May Day

May 1st, 2010

I’ve been arguing for a while that, after a long defensive struggle, the left/labour movement needs to start thinking about how to respond to the opportunities created by the intellectual collapse of the right and the economic failure of market liberalism. In a lot of areas, such as those of the welfare state, and community services, the defensive struggle was reasonably successful, and the question now is how best to move forward.

That’s not true of worker and union rights, where the left has lost much ground over the past few decades: drastic declines in union membership, a declining wage share, and the expansion of managerial power and managerialist ideology. On May Day, the traditional day of celebration of the trade union movement it’s natural to focus on the question of how best to push back against these forces, and where we should be going. I don’t have a lot of answers, but I’ll throw in a few points (not all that well worked out) and open up for discussion.

Among the recent successes of the worldwide labor movement, the ACTU’s “Your Rights at Work” campaign was one of the most notable, not so much for its concrete achievements (which included a significant contribution to the defeat of the Howard government, and the partial repeal of its anti-worker laws) but for the way it turned the debate around. It was entirely successful in posing a rights-based argument that workers do not (or should not) have to trade away their human rights for a job. The government’s “WorkChoices” rhetoric proved utterly unappealing to most Australians. And, while the Rudd government has disappointed in many respects, it not only scrapped the worst of WorkChoices (following some backdowns under pressure by Howard), but pushed forward with initiatives like parental leave[1].

It seems to me that this is the right way to go. The old-style politics of class (with the working class represented by male manual workers, gathered in large, naturally solidaristic workplaces) is no longer relevant to the great majority of Australian workers. That doesn’t mean that class has ceased to matter, but it does mean that workers experience class and power relationships more in terms of individual experience than as collective interactions between classes. So, in particular, unions need to be seen more as mutual aid associations that protect their individual members against exploitation and unfair treatment than as vehicles for the mobilisation of the working class. The kinds of legal changes sought to reverse the generally anti-union trend of past decades needs to reflect this orientation.

We also need to go beyond national perspectives in responding to a globalised economy. Big business has been globalised for decades, and labour has been slow to respond, but the Internet has evened things up to some extent. Organizations like LabourStart do a great job, but we need a lot more.

More May Day thoughts from Mark Bahnisch.

fn1. Opposition leader Tony Abbott’s opportunistic attempt to outbid the government will make it difficult for any future Liberal government to reverse this advance.

Categories: Oz Politics, World Events Tags:
  1. May 1st, 2010 at 17:09 | #1

    I have a different perspective on the decline in union membership. Bill Kelty’s drive for big unions in the 1990s did not result in efficient unions, just bigger unions. What was worse union amalgamations were mostly driven by whether a Right or Left agenda was advanced, with the concerns of the rank-and-file often coming a distant last. Losing the sense of belonging to a union of workers with similar interests, often seeing those interests ignored or cast aside for the “greater good” (the new majority) in the amalgamated union, led first to a sense of betrayal and ultimately to a recognition that union membership was no longer of value.

  2. Daphon
    May 1st, 2010 at 17:44 | #2

    I’ve always believed the ‘super unions’ of the 90s were a large factor in the decline of unions – they became the equivalent, but not always opposite, of capitalist corporations.

  3. Justin Kerr
    May 1st, 2010 at 17:58 | #3

    Is it time yet for workplace democracy? Or more liberalism, at least. More jobs require training and qualifications today than before and employment is less secure than before too. To the extent it was ever not the case, employees are investing in their companies – with their labour and the training behind that, and all the risk and cost of employment in one firm instead of another, and all the inefficiencies of the labour market, when seen from the point of a participant in it. Whereas most shareholders are not investors, but speculators – in effect selling their capital to a given share for a time in return for the expectation of growth, but rarely providing any new capital to an enterprise (through their superannuation funds employees are shareholders too, of course). And to top it off, employees have the tacit knowledge of the company’s day to day operations, opportunity and the incentive to participate in the management of their company. Shareholders, and even directors, largely lack this knowledge, opportunity and incentive. Does it make any sense any longer for employees to have no say in who their managers and executives are and what the company does? They can choose their super funds, life partners and members of parliament themselves.

  4. Jim Rose
    May 1st, 2010 at 18:20 | #4


    There are already plenty of worker democracies in our current society.

    These are labour-owned firms such as the self-employed and, more commonly, professional partnerships and consultancies and the like.

    Many professions organise where the specially trained workers contribute the capital and get an equal vote in return. This form of organisational is more common if a high level of specialised human capital is decisive to the fate of the business and mutual monitoring and peer pressure is also important to continued daily success.

    The failure of labour-managed firms to spread beyond some of the professions, self-employed artisans and partnerships of various sorts suggests that this form of organisation cannot deliver what consumers want at a price that covers their costs.

  5. Jarrah
    May 1st, 2010 at 19:35 | #5

    “the intellectual collapse of the right and the economic failure of market liberalism”

    I applaud seeking a new vision/direction for the labour movement, but that requires knowing where you’re starting from, and the quoted sentence sure ain’t it!

  6. Jim Rose
    May 1st, 2010 at 19:55 | #6

    Professor Quiggin,

    The Left will not amount to much if it pins its hopes on benefiting from public angst in times of economic crisis.

    First, the Left must be out of power when the crisis arrives. No guarantee of that so both right and left wing governments are getting voted out of office in good measure. Rotation of power is a common feature of democracies, so the Left is just as likely to be punished as rewarded in times of crisis. People now take low inflation and stable growth for granted and punish whoever is in office when these are not delivered. No excuses are accepted.

    Second, the supply of economic crises is not what is used to be since the decline and fall of Keynesian macroeconomics. Recessions are getting so infrequent since the great moderation that not many voters under the age of 30 have a personal memory of a recession. Ask them. The USA had two mild recessions between 1982 and 2007. Prior to 2008, a recession was something that happened back in the early 1990s in Australia and New Zealand under leaders who are now of pension age. You need to be closing in on fifty to have a good personal memory of the 1970s stagflation.

    It is far better to develop an agenda that appeals to people in the good times, because a more volatile business cycle is not going to the path to power some may hope. Indeed, it was a more volatile business cycle that ushered in fiscal conservatives and monetary disciplinarians such as Reagan and Thatcher. Be careful for what you wish for. Voters tend to be fiscal conservatives, and more so in times of crisis. Obama is an example – his failure to be a fiscal conservative will cost him the mid-term congressional elections. A spike in inflation could cost him re-election.

  7. Ben
    May 1st, 2010 at 21:55 | #7

    I have thought for some time that unions have not kept up with the workings of multinational corporations. Some large companies I know of are represented by unions in various countries, but their influence is substantially diminished due to lack of coordination. An added complication is that workers in various countries are effectively pitted against each other to compete for jobs (eg. the US and India), so there may be some reluctance to cooperate.

  8. KC
    May 1st, 2010 at 22:26 | #8

    Dear Professor – what are your thoughts about the industry superannuation funds, which I understand are associated with labour unions? Might industry superannuation funds have a role to play in promoting just social outcomes? Is there any scope for managers of these funds to play a more active role as shareholders, whether to promote just social outcomes, or simply to ensure that corporate boards are less beholden to senior management and better discharge their duties to shareholders?

  9. sold short
    May 1st, 2010 at 22:42 | #9

    All this talk about whether unions have the power to affect change or protect the rights of workers. The local regional organiser of my union would not even take a position on my situation yet alone act to protect my rights at work when my Executive officer spread my two days perm-partime load out over three days; effectively reducing the number of days I am able to be gainfully employed. Workers rights at work are worth fighting for, but you are a fool if you think that a union will intervene unless it suits there own political agenda.

  10. Jim Rose
    May 2nd, 2010 at 06:47 | #10


    An excellent question.

    You reminded me of Karl Popper’s great question – what evidence would cause you to give up your position? Well?

  11. jquiggin
    May 2nd, 2010 at 07:34 | #11

    You’re presumably not contesting the intellectual collapse of the right, since you’ve seen it firsthand in the Oz blogosphere.

