A nostalgia for an Australia lost

If you’ve followed politics throughout your life, as I have, then you will know about how things have ‘developed’.

I became interested in politics as a young Adelaidean during the 1972 ‘It’s Time’ campaign. I hadn’t realised that my parents were Liberal Party voters until they cheered on Fraser’s crimes against democracy in 1975. This made me start to realise my sense of "right and wrong" was separate to theirs. Each of us 'individuates' like this or, at least, we damned-well should.


The impact of neoliberalism

Australia has changed a lot since then. The easy-going nation I grew to love, was driven underground, by a brutal modern phenomena called 'Neoliberalism'.

I don’t really need to describe what sort of character Tony Abbott is, it's self-evident, but he is the latest weapon this failed doctrine has inspired.  Australia has suffered a devastating conservative/neoliberal assault on its once healthy social democracy and we need to move on.

We need to remember that:

  • most of the things we once liked about Australia were cultivated through the 'positive flow-on effects' of 'socially democratic' government policies:-
    • a country run 'for the benefit of its people'.
    • a country which also welcomes free enterprise as an integral part.

Neoliberalism, in contrast, is when these business people think the country is run 'to benefit them alone' and nothing has done more harm to our good-natured calm than this heartless monomania of neoliberalists.

(People don’t describe themselves as ‘neoliberalists’ by the way, yet it’s more a descriptor than a pejorative.)

Neoliberalism can be adequately understood as the economic edicts of Margaret Thatcher's and Ronald Reagan’s ‘trickle-down economics’, which has been shown to result in a ‘flow-up’ outcome, which has destroyed the well-being and the middle-classes of the western world.

Modern Australia is now run by MBA (Master of Business Administration) types who kiss-up and kick-down, to a damaging degree, in every workplace.  

Cant and repetitive jargon replaces meaningful human interaction, dollars matter more than meaning, and each of us is demeaned by careerists, paid to eliminate humanity in the workplace. We are also lied to by banks, big business, newspapers, television & business-‘sponsored’ politicians. In fact, we live lives at the butt-end of a great big lie.

As a consequence we are now a smaller country, made up of people made fearful, each less secure, less respected and less hopeful than they would have been just decades earlier.

Each of us survives this disease that is neoliberalism as best we can.

So what’s to be done?

Few dare to speak hopefully about the future. One doesn’t hear it. The fog we’re in prevents us from knowing how to improve our lives or even knowing how to ask the question. Each of us feels outnumbered. We understand the problems well enough but that knowledge hasn’t given us insights into how to create a future we’d be happy to live in.

Three simple, but often unstated, facts

1 - We are citizens, a part of a society which calls itself a nation. I elect people to form the government, to run the nation, so that my society is a good place for me and for those who share my 'homeland'.

2 - The people we elect should encourage our nation’s economy to be fluid & vibrant so that each of my fellow citizens can lead safe, rich, enjoyable lives and treat us all with the respect we deserve.

3 - We allow government to 'create money out of thin air', to pay for the things that we need.  They do so, and then tax me to remove that money from the system. They do not put my taxes into a bank account, by the way. They just say this money exists, and then they say this money doesn’t exist. True story.

Deficit dogma & deficit myth

Dogma about deficits is a popular nonsense which even the most educated of economists perpetuate.

They talk about "balancing the federal budget" as if it was just a household. It’s not. 

We are a sovereign nation with a ‘fiat’ economy, which ‘fabricates’ its own currency. The only constraint on the amount of money ‘made’ by government is inflation and this is constrained by knowing the productive capacity of the economy. We can spend as we see fit, to build our nation, by offering a job-guarantee to all those who want to work. This job creation operates counter-cyclically to private sector booms and busts. The government can do this, but they currently don't, because everybody goes on and on about requiring useless 'surpluses'. A surplus, by the way, is just an admission by government that they are not contributing enough to the economy.

The deficit-myth has stymied nation-building here, and around the world, and every two-bit journo harangues their every interviewee with this sad nonsense.

We need to stop believing this neoliberal dogma. We have to label each neoliberalism-driven decision/act as a retrograde step, based on a dogma, built on the most base of human instincts. Business is only one part of a society, and we need to put it in its place.

Citizenship & civilisation

Society is nurtured by its government. All of the government’s actions are about the well-being of its citizens and denizens. We can only be hopeful about the future if we each feel confident that ‘someone has our back’, that our elected government has a real concern about our well-being and we need to be sure that our position as a citizen gives us the right to feel respected & cared for.

It’s called civilisation and I want it back.

Personal security, health, a living wage, education, modern infrastructure, an independent broadcaster, long-term environmental policies, a creative art-world & perhaps a rediscovered pride in our country. Life is simpler without wrong-headed ideas, and our children deserve to live in a world which makes more sense than the one they were born into.

