Home > Oz Politics > Fact checking Tony Abbott

Fact checking Tony Abbott

July 2nd, 2013

I’ve had two calls in the last 24 hours asking me to fact-check claims by Tony Abbott. I accepted one, and found that his claims were nonsense (links soon, I hope). The other didn’t sound much better, but I thought I’d let someone else deal with it.

The emergence of systematic fact-checking is a huge vulnerability for Abbott, coming at just the wrong time for him. Until recently, the perception that the government was untrustworthy and deceitful[1] allowed Abbott to get away with just about anything he said, and he took full advantage of this. Now his record is littered with obvious lies and he’s finding it hard to break the habit. Worse still, the post-truth state of the political right, in Australia and the US, makes it hard for anyone on that side of politics to discern the truth even if they want to. Once you assume (correctly) that anything said by Bolt, the IPA, the Oz, Fox and so on is probably false, where can a conservative go for information. Essentially, it’s necessary to do the work from scratch, and I don’t get the impression that Abbott or his team enjoy hitting the books[2]. So, switching from his previous line of fact-free negativity and putting forward a positive alternative to Rudd is going to be very difficult for Abbott, I think

fn1. As previously, I don’t want to debate the accuracy of this perception. I don’t suppose anyone will dispute its existence
fn2. To be fair, he obviously trains much harder than I do, as our relative performance in endurance events illustrates. But I haven’t found a lot of transference of training between ironman length triathlon and policy analysis.

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  1. Edumak8
    July 2nd, 2013 at 19:57 | #1

    Eagerly await next installment. You do great work.

  2. July 2nd, 2013 at 20:30 | #2

    ‘Once you assume (correctly) that anything said by Bolt, the IPA, the Oz, Fox and so on is probably false, where can a conservative go for information. ‘ Love it. It is an interesting phenomenon. The bourgeoisie during the rise of capitalism and its solidification saw science as a necessary part of the system’s development. Now, while business may still feel that to be true, and necessary to maintain competitiveness, it appears the right has abandoned any semblance of truth, and science with it, for irrationality. This might be, irony of ironies, a logical response for them in a time of the decline of Western capitalism. The truth is too horrible to contemplate.

  3. kevin1
    July 2nd, 2013 at 20:36 | #3

    Training/physical exercise eats up lots of time and is at the expense of thinking/learning/analysing i.e. has an opportunity cost. Tony’s comfort zone is obviously the former, and if the election campaign changes his time allocation towards the latter, he might become unsettled and less effective.

    If he ever becomes PM, I expect a reversion to what feels good, and a more presidential style: hovering above the fray, and making keynote speeches a la Reagan. I thought Rhodes scholars were clever intellectuals but clearly he’s not (at least Kris Kristofferson was a multi-talented artist) and is susceptible to the dark forces which hover around the Coalition.

  4. July 2nd, 2013 at 21:14 | #4

    Pr Q said:

    The emergence of systematic fact-checking is a huge vulnerability for Abbott, coming at just the wrong time for him.., switching from his previous line of fact-free negativity and putting forward a positive alternative to Rudd is going to be very difficult for Abbott,

    I have been mentally urging Rudd to go long on the campaign, mainly because he is a good campaigner (he connects!). But also because the longer he is in the ring with Abbott the more likely he will land a knock out punch (or at least win on points).

    Also Abbott-L/NP dont have many positive policies, in contrast to Howard-L/NP which had lots to do (levy GST, control guns, fight wars, protect borders, defend the sovereign). Essentially Abbott-L/NP will be committed to repealing popular taxes (mineral & carbon) and cutting popular services (health & education). Plus the ever present threat of Son of Work Choices stalking the land.

    Really Rudd should have no trouble in running a scare-campaign against Abbott, something along the lines of Mr Negativity, Captain Slash & Burn, Mad Monk etc

  5. July 2nd, 2013 at 21:18 | #5

    Pr Q said:

    Worse still, the post-truth state of the political right, in Australia and the US, makes it hard for anyone on that side of politics to discern the truth even if they want to.

    Of course the intellectual Left is in a “post-truth state” alright, at least with regard to the touchy subject of human nature. But dont hold your breath waiting for the liberal media-academia is not going to hold itself to account when there are politically incorrect witches to hunt.

  6. J-D
    July 2nd, 2013 at 21:31 | #6

    @jack strocchi
    It is impossible to evaluate the merits of your criticism when you identify none of its targets.

  7. kevin1
    July 2nd, 2013 at 22:18 | #7

    @jack strocchi
    Ha! “human nature”, what a slippery idea you’ve brought up there. Care to elaborate?

  8. rog
    July 2nd, 2013 at 23:16 | #8

    Tony Abbott has a big problem with dropping the carbon tax; his promise to maintain compensation must result in an added cost. Libs keep preaching fiscal restraint, the carbon tax is one anomaly and they should be held to account.

  9. Ken_L
    July 2nd, 2013 at 23:24 | #9

    ‘Once you assume (correctly) that anything said by Bolt, the IPA, the Oz, Fox and so on is probably false, where can a conservative go for information.’

    Surely the flaw in this argument is that conservatives don’t share your assumption? On the contrary, they assume that everything believed by lefties/liberals/whomever is probably false, and they will therefore continue to accept News Ltd and the IPA as reliable sources of information/opinion (it is increasingly difficult to separate the two in most media these days).

    Kevin1 @#3 I strongly disagree that ‘physical exercise … is at the expense of thinking/learning/analysing’. All my adult life I have found that exercise is conducive to thinking; indeed when I have a knotty problem to resolve my usual practice is to go for a long walk where I know I will have no distractions while I think it through.

  10. Ken_L
    July 2nd, 2013 at 23:31 | #10

    @rog

    Cut government waste rog, cut government waste. Pink batts, school laptops, NBN, cash for clunkers etc … BILLIONS that can be saved with a bit of fiscal discipline … it’s an opposition formula that’s stood the test of time and will no doubt serve again. I suspect government budgets are way beyond the interest of most voters, who assume (with some justification) they fiddle the books to get whatever result they like. Also a party that promised repeatedly to deliver a surplus by now is hardly in a position to criticise Abbott’s fiscal capabilities.

  11. July 3rd, 2013 at 00:22 | #11

    Recently on this site I posited that the ALP could win the 2013 election if the LNP “did a Steven Bradbury”.

    It will be sad for Australia if this is the best we can do. Literally allowing a disgraced failure of an ALP to slide through (and claim a ‘mandate’) simply because Abbott and his LNP crew are “worse”.

    In my fantasy universe there would be an equal holding to account (‘fact checking’ of Kevin Rudd) along with wide distribution of the results to as many Australian citizens as possible.

    Of course we would need a degree of honestly run TV, radio and newspaper journalists.

    That’s the problem. We have a failure of journalism and of the structures historically placed to support it.

  12. TerjeP
    July 3rd, 2013 at 05:36 | #12

    The following site seems to do a pretty comprehensive job of fact checking. Although reading through their verdicts it does become clear that there is a bit of art in simply translating between complex realities and catchy political slogans.

    http://www.politifact.com.au/truth-o-meter/

    Journalists ought to be doing this stuff as a matter of course. Although some of them seem to be rather selective in what they bother to check. And social media memes are littered with blatant lies that can sometimes be shown false in under 60 seconds but proliferate regardless.