    To you and Jim Rose, my point about market liberalism is a shorthand reference to arguments I’ve been making some time, that key elements of the market liberal framework that has been dominant for the past thirty years have failed, most obviously the Efficient Markets Hypothesis and the claim to deliver an economy free of recessions and crises (Australia and China, both beneficiaries of large-scale fiscal stimulus, are exceptions that prove the rule here). I’m not implying catastrophic collapse, merely that the situation is much less favorable to market liberalism than it has been any time recently. My general point is that the left now needs to put up positive alternatives across a wide range of issues.

  12. Freelander
    May 2nd, 2010 at 07:47 | #12

    I think Jim was responding to my post on “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” where I said:

    “Jim, it is increasingly clear that nothing anyone says here or elsewhere and no amount of contrary evidence will shake your faith in your chosen religion. Clearly your belief system satisfies some deep need, and while it does you will continue to worship at the Great and Universal Church of the Chicago Collective[Chicago School]. That said, everyone here has already heard all of that church’s scriptural texts so your proselytising here falls on deaf ears. Do you believe in Magic? Apparently so.”

    Interestingly, his ‘good’ question seems to refer not to my question “Do you believe in Magic?” but instead to my “it is increasingly clear…” observation.

    As for “what evidence would cause you [me] to give up your [my] position?”. Well, for reality based positions as opposed to purely metaphysical predilictions, to doubt my position? Simpy sufficient evidence that would cause a rational person to doubt the position. To give it up? Simpy sufficient evidence that would cause a rational person to believe that it is more likely the truth lies elsewhere.

  13. Jim Rose
    May 2nd, 2010 at 07:55 | #13

    Thanks John,

    Your position is well framed. Waiting to pounce after that once in a generation or once in 50 year crisis condemns the Left to the opposition benches for most of each generation, and to a self-destructive spiral of bitterness which that engenders.

  14. Freelander
    May 2nd, 2010 at 08:12 | #14

    How pleasant to the ear to hear the looney right whine?

  15. Alice
    May 2nd, 2010 at 09:08 | #15

    @Jim Rose

    You say”Waiting to pounce after that once in a generation or once in 50 year crisis condemns the Left to the opposition benches for most of each generation.

    Jim – you are out of date and becoming part of a minority. It is the madness of the free market right that is no longer wanted. You are obviously not perturbed about the continuing shakiness in financial markets. Perhaps you cannot see the growing crowds calling for intervention and regulation of the financial markets. If the right cannot see or acknowledge it…they are doomed to opposition along with their free unregulated markets views. See the below links.

    JR, “freedom” and “de-regulation” always had natural constraints..but not to the “Chicago Boys” and their unquestioning followers in the right. It was always a question of degree and removing regulation and granting market freedoms to industries should always have been carried out with caution and prudence. The Chicago Boys went way too far.

  16. Tim Dymond
    May 2nd, 2010 at 09:51 | #16

    The decline of union density in Australia has come not from people leaving their unions, but from new workers in new sectors of the economy not joining their unions – and a union not being available. There have also been aggressive de-unionisation efforts in areas such as the mining industry and Telstra, aided and abetted by government legislation.

    The ‘[email protected]’ reports consistently show that thousands of people would join a union if provided with the opportunity. You can argue that is a shallow commitment, but it has persisted though all the negative press unions are subjected to out of News Ltd. That was why the ‘workchoices’ laws had so many provisions designed to specifically exclude unions from workplace activity. ‘Workchoices’ proclaimed unions irrelevant – but paid a huge amount of attention to them.

    Unions have not declined because of amalgamations. The research shows that reducing competition among small, craft based unions helps marshall resources for membership growth. It is the ability of workers to organise themselves that is the key – not the constitutional arrangements at the union head office.

  17. Jim Rose
    May 2nd, 2010 at 10:06 | #17


    If I am becoming part of the minority, I must still currently become part of the majority and that is despite present discontents.

    Bill Maher summarised the political spectrum as the Democratic Party is supposed to have a heart, and the republicans are those mean old white guys who watch our money!

    The Labor Party is running third in the UK elections, the democrats will do badly in the coming congressional elections, and Obama is increasingly at risk in 2012. Rudd is not responding well to facing his first opposition leader who is able to find his backside with both hands. The new Japanese social democratic government cannot even do that. There are stable conservative governments in Germany, Italy and France.

    In a crisis, the incumbent party is voted out, and those that follow sooner or later must face up to controlling the fiscal deficit because voters are fiscal conservatives and inflation hawks.

    Street marchers do not win elections. Political parties will real solutions to real problems do that.

  18. paul walter
    May 2nd, 2010 at 11:09 | #18

    Noted Prof Qiggin’s remarks concerning the failure of market theory over thirty years, both as means for answering human needs/wants, including individual freedom, efficiently and sustainably and in its failure to ensure democratic institutions and values that are preconditions to a healthy civil society. With the environment now facing collapse thru over exploitation and suppression of ecological scientific warnings, the very foundations for a civilised world are compromised by the unthinking greed and assertiveness of an elite class of acquisitives, who run organisations like GoldmanSachs and create disasters like the Exxon Valdez and the Gulf of Mexico disaster.
    Market theory does go back to the seventies, when it was devised or promoted by people like Hayek, Huntingdon and Friedman, to alibi class expropriation of common wealth and resources; not as the means to create and run an economy to some purpose in the real sense of the word. Right Libertarianism helped in the dubious “acheivement
    “of the elitist’s manifesto and goals, involving in issuing a false assertion that the individual was somehow under threat from democratic tendencies to to create a level playing field for all, both in lifting living standards in the third world and in the west thru measures ensuring universal access (eg choice) to justice, health and education.
    I also think that Quiggin’s remark that the results of the last generation are NOT yet “catastrophic” a remarkably conciliatory remark- if the scientists are proven right, the situation now DOES verge on chronic catastrophe.

  19. Jim Rose
    May 2nd, 2010 at 11:25 | #19


    If you want a large scale welfare state, you should look upon market liberalism as your saviour.

    The state sector grew in massively size in the first few decades of post-war period because of growing size and political power of the middle class. The state sector continues to grow albeit at a slower pace because of the growing political power of the elderly.

    Growing resistance to taxes and the growing welfare costs of taxes and of spending required more efficient taxes and more efficient spending if the state sector was to continue to grow after 1980 or so.

    Efficient taxes lead to higher taxes. Broad-based taxes with fairly flat rate structures are associated with larger governments across the OECD area. Efficient spending means more can be done for the same level of taxpayer political resistance.

    James Buchanan at one time would have agreed with an earlier posting of Alice. He used to be all for inefficient tax systems because they do not raise much revenue. This inefficiency in revenue raising constrains the size of government.

  20. paul walter
    May 2nd, 2010 at 12:17 | #20

    “Welfare state”?
    Who said anything about a welfare state?
    My point is that economics was coopted by vested interests inamicable to civilised society.
    If society was based on rational economics, the safe guards that prevent a disaster like the Gulf of Mexico would have been in place.
    if you want a civilisation, you have to accept that there are costs and responsibilities as well as opportunities and “freedoms”.
    The gulf of Mexico oil spill proves yet again that private capitalism is no more successful in apportioning scarce resouces (the End of Cornucopia), than bureaucratic states- both tend towards this anyway , but the corporate mentality regards any damage done to the rights and freedoms of others as mere collateral damage, inflicted on an entity increasingly regarded as alien within the corporation; civilisation itself.

  21. Uncle Milton
    May 2nd, 2010 at 13:11 | #21

    “a declining wage share”

    Is this really relevant? CEO’s incomes count as part of the wage share, while all workers have money in superannuation funds, whose earnings are capital income. The days when the ruling class got all their income from profits and the working class got all their income from wages are long gone.

  22. paul walter
    May 2nd, 2010 at 13:25 | #22

    As the Mac Bank bonuses the other day demonstrated?

  23. Jim Rose
    May 2nd, 2010 at 14:18 | #23


    Good to see that that you agree with George Stigler.

    Stigler argued that economists whose skill or experience is convivial to special interests will become leaders of opinion. Economists whose skills or experience is not convivial to special interests become writers of letters to provincial newspapers.

    Keynesian macroeconomics and a welfare economics that finds market failure everywhere is a most convivial intellectual cover for big spending politicians and to businesses seeking subsidies and protection from competition.

