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Federal

Jul 8, 2011

Cynical weakness v economic
irrationalism

The Government appears unconvinced it should be in power, and the Opposition will say anything, no matter how ridiculous, to confirm that.

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It’s superfluous to note that federal politics has reached a nadir in recent months. It’s not that it keeps plumbing new depths; it’s more like just scraping along the bottom of a particularly filth-encrusted barrel.

The only grace note of proceedings yesterday — indeed of the entire week — was Julia Gillard rising to upbraid Joel Fitzgibbon for his disgraceful, s-xist and staggeringly stupid catcall of Julie Bishop, and Tony Abbott rising in turn to accept it in good faith. The rest was an economically irrational, and occasionally simply lunatic, Opposition slugging it out with a staggeringly inept Government.

This is not to suggest any sort of moral equivalence. Labor may be inept, but it has not altogether abandoned good policy. We’ll wait and see on Sunday whether the carbon pricing scheme is better than the execrable CPRS — that will depend mostly on how long the compensation to industry lasts and how quickly the price goes up. And the long-delayed mining tax is about one-third of a good policy. But in other areas it hacks away, none more so than on the economy, where for all the polls showing it is regarded poorly as an economic manager, it keeps making the right calls. Notice how many people are still complaining about the need to cut spending faster? None — and certainly none at the Reserve Bank.

But for all its reform intentions, Labor looks like it is systematically working its way across a minefield, and making a point of stepping on every single one. It’s almost comic how unerringly the Government opts for the wrong decision.

Take live cattle exports, for example. The Government could have chosen to suspend the trade until there was a guarantee there’d be no repeat of the nauseating scenes from 4 Corners. The ban would have lasted for several months and inflicted considerable pain on Labor, but it would have been the right thing to do in animal welfare terms. Or it could have cynically minimised the political pain by resisting calls for a ban, knowing the media cycle would move on and people would forget about 4 Corners — until next time.

Now of course there most certainly will be a next time, for instead of doing either of those things, it carefully identified the worst option of all, and did both — putting a ban in place, then revoking it under political pressure without any sort of concrete guarantee that things would improve. The issue is now back in the hands of the industry that sat and pretended the whole issue was a marketing problem for the last decade.

Voters are surprisingly tolerant of political cynicism, but cynicism coupled with weakness is never a winning combination. The Howard Government exemplified cynicism and a determination to retain power no matter what the cost, but voters forgave that because of its impression of authority and competence. Labor lacks both. The Prime Minister, once so feared in Parliament and so well-regarded by the electorate, fails to project authority. Wayne Swan, whatever his successes as an economic manager, has never projected authority as Treasurer. But the problem goes further back — Labor in power has never shaken off the perception that it still thinks it is in opposition, and that lurking round the next corner will be John Howard, ready to leap out and wedge them off the political map again.

In short, Labor gives the impression it is not quite sure it is entitled to be running the country, that its hold on power is fragile. And lo, that’s what came to pass.

The Coalition, on the other hand, plainly feels the world simply isn’t right if it isn’t governing, and under Tony Abbott will say and do anything to reverse that unnatural condition. There’s a plain parallel here between the Liberals and the Republicans, whose reaction to the Obama presidency – in historical terms, one of the more conservative administrations of the post-war era — has been the adoption of batsh-t insane economic policies, culminating in a stand-off over the US debt ceiling that has conjured the hitherto-unthinkable serious discussion of US debt default.

Likewise, under Tony Abbott, the Liberals have turned their backs on market mechanisms, invented entirely spurious savings and promised to both increase spending and restore the Howard Government’s disastrous cycle of pumping up demand with tax cuts to ease the burden of higher prices caused by pumping up demand.

But there’s no shame for many (though not all) Liberals in this because it’s all in aid of overturning the outrage of a Labor Government.

The problem is, too many in Labor appear to agree with them and act accordingly.

Bernard Keane — Politics Editor

Bernard Keane

Politics Editor

Bernard Keane is Crikey’s political editor. Before that he was Crikey’s Canberra press gallery correspondent, covering politics, national security and economics.

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91 comments

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91 thoughts on “Cynical weakness v economic
irrationalism

  1. Fran Barlow

    It’s hard to disagre with much of this analysis.

    Many years ago, I was handed the thankless task of coaching an inline hockey team. Nobody else had a child who could ice skate all that well, still less manage to play hockey on inlines so I was it.

