Monday, May 30, 2011

The unbearable crisis of being comfortably well off

Micheal Pascoe (below) covers a report from The Economist about Australia - specifically how despite the past ~20 years of good economic performance - the Australian political class has become a degenerate pack of populist petty crisis merchants. While there are problems (potentially crises) that do need addressing, supreme populists like Tony Abbott prefer to focus on their own self imagined crises for which they are ready to regurgitate there own predigested ideologically laced solution. Bending over for the big end of town is also a popular hobby.

This reminds me of the Adam Cutis film The Power of Nightmares1. One of the central themes in the film is that the goal of the modern politicrat is not to provide true leadership; articulating and enabling the hopes and dreams of citizens - rather it is to protect us from the dark (imagined?) forces out to destroy "us".

In the Australian context Tony Abbotts dark imagined dangers include such terrible foes as The Greens.

Lucky country out of luck with its leaders
Sydney Morning Herald, May 30th.

The cover story for this week's Economist magazine is a special report on Australia, The Next Golden State. It's a folly of cultural cringe to take too much notice of what some foreigner might think of us, but it also can be instructive to view ourselves through the considered opinion of an outsider's fresh eyes. And it's not hard to take when it's basically a rave review by a prestigious publication.

According to The Economist, about the only major negative, the only threat to realising our even greater potential, is our politics. This from the magazine's editorial:

“Many Australians do not seem to appreciate that they live in an unusually successful country. Accustomed to unbroken economic expansion - many are too young to remember recession - they are inclined to complain about house prices, 5 per cent unemployment or the problems that a high exchange rate causes manufacturing and several other industries. Some Australians talk big but actually think small, and politicians may be the worst offenders.

“Its current political leaders, with notable exceptions, are perhaps the least impressive feature of today's Australia. Just when their country has the chance to become influential in the world, they appear introverted and unable to see the big picture. ..."

The section of the report specifically on politics finds plenty to criticise on both sides, plus some of the usual bipartisan problems about the brevity of our electoral cycle, the rise of poll-driven political henchmen and our inconstancy.

Unlike the days of Menzies and Howard, Abbott's party “seems to have no philosophical principles at all” ...

“In any event, the level of political discourse is not high. That is partly the fault of the media, but also the fault of the politicians, some of whom at least are happy to join battle, mouthing jibes and slogans (Let's move Australia forward, Stand up for Australia, The real Julia, Stop the boats, End the waste), seldom bothering to explain a policy or answer a question without short-term political gain being uppermost in their minds.”

Carbon pollution

The scare campaign over pricing carbon is hurting more. The point nobody seems to get – and that Abbott discourages anyone getting and Gillard is apparently incapable of selling – is that pricing carbon in Australia really isn't about saving the planet, but is all about saving Australian industry.

If we have not already begun the process when the emerging nations and the US join Europe in taking it seriously, we'll be in very serious danger of being hung out to dry.

Keep shouting that the Government is taking Australia down the drain, that our macro economic policy is a total failure, and some people will be silly enough to believe it. The mindless simplification of budget policy into “surplus good, deficit bad” has been effectively debunked by Ross Gittins but don't expect most of the media to understand it.
The Adam Curtis blog above provides a link to an interesting interview with Errol Morris - discussing such things as the fallacy of the balanced viewpoint;

People criticized my film by saying things like, “Why aren’t you balanced? What aren’t you putting in the other views?” And my response was, “What if the other view is wrong?” That’s the real problem of the balanced view - what's called ‘perceived wisdom.’

and notional moles;

EM: Ron Rosenbaum, a friend of mine, has written a number of articles on James Jesus Angleton and the CIA. [Angleton was the head of counter-intelligence during the height of the Cold War.]

EM: He talked about “notional moles” in the article. And the notional mole – according to Rosenbaum – is that you make the other side believe that you’ve planted a mole in their midst without ever having actually planted a mole. ... You drive them insane.

AC: Because they're looking for something that doesn’t actually exist.

1. Interestingly, the film either has not been shown or had great difficulty in being shown in the US.

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