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The state and the economy

By Evan Jones

Right-wing governments splashing the cash in gay abandon – what gives?

Sydney Morning Herald journalist Matt Wade finished a recent article with: “In the shadow of a pandemic, we’ll have to get used to a bigger role for government in the economy”.

Quite, and not for the first time. Although perhaps what Wade meant is ‘a different role for government in the economy’. Residents of New South Wales are familiar with the over-arching activism of successive Liberal-National governments in this State since 2011 in plundering public property and in privileging developers, miners and rapacious elements of the rural sector. In Sydney, infrastructural monstrosities rule unhindered. More of this we don’t need.

Similarly, Americans are all too familiar with the leviathan that is the military-industrial-intelligence complex that not merely destabilises the globe but impoverishes the American millions who foot the bill.

The evolving imprint of the state

Behind Wade’s suggestion is an issue of historical import. Hark back two hundred years in Britain, experiencing industrialisation and urbanisation at a furious pace. What were the forces of ‘free enterprise’ doing at the time? Employing people under intolerable conditions and housing them in spec-built tenements in intolerable conditions.

From such conditions there arose dysentery, typhus, typhoid fever, smallpox, whooping cough, measles, diphtheria, scarlet fever, tuberculosis, and … (Asiatic!) cholera. Infant mortality raged. Herbert Spencer was hardly born, Darwinism a future creed, so time was not yet ripe for Social Darwinists to posit the inevitability and justice of the survival of the fittest, although the Rev Thomas Malthus was much quoted in support of that cause. Instead we got the consummate bureaucrat Edwin Chadwick’s 1842 Report on the Sanitary Conditions of the Labouring Classes.

Chadwick highlighted, predictably, that suffering differed across the classes, but he also highlighted that the privileged classes were not immune. Horrors. Meanwhile the denizens of ‘the private sector’ were in their counting houses and reposing on estates acquired from an impoverished gentry. Here was a problem of the collective, and the entity evolving to pursue the collective interest, the state, had to step into the breach. By default.

This was a period that some economic historians had designated ‘the age of laissez-faire’, but there never was such a period. The state was dismantling timeworn structures at the behest of an ascendant bourgeoisie. Yet before that task was completed the state was confronted with problems arising structurally from the new order.

In 1833 there was legislated the Factory Act, which restricted the use of child labour in textile mills. That in itself was the product of thirty years of manoeuvring, and a foretaste of more factory Acts to come.

Since that time, the state has never ceased to pick up the pieces, direct traffic of a wayward economy and society. Its bailiwick – economic development and infrastructure, economic crises, natural calamities, scams of every description, class conflict, social deprivation, war and the aftermath of war, etc.

For example, in the late nineteenth century some governments instituted compulsory primary education, beginning an edifice of significant long term expense and administration demands. The motivation was complex. Employers demanded rudimentary skills even of the lower echelons of their workforce. Moreover, with the onset of adult (male) franchise, reluctantly ceded, the lower orders had to be educated as to what was right and proper.

The establishment and maintenance of economic and social order thus proved to be jolly hard work, an enterprise in progress, with a global dimension involving a system of states.

Thus has ensued a quantitative increase in the state’s presence, in terms of expenditures, and perennial qualitative transformations in the nature and subjects of regulations – all of which are the object of political and social contestation.

The state is hydra-headed. At root is the natural prerogative of states to make war, and to promote its economic interests abroad. The state, as a matter of course, will privilege the powerful (Engels, 1884: ‘… the state arose from the need to hold class antagonisms in check, but as it arose, at the same time, in the midst of the conflict of these classes, it is, as a rule, the state of the most powerful, economically dominant class …). The state will also, less regularly, privilege the less powerful and the dispossessed. From this latter category came the building blocks of the modern ‘welfare state’.

The sources for Marx and Engel’s generalisation were self-evident – as in the brutal repression of agitation for worker rights and political reform, as in the barbaric 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act. Previously, the British state oversaw centuries of enclosure movements by which a working class was forcibly created. State-legitimised class rule was embodied in the carry over and enforcement of Master-Servant statutes which structured workplace subordination and incidentally formed the basis for modern employment law.

