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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

she would say that, wouldn't she? « Previous | |Next »
August 13, 2008

It comes as no great surprise to find Janet Albrechtsen getting stuck into Clive Hamilton. Clive is a lefty, so it logically follows that he hates private property and anybody who has any. It's your standard Janet Albrechtsen Experience (apologies to the Hendrix estate). Except it's not anymore.

Stephen Mayne's piece in yesterday's Crikey describing Janet's familial connections with the world of banking came as news to me. Mayne points out that Janet neglected to inform her readers of her conflict of interest in an article criticising the Rudd government's attitude towards banks: "The onus here should be on disclosure, although the News Ltd press doesn't seem to believe in it."

Janet might argue that her husband's recent move to Credit Suisse makes such a disclosure redundant, but it all swings on whether the family has retained its large investment in Australia's banking cartel because she is clearly articulating a policy of shafting consumers to maximise profits.

True, her views on the banking sector wouldn't be nearly as convincing with disclosure, whether the shares have been sold or not, but neither would her views on Clive.

Clive Hamilton's made his name partly by arguing that our endless accumulations of stuff don't make us happy, that instead we should be concentrating more on our personal relationships. That's all very well and good Clive, but how is anybody supposed to rake in massive profits on the back of the personal debt of others if people don't buy stuff they don't need, using credit they can't afford? If you'd argued that our debt levels are making us unhappy it might have been different.

And if someone had pointed out where Janet's personal interest in the topic lie her article on Clive might have been different, or not written at all.


His books have a repetitive theme, bemoaning the empty consumerism of modern society where people are depicted as drones, buying larger houses “filled with furnishings, appliances, carpets and curtains”, a big car in the driveway and a “super barbecue” on the lawn as a symbol of our vacuous lives.
We who aspire to bigger houses, a barbecue that can “roast, smoke, bake and grill” and other nice stuff are the victims of what he calls the “new form of coercion”. We are settling for a “life of consumer conformity”, unable to make free choices, buying possessions under the evil influence of corporations and spivvy advertisers.

Not to mention credit card junk mail.

At the heart of the happiness philosophy is a disdain for, and distrust of, people. Old-fashioned paternalism lies at the core of Hamilton’s obsession with the “hedonic treadmill”. He fails to imagine that people can simultaneously enjoy material possessions and pursue ambitious careers - living what he derides as “the pleasant life” - while also pursuing loving and caring relationships that give our lives meaning.

At the heart of the mortgage holder's philosophy is what? A belief that banks have their customers' best interests at heart? What are the stats on family and relationship breakdown citing financial problems as a major contributing factor?


That Hamilton is deeply unhappy living in Australia should come as no great surprise. Research confirms that those on the Left side of politics are far less happy than those who have conservative political beliefs. And I’m willing to wager my electronic multi-spark, six-burner barbecue on this: the further left one travels, the more unhappiness you find.

Following this logic, Howard's conservative aspirational battlers in the suburbs owe their current state of uncertainty and unhappiness to a newfound leftish misery, rather than their phenomenal levels of indebtedness. Good grief.

| Posted by Lyn at 12:07 PM | | Comments (14)


I started reading Albrechtson early this morning but gave up when I came across this pretence of an argument:

for happiness gurus, economic growth is bad: the higher wages delivered by a surging economy apparently make us unhappy. Now it's true that surveys of national wellbeing reveal that, past a certain point, more money does not equate with greater happiness. It seems that people adapt to their wealth, often taking for granted their new, more affluent lifestyles. But here's an idea. Try taking away higher wages and bigger houses from people. Perhaps then you will find unhappiness.

That doesn't even begin to address the work/family imbalance; or the stress of working long hours; or the need for quality time with family and friends; or the need to find space for our creativity.

It's more of The Australian's 'bash the left' by a conservative hack, rather than an attempt to debate a public issue that is of deep concern to many Australian citizens. So I gave up reading the recycled junk.

You know I really admire the self sacrifice you folk make when you force yourselves to read the OO junk so as to be able to inform us whose stomachs are more easily upset of what version of faux-reality they are currently coughing up.
I could never bring myself to read the OO, much less actually physically part with money to do so.
So rest assured your efforts are appreciated.

You have to figure it wasn't intended to be read by anyone with a less than six figure income.

Maybe it's something to do with the left's fondness for the morbid and depressing.

I skimmed the column (online) and read a few of the comments. I've never expected Planet to write anything sensible, but the main thrust of the comments was to praise her for her clear thinking and exposition of the gnawing hatred of capitalism at the heart of Hamilton's work. It was really depressing.

I'd hate to live in her head - I reckon it's full of snakes and spiders.