    Given that I didn’t expect the team to be scoring many goals, I figured the most important tasks were working out how to cut the number of goals we conceded. I chose the only kid who wanted to be goalie, warned all the other kids that at the first sign of abuse or criticism from any of them that they would become goalie for the next two games and worked on training him to keep out goals.

    The worst place for an inline hockey goalie to be when a shot from close range is coming is in the middle. The shooter gets to pick either side, and the goalie, who has no time to react just has to hope the shooter chokes or misses. You give the shooter one side — ideally the side with the sharpest angle and then you choose a low dive and raise your free arm. That maximises the chances of deflecting the puck, especially in a game where the kids aren’t all that good at shooting.

    Because the kids couldn’t skate much, I had them practice passing and holding. The less the other team had the ball (we weren’t using a puck) the fewer shots on goal they’d have and we could force them to chase more, tiring them out and reducing their advantage. The best of our skaters and ball trappers would move forward and then the piggy-in-the-middle routine would be resumed. I was seeking to neutralise a weakness (or if you like, render an opposition strength less salient.

    It seems to me that these are principle that the government has failed to apply. Instead of picking a side and being consistent, they are allowing themselves to be attacked from both sides. Instead of making it hard for the opposition to make use of their freedom to troll by simply adopting a policy, continually explaining it and then moving on, they are all over the place. They could have announced in February that they meant to begin a consultation process to devise a carbon price, announced a provisional framework in a couple of months and the final detail now. They could have shut down “Juliar” talk by pointing out that a carbon tax was not being considered quite early. But they didn’t. They could have pointed out that as it was clear that the Bali framework process could not be satisfactorily completed on a timeline that met the government’s desire to keep vulnerable people out of detention, they would process all on-shore and annoy all those who were never voting for them in Newspolls while impressing all those who wanted a robust position to defend.

    But no … I suspect poor coaching.

    {FTR … my inline hockey side ended up finishing about half way in our division the first year and came 3rd the following year. They started slowly, but got better, and our goalie turned into arguably the best goalie of the division — almost all of it as a result of his hardwork, character and his refusal to make the same mistake twice}

  2. Frank Campbell

    Most of this is a repetition of conventional wisdom. It could have been written by the Oracle of the Obvious, Paul Kelly, except for the expletives, froth and bubble- usual Crikey additives. (Which we like)

    But the comparison between the Republicans and Abbott is a barf too far. Not only are the two systems/cultures starkly different. The insane gringo mix of primitive religion and economic hypocrisy isn’t seen here. The only recent administration to cool debt growth was Clinton, but Bush’s wars and tax cuts have put the US many trillions in hock. Obama has inherited this, and when in deep shit, the Fed prints toilet paper.

    Tarring Abbott with this loo-brush is unconvincing. He’s just following the usual Opposition script -tax bribes, rubbery figures and kicking the shit out of anything with red hair. Banal Julia reciprocates. So what? Harry Jenkins has 14,000 ways of saying “Order”, according to peer-reviewed research.

    Anyway, the next election is a referendum on the carbon tax. Gillard’s choice. Keane is congenitally incapable of realising that this is very silly policy- it’s unilateral, cannot reduce global temps, will eventually damage mining and manufacturing, will immediately disadvantage the rural poor and remnant working class, will cause a rapid expansion in renewable energy rorts (google up Flannery’s geothermal fantasy, Geodynamics), and has comically vanished up its own exemptions. Ideologically, it’s shambolic: Gillard says “the coal industry has a fantastic future”. Sarah Hyphen gives it ten years. Brown bans wind turbines in Tasmania because it’s killing all the eagles, while demanding them for Australia.

    The entire ramshackle fantasy is an indulgence of well-heeled inner suburbanites- the chief beneficiaries of the property boom and bad urban planning. Don’t patronise “the punters”, the “selfish”, “stupid” and large majority who’ve rebelled against this vast low-postcode rort. They’ve had enough. They’ll even vote for the intrinsically unattractive hormonal Jesuit.

  3. Fran Barlow

    FC said:

    [{…}But neither can trust the other not to take the middle of the beach, so they both end up next to each other, “stuck in the middle with you”.]

    That actually illustrates my principle, because when both are in the centre, all the space to their respective sides is theirs. Being at the 25% and 75% points would allow nibbling. So really, both vendors are on the fringes, but both vendors are there so that they can pitch at only one location.

