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

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September 2, 2013

I've returned from a month of being on the road to discover that we are in the last week of the election campaign and that Labor continues to fight to the end, to claw its way back into the campaign, and to minimize the damage. It's a question of the size of the loss.

RoweDlivedebate.jpg David Rowe

Barry Jones has highlighted how the quality of political debate appears to have become increasingly unsophisticated, appealing to the lowest common denominator of understanding and the role of the media:

The Murdoch papers are no longer reporting the news, but shaping it. They no longer claim objectivity but have become players, powerful advocates on policy issues: hostile to the science of climate change, harsh on refugees, indifferent to the environment, protective of the mining industry, trashing the record of the 43rd parliament, and promoting a dichotomy of uncritical praise and contemptuous loathing. Does it affect outcomes? I am sure that it does, and obviously advertisers think so.

The Coalition is still playing to fear and anxiety with its rhetoric about the Australian economy being a smoking ruin due to Labor’s “irresponsible” fiscal policies. So they will inherit the ruins?

It is clear that Labor’s crisis hasn’t gone away just because Rudd is travelling better than Gillard had in the polls. Will time in opposition force an unreformed ALP to address its antipathy to the Greens, or its underlying power structures that allow union leaders and factional bosses to wield power like feudal barons? Or address its abandonment of a moral critique of capitalism as well as any sense that it has a role in promoting social social or sustainability as distinct from its current neo-liberalism of helping individuals to do well out of the system.

Personally, I doubt that the ALP will address or debate the fundamental questions about the direction of Labor thinking towards a renewed social democratic appraisal of political economy as distinct from its politics of redistribution framed as assisting individuals on their way up “the ladder of opportunity.”

This rethinking is important because, as Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson point out in their Why Nations Fail:

The political institutions of a society are a key determinant of the outcome of this game. They are the rules that govern incentives in politics. They determine how the government is chosen and which part of the government has the right to do what. Political institutions determine who has power in society and to what ends that power will be used.

Nations fail when they have extractive economic institutions, supported by extractive political institutions that impede economic growth. This means that the choice of institutions – that is, the politics of institutions – is central to our quest for understanding the reasons for the success and failure of nations. Powerful groups often stand against economic progress and against the engines of prosperity and growth is thus sustained only if it is not blocked by the economic losers.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:25 AM | | Comments (9)


Neither major party has a vision of Australia in 10 years. All we get is debt is bad.

Assuming a healthy lower house majority for the Coalition is highly likely scenario, whilst the Rudd resurrection could well prevent a major rout in the Senate.

Has anyone started to spruik the line that Labor would have won if only they had stuck with Gillard? It's very hard to see where the ALP goes after this, given the shambolic state of the party in most states. And NSW is going to get worse before it gets better. Sadly, the Greens have not been able to capture the voters disaffected from Labor.

Sooner or later Abbott's mob will no doubt do something so unpopular they'll get voted out again, but the waiting time will be pretty grim.

The traditional Labor voter is a dying breed and I mean that literally. Labor must now justify its existence by showing a history of good government. It is failing in this at this time.
As Peter points out there are positives in the loss scenario.
Rudd has in his way tried to do his best but he isn't what the people want at this moment. He was in 07 but not now.
He will make a good UN something someday.

Day after day, policy is calmly jettisoned and then never spoken about again by the political parties. The political parties and the media are feeding us a diet of soap opera trash masquerading as serious politics.

"Neither major party has a vision of Australia in 10 years. "

Neither political party is willing and bold enough to articulate an optimistic and far-reaching vision for this country; or who can tell us a convincing story about ourselves and our place in the world.

The major political parties, as important institutions have changed their character from mass-based parties to parties funded and representing amalgams of often the same corporate interest groups.

This is particularly true of the ALP, which includes the top-down unions, which members are clients, not active participants. The paradox is that there are a multitude of parties, mostly co-opted in the Senate preference deal making.

The Murdoch media outlets and their advertisers in the background have provided a case study in this election of purposeful and very successful strategy to determine and influence the outcome.

Labor has become a sheltered workshop for professional apparatchiks.

What I have found depressing about this election campaign is how so many Labor people see Greens and their supporters as ratbags and traitors; even though without the 9 to 10 per cent of progressive voters whom the Greens will probably attract, no Labor government is possible because its traditional base is being eroded by rapid social and economic change.