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Monday Message Board

February 15th, 2010

I’ve been travelling, in and out of Internet contact, as well as being overloaded with work, so updates have been scarce lately. Also, comments threads have been getting out of control. I’m making a special request for increased civility, meaning that personal criticism of other commenters (and of me) should be avoided altogether. If you can’t make your point without such criticism, leave it for another time. I’ll try for a more nuanced version of this policy when I have time to formulate it, but for the moment, I’ll be handing out red cards to anyone who violates it.

With that, it’s time, once again for the Monday Message Board. Post comments on any topic. As usual, civilised discussion and no coarse language.

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  1. Michael
    February 18th, 2010 at 07:22 | #1

    TerjeP (say tay-a) :

    I think some on the left think culture is a government service. They seem to live in fear that one day a right wing government will come to power and culture will be abolished.

    Well you might be right about that, but not only people on the left “might” think that. Opera, the ABC and formula one racing are all government services enjoyed by people from across the spectrum. I personally don’t regard myself as “left” just not on the “right”. So I do live in fear of rightwing government – for reasons too numerous to go into here, but not because I think culture is a government service.
    I was referring to a technocratic approach to measuring consumption that doesn’t take qualitative assessments into consideration, probably because it would be an extremely brave person to do so. Wants and needs differ in time and space. I think there is a parallel to Francis Fukuyama’s error in declaring the end of history in economists assuming that we have reached definitive measures of well being.

    @Andrew Reynolds
    Good to hear that you do.

  2. February 18th, 2010 at 07:36 | #2

    @Michael
    “Opera, the ABC and formula one racing are all government services enjoyed by people from across the spectrum. ”

    ???

    From Wikipedia:

    Opera Australia is the principal opera company in Australia….Like most opera companies, it is funded by a combination of government money, corporate sponsorship, private philanthropy, and ticket sales. The proportion of its revenue from ticket sales is considerably higher than that of most companies, approximately 75 per cent.

    Re F1, I can’t quickly find a breakdown of funding sources, but consider that “The total spending of all eleven teams in 2006 was estimated at US$2.9 billion” and government subsidies (haawk, spit) are at best in the tens of millions.

    Government services? Ha!

  3. Michael
    February 18th, 2010 at 08:11 | #3

    @Jarrah
    Thanks for taking my dig at TerjeP literally and going to the trouble rebutting it. For the purposes of debating people of a libertarian persuasion I prefer to employ a broad definition of what constitutes a government service – anything that the government chips in money for is a “cultural government service”.

  4. Chris Warren
    February 18th, 2010 at 09:40 | #4

    TerjeP (say tay-a) :

    I think some on the left think culture is a government service. They seem to live in fear that one day a right wing government will come to power and culture will be abolished.

    Poor terjeP, still plucking from the same banjo?

    Living in fear that a democracy will give the hoi polloi the same access to culture as the rich.

  5. wilful
    February 18th, 2010 at 11:35 | #5

    Jarrah, the Victorian governmetn spends at least $50M a year on the effing formula 1. To go to that corrupt little creep bernie ecclestone. All other countries or cities spend similar amounts.

    Remnids me of the classic Yes Minister episode, where Jim Hacker compares funding soccer with opera. The ep is entitled the middle-class rip-off. http://www.yes-minister.com/ymseas3b.htm

  6. wilful
    February 18th, 2010 at 11:38 | #6

    Quote from that episode: Sir Humphrey: “Bernard, subsidy is for art…for culture. It is not to be given to what the people want, it is for what the people don’t want but ought to have.”

  7. Alice
    February 18th, 2010 at 19:25 | #7

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    “I think some on the left think culture is a government service. They seem to live in fear that one day a right wing government will come to power and culture will be abolished.”

    Terje…. I am one of those you refer to. I do live in fear that right wing governments will abolish culture. JH’s attacks on the ABC were unprecedented in our history and all talk was about privatisation.

    I live in fear of the private sector’s interpretation of what it is exactly that Australian consumers actually want or perhaps need and I live in fear that we are confusing the immediate ratings desires of the market with what is best for society and culture (two quite different animals Terje).

    I also questions whether Australian consumers actually know what is best for them? I dont expect the market to lead the way Terje (and perhaps that is the point of minor difference between you and I?)

    Were the market to lead the way Terje…we would have a lot more people switching off because they are bored with US sitcoms or the themes of “lost on some remote island and have to find prey and cook for oneself, or have to lose a lot of weight and get on public scales to win the bonus pool”

    The only thing that is keeping TV alive is subsidies because Australian TV owners thought they could do it on the cheap via digital download from Uncle Sam copies and get away with the cheapness here.

    Maybe its time to turn to blogs because TV is dying and so is culture. Thanks to right wing governments who fell in love with the market. Lets hope you dont take my comments personally Terje…because this genuinely is my view. We seriusly need to wind back “the market does it better” view.

    It doesnt actually. Culture and more than just culture..eg honesty and unbiased media reporting is indeed a government service and a public good and one the market fails to deliver in full (which means the market fails Terje).

  8. Alice
    February 18th, 2010 at 19:40 | #8

    @Alice
    However Terje,

    Having stated my ideal above.I would like to make an exception in the case if the NSW state giovernment. Why ? Because their idea of culture is the people who donate the most to their party. They are a government without ethics or culture Terje and are beyond help. They even appointed an unethical cousin of mine to a senior position in the latest race car fiasco they have thrown taxpayers monies at at Homebush (shock, horror..even my own blood on the take – not a particularly nice relative either – I know him well – he only makes nice family noises and gtestures if there is money involved for him).

