Look. It’s no fun publicly opposing an argument made by Bernard Keane. It’s even less fun opposing an argument publicly made by oneself. Still. A girl can only make her way to peaceful sleep through honesty. Ergo: first, Bernard was a bit wrong yesterday about Greens economic policy; second, I was a bit wrong about Greens economic understanding back in 2016. We’ll get to Bernard at the end. First, it’s all about me.
SO. I wrote a thing down here in Crikey about a party whose ongoing refusal to bother either themselves or the electorate with macroeconomic debate was reprehensible. That’s not the wrong bit, incidentally. I still think the Greens ought to be embarrassed for their past failure to communicate anything much about the business of state, which is 99.9% macroeconomic. Any party that prefers moralising to the people over planning with the people is a deceitful bell-end.
All very well and good to bang on about trees and the depravity of Barbie dolls if you’re an NGO largely funded to “start a conversation” about trees and dolls on Twitter. All very shameful if your role is in parliament and the national political consciousness. We can curb neither the violence of Barbie nor that of climate change without recourse to economic understanding. And. No. Don’t give me “The Greens had economic policies last election”. They had some vague stuff about an Average Income Guarantee and innovative renewables on their website. I read it. None of it formed part of a broader economic vision.
I have, ahem, since paid sufficient attention to the party to know that its economic vision seems divided because its economic vision is divided. It’s wrong that I thought the so-called “watermelon” — red inside — to be a myth of which I dare not dream. It does exist. I. Was. Wrong.
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But, fair dinks, how was I to know? The Bob Brown-type kiwifruit remains both more prevalent and powerful in the party. Green-all-the-way-down maternalism, such as that of the soon-to-return Larissa Waters and, less obviously, Di Natale, retains its distaste for detailed economic speech; “we think everyone should be nice and more equal” is all a deep green fruit has time for when it’s otherwise busy telling people to be good, like us you peasants.
Moral injunctions can go and pork themselves and the politicians they rode in on. If I want a woman to tell me all the things I am doing wrong, I simply call my mother. I am not related to Sarah Hanson-Young, who is a ruddy gravedigger not just for the bourgeoisie — which she never fails to represent — but for her own party every time she does some dumb stuff in public like tell “old white men” not to oppress her with their pesky old white male questions about travel allowance.
Answer the pesky question with your spreadsheets, Sarah. Not by the fact of your gender, from whose more usual prison fortune permitted you escape. As for your mate and her breastfeeding press release. Do both of you rise each morning, perform affirmations then ask, “How can we make feminism seem less of an everyday economic question we will address, and more of a thing that is entirely about us two and our needs as important lady role models?” Seriously. Stop it. Most of us, whatever our gender, are living with an uncertainty you will never know. It’s not just me failing to identify with this Debate Club private schoolgirl disdain about how better attitudes make better lives. It’s everyone typical living in typical economic conditions. Those conditions you refuse to address.
Still. Now that Di Natale has actually made the noise “neoliberalism” with his mouth — our politicians do this so rarely, they must believe the word to be a curse — and the party has declared something more or less economic, the focus of Bernard’s critique, I may not draw a cock and balls on my next ballot, but vote in the hope this act will fertilise a watermelon. Better possibly red than certainly dead (to the ravages of the current cycle). Better to hope for some socialism than prepare for all the barbarism that will occur in its void. Yes. Even if it means amplifying the “think better thoughts and be better people!” arsery to which the Green woman-of-the-centre has been apparently assigned, I may vote Green.
For those who enjoy a spot of Green-mockery, do not despair. I have no intention whatsoever of kicking the public habit. When a Green “calls out” a bad person, I will “call out” that haughty act as brutally apolitical. If even one of them, even a watermelon, sashays out of a Senate they have already agreed to serve, I will enumerate all those other parliamentary atrocities on which they did not walk out. Why perform anti-racism for Pauline now, but not then for a Minister known by some as Genocide Jenny? Why upbraid the loud bigot, when quiet bigotry unfolds in real lives unnoticed? Why do you keep telling me, and any sod who will listen, that “good people make reality good!” This, as my pal Bernard is increasingly wont to agree, is the opposite of economic thinking. To wit: a good reality makes people good.
Ask one of the marginalised watermelons Di Natale has pureed: being creates consciousness. Consciousness — especially that of SHY — does not create being.
Ugh. I can’t believe I may tick Green. I’m afraid not only that this vote will provoke more public half-bakery about white men and caring anti-violence non-binary genderless dolls, etc, but that John Butler will spontaneously appear on my lawn to chant some Woodford dirge about the monogenetic evil of my lawn. Fuck you, John Butler, fuck your dreadlocks and all those paid political hairdos who tell me what to do in my home or in my garden. Stop talking to me, kiwifruit Greens, as though you were a middle-manager at a boutique microbrewery and I were the immiserated worker assigned to spoon out yeast. Don’t tell us to be better. Allow us to be better by building a more just, less coercive economy.
Anyhoo. To the bit about which our Bernard was wrong.
In his broad assessment of Di Natale’s quasi-quasi-socialist tasting plate served up in Canberra yesterday, BK is not awfully wrong. He is not at all wrong to assess universal basic income (UBI) as unsustainable bollocks. Notwithstanding UBI’s many potential problems, one of which would be the ineligibility of asylum seekers and others without citizenship to receive it, the biggest has got to be politics itself.
The UBI that truly equalises a wealth that Greens say, and I agree, needs equalising can only take place in a climate where wealthy individuals and private companies agree to (a) pay a greater share of tax and (b) tolerate the provision of social services. The UBI that unfolds under present conditions — just how we change the tax-avoiding, social services-hating present formed for the pleasure of the investor class is a mysterious Greens fruit salad — will increase wealth inequality, Richard. If Gina Rinehart takes the same sum in UBI as, say, me, it becomes capital for her but groceries for me. Ugh. UBI. It’s a gift to rent-seekers and a snazzy thing that Suddenly Socialist politicians can flash around like they’re some sort of Jeremy Corbyn.
As for addressing the housing price through lending. I’d need another day and 10 paragraphs to hate this debt-v-debt idea comprehensively. But. I’ll let you (and Bernard) off with this one partial criticism: don’t call UBI “fringe economics”.
UBI is no longer fringe. It is understood naively but widely as a great compromise between left and right; as the “hack” to end all past friction. It is understood cynically and increasingly as a way to sell yourself as a little bit red. Do not underestimate the lure of UBI. It’s a hugely seductive disaster, one hotly and currently discussed by powerful people in trade unions, just waiting to happen. It’s not just a TED talk anymore.
UBI is empty on the inside. Di Natale is green on the inside. I’ll likely vote for his party dominated by naïve and cynical centrists (oh GOD) but I’ll remind him every single time he’s falsely red.
P.S. I feel dirty.