  13. John Quiggin
    July 3rd, 2013 at 06:11 | #13

    @Ken_L

    The problem is that people outside the conservative movement, but not committed to the other side, are gradually becoming aware of their factual unreliability. This process has gone further in the US than it has here, but I think it’s happenening

    @Terje Politifact was the second of the sites that called me. The first, which I responded to, was or The Conversation (hopefully up today)

  14. rog
    July 3rd, 2013 at 06:17 | #14

    @rog Toss in border protection (loss of control), debt (running on empty) and unions ( corruption) and you have FUD. Step in tough muscular LNP to fix things up, the FUD busters.

    Who needs facts?

  15. TerjeP
    July 3rd, 2013 at 07:02 | #15

    @Terje Politifact was the second of the sites that called me.

    Casting my eye across the site I’m not seeing this as revealing a huge vulnerability for Tony Abbott. I do think the leadership change in Labor does perversely put more scrutiny on Abbott however I’m not seeing his track record with the raw facts as being worse than that of his opponents. In fact I would rate him as more sincere and honest than his opponent, but of course I have a different set of political biases than you.

    Are you sure it isn’t just a case of you caring more about certain facts and being somewhat indifferent to other facts. For instance if Kevin Rudd made a false claim about the number of abortions in Australia I think a revelation about the deceit would have a different impact on certain audiences compared to if he made a false claim about the amount of illegal fishing. Both might be topical but they matter differently to different people.

    I know a lot of people get cranky when discussions about CO2 emissions are accompanied by pictures of steam or smoke. Others might get more annoyed about pictures of terrorist events coupled with discussions of boat people. An awful lot depends on the filters through which people observe the liar. For some Gillard’s words about no carbon tax under a government she leads was a mere technicality. For others it was one of the worst pieces of deceit in recent political history.

    My point is that facts may be cold and hard but which facts we care about is intensely subjective.

  16. John Quiggin
    July 3rd, 2013 at 07:55 | #16

    “I know a lot of people get cranky when discussions about CO2 emissions are accompanied by pictures of steam or smoke”

    Say what? Is the claim that, because CO2 itself is not visible, there’s a problem with pictures of combustion? This is just more of the absurd delusionism rampant on your side of politics and regularly defended (admittedly, in a half-hearted way) by you

  17. John Quiggin
    July 3rd, 2013 at 07:56 | #17

    It’s noteworthy that, as in Terje’s comment, nobody bothers to deny that rightwing political talk is full of lies. The only claim ever made in defence of the lies of Bolt, IPA etc is a tu quoque, or, in plainer terms “everyone does it, so get used to it”.

  18. Paul Norton
    July 3rd, 2013 at 08:15 | #18

    The current trope that “most asylum seekers are economic migrants” was started by Bob Carr but has been taken up enthusiastically by Abbott and Morrison. The difficulty for them, which they seem not to have realised, is reconciling the claim that people are flooding Australia’s borders in search of economic opportunities with the claim that the economy has gone south under the current government.

    Carr’s presumption that he knows more than the tribunal about the cases they assess has a precedent. In 1994, when the NSW Chief Statistician reported that rates of serious crime weren’t increasing, Carr as NSW Opposition Leader criticised the Chief Statistician on the grounds that the statistics “didn’t reflect community perceptions”.

  19. Ikonoclast
    July 3rd, 2013 at 09:00 | #19

    @kevin1

    The reality is that human nature does indeed exist. This can be established philosophically (ontologically) and scientifically (empirically). However, human nature is a highly complex, variable, ambivalent, multi-facted and self-contradictary phenomenon in its reactions and expressions. Resort to “human nature” as a rhetorical device by the right usually presages a simplistic argument where human nature is plain, obvious and consistent; a caricature employed to support an ideological position.

    However, it is easy enough to demonstrate that we do have a “nature”. “Nature” in this sense means the essential, consistent and categorical properties of something. This is true (the existence of a nature) even if a consistent “higher emergent” property is to demonstrate repeating patterns of inconsistency in “lower emergent” properties.

    At a physical level, we clearly do have a nature. To list a few properties in no particular order; we are material objects, we are homeostatic systems, we require inputs of materials and energy (food and water) to grow, repair and maintain our bodies (to counter entropic processes).

    At the levels of complex emergent phenomena, we also clearly have a nature. It is becoming clearer and clearer from genetic and neurological studies that genotype and phenotype right up to neurological and chemical phenomena in the brain are far more determinative of human development and behaviour than previously thought. In other words, nature in a very real sense has primacy over nurture. (Lest anyone thinks this lends itself to racist interpretations, it must be pointed out that genotype differences between “the races” are miniscule and their phenotypic expression trivial except perhaps for some adaptations to climate zones and prehistoric hunting and gathering styles.)

    Nature (genotype determined nature) tends to set the upper bounds of the potential performance of the organism (human in this case) as it is challenged by environment and milue. Nurture, along with environmental and social opportunity, tends to determine how much of innate human potential will be fulfilled. To simplify, good nurture can “merely” enable development towards full potential. Bad nurture, deprivation etc. on the other hand can totally wreck development and potential.

    This illustrates that the greatest good of the greatest number can be enabled within an equitable society. If nuture is good or even good enough the great majority will likely reach some reasonable proportion of their innate potential. If nurture is bad and deprivation occurs, the damage to the individuals thus affected is enormous. It’s another argument for equitable distribution of resources and the avoidance of pockets of deprivation and extreme poverty.

  20. TerjeP
    July 3rd, 2013 at 09:09 | #20

    John that’s a silly response to my comment. I cite some examples of how view points differ amoung different audiences and I seek to understand how fact checking initiatives will have some particular political consequence for Tony Abbott. In response you want to talk about how the right tells loads of lies, how I won’t admit it and how you personally feel about pictures of combustion.

    How will fact checking have a political impact on Abbott that is new or disproportionate to it’s effect on other politicians?

  21. Ikonoclast
    July 3rd, 2013 at 09:18 | #21

    @John Quiggin

    Regarding “the lies of Bolt”. From some biographical pieces I have read about Bolt, he is a “knowing liar”. But then many in politics, public life and indeed business life are “knowing liars”. They knowingly and repeatedly lie for gain.

    On the matter of climate change it is pretty clear that Bolt does not really care if climate change is a real phenomenon or not. He is probably agnostic on the issue. However, he has calculated that appearing to subscribe to the sceptical-denialist position and writing populist drivel to that affect (and appealing to many other red-neck prejudices) was the way to get a lucrative journalist post with a right-wing capitalist enterprise. Bolt really doesn’t care whether what he writes is true or not or whether it has a beneficial or deleterious effect on our society and environment. All he cares about is that this approach was and is the best way he has found to enhance his personal wealth and influence.

    It’s an approach common to many in our society and sanctioned by crude “Adam Smithism”.

  22. Hermit
    July 3rd, 2013 at 09:21 | #22

    I wonder if the good folk who waved ‘Juliar’ placards on the lawns of Parliament House will be quick to respond to veracity lapses by Abbott. Examples; repeal of the carbon tax, stopping the boats in the first year. No doubt the obliging Murdoch press will explain it as pragmatism. However just a few might ponder on the inconsistency. Presumably attack chihuahua the ABC will go in as hard as they did on Gillard.

  23. Julie Thomas
    July 3rd, 2013 at 09:25 | #23

    Terje, “My point is that facts may be cold and hard but which facts we care about is intensely subjective.”.

    But this is a problem that ‘we’ could do something about.

    It is possible to learn how to be more ‘objective’. Certainly, pure objectivity is not something that humans can do, but, based on the latest understanding and knowledge about human nature, it is obvious that some people are, with the appropriate intellectual exercises, able to have some insight into how their brains fool them.

    One needs to understand ‘motivated cognition’ and how it works.

