Don’t Follow Leaders, Watch The Parking Meters
The dispute over the Greens apparent intention to oppose a more progressive tax system has heated up again, on Facebook and elsewhere, especially given indications that the proposed return to indexation of petrol excise will be passed, as it should be. In combination, if pursued, these policies can be presented, with some justice, as pandering to the self-interest of the stereotypical Greens voter: high income, inner city, with no need to use much petrol.
I haven’t seen anyone defend the pro-rich tax policy on the merits, but I’ve had vigorous pushback from people whose views I would generally respect, taking the following lines
* Labor is doing the same thing, why pick on the Greens
* The policy may be right, but it’s being advocated for the wrong reason (deficit fetishism)
* The policy may be right, but it’s being put forward by the wrong people (evil Abbott government)
* This is only a small step, we need something much bigger and more comprehensive
I’ll respond to these points over the fold, but for the moment I want to observe that these excuses, or minor variants, can be and have been made for every policy sellout in the history of politics. No one gives them the slightest credence when they are put forward by people who aren’t close allies.
The fact that so many intelligent people are willing to buy this sort of case when it’s put forward by the Greens is evidence of the proposition that none of us is immune to the kinds of biased thinking that have completely corrupted the intellectual base of the political right. Fortunately, I think, the left as a whole is more self-critical, so that this kind of reasoning gets a tougher run. But for me, this emphasises the importance of not being aligned with any political party to the extent that loyalty clouds my judgement on the issues. That doesn’t immunise me from various kinds of biases, but at least it helps with problems like this.
Responding briefly to the substantive points, such as they are
* If the Greens want to be held to the same standards as Labor, that’s their choice. Given a choice of two vaguely left parties driven by political expediency, I’ll vote for the one that has a chance of winning government
* The second and third points imply that the Greens should reject everything the government does in pursuit of its fiscal strategy. That will be totally undercut if they (rightly) support the indexation of petrol excise
* If the Greens had a serious prospect of forming a government, there might be some point to going for a comprehensive strategy, and holding off until that could be implemented. As it is, they can only choose to support or oppose government policies (and of course even this is true only until the new Senate takes office).