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Latham's long lunch with Robert Manne « Previous | |Next »
August 27, 2012

Mark Latham is doing a series on interviews or conversations over a long lunch for the Australian Financial Review. The latest conversation is with Robert Manne, who says that on a range of issues, the left is in retreat. So where did it all go wrong?, Latham asks. Manne's response is:

Many of the problems of the left come from the 70 years it lost in supporting the failed totalitarian ideals of communism. You need to go back to the Russian Revolution to understand this failure. In practice, the left has only had 20 years to think clearly about the important issues of our time. Intellectually, neo-liberalism has filled the gap, with no alternative way of thinking about economic and social policy positions. In dealing with global warming, this has been devastating.

Manne sees climate change in terms of market failure, the inability of advanced capitalism to address the environmental consequences of carbon-based production. He says that there:
are two worlds in this debate. One concerns the findings of the scientific community, which are difficult to dispute. The other world is in public opinion. I think people were supportive of addressing climate change until they saw how it involved a strong element of personal sacrifice. Then they backed away. Realistically, there is no sign of the gap between climate science and community willpower closing. I’m very pessimistic....This is where the lost decades under state socialism have been so debilitating. The left hasn’t developed an alternative economic model and narrative to counter climate change denialism.

This is pretty bleak, since what has been developed is the idea of sustainability through a shift to a low carbon economy through an extensive use of renewable energy to replace fossil fuels.

The mechanism is putting a price on carbon to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and then shifting to an emissions trading scheme--the market is the servant not the master. People are putting solar PV on their rooftops and in some states, such as South Australia, wind power is a significant producer of energy.

So it is not black and white as Manne maintains, with his duality of scientific community versus public opinion. The current situation is much more nuanced in that the shift to clean energy has begun in spite of the hostility of the conservative/right wing commentators who dominate the popular mainstream media.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:30 PM |