    Motivated cognition is the way of thinking that we use to maintain our self-esteem in the face of events in the world that could lead us to make a negative assessment of our ‘self’. The more you value your ‘self’ as an individual who is better than others – works harder, more intelligent etc – the more your brain is motivated to defend that ‘self’ against these negative assessments.

    Motivated cognition is what we use to justify our beliefs, attitudes and behaviour and it is the basis of subjectivity.

    Know your ‘self’, investigate your biases and how they were formed by your upbringing and your environment and then you will be capable of more objectivity.

    Spinoza is the best of the western philosophers IMO because of his absolute integrity. He lived his philosophy unlike most of the other western philosophers who were sad and unhappy hypocritical human beings, and he said it this way, to see the truth about something, you need to have no opinion at all.

  24. rog
    July 3rd, 2013 at 10:55 | #24

    The Climate Insitute opinion on Lowy data re voters priorities; #1 is the economy with #2 being perceptions of lies and broken promises

    http://www.lowyinterpreter.org/post/2013/07/03/Do-voters-want-to-repeal-carbon-pricing.aspx

  25. rog
    July 3rd, 2013 at 10:57 | #25

    @rog That should be “Lowy Institute opinion on data….”

  26. may
    July 3rd, 2013 at 12:03 | #26

    is it possible parliament will be recalled before the election?

    show the line up?

    tear the (news)paper off the cracks in the wall of gall?

  27. kevin1
    July 3rd, 2013 at 12:37 | #27

    @Ikonoclast
    All well and good but what I queried was Jack Strocchi’s elliptical comment at #5 saying “Of course the intellectual Left is in a “post-truth state” alright, at least with regard to the touchy subject of human nature.”

  28. Jim Birch
    July 3rd, 2013 at 14:06 | #28

    It’s kinda funny that references to “human nature” generally consider this underlying human nature to be sacting with simple personal self interest, something like chimpanzees. In fact, it is in the nature of humans to generate culture that normalises and habituates a mass of complex behaviours. It is this part of human nature that has allowed humans to accumulate knowledge and cooperate to a biologically unprecedented level and so more or less take over the planet, while chimpanzees are still squabbling in a few forest areas.

    Our stress biochemistry is very similar to that of a chimpanzee – or indeed a mollusc – but our behavioural response to stress is wildly different to molluscs or chimps and is wildly different in different cultural environments. The idea of an a-cultural or pre-cultural human is a fantasy, culture is embedded human nature.

  29. Fran Barlow
    July 3rd, 2013 at 14:23 | #29

    I’m sceptical of the potential of a descriptor such as ‘human nature’ to tell us anything useful about human behaviour or social organisation.

    Clearly, it is true by definition that if one wants to distinguish humans from every other kind of a thing in the world, one will need to be able to point to some unique attributes — those peculair to humans alone, and one could describe that as ‘our nature’ — literally — what we were born with or was at least immanent at the time.

    Unsurprsingly, as a left|st, I lean heavily towards the view that what humans are is the result of work — collaborative work with others, along with various kinds of adaptive behaviour driven by our desire to avoid various kinds of pain and loss — socio-cultural and physical and also to obtain various kinds of pleasure — everything from a full stomach through social and sexual intimacy and a sense of purpose.

    Yet all of that cognitive acquisition and accomplishment and adaptive behaviour is bounded by ‘the social’. Nobody, I would contend, can become human or remain human apart from other humans, or at least the possibility of engaging with them.

    Humans have devised many a cruel punishment but amongst them all the mere threat of solitary confinement is generally considered to be in the top rung of cruel and unusual punishments. In this condition, people commonly lose their humanity, their will to live and the capacity for autonomy and even those that survive it are seriously blighted. That says much about what being human entails, IMO.

  30. Tim Macknay
    July 3rd, 2013 at 15:25 | #30

    @Ikonoclast
    It’s easy to claim that you know what “human nature” is when you get to define the meaning of the term. The hard part comes when you try to get someone (anyone!) else to agree with your definition.

  31. Nathan
    July 3rd, 2013 at 16:04 | #31

    @TerjeP
    Terje, the point was that your smoke-CO2/terrorist-refugee comparison made no sense. A picture of something burning really *is* a picture of a CO2 emitting process. A picture of some refugees is, with incredibly high probability, *not* a picture of terrorists. People who get angry about the first are simply ignorant of the facts, whereas people who get angry about the second are very cognisant of them. I gather that you were simply stating that this is how some people think, rather than defending the viewpoint yourself but the the truth is that someone would have to be stuck well inside a right-wing echo chamber to think these things were remotely comparable.

  32. TerjeP
    July 3rd, 2013 at 18:44 | #32

    Julie – yes we can do something about our perceptions. Maybe we even ought to. But the suggestion John made was that an exercise in fact checking would somehow change Tony Abbotts electoral prospects. I’m trying to elicit the mechanism by which he expects that to happen.

  33. TerjeP
    July 3rd, 2013 at 18:53 | #33

    A picture of something burning really *is* a picture of a CO2 emitting process

    I could write an article about Muslim asylum seekers with a picture of a Muslim man beheading a muslim women. And I could use the defence that it really is a picture of some Muslims. But obviously it entails some misrepresentation. If your claim is they smoke and steam has never been used in a similar way to misrepresent the CO2 emissions issue then I disagree. But I could put up alternate examples so this specific example isn’t terrible material to my point. Although the reaction to it is somewhat telling.

  34. AB
    July 3rd, 2013 at 19:27 | #34

    @Megan

    Wouldn’t that be Labor doing a Bradbury, not the LNP as they would have been the ones falling over to let Labor win?

  35. Nathan
    July 3rd, 2013 at 20:35 | #35

    @TerjeP
    No, you cannot apply the same defence at all. For your next point to make any sense you would need to find a picture of Muslim *asylum seekers* beheading someone. To recapitulate: a burning object is, with (almost?) certainty, emitting carbon dioxide. The probability that a) a picture of an asylum seeker is a picture of someone who also likes beheading people, or b) that a picture of someone beheading is also a picture of an asylum seeker is much closer to zero. That’s the difference. It’s not that there’s no validity whatsoever to your general point, but your unwillingness to acknowledge the obvious illogic of your particular choice of example is telling indeed.

  36. sunshine
    July 3rd, 2013 at 21:18 | #36

    @TerjeP I think your point about favoring some facts over others is a good one .Listening to Allan Jones and reading Bolt Im not sure there is much they say that is just false – what I hear is an enthusiastic coverage of one side of the argument and a total silence with respect to the other side (maybe with a good dose of exaggeration thrown in ) .I do think tho that that sort of behaviour is not so prevalent on the Left .Lefties are not so afraid of doubt .

    @Fran Barlow I like the existence before essence approach too . Also there may be nothing substantial we do that cannot be found somewhere else in the animal kingdom (that could be used to separate us in an essential way). It needs to be something not done at all to support radical difference ,not just something we do a lot more than any other animal.

    @Jim Birch I also am wary of claims human nature is primarily selfish and competitive. Lots of animal nature isnt like that either .

  37. Michael
    July 3rd, 2013 at 23:20 | #37

    Terje @ 18:53

    That was incredibly lame.

    Combustion is the most significant process of ACO2 emissions.

    Your ‘beheading’ comment is troll-worthy.

  38. jrkrideau
    July 4th, 2013 at 02:16 | #38

    @TerjeP \A\
    And the man with the sword is an ‘economic migrant”? If not the argument is nonsense.

