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Monday Message Board

June 25th, 2012

It’s time for another Monday Message Board. Post comments on any topic. As usual, civilised discussion and no coarse language. Lengthy side discussions to the sandpits, please.

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  1. June 26th, 2012 at 01:45 | #1

    Mind blowing corruption:

    http://theautomaticearth.org/Finance/this-is-not-america.html

    As usual, we’ll neither hear of this in our media nor will we consider that it will/can/has happened here.

    Once this steaming gravy train goes flying off the rails – it will be too late and blame will be apportioned in the usual inversely proposrtional manner.

  2. June 26th, 2012 at 02:12 | #2

    Popularity of Baillieu tyranny plummets

    The popularity of the Victorian State Liberal Government of Premier Ted Baillieu has plummeted to close to that of the previous ‘Labor’ mis-rulers of Victoria. …

  3. Ikonoclast
    June 26th, 2012 at 07:03 | #3

    I suspect Campbell Newman’s popularity will plummet quickly now he is showing his true colours.

  4. June 26th, 2012 at 10:08 | #4

    Do you think Anna Bligh could have won the 2009 Queensland elections if she had shown her true colours, Ikonoklast?

  5. Fran Barlow
    June 26th, 2012 at 10:20 | #5

    Passing over the specific line items that Kennedy cited, in big picture terms, I’d regard Kennedy’s big picture point as beyond serious demur. It gives voice to what pretty much any properly socialised person grasps (while often letting it slip to the back of the mind) — that in the end, quality of life is the key measure of a community’s success rather than quantity of product. I suspect that when pressed, even the majority of the right would concede that point.

    A certain quantity of product is a necessary condition of successful community — plainly people need the base of Maslow’s pyramid, and they have to believe that is sustainable over time, but it’s nothing like a sufficient condition for all the thing that people need.

    What typically happens IMO is substitution — people adapt to the failure to achieve the ends that lend satisfaction in life — a sense of purpose, being valued by one’s peers, a sense of belonging to something larger and more worthy than oneself, the possibility of achieving insight into one’s condition and connections with others — by resort to comfort in things that can be measured: celebrity, material goods, power over others and so forth.

    Tragic really …

  6. Ernestine Gross
    June 26th, 2012 at 11:40 | #6

    Moody’s rates itself as a failure.

    As per the smh article of today, linked below, Moody has down graded the credit rating of 28 Spanish banks because of their links to government bonds (which Moody downgraded) and because these banks are exposed to bad loans in the commercial and real estate sector.

    http://www.smh.com.au/business/world-business/moodys-slashes-ratings-of-28-spanish-banks-20120626-20z6w.html.

    Moody’s might not think of itself as a failure. But think about it. Moody’s current down-grade is a decision in a series of decisions, going back to the time when the same banks, which, according to Moody’s are now in trouble, made decisions, which according to Moody’s deserved a higher credit rating. Since financial decisions involve time, Moody’s decisions must include wrong ones.

  7. Freelander
    June 26th, 2012 at 19:44 | #7

    The graphs of the growth of debt to gdp in the US while interesting is by itself of no concern. Debt is owned by someone so global net debt is zero. More interesting would be the growth of debt relative to the growth in assets, and the distribution of debt and asset ownership. The level of debt in Japan is of less concern than American debt because they are not a net creditor. This maybe the longer term concern for the US, a an Indonesian style currency collapse when the safe haven, reserve currency delusion finally breaks. Hard to tell when that may happen as the most preposterous delusions can persist indefinately.

  8. July 1st, 2012 at 13:06 | #8

    A pattern is continuing in Australia at the federal level and in the states of
    New South Wales, Victoria, as I mentioned above, and now in Queensland. That
    pattern starts with years of mis-rule by a ‘Labor’ Government serving corporate
    and overseas interests, but with a shallow pretence of acting with a social
    conscience. When, under the “two party” facade of democracy we have been made to
    live with, such a government is inevitably replaced by a reactionary anti-Labor
    government as has recently happened in Queensland, that successor uses the
    supposedly irresponsible fiscal mangement of its predecessor, supposedly to look
    after the less privileged instead of the markets, as a pretext to viciously
    attack the public sector and unions. (See for example
    http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/black-friday-for-public-servants-
    20120629-2167b.html )

    In case others have not noticed the link in my previous post, here is some of
    the content in the page dated 17 February 2009 that is linked to:

    Dear Premier Anna Bligh and Treasurer Andrew Fraser,

    I will be standing as an Independent pro-democracy candidate in the state
    electorate of Mount Coot-tha in the forthcoming state elections.

    In part, my purpose in standing is to raise critical policy issues, which I
    believe will otherwise not be drawn to the attention of the Queensland public.

