Home > Oz Politics, World Events > The culture wars are over. They lost.

The culture wars are over. They lost.

November 8th, 2012


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  1. Sancho
    November 8th, 2012 at 20:06 | #1

    Triumphalism like that isn’t usually rewarded.

    For example, it came as a shock to the Republicans that their anti-gay, pro-Christian platform wasn’t immensely popular with Latinos.

    You could read that as massive Latino support for the Democrats, but I think it’s more likely to be rejection of the GOP’s harsh line on immigration.

    If the Republicans soften their stance on deportation and border control, tens of millions of Latinos may switch sides to be with the party that aligns with their religious and ethical beliefs.

    The culture wars are far from over.

  2. Katz
    November 8th, 2012 at 20:11 | #2

    They were over by 1974.

    Mopping up operations continued to 2012.

  3. Oliver Townshend
    November 8th, 2012 at 20:20 | #3

    And yet the still play the Hits of the 70s and 80s on the radio.

  4. John Quiggin
    November 8th, 2012 at 20:27 | #4


    Immigration is central to the culture wars. If/when they reverse on immigration, marriage equality, reproductive rights and climate change, the Repubs will be a lot more competitive. But that’s my point.

  5. Jim Rose
    November 8th, 2012 at 20:29 | #5

    Katz was unusually sharp on noting the culture wars was over decades ago, with mopping up operations since then.

    Back in the day, an old University mate of mine, Rodney Croome used to be (very bravely) protesting about reforms to the criminal law.
    • Rod even went into a police station a confessed to abominations against nature, as the Tasmanian criminal code called it. It was a gender neutral prohibition.
    • The police said they could not prosecute with the other party coming forward as the witness. He did.
    • The Tassie DPP then declined to prosecute on public interest grounds.

    These days, Rod is campaigning for the right to marry. All inside one generation! What a great country is Australia.

    I often use the rapid social change such as this when I must listen to some drone on tell me how preferences and social roles are socially constructed. They may have missed the 20th century, and the 60s and 70s at least ansd the Internet too.

    When I was growing-up, racist sentiments were common. Times have changed so much for the better.

  6. Katz
    November 8th, 2012 at 20:32 | #6

    No, that was my usual sharpness.

  7. Sancho
    November 8th, 2012 at 20:35 | #7

    @John Quiggin
    The criterion for the thread was to discuss the proposition that the culture wars are over. I didn’t know there was a point to refute.

  8. Ikonoclast
    November 8th, 2012 at 20:43 | #8

    A trolling headline and an open request to discuss? It’s asking for trouble.It’s much like Fukuyama’s “End of History” claim. There is no end to human history while humans exist. There will be no end to culture wars either.

    I assume in “they lost” the “they” means neoconservative politics and economics. Far from them losing they have won very comprehensively. Even when we get so-called “left liberals” (who are nothing of the sort) like Obama and Gillard all we get is more drone strikes, more homeland “security”, more trashing of the rule of law, more help for corporate capitalists and more laws against refugees to detain them indefinitely in exhausted guano mines. How is this in any way a win?

    Of course, even the neocon right’s win is temporary. The world they have contrived is unstable, unsustainable and unravelling as we blog. But it is very hard to say what will come next.

  9. Sancho
    November 8th, 2012 at 20:49 | #9

    Surely the fact that birth control and “legitimate rape” were issues at the forefront of the election demonstrates that a particularly backward form of conservatism is alive and well in the US.

    Even if the people who hold those views are in a shrinking minority, that’s still tens of millions of Americans who won’t give up the fight just because Obama won a second term.

  10. Katz
    November 8th, 2012 at 20:52 | #10

    Victory is signified by hegemony, not unanimity.

  11. rog
    November 8th, 2012 at 21:19 | #11

    They certainly did lose, after 4 years of Obama disappointments, mid term win, debt ceiling standoff culminating in an election where they threw everything in incl the kitchen sink, they failed to register a gain. No wonder Boehner is talking of doing a deal on their only remaing card the “fiscal cliff”.

  12. Peter Whiteford
    November 8th, 2012 at 21:24 | #12

    They are not dead yet, and they even be zombies.

  13. John Quiggin
    November 8th, 2012 at 21:25 | #13

    “I assume in “they lost” the “they” means neoconservative politics and economics.”

    If only. As you say (and as I said in my book on the subject) they are very much alive, or, at least, very much undead. The culture wars were just one tactic to distract voters from the way the neocons/neolibs were taking them down

  14. November 8th, 2012 at 21:27 | #14

    Just like the ‘potato famine’, the truth about the culture war is: There never really was one.

    It is a construct.

    As an example: something like 70% of Australians don’t care about gay marriage. Not in favour and not against, just plain old don’t care. It isn’t an issue. If it became a reality they wouldn’t care. Similarly, they can’t get worked up about advocating for it either.

    The construct is designed to push everyone into one of two deliberately designed corners of a series of otherwise largely unnoticed issues. Often people will have to change corners when the next issue comes up, so there isn’t even uniformity across the two “sides” to the war.

    ABC’s Q&A is a perfect example of this type of time-wasting confection. A form of ‘circuses’ in the ancient Roman sense. Jeez it keeps us busy.

    I notice that a whole bunch of “occupy” people got straight into organising and collectively delivering real aid and relief to those in grief after Sandy. (Anyone interested can see #OccupySandy on Twitter).

    They were in there delivering food, water, goods and medical assistance several days before the National Guard and Red Cross.

    The Culture-War-Mongers hate this kind of apolitical grass roots organising. It mucks up their entire plan that we all just sit about calling each other names and waving red or blue flags at each other while they carry on fucking up the world.

  15. Katz
    November 8th, 2012 at 21:43 | #15

    The major battlefields of the culture wars predated the rise of neocons/neolibs.

    It is true that neocons/neolibs enlisted partisans in these causes in their struggles. But it is historically incorrect to imply that neocons/neolibs conjured the culture wars into existence.

  16. November 8th, 2012 at 22:17 | #16

    The bad guys can now no longer sustain the culture wars on all fronts. However, should they choose to surrrender on some they will be in a position to continue fighting others for maybe a decade or more. Let’s hope they’re not that smart.

