In the name of God, go!

Back around 1970, the Labor Party was unelectable because its biggest branches, in NSW and Victoria, were controlled by factional machines of the right and left respectively, who were still refighting the battles of the 1950s Split. The eventual response was Federal intervention to restructure both branches. The intervention was more successful in Victoria than in NSW, but overall the results were good enough to produce a revitalised Labor party. The election of the Whitlam government was one result, as was the strength of the early Hawke ministries, almost any member of which would outperform the great majority of both frontbenches today.

I doubt that an intervention would produce a similar result in NSW today, but the situation is now so dire that it could scarcely make matters worse. It’s hard to imagine a political party with less justification for its continued existence than NSW Labor. It sold out its stated principles with repeated attempts to privatise the electricity industry, then made a botch of the job anyway> It has made itself look stupid with repeated changes of leaders (the only one who tried any resistance to the machine was Nathan Rees, and he was promptly squashed). Its members are enmeshed in every kind of corruption, financial, ethical and sexual, above and beyond the routine corruption of political processes that turned the word “rort” from Sussex Street slang into an Australian byword for sharp practice. Electorally, it’s a disaster area, having gone down to the worst defeat in its modern history, under the sock-puppet leadership of Kristina Keneally. Even though the NSW Libs are, as they always have been, appallingly bad, the O’Farrell government is riding high.

And now, these geniuses have decided that it’s smart politics to make war on the party that’s keeping Federal Labor in office, and with which they will need to deal for the indefinite future if they ever want to pass legislation through the Parliament. Looking at this appalling crew, I can only quote Oliver Cromwell “You have been sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go.”

Update My friends at the Oz take a keen interest in all my thoughts, so I wasn’t too surprised to see this post linked in their “Cut and Paste” section. However, the headline All the Climate Change Authority member would like now is to get rid of the NSW Right seemed both unwieldy and obtuse, in a fish-meets-bicycle kind of way. Why should my (widely shared and longstanding) views on the NSW Labor Right machine be of any more interest by virtue of my membership of the Climate Change Authority? And why should my enthusiasm about the election of the Rudd government (also linked by Cut and Paste) be relevant to either?

The answer, I would imagine, is this post by Sinclair Davidson at Catallaxy who (in a quite strange misreading) took the imprecation “In the name of God, go” to be directed, not at the Sussex Street machine repeatedly criticised in the post, but at the Federal Labor government. Terje Peterson tried to set him straight in comments (thanks, Terje), but I had to spell the point out before he added a correction on Sunday evening, which made the entire post rather pointless. By that time, I imagine, the cutter and paster had already set the story up and gone home, leaving the unfortunate sub-editor to do a salvage job with the headline (not the first time!).

115 thoughts on “In the name of God, go!

  1. Half profit maximisation is equivalent to being half pregnant, i.e., a contradiction in terms.

  2. @Katz

    It’s semantically appealing, but “maximisation” is always subject to the existing constraints. If that cuts the value of maximisation by half, it still is maximised.

  3. The basic claim is not that it doesn’t matter where you are going.

    The point is that there is a hierarchy in terms of importance of things an elected government provides. An elected government full of good intentions but lacking the skills and discipline to deliver will deliver worse outcomes than many governments whose intentions you do not share.
    The application to the case of the Greens is that they need to be credible first.

  4. All parties are agreed on basics on the hierarchy but not all are capable of delivering the basics.

    Just as not all are capable of driving a kilometre without putting a passenger ‘s life in jeopardy ..

  5. FB,

    There is a major, qualitative difference between a perceptual constraint to maximisation and an institutional constraint to maximisation.

    This distinction strikes at the heart of political economy.

    Remember that politics is the art of the possible. Thus, an entrepreneur may be satisfied with profit maximisation that comes close to her sense of what she perceives to be perceptually possible, yet may be frustrated and angry at institutional impediments to maximisation.

    These matters are decided in the political realm. Stultified expectations spur political activism.

    Thus all “constraints” are not created equal. And more importantly, are not perceived as equal.

  6. I think Katz has been astute in revealing Fran Bailey’s implicit repudiation of static state low pop. This objective notion is fundamental to the repudiation of the consumer fetishist, denialist Brady Bunch fantasy world of the Fertility Cult, on which the assault against engagement and rationalism is predicated. Without an economics based on sustainability and rational use and the death of bourgeois sentimentalism, the Greens reduce to the level of disengaged Volkisch kitsch and self preoccupied narcissism whilst capitalism is uncritically left free, uncritiqued and unchallenged, to continue its assault on the very preconditions for existence. worse still, consumerism can only lead to the psychic death of the person, the unconsidered (brainwashed and manipulated) life is hardly worth considering, as patriarchal capitalist forms are reproduced unchallenged.
    So… eliminating the Greens whilst holding to the Fundamental ideas, one abandons the Greens and seeks out Sustainable Population Australia on one’s how to vote card; the world cannot survive on self will run riot and pandering to a conditioned mortgage belt whose whims must precede all else.