  39. July 4th, 2013 at 04:41 | #39

    @jack strocchi
    Human nature? Proponents of the efficient market are unfortunately in a rather glassy house on that score. Homo economicus makes a cute assumption but turns out to be far different from how people actually are. Aside from people’s tendencies to some measure of co-operation, altruism, and stubborn/vengefulness, there is also the problem that people are not perfect maximizers (not smart enough, not enough information to make the perfect choices theory calls for) and also do not treat losses and gains as equal (people have a small-c conservative bias; they tend to worry about losses more than they want gains and so take fewer risks than efficient market theories need them to).
    For that matter, the right subscribes to inherent contradictions; in that, it’s worse even than Communists (a caricature of whom I’m assuming strocchi wished to strawman the entire left with). Communists arguably believed in a perfect or perfectably social human nature which would allow for “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need”. But the right believes in neoliberal/neoclassical economics (which cannot work without Homo Economicus the perfect maximizer), and simultaneously swears up and down that unemployment and low wages are caused by masses of lazy idle layabouts with no ambition blah blah, who are clearly nothing resembling Homo Economicus. The two notions cannot coexist, so the right wing is completely incoherent on human nature. And for that matter manages to be dead wrong both times.

  40. July 4th, 2013 at 05:10 | #40

    On the discussion in general . . . Well, it seems fairly clear to me that while one can cherry pick examples from any side you could imagine, there is a strong general trend: In terms of right wing partisans vs left wing partisans,
    The left certainly chooses the facts and issues it is interested in, arranges them and presents them in ways they deem rhetorically effective etc., as does anyone presenting an argument, but as a general rule if you fact check the factual statements they will turn out to be true, drawn from solid sources and not misrepresented. So if someone on the left says “The top 1% of US income earners held X% of the country’s wealth in 2011, up from N% in 1981” this will turn out to have been drawn pretty verbatim from OECD statistics or some such. The two years will be taken from the same data series in an apples-to-apples comparison. The question of which statistics are important maybe depends on what side you’re on, what ideology you hold; you can say “so what?” But the factual statements are not false. Exceptions are few, although inevitably they exist.

    The mushy middle (often called “the left” by right wingers) just doesn’t say much that’s real in the first place so it’s hard for them to lie about it. You have to make an actual statement before you can be caught in a lie.

    The right frequently lies flat out. They present statistics that were drawn from other right wing claims which were drawn from other right wing claims which were drawn from . . . nothing at all. Or sometimes, they compare statistic A using methodology A measuring phenomenon 1 with statistic B using methodology B measuring phenomenon 2, and talk as if they were the same. Stuff like that. This is so frequent in right wing discourse as to be commonplace; it is actually becoming difficult to find mainstream right wing factual claims which are not false or seriously distorted in some way.
    There have been many explanations proposed for this, but for whatever reason I think there’s little doubt it’s the case.

    These things are not the same. All sides are biased, all sides arrange what they say to make their side sound right. No doubt all sides decorate their discourse with pictures intended to elicit visceral emotional responses. But bias and lying are two different things. The right speaks many falsehoods, the left relatively few. Therefore, prevalent fact checking is worse for the right.

    Incidentally, objectivity is a myth. You can’t be genuinely neutral; no matter where you stand if you actually look at your feet you will note that you are in fact standing somewhere. You can, however, tell the truth. There is a difference between truth and lying. I would also want to claim that Aristotle was onto something when he defined a distinction between true rhetoric and false rhetoric. False rhetoric involved basically conning people, appealing to their emotions against their reason, using argument forms that seem like they make sense but don’t and so on. You can choose to use true rhetoric instead, stuff which amplifies and makes clear and attractive the real merits of your case.

  41. Collin Street
    July 4th, 2013 at 08:11 | #41

    The thing about “human nature” is that by-and-large the people who are saying that this-and-that is “human nature” are basing that on the direct experience of exactly one human, themselves.

  42. Ikonoclast
    July 4th, 2013 at 08:12 | #42

    @Tim Macknay

    If one uses a term, one must define it. I am arguing for a definition of the compound term “human nature” so we can use it as an investigative and explanatory concept. I am not arguing I can immediately define human nature.

    I am arguing for a “modest” approach which does not go beyond attempts to determine the objective and quantifiable aspects of “human nature”. People assume that as soon as one talks about “human nature”, one must be talking about higher, “true” or “inner” nature.

    Really, we should start at the relatively simple, objective and quantifiable end of matters. If this leaves us without ill-defined and/or imaginary categories (like “homo economicus”, “animal spirits”, “exhuberance”, “confidence”, “selfishness”, “altruism” and “souls” to bolster our political economy rhetoric then we have already significantly clarified our thinking. If we cannot yet make any true, testable statements in the more complex areas it still helps to stop making vague, untrue, wild and untestable statements.

    Further Notes.

    The term “human” is clear enough. Following biological classification and now genetic classification we can clearly define what a “human” is (a member of the species homo sapiens) in terms of certain orderly, scientific and useful categorisation systems. This definition is objective and limited. It does not claim to encapsulate all that a human being is but simply enough for an objective and useful category determination.

    We use these objective categorisation systems everyday (via shortcuts involving common knowledge and basic heuristics). To be objective is not to be “heartless”. In a car accident a man and a dog might each be injured. We categorise these two living, injured entities via a quick visual appraisal and send the man to a hospital for humans and the dog to a vetinary surgeon.

    People need to pay more attention to their definition of the term “nature” when they use a compound term like “human nature”. What do they mean when they say something has a “nature”? Are they saying that it has a categorical set of objective properties and that without a full or sufficient complement of these properties it ceases to be a thing of that category? I certainly hope they are saying that or they are just waffling.

    But whilst holding to the general point that something of a category must have a set of categorical properties and very possibly a further set of likely properties, this does not mean I claim to know what all these properties are for all things. I know to a very high degree of certainty that the element gold has a set of objective, categorical properties. I think I could even name some, especially if I could crib a look at the periodic table. This high degree of certainty does not mean I claim to know all the properties of gold.

  43. Julie Thomas
    July 4th, 2013 at 08:33 | #43

    Terje, It is so easy to take the Ayn Rand philosophy that values the individual over the collective. However did you ever think that it might be the case that to be a part of a decent society, to construct a decent society that could govern itself – you know, self-organise – the individual has to take some responsibility for the society. And since there is no society, the only thing to do is to take care of the individuals, the ones who apparently deliberately choose to be stupid and lazy.

    It might also be the case that some of the traditional values that have underpinned western civilization over the centuries need to be dusted off and examined. Aristotle, I think, said that we get better at being human with practice. What decent traditional philosophy values selfishness and getting ahead as good ways to behave?

    The Enlightenment enlightened us about the idea of ‘rationality’ and libertarians are supposed to value rational thinking highly. It is clear now that rational thinking is not as easy to do as it seemed to Ayn Rand, who had an enormous ability to fool herself about what was rational and what was not. Think motivated cognition here.

    But rationality is objectivity; they are the same thing and it seems clear to me that you do have an obligation to examine yourself and try to be more rational, if you want a better world of course. If you just want self-gratification then go ahead and do whatever it takes and hope that not everyone else chooses to do that.

  44. TerjeP
    July 4th, 2013 at 08:44 | #44

    Julie – I’m not sure I really disagree with anything you wrote. However based on past encounters I suspect we draw different conclusions from it. For instance I champion small government because I think it would be good for society. If I simply wanted to look after myself I would expend my energies on other activities.

  45. Ikonoclast
    July 4th, 2013 at 08:46 | #45

    @Purple Library Guy

    That argument makes a lot of sense and seems to accord with what we are observing in modern political life.

