Philosophical Conversations Public Opinion Junk for code
parliament house.gif
Think Tanks
Oz Blogs
Economic Blogs
Foreign Policy Blogs
International Blogs
Media Blogs
South Australian Weblogs
Economic Resources
Environment Links
Political Resources
South Australian Links
"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

work, work, work « Previous | |Next »
June 8, 2005

Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald Ross Gittens makes the following confession:

IT WAS written all over last month's federal budget, but nobody could see it. I missed it myself. And it wouldn't surprise me if the very authors of the budget missed its significance. Why did everyone miss it? Because it's become so commonplace. It's just what you'd expect economists and politicians to be on about.

Gittens then asks, what was it?
Work. Work and more work. The budget was obsessed by work. Those who aren't working, should be. Those who are working, aren't working hard enough. And those considering retirement should resist the temptation.

Well I saw it. The emphasis on work and increased productivity at work was seen as a solution to the future fiscal blowout. This blowout was outlined in the federal Treasury's Intergeneration Report 2002-03 and the Productivity Commission's Economic Implications of an Ageing Australia Report. Both reports argued that the fiscal blowout around 2014 is due to health costs arising from people living longer.

Having woken up Gittens clicks to what is going on here. He asks:

So why this relatively recent obsession with work? Because of the ageing of the population. Because the politicians and their econocrat advisers are terribly concerned that the inevitable slower growth in the workforce will mean slower growth in the economy's production of goods and services.

To them, the obvious answer is to get a lot more work out of those people who are still of working age.

Gittens misses a crucial point.It is not the ageing that is a problem as living longer is a good thing. It is the economics of health (rising hospital and PBS drug costs) that is the problem.

Gittins is critical of this obsession with work as it means putting the maximisation of production ahead of enjoyment of the fruits of production---time to enjoy the stuff we buy, time for leisure and recuperation, time for relationships with family and friends.

What Gittens misses is that the work, work, work policy approach is seen as a solution to the increasing costs of a health problems arising from an ageing Australia. The more people work the less money spent on the disability pension and the greater the income to deal with the costs of healthcare. Another approach to addressing the problems of rising health costs is to help keep people well and so prevent them from getting chronically ill and ending up being chronically ill in our hospitals.

That is a sensible approach is it not?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 1:10 PM | | Comments (2)


Gary, Sharon Beder did an excellent job in explaining how this Howard-Costello CIS puritan "world"- view came to be in her book Selling the Work Ethic.


Hi John,
thanks for the reference. I picked up a copy of Beder's book when from the parliamentary library when I was in Canberra yesterday.

That hard work, diligence and ever increasing productivity is seen as a virtue by economics indicates the way the morality of the protestant ethic has been transformed into a sucess ethic.

That morality runs all through the Australian Financial Review's weekend supplements. Work hard, make a lot of money, then play hard spending the money is the ethos. Why? Because you deserve it as the adverts on tv say.We should respect those who work hard and accummulate wealth.

Gittens calls work an obsession. Beder says work and consumption a compulsion even though this has the consequences of degrading the environment. Development and economic growth are what matters in a the culture of liberal capitalist societies.

Beder points out that the work-to welfare reforms can also be seen as an attempt to enforce the work ethic and is part of a conservative culture offensive. The rhetoric is about dependency, personal responsibility, a culture of poverty, with lots of deterrence to prevent living the "good life" on welfare.