  24. David Peetz
    May 2nd, 2010 at 16:07 | #24


    Your implication that ‘class’ is a concept that no longer has relevance (or at least collective relevance) to unions and workers because people don’t think that way I believe confuses the decline of blue collar jobs with a decline of class. Opinion polls over decades in Australia, the USA, UK and Canada show that ‘working class’ identification has been remarkably quite stable, particularly by comparison with the large drop in the share of manual jobs in each of those countries. A lot of people in ‘white collar’ jobs these days see themselves as ‘working class’.

    That said, you are right to point to the success of the YRAW campaign in promoting ‘rights’, but also ‘values’. The egalitarian values of YRAW clearly triumphed over the individualistic values of WorkChoices. A limitation was that the values of YRAW focused very specifically on the workplace, and have not translated into a wider challenge to neoliberal ideas as advocated by you and sought by many. That is what unions now would benefit from being part of. It doesn’t mean abandoning ‘class politics’ (unless you mean revolutionary politics, which unions have not been significantly involved in for a long time) but it does mean articulating a new vision of what society should look like including the distribution of income, wealth and power (which is really what class is about).

    ‘Mutual aid associations’ that protect members ‘against exploitation and unfair treatment’ are in some respect what unions have been doing for a century and a half. But that fundamentally relies on their members having power at the workplace, and that means unions developing their workplace organization, something that was neglected in many workplaces during the long years of arbitration but which is no longer optional. The phrase ‘mutual aid associations’, while maybe technically correct in some respects (how could they not be promoting mutual aid?), downplays the importance of power. It also downplays the benefits for unions of moving where necessary beyond the confines of the workplace, to develop relationships with others in civil society – sometimes to achieve a specific and narrowly-defined objective (eg to win a particular campaign), but sometimes to address broader issues or even a broader rethinking as to where we, as a society, are heading.

  25. Alice
    May 2nd, 2010 at 16:47 | #25

    @Jim Rose
    yes Jim Rose – political parties win elections by getting votes – so you are quite wrong to suggest that they wont listen to marchers on the street especially when those voices get louder and angrier. Its all about a sample size Jim. When lots marched like last week to Wall street you can bet the politicians are listening and irresponsibly free irresponsibly unregulated markets are not going to win many followers anymore.

    You had better listen too Jim Rose. You are out of date.

  26. Alice
    May 2nd, 2010 at 18:39 | #26

    JQ – I dont think the left needs to plan a strategy as such. I think it will spring naturally from utter disillusionment with the right and its failures. Its a pendulum swing…what goes too far must swing back. Already I note today, as a result of the henry Tax review, I have some disenchantment with the incentives to keep pushing people into super when many are pretty well disgusted by the behaviour of financial firms charged with managing super funds. I cant think of anywhere less I want my money to go. Despite the recommendations of a cut ion tyax rates on safe and boring deposits, and despite the problem of the ageing..and teh fact that many like to keep their retirement savings under their own control (me for one) all I see is more direction into the wobbly financial markets.
    That was a capitulation to neo liberal policies and the finance sector (who are shaky to say the least) and Rudd needs to take up the Henry recommendations to reduce on tax on ordinary bank interest.
    When will they learn?. Compulsory super isnt necessarily in our best interests and helped pump Wall street to the heights of arrogance and chicanery. Give people a wage rise instead of the curse of compulsory super and let them save for their own retirement with their money in their own hands. It would probably be cheaper – most are responsible and dont need the “nanny state”.

    Who trusts the financial and share markets now? No-one.

    Extremely disappointed but they wont be getting one extra cent from me to lock up until a) the govt changes the rules and grabs it or b) the madarins on Wall st grab it.

  27. jquiggin
    May 2nd, 2010 at 18:46 | #27

    “A lot of people in ‘white collar’ jobs these days see themselves as ‘working class’.”

    Agreed, but I think the experience of being working class in a white collar job, even in a cubicle farm, is very different from that of a worker on an assembly line in a large factory.

    It’s much more to do with the capricious bossiness of bosses and the general unfairness of things than a struggle between classes over how the cake is carved up. Not that the first was ever unimportant, or that the second has ceased to matter, but the balance has changed.

  28. Jim Rose
    May 2nd, 2010 at 18:48 | #28


    Freelander will be able to explain to you that marching in the street, protesting and winning elections tells you nothing about what is in people minds or what they actually support or not.

    The war parties winning 90 to 98 per cent of the vote and mass enlistment said nothing about what people thought of the Great War, or what they wanted, apparently. The same goes for showing up for a quick street march and winning elections in favour of whatever you want. You rely on the same equally reliable measures of the will of the people and of what individuals want both in war and peace and domestic social change.

  29. Alice
    May 2nd, 2010 at 19:16 | #29

    And then we can expect tranche no whatever of ALT A resets due in 2011 and as the media suggests, another 12 million more foreclosures each time…
    The share market right now is for idiots. Real estate must follow but at least it has a useful function. It can house people. It doesnt just evaporate into thin air….thanks to all teh people on the take in the financial markets…

    and Jim wants us all to beleive in free markets and that intervention is dead. Place my bet here. Intervention is alive and calls for it are already deafening Jim. Your world and your views are so passe that you cant even connect with the ordinary man on the street. To you he doesnt matter as in the following most ignorant comment

    “Street marchers do not win elections. Political parties will real solutions to real problems do that.”

    Its a democracy Jim. Votes count, the ordinary man on the street counts and jobs count…and you can sit and watch your right heroes fall to that, as you will…if they have no solutions and they have not had any since the GCF. Instead their policies contributed to the GFC, a massive problem ordinary people are now bearing as a result of that, by having policies that didnt work and in fact were an abject lesson in what not to do…follow extremes.

  30. Alice
    May 2nd, 2010 at 19:18 | #30

    @Jim Rose
    30,000 showed up for that march Jim Rose. It wasnt small and its a sample adequate to reflect what the majority now think of the sad and sorry state of Wall Street.

  31. Jim Rose
    May 2nd, 2010 at 20:15 | #31


    We agree that Freelander is mistaken.

    This is because we agree that votes count.

    Voters say something about what they want when they vote at elections and in other forms of action. These other forms can be from a street march to enlisting to fight.

    If votes do count, as we agree, why are the parties of the left on the way out in the USA, UK and elsewhere? Do you expect Brown to win this week? The Democrats to win seats in the mid-terms? Rudd to win more seats? Obama is just cruising towards 2012?

  32. Freelander
    May 2nd, 2010 at 20:21 | #32


    Don’t worry about Jimbo, Alice. Just another libertarian troll. On the ‘journey of a thousand miles’ thread, he is now claiming that Iceland was socialist and that’s why they are in trouble. Deny, deny, deny… Just part of a libertarian’s repertoire. Of course, Iceland wasn’t being run by libertarians. It hadn’t gotten a big tick from the libertarian aristocracy as the latest libertarian Nirvana. When it all goes wrong its deny, deny, deny. When people insist on having their own facts which even they change with the wind, how can you sensibly debate them?

    You have to laugh though. Following the GFC the looney right is in such disarray, they are running around like chooks with their heads cut off!

  33. Jim Rose
    May 2nd, 2010 at 21:16 | #33


    You introduced the term libertarian. You must live with what that actually means, and not something that is the product of your pet-hates magic and myth. I am sure that you had no intention of intentionally misstating their’s or anyone else’s views.

    Libertarians happen to be opposed to all bail-outs and all deposit insurance, they believe that no one is too big to fail, and fight over whether there should be free banking or 100 per cent reserve banking. Liquidity crises do not happen with 100 percent reserve banking because all deposits can be redeemed at anytime in cash.

    Jeff Miron’s website Libertarianism, A-Z may assist you in fact checking as will Miron, Jeffrey A. (2008-09-29). “Commentary: Bankruptcy, not bailout, is the right answer”. CNN.

    Libertarians also happen to think that the Left are a bunch of wimps when it comes to absolute and total opposition to the Iraq and Afghan wars and all other wars. See or

  34. Ken Lovell
    May 2nd, 2010 at 21:36 | #34

    ‘If votes do count, as we agree, why are the parties of the left on the way out in the USA, UK and elsewhere? Do you expect Brown to win this week? The Democrats to win seats in the mid-terms? Rudd to win more seats? Obama is just cruising towards 2012?’