As to contrary tendencies with the state attending to the less powerful, some state personnel had altruistic motives, but the majority were strategically more visionary. It was necessary to give a little, make concessions to the pressure from below and its supporters to prevent social breakdown and to maintain the social order. This was ‘intelligent conservatism’ (in the true sense of the label) at work – a label now difficult to understand as the breed and the mentality have been utterly obliterated from within the Right by the forces of reaction.

Such developments were not driven by ideas but facts on the grounds. Political processes in turn produced defensive philosophies and ideologies. Thus in late 19th Century Britain a dysfunctional classical liberalism was countered by a philosophical ‘social liberalism’ – as in the works of T. H. Green and, most accessibly, of Leonard Hobhouse. In Australia, we would later call this mentality ‘small-l liberalism’.

In the 20th Century, the pressure of events (crisis) and a social liberalist mindset operated dialectically to produce J. M. Keynes and his path-breaking analysis of an economic system behind the 1930s Depression. Ditto William Beveridge’s monumental overseeing of the creation of Britain’s National Health Service during World War II.

The state’s role through a glass darkly

The general public has been inadequately apprised of the nature of this long term evolution of the role of the state. Compounding the issue of gaps in general education has been persistent misrepresentation and deception.

The state in the economy is obtusely labelled ‘government intervention’, implicitly imparting an unnatural character to the state as actor.

Austrian economist and philosopher Frederick Hayek pushed the concept of ‘spontaneous order’. Rational autonomous individuals, acting out of self-interest with no bonds of formal cooperation, ‘collectively’ generate an ordered structure. The ‘market’ (always in the abstract) and the price mechanism are the impersonal means to this outcome. Don’t mess with it and all will be well. In the human domain, it is a concept both ahistorical and preposterous.

The much-feted Milton Friedman, in his (with wife Rose) much-feted 1980 Free to Choose, has it that the evolution of the role of the state in 20th Century US is due to the influence of the Socialist Party in the Century’s first decades. Friedman claims that although inconsequential electorally, “both major parties [henceforth] adopted the position of the Socialist party” (p.334). A proposition too ludicrous for words.

Down under, the key role of the state in the development of the 19th Century white settler economy is curiously labelled ‘colonial socialism’.

A sterling example of misrepresentation comes from the reconstruction of the economy in what became West Germany after 1949. According to the pundits, here was Exhibit A for the merits of financial orthodoxy coupled with a conscientious application of the homegrown ‘ordoliberalism’ (a Christian Democrat variation on a ‘free market’ theme). On the contrary. Andrew Shonfield’s 1965 Modern Capitalism, sadly neglected, sets the story right (p.274-5):

“… when the German Government intervened to accelerate the growth of certain sectors of the economy, it went to great lengths to present the matter … as if it derived from or supplemented some primary private initiative [unlike in France]. Indeed the German Government seemed at times almost to be trying to disguise what it was doing even from itself. …

“While the Ministry of Finance was busy keeping house, and conscientiously disregarding the effect that this frugal exercise might have on the rest of the economy, the Ministry of Economics was most actively intervening wherever opportunities for more production, aided by strategically placed subsidies or tax concessions, presented themselves. Rarely can a ministry so vociferously devoted to the virtues of economic liberalism and market forces have taken so vigorous a part in setting the direction and selecting the targets of economic development.”

This misrepresentation subsequently played a significant part in the terms of the construction of the European Union (under American suzerainty), ultimately under West German (later unified German) domination. The parlous effects of this gigantic sleight of hand are played out daily in the structured asymmetry of benefits from the Union.