  17. November 8th, 2012 at 22:17 | #17

    Sorry, I forgot where I was for a moment. I’ll try again, without the fruity language:

    Just like the ‘potato famine’, the truth about the culture war is: There never really was one.

    It is a construct.

    As an example: something like 70% of Australians don’t care about gay marriage. Not in favour and not against, just plain old don’t care. It isn’t an issue. If it became a reality they wouldn’t care. Similarly, they can’t get worked up about advocating for it either.

    The construct is designed to push everyone into one of two deliberately designed corners of a series of otherwise largely unnoticed issues. Often people will have to change corners when the next issue comes up, so there isn’t even uniformity across the two “sides” to the war.

    ABC’s Q&A is a perfect example of this type of time-wasting confection. A form of ‘circuses’ in the ancient Roman sense. Jeez it keeps us busy.

    I notice that a whole bunch of “occupy” people got straight into organising and collectively delivering real aid and relief to those in grief after Sandy. (Anyone interested can see #OccupySandy on Twitter).

    They were in there delivering food, water, goods and medical assistance several days before the National Guard and Red Cross.

    The Culture-War-Mongers hate this kind of apolitical grass roots organising. It mucks up their entire plan that we all just sit about calling each other names and waving red or blue flags at each other while they carry on stuffing up the world.

  18. November 8th, 2012 at 22:30 | #18

    If you are old enough to remember all the flack about Kennedy’s Catholicism what was truly amazing about this US election was that it was a contest between a Mormon and a part Afro-american. There seemed to be little discussion of the religious or ethnic background of the candidates.
    I am not sure what Qld John Q lives in but the one I am in seems to have been taken over by a triumphant branch of the Tea Party.

  19. Sancho
    November 8th, 2012 at 22:40 | #19

    @John D
    Conservative Christians railed against Romney’s religion until they realised that he was the only candidate they had, then reluctantly bit their tongues about it, while Brian Fischer and co were shouting about Obama being an atheist and/or Muslim right up the end of the election.

  20. paul walter
    November 8th, 2012 at 22:42 | #20

    The rival thesis as to the culture wars being over forty years ago is the idea that the last century is typified by two period of reform ( FD Rooseveldt, then the sixties) and long periods of reaction in between.
    It’s true the US public avoided the mistake they made in tossing a decent man, Jimmy Carter,for Reagan in the eighties, but then, the damage is so much more obvious this time as to Zombie economics and neo conservatism.
    I think the parallel between Australia and the US at this stage of the Culture Wars is remarkable. It could be that the public here is also having a “Deer-hunter ” moment and holding off killing off Gillard Labor while this time they have a PROPER look at Abbottism and see Australian rightist obstructionism for what it is, same as the USA , a gun held to the head of society.

  21. Chris Warren
    November 9th, 2012 at 02:24 | #21

    Culture Wars are proxy wars for economic interests. If necessary they can always be reignited by the Right.

    However, in Australia, the History Wars [1] are not yet dead.

    This also applies to Kenya where new British papers have only just been released.

    [1] The question whether colonial genocide was used to construct modern Western wealth

  22. rog
    November 9th, 2012 at 04:14 | #22

    @Chris Warren The Cattlemans Hall of Fame Longreach are going to add a section on aborigines, which is about time when you consider that all the early explorers and cattlemen utilised and exploited existing tracks and routes. In some cases this was done through torture (Canning Stock Route).

    Australians need to acknowledge the numerous murders and massacres of aborigines by white people, often committed with approval of the Crown.

  23. BilB
    November 9th, 2012 at 04:50 | #23

    If you are talking about

    “……….former Nixon speechwriter named Patrick Buchanan. At the Republican National Convention he sounded the clarion call for a cultural war for the “soul of America”.

    He laid out the battlefields on which that war would be fought.

    Abortion on demand, a litmus test for the Supreme Court, homosexual rights, discrimination against religious schools, women in combat units.

    And he made it clear, in his trademark snarl, what he thought of the other side. The Democrats had just had their convention in New York City.

    Like many of you last month, I watched that giant masquerade ball up at Madison Square Garden, where 20,000 liberals and radicals came dressed up as moderates and centrists in the greatest single exhibition of cross-dressing in American political history”

    …….this culture war, then you might be right. But the war will only stay won for as long as women actively contribute and defend their presence and equality publicly as energetically as they do within the home.

    I do not include legalised marihuana into that fold and will fight that one vigorously.

    If you are talking about a conservatives versus liberals, avarous versus sharing, dominance versus caring,…culture war, then no I don’t think that has been won.

    The one quote from the US election that fully defined the American problem for me was dropped casually into a talk referring to the Baby Bommers as “…the pig in the python…”. To me that totally visualises the 1% problem, the catch 22. These are the people who were “Johnny on the spot” when the biggest growth boom in history was in full swing. And the 1% are those who were able to consolidate those gains and are now using their strength to maximise that position against all comers. They are the property barons, every bit as ruthless as the media barons and drug lords.

  24. Mr Denmore
    November 9th, 2012 at 07:01 | #24

    The culture wars are pretty much a media construct. That they any currency is purely because mainstream media publications say that they exist. It’s in the interests of that industry to keep them going because their business model is based on conflict.

  25. Ikonoclast
    November 9th, 2012 at 07:02 | #25

    @John Quiggin

    I see your point now. I just wonder why you focus on the culture wars so much when you too see they are a secondary issue.

    Material production and ownership of the means of production are the key issues. Religion, mores (moral attitudes and manners) and rationalising ideologies grow out of and to some extent re-influence the forces and relations of production. My views are of a somewhat late or post-Marxist nature further informed by Veblen’s analysis, green ecologism and biophysical economics. From this point of view, the culture wars are a side issue. Our problem is our inability to reform and eventually effect a revolutionary transformation to take us out of and beyond capitalism. Capitalism as a system is failing and must be condemned on two major counts. It strongly works against equal and positive relations between humans and it strongly works against a sustainable (and ethically justifiable) interaction between human civilization of the rest of “nature” or the biosphere.