    USA – the Democrats are likely to lose seats because their current representation is unsustainable, measured against any bog standard historical benchmark. A return to more usual numbers is hardly evidence they are ‘on the way out’.

    UK – ummm Jim which party has been in power for the last umpteen years? Yet despite its exhaustion, a majority of voters apparently cannot bring themselves to vote conservative and Cameron’s mob might not even get a plurality. Not very persuasive evidence that the Brits have fallen in love with free markets.

    ‘Rudd to win more seats?’ Yes, actually.

    ‘Obama is just cruising towards 2012?’ Well barring accidents I expect him to win comfortably in 2012, but I guess if someone is still having those Ron Paul wet dreams it’s a matter for them and whoever washes their sheets.

    On the main topic – David Peetz raises important points about ‘the distribution of income, wealth and power (which is really what class is about)’. But at the risk of sounding like a cracked record, these issues have lost a lot of their energising capacity because so many people now have sufficient income, wealth and power to feel comfortable. Someone might march in the streets if they don’t have enough wealth to feed their family, but they are less likely to do so if their comparative lack of wealth means only that they have to keep buying bulk unwashed potatoes at Coles instead of those cute kipflers in their little plastic cartons.

    Progressive politics needs to develop a vision at the micro as well as the macro level. Grand programs to achieve equality in Africa can easily be interpreted at the level of the individual: they will help them have a house, and food to eat, and freedom from common diseases. These were clear objectives worth organising for in Australia when they affected a significant number of people personally, but they are not objectives that many people will commit to when the beneficiaries are unknown strangers in another country (or in the case of climate change, another generation).

    Progressives need to articulate a vision of what their preferred programs will mean to the lives of individuals in developed countries if they are to attract sustained, committed support. As of now, most people are comparatively comfortable; they are only concerned with incremental change (less tax, better hospitals etc) and so they favour the political party that they believe will provide the better (or less bad) program. They are no more likely to take an interest in a platform of radical progressive reform than they are to embrace a libertarian agenda. Moreover this is eminently SENSIBLE on their part. Why would any rational person opt for reform when they were reasonably satisfied with what they have now?

    The upshot is that if progressives want to adopt a new and radical program that has any chance of gaining popular support, they have to start at the level of the individual and what it means for that human being to live a good life. Personally I think it will be an uphill battle: the relentless commodification of everything in our society and the triumph of managerialist ideology will make it hard for any program to seize the imagination of anything more than a small fraction of the population. But unless the proponents of change can develop a persuasive conception of what it means to live a good life as an individual human being that is significantly different to the current preoccupation with buying stuff, I don’t see any real prospect of a new path forward.

  35. Alice
    May 2nd, 2010 at 21:37 | #35

    Iceland? Socialist? LOL – that really is funny Freeland.
    It was the poster pin up nirvana of the Monty Pelican society!!

  36. Alice
    May 2nd, 2010 at 21:52 | #36

    @Jim Rose
    Once again Jimbo I caution you to cease the charade that we are in agreement. You stated

    “Street marchers do not win elections. Political parties with real solutions to real problems do that.”

    I stated that “Street marchers vote JR” yet you then claim

    “Alice – We agree that Freelander is mistaken.
    “This is because we agree that votes count. ”

    We agreed? No – we didnt and whats Freelander got to do with it except an honest interlude.

    I can see your mind is very libertarian. Its perfectly free to change its own mind from one post to the next. Yet more illogical discourse from the far right….do you guys train secretly to be this slippery or is this blog a preselection training course requirement?

    Not many would pass muster I have to say.

  37. Freelander
    May 2nd, 2010 at 22:13 | #37

    Alice, he is a very funny fellow. He also disowns Roger Douglas! Of course, it is now evident, even to a libertarian, that Roger Douglas’s work was not exactly a success. Since 1984 and ‘the great leap forward’ as some call what happened in NZ, not without a touch of irony, I must admit, NZ in terms of GDP per capita has fallen further and further behind Australia. For more than a decade after the start of the ‘great leap forward’ libertarians were lauding the new tiger of the south pacific, and the great growth trajectory that was always around the corner. In 1996, for exactly one quarter, GDP growth in NZ was actually slightly ahead of Australia’s. That was all the proof they needed. NZ, so they claimed, was finally on the phenomenal growth path; the south pacific’s equivalent of an asian tiger. Didn’t last long. Next quarter it was behind Australia, as usual. And then that looney monetarist, Donald Brash, kicked their country into a recession, because he was scared that the economy finally growing might result in some inflation down the track. Much better to have an economy going backward if your only target is a low rate of inflation.

    Must be wonderful to be so deluded. Must be the ultimate form of meditation, living in a stress free world where reality never intrudes.

    If Jimbo is consistent with the other devotees now he will be telling us that Anthropogenic Climate Change is a hoax! But that tall tale, that it is all a hoax, and the scientists are all wrong, must be difficult nowadays for even a rusted on libertarian to believe.

  38. Jim Rose
    May 2nd, 2010 at 22:15 | #38


    Alice was portraying the Left as the face of the electoral future. Not much else to be upbeat about.

    You then excuse a number of upcoming losses for the Left as natural events of length in office and because their current representation is unsustainable.

    The U.S. democrats just got their signature policy through Congress and seem to not be winning much additional support for it. Would their fall from a level where their current representation is unsustainable be even larger but for their signature policy? By how much?

    Losing the House and a close Senate is more than falling from unsustainable levels. It suggests that the party of the Left is a minority party, and is destined to so for a long time, and was supposed to be so since 1994 but for a bump from 2006 and 2010 based on antiwar sentiment because it was by chance out of power at the time.

    Is there any country where the Left looks like winning power on its own merits rather being the drover’s dog that defeats a tired and smelly nature of most any rival party who has held power for a long time?

    Rudd seems to be acting more like a man on the run rather than the recipient to be of more seats. His refusal to go for a double dissolution is evidence of electoral nerves. Rudd’s back down on emissions trading was the biggest political back-down in recent decades. What does Rudd stand for? Is he a strong or weak PM? What are Rudd’s convictions? Are there any conviction politicians on the Left?

    BTW, Alice, do you want to agree instead that votes do not count?

  39. Freelander
    May 2nd, 2010 at 22:19 | #39

    Rumours are that serious thought is being given to changing NZ’s reserve bank act, given that it has gotten them into so much trouble.

    I wonder what Jimbo thinks about that? On the other thread he suggested that because inflation targeting had become fashionable for some central banks (just like flared jeans in the ’70s), that proved that it was a good idea. If that were so, the dunking and burning suspected witches must have also been a good idea, as at one time that was very popular. Far more popular than inflation targeting.

  40. Jim Rose
    May 2nd, 2010 at 22:20 | #40


    you the only one still fighting the 1990 NZ election and fixating on politicians well passed the pension age.

    BTW, would you like to be more specific about what I have made up? I have been rather specific about one hell of a factual error by you about the Armenia genocide.

  41. Jarrah
    May 2nd, 2010 at 22:21 | #41

    JQ, if you are referring to the Right’s intellectual collapse in the face of overwhelming evidence of the large market/government failure that is AGW, then you are correct. But you left it (deliberately?) vague, and the unfortunate continued strength of the Right ideology, co-opting of ex-social-democrats, and holding power in their own right… these do not point to a wider collapse.

    “(Australia and China, both beneficiaries of large-scale fiscal stimulus, are exceptions that prove the rule here)”

    Have you seen the graph comparing stimulus size in different countries and resultant growth? It doesn’t support your thesis.

    “I’m not implying catastrophic collapse, merely that the situation is much less favorable to market liberalism than it has been any time recently.”

    OK, that’s fair enough, though I believe the situation is much less favourable largely due to the mass ignorance of what caused/prolonged the GFC, and the opportunistic grasping of the GFC by the Left to create a new mythology around that ignorance. See the large quantity of articles and books published recently claiming “neoliberalism dunnit”.

    “My general point is that the left now needs to put up positive alternatives across a wide range of issues.”

    New ideas are always welcome. Positive alternatives are indeed sorely needed, especially from the Left, which is often stuck in criticism for criticism’s sake or pining for a return to a golden age.

