy56

    if you mean democracy is a vote once every three years, its not a true democracy.
    If you mean one party rules 20 out of 23 yrs, thats not democracy.
    if you mean money buys votes, thats not true democracy.
    if you mean governments do as they please with the refrain “you can vote us out next time”, thats not democracy.
    if you mean most people wanted same sex marriage but the politians where not convinced so spent $150m to prove what everyone already knew, thats democracy?
    if lying and cheating are the norm from our politicians, is that democracy?
    if bullying and under representation is acceptable, is that democracy?
    if survival of the fittest is a politicians main game, is that democracy?
    if a politian shuts down half the country and parliament but keeps himself well fed, is that democracy?

    if half the population is indifferent because of their own stupidity, everyone else has to put up with shit
    decisions, thats democracy as we accept it. The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.

    I say these pigs in our “democracy” are too well fed for our good. Until we bring the bastards into line, democracy is a failed system that we support because we fail to act and vote them out.

  14. Vikingduk

    Our “democracy” is nothing but a whore for sale to the highest bidders. A construct that has had its day along with the politicians that whip this beast to suit their particular ideology, to rule us, to subjugate us, to have us live in fear, isolated within our rather unstable minds. The sanctimonious liar from the shire is in his element now, supreme ruler, the glorious jerk with a smirk, unable? unwilling? to recognise the complete and utter incompetence displayed by this slab of thieves, liars, con artists. Totally morally bankrupt, as are a large proportion of the population, sick in mind and spirit, whinging about being isolated in upmarket hotels, whilst we find it acceptable to send to the gulags refugees. While we lock up a family on Christmas Island. While we watch vital social services cut. All in the name of strong economy.

    Laudable dreams, John, but, I think, never to be, given what we have become as a species. Nature hasn’t finished with us yet. Our years of rapacious greed, our years of destruction, our lack of respect don’t come free, not now, there is a price to pay and nature wants what’s owed.

  15. Jack sprat

    Capitalism 101 the dollar will always trump (pun intended ) morality .

  16. Paul Davis

    Qantas ‘mercy’ flight chartered by Straya to rescue citizens stranded in south america will land in Sydney tomorrow. 260 passengers charged $5000 per seat, gross receipts $1,300,000. More profitable than the usual Lima run i would think…. Nice little earn for Joyce, bit of cream on top of the lazy half billion sling from best mate Morrison a couple of weeks back. Still over 200 Strayans left who couldn’t raise the readies or fit in the one plane… the UK flew their citizens home for £250. Didn’t the cruise ship tourists get a free flight home from Japan? Must have been a better class of Strayans. As is always the case, a crisis provides excellent profit opportunities for the entrepreneurial.

  17. Stephengb

    Well said John.

    By the language and business bias of the government’s emergancy response is clearly all about restoring the status quo.

    “Rich beyond conscience”

    You mean
    Rich beyond obscene

    Andrew Smith talks of ALEC

    I am reminded of the Neoliberal Agenda blue-print, that shocking plan created by Lewis Powell Jnr in his 1971 memo to the American Chamber of Commerce.

    It was the catalyst that created Lobby groups, think tanks, and those elite societies.

    If anyone has not read it, you should, it is a description of where we are right now.

  18. Stephengb

    Meanwhile John, et al,

    The following movement is in sympathy with your preferred society and paves a way for change for the better

    Look up

    https://representus.com.au

  19. Phil

    Very optimistic Mr Lord. Or are you taking the piss? Chairman Mao once said that political power comes from the barrel of a gun. Of course old Mao was correct. The system we live under will not change through long winded platitudes and the banging of begging bowls on the gutter, a gutter of which a lot of us will soon be experiencing. I give it three or four weeks and the US will go up in flames.The nutters in government will put down any dissent with a vengeance never seen before. I am hunkering down with my family and hoping for the best, if you think change is going to come through the ballot box you Sir, are in fairyland. The duopoly that has governed this country since the mists of time, will continue for the foreseeable future.