  26. Sancho
    November 9th, 2012 at 07:10 | #26

    @Mr Denmore
    They perpetuate the culture wars, but I can’t imagine the Vatican, in particular, would have shrugged and let abortion, feminism and gay rights pass without protest if there weren’t a content-hungry media urgently stoking the fire.

  27. Greg vP
    November 9th, 2012 at 07:29 | #27

    Look at it from the other side:-

    “It was a 48 to 50 loss. We would have won but for Hurricane Sandy, which gave Obama the chance to look presidential.

    If bigotry, paternalism, unreason, fear-mongering and lying didn’t work, it was because we were unlucky, and because we didn’t use enough of them. We’ll be back, better than before.”

    Nothing has changed.

  28. rog
    November 9th, 2012 at 07:53 | #28

    @Mr Denmore I thought the Gulf Wars to be valid manifestations of the culture wars.

  29. Katz
    November 9th, 2012 at 07:57 | #29



  30. November 9th, 2012 at 10:52 | #30

    If we who believe in free markets for free minds lost, what exactly did you collectivists win? Cuba? Libia? Greece? The Aboriginal Gulag? Green Tasmania? Postmodern Nihilism?

  31. Sancho
    November 9th, 2012 at 10:56 | #31

    @John Dawson
    The central point of this thread is that the US election outcome proves we don’t have to bother with that nonsense any more.

    If you want to see a Republican president again, it’s entirely up to you to start talking in hard facts instead of straw men and conspiracy theories.

  32. November 9th, 2012 at 11:04 | #32

    @Sancho So you’ve defeated the bad guys and don’t have to bother about the freedom nonsense any more, I get that. What I don’t get is, what have you won? There’s the loot you can plunder, but what then?

  33. Sancho
    November 9th, 2012 at 11:11 | #33

    @John Dawson

    The right has spent the last ten years shouting that science is communism, secularism is persecution, homosexuality is a disease, feminism is a disaster, Wall Street can self-regulating and the environment is expendable.

    That you believe the right was defeated by anyone but itself is just evidence of how far you need to travel back to relevance.

  34. November 9th, 2012 at 11:43 | #34

    @Sancho So you’ve won licensee to gloat, misrepresent and abuse. Anything else? Seriously anyone, what is it that you think you have won?

  35. Sancho
    November 9th, 2012 at 11:58 | #35

    @John Dawson
    Just the gloating, and only for a short while, because there’s progress to be made before the Republicans swallow the poo sandwich and try to rein in the Tea Party for the Christie nomination in 2016.

    More interesting is what this will mean for Australia, which is generally more conservative than the US but also more stable. US voters just rejected most of the claims the Liberal Party took directly from the GOP, but that’s no guarantee it will convert to similar results.

    So you can pray to Monckton and keep the powder dry for now.

  36. may
    November 9th, 2012 at 12:29 | #36

    while the “culture wars” have been very good to broadcasters and paid opinionators,the
    cult of superiority is a perennial throughout history.

    the need to convince/ coerce the subject productive units to support a priest/military/noble way-to-go is seen in every country and culture.

    the rule of entitlement is what is being painted into a corner,the privelege of money(privelege means private law) is being outflanked by the inexorable encroachment of education and rights in law.

    so emotion and agnotology are used to convince the “unentitled”that it is in their/our best interest to trust a purported ‘we are doing this in your best interest because we know more than you do and it’s going to stay that way trust us even as you haven’t got a clue of who we are except for a carefully glamourised image of a photogenic few.

    super rich tend to get really sniffy if the idea that their superiority relies on money, assets or family connections.
    (this is not to deny the reality of groups and individuals who have,after all, made the world a better place)
    and seem to truly think that normal people envy a way of life that means having to have round the clock body guards .
    maybe the ones who make a living breathlessly broadcasting the glamour of it all wish they were in the magic circle but i’ve got enough to go on with.
    it just irritates me that they could easily hire a hitman or legal S.L.A.P* to deal to me if i get in their way.

    S.L.A.P=Strategic Ligitation Against Protesters.

  37. may
    November 9th, 2012 at 12:30 | #37

    bloody hell.

    litigation. litigation.

  38. Julie Thomas
    November 9th, 2012 at 12:37 | #38

    John D, nobody has won; but your side has lost.

    The ‘collectivists’ these days are not ‘the left’; they are the ordinary people who don’t usually take any notice of politics or economics. But they love social stuff and through initiatives like the Destroying the Joint facebook page, – and the Keep Campbell to Account – they are learning about economics and politics and realising that they do have the ability, and the means, to understand what is going on.

    White male supremacists are the ones who fight to win, and we’ve just seen how low they can go to do this, because ………..???

    Why? What do you think you’ve got to offer anyone except people who are exactly like your good self?

  39. Sancho
    November 9th, 2012 at 13:08 | #39

    Here’s Matt Taibbi on culture war stuff: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/hey-rush-limbaugh-starting-an-abortion-industry-wont-win-you-female-voters-20121108

    John and co might want to mull over the nut graf:

    “[M]odern Republicans will never be able to spread [their] message effectively, because they have so much of their own collective identity wrapped up in the belief that they’re surrounded by free-loading, job-averse parasites who not only want to smoke weed and have recreational abortions all day long, but want hardworking white Christians like them to pay the tab. Their whole belief system, which is really an endless effort at congratulating themselves for how hard they work compared to everyone else…is inherently insulting to everyone outside the tent – and you can’t win votes when you’re calling people lazy, stoned moochers.”

  40. Uncle Milton
    November 9th, 2012 at 13:28 | #40

    Taking up Katz’s metaphor about mopping up operations, even if the war can be officially declared over for decades to come the Republicans will be like those Japanese soldiers who spent 30 years in the Philippines jungle not knowing the war was over.

    But it’s not obvious that the culture wars are over. Take abortion. It’s nearly 40 years since Roe v Wade, and still it’s the defining issue that separates the true believer Republicans from the RINOs. Romney is obviously not terribly anti-abortion but he had to say that he was or his candidacy would have been dead before the Repub primaries even started. If anything, the standard Repub position is much harder line than it used to be. I don’t think even Reagan ever said that he opposed abortion arising from rape.