  42. Jim Rose
    May 2nd, 2010 at 22:28 | #42


    It was Winston Peters who first wanted the Reserve Bank Act to change.

    You and he seem to have similar economic nationalist outlooks and an aversion to answering questions or admitting error.

    BTW, would you like to be more specific about what I have made up? I have been rather specific about one hell of a factual error by you about the Armenia genocide.

  43. David Peetz
    May 2nd, 2010 at 22:52 | #43


    Regarding: “It’s much more to do with the capricious bossiness of bosses and the general unfairness of things than a struggle between classes over how the cake is carved up. Not that the first was ever unimportant, or that the second has ceased to matter, but the balance has changed.”

    Do bosses behave more capriciously now than in decades past? I can’t immediately think of objective evidence one way or the other. On the one hand, the lower level of union density and hence collective employee power opens up more opportunities for misbehaviour than in earlier times. On the other hand, state protections against the more egregious forms of such behaviour are stronger due to anti-discrimination legislation, and this in turn affects expectations as to appropriate behaviour. And millions of dollars have been spent researching human resource management in part to try to make management at least appear more humane; it would be surprising if this had no effect whatseoever.

    Is there less concern about struggle over how the cake is carved up? It may not be expressed so much in class terms these days, but again, the polling tells us that (not just in Australia) concern about inequality is as great now as it was several decades earlier. The recent outrage over the remuneration packages of many CEOs (again, not just in Australia) is one manifestation of that.

    But I think Ken Lovell hits the nail on the head when he says that “Progressive politics needs to develop a vision at the micro as well as the macro level” and that progressives need to “articulate a vision of what their preferred programs will mean to the lives of individuals in developed countries.” The big (alternative) vision is needed, but it also has to be translated into something of real meaning for individuals. One of the reasons why the YRAW campaign worked so well is that it was brilliant at relating the issues to the lives of individuals.

    As you say, the rhetoric of “class struggle” won’t achieve that. Appropriate and contemporary “framing” is very important. But the objective issues for workers are not all that different. If we’re talking about developing an alternative model for society, unions can actually be quite good at translating broad issues into micro-level meanings that workers can relate to. So it makes sense to include them in such a project. (As opposed to consigning them to mutual aid associations on the sidelines.) It’s not just an intellectual project that has to be undertaken.

  44. Ken Lovell
    May 2nd, 2010 at 23:09 | #44

    Jim I can only conclude that you are some kind of stray from Catallaxy, used to threads that consist of wilful misrepresentations of what other commenters have written. Moreover I don’t respond these days to commenters who seem to think they are cross-examining witnesses. If you have so many questions to ask, perhaps your time would be better devoted to research.

  45. Freelander
    May 2nd, 2010 at 23:19 | #45

    Jim, I have already pointed out your errors on the other threads. No need for me to recapitulate. Just because you have some problem admitting them, even when they have been made very clear to you does make the errors cease to exist, except maybe in your own mind?
    But I certainly don’t care, and others here I imagine don’t either, whether you admit your errors or not. You are certainly entertaining at least some of us. Keep up the good work!

  46. Chris Warren
    May 2nd, 2010 at 23:43 | #46

    I don’t mind the rhetoric of “class struggle”, provided those using it understand it.

    The Greek government seems to have no problem – fix the debt by cutting wages of workers and pensions. Seems pretty close to class politics to me.

    Chris Corrigan didn’t have a problem. He knew who he had to attack to boost his wealth.

    Extreme rightwing politicians do not have a problem with class. They know who to attack.

  47. Freelander
    May 3rd, 2010 at 01:10 | #47

    And amusingly Jim points out that the professions are unions. Which is true, but they are unions for the already very well off. But anyway, do you see the IPA or the CIS or any of the libertarians getting stuck into them. No, even though the professions are the unions that boost their members wages to the greatest extent, at the great expense of everyone else, and they would be very well off without that boost, who is it who is attacked? It is the low paid workers who have the greatest difficulty organising unions, and whose wages are really bashed down when divide and conquer is implemented. The professions, the guilds have had unions throughout history, but when low paid workers started to organise a lot of their blood was spilt before they succeeded. Howard’s legislation and the organisations he set up like the Fair Pay Commission, which was stacked with people who thought the minimum wage should be zero, were all about bashing low paid workers, the unskilled and the less skilled, and leaving the professions untouched.

  48. Freelander
    May 3rd, 2010 at 07:26 | #48
  49. Jim Rose
    May 3rd, 2010 at 07:52 | #49


    You are still having a problem with owning up to denying key facts about the Armenian genocide. Less that 60 seconds of surfing would have put your initial remarks on a sound footing. I think these errors of yours were from carelessness, rather than your ample reserve of malice.

    BTW, would you like to be more specific about what I have made up? Name two?


    You should read Cass Sunstein’s work on how the internet is leading to a narrowing of minds.

    His book Infotopia is about how people use the internet to spend too much time talking to those that agree with and not enough time looking to be challenged.

    In his book, Sunstein talks of “In an age of information overload, it is easy to fall back on our own prejudices and insulate ourselves with comforting opinions that reaffirm our core beliefs. Crowds quickly become mobs. The justification for the Iraq war, the collapse of Enron, the explosion of the space shuttle Columbia–all of these resulted from decisions made by leaders and groups trapped in “information cocoons,” shielded from information at odds with their preconceptions. How can leaders and ordinary people challenge insular decision making and gain access to the sum of human knowledge?”

    Professor Quiggin has made repeated calls for the Left to develop positive alternatives. That will be a long march to nowhere if it is a debate with only your most fanatical supporters. Professor Quiggin made his reputation as a public intellectual in the late 1990s by debating his opponents in detail, taking the fight to them, and never tiring or retreating to the comforts of going on a lecture circuit made up of the converted.

  50. Alice
    May 3rd, 2010 at 08:29 | #50

    Enron happened because the CEO crooks were cocooned under neo liberal policies of deregulation and privatisation splashed everywhere JR and the same with the Wall St crooks and I agree with Ken Lovell at 44. The right has taken conservatism to such an extreme its no longer conservative at all. If the people ever though they were getting fiscal conservatism and sound economies from all this extremist free marketism that has been insidiously pursued by the right…they started to wonder long ago why prices didnt fall, why they had less in savings, why everything they used they paid more for, why the house requires two people working and the dog on the treadmill, why their school leavers are working for $8 an hour and cant leave home
    but the thing that really amazes people is that the right keep telling them “youve never been richer because you can a plasma screen cheap”…and then they noticed that a small subset amongstn us became not just rich, but grotesquely rich while most went backward.
    Dont worry JR the electorate are figuring it all out by themselves…so are your political masters. Its only the left behinds, the fixated and the dogmatic.. like yourself that are still trying to sail the damaged vessel.

    Rocks ahead? What rocks?

  51. Jim Rose
    May 3rd, 2010 at 09:13 | #51


    Enron made their money rent-seeking around government regulation and through corporate welfare. To grease the wheels, Enron has given vast sums of campaign cash to both Republicans and Democrats.

    Enron were based initially in the natural gas trading industry, so they regarded emissions trading as their new river of gold. They were all for controls of greenhouse gas emissions. Many energy companies benefit from the regulation of greenhouse gases because it makes coal much more expensive relative to their own product such as oil and especially natural gas. The U.S. energy business, including oil and electricity, has been thoroughly politicised and is regulated to the hilt from fuels to be used to prices to be charged. Enron was also a keen investor in solar and wind power. Enron was a leading company in air emissions credit and allowance trading since its establishment in the mid-1970s. Presumably all these good works qualified Enron as an ethical investment!?

    Ken Lay was even a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists. A political capitalist, Lay was also on the ground floor helping to found various business groups for sustainable development as well as sponsoring Earth Day events in Texas, California, and Oregon. Enron received a climate-protection award from the EPA and a corporate-conscience award from the Council on Economic Priorities.

    The role model for green entrepreneurs, it seems was Ken Lay when he was on top. You and he could have even ended up mates but for his fall from grace.

