Regular Features Sandpit April 17, 2013 John Quiggin60 Comments A new sandpit for long side discussions, idees fixes and so on. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading... Related
60 thoughts on “Sandpit”
True … I’m not even sure it’s possible for someone to evaluate policy “without bias”. Everyone starts at the very least with a paradigm for distinguishing the worthy from the objectionable. That wasn’t my point though.
The world is as it is … there are indeed (and always have been) a very large number of people who are ignorant, fearful, irrational, self-serving, bigoted, intellectually indolent and uncritical of rightwing cant and I very much doubt there’s any quick(ish) remedy for that — even if the ALP were a far better party than it is right now.
My point is that this reality of the system environment in which parties seek to operate is not being responded to well in a strategic or tactical sense by the ALP. Rather, the party’s responses, though understandable at one level, are maladaptive and ultimately corrosive of the struggle to attain the goals that most of the ALP’s supporters say they want. Their approach to negotiating what is a hostile environment for anyone seeking social justice and equity has been reactive and part of a negatively reinforcing feedback loop. Just as one can never free oneself from a blackmailer by paying him off, in part because the sunk cost losses make every new demand seem minor by comparison, so too the ALP can never be the party of most progressives’ imagination until it decides to write down its past sunk costs and reconstitute itself as a party that can cohere a stable and progressive constituency. That may well mean wearing some serious time out of power — and as that seems, despite their best efforts, to be more likely than not right now, this might be the time to re-imagine why they exist at all. This demand arises every time the ALP is routed of course, but this time we may be approaching a day when the MBCM’s power to bully will begin to decline. That media you are complaining about is partly the result of their pandering.
If they are to free themselves from being at the disposal of Murdoch, they need to stop pandering, expressly repudiate the xenophobic, populistic and dogmatically neoliberal public policy they’ve been identified with — especially over the last couple of decades and give those who want social justice and equity in public policy a party they could with some reservations, support. Let them keep big business (and dodgy small business) at arms’ length and be a party expressly for working people and their social allies.
Let the ALP start trying to claim the high ethical ground — on refugees and immigration, in indigenous policy, “law and order”, the “war on terror”, the environment, human rights, gay marriage, economic policy and social inclusion, media policy and so forth. Let them establish a core constituency that is clearly distinct from the centre-right and work on building that into a credible organisation.
Hardly anyone goes into politics thinking of personal ain or career. If it takes us a decade or more to get a genuinely progressive party into government, then so be it. At least then the victory will be worth something. It will endure and not be hostage to scandal or whiteanting in the attempt to hold on to power.
I really don’t think it’s necessary to designate a majority of the electorate as morally inferior to explain the present electoral situation. Labor has not governed in their interest and they want a change of government. The fairly limited choice offered by the party system requires a vote for the LNP to change the government.
Every time the electoral majority hear that they are fools or knaves their determination to change the government is strengthened. The electorate will not be lectured to by this government.
Well plainly, I regard it as a compelling inference.
You say that, but is there any actual evidence that the legitimate interests of the kinds of people who have deserted the ALP for the Coalition have been diminished in some way by the ALP that the Coalition will likely reverse? Is it plausible that this lies at the heart of their change of vote?
If not, then your claim ought to be rejected.
That may be so, but unless one can say that they expect the change of government to lead to better government — at least in relation to legitimate interests of theirs — then all they are doing is a kind of “cut off your nose to spite your face” routine. That’s not rational goal-seeking behaviour. It’s a form of tantrum — and it can’t possibly lead to better government — even for them personally. So again, the action would at he very least fit the descriptor “irrational”.
This is wrong all over the place. Firstly, the mere fact that some truth may be inconvenient does not mean it should not be told. If the majority really are ignorant, fearful, irrational, self-serving, bigoted, intellectually indolent and uncritical of rightwing cant in some combination then that’s worth knowing. Some of them may reflect upon it and seek to be better people and just as importantly, those who don’t fit this description can be in a better position to make sense of the catastrophe that occurs if such folk are used by spivs to seize control of government. Instead of simply blaming the media, we can accept that it is our duty to go out and speak up for sense, shine light in places where there is darkness, expose cant and bigotry — in short — to do our civic duty robustly and wherever it is needed. It’s a call to stop being passive. As the saying goes All that is necessary for the triumph of evil (sic) is for good men (sic) to do nothing. Biting our tongues because knaves and fools may take umbrage is no way to secure authentic community.
I also see no evidence at all that the current policy — if that is what it is — of pandering to the vanity of knaves and fools has subverted their desire to oust the regime — much the opposite — so even in purely instrumental terms, your claim is implausible.
There is serious and nearly ubiquitous foolishness and knavery about and it has seriously afflicted both the governing parties. The road to recovery entails accepting that there is a problem and then being determined to overcome it at whatever cost is necessary.