  20. Aortic

    The last semblance of democracy prevailed when Socrates expounded on his ideas to the waiting crowds who either applauded in approval or left in disgust. Governments, as a result of this present crisis may be forced to recall that we live in a society and not in an economy.

  21. Roland Flickett

    Immediately the Rudd government took office, the dirty tricks started. Remember Utegate, pink batts, the maggot with the Looney Toons name, Godwin Grech?
    Don’t think they will slink away and sulk next time – they have too many bodies buried to settle into ‘respectable opposition’ mode. They can’t afford to sit back and allow an incoming Labor-led government to trawl through their dung heaps. And they have infiltrated and converted all the law enforcement bodies in the land.
    They are not interested in democracy – they won’t stand for it.

  22. andy56

    Terrence, i noticed that Labor first mutes an idea, scott initially poo poos it then implements said idea. I would say labor is leading from opposition. Scott has no idea how bitter his form of leading from the rear is going down with the plebs.

  23. New England Cocky

    There you go again JL, preaching that the world would be a better place if:

    1) people were valued on the creativity of their minds rather than the size of their wallets;

    2) the followers of the “borne to rule” ideology were dispatched to Manus and Nauru without telecommunications or medical assistance;

    3) if empathy between people was valued more highly than competition between individuals;

    4) wealth were fairly distributed between persons and corporations paid the same rates of taxation as PAYG workers.

    Thank goodness for the dreamers for they lead the way to a better world.

  24. Roland Flickett

    Andy56

    The right always resists and denounces Labor initiatives, but claims credit for it if is succeeds (see the Snowy Mountain scheme) or plunders it when it can (see the free university education) until it no longer suits.

  25. Jack Cade

    Phil.

    Some societies are on a knife-edge. Civil war was predicted to occur in the USA if Trump loses the next election, but his utter stupidity exposed by the Corvid-19 virus has made civil disobedience just as likely but for a different reason. Like the Australian ‘stimulus’, the US stimulus gives a shitload to the undeserving and a relative pittance to the needy.
    Polls suggest consistently that the overwhelming majority of under-35s in America are ready and willing to see a ‘Bernie Sanders’ in the White House. The GOP and the Dems seem not to notice, or even care.

  26. Phil

    Jack Cade

    Jack.

    I know and agree with your comments. The Shit is starting to hit the fan in Italy. Having said that, what part of their population is armed is anyone’s guess. Although Italians are passionate about their politics, I don’t think they’re ready for a revolution but who knows? As for Bernie Sanders, it would appear he has although not officially announced, capitulated to that dress makers dummy Joe Biden already???? . Rumours abound at the moment that Andrew Cuomo may be parachuted in to save the day or heaven forbid, another bid by Clinton. What ever they decide nothing will get in the way apart from the people of, business as usual. When the body bags really start piling up and the plebs finally get the message they’re on their own, I think America will make the Rodney King riots look like a child’s birthday party. The UK may well be next. I’m glad I’ve got one foot in the grave, this is all going to end in tears.

  27. Andrew Smith

    Stephengb, Lewis Powell Jr. was also pivotal in the rise of ALEC:

    ‘The Powell Memorandum thus became the blueprint for the rise of the American conservative movement and the formation of a network of influential right-wing think tanks and lobbying organizations, such as The Heritage Foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as well as inspiring the US Chamber of Commerce to become far more politically active.[16][17] CUNY professor David Harvey traces the rise of neoliberalism in the US to this memo.’

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_F._Powell_Jr.

    This same network of think tanks, including the IPA (Atlas Network), are now very much in the orbit of Kochs (who had flown under the radar only 10+ years ago), who are able to have other deep pocketed corporates to fund the same network, campaigns, lobbying, ‘academic’ research, ‘grass roots’ astro turfing efforts etc.

