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We are not America

Australia is transitioning from our old colonial master to a self-selected new colonial master. We have those with power nostalgic for the glories of imperial Britain. Many more, however, are starry-eyed at the thought of the mastery of the USA. The America of which they wish to make us the 51st state existed largely in its marketing, and certainly does not exist any longer. Australia must cease following America’s lead into hell.

America sold itself as the shining light of democracy, freedom and reason in a troubled world. Disastrous economic and military imperialism abroad was in fact matched by subjugation of its masses at home. The American Dream was reserved for the white working class and a few outliers. Its systems ensured the vast majority was trapped in versions of slavery and its post-abolition variants. Developing anti-abortion policies will not least provide a larger desperate underclass able to provide wage-slave labour at costs competitive with Mexico or China.

These Australian leaders fixed on America’s self-depiction see Biden as a return to the rational America they admire, after the cringe-making chaos of the Trump years. In fact, this is likely to be a brief hiatus.

America will probably descend into a new stochastic civil war, opening salvos perhaps already fired. An aroused minority, funded by authoritarian-leaning plutocrats, is stripping both the freedom and reason from the American civic space. From school board to the Capitol, groups ignited by conspiracy and loathing are plunging America away from enlightenment. Democracy, as flawed as it has always been in America, is being further crippled to prevent the majority having its say. The radicalised Right is trying to legislate for election overthrow, as well as voter suppression. Fire-eyed theocrats and bigots are working to subjugate anyone whose identity, life or thought denies them full humanity. The forces of modernity are depicted not just as woke, but literally demonic. It will take exceptional effort from the majority to prevent this takeover by the fringe. It already controls the Supreme Court, the House in Congress, too many state Houses, money and considerable media sway.

When Australian leaders say we ally ourselves with the American project because of our shared values, the shared values they imagine are now beaten to a pulp as the forces of fundamentalist religion and bigotry destroy freedom and equality across swathes of the country.

When the theocratic bigots retake power in the US, with Donald Trump or a less chaotic authoritarian at the helm, the sovereignty Richard Marles has ceded to them will remain ceded. Their Spiritual Warfaredriven foreign policy will become even more our problem. Israel must be protected so that End Times can begin there: will that drive us to military action against Iran?

Australia was, at the outset of the 20th century, a proud model of strong labor rights, where visitors came from around the globe to see our social democrat experiment at work. We had nationalised services for those resources the community depended upon to function. Our unions protected workers from exploitation by capital. (We see in America and Britain today the chaos that results when unions are crippled or erased.)

The neoliberal era that made Milton Friedman its god has pushed us towards the extinction of our civilisation. His truism that the stock market was the ultimate measure of a good business has made care for the environment, the workforce, the populace barely relevant. Payouts to the families of the dead are a “cost of doing business” and if those harmed are the powerless, that’s profit maximised. The train disaster and chemical fire that threatens the lives of East Palestine, Ohio, was largely caused by corporate policy that bowed to stock market pressures: no investment in infrastructure, workforce or safety. Only profits count. Stock market metrics lead to money spent on lobbying politicians. President Trump repealed the half-hearted measures implemented by President Obama to limit such catastrophes.

Our Reserve Bank is a tawdry affair whose intellectual heft is embarrassingly meagre compared to the central banks of equivalent nations. Philip Lowe leads a board of business minds, not those keeping abreast of intellectual developments. They implement policy based on 1970s conditions to deal with our different world and different understanding of financial policy. Almost all the inflationary price surge we see in Australia is caused by price-gouging by power, supermarkets, banks and business more broadly. The residual rise lies within the Reserve Bank’s allowable band. At the same time, the workers’ buying power is savaged and their wages are declining in real terms.

Neoliberal ideologues do not allow any measures to cap or chasten price-gouging sectors. Windfall tax is anathema. The profits are celebrated by the stock market and by its ambient media spruikers. While the CEOs toast their victorious quarter, the populace is forced into painful decisions between fresh food and medications.

Milton Friedman’s acolytes turned the free market “think” tanks initiated by Brit Anthony Fisher into rampaging lobbyists for the wealthy. As a result of their dominance of political economy, the the plutocrats’ share of national wealth has rocketed into the stratosphere since the 70s, while the workers’ wages stagnated.

The result has been a bottomless well of fury and resentment that has been exploited by the media handmaids of the wealthy, misdirected against the alleged “undeserving” poor, against women taking jobs, against refugees, and now against the LGBTQI+ community. The Murdoch empire funnels American “idiot ball” culture war distractions to structure the jealous guarding of privilege by the wealthy and the resentment of the disenfranchised. These wars are in the process of breaking America and might well break Great Britain, but the true targeting of fury against the plutocrats banking our common-wealth offshore is undesirable.

The British NHS has been destroyed by neoliberal ideologues delighted at the chance to sell off its carcass to the largely American private health sector. Labor in Australia needs to shore up Medicare and chase off these predatory corporations that have begun buying up Australian medical businesses. In the American model we see the principal: outstanding care for those who can pay the extortionate prices. Bankruptcy and early deaths for those who can’t.