Business isn’t government; it’s just business. Deficits aren’t bad, because they’re often useful. Fearmongering isn’t leadership, because a government isn’t 'properly governing' unless it is caring for each individual of the society it has promised to serve. (This means every person, of course. Not just "hetero white males of means and influence".)

We need to see that we are stuck in a rut and only better ideas will get us out, Our government should not be made up of spivs and careerists. It should be populated by people who have the people of this country at heart.

Tim Jones

I am currently helping Iain Dooley get Professor Bill Mitchell’s MMT ideas into the community through the Australian Employment Party
(not yet registered).

This is 1st in the BloggerMe Series "who2vote4 & Y?"
A series of blogs by independent thinkers
on the coming Australian federal election 2016


The whole trainwreck that is Australian politics, and a better vision summarised in this blog. Well written, and I'm especially pleased you used much more accessible language, inclusive of all the citizens and denizens you are addressing, Tim.

Is in this piece and we all need the truth. Thank you Tim for saying what we all know and so many won't give voice to-that we live in a world which values power and wealth over decency and social good. And this will end badly for everyone, even the powerful and wealthy.

Thank you Kate, and congratulations on your own piece. We Australians just need the uncomplicated truth of what's happening to us. No on person can provide that but our networks will help us glean what is and what is not.
It's important that we are domesticated like animals. The powers-that-be need to be wary of underestimating our ability to circumvent their manipulations.

An excellent piece. With the rein of neoliberal thinking we have lost so much of our sense of community - which according to Thatcherites did not exist anyway. We've ended up living in an economy; a truly sterile place to live.

Tim sums up the problem nicely. It is effectively a 'psychological' condition. We are convinced that simplistic corner-shop economics are the answer to far more complex issues of the human condition. For instance, we've confused capital investment in communities and innovation with that born of debt fuelled speculation which has become a cancer. But we call for more cancer, rather than a cure. Only a few years out from the GFC, a banker like Malcolm T can tell us that more of the same illness administered by the same professionals is the solution.

The MBA types are the machine men and women of a neoliberal ideology - the level pullers. It is highly significant that universities, that were once institutions where dissent was nurtured, have rolled over and adopted the neoliberal chants. Places of dissent are now held captive by funding and the will of the board. It did not take much to make this happen either.

Universities became places that turned out 'economists', 'business graduates', 'marketers', 'advertising agents', 'bankers', and other "disciplines" with no true academic tradition or theory. Hence, universities became at one with the low and level landscape that gave shonks, carpetbaggers and con artists a respectability that they had never enjoyed previously. People who once needed a soapbox and a sign to be heard got degrees in their social vandalism from public institutions.

Banishing business schools from universities to vocational training institutes must happen. While money grabbing remains a profession that a university provides respectability for as an academic discipline, universities are further devalued.

Thank you for a great big vista I can work with. The thought of banishing economic to TAFE fills me with glee. My new understanding of the truths unveiled by Modern Monetary Theory show how the whole shell-game is played and how we are played as a consequence.
People can hardly conceive of what's happening to their world. The world doesn't care about them but it expects them to support the planet being destroyed and people being demeaned as a worthy goal.
It's an exciting topic and I hope we see the first light of a new dawn before the darkness takes us back

Since the coming of Abbott I decided I needed to be more educated about the economy and economics. The four years of Commerce in high school just didn't cut it any more. The sloganeering and comparisons with "household budgets" rankled deep inside this old girl.
Having watched a few lectures on YouTube and starting to research more and more about neoliberalism (prompted by the awareness of the IPA), I am gradually finding my queries and confusions being put out of the "too hard" basket and now into a relief sack of verified hunches.
Thank you always Tim for your comments on facebook and Twitter and now this blog!
People like you are such a relief to find for we in regional Australia feeling politically isolated in Conservative heartlands!
I am so grateful for this piece right now as it draws together the lies of neoliberalusm and the frustratingly persistent mantras of journalists repeating the ignorant jargon of 'debt and deficit disaster'.
You have clearly put it all into its correct place and now we need to disseminate the important fact that all sovereign Nations with sovereign currency run deficits to build their country's infrastructure, employ people to produce goods and deliver services so that money is moved around freely.
Now how to get the information out there that tax is not gathered to be squirrelled away but to control inflation.
Thank you thank you.

It's been very frustrating. I'm sure that people are keen to know the root causes of their confusion & the way their lives seem not to be respected by those who should know better.
I am slowly learning enough to be able to comment but it's a slow process.
I appreciate your thoughtful reply and am heartened to know that I'm making a few ripples.

