Day 348 – Economic Reflections

18 – 100 top tips for tough times

As I am writing this post I’m watching House of Cards; I don’t know if this is going to improve or devolve the tone of my post. Let’s find out together, shall we?

There seems a certain inevitability to the unfolding of the Abbott Government. I wish there weren’t. I wish I would have been proven wrong.

Sadly, rhetoric wins over substance and vision.

And Abbott has proven his steady hand on the tiller once the earplugs are in, with the Northern Star of an imagined budgetary crisis spotted on the horizon. Steady as she goes.

It is just the latest example of an ever devolving series of governments though. And it doesn’t seem like Australian politics has ever had a vision for Australia other than as an exporter of raw resources. Which is a pity. Especially when Australian research has been punching well above its weight-class (the black box fight recorder, the cochlear implant, Wi-Fi, … even the paper notepad, to name but a very few).

I believe the NBN as originally conceived is the right direction for Australia’s high-tech future. But even then, I had to agree with the Liberals at the time that a solid foundation based on a quantifiable analysis of costs and benefits would have been the best way to benchmark its success.

Sadly, it isn’t surprising that hard evidence is relegated to an unnecessary inconvenience now that they are on the other side of the fence themselves.
Modelling is for suckers with slide-rules.
We’re cooler than that… right?

And that is what most annoys me about modern politics. Respectful disagreement between rivals funnelled through facts and compromise is how good legislation is forged. But we’ve turned politics into a sports game where the only way to win is for the other side to lose.

And that is just the biggest of my annoyances…

A much more practical hands-on annoyance is how they exploit numerical illiteracy and big numbers to scare voters. A Billion Dollars. It sounds like a lot of money. But there are also 10-odd-million taxpayers in Australia.

Anything that costs a billion dollars adds up to less than $100 per taxpayer. The taxable taxpayers earn a collective 650 Billion Dollars each year. They pay 125 Billion Dollars in taxes overall.

Once you deal with numbers at the national level, they all are large.
But it’s much more expedient to let that big B hang scarily in the air.

We’re pretty well off here in Australia. Our debt level sounds scary in absolute numbers, but compared to our economic output it looks spectacularly healthy. And the fact politicians do not do enough to point that out cheapens the debates we have.

We’re not sitting on the precipice of imminent doom unless we act right now… at least not financially, and not as a nation. We can afford to teach our children, and we can afford to have good health care. And yes, we can also afford to house some ballerinas if we must. Let’s not be hypocritical about the even smaller numbers others might want to spend as well.

It is just annoying…

And the words make even less sense than the numbers.

I loathe the word “mandate”; as if any party ever had a sufficiently singular platform or message that merely winning could be interpreted as an indication that any particular part(s) of the party platform were specifically endorsed by the population. The protest votes alone that have been swinging elections lately are enough to dispel that myth all by itself.

Besides which… mandates are only ever acknowledged in ones’ own platform. Mouth-frothing over mandates turns into denying the existence of any such thing existing once power flips.

And don’t even start talking to me about “election promises”; if ever there were a red flag to signal caution in the listener. I don’t know that there is anything in modern-day politics that can be interpreted as anything more than a serving suggestion. The only things we can be sure of in life is that Labor want to strengthen the unions and that Liberals want to cut spending. Everything else is pretty much up for grabs to expediency of one form or another.

And this is the point in the story where I’m supposed to propose a solution… but I won’t. I don’t really have one ready-made and good-to-go.

I think there is more we could do with electronic platforms. I think there are ways in the 21st century that we could exercise our democratic power more directly without politicians as intermediaries at every step. But I don’t believe we can do without politicians altogether.

Just like large media organisations have found that modern networking has eaten their free-ride, I think the days of politics as the only means to large-scale decision-making are numbered.

The broader the base we can involve in decisions, the more diffuse lobbying influence over those decisions will be. It is much harder to sway a million people than a few dozen. Which is why lobbying works, and elections are hard.

I wish we could fire our sitting politicians.

I still wouldn’t have a say in it myself, but I think there are enough people with buyers remorse.

If only politicians were more like those in The West Wing.
House Of Cards makes for enjoyable viewing, not for enjoyable living.