  41. Sancho
    November 9th, 2012 at 13:37 | #41

    @Uncle Milton

    That’s a direct result of the Tea Party, which itself was a result of what Barry Goldwater warned of in 1994 when he said “when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party…it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.”

    The establishment Republicans thought they could direct all that Tea Party anger into the machine, but instead the extremists began turfing out the moderates, or “RINOs”.

    Next thing you know, you’ve guys like Todd Akin piping up about rape and the GOP enforcers who wouldn’t have tolerated it a decade ago just shrugging and saying “so what?”

  42. Uncle Milton
    November 9th, 2012 at 14:04 | #42


    It’s reached the point where Mitch McConnell, the Republic Senate leader, arch conservative and uber obstructionist, is facing a primary challenge in 2014 from the Tea Party.

  43. Sancho
    November 9th, 2012 at 14:07 | #43

    @Uncle Milton

    That’s the make or break. Either the remaining moderates manage to pull the party back toward the centre, or what? Civil war?

  44. JamesH
    November 9th, 2012 at 14:33 | #44

    There’s still plenty of trench warfare culture warriors here in Oz.

    Consider Dr Steven Kates, for example, who teaches economics at RMIT, and has just written a piece (of ….) for Quadrant explaining that Obama won by building a coalition of:
    Women who are, amazingly, concerned that Republicans might limit their access to abortion – these women are clearly “damaged” and “living in a world of paranoia”, and he suspects they have “not avoided the deep and fearsome pains of commitment-free sexual relations either” (slut shaming! way to go, Steven!) and their anger at “men of my and Romney’s generation” is “beyond all understanding” (well, it’s clearly beyond Steve’s understanding);

    “Mendicants”, because “So far as those who vote for a living are concerned one can understand why they are voting as they do. There are more of them than ever as their numbers have been propagated by leftist parties everywhere” (translation: the brown hordes are multiplying!);

    “Broken Glass Democrats” who are “worm-eaten with envy” (I’m not sure who this is a dog-whistle for, cause he already did women and brown hordes – is this blacks?); and

    “Marxist social science know-nothings” (who knew marxists were so powerful in the USA?).

    Dr Kates must also be an economic zombie par excellence as he has devoted much of his career to extolling the wisdom of Say’s law. That’s not even neo-classical, it’s positively pre-diluvian. He regularly writes for the Drum to explain how stimulus is destroying the Australian economy (snerk) due to “crowding out”. Why does ortho-free-marketeering so often coincide with racism and sexism?

    He is apparently considered competent to teach. I do wonder if he shares his views of women, “mendicants”, and other such undesirables with his students.

  45. November 9th, 2012 at 14:52 | #45


    I know virtually nothing of economics, so I had to look up “Say’s Law”.

    Apparently it isn’t really his law, it just got his name on it. Anyway, it seems he stated that the only way to have a market for something is to produce that thing. Pure genius.

    Then there was something about how it’s impossible for rich people to accumulate money because they’ll spend it. Except sometimes they won’t. And if they horde their money (by definition, become rich) that is against his law. And he seemed to be in favour of economic stimulus in hard times to create work for the unemployed.

    It seemed his idea was that the economy consists entirely of manufactured widgets which are immediately transferred (via money) into other widgets. Food doesn’t seem to fit into the law. That’s it, I’m leaving this economics caper to the experts.

  46. JamesH
    November 9th, 2012 at 15:37 | #46

    I note John Dawson believes in “free markets for free minds”. I knew that right wing hacks sell their opinions to the highest bidder, but they don’t usually come out and admit it.

  47. Uncle Milton
    November 9th, 2012 at 17:59 | #47


    It didn’t work out so well for them in Indiana. Problem is, the extremists have the support of the people who vote in the primaries. Richard Mourdock (he of pregnancy after rape is God’s will fame) ran against the incumbent Richard Lugar (considered to be a conservative Republican by pre Tea Party standards) on the basis that any working with the Democrats of any kind at any time on any issue is treasonous, and the Repub primary voters lapped it up.

    It’s reminiscent of the Protestant paramilitary groups in Ulster: “No Surrender!”

    That’s the problem with these people. They really do think they are doing God’s work, and they see treason and betrayal anywhere and everywhere beyond their own world value.

  48. Tim Macknay
    November 9th, 2012 at 18:04 | #48


    S.L.A.P=Strategic Ligitation Against Protesters

    No, it’s S.L.A.P.P – “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation”.

  49. m0nty
    November 9th, 2012 at 19:03 | #49

    The culture wars are not over in America. All the GOP needs to do is embrace Rubio, and probably also Jeb Bush, and shift their policy to Rubio’s version of immigration amnesty to win back the natural social conservative constituency of the Hispanic population.

    Whether they will do that or not is the issue. Based on the last four years, they are more likely to double down on the Clint Eastwood demo, led by the Tea Party conducting more neocon cleansing.

  50. November 9th, 2012 at 20:03 | #50

    I guess I’ve got my answer. If we lost, nobody won. You guys certainly didn’t, because you don’t stand for anything. You don’t stand for socialism any more, you resemble some sort of green feudalism but your union power base wouldn’t accept serfdom so at the end of the day you can be defined only by what you want to destroy: the remnants of capitalism. And after that … *?*

  51. Jim Rose
    November 9th, 2012 at 20:21 | #51

    who won the culture war over immigration in Australia?

  52. Sancho
    November 9th, 2012 at 20:36 | #52

    @John Dawson

    That’s it. That’s exactly the sort of thing you need to keep saying.

    Keep telling Australians that criticising neoconservatism is an attack on capitalism.

    Keep saying that standing for nothing means asking why the Liberal and Republican parties dodge scrutiny and won’t discuss hard policy.

    And please – PLEASE – continue to sneer at the union movement for not accepting serfdom.

  53. Sancho
    November 9th, 2012 at 20:38 | #53

    @Jim Rose

    Immigration or refugee policy?

    There’s been a political consensus on immigration for decades: bring ’em in as fast as possible, as long as they’ve got qualifications.

