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

yet another fear campaign « Previous | |Next »
September 3, 2010

The Australian's attacks on the Labor-Green alliance continues to gather pace. Mostly it's a fear campaign whose narrative is that the Labor-Greens coalition could be the most left-wing government since the days of Gough Whitlam. The political reality being constructed by News Ltd is that such a government would destroy Australia in the name of the gospel of sustainability.

The latest bullet comes from Robert Carling, a senior fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies in his Tax policy devised by party that is green with envy. Behind the material on tax lies an economics.

Carling says that the Greens would back-pedal on the economic reforms that have helped deliver 18 years' uninterrupted economic growth and greatly enhanced living standards. He adds:

The Greens' tax policy, if taken literally, paints them as a party of "tax and spend" and as a party that is more interested in redistributing wealth than encouraging its creation. Their tax policy is green from envy. The main parties should be very cautious in courting Green support to form a government. Those 1.25 million voters may or may not have voted for less economic growth and lower living standards, but we can be confident the others did not.

So the Greens are part of the social democratic tradition that has been traditionally premised on equality and the welfare state. Carling stands for personal income tax be cut to with a top rate of 35% that is indexed. This would reduce government revenue. But that can be offset by gains to revenue from cutting back on selective tax breaks and by imposing a tight rein on government spending. So Carling is low tax and small government man.

It's a fear campaign based around the talking point of anyone who earns a reasonable quid in Australia would be made to pay big time so the Greens could introduce more energy-efficient industries and turn their backs on the conventional mining sector. These are dangerous hands to be holding holding the balance of power. Carling's assumption of less economic growth and lower living standards is not plausible because he ignores the possibility of wealth creation from the emergence of green industries as Australia makes the shift to a low carbon economy.

How then is infrastructure investment in renewable energy going to take place with small government? The invisible hand of the free market (meaning spontaneous order) of course with the standard appeal to Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations, even though Adam Smith did not credit the invisible hand metaphor with the importance that authors, from the mid-20th century onwards, give to it.

Gavin Kennedy in his Adam Smith and the Invisible Hand: From Metaphor to Myth at Econ Journal Watch says:

Significantly, and contrary to the assertions of the modern consensus, he [Smith] gave the invisible hand no role in his theory of competitive markets in books i and ii of Wealth of Nations. such roles given to it since the 1950s rely solely on assertions and interpolations by modern economists...modern benign invisible hand explanations from the second half of the 20th century elevated the metaphor into ‘principles’, ‘theories’ and ‘paradigms’ of markets, which do not correspond to anything written by smith and neither do they explain anything.

Could we not, in the context of climate change, imagine a spontaneous order in which people were led as if by an invisible hand to promote a perverse and unpleasant end--eg., the tragedy of the commons? Self-interested actions are not necessarily always socially benign.

Surely, ‘the desirability of the market order that emerges as the unintended consequences of human action depends ultimately on the kind of rules and institutions within which human beings act, and the real alternatives they face’ ? It is the rules and institutions that are crucial for understanding how markets function, not metaphors like "the invisible hand."

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 1:17 PM | | Comments (7)


Hockey and Robb are asserting that the ALP alliance with the Greens makes them the most left-wing government Australia has had. Forget about Chifley's attempt to nationalise the banks or Whitlam's free higher education, we are faced with something so sinisterly left-wing that . . . the mind boggles.

The Australian reckons that the idea of human-caused “harm to undo” is baloney. There is nothing wrong with the exploitation of nature through science and technology.

Hence the the catch-all notion of sustainability has to be attacked. It is people first not the environment.

re your comment " something so sinisterly left-wing that . . . the mind boggles."

the something that is so sinisterly left-wing for the conservatives is the gospel of sustainability in which words like development and growth have negative connotations.

There's talk down here in Tassie that Grrens leader Nick McKim is on board to get the Nothern suburbs of Hobart train line up and running again as a passenger line. Contrary to Austin Williams, it sounds like the Greens are pro-development and pro-cities.

I though Austin Williams in the Oz article contradicted his libertarianism when he stated that first we have to decide what cities are for then get out of the way. Who's this 'we'? It sounds like he's engaging in the sort of smug elitism he accuses others of. And if you believe in spontaneous orders and invisible hand, then why the need for a decision of purpose in the first place?

Austin Williams also ignores all the green manufacturing in renewable energy that is emerging.

I had a brief look at his Future Cities project---Williams is the director--- but failed to get much sense what was going on re the future of cities in an era of climate change. Williams says the project is Ia return to first principles (of what? architecture?, urban design?) and a critique of the rise of the malign influence of sustainability.

Why is sustainability malign? In Sustainability is Killing Creativity Williams says:

Transforming nature – and social barriers - as opposed to accepting so-called environmental parameters, is what meaningful architectural creativity should be about.... The motto for today, proudly rammed down our throats by the sustainability industry, is that ‘less is good for you’.This contemporary framework of restraint places restrictions on ambitions, not just on the palette of materials that architects are expected to use to realise those ambitions.

I cannot see how a green energy efficient building with a five star rating constrains the imagination or the freedom of the architect who works to the brief of a client.

I suspect that we have the bog standard free market hostility to environmentalism based on a return to a more human-centred politics coupled to rants about Malthus. His thesis in Eating the greens appears to be that:

(1) environmentalism is based on inherent misanthropy and self-loathing--(a reference to Nietzsche's slave morality), and:

(2) environmentalism demands social restraint (self-imposed or centrally-imposed ) which will continue to undermine the ambition of even the most pragmatic free-marketeers.

There is extraordinary prejudice against the "left" in Western culture altogether.

The Latin word for left is sinister. Left handers were (and perhaps still are) treated with suspicion and derision and were often subject to various "cures" for their condition.

Plus on "judgment day" the "righteous" will sit on the right hand side of "God". Why not the left? Of course God does not have or take sides.

Meanwhile the green fuse (Dylan Thomas) enlivens all biological life, and rules to here.

Austin Williams book The Enemies of Progress argues that the concept of sustainability:

is a malign philosophy of misanthropy, low aspirations and restraint. This book argues for a destruction of the mantra of sustainability, removing its unthinking status as orthodoxy, and for the reinstatement of the notions of development, progress, experimentation and ambition in its place.

It's a polemic that waswelcomed by the IPA. The core thesis is that the environmentalists claim that human activity causes harm and should be reined in to suit whatever nature’s limits allow is bad. It is restraint on both the human freedom to transforming nature and social barriers and architectural creativity and imagination.