  52. Alice
    May 3rd, 2010 at 09:56 | #52

    @Jim Rose
    Oh please Jim – spare us the same tired arugment that Enron failed because governments regulated. Enron failed because governments deregulated excessively and threw all caution to the wind. You can call it government failure of regulation if you like but the failure was too little regulation, not too much and no-one is buying that line. We have heard it all before. Another slippery denial of the failures of the right.
    Your freedom ship is going down Jim.

  53. Jim Rose
    May 3rd, 2010 at 10:18 | #53


    What in particular did governments deregulate that allowed Enron to rise and fall?

    If there was deregulation, how did all those executives end up in prison? They must have broken laws in place at the time of their offending. They choose to violate existing laws and were caught and punished.

    Can you name any deregulation that contributed to the Enron scandal?

  54. Alice
    May 3rd, 2010 at 11:40 | #54

    @Jim Rose
    Electricity Jim Rose.

  55. Jim Rose
    May 3rd, 2010 at 12:13 | #55

    Thanks for breaking ranks by introducing evidence. I assume the Californian electricity crisis would be your weapon of choice? The worst of the crisis occurred during the winter of 2000–2001, when demand was low and plenty of capacity should have been available.
    Utilities were precluded from entering into longer-term agreements that would have allowed them to hedge their energy purchases and mitigate day-to-day price swings due to transient supply disruptions and demand spikes. Regulatory suppression of competing forms of supply is not deregulation.

    In 2000, wholesale prices were deregulated, but retail prices were regulated for the incumbents as part of a deal allowing them to recover the cost of assets that would be written-off stranded as a result of greater competition. Price controls to keep prices up are not deregulation.

    Energy deregulation policy froze or capped the existing price of energy that the energy distributors could charge. This is regulation, not deregulation.

    By keeping the consumer price of electricity artificially low, the California government discouraged citizens from practicing conservation. Energy price regulation forced suppliers to ration their electricity supply rather than expand production. When the electricity demand in California rose, utilities had no financial incentive to expand production, as long term prices were capped.

    The major flaw of the deregulation scheme was that it was incomplete. The middleman utility distributors continued to be regulated and forced to charge fixed prices, and continued to have limited choice in electricity providers.
    As I said, Enron made their way up through rent seeking around regulation and government supplied monopolies. In this case, a captive market supplied by federal and state power regulators.

    Energy price caps and regulatory suppression of competition and long-term contracts lined the pockets of America’s premier green entrepreneur, Earth day sponsor, and member of numerous sustainable business groups – your mate, but not mine – Enron.

  56. Socrates
    May 3rd, 2010 at 14:21 | #56

    I have a comment on John’s point about unions. If I may make one observation about the union movement in the past 20 years, it is that (with a few notable exceptions) they have failed to cope with the changing nature of work. They have tended to regard most trades and non-professional occupations as the needy workers, and to see all professionals as the potential exploiter-managers, and so not needing protection. As a result unions are badly under-represented in the growing numbers of people with degrees, particularly professional degrees like mine (engineering).

    Professional organisations like Engineers Australia do NOT deal with industrial relations, leaving members with little protection when the job market is weak. The same is true of accountants, IT professionals, non-tenured academics, and even law graduates, where law firms can often exploit juniors because of valid fears of job insecurity. Even amoung the many thousands actually studying management, most will rise no higher than middle-level positions. In fact, senior execcutive positions seem to have far more to do with connections than qualifications.

    So what is the point of this? The point is, if unions want to be seen as champions of the oppressed, they might be better off working to help graduate lawyers and accountants looking for a job, than train drivers and wharfies who are already making $100K +. This failure has led to both a loss of many thousands of potential members, and a loss of credibility. I would regard myself as a progressive thinking person, but when I watched the Melbourne docks dispute, I saw two wealthy sides both fighting for their own priveleges, not any underlying principle. Why should I support either?

  57. Chris Warren
    May 3rd, 2010 at 15:01 | #57


    If you believe wharfies made $100+, then you do not have sufficient prescence of mind to sensibly ask;

    “Why should I support either”?

    You are not a progressive thinking person. You are the problem.

  58. Freelander
    May 3rd, 2010 at 16:28 | #58

    Jim Rose :
    you the only one still fighting the 1990 NZ election …

    Fortunately, I didn’t have to fight the “1990 NZ election” and don’t have to fight any NZ elections. As an Australian I can just look across the Tasman and laugh, if not occasionally feel sorry for NZ’s loss of freedoms, and loss of relativities, relative to us. By the way what was the significance of that election? Both sides of politics were implementing the same policies. NZers where given with the same sort of choice provided by a one party state.

  59. Ken Lovell
    May 3rd, 2010 at 17:01 | #59

    Socrates the union APESMA represents the interests of professionals and managers and has done so successfully for decades. It recognised the move towards individualisation of the employment relationship back in the early 1990s and responded accordingly. It offers members assistance in education and career development, amongst other things. See

  60. Freelander
    May 3rd, 2010 at 17:07 | #60


    An annoying component of your ‘argument’ construction is your practice of heavily sprinkling in non sequiturs.

    “Ken Lay was even a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists.” And he had two eyes, two legs, two arms and was married? Just as relevant?

  61. Freelander
    May 3rd, 2010 at 17:12 | #61

    Oh I get it, now. Not a non sequitur at all.

    As a climate change denier, identifying this about Mr Lay is to put one’s finger on his real crimes. Not fraud and losing the life savings of so many. The real crime is his not being a climate change denier.

    Good to see a sense of perspective!

  62. Jim Rose
    May 3rd, 2010 at 17:44 | #62


    You mentioned Iceland, not me. I added information to correct your errors.

    You seem to use the word libertarian as a universal smear – so encompassing that it covers both Hong Kong and a Scandinavian welfare state! some people used to denounce everyone of the left as communists, or their fellow-travellers. Libertarians, libertarians everywhere, is very derivative of the reds-under-the-bed smear.

    If Iceland is ruled is ruled by libertarians, as you claim, how many seats do they have in the Althing, now and in the recent past? Name names! How many seats do the social democrats have in the Althing? Is there regular rotation of power to and from the social democrats? Is there proportional representation resulting in multiparty left-right coalition governments?

  63. Freelander
    May 3rd, 2010 at 19:34 | #63


    Impact on Iceland 2005

    “In 1991, Oddsson became Prime Minister and instigated an ambitious (and successful) programme of reform, liberalisation, deregulation, privatisation, stabilisation and tax reduction.”

    Impact on Iceland 2008?

  64. Freelander
    May 3rd, 2010 at 19:38 | #64

    By the way, where did I claim HK was libertarian? You are not a careful reader but then you show no care at all in extracting information from reality. I suppose that is the nature of being deluded. You have attributed many opinions to me and others on this blog which are found nowhere in their words. And sadly I think this is defect is not attributable to heavy habitual drug use.

  65. Jim Rose
    May 3rd, 2010 at 20:22 | #65



    What where Bob Hawke and Paul Keating up to in 1991? Are their reforms to blame for the 2008 crisis in Australia? If only you had gone back to 22 November 1990. Maggie Thatcher was British PM up to then. You could have blamed her for the financial crisis in the UK in 2008. Bush 41 was in office in 1992. Is he too to blame for the 2008 financial crisis?

    Who is Davíð Oddsson?

    His conservative Independence party never got more than about 40 per cent of the vote so initially as PM, he was in coalition from 1991 with the social democratic party. So the left wing party in Iceland is libertarian too?

    In 1995, the coalition partner for the Independence party became the Progressive Party, which is an agrarian, liberal and centrist party in Iceland. Oddsson’s successor in 2004 was from the progressive party. His successor was from the independence party.

    The libertarian rulers of Iceland encompass the right, centre and left of Icelandic politics.

    I was right, you really are still fighting the 1990 election – the Australian 1990 election.

  66. Jim Rose
    May 3rd, 2010 at 21:37 | #66


    If you wish!

    Hong Kong is not a place libertarians might find to their liking. Correct? Do you have any evidence of their disdain for the place? What would be to their distaste? Is Hong Kong a secret welfare state with a double secret GST? Classical liberals such Friedman and others speak well of Hong Kong as an ideal in many webbed essays.

    Clearly, a Scandinavian welfare state can be a libertarian hell-hole, as least to you. But that could make admirers of Scandinavian welfare states like Sweden such as John Quiggin into libertarians! There better be some last minute redrafting of his book.