    Amazes me that Australian ‘journalists’ show their own nativism by assuming any policy idea or development, whether Liberal, National or IPA etc. as original and local when a two minute Google search shows otherwise (e.g. IPA’s legislative wish list) at best victims or targets of clever PR in their own ‘insiders’ bubble.

  28. wam

    Lord our first vote was 1961 and ming won. It was so sad but we were rich, plenty of well paid jobs with an education system geared for exams to weedout the workers, bank johnnies and the university types. Menzies ruled despite standing still. Later we found that ironically the communist preferences elected killen.
    Democracy has always been majority 50%+1 for me with the winner being fair to all.
    All my life the labor party has held this principle of fair do your best for all. Menzies was so vicious;y anti-communist that ‘socialist became the rally cry for conservatives and it still is today and he unashamedly put aside his protestant fear of micks to accept santamaria. and the dlp.
    That was democracy from 49 till 72 when .democracy returned centre stage things were done 4 glorious years.
    Till disaster and the right to rule used its power to destroy the new democracy again ironically using a labor man and relying on labor’s natural arrogant trusting stupidity. .QED till hawke., keating and gillard were great for democracy but the lnp vision of democracy rules with gov money freely given to the rich and grudgingly to the poor.

    Keep fit, lord, and isolate.
    ps
    our labor gov has fully briefed the AFP and NTP on quarantine to make the airport experience almost pleasant certainly well organised and informative.we have been overwhelmed by help from friends and neighbours.

  29. Dave G.

    It a truly interesting time,the vast amount of wealth,though poorly distributed,in the world the vast amount of knowledge of all things accumulated over centuries & here it is all under threat from a bug that can only be seen under a microscope.

  30. Paul

    While accountants run business and government with their merciless accounting and the ‘bottom line’ is the driver of all corporate and government decision making there is no hope for society and we are defying humanity itself….

  31. Kronomex

    Democracy, democracy…I know that word means something.
    Now I remember, it’s all to do with free range sausages (and I don’t mean the big royal guard in Carry On Cleo).

  32. wam

    Day 8 quarantine
    David G
    1897 war of the worlds by HG Wells – words
    1939 another Wells had the septic tanks screaming with fear -sounds
    2020 we need a wells because it is now real.

  33. Josephus

    Thatcher said there was no such thing as society. Marx it was of course who said, in 1875: from each according to his ability, to each according to his need. Why be embarrassed to say so?

    Group mentality is hardly superior to collective, consensus or government action as you claim.! Look at Hindu mob rule in India, the Burmese massacre of Moslems, the thirty years war in Europe, the burning of heretics or Jews, and so on and so on.
    Progress comes from governments? Really? Were the suffragettes government ministers?

    Your ideas need to be more carefully thought out, and the texts themselves better proof read, but their indirect espousal of social democracy as practised in earlier years in Scandinavia and other welfare states certainly deserve respect and support. That said, the first welfare state was put in place by the absolute ruler Bismark, who was afraid of communism and the militant workers of the new German state.

    Perhaps have a look at anarchist theory? Its egalitarian ethos and rotating rule would resist corruption and the abuse of power , as we see among the early Christians and much later the Quakers.

    Sadly, in reality greed and violence are more likely to choke us all, selfish and altruist alike. Reread ‘The Lord of the Flies’ and despair.

    Popular armies may now and then bring relief from rich and selfish elites ( the French Revolution for example) but then a new dictator arises (eg Robespierre then Napoleon, who even founded a dynasty). The existentialist writer JP Sartre noted the impermanence of mass revolution in his last work, Being and Nothingness. In a different context Heroclitus had said it all two and a half thousand years earlier, (though we have lost the entire work) : Everything flows, or changes, like a river.

    So perhaps we can only hope, as did an aristocratic French atheist ( d’Holbach) in around 1780: despotism is inevitable on the whole, yet chance may deliver the odd benevolent ruler some time in the future. Meanwhile, suffer.

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