  7. @Katz

    an entrepreneur may be satisfied with profit maximisation that comes close to her sense of what she perceives to be perceptually possible, yet may be frustrated and angry at institutional impediments to maximisation.

    That’s true but does that change anything. If the ROI available on Investment A is 1% pa and doesn’t stack up in risk reward terms then presumably, the investment won’t go ahead if some other investment returns the same but is more secure. In the end though they have to invest somewhere if they have any capital at all.

    One can say that as things stand, capital is mobile and can leave Australia for prosperous shores, should that be warranted, but all that shows is that protecting the ecosystem is something one can only do effectively at a global level. It’s not as if the capital can take off for Mars. If the whole world is on the same page on policy then capital gets no place to run.

  8. @Katz

    “There is no middle ground between maximising return on capital and a sustainable economy. One must plump for one or the other.”

    ‘Capital’ is financial capital rather than physical assets, I assume correctly. No?

    “One further paradox that emerges from the Greens’ general commitment to markets is that it undercuts the party’s stated opposition to economic growth at all costs” [Humphrys, as quoted by Katz]

    There is a subtle confusion here which has bothered me since the time of ‘micro-economic reform’ (‘economic rationalism’ in Australia). A pure market economy has never existed in the history of countries we now label ‘developed’. Hence this topic can only be discussed by comparing theoretical models of ‘market economies’ with observables.

    Lets call what we observe ‘versions of capitalism’, going back several hundred years for some member countries in question. (I understand this corresponds to Prof Q’s terminology; it includes for example the Keynesian policy period.) Lets call ‘market economy’ all theoretical models of market economies (as characterised in mathematical economics).

    Here are a few examples of gross (no pun intended, Fran) differences between the theoretical models and capitalism:

    1. Economic growth (GDP) could be calculated ex-post in market economies but economic growth would never be an objective for any decision maker in any market economy.

    2. In a market economy, the environment is represented by a finite multi-dimensional resource constraint for the life of planet earth. (This representation may be considered inadequate for applied purposes, nevertheless, the environment is not forgotten.)

    3. The basic unit of analysis in a market economy is the individual. By contrast, the basic unit of analysis of the current verion of capitalism is the ‘enterprise’ (eg Enterprise Agreements), a legal invention.

    I don’t know the Greens’ understanding of a ‘market economy’. But I know Humphry’s assertion is not necessarily correct.

  9. The good posts in a good thread deserved the subtle corrective surgery that is the corollary offered up of Ernestine Gross.
    It must be true that one person’s beggary is often another’s wealth “creation”, Thinking on it, Aristotle raised the issue thousands of years ago, in interrogating the use value/exchange value phenomena in relation to the actual meaning of the word “creation”, in different situations and contexts.
    EG, Is the jewel thief creative in the same way as the jeweller whose labour fashioned a beautiful artifact?

  10. But one need not appeal to any particular theoretical model of profit maximisation to grasp the truth of Humphry’s assertion.

    Any economic activity that results in a positive return on capital serves to deplete that finite resource called nature. Some schemes of profit maximisation will produce this result more speedily than others, but all of them will produce the same result in the long run.

    (And we remember what Keynes said about the long run.)

  11. Ernestine @108:

    Some pars from the Greens’ economic policy:

    “1. human economies exist within, and are dependent upon, natural systems; resource management is, therefore, central to good economic management…

    “3. the free market economy, by externalising the environmental and social costs of greenhouse gas emissions is creating the greatest market failure of all time, namely climate change.

    “10. governments have an important role to play in regulating markets and correcting market failures, but markets where they function well have an important role to play in the allocation of resources.”

  12. @Bring back Birdy at Catallaxy

    Makes sense to me.

    One point about terminology. In the literature I have mentioned, item 3 is called ‘incomplete markets’. The argument is put a little different from the way you put it. The argument is because environmental ‘commodities’ such as the atmosphere are not individually consumable, it is not possible to have a market (eg it is not possible to have 1 cubic metre of ‘fresh air’, as defined by a chemist, delivered in the front yard of a house in say Bangkok for the private consumption of the owner of the house).

  13. On the original topic of the Labor anti-Greens jihad, I would suggest that it calls for the writing of a satire of the famous 19th century novel “Tom Brown’s School Days” to be titled “Bob Brown’s School Days” with Rupert Murdoch and his editors as the fifth form bullies a la Flashman, and Sam Dastyari, Paul Howes, Tony Maher, Troy Bramston, Daniel Andrews, Steve Bracks, etc., as their toadies.

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