Compounding the lack of understanding is the economics profession and its tentacled influence. The typical tertiary training in economics gives one no exposure whatsoever to the state. At best, the state exists as a deus ex machina handing down ‘macroeconomic policy’, perhaps the odd extra function exposed in an optional course that few take, but that’s it. It’s a monumental scandal, but internal dissent generally gets quashed, and the hallowed principle of academic freedom ensures that it the ‘profession’ is secure from outside forces. The sub-discipline of economic history previously offered some insight, even if over-populated by mainstream economic historians (c/f. ‘colonial socialism’). As economics departments were subsumed within business schools, the far-sighted new managerial class decided that economic history was dispensable. History is irrelevant.

More, said ill-tutored economics graduates staff, indeed stuff, key parts of the public service, especially the central agencies and the regulatory agencies. They become cogs in arms of the state of whose functions, history, capacity and limitations they are oblivious.

Beyond the perennial obfuscation is a larger project of denial.

If you want to bash the state you have two prominent, albeit divergent, schools to draw on (n.b. anarchism has been written out of history, so that doesn’t count). One is the US-based ‘Economic Theory of Politics’ school, for whom the late James Buchanan is a guru. The state is bloated and the source of this parlous situation is the unceasing demands of the masses on their governments. The problem is democracy itself, which will have to be dramatically straight-jacketed. Not unsurprisingly, Buchanan and fellow travellers have apoplexy over some activities of the state (welfare, affirmative action) and not others (the military, corporate welfare). Buchanan was instrumental in the counter-democratic refashioning of Chile’s constitution under Pinochet, against which the Chilean people are currently rebelling.

The second school draws its intellectual lineage heavily from the post-World War I Austrian School (Ludwig von Mises). This school boasts a phalanx of foot soldiers of purist libertarian persuasion, many of whom are curiously comfortably employed in corporate-funded ‘think tanks’ (c.f The Institute of Public Affairs, Hoover Institution, etc.) and press themselves regularly into the mainstream media with their homilies. For this mob, the significant role of the state in modern capitalism has all been a huge mistake and unnecessary.

One of the better informed of this latter mob is the much-published Richard Higgs. His 1987 book Crisis and Leviathan captures its substance in the title. Higgs argues that, at key junctures, crises that are ‘manageable’ are either overblown or non-existent crises manufactured so that the state apparatus can be dramatically and permanently expanded. Higgs’ argument is not without merit, drawing empirical support at this very moment as governments (France, Hungary, Israel) cynically use the Covid-19 emergency to develop nascent authoritarian tendencies into a fully blown police state. Indeed, Higgs’ argument provides substance for why those who postulate the possibility of ‘false flag’ operations by government operatives, universally denigrated as deranged ‘conspiracy theorists’, might occasionally have just cause.

But there is something essentially pathological about the libertarian set, with its vision of the ideal state illusory. The evolution of the role of the state in the West over the last two hundred years, in general rather than in particulars, has been inevitable. A strong state, for both good and bad, has been essential to the functioning of the capitalist economy. Finding an acknowledgement of that fact anywhere outside of select academic literature is a near impossibility.

The age of neoliberalism

Hawke/Keating Labor ushered in the neoliberal era in Australia, and John Howard determinedly cemented it. On the Liberal side, Howard tenaciously cleared out the small-l liberals in their midst. In Labor ranks, nobody had the courage to question the Hawke/Keating legacy (even with Hawke’s death, but Keating is still there to kick heads). Advisory staff to both major Parties would have been born the day before yesterday and have been suckled in the neoliberal age. Public servants, especially the newly fragilised Senior Executive Service, adopted the correct line to save their jobs and pay their mortgages.

Rod Clement, Australian Financial Review, 10 December 1999

This is ground zero. The past is irrelevant. An age of stunning intellectual vacuity. Exemplary for the age is the opening stanza of the fat 1981 Campbell Report into the Australian Financial System: ‘The Committee starts from the view that the most efficient way to organise economic activity is through a competitive market system which is subject to a minimum of regulation and government intervention’. Brilliant!