These American values are not our values. Business, with their politicians and media would love them to be, despite the ravages we see in America and the UK. A dragon’s hoard is in the offing.

Our defence department immersing itself in America’s militarised foreign policy can only bring us harm. We would become the cannon fodder, as colonial subjects always are. Our resources have far more important uses than astronomically-priced weaponry.

Australians must see the culture war distractions for what they are: a protection for a profoundly broken system. It is time we reclaimed our proud social democrat past. Those with the levers of power must look accurately at what neoliberal ideologues have done to the US and Britain, and reject both colonial masters for our own healthier path.

 

This was first published in Pearls and Irritations

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20 comments

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  1. Lucy Hamilton

    I have been accused here previously of an undue focus on America. I hope this piece illustrates why I keep returning to the issue of the American Right. It and the European Right both shape our own “conservative” and radical Right movements to our lasting detriment. If we are not watching the influences on our Right, we will miss the scale of the threat.

  2. margcal

    Lucy, I appreciate all that you write. I’ve shared this on FB, for all the good that will do 🙁
    If there is a single MP who has shown any sign of reflecting on the issues you raise here, I haven’t noticed it.
    I used to fear what my grandchildren will inherit. But increasingly I worry my children will suffer as well for what we are doing to this country … and the world.

  3. Steve Davis

    You made a lot of points here Lucy, and I agree with every one. I particularly liked you drawing attention to those who “are starry-eyed at the thought of the mastery of the USA.”

    I must point out however, that while you rightly point to the destructive force of neo-liberalism, this is merely liberalism with the friendly mask removed. Liberals for decades were forced to hide their true intentions due to a strong social-democratic sentiment within and across the community.

    The mask is now off and the results are as you describe.

  4. Terence Mills

    Lucy, the focus needs to be on the US as we take so many of our conservative policies and crazy attitudes from them and, of course, we gave them Rupert so we must acknowledge some of the blame !

    What is interesting to note is the current defamation action against Murdoch and FOX for their alleged attempts to turn the 2020 election in Trump’s favour by making conscious commercial decisions to lie to their audience about vote counting and allegations of fraud.

    From the depositions of Rupert it would appear that he was aware of the deception being perpetrated by the prominent presenters at FOX News and he did nothing about it but now throws them under the bus.

    https://www.newsweek.com/rupert-murdoch-fox-news-reporters-defamation-lawsuit-election-fraud-1784381

  5. RomeoCharlie29

    You are absolutely spot in with everything you write. Sadly I fear our Labor government is a pale imitation of previous reforming Labor governments and, in the current climate suffers an excess of timidity

  6. Harry Lime

    Has a copy of this excellent article been sent to our sleeping politicians? Mind you,I wouldn’t expect too many to wake from their dreamless slumber.

  7. Lucy Hamilton

    Replies:
    Thanks, Margcal. Agreed. I’m afraid the intermingling networks of influence prevent contemplation of the overview. If we are watching the Robodebt RC, we see the fragmentation of thought and responsibility to the day’s task at the expense of ethics, duty of care, employability.

    Liberalism itself doesn’t have to be that way, Steve. The intrinsic idea to it is that we accept humans as equals with equal dignity and the freedom to make choices about their life as long as they don’t hurt others. The version that says there should be freedom in the markets becomes more problematic. The original IPA in Australia played on the balance between worker and capital and government so that capital would be stronger and its demands preferenced above the others, but accepted that all three were an inter-balanced structure. It was the Friedman frenzy that took off with Peter Costello and pals that really drove us over the edge. I’m not approving the original IPA, but it was a healthier mix than what we see now. Not surprisingly, the neoliberal extremism of the Friedman era saw rocketing wealth of the top, and their greater ability to skew politics as a result.

    Thanks Terence. I think everyone paying attention knew that Murdoch knew, but the proof is really important. He has been using his media tools to destroy civilisation for decades now and he really doesn’t care if it’s Iraqis dying, Western soldiers, the battlers, or civilisation with m/billions of people in the climate catastrophe. He is a sociopath, whether intrinsically or acquired via privilege. I’m deeply ashamed that he emerged from our soil. Then again, he was a Lefty until he began worshipping Reagan.

  8. Lucy Hamilton

    Harry: I wish. There are quite a few politicians and public servants as well as academics reading at Pearls and Irritations and this piece did get top billing there yesterday, so I hope some read it. It’s a grim prospect trying to extract them from their cloud cuckoo land.

  9. Steve Davis

    “Liberalism itself doesn’t have to be that way,…”

    We’ll have to agree to disagree on that one Lucy.

    As I understand it, “liberal” in politics comes from the Latin “libre” meaning freedom, (not the generosity of spirit that we tend to associate it with) and so it was cleverly applied to economic freedom, (free market economics) with liberalism being the political wing of free market economics. It’s the greatest propaganda exercise in history.

    Unrestricted economic freedom is of course individualism on a particular path, and as such is detrimental to community values and institutions. It can even be argued that liberalism, being based on individualism, cannot have an ethical basis, as ethics are the standards that hold societies together, while the economics of individualism undermines social values and institutions, as we see with the relentless urge to privatise public utilities.

