I was struck by a recent exchange in the comments thread to my post on libertarianism” in which commenter 24601 took violent exception to the suggestion by another participant in the debate that libertarians focused on the concerns of producers rather than consumers. This, 24601 said, was like asserting that libertarians are “greedy, nasty, evil people who like to kill babbies and don’t care about those silly consumers.”
Allowing for the overstatement characteristic of comment threads, this captures an important point about the free-market side of the policy debate in Australia. Concern with the interests of people considered as producers, in preference to the interests of the same people, considered as consumers, is regarded, quite literally, as evil.
I wrote about this in the Fin last year, also covering the themes of managerialism and professionalism. Some extracts
The last ten years have not been good ones for producers in Australia, whether the item produced is as basic and solid as steel or as abstract and intangible as academic research. Work is central to life, but disillusionment with and demoralisation about work has never been greater. Demoralisation is particularly evident among those groups of workers who derive meaning from theh good or service they produce, rather than just their paypacket. Examples include nurses, teachers and many workers in skilled trades.
It is not surprising that producers are having a hard time. Public policy has been dominated by economists who are openly hostile to ‘producer interests’ and see their mission quite explicitly as ‘shifting power from producers to consumers’. …
The fable of the straw that broke the camel’s back is, among other things, a warning about overburdening those who actually do the work. Economic reformers and enterprising managers have been adding straws to the bundle for at least a decade. It’s time to reduce the burden.
The alignment of free-market economics with a focus on consumers is not surprising. The most appealing feature of capitalism, after all, is the shopfront glittering with an unimaginable variety of goods. It’s during the eight (or nine or ten) hours a day spent producing those goods, if you have a job at all, that you get to see the less pleasant aspects of the system.