There ushered in through the front door an army of vested interests, hiding behind a front of ignorant but zealous ideologues. The arguments were all bullshit, floating on thin air. Neoliberalist tenets, unlike those of classical liberalism, had no organic relation with existing conditions. It was a vehicle for plundering public assets, exploiting small business, undermining hard-won workforce conditions and dismantling the hard-won welfare state.

Whitlam Labor created the Industries Assistance Commission to deal with a specific issue needing reform but entrenched an ideological coven. Hawke/Keating Labor reprieved it, gave it a universal brief as the renamed Industry Commission, and Howard had only to tweak the beast into the Productivity Commission. No other country has ever granted so much responsibility for ‘intelligence’ to a single unreconstructed think tank. Couple that with the massive out-sourcing of ‘intelligence’ to private consultants (now especially the Big Four ex-accounting firms) and one has an environment in which policy options are systematically truncated, alternatives still-born.

The neoliberal era was not a move to ‘the small state’. Rather, it involved a reorientation of a strong state to significantly different priorities – essentially catering to the wishlist of corporate capital. In the process political personnel and bureaucratic personnel have decapacitated the state apparatus to effect robust management of any crisis, leave alone to effect progressive change.

Representative was the Coalition’s belligerent indifference to the impact of climate change and to expert pressure on the need to prepare for impending bushfire devastation. Other reflections of this mentality are the Coalition’s attempted discrediting of Rudd Labor’s modest post-GFC stimulus, the deeply imbalanced economic relationship with China, the impoverishment of public infrastructure, workplace conditions and welfare, and the governing Coalition’s absurd mid-2019 tax cuts while tolerating widespread corporate tax evasion.

It is welcome then that this federal government, intrinsically reactionary, prone to lassitude, ignorant, arrogant in its ignorance, has turned on the sluice gates. For lack of grounding, it is forced into the ultimate in pragmatism, dependent on a federal Treasury out of its depth.

But will it change its ways after this crisis relents? There’s no evidence, as there is no evidence of such to date in any other country. With a nasty budget black hole, that ‘bigger role’ will, in all likelihood, not be turned to permanently enhancing Newstart or abolishing Robodebt siphoning but to further tightening the screws.

Evan Jones, now retired, lectured in political economy at the University of Sydney for 34 years.

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  1. andy56

    Bravo Mr Jones, thats the way i see it too. Its an ideology driven by faith. There is no imperical evidence that its healthy longterm. On the contrary, all its flaws are open wounds. The privatisation fever has run out of puff because its friggin obvious to everyone that things cost more and the service is shit. Nirvana has never had such a bad taste. Their only solution is more of the same.” Didnt work before because we didnt go hard enough”, oh the asylum we live in. Its their zealotry and religious ferver to get it done that worries me. What does it take to pull the blindfold off? The guilotine comes to mind. (metaphorically speaking). These characters give capitalism a bad name.

  2. Harry Lime

    I loved the read,but does this mean we’re fcked? Or do we need a bigger crisis and a total clean out?Im just going outside for a walk.I might be some time.

  3. Andrew Smith

    That man James Buchanan, whose economic ideas and ‘public choice theory’ have fuelled economics, finance and politics in US, UK and Australia via Koch linked think tanks and amenable media. In the same eco system is another (according to the NYT) ‘the most influential unknown man in America’ white nationalist John Tanton (also involved with ALEC and alleged to have drawn evangelical Christians into the mix, via Paul Weyrich). Buchanan has the economic strategies while Tanton fed their fondness for eugenics and need for deflection, ‘look over there, immigrants!’.

    If one was optimistic, COVID-19 maybe the tonic for rebalancing finance, economics and society through state debt (nowadays bonds can be attractive globally for investors at simply CPI yield) to fund and lubricate the economy while keeping households and/individuals on life support and into the future, more collective prosperity.

    Fact is Australia has very low government debt at little over 40% of GDP while being viewed as safe haven for investment (although you wouldn’t know it from the squeals emerging from LNP, IPA, business and media to access tax cuts) but the elephant in the room is household debt, 120%+.