    One issue is privatisation.

    The evidence clearly shows that privatisation has gravely harmed the public
    interest and as a consequence, has been overwhelmingly opposed by the Australian
    public, including the Queensland public, for years.

    Yet, most Australian governments, including your own, have persisted in imposing
    privatisation without any popular support and without any electoral mandate.

    The list of privatisations, which comes to my mind, includes Energex, Ergon, the
    Golden Casket, the Mackay and Cairns airports, the Dalrymple Bay Coal loader and
    numerous tracts of valuable publicly owned land.

    Indeed, the only privatisation that was raised in an election campaign of which
    I am aware, is that of the then named State Government Insurance Office (SGIO),
    now named Suncorp. Former Premier Peter Beattie promised during the 1998
    election campaign not to fully privatise the half privatised SGIO, but, upon
    winning office, promptly broke that promise.

    Given this history, it seems to me that the Queensland public have good reason
    to fear that, upon re-election, your Government may proceed to sell of yet more
    of their assets, including Queensland Railways, electricity generators, more
    airports, the water grid, public buildings, public land, etc.

    The reason I write this letter is to seek your firm assurance that if you do
    intend to privatise any of these assets that you state your intention to do so
    to the public before the forthcoming elections, or, alternatively, that you will
    put any planned privatisations to the public at referenda.

    Yours sincerely,

    James Sinnamon

    Independent pro-democracy candidate for Mount Cooth-tha
    (ends)

    Note that of the two people the letter was addressed to, one, former
    Treasurer Andrew Fraser, lost his own seat in March.

  9. Freelander
    July 1st, 2012 at 17:59 | #9

    The financial problems of many governments can be traced to an unwillingness to tax. When taxation was more progressive tax increases happened automatically. This allowed politicians to generously cut taxes periodically without damage. Now because of less progressivity, and low income growth for all except tax dodgers, tax revenue does not rise very much automatically.

  10. July 2nd, 2012 at 02:44 | #10

    Thanks, Freelander.

    It was a stupid mistake for the otherwise mostly commendable Gough Whitlam not
    to legislate in 1975 to increase tax thresholds in line with the rate of
    inflation. As a consequence in 2012, low income earners contribute far more tax
    then they did before 1975 and politicians on both sides are able to play
    political games with promises to provide episodic “tax cuts” by making upwards
    adjustments to tax scales. These adjustments provide no permanent protection
    against the nominal incomes of lower income earners being driven by inflation
    into higher and higher tax brackets.

    We should demand that Whitlam’s mistake be rectified and that tax scales be
    automatically indexed to match the rate of inflation.

    Anti-tax ideologues would have us believe either that it is possible for
    adequate services to be provided with less tax revenue or that the private
    sector can provide services more cheaply than the public sector. My
    experience with privately owned power uilities, water utilities, transport
    companies telecommunications companies, insurance companies and banks is the
    reverse: charges are considerably higher than the charges we had to pay when
    these utilities were government owned. In general, the service is much worse. In
    all likelihood, the total of charges for services we now have to pay for
    services from privatised entities exceeds the amount from consolidated revenue
    that was previously necessary to run them.

  11. Tom
    July 2nd, 2012 at 09:16 | #11

    @Malthusista

    We live in a society where yelling “socialism” or “communism” give a party political gains.

  12. July 2nd, 2012 at 11:24 | #12

    Tom,

    My understanding is that that the unjustly vilified Lenin was
    actually in favour of a mixed economy in which the government sector
    predominated, rather than a strictly ‘socialist’ economy in which all the means
    of production belonged to the government. (I will need to read up on this more
    in order to be able to confirm this.) As I said elsewhere, although I think the
    Marxist methodology that largely guided Lenin was flawed, “the Russian
    Revolution of 1917 presented humanity with its best opportunity to date to
    establish a workable and humane global society.”

    Karl Marx’s analysis of capitalism failed to take account of the
    use of non-renewable fossil fuel. It was fossil fuel, and not the claimed
    increase in human intelligence or humanity’s supposed progression from
    feudalism to capitalism that made possible the massive increase in human
    productivity of the last 400-500 years.

    Whilst I think that socialism should be tried, I can’t see how Marx’s vision, of
    a future in which all of humankind in ever larger numbers will enjoy ever
    greater material wealth, is achievable on this planet. Our only hope for a
    decent sustainable future is to keep the numbers of humankind and the
    consumption of resources of each of us within the natural carrying capacity of
    this planet. That can only be achieved with democratic accountable government
    which is not controlled by oligarchs.