    The real probelm with the concept of “the middle” in politics is that it assumes that this is a static thing, rather than something that can be urged one way or the other. While it is unlikely that the middle will, any time soon, favour either producer-centred governance on the one hand or a complete slide into capitalist slavery on the other where what trifling governance there was in the hands of the richest criminal, it is possible that a coherent left-of-centre policy (or if such could be formulated, a coherent right-of-centre policy) could shift where “the centre” was by winnng over/mollifying left- or right-of-centre voters.

    It seems to me that what most non-tribals want/demand out of governance is the sense that their values are being respected by some viable and consistent set of policy settings. A government that does that and appears competent can govern either from the right or the left regardless of what the policy wonks think is ideal.

    What the ALP has done is to paint themselves as a ‘Seinfeld’ government — one that is not competent enough to claim to be managerialist and yet has no enduring values. Even those inclined to support it out of habit or some memory of some ancient hatred or worthy act wonder why they should care about its fate. In the end, unless you believe that the fall of the government will cause the rescission or truncation of some worthy program or usher in people whose values are utterly offensive, why should you care what happens to the regime?

    The ALP’s abandonment of principles, its pandering to the values of people who have always hated equity, justice, human rights, the environment and even liberal democracy in many cases, rather than winning over such folk merely invites everyone to wonder whom they really trust to trample on the above values. As Gittins noted recently, nobody believes that the ALP can do as good a job of brutalising refugees as the LNP, and if that policy is a good one, then one might as well vote LNP. If allowing the rich to get richer or business to foul the air or fighting useless wars in some far off land is a good policy, once again, it’s the LNP who really have their hearts in this work.

    Those who think this is poor policy listen with a mixture of disgust and alarm and as the polls head south, fancy that perhaps the least psychologically taxing thing is to go to ground until better times arrive — or vote Green or informal, or Liberal because it doesn’t matter anyway.

    As I discovered when coaching — while nobody likes losing, there are good losses and bad losses. A bad loss is where you act unwisely, ignore sound and viable plans, or learn nothing from your loss. A bad loss is one where you lose to a structurally inferior but more disciplined and well drilled group. Conversely, good losses are where you sharpen your tactics, are agile in responding to challenges, build cohesion within your team and emerge with a better plan for the next time you confront a comparable challenge. If the ALP had challenged Tampa in 2001, it might well have lost all the same. It might perhaps have suffered on paper an even worse loss than it did. Yet if it had managed to craft a coherent and principled response reflecting what those committed to the ALP had (rightly or wrongly) seen as traditional ALP values there can be little doubt that it would have drawn to it a whole new core of energetic, educated and highly committed people. It would have been able to mount a far more impressive challenge in 2004 and in 2007, instead of the shambles of a regime that defeated the now moribund Howard government, we would have seen a battle hardened and principled party sweep aside the LNP rabble and lead us forward towards a modern and more humane Australia. Indeed, the same core might have swept aside the soulless number crunchers in NSW and avoided that debacle as well.

    Sudeenly we see why Beazler acted as he did in 2001 …

  4. freecountry

    Fran Barlow – I think you’ve nailed it with Kim Beazley in 2001. That’s when the ALP sold its soul, for a cheque that bounced. The papers, the people, the universities, all were waiting for a sign from Beazley on what they saw as life and death issues for those who were out of luck and in need of a fair go. Then Beazley, debating Howard on the ABC, promised to “send the boats back to where they came from,” and after that, he and Howard together insisted on campaigning about the details of wealth redistribution. The journalists said “oh no you don’t” and kept printing stories about human rights but, Beazley and Howard were having none of it. Between them they bludgeoned the media into their own agenda.

    Most people see that history differently. The commonly accepted version is that Howard intended to elevate stopping the boats to the main election issue, and succeeded. The truth is otherwise. Both Howard and Beazley wanted to dispose of the asylum issue and all that Amnesty International stuff quickly, push it out of the way, and concentrate on distribution-of-wealth issues. So Howard gets the blame for turning Australia into a land of the venally selfish, but it was truly a bipartisan strategy. Beazley had his moment, and he failed. I’ve never been able to take Labor seriously since then.

    You have a way with words tonight, and I laugh to read phrases like “out of habit or some memory of some ancient hatred or worthy act” and your parenthetical “or if such could be formulated, a coherent right-of-centre policy”. Funny. In fact a coherent right-of-centre policy is simplicity itself: (1) There’s more to society than government; (2) Sustainable rises in the standard of living come from organic economic growth, not from cancelling incentives for success; (3) Use coercion only as a last resort. Simple stuff. Unfortunately somewhere on the way to political practice, even these simple principles can be lost in translation.