This is a conservative who, when in a serious mode trying to show that Australian conservatism is not afflicted by the poverty of reason, tries to claim the Enlightenment as her own.This is how she does it.

Referring to the Centre for Independent Studies' recent forum to discuss why the ideas of the Enlightenment need a 21st-century revival Albrechtson says that we Australians lack confidence in the basic values of freedom, such as free speech:

Nowhere is this more evident than in the embrace of global warming, where anyone who questions the orthodoxy is labelled a denier, a heretic who should not be heard. Genuine inquiry is not encouraged; it is jettisoned. Arthur Herman, another panel member, predicts that in five years there will be a spate of books and articles wondering how politicians, the media and the people were all so comprehensively conned by global warming alarmism.

But Herman, a historian, is not surprised. History tells us there will always be fanatics who peddle invisible fears and doomsday scenarios and, equally, there will always be people drawn to a priestly class - think Al Gore - who claim to know the answers.And so springs up a modern-day theology given over to supplications and modern sacrifices such as banning the innocuous plastic bag.

I would have thought that the Australian people's embrace of the market in the last couple of decades indicates increasing confidence in the value of personal freedom.

Albrechtson simply reduces freedom to free speech then attacks the greeny left because they, according to her, adhere to unreason of religion (faith) and see her as a heretic who should not be heard. And she says that whilst writing trash in the national tabloid in the form of a broadsheet. She must be writing in the postmodern ironic mode.

I had a quick squizz at some comments too, and wondered whether people would be so quick to agree if they knew she's personally gained from the debt of others.

Gary, maybe it makes sense to claim the Enlightenment as your own if everything boils down to consumerism. Maybe the enlightenment is like bran - you sprinkle a bit of it on your fruit loops because it's rumoured to be beneficial.

its deeper than sprinkling. Albrechtson's position is a bunch of contradictions that work themselves out by reversing the Enlightenment tradition she says she is defending and upholding from attack. According to her the greeny left who use natural science to argue the case for global warming adhere to a religion (faith), whilst Cardinal Pell, a traditional Catholic who appeals to dogma, is the voice of reason.

Albrechtson gives no argument for this reversal of Enlightenment values. It is merely asserted. Another reversal of the tradition she professes to defend.

I think that's fairly easily explained. During WYD, cardinals and popes were all the rage. More recently it's been Frank Furedi and Ayaan Hirsi Ali at the Big Ideas Forum talking about the enlightenment.

If there's a central problem with her thinking it's confusing conservatism with consumerism. Since the central idea of consumerism is a constant supply of new shiny things, she's consistent to the extent that she'll consume the latest new shiny talking point that can be used to bash lefties. That's about it.

Not Gary, it's not that Hamilton is a lefty people have a problem with. Hamilton is basically an idiot and deserves a great deal of disrespect.

And nice touch trying to hit Janet about the supposed conflict that her husband works for a bank.

Now that's what i can disrespectful to women in our time.

Lyn wrote the post not Gary. You claim that " Hamilton is basically an idiot and deserves a great deal of disrespect".
The argument for that claim is what?

Secondly, you fail to address the issues raised by Hamilton and myself in the first comment. You just abuse the person.

"Hamilton is basically an idiot and deserves a great deal of disrespect."
Go ra, you are one hell of a debating machine, get over to Bejing (??) an give that bloody Bogart (??) basketballer a kick up the ring as well. Devasting stuff ...

Which is how the "right" operate in the culture wars altogether.

We are "right" and any and every thing with even a tinge of being on the "left" is obviously garbage, and hiding a social engineering agenda.

The politics of binary exclusions.

Never mind too, that the entire world has been subjected to a vast social engineering experiment in the last 60 years or so. The main vector of that experiment has been TV ---the medium IS the message.

Did any body consciously consent to this situation?

TV is of course controlled by those on the "right". The "right" also complains about the bias of publicly funded media, and always seeks to shut such media down. Hence the campaign against the ABC here in Oz and the PBS in the USA.

When did you last see the commercial media invite its audience to exercise discriminative intelligence about anything?

"And nice touch trying to hit Janet about the supposed conflict that her husband works for a bank.

Now that's what i can disrespectful to women in our time."

Huh? I don't know what assumptions you're working with there, but I'm assuming that public figures should declare their personal interests when they're stating a position that relates to those interests. It makes no difference whether she's male, female, married, single or a cheese slice.

It's particularly relevant when you're a member of a group lobbying for freedom of information, the public's right to be informed, transparency and so on.

Clive Hamilton must be on to something really important because there is another item in the Weekend Oz attacking his book (and him)

The fourth altogether.

How many books written in Oz-land get four reviews in the one paper, and all within a week---eight days actually.

Well done Clive.