An excellent article Tim. It's interesting to note what could be the 'beginning of the end' for neoliberal thought following comments from some influential people in the IMF. Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk among Us (John Quiggin)is another excellent source.

Thanks Trevor
It's strange that we suffer such a ubiquitous monstrosity yet so few can name it.
Will have a look at your suggestions. Thank uou.

Clever. And a good read. Thanks.

Thanks Tim for a well written blog on a very important subject. Yours is the second article via Facebook that I have read today dealing with neoliberalism. As you say it has destroyed the Australia that I grew up in during the 50's and 60's. And unfortunately it has its very dedicated disciples that are perpetuating the aims of this ideology; more wealth for the wealthy, destruction of trade unions, privatisation of public assets and utilities, deregulation to allow business to run rampant etc etc. The current government's budgets and plans for our nation are just a continuation of this cancerous ideology. Look forward to more from you.

The insidious nature of neoliberalism is such that its aficionados don't even name it. The sly nature of these people is deeply disturbing and people need to understand what's going on. I'm hoping to do more on this shady subject.
And thank you Bob.

Was thinking whilst in the dentists chair a few hours ago,I find the further my thoughts are from that particular circumstance the more comfortable I am,but any way I digress. I have lived here in Australia since 1972 after arriving as a backpacker/hippy,the logical endpoint to an overland odyssey from the UK.I detested the class system of UK the metaphorical and sometimes actual tugging of the forelock to ones betters was not for me so the excitement of young Australians for the great man and his 'Its Time' campaign was infectious and the healthy irreverent attitude of the working class for puffed up authority was wonderful, the resultant happy occurrence of a Labour Government was just euphoric.
Fast forward to the 70 year old crock,no longer working and grateful that every few years an ALP government is elected to provide the vehicle and the narrative for the benevolent socialist capitalist model of politics that I really thought most main stream people wanted and only differed in their ideas of how best to achieve that.
Now as I watch the steady goose-step from Neoliberalism into Fascism with something akin to a puzzled horror I hope that Corbyn and Clinton/Sanders and Shorten will from positions of strength lead us away from this current extreme right wing thought and back to safer ground.
Truly I feel we are at the crossroads another 3 years of the unbridled greed and relentless selfishness of the wealthy few will surely take us into the unchartered territory that was until recently the fiction of Orwell and Huxley.
So thanks Tim for the blog the content and the hope that my fears are groundless.

Much appreciated. The best thing we can do to dark forces is to throw light onto them. I refuse to allow these people to taint my life and no-one else should either.
We, at least, can remember a different reality John.
Thank you for your thoughtful response.

Would love to see this Australia resurrected. Would also like to see more emphasis given to the 'Commonwealth of Australia'. The country should be run in the interests of 'all it's citizens', not just foreign corporations. Australian law should be protected and implemented: not be subject to staffing cuts until it no longer can operate efficiently. Government departments should be allowed to function 100% of capacity, not starved into submission of the will of the government of the day.

Several years ago, Tim, you told me how bad Tony Abbott was. Being out of the country for over a decade at the time, I had no idea. But you, and several like you, were right. Back in 1967, the DLP was formed to "keep the bastards honest". They failed. Everyone has failed. None of them are honest. None of them have self-respect, let alone respect for the electorate. They only look after numero uno. Regardless of political affiliation, the country needs statesmen. Good luck in your search for them. I think you'd be a good statesman. Your mission, should you choose to accept it ...

Always happy to see my friends doing well after all these years.

Thanks Bruce,
it's interesting to finally 'go large' but it's even more interesting to see that all the mistakes coming together into something positive

Great work. Well written and from the heart. I hope there are many more blogs Tim.

Thank you.
I've been waiting for the right moment and perhaps this is it.

I started my career in the engineering work force in the mid 60s at a time when engineering excellence was paramount. We had budgets to work to but they were realistic and allowed for the inevitable re-work that occurred through the inevitable "massaging" process that occurs when working in with others in an engineering environment. The "blame game" was not so evident, as now.
The change came about in the late 70s when suddenly engineering excellence was no longer appreciated ... the budget became the focus. I am now, thankfully, retired but the "dog eat dog" and "the cheapest option is always best", including the employment of incompetent overseas "expertise", pretty much ended my career.

I understand what you are saying,I am a fitter/machinist who started in 1982. My assumptions about the respect that might be mine to earn were misbegotten. It's been decades of soul-destroying labour but would have been worse if I hadn't had that trade. Professionals suffer these MBA types in every part of their careers. Their micromanaging horrors are destroying lives.

Bloggermedead. That is a great post.

I'm glad you liked it.

Thank you. I've tidied it up a little bit today but it's great to finally break the ice with this one