  5. C@tmomma

    Fran Barlow,
    You write like someone who likes the sound of their own voice. Lot’s of fine-sounding pontification that is seemingly erudite. Seemingly reasonable and considered, but deep-sixed as BS when you just have to go and say something patently false like this:
    ‘In the end, unless you believe that the fall of the government will cause the rescission or truncation of some worthy program or usher in people whose values are utterly offensive, why should you care what happens to the regime?’
    I don’t know about you, Hockey Mum, but I happen to believe the opposite to you here. I do believe that the fall of the Gillard government will cause the rescision and truncation of some very worthy programs and policies if the Coalition are elected. Just take a look at the Coalition’s ‘Savings’ from the last election if you don’t believe me. And I most definitely believe that the election of an Abbott government would usher in people whose values are utterly offensive. How could you not believe that about the utterly offensive Mr Abbott, and his Bovver Boy sidekick, Barnaby Joyce?
    One too many Hockey sticks to the head maybe?
    And both you and Bernard are only too happy to keep beating a team, the ALP federal government, when they are down. For waht crime exactly? Manfully trying to implement good policy when the country is against them, the media is against them, the parliament is against them, and 2-bit hacks like Bernard Keane, with his phalanx of know-all commenters are against them.

  6. Fran Barlow

    c@tmomma quoted me:

    [In the end, unless you believe that the fall of the government will cause the rescission or truncation of some worthy program or usher in people whose values are utterly offensive, why should you care what happens to the regime?]

    then said:

    [I happen to believe the opposite to you here. I do believe that the fall of the Gillard government will cause the rescision and truncation of some very worthy programs and policies if the Coalition are elected. Just take a look at the Coalition’s ‘Savings’ from the last election if you don’t believe me. And I most definitely believe that the election of an Abbott government would usher in people whose values are utterly offensive.]

    Your abusive tone suggests you are pretty worked up, but even so, how can you get this point so far wrong. Reasonably or not, you clearly think the test is satisfied, and so for you there’s no problem giving the ALP your effective preference. The trouble is that in raw numbers about 30% of people who voted ALP at the last election, itself down on the traditional proportion who do and who did in 2007 are now telling pollsters that they are going to give their first preference to someone else. They may not do so at an actual poll of course, but the ALP is playing with fire here.

    A political party can have a set of policies and brand promotion that either gain sympathy amongst new layers of the electorate or that stick to core principles, keeping the core happy, but one cannot have one that fails both tests and appear credible. There could be no warrant for such policies. Matters may change by 2013, and IMO, if the government gets the NBN and carbon price measures in place with a minimum of trouble, and suffers no other major setback during the next two years they will be slightly in front of the game — they will have given the supporters something to defend. At this stage though, they’ve behaved as if there are no major differences culturally between them and the LNP. They’ve tried to outflank them on asylum seekers, small Australia, gay marriage and on surplus budgets. They’ve offered serious compensation to big polluters, backtracked on the Murray Darling and water allocations, are energetically pursuing war in Afghanistan and big defence spending. They’ve backed down on live exports. They are schmoozing the Murdochracy with talk of Sky getting the Australia TV rights and by allowing the ABC to be a coalition echo-chamber, and pretty much won’t even slap people down when their leader is called a liar.

    Right now, they aren’t marking out a lot of disinctive space for themselves. I hear that you are feeling upset and defensive, but your anger would be better directed at those who have abandoned principles without even securing the upside of such Faustian bargains.

  7. Hogarth

    I’d like to take issue with your analysis of the “cattle torture porn” fiasco.

    A cut through the curtain reveals organisations not concerned with animal welfare, but dogmatic supporters of a “live export” ban at any cost.

    The initial “shock value” was confined to the conditions animals endured while crossing the ocean. When this was neutered (the animals are gaining weight on the trip), they turned there attention to random outlier abattoirs.

    Instead of screaming for better conditions on the killing floor, the true agenda was revealed with incessant calls for a “total ban”.

    Predictably, the government went for the buy in. I was quite surprised and frankly proud with the initial level headed response of denying animals to the horror shops.

    Could it be that Kevin’s dream of “outcome based policy” was being implemented as the facts where laid out and options considered?

    Alas, the screaming drowned out rational analysis and the “total ban” was achieved.
    Finally after the data is examined the ban is lifted.

    There are apparently some MP’s who are outraged when the “no stun, no export” condition was rejected. A cursory glance at practices reveal we allow for this condition on our home soil.

