Leave to the market what belongs in the market

I am not an economics expert by any definition but I do know that economies cannot be run like household budgets. Spending is a matter of priorities (including long term benefits) not necessarily cutting social services that cannot fund themselves.  money

It is very clear that some social responsibilities like education and health, if run for everybody in society do not make money. Consequently, when these services (that are basic universal human rights) are expected to pay for themselves, they will fail and poorer outcomes for society as a whole are the inevitable outcome. Instead of achieving what these services are intended to do, the goals become financial and ‘staying within budget” rather than say optimising health or providing the best possible education. If you don’t spend money on programs designed to help people with complex issues, find work or provide income support for people to survive, it is not just those people who will suffer. Social problems of all kinds will get worse. Increases in crime rates are inevitable not to mention poorer health outcomes and a less educated society. On one hand politicians blame and punish people who cannot find work, while on the other industries are closing down, robot technology is reducing the numbers of jobs, jobs are sent offshore, services for getting people into work are cut, and older people are forced to work longer. The health and well-being of society is closely linked to social inclusion, access to education, health and work, and feelings of security (and I don’t mean boarder security!) not to where the free-market is left to determine all things in society.

The federal treasurer, Jo Hockey, now pushing for privatisation and fee increases in higher education once protested for free education. How easily the worm turns.

Nor is everything black and white. It is not tax payers vs users of health services – they are not mutually exclusive. Nor are all the other dichotomies constructed by politicians. The reality is most social welfare spending benefits the highest income users in Australian society including our politicians. The ‘welfare’ demonised by some politicians is a very small proportion of social spending. In my view, access to education and health helps everyone in society. For these reasons, I think these services (and they are services not an optional extra) should be the same and free for all (yes I know a Utopian fantasy – but we did have it once). In my opinion, no public funding should go into any private health or education system (yes I can hear those screams). Society does need to pay for those things that make all of society better via a truly fair tax system. There some basics we should just expect. The rest of world is heading towards developing education and health for all while Australia, the UK and the US are going in the opposite direction increasingly limiting them to people who can pay. Who will be better off in the long run? Maybe none of us because the ideology-driven individuals who blindly believe the free market is the answer to absolutely everything, also don’t believe in climate change or science and probably support the teaching of creationism in schools too.

So in my view, it comes down to what we value in society and what sort of society we want to live in. An equal society has an unavoidable cost that can only be shared fairly in society. Leave to the market what belongs in the market – people deserve better.


10 tips for politicians – things that will never work no matter how hard you try

When the Twin Towers went down some people just couldn’t keeping watching – it was too distressing. The media reports went on for days even months. Others like me couldn’t stop watching. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s a way of dealing with the trauma and disbelief. Watching Australian television in the last few months has had the same effect – like watching a train wreck in slow motion. I really don’t want to watch but just can’t help it.  So out of all this, a few observations for all the politicians out there – the 10 things that will never work no matter how hard you try.

  1. Insist black is white no matter what
  2. Use simple mantras and keep repeating them – that way you at least will eventually believe them even if no one else does
  3. Ignore research – it might tell you something you don’t agree with
  4. Always blame someone else
  5. Surround yourself with people who agree with you – label the others as ‘angry’, ‘envious’ or similar – insult and denigrate rather than talking about issues
  6. Never think about people – it’s all about money
  7. Make sure your public words and actions reflect all your private judgmental beliefs and biases
  8. Believe everyone thinks as highly of you as your mother
  9. Never ever consider you might actually be wrong
  10. Oh yes talk about personal responsibility then get your stomach banded and puff on cigars, dance in your office to “The best day of my life” (but it is a great song)

before delivering blow after blow to the poor and disenfranchised in the budget, label students as ‘socialists’ because you’ve never left your own days of uni politics – and don’t forget to wink – after all it’s just a big fat game – isn’t it?

The way Australians approach politics needs to change – it’s time

Over the decades every time there is an election I hear “it’s time for a change” from many Australians – perhaps a leftover from the very successful Whitlam “It’s time” campaign in the 1970s.

“It’s time for a change” can no longer be an excuse for complacency towards voting. Many of us need to vote in a more informed way. We are a pretty easy going lot and it takes a lot to stir up the population. Today Australia is faced with extreme changes (that we do not like) to democracy and who actually benefits in society. We are becoming a tea party nation (you know Sarah Palin) – small government, neglect of those who are not rich, particularly those people already disadvantaged, and a preference for Think Tanks driven by ideology and, I hate to say it, Australians voted for it. Our government surrounds themselves by those who agree with them and think that if they repeat something often enough we will believe it – a gross insult to Australian voters.

I was never interested in politics when I was young and I think many young people feel the same today. Some people spend a lifetime aligned to a particular party so forget to think critically about politics and its consequences. No matter who it is you usually vote for (or donkey-vote) it is time to move beyond complacency and simply thinking that change is as good as a holiday. As a nation we can no longer afford to be complacent about who is in power. When we change governments it should be because we really know who and what we are voting for not simply about complacency. Look where we have ended up. So between now and the next election it is time to be critical and question beyond the surface. Here are the 10  things I  will be thinking about before the next election.

  1. The ideologies (the beliefs – not facts – about how things should be) of particular parties
  2. Who benefits from these ideologies if they are put into action?
  3. Who is not important or forgotten in these ideologies?
  4. What are the short and long term consequences for society?
  5. The value placed by politicians on independent knowledge and research  (learn how to identify a think tank and their ideologies)
  6. Find out what independent research actually says on all the issues
  7. Identify spin
  8. Be critical about the media you are watching or reading (some media are driven by the ideologies of their owners)
  9. Ask yourself, is it really about healthy budgets or paying attention to society. It is not an either/or proposition. The reality is budgets go up and down. There are examples in the world of societies that have healthy economies and value everyone in that society.
  10. Do politicians pay attention to human rights and international obligations?

So my vote for change will not be based on complacency but how society will be or has been shaped by the parties I vote in and out.