  54. November 9th, 2012 at 21:02 | #54

    @Sancho I wasn’t sneering at the unions. Unionists, as distinct from corrupt union officials and Labor politicians who use them as cannon and ballot box fodder, are productive. My point was that they, unlike Leftist academics and hangers on understand that they need capitalists for jobs and a decent life, so there’s a limit to their toleration of nihilistic discontents whose hatred of capitalism would consign them to serfdom.

  55. Sancho
    November 9th, 2012 at 21:12 | #55

    @John Dawson
    Ah yes. The academics.

    You also have my sincere encouragement to take the Republican cue and attack people like Nate Silver, on the grounds that mathematics and data analysis are a dark sorcery intended to mislead the faithful.

  56. November 9th, 2012 at 21:34 | #56

    I rather like the idea of a “Wheel Tax”.

    We ‘winners’ could sell it by calling it a “Great Big New Wheel Tax”. All wheels would be taxed. That way we could all go back to the dark ages, or better still somewhere even more dark and even more aged.

    Under a Great Big New Wheel Tax all injustice in the world would be removed because the capitalist world can only operate with Wheels. Once we collectively organise to tax the Koch brother’s Wheels so heavily that they stop being capitalists we can move on to small business owners and tax the wheels on their delivery bicycles so that they can no longer purvey their life-sucking evil small business model on the humble people who just want a bottle of milk or half a dozen eggs (Wheel free, of course).

    Then, when we have successfully transferred all that Wheel-based wealth down to the shifty Wheel-less people we can start to build a new world. A world without Wheels. A world where rich people have to slave away for long hours and little pay in dangerous conditions just to ensure that we, the 99%, live a life of Wheel-less luxury sneering at them for wanting what we have.

    Hang on, that doesn’t make any sense. I’ll have to start again on my Great Big New Wheel Tax theory…

  57. rog
    November 9th, 2012 at 21:35 | #57

    @Jim Rose You assume that by using ‘war’ there is a start and finish with a winner and a loser. This is wrong, there is no end and is a process of change.

  58. Sancho
    November 9th, 2012 at 21:50 | #58


    The Kochs inherited their wheels and couldn’t build one to save themselves, let alone a road to roll it down.

    What the US election revealed is that most Americans don’t mind if the Kochs have to release a bit of their wheel overstock to help out the people who were left without wheels when Wall Street destroyed the wheel industry by selling hollow rusty wheels advertised as AAA-rated chrome wheels, which promptly fell apart when relied upon for rolling anything.

    Then the people with few wheels were forced to give up some of their wheels to bail out the Wall Street wheel crashers, who used the wheels to award themselves generous bonus wheels and go right back to selling shonky wheels.

    We could go on rephrasing the facts that everyone but the right has wised up to, but this wheel thing is truly the most stupid analogy for anything ever. Next time try ponies.

  59. James Haughton
    November 9th, 2012 at 22:31 | #59

    Since we’ve probably got another 24 hours or so of schadenfreude, as indicated by this thread’s title, before Obama does something disappointing, here’s a little something I feel like sharing with the John Dawsons of this world: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48H34ukFe8g

  60. November 10th, 2012 at 00:55 | #60


    Hmmm, “Great Big New Pony Tax” has a bit of a ring to it, but it might backfire – some people like ponies, but everyone knows only successful and intelligent hard-working people like Wheels.

    Communists and Socialists and Leftists hate Wheels.

    I’ve even seen them forcing their suffering ponies to drag around drays with wasteful, inefficient, arty post-modernist cubist square-shaped ‘wheels’. Just to make their inefficient ‘command-economy’ point.

  61. Julie Thomas
    November 10th, 2012 at 07:28 | #61

    Is David Brooks conceding defeat, at least in one of the myths that Republicans spread about Obama’s suppporters, in this article?


    He writes

    “But, each year, there are more Americans whose cultural roots lie elsewhere. Each year, there are more people from different cultures, with different attitudes toward authority, different attitudes about individualism, different ideas about what makes people enterprising.

    More important, people in these groups are facing problems not captured by the fundamental Republican equation: more government = less vitality.

    The Pew Research Center does excellent research on Asian-American and Hispanic values. Two findings jump out. First, people in these groups have an awesome commitment to work. By most measures, members of these groups value industriousness more than whites.

    Second, they are also tremendously appreciative of government. In survey after survey, they embrace the idea that some government programs can incite hard work, not undermine it; enhance opportunity, not crush it.”

    Hmmm, good call from Brooks – on this part of the article – the rest of it is the usual self-serving, discredited assumptions about their ‘philosophy’ and how it is the real American way. But the comments set him straight; the comments are very good; much better than the article.

  62. Katz
    November 10th, 2012 at 08:32 | #62

    Yes JT.

    And it is worth noting that Brooks’ assertion about Americans’ attitude to government is based on an historical fallacy.

    In fact, the economy of the US grew at its quickest in the 1940s to the mid 1960s when the highest marginal tax rate was 91% and never fell below 65%!

    Instead of investing in one of the most rapid economic expansions in history, why weren’t these American tax payers salting their wealth in Swiss bank accounts?

  63. Jim Rose
    November 10th, 2012 at 08:43 | #63

    @Katz if the NOMINAL marginal tax rates were much higher back then, was U.S. government spending much bigger too to match the additional revenues?

    JT, has David Brooks just discovered that America is a melting pot?

  64. Katz
    November 10th, 2012 at 08:58 | #64

    JR, are you ignorant of the fact that governments both tax AND spend?

    During the 1950s and 1960s the US Govt ran large fiscal surpluses. This state of affairs changed almost permanently in 1968.

  65. Sancho
    November 10th, 2012 at 09:24 | #65


    Notice how the moment you got the slightest pushback on your claims, you defaulted to shouting about communists instead of trying build a sensible supporting argument?

    The point of this thread is that that won’t work – in the US at least – because after four straight years of Republicans trying to associate social democracy with communism, Americans went to the polls and overwhelmingly voted Democrat.

    Australia is a different story for lots of reasons, but between now and the federal election you’re going to need some very good arguments to explain why Americans want their nation to be more like Australia than vice versa.

    @Julie Thomas

    Never thought we’d see that sort of fact-facing honesty from Brooks, of all people. Hope and change, lawl.