    It leads one to ask why one side, the left, now tend to use factual statements and the other side now tend to use lies and fabrications? What follows are my initial suppositions about what is happening.

    In arguing cases (in the legal as well as the moral sense), it is in the interests of the innocent or wronged party to tell the truth. It assists their case. It is in the interests of the guilty or wronging party to lie.

    Thus, if we could objectively survey many factual claims of the “left” and the “right” (as broad political categories) and establish a general, statistically valid pattern of truth or accuracy by the former and of lies and fabrications by the latter, we could as a first step establish the “right” as an “unreliable witness”.

    Further, after examining the lies, if we established certain patterns we could infer systematic lying rather than simple ignorance or stupidity. Systematic lying implies lying to cover guilt, lying for advantage or both. If we look at various phenomena like “astroturfing” and deliberate spreading of disinformation and uncertainty about issues from tobacco’s cancer links right out to global warming we can very quickly establish the case for systematic lying; that is to say knowing, programmatic lying.

    Thus the “right” know they are guilty (if they have a sense of guilt which seems unlikely) or they know that their position of advantage (extreme advantage in the case of the plutocrats) would be under threat if all or even a substantial slice of the truths of the entire matter (political economy and its social and environmental effects) were widely known.

    This dishonest dynamic now functions to make our political economy maladaptive and unsustainable at all levels. There are both internal and external contradictions which are ultimately insurmountable and which will crash the system. (Insert standard Ikonoclast rants involving Marxist analysis and Limits to Growth here.)

  46. July 4th, 2013 at 08:49 | #46

    Hmmm . . . but ideologies of small government (in market economies) depend on the notion that everyone is motivated by selfishness and that that is OK, even ideal. By selflessly advocating for it, you are devoting your ideals to pushing an ideology you cannot genuinely subscribe to, that you exist in contradiction of. It’s an odd position.

  47. July 4th, 2013 at 08:49 | #47

    Oops. That last one was to TerjeP’s #43.

  48. Heavylfit
    July 4th, 2013 at 10:31 | #48

    “but ideologies of small government (in market economies) depend on the notion that everyone is motivated by selfishness and that that is OK, even ideal

    I am not a big believer in small government but I disagree with this statement.

    Someone might like small government because they think people are typically nice and come to fair compromise without the need for a large government apparatus. From this perspective a belief in a large government (without being too nebulous 😛 ) to increase equality/fairness depands on the notion that a sufficiently large number of people are motivated by selfishness.

    Anyway, not my view. Just a thought.

  49. Julie Thomas
    July 4th, 2013 at 19:11 | #49

    Terje Of course you think that you are motivated by the good of society and not by your own preference for not paying any tax.

    Your argument is that if everyone looks after themselves, we will all – ie society – be better off, no?

    But this is not true. There is no evidence from history or from philosophy or from the latest research in the social sciences about human ‘nature’, that this works. And yet, you continue to maintain the faith.

  50. James Wimberley
    July 4th, 2013 at 21:12 | #50

    @kevin1
    Don’t feed the troll derailer!

  51. TerjeP
    July 4th, 2013 at 23:59 | #51

    🙁

    A few people seem to be asking if supporting smaller government means being in favour of neglecting other people and caring only for yourself. That this is somehow the essence of the argument for free markets. Of course the answer is no.

    Do supporters of big government eat babies and molest small children?

  52. July 5th, 2013 at 03:38 | #52

    I said in market economies. Ideologies of small government in market economies are normally based on the notion that the market economy will do things better than government would. The market economy doing things well is based on the “invisible hand” notion, whereby everyone’s selfishness hypothetically works together with competition to create optimum outcomes. The economic theory associated with this idea of “unfettered” markets being near perfect, or Pareto optimal or what have you, are based on the assumption that selfishness is the only significant human motivator. The math ceases to work if it isn’t (the math also ceases to work if there is imperfect information, positive economies of scale, a future, and a number of other annoying real world things, but that’s another story).

    So if one is subscribing to that idea, it’s weird to be acting as an example of something (unselfish behaviour) that the theory assumes doesn’t exist and stops working if it does. And if you’re going to be unselfish, it’s odd to back a theory that assumes/requires everyone to be selfish. Just saying.
    Now sure, you could subscribe to small government ideas in other ways. But there aren’t a lot of developed ideas along those lines. The normal “small government” approach relies on markets to take up the slack. In a market economy small government is going to mean big private money instead, so if you’re not wild about big private money and the market taking everything over you have a problem there . . .

    For that matter, one could back “small government” in a nonmarket economy. Some social anarchists believe in local-oriented, decentralized economies with egalitarian production controlled by the workers at a grassroots level, with government existing but being largely local and consisting largely of direct democracy with participatory budgeting, while higher levels are mostly along the lines of standards bodies so you don’t get a gajillion different railway gauges or something. But for some reason I don’t suspect your “small government” is like that.

  53. July 5th, 2013 at 03:45 | #53

    So yeah, I don’t see why there’s a problem with saying the argument for free markets is about selfishness. The argument for free markets is explicitly and centrally about selfishness; that’s the advertising on the cover, it’s not like it’s some deep dark secret to be hidden. I’m not even talking Ayn Rand here, just basic right-ish mainstream economics.
    How this can be compared to accusations of government wanting to eat babies is beyond me. Saying free markets are about selfishness is like saying government is about providing public goods and states are about monopolizing violence within their territory.

  54. TerjeP
    July 5th, 2013 at 06:10 | #54

    So yeah, I don’t see why there’s a problem with saying the argument for free markets is about selfishness.

    Big government interventionism is selfishness enshrined. As such it seems reasonable to assume that a lot of the argument for big government interventionism is about selfishness. I think the arguments for free markets and small government are generally driven by more noble motives.

    However in spite of your line of questioning I don’t actually think the motives of the proponents is the core issue. We ought to consider the merit of the arguments themselves.

    A society with a small government sector and a free and open exchange of goods, services and ideas is certainly driven by individuals responding to incentives. But the individuals in a society with a bloated government and restrictions on the exchange of goods, services and ideas also respond to incentives. Obviously the outcomes of those individual responses will be different under the two systems.

    I’d personally rather live in the former as based on experience, observation and reading I would expect the former to not only be more prospereous but to also mould and draw in a more virtuous cohort of humans. Is it selfish to want a prosperous society filled with more virtuous people? Perhaps.

    I suspect critics of free markets have a more cynical view of humans than advocates. Perversely the critics of free markets seem to think that large scale confiscation of wealth and income, coupled with a complex system of redistribution based on voting and then administered by beauracracies, will somehow encourage greater virtue. It is utter madness but this thinking is all too common.

  55. Fran Barlow
    July 5th, 2013 at 07:11 | #55

    @terjeP

    I suspect critics of free markets have a more cynical view of humans than advocates.

    Reading the advocates for ‘free markets’ in the MBCM that’s not the impression I get. They assume that people are by nature greedy, anti-social and uninterested in public policy, and worse, unlikely ever to be any better. Their lot coined the term hip-pocket nerve.

    * NB: I situate the term ‘free markets’ alongside other memes. I don’t accept they ever have or can exist, except as political slogans by those amongst the privileged seeking to gloss their unwarranted social advantages.

  56. TerjeP
    July 5th, 2013 at 08:00 | #56

    Fran – circles only exist as abstract concepts. Any circle that people might point to in the real world actually have little bumps. But we can certainly discern that one thing is more like a circle than another. Likewise “free markets” as some perfect ideal may be unachievable, and even more unachievable than a circle, but that does not mean the concept lacks rigour or value. You may wish to dismiss advocates of free markets as rainbow chasers but if so that is due to perfectionist simplifications in your thinking not theirs.