Doubtless that is so. Having pandered to their most unpleasant attributes they scarcely have the standing to say — “well forget that I endorsed your bigotry on refugees as fair enough, or let the big miners get out of most of the tax take, or have been giving subsidies to big polluters or have been sending troops into foreign countries to keep the US happy or throwing supporting parents onto the dole, I’d like to talk to you about ethics and how we can have a more robust an inclusive democracy”. That would be laughed at.
That’s a conversation they can only begin after they have repudiated the many ignorant, stupid and craven things they have done and just as importantly, explained how in the name of reason and equity they went so far wrong, followed shortly thereafter by an apology and policies that show they have learned how to do better.
Only then can the long road to a vision that those who are not ignorant, fearful, irrational, self-serving, bigoted, intellectually indolent and uncritical of rightwing cant be taken.
Hi Alan, I wasn’t going to reply your question because it is obviously a set-up and I felt I had said enough anyway. But reading Fran’s recent comments has got me involved in the debate again.
Firstly, you actually referred to “[Gillard’s] extraordinary conservatism, her extraordinary opportunism” as I noted in my follow up comment. I am sure that “opportunism” is in the right’s song book.
However more seriously I want to draw your attention to a specific example where the right wing media have used Gillard’s “conservatism” (though I agree they would not use that word) as part of their attack on her. Fran refers to the Gillard government “throwing” sole parents on to the dole. I agree this is a reprehensible policy. However I also know that it started under the Howard government’s “Welfare to Work” program in 2006. Under that program, sole parents whose youngest child turned eight were moved from parenting payment on to Newstart, but sole parents with older children were protected by a “grandfathering clause”. What the Gillard government did was move the “grandfathered” parents on to NewStart also.
As I say, I disagree totally with what both governments have done. However I also know that there has been a marked difference in the media coverage. As part of my work from 2005-2008, I was involved in a community campaign against Welfare to Work. We got very little response to our campaign from the media – one article in a local paper and one article in the Age. The media response to the Gillard government moving sole parents on to NewStart has been very different, with extensive coverage in the right wing media and on TV. Some people hopefully believe that this is because the media has become more sensitive on the issue, but I would also suggest that attacking Gillard for this measure (when they did not attack Howard) also fits their political purposes, especially since Gillard is more popular with women than men and this is an issue that may help to undermine that support.
Just to ensure you don’t misinterpret me, I am not suggesting this measure is Ok when JG does it but not when John Howard did it. It is wrong either way. I am saying that the media coverage when JG does it was different, and there is a political agenda in that.
Finally I also want to point out to anyone who writes the Labor government off now that the (dreaded) social science research also shows that people are influenced by what they think others believe – so the more people say that the ALP does not have chance at the next election, the more likely it is to be the case. And just for the record, yes, I am arguing people should preference ALP before the LNP because they are the “less worse” alternative.
Of course it was a set-up, but I notice it is one you cannot answer. Defending the Gillard government as less worse just does not cut it or pointing out that Howard’s action was, in terms of the number of people effected, less radically conservative than Gillard’s, doesn’t really help your case. Cutting the single mother’s pension was driven by the deficit promise which, as is customary with this government, was a bad idea, a conservative idea and one they could not deliver anyway.
If the people cannot or should not change the government under these conditions, when should they?
Fran’s answer seems to be that if the people are not aversely effected by some objective test they should not change the government. I am not sure that a blogosphere ephorate is going to be very successful in determining the objective interests of the people better than they can themselves.
Also, the opinion polls tell us that x% of people will not vote ALP come september but they don’t tell us “why”. Rejection of this ALP gets mixed in with straight up ‘pro’ LNP.
When I said your question was a set up, I meant that the obvious intention is to show that I’m wrong – you are not interested in having a debate in which we might both learn. Your response exactly proves my point. You’ve ignored my key point – the right wing media treats Gillard differently than they did Howard. this was based on an issue where I have years of on the ground experience. If you can just dismiss that because it doesn’t fit with your argument (which is basically that I am wrong in everything I say) then what is the point of me talking to you?
This is bias in action Alan – you only look for evidence that supports your argument and you ignore everything else.
Fran Barlow @4:
“Firstly, the mere fact that some truth may be inconvenient does not mean it should not be told. If the majority really are ignorant, fearful, irrational, self-serving, bigoted, intellectually indolent and uncritical of rightwing cant in some combination then that’s worth knowing. ”
Wow. You’ve gone from Maoist to Spartacist to Marx1st-Leninist to Marx1st-nonLeninist to general all round hater of the ungrateful proletariat.
I can’t wait to see what you do next 😉
I went from Maoist to Spartacist at about 17. Spartacists are, by definition, Marxist-Len|nists. I’m now a non-Len|nist — and have been for about 2 decades.
I don’t “hate” anyone, and certainly not the proletariat. I’m just not someone who says that all things said or done by proletarians serve their interests. Being an oppressed and exploited class turns out not to be expecially conducive to the kind of insight into the interests of the class on a global scale or to other humans more generally that are likely to underpin progress, much as we Marx|sts have long suspected. That is one of the key reasons we favour them not being oppressed and exploited of course.
I’m not sure exactly how gratitude made its way into your screed. Strawman I suppose.