    What is more troubling is although Iceland is ranked 18th in the index of economic freedom, Denmark is ranked ninth. Sweden is one place after Iceland. Are Sweden and Denmark also libertarian hell-holes of a Scandinavian welfare state? Denmark was ahead of NZ in the index of economic freedom in 2006, so which was the libertarian hell-hole?

    The Nordic countries’ success is that they compensate for their high tax burden by performing exceptionally well in other areas of the index of economic freedom. In the 2010 Index of Economic Freedom, Sweden and Denmark beat the United States in seven out of ten categories. They regulate lightly, have broad-based flat tax structures and tax income from capital lightly so they do not upset the goose that lays the golden egg.

    The Left is very keen on importing Scandinavian levels of taxation, but you never hear them talking about Sweden’s light levels of business regulation, or Denmark’s liberalised labour market. Company tax rates are lower in the Scandinavian countries that in Australia or NZ, as far as I can tell.

  67. Freelander
    May 3rd, 2010 at 21:50 | #67

    You are totally delusional! Friedman and friends claimed Iceland as their handy work just before it blew up. They were soo happy with their latest poster child. Just the same way once upon a time they were so happy with then poster child New Zealand. Of course, when their handy work doesn’t work and it never does, its Deny, Deny, Deny, Disown, Disown, Disown. They seemed to think Iceland was their handy work as recently as 2005.

    You just make it all up as you go along. You have a script and you just keep to it, regardless of what the person you are talking to says. That would explain why what you say bears so little resemblance to coherent responses to what they say.

    So very sad.

  68. Freelander
    May 3rd, 2010 at 21:53 | #68

    As for index of economic freedom… That is as less of an index than the Miss World contest yields an index. That is simply the beauty contest of what we like at the moment. Of course, by 2006 NZ being the obvious mess that it is, had lost its looks as far as those judges were concerned.

  69. Alice
    May 3rd, 2010 at 22:16 | #69

    I suggest Freelander its a case iof ignore…I honestly think Friedman and friends have a view that “their version of reality is as good as real” – facts dont matter, truth doesnt matter, they excel at twisting and lying – hey if I was mistaken I could mistake JR for Louis Cypher!

  70. May 3rd, 2010 at 22:18 | #70

    Friedman had been dead for a couple of years before Iceland “blew up”. Did he make the claim via a ouija board?
    Did you attend the séance?

  71. Freelander
    May 3rd, 2010 at 22:20 | #71

    Not only do libertarians create their own ‘facts’, they like to create their own ‘statistics’ as well (economic ‘freedom’ index, ha ha), which of course, they can then use in what they like to call ‘research’. Far more real research comes out of a public relations firm than ever comes out of a right wing think tank.

  72. Jim Rose
    May 3rd, 2010 at 22:21 | #72


    What did Friedman say and when did he say it?

    Friedman visited Iceland during the autumn of 1984, met with important Icelanders and gave a lecture on the Tyranny of the Status Quo. He also made some interview remarks in 1995 about their system of government between 932 and 1200 or so.

    Do you have anything more recent than his comments and lectures from the 1980s!


  73. Freelander
    May 3rd, 2010 at 22:23 | #73

    @Andrew Reynolds

    Friedman died in 2006. The year 2005 was before 2006. If you didn’t know that you should have asked an adult.

  74. Alice
    May 3rd, 2010 at 22:24 | #74

    @Jim Rose
    Jim Rose – the Californian state should have walked straight into Enron with the police, handcuffed Lay and cronies, slapped a “this is now nationalised. get lost sign on the door – recruited the staff – you either take public wages or leave as well”. Problem solved. No half party deregulation and no license to print money given to oligarchs either – and I wouldnt have to have the now hair split nitpicking discussions with you. Peopl’es energy prices wouldnt be so high now (when they are also out of a job and out of the house in the US).

    You and your slippery ideas can go freeze in some degraded unmaintained substation JR

  75. May 3rd, 2010 at 22:27 | #75

    So – 2005 was “…just before it blew up..” was it? Perhaps next time you have a chat with Milton on the ouija board you can discuss whether “just before” is 3 years or not.

  76. Alice
    May 3rd, 2010 at 22:36 | #76

    Oh and by the way the investigation of Goldman has turned into a criminal investigation. Its a good place to start but dont forget the rest of them. Its high time some of these bastards end up staring out at the “truly free” through the bars in their windows.
    JR if you think market freedom means the freedom for some to cheat lie and steal (like Enron, like Goldman but there are now hordes of unethical theiving practices out there thanks to the mad right)…you are really mixed up.

  77. Freelander
    May 3rd, 2010 at 22:36 | #77

    @Andrew Reynolds

    “Just before” are your words. But I recognise that you fellows like to debate yourselves. Perhaps because you have nothing sensible to say in reply to anyone else.

    To refresh your memory:

    Impact on Iceland 2005
    “In 1991, Oddsson became Prime Minister and instigated an ambitious (and successful) programme of reform, liberalisation, deregulation, privatisation, stabilisation and tax reduction.”
    Impact on Iceland 2008?”

    Anyway, 2005 is as good as ‘just before’ especially given that Iceland narrowly escaped ‘blowing up’ in 2006, only surviving to blow up with the rest. That it came close to blowing up all by itself in 2006 kind of disposes of any idea that they can blame the GFC for their woes.

    So exactly how long would you like the fuse so that the libertarians can disown their words when the ugliness of their poster child is obvious for all to see? One year, fifteen minutes.

  78. Freelander
    May 3rd, 2010 at 22:38 | #78

    In 2005 the libertarians were laying claim to a process of creating the ideal society which they identify as beginning in 1991, yet a couple of years later it is all nothing to do with them. Very funny.

  79. Freelander
    May 3rd, 2010 at 22:39 | #79

    Even Bart Simpson doesn’t try to get away with such whoppers!

  80. May 3rd, 2010 at 23:25 | #80

    Perhaps you should check your own comment, Freelander. “Just before” were in fact … ta daaaaaa – your words. Remind me – who’s “whopper” was that one?

  81. Freelander
    May 4th, 2010 at 02:04 | #81

    the whopper is that a couple of years later is ‘it is all nothing to do with them’.

    Perhaps you should take your comprehension classes more seriously naughty little boy. just before is a prefectly adequate description. You would have recognised that also in the above if you paid more attention in your comprehension classes. Bart is a better student, oh master of the imagined mistakes of others!

  82. Freelander
    May 4th, 2010 at 02:08 | #82

    In 2005 the libertarians were laying claim to a process of creating the ideal society which they identify as beginning in 1991, yet a couple of years later it is all nothing to do with them. Very funny.

    Even Bart Simpson doesn’t try to get away with such whoppers!

  83. May 4th, 2010 at 02:14 | #83

    Where have I heard that one before? Oops – three comments ago. Quoting yourself is a very insincere form of flattery.
    I can comprehend that.

  84. Freelander
    May 4th, 2010 at 02:17 | #84

    @Andrew Reynolds

    Your acknowledgement of your errors and your profound apologies accepted. Don’t beat yourself up so much over it. Everyone makes mistakes!

  85. May 4th, 2010 at 02:28 | #85

    In your case they seem to be more common than others may accept as normal – as that comment demonstrates.

  86. Freelander
    May 4th, 2010 at 02:46 | #86

    Don’t beat yourself up so much. We here are all aware of your many problems, sorry, the many ‘challenges’ that you face. We do make plenty of allowance for you and your penchant for self-humiliation. As should be clear, everyone here has taken you under their wing, and only wish to try to help you, as monumental a task as that is.
    I have accepted your profuse apologies. Please, simply move on.

  87. Socrates
    May 4th, 2010 at 09:56 | #87

    Ken 9

    I am quite aware of APESMA and was a member of it for some years. I found it quite useless when working conditions for engineers in the public service departments I worked for were under attack in the 1990s. I referred to professional organisations though like Engineers Australia, which do even less. Graduate engineers and scientists in Australia are paid less than graduate accountants who do a shorter, easier degree. The situation doesn’t change unless the engineer migrates into management, or is prepared to move to a mining town, which is often not an option for peopel who are married with working partners. However I didn’t wish to focus on engineers in isolation – my comment was general.