  13. Tom
    July 2nd, 2012 at 12:27 | #13

    @Malthusista

    Whilst replying in agreement with your comment, my last comment wasn’t intended to be avocating for socialism. It was simply an criticism on our current political environment. In Australia and the US, any progressive policy will attract “thats socialism (or communism)!!” as a criticism and it seems to be a working criticism for political debate. Whilst I doubt even 1/5 of our population have ever read anything Marxist, this isn’t a healthy political environment for a democratic society.

    I had posted comments in the past in support of Keynesian economics, as well as a return of economic structure similar to of post war (a mix of capitalism and socialism). However, I do have doubts about the long term sustainability of a mixed economy (due to capitalist features).

  14. Chris Warren
    July 2nd, 2012 at 20:20 | #14

    I do have doubts about the long term sustainability of a mixed economy (due to capitalist features).

    Yes, this is the key issue. However if ‘mixed economy’ means a mixture of market and planned socialism, and co-operative and private enterprise (without capitalism) then this may be easily resolved.

    I suppose it depends on how you understand capitalism.

  15. Freelander
    July 2nd, 2012 at 20:38 | #15

    The mixed economy, not raw capitalism, has been the big success story providing the conditions for a high standard of living. None of the successful first world economies would be where they are without significant government intervention, which has been a characteristic of all of them.

    Libertarian neo-Luddites want to roll the state back to the 18th century, or worse, to some golden era of faux freedom that never existed. Their efforts in removing old regulation and in obstructing new regulation played a large part in creating the opportunities that led to the GFC.

  16. Bring back Birdy at Catallaxy
    July 3rd, 2012 at 11:04 | #16

    In terms of sustainability, the key thing is that the physical scale of the economy not be permitted to exceed ecological and biophysical limits, the “take” of resources from natural systems not exceed their productive capacity, the return of wastes from human economic activity to natural systems not exceed their assimilative capacity nor be of a toxic nature which degrades their integrity, and specific activities which endanger species or ecosystem processes not be permitted.

    These benchmarks, within which a sustainable economy and society must operate, must be determined on the basis of science and scientifically informed democratic deliberation, not by markets. Markets, where they exist, must operate within these parameters. However market processes could be creatively deployed, and new markets invented, to ensure that production remains within these parameters.

    Chris Warren @14 writes:

    “Yes, this is the key issue. However if ‘mixed economy’ means a mixture of market and planned socialism, and co-operative and private enterprise (without capitalism) then this may be easily resolved.

    “I suppose it depends on how you understand capitalism.”

    If we accept such a definition of a sustainable mixed economy as a desirable goal (as, broadly speaking, I do) a question arises as to whether there is a shiny definitional line between democratic socialism and social-democratic capitalism in different permutations of such a mix. I suspect that people could agree that particular industries or enterprises are best placed in a socially owned sector, and others best left to private enterprise, and also agree on a particular mix of market, planning/regulation and civic society deliberation and mobilisation of knowledge, whilst disagreeing on whether the term “socialism” or “capitalism” best describes that mix. If my suspicion is correct, I would also argue that their agreement on the substance of economic arrangements is more important than their disagreement over terminology.

  17. Bring back Birdy at Catallaxy
    July 3rd, 2012 at 11:23 | #17

    To further develop my last point, we should try to avoid a situation where some people resist some good ideas for achieving sustainability on a democratic and socially just basis because those good ideas are called “socialist”, whilst some other people resist (or don’t think of) some other good ideas for achieving sustainability on a democratic and socially just basis because those other good ideas are *not* called “socialist”.

  18. Tom
    July 3rd, 2012 at 12:27 | #18

    @Bring back Birdy at Catallaxy #17

    Exactly the point I was making. This does however require the general public to know history and understand what exactly socialism is. Some people out there critcise socialism when they don’t even know what socialism is and the history (quite recent) of the mix economy Australia was at. There is a very big problem when a political party started crying “that’s socialism!” without proper economic reasoning in policy debates in a democratic society.

    Back to the sustainability of mixed economy, while I do support Keynesian economics, the focus on GDP growth should also have to take ecological capacity and sustainability into account.

  19. rog
    July 3rd, 2012 at 13:38 | #19

    These benchmarks, within which a sustainable economy and society must operate, must be determined on the basis of science and scientifically informed democratic deliberation, not by markets. Markets, where they exist, must operate within these parameters. However market processes could be creatively deployed, and new markets invented, to ensure that production remains within these parameters.

    The separation of market, science and democracy seems more difficult today than in previous times.

  20. July 5th, 2012 at 01:02 | #20

    Note the hysterical ABC report which is one of many which claims
    that, unless we immediately privatise yet more publicly owned assets,
    governments will be unable to raise sufficient funds to to pay private companies
    to build and operate the additional road and rail transport infrastructure that
    they claim this country desperately needs.

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