    This type of colonial attitude does not sit well with any neighbor.
    Did anyone notice the threat the Chinese leveled at us in relation to our live export of breeding diary cows?

    But what really threw me was the number of letters to the editor that used the phrase “our cattle”. I can appreciate the anthropomorphic connection, but this is not Soviet Russia circa 1962.

  8. Fran Barlow

    Actually, there’s no serious difference between the actual political programs of Marxist socialist or communists. The terms are interchangeable. Socialism, for Marxists, is a condition of worldsociety in which material scarcity and the associated wage-labour system and class society and therefore the state (an artefact of class society) as well is falling into desuetude. Communism is the end point of that process in which material scarcity and its other topical features — classes, the wage labour system, the state — have vanished and all that remains for society to undertake are purely administrative functions.

    Marxist communists and socialists are in agreement on this. Of course, not all people calling themselves socialists/communists are Marxists. Some people have appropriated the term “socialist” to describe a form of radical (or even not so radical) liberalism, in which reforms of capitalism aimed at reducing inequties between and/or within capitalist regimes are supposed to lead to more just societies. Typically, these entail resort to communitarian measures, increased public spending, transfer payments through the taxation system and so forth. Often, those who favour such measures are found to be supporting politcally eithe rsocial democratic parties (as exist in large parts of western Europe), labourist parties (such as the ALP, British Labor) or even liberal capitalist parties (e.g. the Democrats in the US. Little wonder then that this leads to a muddying of the waters as to what constitutes “socialism”.

    One should draw attention to the distinction between socialist societies such as I’ve outlined above, and the programs of nominally socialist parties which may (but in most cases these days, do not) aim at socialist societies. We may thus speak of “socialist” policies as being those of nominally socialist parties without specifying what socialism as a set of cultural arrangements will entail. Similarly, a government that is led by ostensible socialists may loosely be called “a socialist government”, without it following that the jurisdiction or any of the usages within it have a socialist character. If the LNP wins in 2013, Australia will not become a liberal society, and if the ALP retains office we won’t be a Labor society either.

    Typically, these days, those that self-describe as socialists want to assert a non-revolutionary path to a just society — i.e. one marked by respect for human rights and civil liberties, equality of life chances, and an increase in inclusive and communitarian approaches to governance. Some see this as laying the foundation for more discontinuous (a.k.a revoltionary and transformative) changes in social arrangements in the longer run. Self-declaring communists tend to assert that reform is a mere accelerant to this transformative and revolutionary end and so tend to be the more in-your-face radicals. Their choice of term is deliberately confrontational for just this reason. Yet there’s no reason why someone calling him or herself a socialist could not share this view. It’s really a matter of emphasis for those of us accepting Marxism as a starting point for analysis. None of us really knows how long it will take to achieve the liberation of working humanity from capitalism, after all. For liberals, labourists, or conservative social democrats — i.e. anti-Marxists — use of “socialism” is a shibboleth against revolutionary politics.

    I hope this helps.

  9. freecountry

    TheTruthHurts: “every man for himself basically”

    Ayn Rand may have described “give” as a swear word but that certainly was not the view of the founding fathers of the US, or of Australia. For example Benjamin Franklin: “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”

    The difference between the classical liberal and the socialist is that the latter considers government, the law, and the use of state force, as the primary instrument for all forms of charity and social solidarity. The capitalist reveres the law as one of civilization’s achievements, not a thing to be used as a truncheon for every populist cause that comes along, and prefers charity to be mainly in the private domain.

    Any state demand on your generosity is backed up by the law, which means potentially guns in your face and prison bars if you defy it. Charity enforced at gunpoint is not really charity at all; taken to the kind of extreme the Greens would demand, it’s little more than legalized looting. You cannot build a strong society on fear, but that is precisely what the Greens aim to do, even though most of the milder ones would be appalled if you put it like that.

    The point of giving people freedom to choose is not to enshrine some kind of law of the jungle, but to reserve the crude force of the law for where it’s really needed while allowing social solidarity to grow outside of the political system.

  10. jeebus

    @Freecountry, Ayn Rand was a sociopath and her ideology is sociopathic.

    The difference between the classical liberal and the socialist is that the latter considers government, the law, and the use of state force, as the primary instrument for all forms of charity and social solidarity.

    Name me a single politician in Australia who wants to outlaw private charities. This is a strawman argument.

    The capitalist reveres the law as one of civilization’s achievements, not a thing to be used as a truncheon for every populist cause that comes along, and prefers charity to be mainly in the private domain.