  57. Fran Barlow
    July 5th, 2013 at 08:37 | #57

    @TerjeP

    That’s a fudge. If you are advancing ‘free markets’ as an actionable entity in the real world, you need not only to to define those “bumps” but show that others you cite as ‘free market advocates’ see the same “bumps” you do rather than wave your hands in their direction.

    The term ‘free market’ is, IMO, inherently misleading. Indeed, one can argue that even the word ‘market’ which conjures images of some sort of agora in Ancient Greece is misleading. While a shopping centre may look like a contemporary agora the wider economy which is the hinterland for the shopping centre is not and never will be.

    The reality is that the international system of states and state-backed banking and currency provides and indispensible scaffold for every commercial activity.

  58. TerjeP
    July 5th, 2013 at 11:46 | #58

    On your last paragraph I would say yes. Regarding specidic bumps needing specific discussion I would also say yes. But I don’t see what I said to be a fudge.

  59. TerjeP
    July 5th, 2013 at 11:54 | #59

    p.s. actually on reading your last paragraph again I’d say yes if you replaced the word “indispensable” with “extremely useful”. Otherwise I’d have to say no. But perhaps I’m being too literal.

  60. Heavylfit
    July 5th, 2013 at 15:00 | #60

    Purple Library Guy :The economic theory associated with this idea of “unfettered” markets being near perfect, or Pareto optimal or what have you, are based on the assumption that selfishness is the only significant human motivator. The math ceases to work if it isn’t (the math also ceases to work if there is imperfect information, positive economies of scale, a future, and a number of other annoying real world things, but that’s another story).

    Include the utility of everyone else in the utility fuction of individuals. Math works fine. Assuming that everyone acts to maximise some utility function is not the same as assuming that everone is selfish.

    Purple Library Guy :the math also ceases to work if there is imperfect information, positive economies of scale, a future, and a number of other annoying real world things, but that’s another story.

    Which is why I have views that are probably most accurately described as social democratic.

    I’m just saying that the notion that everyone is motivated by selfishness is not he only way to develop an ideology of small government.

  61. Julie Thomas
    July 5th, 2013 at 16:09 | #61

    Terje “Big government interventionism is selfishness enshrined.”

    How big is a ‘big’ government? Did Howard make government any smaller and yet you voted for him? Hypocrite?

    What sort of person is in favour of big government for the sake of big government? Govt gets bigger because there is a need. If your sort of people really cared for society, there would not be a need because you would look after people, but you do not.

    Give us the rational argument that government is selfishness ‘enshrined’? What does enshrined mean to you? Did you know that the use of these emotive words makes it obvious that the basis of your ‘faith’ is emotional and not rational?

    You really have no idea how to argue rationally, do you? To counter the ‘truth’ of Purple Library Guy’s argument – its a bloody good one – that selfishness is the basis of your faith/ideology, you just make an outrageous claim that will change the focus of the discussion. That is where the term glibertarian comes from, you know.

    You did not provide a refutation of that fact or any explanation of how selfishness can be accepted as the human attribute that will bring about the best of all possible worlds. That is what is required for you to make a start on learning to argue rationally.

    Where is the evidence that selfishness will bring about a better world? There is none. The human ‘nature’ – just behaviour really – that will be required for your pie in the sky system to work, has not evolved yet. We need to evolve more rational and less judgemental natures.

    But, the values and judgements your ideology makes about human nature, will prevent any such free society developing.

    But back to the topic. I think fact checking will affect Tony Abbott’s chances at the election; I think that it will work to influence Christians – and there are some real Christians out there according to youngest son who is a ‘yooth worker’ in a Christian organisation – who are ashamed of the lies and distortions that are being told by their party.

    And, although I don’t expect any change in the votes of the conservative’s in my small country town, they really are confused about what their party stands for. The only thing they have to say in response to criticism is that Labor spends too much money.

    I do point out that one has to invest in people if you want them to becomes less lazy and stupid. They get that.

    Particularly here in Qld where Newman’s cuts are affecting the health services that they need, and closing schools that are very important to the community, I think the agrarian socialist type conservatives are going to wise up to the mismatch between their values and your – libertarian – values of selfishness and whatever it takes to make a profit.

  62. July 5th, 2013 at 17:25 | #62

    A few people seem to be asking if supporting smaller government means being in favour of neglecting other people and caring only for yourself. That this is somehow the essence of the argument for free markets. Of course the answer is no.

    No, people in favour of small government are usually very sorry that there are so many poor, and they express their deepest sympathy while building bigger walls to keep them out.

  63. rog
    July 5th, 2013 at 17:52 | #63

    For those that recommend small(er) govt you would have to provide some evidence that small govt is better than big govt.

    To take the hypothesis to its natural conclusion the smallest govt ie a govt of one is the most efficient.

  64. rog
    July 5th, 2013 at 17:58 | #64

    @TerjeP A circle is much more than a concept and can be proved by measurement and calculation. Free markets remain a concept.

  65. Jim Rose
    July 5th, 2013 at 18:09 | #65

    Fran Barlow :
    Reading the advocates for ‘free markets’ in the MBCM that’s not the impression I get. They assume that people are by nature greedy, anti-social and uninterested in public policy, and worse, unlikely ever to be any better. Their lot coined the term hip-pocket nerve.

    name names! who exactly assumed that people are greedy, anti-social and uninterested in public policy? name names?

  66. TerjeP
    July 5th, 2013 at 18:41 | #66

    How big is a ‘big’ government? Did Howard make government any smaller and yet you voted for him? Hypocrite?

    I vote for the LDP not the Liberals. Howard delivered much bigger government, took away gun rights and took us to war. If you think Howard is my hero you have not been paying attention at all.

  67. Fran Barlow
    July 5th, 2013 at 18:56 | #67

    @Jim Rose

    Don’t be obtuse Jim. Browse commercial talk radio, the opinion columns in the Murdoch press and the journos mostly featured on their ABC’s talk. Whatever else they quibble about, there’s no sense from most of them that “the punters” as they like to describe them know the detail of, or care to find out about anything beyond themselves.

    For them, politics begins and ends with “how this will play” followed by ruminations about “messaging” and such.

    That’s of course why public policy discussion, evalauted using what the major parties say, is one big vacuous space in which slogans are reckoned as substance.

  68. Scott
    July 5th, 2013 at 19:36 | #68

    If the quest for free markets was like a circle it would be a dog chasing it’s tail which perfectly describes the utopian concept. Amusingly historically some of the biggest advocates of free markets have expanded government to accommodate the ideal of the free market. If anything ends the ideal of the free market it won’t be the so called big state who fully support the ideal in theory, not practice but something else akin to measurement and thinking which goes beyond assumptions.

    Polanyi wrote of the advocates of slavery arguing laissez faire to retain the status quo while the opponents advocated freeing the markets to let the slaves free. He said that both of these parties who believed in the self regulating free market could only argue it was self regulated even when they or someone else was doing the regulating and that it wasn’t a free market but just an expression of preference as to what they liked or disliked.

  69. TerjeP
    July 5th, 2013 at 20:42 | #69

    For them, politics begins and ends with “how this will play” followed by ruminations about “messaging” and such.

    Sounds like the ABC.

