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

Wayne Swan's John Button lecture « Previous | |Next »
August 1, 2012

In his 2012 John Button lecture entitled entitled Land of Hope and Dreams Wayne Swan talked about the ends of economic policy, by which he means what sort of society we want, and the sorts of lives we each aspire to lead. In this he follows John Button who, Swan says, put economics to work for the betterment of the country.

RoweDALPraft.jpg Swan refers back to, and comments upon, his essay in the March issue of The Monthly. He says his claim then was that:
the rising influence of vested interests is threatening Australia's egalitarian social contract. I argued that a handful of powerful people not only think they have the right to a disproportionate share of the nation's economic success, they think they have the right to manipulate our democracy and our national conversation to gain an even bigger slice of the pie.In the wake of the debate my essay unleashed, let me make one further charge: there is an equally concerning view emerging that such vested interests should somehow be immune from criticism. They should not. They think the rest of us should fear them. We do not. I certainly do not.
He adds that he was accused of preaching class warfare, and called unfit to be Treasurer of Australia.

I was told that I was siding with the wealth consumers not the wealth creators; that I wanted to slice the pie not grow it; and that my day job was simply to shut up and to make the wealthiest Australians wealthier still. In short, the idea was promulgated that I had transgressed some new, unwritten Australian law that limits the scope of our democratic debates in this country with this command: don't criticise the powerful, don't argue for equality.

He adds that rather than risking a stagnant and widely divided society, we should be – and are – building a society with a vast middle class and a high degree of social mobility. That's the meaning of economic equality in the 21st Century and it's the central and abiding purpose of the Labor cause today.

Swan is right to say that inequality in Australia is increasing --it has been since the 1980s. Sadly though, Swan doesn't go on to say that the ends of economic policy are happiness, the well-being of the population, or the good life. Equality is a good because it is a necessary pre-condition for the well being of the population.

That point needs to be made because those on the Right are opposed to equality and favour inequality - because it produces wealth creation---so you need an argument to show why equality is better than inequality. Swan doesn't provide that, other than appealling to the fair go.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:08 PM | | Comments (9)
Comments

Comments

Well, how are we going to have a healthy, creative "ideas" society when the very same government is cooking up a new set of censorship rules for the internet?
All I can see is a future dystopia.

“There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

~Warren Buffett (2011)

The Right's attack on equality is done in terms of class warfare and the politics of envy.

Right on cue comes an editorial in The Australian:

This newspaper drew some criticism when it depicted the Treasurer as an Occupy Wall Street protester in a post-budget cartoon. Again last night, Mr Swan resorted to the rhetoric of class struggle.By highlighting musician Bruce Springsteen as his inspiration -- while noting other Labor luminaries were inspired by John Maynard Keynes and George Orwell -- Mr Swan showed a wafer-thin political philosophy, reflected in a penchant for wealth redistribution rather than creation.

Swan, it adds, reflects the jejune envy of the Occupy movement as he focuses on taxing and silencing billionaires. Swan seems to prefer pop culture resentment to the task of economic reform.

"...I can say with confidence that rich people don't create jobs, nor do businesses, large or small. Jobs are a consequence of a circle of life-like feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers can set in motion this virtuous cycle of increasing demand and hiring. In this sense, an ordinary consumer is more of a job creator than a capitalist like me.

That's why when business people take credit for creating jobs, it's a little bit like squirrels taking credit for creating evolution. It's actually the other way around.

Anyone who's ever run a business knows that hiring more people is a course of last resort for capitalists. It's what we do if, and only if, rising customer demand requires it. And in this sense, calling yourselves job creators isn't just inaccurate, it's disingenuous.

That's why our existing policies are so upside down. When the biggest tax exemptions and the lowest rates benefit the richest, all in the name of job creation, all that happens is that the rich get richer...."

\\\

"We've had it backward for the last 30 years. Rich businesspeople like me don't create jobs. Rather they are a consequence of an eco-systemic feedback loop animated by middle-class consumers, and when they thrive, businesses grow and hire, and owners profit. That's why taxing the rich to pay for investments that benefit all is a great deal for both the middle class and the rich...."

~Nick Hanauer -American entrepreneur and venture capitalist

Marvin, the term "reform is open ended.
One person's "reform" is the other ninety nine percent's regress.

In Australia, as in the US, we have zero sum politics, a politics of enemies. No longer is it a politics of opposition. Michael Ignatieff says that a politics of opposition is one in which:

There are people you defeat in an election and they are out and you are in but they are not enemies to be driven out, they are just opponents. An opponent understands that I'm out today but I could be in tomorrow, they are out today but they could be in tomorrow

The opposition is part of the political system. A politics of enemies leads to gridlock in a representative democracy.

The Australian newspaper aligns itself with Herbert Spencer and Ayn Rand, both of whom argue that unimpeded capitalism will benefit the worst off members of society. These kind of libertarians think that market distributions are just and ought not to be interfered with.

By all means Annon...

We can start by making Clive, Gina, Twiggy and friends pay the same for diesel and water as the rest of us...