    The latter does not make sense (unless an embedded class ridden and less developed economy) where the top 10% have funds to spend or invest while the nominal ‘middle class’ are skint and cannot contribute beyond paying for essentials; even Henry Ford in his more enlightened days knew that his workers needed decent pay to afford his own products.

    Australia has changed where over the last generation or two we have become individualistic, materialistic, shallow, shrill and narcissistic, or wannabe Americans….. Exemplified by former (Labor?!) Bob Carr for whom ‘immigrants’ and ‘population growth’ were and are to blame for overloading infrastructure e.g. public transport, while avoiding raising of state funds for investment, encouraging toll ways, vehicle usage (fossil fuel use and pollution) and sitting on the board of a merchant bank……

  4. Ray Tinkler

    So…we’re all puzzled as to why this govt under Morrison appears to have abandoned all previous Liberal financial policies and gone all Socialistic. Have we forgotten so soon what powered his “Miracle” election? The Pork Barreling of target electorates. Then came the summer of the fires and bad press. Along comes COVID-19, hard on it’s heels. If there is nothing about Morrison that stands out more, it is his ability to spot an opportunity and this Virus has handed him that. Allied with the only other thing, he and the LNP crave i.e. dominant power over the nation, the sort John Howard achieved and more, is how to get that totally from what looks like the disaster of all time. How. Pork Barrel the ones at the bottom instead and look like the saviour and hero. Another miracle achieved.

  5. Matters Not

    Not at all surprised that Morrison chose individualism (as opposed to collectivism) when it came to his personal political response in troubled times. Always surprised, nevertheless, that LNP MPs choose to belong to any political Party (a collective by any definition) while also espousing the virtues of individualism.

    Guess, collective action is only employed when one wants things to actually work. But perhaps the next logical step for Morrison is to abandon the National Cabinet (also a collective) and do it all by himself.

    Then (and only then) would he be philosophically consistent.

  6. wam

    smirko knows he is set for totally disabling labor with this crisis. He knows the GFC is not n the same league as this. He has unlimited cash (as did his predecessors$400m here and $400m there and millions on a tamil family)
    Smirko and his seers can visualise 2004, can smell 2004 can taste 2004 this year without any budget then an election without unions , without opposition from labor or the ABC and with unlimited cash all in the cauldren with a crisis. Another fcking miracle,

    thanks boobby

  7. Kaye Lee

    And how’s Adani going wam?

    I get so tired of your childish name-calling and fixation with Bob Brown who, along with hundreds of others, exercised his democratic right, and IMO civic duty, to protest against a new mine that obviously the owners don’t even want to build.

    Still no accreditation as a Rail Infrastructure Manager (RIM) and Rolling Stock Operator (RSO)
    Still no royalties agreement.
    Still no interface agreement with the Whitsunday RC.

    I would suggest it was Labor hedging their bets that cost them votes in Queensland. They could have won those Green votes if they weren’t so chicken shit.

  8. johno

    I saw Bob talk in Adelaide about one year before the adani caravan. At the talk Bob asked who was interested in travelling to Qld to protest against adani. I put my hand up but could not go because of work commitments. Bob is a brave man to do many of the things he has done and continues to do.

  9. Joseph Carli

    Whenever I hear of The Greens, with their ONE SEAT in the HOR. calling for Labor to “join with” them to win government, I’m reminded of the BIG 3 in the conference at Yalta joining forces to fight Nazism etc and The Pope demanded to be part of the leadership team and Josef Stalin commented…: “And how many battalions can HE bring to the table?”

  10. totaram

    Joseph Carli: I believe Stalin asked “how many divisions…”. Just a small correction there. The Red Army in those days never moved less than a whole division. But you have a point.