    There are exceptions to my point Terje. Some governments are beyond redemption.

  9. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    February 18th, 2010 at 19:48 | #9

    Alice – you declare yourself to be in the category outlined which in my view is a foolish place to be. You may prefer one culture over another but it is silly to use the word culture to describe your prefered version and to regard any less personally prefered version as being the absents of culture. By that reckoning I ought to be declaring that the original tribal aboriginies of Australia didn’t have a culture, which is clearly bunk. Culture does not mean customs, rituals and symbols that I personally happen to like. Nore does it mean customs, rituals and symbols that Alice personally likes.

    I have no doubt that if the ABC were privatised then the culture of Australia would be different in some ways. However whilst the culture may be different and whilst you may like it less (or at least think you would) this does not amount to the death of culture, just transformation to an alternative.

    To put this in context I was responding to the following remark:-

    Sometimes I think there is an almost autistic approach to understanding culture in economics that is inbred through a lack of general arts education.

    The fallacy in this remark is the notion that economists ought to express their personal preference for one culture over another. I have no doubt that they do but personal preference isn’t material to good economic analysis. You don’t provide a good account of the economics at play in the motor vehicle industry by declaring “I like Taragos best”. It is like suggesting that having read a book on astronomy it seems clear that astronomists lack any understanding of tantric sex. Well they may or may not but when they write a book on astronomy we simply shouldn’t expect to hear a lot about tantric sex. In any case most economists that I know, irrespective of ideology, seem to be deeply inquisitive about what makes people and societies tick. Most economists are interested in philosophical questions of what creates a good life and a good society even if they don’t litter their work with references to Beethoven or Picasso.

  10. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    February 18th, 2010 at 19:50 | #10

    They even appointed an unethical cousin of mine to a senior position in the latest race car fiasco they have thrown taxpayers monies at at Homebush (shock, horror..even my own blood on the take – not a particularly nice relative either – I know him well – he only makes nice family noises and gtestures if there is money involved for him).

    Some might regard this as a culture of corruption. Which isn’t the same as the death of culture.

  11. Alice
    February 18th, 2010 at 19:52 | #11

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    Terje – Im breaching my quota here but you have missed my point. We are no so far apart as you imagine. Not all governments are bad and not all culture is good.

  12. Alice
    February 18th, 2010 at 19:57 | #12

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    Terje – I also regard it as a culture of corruption (NSW labor)….but I dont think all governments are corrupt Terje and that is failure of “a government” not “all governments”. If I get in trouble Im blaming you LOL.

  13. Michael
    February 18th, 2010 at 21:14 | #13

    TerjeP (say tay-a) :
    The fallacy in this remark is the notion that economists ought to express their personal preference for one culture over another.

    I don’t think you took the meaning I intended in my original statement. I share your view that culture isn’t just culture I like. It surrounds us and we live in it and contribute to it. My point was that it is constantly evolving, arbitrary and values it places on things change with fashions. It is difficult to separate “utility” from a cultural POV. Measures of standards of living have to be excepted as measures constructed in culture rather than some kind of ‘a priori’ constant. Even definitions of adequate primary “needs” like food and shelter are subject to change over time.

    This is all in response to the idea being discussed earlier that by transitioning to a less energy intensive society would therefore necessarily result in a “lower standard of living”. If you have a very limited imagination for the future (not saying you personally do, but lets imagine someone who does) then it is easy to see how people could think this. I have lowered my own energy use but don’t believe I have lowered my standard of living although some economic measures might lead to that judgement.

    I don’t quite understand how you went from my comment to your comment about people on the left thinking that culture is a government service. Just for the record, I don’t think that government funding of the arts is entirely unproblematic, benign or justifiable, but that is another very long argument in it’s own right.

  14. Michael
    February 18th, 2010 at 21:28 | #14

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    Or to phrase it another more succinct way, you can’t entirely escape your cultural POV. The most you can do is try to recognise that it’s always going to play an influence. I know a lot of economists are inquisitive about the world and do have an interest in what makes the world tick. So therefore they aren’t the ones I’m referring too.

  15. Alice
    February 19th, 2010 at 17:28 | #15

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    Terje

    You have made a nonsensical point here

    “Alice – you declare yourself to be in the category outlined which in my view is a foolish place to be. You may prefer one culture over another but it is silly to use the word culture to describe your prefered version and to regard any less personally prefered version as being the absents of culture.”

    a) I didnt declare myself to be in any category at all.

    b) I prefer a government or government structures that functions ethically. I do think they exist and I will say this to you Terje…I suspect you dont beleive they exist (and Im willing to accept any moderations on this from you). Therefore I suspect you declare yourself to be anti “all government” to a greater extent than I.

    c) I do not like the methodology or the operational style of NSW Labor. I do beleive tey have allowed themselves as a party to become dysfunctional and to an extent corrupt. That my cousin is employed on a project I consider immoral, when so many services have been allowed to fall into disarray and wth basic maintenance of public services neglected over the past years of Labor rule…does not make me “tolerant of of culture of corruption” Terje.

    d) I recognise the fallibility of governments but I do not see that as a reason to do without government control….which in my view would accord excessive freedom to the proliferation of private sector corruption. I see it poorly functioning governments as need to rectify weaknesses of corruption within government Terje, not to do away with government in entirety.

    Quite a different thing.

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