  66. may
    November 10th, 2012 at 11:16 | #66

    Tim Macknay :@may

    S.L.A.P=Strategic Ligitation Against Protesters

    No, it’s S.L.A.P.P – “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation”.

    six of one half a dozen of the other?

    and i know my privilege quotient is not high when i can’t even spell privilege.


    green feudalism?

    wow! that’s up there with the comment of the person who said outright that they are a torturer calling a green MP “stasi”

  67. Brad
    November 10th, 2012 at 17:41 | #67

    Would love to agree, but you’re dreaming, John.

  68. Jim Rose
    November 10th, 2012 at 17:53 | #68

    @Katz wasn’t that to do with paying wartime debt?

    Tom Sargent is a lifelong democract and is old enough to remember when democrats were fiscal conservatives

  69. sdfc
    November 10th, 2012 at 18:28 | #69


    The US government basically ran a balanced budget through the 50s and 60s.


    The decline in debt outstanding as a % of GDP in the 50s and 60s was the result of rapid NGDP growth.

  70. Katz
    November 10th, 2012 at 18:37 | #70

    @Jim Rose

    What on earth does motivation have to do with the soundness tax and spend policies?

    In any case, the US Federal Debt is almost the same percentage of GDP in 2012 as it was in 1945 (approx 100%).

    You really need to think before your fingers engage the keyboard.

  71. Jim Rose
    November 10th, 2012 at 19:05 | #71

    @Katz wartime debt is a temporary surge, not a structural increase.

    Robert Barro argues that to minimize inefficiency, wars should be financed primarily by government debt and that the debt should be gradually paid off after the war.

  72. Chris Warren
    November 10th, 2012 at 22:15 | #72

    John Dawson :If we who believe in free markets for free minds lost, what exactly did you collectivists win? Cuba? Libia? Greece? The Aboriginal Gulag? Green Tasmania? Postmodern Nihilism?

    Where is there a free market? Is it some tribal market day in the highlands of Papua New Guinea??? or a hippie-fest selling cakes at Nimbin?????

    You cannot have a free market under capitalism because you always end up with a Microsoft at one end and wage slavery at the other.

    Wage slavery is not freedom. Capitalism is the foundation of wage slavery.

  73. November 11th, 2012 at 00:29 | #73

    @Chris Warren You know Chris just because your teachers or peers nod sagaciously at that sort of stupidity doesn’t mean it makes any sense. Calling freedom or wages slavery doesn’t make them slavery. Slaves can’t walk off the job and go looking for better wages next door.

    Under capitalism workers freely trade their time and talents and efforts for money which they then trade for the time and talents and effort and goods of someone else. The reason Bill Gates has a billion times more money to trade than you or I is that he has been a billion times more productive. But if you don’t want to trade with him no one is forcing you to mow his lawns or buy his programs. If you decide you can’t live as you would like without the goods that he has produced, that doesn’t make him your slave master, it makes him your benefactor; and if he paid millions of workers to produce those goods, that doesn’t make them slaves, he had to pay them better wages than they could get elsewhere otherwise they would have worked elsewhere.

    Laissez faire capitalism is the system that bans force from economic transactions, be it imposed by individuals or organizations or governments, which makes it the system of liberty, which makes it the only moral system.

  74. Sancho
    November 11th, 2012 at 01:18 | #74

    @John Dawson

    A Poe!

    I suspected, but on the whole the recent “John Dawson” comments have struck just the right tone to seem sincere.

    Like most Poe trolls, it came unstuck when you tried getting too much good material into one post. You should have spread the Bill Gates and “moral system” stuff out to avoid becoming a caricature.

    A fine job none the less.

  75. rog
    November 11th, 2012 at 06:08 | #75

    Over at right wing RedState the fraud of the Romney campaign is being discussed


  76. BilB
    November 11th, 2012 at 09:12 | #76

    “he has been a billion times more productive”

    What total garbage John Dawson. One could only be more productive a billion fold to some one or thing that has only had 3 productive seconds in their life time. Wealth accumulations of Bill Gates calibre are immoral and I think that a good argument could be mounted for the state to confiscate his surplus down to the 5 billion dollar level, and redistributed to in the form of better education for the US public.

    The problem with the Libertarian dream is that it is open ended. If Libertarians wanted to be taken more seriously they could propose a close ended system. ie flat taxation, user pays for everything but once personal wealth reaches, say, 5 million dollars anything above that is passed directly to government. That way you have total freedom up to the level of a very comfortable living, and all endeavours above that are pure sport.

    People could even have the choice at the beginning of their working life to follow a Libertarian tax theme or a Keynsean tax theme. Freedom to choose. Now that would have to appeal to the Libertarian Alpha mind set. There would be real competition on a number of levels.

  77. Fran Barlow
    November 11th, 2012 at 09:28 | #77

    I offer two articles that count as post-mortems on the US Presidential campaign. I found both interesting (without necessarily endorsing every claim made. (This is particularly so of the Salon article but in the case of the Forbes article my browser is plainly unable to complete the script and it keeps randomly displaying different blocks of text, but as far as I can piece it together, it makes some telling points.)

    Romney fails CEO test

    This extract stood out:

    Allahpundit cites a Romney campaign worker’s account of Project Orca, which the campaign described as “a massive undertaking – the Republican Party’s newest, unprecedented and most technologically advanced plan to win the 2012 presidential election.” It involved using smartphones on election day to figure out which precincts weren’t producing enough voters, so help could be rushed to them to turn out the vote. But it was incompetently set up and planned for and was a wreck on election day, and according to that campaign worker:

    “the end result was that 30,000+ of the most active and fired-up volunteers were wandering around confused and frustrated when they could have been doing anything else to help. Like driving people to the polls, phone-banking, walking door-to-door, etc. . . . If this had worked could it have closed the gap? I sure hope not for my sanity’s sake.

    The bitter irony of this entire endeavor was that a supposedly small government candidate gutted the local structure of GOTV efforts in favor of a centralized, faceless organization in a far off place (in this case, their Boston headquarters). Wrap your head around that.