  11. Roland Flickett

    Whatever happens, and however long it takes, ‘God’ will be given credit.
    If, for one brief moment, we accept (by we, I mean I) there is a God, then given its omniscience we must accept that this is its will. It thought…
    ‘I will visit a upon them a pestilence, yea, verily, to the uttermost corners of the world, and I will leaven the pestilence by visiting upon them a host of fckwitted false prophets (or profits) to lead them. Donald bar Drumpf, Craig bar Morris, Blow bar Job, and Beniamin Netanyahu.
    How delicious are those two closing syllables!!
    So why are we bothering to fight it. God will win!
    ‘Thou shall have no other gods before me.’
    ‘Thy will be done.’
    ‘Harold be thy name’
    Say no more.

  12. Kaye Lee

    I have never heard the Greens say join with us to form government. Even for Gillard, it wasn’t Bandt’s support that allowed her to form government – Windsor and Oakeshott were the crucial players there

    Senator Di Natale said his party is only seeking a “constructive” relationship with Labor, not a formal coalition.

    Labor MUST have the Greens support in the Senate to achieve anything.

  13. Joseph Carli

    ” Labor MUST have the Greens support in the Senate to achieve anything.” …again, you have it the wrong way around, considering the numbers in The Senate….here..: ” The Greens MUST HAVE Labor’s support in the Senate to achieve anything”…but then, when you are too busy firing unrealistic policy blanks from the cheap-seats just so you can look good to your voter-base, you aren’t really going to achieve much anyway.

  14. Kaye Lee

    Perhaps you are unaware of Greens policies Joe. The major parties always end up adopting them eventually because they show us the direction we MUST go.

    I know you LOVE to tell me I have things wrong. Obviously the Greens are not going to form government but I stand by my statement. Here’s the Senate numbers after the 2019 election.

    Coalition 35, Labor 26, Greens 9, One Nation 2, Centre Alliance 2, Cory Bernardi (reverted to Coalition after his resignation), Jacqui Lambie.

    The only way Labor can achieve anything in the Senate is to vote with the Coalition or the Greens. Which would you prefer?

  15. Joseph Carli

    “Perhaps you are unaware of Greens policies Joe. The major parties always end up adopting them eventually because they show us the direction we MUST go.”….Stating the bleedin’ obvious doesn’t mean being original….: “Oh look! the house is on fire…quick everybody get out !”….(brilliant !).

    ” The only way Labor can achieve anything in the Senate is to vote with the Coalition or the Greens. Which would you prefer?”……Well…we ALL know that The Greens have the “voting with the coalition” contract sewn up, so I suppose . . .

  16. Ray Tinkler

    Replying to Matters Not
    [Quote] But perhaps the next logical step for Morrison is to abandon the National Cabinet (also a collective) and do it all by himself.[/Quote]

    Using others to get what he wants is OK by him. By what I’ve read, using others ideas to advance his position is nothing new, but let’s realise that his ‘aspirations’ reach far beyond this particular earthly realm. Being PM is only a dress rehearsal, but being the one all will look up to for guidance, here and now, will look good on his heavenly CV.

  17. Kaye Lee

    Let’s get some facts into the debate Joe.

    “we ALL know that The Greens have the “voting with the coalition” contract sewn up”

    Labor votes with the Coalition far more often than the Greens do.

    “Stating the bleedin’ obvious doesn’t mean being original”

    It was bleedin’ obvious that the community wanted marriage equality. For years, the Greens were the only party supporting it.

    It is bleedin’ obvious that the community want voluntary euthanasia. For years, the Greens were the only party supporting it.

    It is bleedin’ obvious that Newstart is inadequate. The Greens have been calling for an increase for many years.

    It is bleedin’ obvious that we must phase out coal. Labor are too scared to even say that. The Greens are the only party with a practical plan on how to do it.

    It is bleedin’ obvious that you have NEVER looked at Greens policies Joe.

    I can see there is no point in discussing things with people who comment from emotion rather than fact.

  18. Joseph Carli

    Aww, Kaye Lee…you spend your whole post “discussing things” replete with a link etc and then cynically end with this..; ” I can see there is no point in discussing things with people who comment from emotion rather than fact.” …horse, bolt, barn door ?

    And with those above policies, it was easy to demand such when you KNOW you were NEVER going to have to risk an election on forcing then through…cheap-seat policies again.