    Wait, so does the capitalist revere a law he considers populist? And who decides what is populist and what is not? Sounds more like ‘the capitalist’ is a hypocrite who only wants to revere the laws that personally benefit him.

    Any state demand on your generosity is backed up by the law, which means potentially guns in your face and prison bars if you defy it.

    Well duh, what is the point of passing laws if you’re not going to enforce them?

    Charity enforced at gunpoint is not really charity at all; taken to the kind of extreme the Greens would demand, it’s little more than legalized looting.

    Uhh, are you saying taxes are charity or looting?

    You cannot build a strong society on fear, but that is precisely what the Greens aim to do, even though most of the milder ones would be appalled if you put it like that.

    Freecountry, it really depends who has the fear as to the state of the society. If the government and corporations are afraid of the citizenry and small business then you have a strong society. If the citizens and small businesses are afraid of the government and corporations then you end up with a weak and fractured society like 21st century America.

    Americans have no job security, can be bankrupted by medical bills if they fall sick, and are afraid of the next financial collapse because the banking barons got rewarded with their tax dollars for the last one.

    The point of giving people freedom to choose is not to enshrine some kind of law of the jungle, but to reserve the crude force of the law for where it’s really needed while allowing social solidarity to grow outside of the political system.

    Ahhh, it’s all clear now! You’re trying to classify taxes as “charity” and argue that people should be able to decide whether they give to charity or not.

    Wow, what a very long winded comment all to say, “I like all the benefits that I get from living in a first world country but I don’t want to pay my taxes”.

  11. drsmithy

    DrSmithy, first of all I don’t know of any liberal, or for that matter any Liberal, who would abolish all welfare.

    I don’t know any Greens who practice “charity enforced at gunpoint”, either.

    Perhaps with ridiculous rhetorical descriptions of both sides out of the way, a useful discussion might erupt ?

    Some of them, such as Milton Friedman, have argued for a form of combined income tax and welfare support called a Negative Income Tax. I won’t go into the efficiency argument for it, but one distinguishing feature is that it removes the role of Social Security in deciding whether a person has applied for enough jobs, etc. All low-income persons would automatically receive enough money through the tax system to live on (that’s the negative component of the tax). The model relies on positive incentives to entice people to supplement that income by working. As the person earns more money, they approach, then pass the break-even point and go from being a tax recipient to a tax payer.

    That’s a remarkably socialist/communist/leftist sounding policy.

    Your argument about the government being just a reflection of us, of our prevailing values and standards, relies on a form of democratic absolutism which does not work. Historically, all states that have placed too much trust in this principle have gone backwards, not forwards (including notably some of the American Confederacy states before the Union, and modern day California). The modern democracy does not rely only on the representative principle to control its behaviour, but also on a huge variety of constitutional checks and balances to prevent a body politic from shooting itself in the foot.

    The point is that Government in Australia does not act without the direction and approval of the voters, because said voters not only get the chance to throw them out every few years, but are _required_ to decide whether or not they approve.

    Government does not exist in a vacuum. Acting like it does – as you any others like you frequently do – does not make for a compelling argument.

  12. drsmithy

    Dr Smithy, why do you think the negative income tax sounds communist/socialist?

    Because – since it’s just a differently structured welfare – it’s still going to require that whole “tax the rich, give money to people who don’t have jobs/have children but aren’t married/are too sick to work/etc” thing that gets called socialism/communism/left-wing.

    Is that because you’ve always believed that liberalism means throwing the helpless to the wolves?

    No, that conclusion was reached from observing how people claiming to be ‘liberals’ acted (or “Republicans” when I was living in the US).

    The idea of the NIT is to (a) create positive incentives in the form of a steady gradient of net income; (b) ensure nobody starves (including those whom the law currently considers ineligible for support); and (c) get rid of the bureaucracy that breathes down the neck of the unemployed, often doing more harm than good with all the bewildering paperwork and confidence-sapping condescention. If you think that’s anti-liberal, then you have misunderstood liberal.

    I didn’t say it was anti-liberal, I said it sounded like a left-wing “socialist” policy. It is, after all, just Government welfare with a different name and structure. Government welfare is fairly universally considered a left-wing thing (and while it has, at least, made it out of the “populist cause” phase in most countries, many on the right still tend to view it at “legalised looting”).

    How do you think a NIT will be funded, if not by “fear” of “potentially guns in your face and prison bars” ?

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