    And this from Salon
    Liberals & the Culture Wars

    The writer claims he is not doing false equivalence, but IMO, that’s exactly what it is. That said, he raises some interesting information.

    I found this amusing:

    You may have seen a video that made the rounds last weekend, including here on Salon, in which a lefty sandbagger type interviewed a bunch of white people at a Romney-Ryan rally in Ohio. They wore discount-store clothing and drove pickup trucks, and roughly 100 percent of them appeared to belong to the class most likely to suffer under a Republican budget-slashing regime. Hardly any could come up with coherent reasons for choosing Romney over Obama beyond a few Fox News talking points about nonexistent higher taxes and weak leadership and some free-floating paranoia. (One lady suggested that a drone had followed her from her front door to the rally; whether Obama was operating it personally remained unclear.)

    Observing the campaign through the web, this account seems entirely in keeping with what the Republicans were about. Those who weren’t doing this madness themselves were smiling and indulging it every day. Romney’s embarrassing effort on climate change and “invisible Obama” — while perhaps the best known examples of “enabling” — were as far as I can tell typical. I recall some woman interviewed holding a sign about Obama being a commun|st at some event who, when asked by the reporter about this could offer nothing more than “read up on it” as her fellow unhinged smiled in approval.

    It does seem with hindsight that at least the heavy battalions of the GOP could do their malign work only with the “marching powder” of self-delusion (what rightwingers call “drinking the Kool Aid”) but that this sustained effort in cognitive dissonance and self-delusion crippled their ability to respond to or even see the world around them even for its pertinence to their own ends. Indeed, it’s not even clear beyond the desire to evict Obama from 4600 Pennsylvania Avenue that the footsoldiers (nearly 100% of whom would be part of the 47%) knew what those ends were. Beyond the vacuous and populist “taking back America” nonsense, which really was a classic blank slate onto which anything from legitimate [email protected] to rule by old white men with guns and Ford Utilities could be inscribed and purely for the faithful, nobody on their sound could say what it was all about.

  78. Katz
    November 11th, 2012 at 09:31 | #78


    Nice one.

    The Romney campaign was run by bullies, egomaniacs, and conmen. In others words, a perfect replica of Romney’s Bain Corporation asset strippers. Except, this time, Romney was the mark and his assets got stripped. Oh, the delicious irony!

    The result of all of these false numbers and inaccurate ground reports is simple: Mitt Romney was ill-prepared for the actual numbers on election day and his false sense of confidence directly translated into how the campaign operated in the closing weeks. In the words of one source, it was a con job. As David Mamet famously said, “If you’re in the con game and you don’t know who the mark is … you’re the mark.” Mitt Romney had no idea what was coming.

    What Romney and the Republicans didn’t have we’re competent technicians with science-based competencies. Surely, there are some competent Republican scientists … oh, wait.

    Oh well, looks like Romney was a victim of Darwinian processes.

    I understand that most Republicans don’t believe Darwin. But the alternative explanation is that the Romney Fail was a product of Intelligent Design. And that would be for them a pill much too bitter to swallow.

  79. BilB
    November 11th, 2012 at 09:31 | #79

    The Libertarian Ideal at work:

    From the RedState article on the Romney Campaign……

    “They say that the truth is the consultants essentially used the Romney campaign as a money making scheme, forcing employees to spin false data as truth in order to paint a rosy picture of a successful campaign as a form of job security.
    Zac Moffatt, Digital Director for the Romney campaign, was specifically named as having “built a nest egg for himself and co-founder of Targeted Victory, Mike Beach,” and that they “didn’t get social” media and ignored objections from other consultants and staffers in the campaign.
    People close to the campaign responded. “Anyone can have numbers, Neil Newhouse had numbers. Look where that got us. Zac just went off the rails a lot and made the Romney campaign a marketing vehicle for himself.” Adding, “at least the other consultants kept their mouths shut.”
    Sources also said that arrogance played a big role, saying that the Romney campaign was a hostile battlefield of egos in which these consultants viewed any opposition to their world view as coming from an enemy. This apparently led to the ORCA program “receiving no stress test, no usage during super saturdays and no ability to have a Plan B or C when everything hit the fan.””

    And wake up time from commenter ‘rustyldgarand’

    “We need to hold not only the Romney campaign accountable, but also the conservative press (specifically the Murdoch press – Fox was the worst of the bunch), and the establishment talking heads like Karl Rove and Peggy Noonan. We need to get clear about something: these people are selling us a product. They have been taking our money and telling us bedtime stories. We complain about the MSM, but can we honestly say that the conservative press has been more honest?”

    Aint it Grand.

  80. Jim Rose
    November 11th, 2012 at 09:59 | #80

    Katz, having a quick look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_war you were vey right that the culture war was over in 1974 or thereabouts. the agenda is getting shorter.

    most of all, the revolutionary economic empowerment of women is the 20th century in almost all countries is a done deal.

    Most of the war is about what James Buchanan called meddlesome preferences: “the elitist, who somehow thinks that his or her own preferences are ‘superior to,’ ‘better than, ‘ or ‘more correct’ than those of other, tries to control the behaviour of everyone else, while holding fast to his or her own liberty to do as he or she pleases.”

    It is quite possible that in many jurisdictions, a majority of voters sooner or later might be found to pass each and every meddlesome preference into law. everyone will end up losing their liberty.

  81. Sancho
    November 11th, 2012 at 10:05 | #81

    @Jim Rose

    The slippery slope! Everybody drink!

    Care to tell us which meddlesome preferences the army of gay Latino atheist welfare slaves is going to inflict on the land of liberty?

  82. Jim Rose
    November 11th, 2012 at 10:21 | #82

    Sancho, the point is the meddlesome preference of each and every group finds its way into law.

    Buchanan said everyone in the community is worse off with enactment and enforcement of most or all meddlesome preferences than he or she would be if none were enacted.

    the culture war is about meddlesome preferences. power rotates so each side takes turns in enacting their own meddlesome preference then loses power and the other side enacts their meddlesome preferences.