    As for Chris Warren’s comment 7; we are each entitled to our own opinions. If Chris is trying to imply that wharfies don’t make $100K+ then the individuals I know are very anomalous. I presume he is not arguing about train drivers’ incomes. Even so, whether it is $80K or $100K the point is the same – some strong unions defend trades and occupations that make much more than the average wage. In these cases it would be more than the starting salary of doctors in the public health system. They shouldn”t kid themsleves that that has anything to do with wage justice.

    So I see I have touched a few raw nerves but that is the point. If unions spent more time working out what wage justice was and then going from that premise, rather than always fighting to preserve a past status quo, they would have more credibility. That was why the Workchoices campaign was successful. Workchoices obviously threatened a large group, including those less well off.

  88. Freelander
    May 4th, 2010 at 10:08 | #88

    Socrates, I have to agree with you. There were and still are occupational unions that abuse their position and power to claw a large wage and salary premium at the expense of the rest of us. Workchoices though, was quite selective in targeting with little success only a couple of these unions. Instead it was broadly targeted at the weakest and most disadvantaged workers’ unions who even organised have little power and provide useful social services for the wider community by protecting their members for health and safety dangers, for example. By protecting them from health and safety dangers which unfettered employers can show scant regard for, those unions saved the rest of us money. The money that is picked up by the wider community when we are called on to pay for the consequences of unsatisfactory health and safety outcomes, of which Asbestos is but one example.

  89. Chris Warren
    May 4th, 2010 at 10:26 | #89


    We don’t want strange opinions. What evidence do you have for this Murdoch canard?

    To many people get confused by their own misguided opinions, and this was a tactic used by Reith during the MUA dispute.

    So what award, or what enterprise agreement gave 100K+ for 40hrs equivalent.

    What is the evidence?

  90. Socrates
    May 4th, 2010 at 11:48 | #90


    You are just creating a straw man. As labor force surveys show, many occupations routinely work over 40 hours per week. The real question is how the take home pay compares for each. Most professionals, including engineers like me, don’t get overtime any more, whereas most occupations protected by strong unions such as those I mentioned do. Comparing the take home pay of wharfies and train drivers, which in my experience DO earn more than $100k, it is higher than average for most engineers and scientists. It is extraordinarily high for what are essentially low skilled jobs with no formal qualifications required, and working conditions which are now highly mechanised and comfortable. That is lucky for them, but it isn’t justice by any definition I know.

    Please don’t try to link my views to the despicable Rupert Murdoch, Peter Reith, or infer personal political motives to me in some other form of cheap ad-hominem attack. I am not a Liberal supporter, or a fan of law-of-the-jungle Howard style IR law. But I make no apology for saying that Howard wouldn’t have gotten away with as much as he did if some unions hadn’t undermined the labor movement’s credibility so badly by spending years trying to defend the indefensible.

    John Quiggan started this thread and mentioned the fact of declining union membership. I suggested some obvious (to me) reasons why that was so. I started out in my working life believing unions were important and becoming a member of those that were relevant to my work. After a decade, I gave it up as a pointless waste of time and money. I see I am one of hundreds of thouands of people who formed a similar view. If the union movement can’t learn from that it is doomed.

    This is not a criticism of campaigns like the anti-Workchoices one, or the hardworking union organisers who do actually fight for those who are low paid. They have my respect. But some others don’t.

  91. Socrates
    May 4th, 2010 at 11:49 | #91


    Thanks. I agree with your other points too. Unions that work for the safety of members are performing a social good which I fully support.

  92. May 4th, 2010 at 12:00 | #92

    These articles which cover some of the same ground may be of interest. The first is essentially a republication of a post> to the article “Time for the B team”. The second is essentially a leaflet I intended to hand out, but did not because of printer problems.

    The first has drawn a critical response from an ETU official and another in sympathy as people can read for themselves. The essential thrust is that any scrutiny of the tactics adopted by those supposedly opposed to privatisation is harmful to that cause and that I should be focus on attacking those who are actually carrying out the privatisation.

    I would suggest that I have done the latter abundantly before now. I was certainly amongst those shouting to Paul Lucas yesterday: Queensland not for sale!”

    The articles are:

    ETU raises white flag in fight against Queensland fire sale – Why??

    On Saturday 10 April, at a Brisbane anti-privatisation forum held by Search Foundation, the Secretary of the Queensland branch of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), an avowedly hard-line anti-privatisation union, revealed his view that the fight against the Bligh Government’s fire sale was lost.

    If the unions get off their knees, privatisation can be stopped

    In spite of the fact that 79% of the Queensland public oppose privatisation, 66% would support industrial action to stop the Bligh Government’s $15 billion fire sale and many union members have expressed a willingness to strike, the Queensland unions have failed to take the only action that could possibly cause the Queensland Government to change its mind.

  93. Socrates
    May 4th, 2010 at 13:09 | #93

    As a (hopefully) constructive suggestion further to my coment that unions need to better understand what wage justice is, rather than keep fighting old battles whether just or not, I would recommend reading David Millers book “Principles of Social Justice”, especially chapter 4 – “Distributive Justice: What the People Think”.

  94. Chris Warren
    May 4th, 2010 at 14:09 | #94


    Please do not try to play the victim, manufacturing ad-hominem attacks.

    You were asked very simply for evidence, not opinion.

    And all you offered was: more biased opinion, but this time using upper case.

    If you want to wave $100+ then you need to provide the context of working hours, working conditions, plus evidence that you figure is real.

    Which occupations routinely work over 40 hrs. You are deliberately confusing normal hours with overtime.

    Again you fail to produce any evidence, and vague references to labour force surveys are meaningless.

    I have no doubt that many workers can earn $100+ with overtime and penalties, but not year after year and with decent family connections.

    So unless you find proper evidence and control your context, you really are just channeling Howards dogma. Whether you understand this, is another question. I suspect you do.

  95. Socrates
    May 4th, 2010 at 14:27 | #95


    All the (anecdotal) evidence I know of supports my statements. I admit it is very hard to find accurate listing of what train drivers and waterside workers actually make; I have tried and struggled to find it in the past. If you have relaible average figures, by all means publish them.

    I know suburban train drivers in Adelaide start at around $85K and the average is over $100K as I said. I don’t know what it is in country areas. I have seen higher figures for Qld. Wharf wages vary quite a bit from State to State; Freemantle and Brisbane aren’t too bad; Sydney and Melbourne are extortionate.

    Anyway read the book, it is relevant to your work, if you are the Chris Warren of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance. It is relevant to JQs topic.

  96. Alice
    May 4th, 2010 at 18:40 | #96

    But presumably Socrates you draw the line at unions who fight for a decent share of profits to be redirected to labour in the form of higher wages…or am I wrong on that? What do you want – toothless unions and privatisation of public services…now that delivers a double hit to labour doesnt it? Take away the public services subsidies and take away their rights to bargain for higher wages so all the profit ends up in the hands of capital and inequality grows and the mass of employees get poorer, not richer – the middle disappears – the bottom gets angrier and the rich live on planet “lower my taxes further’ “let me be free to take my profits to a tax haven in the global economy – it will help the poor -….. somewhere??” – (read nowhere) – the profit ends up with Goldman on Wall Street and they gamble it into a financial crisis.

    Thats about it. Keep channeling Howards dogma Socrates – that the poor, if pushed down hard enough, and made to be flexible and “productive” enough to give up hours and conditions long enough will be so grateful for a job, any job that…they will be cowed into submission by the private sector “individualist” work leaders in the modern neo liberal labour camps.

  97. Alice
    May 4th, 2010 at 18:42 | #97

    Use of wrod “strawman” noted.

  98. munroe
    May 4th, 2010 at 18:51 | #98

    “The intellectual collapse of the right?”
    You pompous fool.

  99. Alice
    May 4th, 2010 at 19:43 | #99

    Self illustrative insult above.

  100. gregh
    May 4th, 2010 at 19:46 | #100

    I was reading socrates as making the point that if an organisation (eg union) engages in a power struggle for individual power (ie power delimeted by membership) such that the returns to the membership far exceed those experienced by the average non-member punter then such an organisation is not so differentiated from the traditional enemy scumbags that are after personal power and wealth as one might wish.

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