    But I’m happy to be corrected on that !

  10. Michael Taylor

    Absolutely outstanding, Lucy.

    There is so much to respond to, but where do I start?

    This article is PhD material. ✅

  11. Douglas Pritchard

    In friendships, I find its important to get the basics in common.
    Distance is in miles, feet and inches.
    Petrol (Gasoline?) in gallons.
    Weight in pounds.
    They drive on the wrong side of the road.
    They love guns and using them.
    They really dont like authority.
    They have death row.
    Men decree womens rights.
    Poverty is rife.
    Good health is going to cost you…big time.
    They need wars overseas because without them there would be civil war.
    Thank goodness we have New Zealand who share our values, because Uncle Sam does not.
    I love Lucy.

  12. Canguro

    A proof-reader’s suggestion:

    Ninth para: ‘Almost all the inflationary price surge we see in Australia is caused by price-gauging by power, supermarkets, banks and business more broadly.’

    Shouldn’t ‘price-gauging’ read ‘price-gouging’?

  13. Douglas Pritchard

    One of my self imposed tasks is the subject of Urban design, and some good books on it.
    I did suggest that USA are primatives at their core, and insular in the extreme.
    We have the enormous advantage of viewing the development of the “American Dream” with it car central mode of transport, bigger the better, and its shopping malls, and its super highways and all the paraphenalia that follows.
    And we can see how the end result is certainly not a happy one for the residents.
    Not good for those wishing to stop climate change either.
    There are a lot of progressive cities arround the globe who learn by observation, and are prepared to change after consulting its people.
    What I see from our mentor is sanctions of Nations, Ideas, Opertunities, and our horizons being lowered over here because of this silly master servant relationship.
    Freedom,haha, Do you know that they want to censor ‘socialism’ from their language, next?

  14. Andrew Smith

    Good analysis, and highlighting the Anglo etc. transnational links, that too many in Australian and UK media ignore, while Canada is very aware due to proximity.

    Correctly cites Fisher and Friedman, the former when IEA Institute of Economic Affairs in UK set up the now Washington based ‘Atlas’ global network (in US circles simply ‘Koch Network’) of think tanks inc. IPA, Taxpayers’ Alliance and CIS locally, with similar in and around Tufton St. London, behind Brexit and advising the Tories.

    Friedman was one of the Austrian-Chicago School along with von Mises, Hayek, Rand et al., but they masked the Koch’s alleged and more unpalatable muse, ‘segregation economist’ James Buchanan (part of the Allende Chilean experiment); basically ‘planter’ or ‘deep south’ eugenics masquerading as classical economic theory, described by NY’ers Jane Mayer et al. as ‘radical right libertarian’ economics (for <1%).

    Historian Nancy MacLean stumbled across Buchanan and his obsession round segregation, but by using economic arguments to support and e.g. ‘public choice theory’ i.e. most movers and shakers are buyable for influence; familiar?

    MacLean’s book ‘Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America’ (2017) was used to inform the following article from The Atlantic (July/August 2017) ‘The Architect of the Radical Right: How the Nobel Prize–winning economist James M. Buchanan shaped today’s anti-government politics (By Sam Tanenhaus).

    Not only do we see the impact of ‘The South is the cradle of modern conservatism.’ in US/Anglo politics & socio-economics, but there are some of the same networks that run through parts of Europe, including Orban’s Hungary i.e. network of Anglo linked think tanks & foundations, where similar influence can be observed, in addition to obfuscation on Putin’s Russia with anti-EU & tepid on NATO, Anglo enablers in the mix…..

  15. wam

    Oh, Lucy, If only Albo had you and KL in the caucus.
    My multi-millionaire is coming to darwin and he is bringing a mate. He finished his email:
    ‘My mate voted for biden, so you two lefties should get on..
    WTF I wouldn’t consider biden as centre much less left.
    Our main stream media, the police, the armed services and the churches are far right and have been ripe for the septic beliefs over the last 53 years(pine gap 1970). These have been powerful enough to mask the economic disasters from America all the way to AUKUS.

  16. Lucy Hamilton

    Thanks so much all. Cangaru – well done. Fixed.
    I hope everyone reads Andrew Smith’s message. He points out expertly how not accidental this whole direction has been.
    Fascinating and pertinent observation, Douglas. We have blindly absorbed so much that is toxic. And indeed, let’s be more like NZ.
    wam – the Overton Window is fascinating, isn’t it? They think our poor old Auntie is socialist, even now that she cowers in terror from more cuts.

  17. GL

    If The Donald, and it’s entirely possible that he will, gets back in 2024 then the US is completely fucked! What will our politicians do? “Kissy, kissy, we still love ‘merica. We love you long time…”

    Trump frames 2024 as existential fight: ‘This is the final battle’

    The final battle spiel is his attempt to get the rabid right wing religulous (thank you Bill Maher for that word) on side again.

  18. leefe

    GL:

    It’s hard to believe I’m saying this, but maybe better Trumplethinskin than DeScrotis. Although almost anyone who wins the Republican nomination is going to be … problematic.

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