On political communication

Bob Perry writes: Re. “We lack the communicators to effectively fight populists” (yesterday). Perhaps Bernard Keane should contemplate that the reason why there are fewer eloquent champions of the free market is because the argument is falling to bits. Perhaps Bernard should be listening to worried South Australians rather than boorishly explaining their obvious lack of intelligence. Perhaps Bernard should tell us what happens when all of the jobs that people had before are now overseas. Its all very well to use the stick and the carrot as a motivational tool until you find when the mist clears that the carrot is now being inserted into your rectum.

Damien Flattery writes: Bernard Keane falls into the same trap as so many of the “soft” econorats who still miss the key points that are driving discontent.

  1. In the neoliberal era, so-called “Economic Growth” has been largely driven by consumer debt accumulation. Perceived increases in “living standards” were largely made up of demand brought forward via excessive supply of credit and the equivalent massive increase in consumer debt. As we’re seeing now around the world, this so-called “growth” has reached its limit, but neoliberal orthodoxy is still unable to comprehend this. More people are up to their eyeballs in debt even as job security disappears and industries disappear, but their EXPECTATIONS are already set.Meanwhile, central bank “stimulus” is being desperately used to prop up those already enriched by asset and share bubbles whilst slashing public services to pay for it and we’re told more “growth” is on the way…but that it probably means your living standards will fall!In this sense the “economic miracle” has been more of an “economic illusion”, and people are starting to realise this.
  2. The theory of “comparative advantage” at the heart of globalised neoliberalism takes no account of variability in human aptitude and skill. It is all very well telling a car manufacturing worker that their industry is dead and they should work in an aged-care home wiping baby-boomer’s bottoms instead, but are they supposed to be happy about it?Industries have come and gone before, but now we’re talking about entire SKILLSETS becoming redundant. So the trade-off can be effectively summed up as: cheaper imported goods for a loss of purpose, meaning or self-respect.The inability of econorats to comprehend why this makes people unhappy/angry stands as a further argument as to why they are widely regarded as sociopaths.
  3. Blind adherance to the doctrine of “borderless capital”. eg: The dogged insistence of classing ANY backlash against foreign investment as “xenophobia” is truly bizarre. It’s like China ISN’T a one-party totalitarian dictatorship that rigorously controls its own centrally-planned economy that we’re currently trying to stop forcibly seizing control of a major international trade route.

The continuing dismissal of legitimate concerns about the above as “xenophobia”, “protectionism” etc simply plays into the hands of the extreme right, reinforcing their narrative of rule by out-of-touch “elitists”.