On neoliberalism

Geoff Edwards writes: Re: “Neoliberalism now the straw man target of a raging left” (yesterday). Bernard Keane aligns himself with the majority of economists who, when surrounded by accumulating evidence of the wreckage following application of their cherished economic theories, protest that the theories themselves are sound, it is just the politicians who mucked up the implementation. Even though the failures in the form of crony capitalism, rising inequality, rorting, public and private debt and persistent trade imbalances are inherent in the theories, or at least are predictable (and predicted) consequences.

Bernard complains about imprecise usage of the term “neoliberalism”. Given that this is a political philosophy, fuzziness around the boundaries is inevitable. John Stone once defined economic rationalism (the Australian equivalent term) as “the view that markets always produce better results than governments”, which seems a reasonable summary of the neoliberal agenda. The discipline lying at its foundation, neoclassical economics, can be defined more precisely, but that’s not what Bernard did.

Not too sure about the “raging left” accusation either, Bernard. More like the raging centre. Opposition to privatisation, foreign investment etc has consistently run at more than 70% ever since Telstra was privatised, and lies at the core of Hansonism, which is not usually embraced within the “left”. Now don’t get me started on Telstra/NBN as a case study of the failure of neoliberalism to advance the public interest.

On foreign asset sales

Richard Middleton writes: Re. “Mayne: full list of major Aussie foreign power privatisation deals revealed” (yesterday). So overseas interests have purchased a great deal of our infrastructure. Why would they do that? I asked myself. Could it be that there really are angels and they now occupy various boardrooms around the world? Implausible.

Or is it more than likely they see these assets as juicy plums that they and their shareholders can catch for a very reasonable figure now, to benefit long term, from the unstoppable income stream that all these assets represent(ed), transformative technologies notwithstanding.

Given that much of this sell off is to either do a once off ‘balance of the books’ (which should have been properly managed in the first place of course) or to pay for some vital piece of election bribery, why do these government nabobs  not borrow the money for whatever the reason (at what would be very reasonable rates)  and then pay it off with the incomes from the businesses they have just sold for a risible sum to the hard nosed business people who know a chump sale when they see one?

People entering public office should sit examinations before they can proceed. These would cover science and technology, history of the world, geography around the world economics, logic, and common sense decision making. Clearly they are not dong a very good job so far.

Roy Ramage writes: Mayne’s list is a doozy! If anyone needs to be convinced about the increasing necessity for solar panels and batteries for their homes this list nails it. Inept governments, Babcock and Brown’s role in the 2009 financial meltdown and the continual purchase of taxpayer funded energy infrastructure by a handful of multinationals and super funds.

They are buying at a time when energy use has been slowing ever since 2009. The decline is due to efficiencies, renewables and the demise of our manufacturing industry. What is glaringly obvious is all these “investors” love the thought of a meter generating income 24 hours a day, especially after others have paid for the infrastructure. Solar and batteries are not an energy panacea, however: as our grandparents told us of going to bed just after darkness fell, our children will read by sun/wind power until that time of the evening when it is prudent to go to bed to preserve their power. They will be in charge and their pockets will be free of greedy hands dragging them towards penury with ever increasing power prices.

Peter Fray

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