    Seriously…after 20 years of electioneering and vote-raiding Labor electorates, all the Greens have is ONE seat in the HOR….I mean….hey..that’s telling you something, isn’t it?….if you can’t beat them..join them and put your arguements from INSIDE the tent.

    And you know what a fact is?….It is a little creature that crawls around the bottom of the sea-bed collecting fish-farts for use as bubbles in spirit-levels….and that’s a fact!

  19. Jack Cade

    Totaram et al

    All of the Pope’s divisions were on Hitler’s side. And Opus Dei facilitated the escape of the most appalling of the Hitler coterie to the America’s, presumably in hope of them fighting the good fight another day.
    And the USA picked the eyes out of the Nazi scientists for its own future use. Nuremberg more or less tried only those who were no further use to anyone.
    Including Great Uncle Otto Abetz…

  20. Kaye Lee

    The Greens got 10.4% of the first preference vote in the HoR. Because that vote is not concentrated in electorates it results in only 1 seat in the lower house. Their policies are representative of a significant portion of the electorate. Much higher than the Nats (4.51%), much higher than the LNP (8.67%).

    The Greens are the conscience of the nation and they drag the major parties kicking and screaming to what the people want.

    I know what a fact is Joe. I’m a maths person. Your dismissal of reality may be amusing to some but is not helpful to genuine discussion

  21. Joseph Carli

    In politics, kaye Lee…”genuine discussion” does not even figure…when we get a political as useless as the LNP voted back in or at least facillated through electoral fraud and criminal misleading pork-barelling…the last thing that is heeded is political common sense!…I’ve written again and again..even got sent to Coventry for it…to change political direction, we have to change the political class leadership…..The “Art of Politics” demands creative thinking….ask the Ancient Greeks…they had to construct “Democracy” to please the people and then to immediatley corrupt it to win governance!

  22. New England Cocky

    Thanks for an excellent article Evan Jones. Clearly articulated, written in plain English, identifying the oft overlooked role of government officers in determine the fate of Australian voters; now more than ever as Smirkie Sacked from Marketing bends over for the corporate classes.

    @Kaye Lee: It is very unfair of your to confuse Joseph with facts. The Greens will never amount to anything in the HoR because their members is scattered across almost all electorates. Like Hansen in her first misguided term in Parliament wishing to become Prim Monster and going to jail so that Howard could pinch her extremist policies, the Greens can only be a force in the Senate and when they wake up to the need for an active membership base the the major parties may have some serious negotiations to do.

  23. Joseph Carli

    Sorry about the typo stuff in my last post, I was called away in a hurry…But I will say this in relation to Evan Jones’ article above…what he laments in political economy today, Thorsten Veblen was collating in similar words if pertinent to his times in his ‘Theory Of the Liesure Class” back at the beginning of last century…nothing has changed, for as I wrote in “The Tancredi Dilemma” …:

    ” How is this new breed of ‘Bankers on Credit’, ‘Merchants of internet selling’ going to manage the social structures needed to keep a society stable and conducive to good, predictable, long-term governance? In short … they cannot! … Their failing at even the most simple social programs that we see falling to pieces around us as we go about our work, child-care, health, transport and play demonstrates a cabal of wannaby ‘leaders’ who couldn’t lead a blind man down a wide, empty boulevard without tripping on every slight obstacle in their path … they themselves being blind and ignorant beyond comprehension.

    Since the end of the generations that saw Keating pass the baton to Howard, who in his own mean-spirited way did a ‘Tiberius’ and prepared a ‘Satyr’ for the people of Australia with his paving the way for a far right infection into the LNP that even he couldn’t see the damage he was inflicting, there has been an endless stream of younger blunt, weaponised LNP members fumbling around The House and the authorities, corrupting without thought on the consequences, every authority, every bureaucracy and oversight office so that now we have no confidence .. and rightly so!”

    The changes needed are now so great, so disruptive to stable governance that it will take a Covid 19 virus to create the conditions ripe for social revolution whether the ruling order wants it or not!….things are NEVER going to be the same again.