  70. mozzie
    July 6th, 2013 at 00:30 | #70

    @John Quiggin
    Slightly OT …
    Of course particulate carbon (smoke) emissions are a different sort of nasty (rather worse effects) which shows some (willful?)ignorance.
    I admit that the regular characterisation of hyperbolic cooling towers as “Nuclear Power Plants”can be annoying. I once had to attempt to correct the impression that the Anglesea power station (coal fired and not desireable) was a “nucular plant”. Without success, I’d add.

  71. Julie Thomas
    July 6th, 2013 at 08:00 | #71

    Terje you might vote first choice DLP but you preference the LNP, no?

    So tell us, if it isn’t Howard who is your hero, where are your thinkers, what research projects are people with your ideology undertaking to show how implementing a small government will result in a decent society for as many people as possible.

    You are still avoiding providing an explanation of how you expect the implementation of small or no government to bring about a better society for all of us and not just those types of people you regard as valuable.

    Because that is the other really big problem with the libertarian ideology that you have advocated up til recently. There seems to be some sort of revision of your certainty about selfishness being a good thing lately, but if one goes back and reads up on your previous claims about how libertarianism and its focus on self-interest has the potential to bring about utopia or the nearest thing possible there is no sign that you suffered any discomfort with the anomalies that were then quite clear to others.

    So good for you to have come this far – it does take character to admit to having being misled by a convenient story.

    But I am very interested to understand what values apart from self-interest do you – and you too Jim Rose – support and think society should value and where is your argument about how and why these values are important?

  72. Ikonoclast
    July 6th, 2013 at 08:22 | #72

    @Julie Thomas

    It is a waste of time debating with faith-reasoners. You will never change their minds and they are impervious to logic, reason and empirical evidence.

  73. Jim Rose
    July 6th, 2013 at 09:19 | #73

    It is a waste of time debating with faith-reasoners. You will never change their minds and they are impervious to logic, reason and empirical evidence.

    people do chnage their minds. For a discussion of how as people hit middle age their youthful radicalism tend to be replaced with conservatism see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/7887888/Champagne-socialists-not-as-left-wing-as-they-think-they-are.html

    The paper is based on a study of 136,000 people in the World Values Survey. The data was from 48 different countries, during five periods between 1981 and 2008.
    – Participants were asked to choose whether they saw themselves as leftwing or rightwing.
    – The results were then compared with their responses to more detailed questions about their views, to determine how closely the participants own perception matched their real position on the ideological spectrum.

    Well-educated individuals are more likely to wrongly characterise their political position, thinking that they are more leftwing than they actually are. Holding down a job and raising a family leads them to adopt a more conservative outlook.

    One reason the left-intellectuals do not realise that they have shed their youthful liberalism is that they socialise with people going through the same ideological shift to the right.

    as people growth up and accept responsibilities, so do their politics

  74. July 6th, 2013 at 09:40 | #74

    Well, it’s true that as I grew up and accepted responsibilities, so did my politics. That is, when I was in my 20s I was largely apolitical, if nominally left of centre. When I married, had a kid, took responsibility for my wife’s already existing kids, I started thinking more carefully about the world my daughter would be inheriting and it led me to views that were increasingly solid about egalitarianism, rejection of exploitation, direct popular control . . . eventually to a quite radical socialist, quasi-anarchist stance.

  75. Fran Barlow
    July 6th, 2013 at 11:30 | #75

    @Jim Rose

    Well-educated individuals are more likely to wrongly characterise their political position, thinking that they are more leftwing than they actually are.

    I can well believe that. There’s scarcely a bog I’ve been to where someone doesn’t preface claims most commonly associated with a right of centre perspective with “Hey, I’m as left as they come but …” “Nobody would ever call me a rightwinger but …”. Some of these are probably concern trolling but sometimes they seem quite sincere.

    Holding down a job and raising a family leads them to adopt a more conservative outlook.

    Doubtless that’s so. Also, the reality of mortality inclines many of us to focus on things that can be achieved within their own lifetimes and to adopt a somewhat less grand conception of the things for which one should strive.

    Certainly, I have. I’m a lot more conservative than I was in, say, 1984 and rather more than I was in 1994.

    Part of this also reflects the changed ‘facts on the ground’ of course. The fall of the USSR and its aftermath for me recommended in favour of a thorough re-evaluation of my conceptions of what was possible in practice, in what ways and to what extent the conceptions associated with Marx, Len|n and Trotsky remained germane, the role of ‘reform’ on timelines of significance to those of us who saw ourselves as favouring social justice and the empowermnet of the marginalised, the extent to which the ecosystem services as an issue for humanity as a whole imposed itself across class lines and so forth.

    These would have occurred even if I had remained single.

  76. Neil
    July 6th, 2013 at 15:30 | #76

    @Fran Barlow

    The research does not back this claim up. Older people are generally socially more conservative than younger, because society has changed since they acquired their political beliefs. But – perhaps for precisely the same reason – older people are generally less conservative than they were when younger.

  77. Ikonoclast
    July 6th, 2013 at 17:22 | #77
  78. Julie Thomas
    July 6th, 2013 at 17:26 | #78

    Ikonoclast, I am fortunate enough to have time to waste and every so often it seems like a good idea to see if the libertarians have come up with anything interesting, any coherent idea that supports their religion.

    Apart from that there is much to be gained in terms of understanding human nature (well cognition anyway and the way people rationalise their beliefs which is big part of our putative nature) by asking people who are not like oneself, what and how they think.

    Jim has said something I agree with, people can change. But the motivation to change is lacking in successful Libertarians so I’m not expecting Terje to see the light and start thinking seriously about his motivated cognition.

    But if anyone else is interested there is a Cultural Cogntion site where they do research on this topic.

  79. July 6th, 2013 at 19:12 | #79

    @Fran Barlow

    Discussing politics in public conveniences!?

    I admire your dedication!

  80. Fran Barlow
    July 6th, 2013 at 22:28 | #80

    @Megan

    Nicely spotted! It must have been a Freudian typo … 😉

  81. TerjeP
    July 7th, 2013 at 00:58 | #81

    @Julie Thomas

    Terje you might vote first choice DLP but you preference the LNP, no?

    I have never voted for the DLP and I don’t expect I ever will.

  82. Jim Rose
    July 7th, 2013 at 10:07 | #82

    @Fran Barlow

    I’m a lot more conservative than I was in, say, 1984 and rather more than I was in 1994.

    Part of this also reflects the changed ‘facts on the ground’ of course. The fall of the USSR and its aftermath for me recommended in favour of a thorough re-evaluation of my conceptions of what was possible in practice, in what ways and to what extent the conceptions associated with Marx, Lenin and Trotsky remained germane

    I am disappointing that you were involved for a time albeit a long time ago with non-democratic politics.

    Having to resolve differences by trying to persuade each other and elections is so cumbersome when you just know the way, the truth and the light, for as Orwell noted:

    The Catholic and the Communist are alike in assuming that an opponent cannot be both honest and intelligent.

    Mises explained the youthful allure of socialism thus:

    It promises a Paradise on earth, a Land of Heart’s Desire full of happiness and enjoyment, and—sweeter still to the losers in life’s game—humiliation of all who are stronger and better than the multitude.

    Logic and reasoning, which might show the absurdity of such dreams of bliss and revenge, are to be thrust aside. Marxism is thus the most radical of all reactions against the reign of scientific thought over life and action, established by Rationalism.

    It is against Logic, against Science and against the activity of thought itself—its outstanding principle is the prohibition of thought and inquiry, especially as applied to the institutions and workings of a socialist economy.

    Marx predicted the immiserisation of the working class where there would be nothing to lose when they rose up but their chains. Instead, it is now rise up ye workers, rise up for you have nothing to lose but your Iphone and air miles.

