False balance

An almost-universal feature of current Australian political commentary is the idea that the process of major party breakdown is a symmetrical one, affecting both side of politics equally. At a global level, this is broadly true. European social democratic parties have faced huge challenges arising from their complicity in austerity, and their inability to formulate a coherent response to racism and xenophobia. Quite a few, like PASOK in Greece, have disappeared altogether.

In Australia, the situation is very different.  The rise of the Greens, and the formation of an effective Labor-Green coalition, long predates the crisis of neoliberalism. And the coalition has become more stable over time, not less. As Labor has moved, slowly but substantially, to the left on most issues, the  Labor-Green coalition has come to resemble, more and more, the permanent coalition between the Liberals and Nationals (nearly always treated as a single party in Australian discussion. The issue of refugees has provided the most important single point of difference, but hasn’t driven the kind of collapse seen in Europe. Moreover, there has been no sign of any kind of radical or populist left alternative to the Labor-Green party. Rather, the remains of the old Marxist left have continued their gradual decline.

The contrast with the chaos within the LNP, and in its fractious relationship with the various far-right groups* it now relies on for support could not be more evident, and has been discussed at great length. I’m just hoping that we can get past the ritual need for balance, and recognise that, in Australia, this problem is specfic to the right.

The fact that the right is in a chaotic and chronic mess doesn’t mean they will necessarily lose. Labor has shown the capacity to mess things up massively, even without any serious ideological divisions, as in the Rudd-Gillard feud and the spectacular corruption of the NSW party.  But that’s just day-to-day politics.

The bigger picture is that the Australian left is making a successful adjustment to the collapse of neoliberalism, while the right is not.

* There are also the centrist independents, most of whom hold seats that would normally belong to the LNP.





Life in a Socialist Future (updated)

I’ll be talking at the Ngara Institute’s Politics in the Pub event in Mullumbimby tonight. Unfortunately, their website appears to be offline today, but I’ll link if it comes up.

The talk won’t be quite as utopian as the title might suggest, but it will be a  “light on the hill” vision rather than short-term politics . I’m trying to think about how life might look 30 years from now, if Australian society returns to the progressive path we seemed to be following from the 1940s until the defeat of the Whitlam government.

For those readers unable to make it to northern NSW on short notice, there should be a YouTube of the event later and I am working on some articles that I hope will clarify my optimistic vision of a possible future.


Updated: Here’s video from the Facebook livestream.

Queensland: beautiful one day, denialist the next?

One of the striking features of the current crackup on the right is the assumption, apparently widely shared, that climate science denial and subsidies for coal are winning issues in Queensland, however much they might appal the toffee-nosed elitists of Wentworth (and, presumably, Warringah and Kooyong among other long-standing Liberal party seats that can now be safely ignored).

Those pushing this view might consider the recent Queensland election, in which proposed subsidies to Adani were a key issue. Not only did the government and the Greens make gains in south-east Queensland at the expense of the LNP, Labor held on to seats in Townsville and Rockhampton where Adani was supposed to be a winner.

Economics in Two Lessons

’ve just sent the final manuscript of Economics in Two Lessons back to Princeton University Press. I’ll have to correct the proofs, but apart from that, my work here is done.

US publication is currently scheduled for May 2019, hopefully with an Australian edition to follow. I’ve set up a Facebook page (see below) and have been posting extracts regularly.


Economics in Two Lessons Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/EconomicsInTwoLessons/?modal=admin_todo_tour