  24. Kaye Lee


    As far as I am aware, you sent yourself to Coventry.

  25. Joseph Carli

    ” As far as I am aware, you sent yourself to Coventry.” and a wonderful holiday it was too!

  26. Kaye Lee

    So you chose to have a break. Saying you were sent to coventry is completely untrue.

    That’s what I mean about facts Joe.

  27. Harry Tosis

    When this is all over, and I hope it is sooner rather than later, what we will be left with is a fully-fledged police state. It’s a nestling now, but it’s testing it’s wings.
    Eating a bun after a jog, sitting in your car; crimes in a society where law officers are ‘just doing my job.’
    Border force has been testing it out. It missed out the ‘not’ between ‘just’ and ‘doing’. But when they get it right – watch out!

  28. Terence Mills

    It seems that Labor has made significant policy gains in recent weeks in areas where the coalition were previously ferociously and ideologically opposed. Is this due to the calm and sensible intervention of Sally McManus, I wonder ?

    Who would have guessed that the coalition would step up and double unemployment benefits, an area of policy that has been hard fought by Labor and the Unions. Lo and behold the coalition have acknowledged that an unemployed person cannot live on the previous benefit level.
    However, the coalition are saying, at this stage at least, that in six months time an unemployed person will be able to live on half the benefit they have introduced.

    They have yet to explain the rationale for that qualification – I bet Sally didn’t suggest that.

    Labor have for the last two elections at least been arguing that the costs of child daycare should be a community responsibility in line with public schooling and have proposed greater public funding. Normally this is met by screeching from the coalition of a ‘socialist state’ but now, overnight the ideology has changed and daycare is available to all at no cost.

    AND Scott Morrison is being hailed as Churchillian : what has he taken up drinking and smoking cigars ?

    This morning Christian Porter was arguing that the Jobkeeker allowance should only go to casuals who had worked for twelve months with the one employer ; no flexibility, that’s it !
    Well, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to those who may have had two or more casual jobs in the last twelve months and have now been laid off, they are still not working are they ? I think Sally needs to have a quiet chat with Christian.

    At best, conservatism is a movable feast or, were it permitted, a picnic in the park !

  29. Kaye Lee

    After copping shit from the Coalition since she took up the job, McManus has really shown herself to be an outstanding leader who the government is now relying on for advice and co-operation. I have great regard for her – and NONE for that fool Christian Porter who now wants to claim her as his “BFF”. What grownup even uses that term other than Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian?

  30. Matters Not

    Note that the Morrison response relies heavily on Steven Kennedy;

    Kennedy has served both sides of politics with distinction. Notably, he worked as economics adviser in the offices of Labor prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. … Morrison’s decision to appoint Kennedy underlines that he is viewed as a non-partisan public servant, capable of faithfully serving either side of politics.

    Had Labor won the May election, Kennedy would have been appointed to a senior public service role. Kennedy’s promotion was widely welcomed across the public service and political divide on Thursday, a feat difficult to achieve in a hyper-partisan Canberra these days. … Labor shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers, who crossed paths with Kennedy while working for then-treasurer Wayne Swan during the financial crisis, says he is an “excellent economist and public servant and a welcome appointment as Treasury Secretary”.

    Good public servants are welcome across the political divide. But not always – as Abbott demonstrated by his treatment of Martin Parkinson who had then to be resurrected by Turnbull.

    In similar vein try reading Keating’s article on why good public policy advice can also be good political advice.

    MICHAEL KEATING. -Covid-19 and the role of expert advice

  31. leefe

    Bread and circuses. The circuses (sport) have shut down, so they’re making sure there’s (just) enough bread to prevent the masses revolting. Even SCoMoFo’s crew have enough intelligence to do the bare minimum necessary to keep hold of their positions.

  32. Ray Tinkler

    Ahhh! but the generosity of praise upon themselves knows no bounds. Nothing though in their view prevents the masses being revolting.

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