  83. Will
    July 7th, 2013 at 14:19 | #83

    Not another one of these simplified ridiculous talking point arguments again.

    Let me make a couple of logical arguments in the same vein as what has already occurred:

    – Australia is made up of the city (left wing voting) and the country (right wing voting)
    – The right-wing voting part is less educated, less wealthy, more violent, and is a net taxation deficit
    – Therefore, left-wing ideology is better and is needed to make stable, prosperous countries

    – Conservative political views increase with age
    – The elderly suffer from endemic poverty rates
    – Therefore poverty is positively correlated with conservatism

    It’s all science bro!

  84. Neil
    July 7th, 2013 at 17:24 | #84

    @Will
    “- Conservative political views increase with age”

    As I pointed out above, the research shows that people get less conservative as they age.

  85. Fran Barlow
    July 8th, 2013 at 10:23 | #85

    @Jim Rose

    I am disappointed that you were involved for a time albeit a long time ago with non-democratic politics. {typo corrected}

    That’s simply mistaken. I was never involved with ‘non-democratic’ politics. I believe we have a difference of view on what bona fide democracy entails. For you, the mere appurtenances of democracy — elections to legislative office, separation of state and civil society, separation of the branches of government, an independent public service, protection of commodity property from state seizure — suffice to qualify some regime as democratic. For me, these features, while non-trivial are inadequate. The debauching of the term ‘democracy’ propmpts me to prefer ‘inclusive governance’ as a description of what I’d favour, since it works to ensure the informed consent of the governed in circusmstance where, so far as it can be had, the governed are equally socially empowered.

    Once again, I reject your characterisations of Marxism, borrowed from Mises and Orwell. Marxists do recoognise that opponents can be honest and intelligent. Neither of these is a warranty against being mistaken, but some of them may also prove to be correct. Others may be serving interests other than those of working people.

    Those of us who see ourselves as the allies of working humanity have no desire to humiliate anyone. We don’t see being the social equal of everyone else as degrading, but rather a statement of belonging — and an affirmation of the worthiness of life. Those who can bring their accomplishment and passion to making the world a better place for everyone become part of a positive sum are richly rewarded by that most elusive of all things in human life — worthy purpose, and insofar as they offer an intellectual or ethical exemplar to others, can take legitimate pleasure in their works. What greater reward could there be than that?

  86. Jim Rose
    July 8th, 2013 at 18:14 | #86

    @Fran Barlow The strength of democracy is a small group of concerned and thoughtful citizens can band together and change things by running for office and winning elections.

    That is how new parties such as the ALP, the country party, DLP, and greens changed Australia. One Nation even had its 15 minutes of fame. Bob Katter’s party is next.

    The ALP immediately won many seats and formed governments a few years later. Those agrarian socialists in the country party immediate secured cabinet seats.

    Over the 20th century, the state grew from a night watchmen size to account for 1/3rd to ½ of GDP with a generous welfare state because this was popular with the median voter.

    • Communists were elected to 40 odd parliaments including in Europe and Japan.

    • The Trots put up a good show in recent French presidential races. Sadly, the English Trots get less votes than the monster raving loony party, head to head.

    You find democracy frustrating not because parliaments cannot change things.

    You find democracy frustrating because you cannot win at the ballot box even under proportional representation in federal and state upper houses.

    When the shooters party, new DLP and the family and Christian parties win seats ahead of you, it is time to accept that your message simply does not resonate with the 99% of the electorate. Complete amateurs can win seats. the reason is their ideas are more workable than yours.

  87. kevin1
    July 8th, 2013 at 23:20 | #87

    @Fran Barlow
    Perhaps you are too kind to your interlocutors: this debate happens in a “virtual” bubble where your opponents have the metric as word production – they can only aspire to quantity rather than quality since they mostly lack ideas and empathy. By defining politics as inconsequential talk and voting once every 3 or 4 years between Tweedledum and Tweedledee, they deride what happens outside the parliamentary system – where real people try to improve their daily lives and their future. An example of this limited view of democracy is the spectacle of TV presenters being genuinely bemused at why Egyptian demonstrators don’t wait till the next election to vote out Morsi: because they think politics doesn’t really matter, so change has no urgency.

    For instance, JR likes to denigrate the SWP UK by comparing their vote to the Raving Looney Party. But the SWP ridicules parliament while standing for elections (read up on their reasons Jim, there are subtleties and tactics in politics). It also has participated and built things that matter, like the Stop the War march which got between 750,000 and 2 million people involved. This is what really matters to people who see politics as being about change not fake processes yet this is derided as non-democratic politics by conservatives. For JR to quote Orwell in support of his views is odious: Communist meant Stalinist to Orwell, and both you and I would probably be killed, gaoled or in hiding under such a regime. (Actually I can think of 3 state premiers who have been Stalinists or Trotskyists at some stage in their life, and many Federal ministers, who have contributed much to the body politic.)

    The political virgins who never take a risk or take a stand will never understand that doing things means making mistakes – as a teacher you probably agree that’s how we learn. Lastly, it’s always amused me that people who do nothing criticise people who do something because they don’t do everything.

  88. Jim Rose
    July 10th, 2013 at 19:13 | #88

    see http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1011/67175_Page3.html for a fact check of factchecking

    But while they are all formally nonpartisan and, in fact, drive Democrats in general and the Obama White House in particular crazy, their historical roots are in Democratic outrage, heavily laced with a centrist, journalistic impulse.

    … The same political operatives who hate being factchecked love to see their rivals skewered. And the power of the scientific-sounding factcheck label, ironically, makes a powerful tool in characteristically overstated political rhetoric.

  89. July 14th, 2013 at 02:43 | #89

    So, when the lighting allows, and you want the highest quality images,
    you should always shoot at the lowest ISO you can.
    s easier than you may think to make money as a digital photographer.

    Everyone wants to treasure some moments of the most auspicious day in their lives.

  90. Fran Barlow
    July 14th, 2013 at 08:47 | #90

    @Jim Rose

    As usual, your copy and paste boilerplate entirely misses the point. My post was entirely about processes and structures associated with empowerment, rather than the triumph of any particular party.

    Your “analysis”, if it is fair to so signify so vacuous a post, invites questions that you assume require no answer and are paradoxical. By all means though, pretend to insight if it salves your suspicion that you have none.

  91. kevin1
    July 14th, 2013 at 18:11 | #91

    @Ken_L #9

    Didn’t notice your comment till now, sorry.

    Rethinking my comment about Abbott’s attraction to muscular pursuits, what I meant to say was that he doesn’t go for gentle exercise of the type you mention (like the Howard style power walks) which allow reflection on events and ideas and is useful to de-stress and work through things, and which I do myself.

    Rather, his inclination is for constant vigorous activity (including the assorted fluoro vest exercises of taking widgets off production lines, stacking boxes etc.) which is essentially distracting and mindless, and would seem to require lots of sleep, showering, changing of clothes etc. Do his work practices prevent him from matching Rudd on the intellectual arena? Would be interesting to know how many hours a day he spends on intellectual exercise – reading, working through policy issues, strategy meetings.

    This is not just an Abbott question of course – Kev 24/7 is lovebombing the population continuously at present, but he does seem on top of the issues and has a confidence in projecting his vision. Is it just me or is Abbott’s communication style awkward? It seems diffident and hesitant, and detached and ponderous like one of m’learned friends at the bar?

  92. Tim Macknay
    July 15th, 2013 at 15:22 | #92

    The spam at #39 above seems strangely appropriate, for some reason…

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