    Buchanan talked of a pandora’s box that has opened with no signs of closing. Through the rotation of power from left to right, “each of our liberties, whether valued highly or slightly, is up for grabs”.

    see http://offsettingbehaviour.blogspot.co.nz/2009/09/buchanan-on-meddlesome-preferences.html

  83. BilB
    November 11th, 2012 at 11:28 | #83


    The cause of meddlesome preferences is the proximity of other people. The higher the population density the greater the preference intensity effect. You should be seeing the future shape up in your mind right here. Higher population intensity, the greater the degree of prefernce conflict.

    There is only one cure. Move out of town. As did the Barclay Brothers.


  84. Sancho
    November 11th, 2012 at 11:43 | #84

    @Jim Rose

    Thanks for the link. The way Buchanan counts leaf burning and gun control as equally serious issues indicates that he is truly an insightful and relevant thinker.

  85. Katz
    November 11th, 2012 at 12:05 | #85

    Let’s remind ourselves about the big cultural changes in the few years to 1974. They were much bigger than leaf burning and were hated by the Right:

    End of Jim Crow

    Equal voting rights

    Australian and US governments found to be lying about Vietnam


    Equal rights for women

    Impeachment and resignation of Nixon

    The lid blown off FBI and CIA illegal activities

    All of these campaigns have altered in major ways the way of life and the operations of social and political institutions.

    Ever since 1980 the Right has attempted to roll back these achievements, with minor and sporadic success.

  86. rog
    November 11th, 2012 at 12:08 | #86

    @Katz If the following can be believed it was the Super Pacs that provided the incentive and the hard ball free market that provided the means.

    What conservatives/libertarians fail to acknowledge is that it is the equality of the vote that is paramount not the $value of the vote.


  87. rog
    November 11th, 2012 at 12:09 | #87

    If the following can be believed it was the Super Pacs that provided the incentive and the hard ball free market that provided the means.

    What conservatives/libertarians fail to acknowledge is that it is the equality of the vote that is paramount not the $value of the vote.


  88. Sancho
    November 11th, 2012 at 12:17 | #88


    Something that’s evident in that Redtstate piece you posted above is that the free market ensured that conservative media and polling businesses provided their audience with a constant stream of false information about Romney’s popularity, because that’s what they wanted to hear.

    Nate Silver was just one of many commentators and observers who got written off as biased Obama boosters simply because they suggested Romney may not be overwhelmingly popular.

    Not that the market for centrist or left-leaning media was regulated in any way, just that, as the quote which went round said, “when you give conservatives bad news in your polls, they want to kill you. When you give liberals bad news in your polls, they want to kill themselves.”

    It’s much easier to sell factual information to an audience that won’t regard you as a traitor for not lying.

  89. rog
    November 11th, 2012 at 12:41 | #89

    @Sancho And what Nate Silver proved was that the free market lacks objectivity.

  90. John Quiggin
    November 11th, 2012 at 12:52 | #90


    Unfortunately, the reversal of the Church committee reforms on secret state activities has been a bipartisan affair. But, on the other points, I think it’s exactly right to see the culture wars as an attempt to roll back the gains from the mid-50s to the mid-70s, intermittently successful, but now defeated (conclusively, I hope) on most fronts

  91. Katz
    November 11th, 2012 at 13:05 | #91

    JQ, you’re correct about the lack of change arising out of the Church Committee.

    However, the world discovered what the security state was capable of and what is known cannot be unknown. This has limited the scope of action of the security state. The Hope Royal Commission ended the status of ASIO as a weapon of the political Right in Australia.

  92. rog
    November 11th, 2012 at 14:53 | #92

    Looking at opensecrets.org which is the website for the Center for Responsive Politics it appears that 1) the candidate with the most cash wins 2) Repubs relied heavily on corporate and secretive sources 3) Dems relied on grassroots donations 4) Dems raised the most cash 5) Dems won


  93. rog
    November 11th, 2012 at 15:01 | #93

    US Chamber of Commerce spent big and lost big on Repubs,

    ““It is ugly,”
    “We learned you cannot address the fiscal and cultural differences in our society by throwing money at political dogmas that may have outlived their usefulness,”


  94. Katz
    November 11th, 2012 at 16:15 | #94

    Thanks again Rog.

    The Keyboard Kommandos of various RWDB noise machines must be feeling unloved in the aftermath of this debacle.

    I guess it’s back to caching baked beans and hugging Rugers for them. Their mums’ sleep-outs must be very desolate places right now.

  95. Jim Rose
    November 11th, 2012 at 17:21 | #95

    @rog your link also says that “Although they heavily favored conservative candidates, many of whom lost…” 94% of karl Rove PAC-backed candidates lost, I think?

    The republican primaries showed that the TV debates mattered more than ever. people with next to no money could survive and almost win if they did well in even one debate.

    the greens in australia would get almost as many votes even if they spent nothing on Ads because their brand is so powerful.

  96. Sancho
    November 11th, 2012 at 17:28 | #96

    @Jim Rose

    Not quite.

    What mattered was the hype around the debates. The public came away with an impression of which candidate “won” a debate, but no idea of what the content was. More horse race political reporting.

    There’s not much to be gained by speculating about what the US election outcome will mean for Australia, because the systems and cultures are so different.

    The most impact it will have is that Liberal Party politicians parroting the Republicans will need to explain why their ideas are so great if even Americans rejected them.

  97. rog
    November 11th, 2012 at 17:54 | #97

    @Katz This election has been an eye opener for me, no wonder the right wing are going crazy/becoming crazier.

  98. rog
    November 11th, 2012 at 17:57 | #98

    @Sancho Libs should take note, the absolute denialist position that they have borrowed from the Repubs has proved to be unpopular.

  99. rog
    November 11th, 2012 at 18:05 | #99
  100. Sancho
    November 11th, 2012 at 18:15 | #100


    Regrettably, that might not have the same impact in Australia.

    American elections are decided by the people who can be convinced to care enough that they’ll go out and vote, in a country where the occupant of the White House significantly affects the living standards of the populace.

    Australia is much more sclerotic but also much more stable, so we’re not likely to see the same overwhelming rejection of neoconservatism, but it will certainly make low-information voters wonder why they should vote for ideas that Americans just overwhelmingly rejected.

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