Coal mine amidst farmland
[Published on Independent Australia 14 May]
I spend a lot of my days trawling the follies of our time. To avoid sinking into the mire of despair I need to keep a firm hold of love and hope and grandchildren. But every now and then something lands too heavily in my heart, and I can only grieve.
Tarwyn Park is the Hunter Valley property where Peter Andrews worked out how to get the water back into the ground, by reconstructing a degraded creek so it flows slowly and the water can soak across the valley. His work is revolutionising the way we live in the Australian landscape, restoring its original productivity and resilience in the face of our challenging climate. We learnt last Monday, May 4th, in the ABC’s Australian Story that Tarwyn Park has been, very reluctantly, sold so it can be dug up for the coal that underlies the valley. It would be hard to find a more apt metaphor for the blind stupidity of Australia’s ruling class.
[The recent TV series by George Megalogenis on how neoliberal market reforms allegedly saved Australia from the Global Financial Crisis caused me to read his 2012 book on the same theme, wondering if any evidence at all might be found for such an unlikely (but widely believed) claim. I have written my response into the book I’m working on, as follows.]
[A version published on Independent Australia 1 May.]
Despite their mediocrity and failure, and their lack of basis in human nature or defensible theory, the rightness of free competitive markets is taken almost completely for granted in mainstream discussion. That was true when neoliberalism was introduced in the 1980s and it remains true today. Back in the 1980s, I would look out for the basis for the praise being heaped on the latest reform. All I ever seemed to find was the circular reference back to free markets, which were self-evidently good. The mantra of the open, competitive economy is repeated a thousand times a day. Such immersion can lead one to doubt one’s reason and common sense, so it may be useful to search for any robust logic in the daily deluge.
[Sent this to several places, but no-one wants to publish it apparently. Might try an edited version closer to Anzac Day. For overseas readers, the disastrous, failed 1915 assault on Turkey in WWI is supposed to mark the time Australia’s colonies, federated in 1901, “became a nation”. Working on a book on Australian politics, hence rather quiet on this site. Perhaps I’ll put up an extract or two.]
My many misgivings around the Gallipoli Centenary were crystallised by the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s Canberra performance of Reflections on Gallipoli, now playing around the country. Though many annually grieve with a full heart the loss of so many young men, and do so simply “lest we forget”, the Gallipoli legend has also been twisted and misused.
Gallipoli was not the start of our nation. Simply revisiting the horror does not heal the wound. We seem to have learnt nothing about futile wars. We neglect constructive attempts, then and now, to avoid war.
[This was published at Independent Australia 16 Jan]
Most discussions of the roles of media in Australia are painfully narrow and superficial. Commercial media apologists claim “independence” (from whom?), demand “freedom” (well, but not for the bad guys) and have the gall to talk about “quality”. A proposal to enforce the most minimal standards on commercial media provoked hysterical indignation at the supposed threat to free speech. The idea of actually requiring editorial comment to be separated from reporting didn’t get a look in, let alone penalising those who report only a highly biassed selection of the news, or are systematically and deliberately divisive (which is all of them), or who persistently promote falsehoods.
[This longish essay was just published at Real World Economics Review Blog. It is addressed to the “heterodox” community, those diverse economists of various schools that are not the dominant neoclassical school, though otherwise it is not particularly technical.]
Much of the current discussion of reforming economics focusses on the need for pluralism, particularly in teaching curricula, and very recently again on RWER. Pluralist teaching is seen as challenging, because heterodox economic ideas are diverse, have little coherence, and are to a significant extent mutually incompatible.
This theme crops up frequently in discussions on RWER. Now Cameron Murray, in the first issue of Inside, published by the Institute for Dynamic Economic Analysis, proposes to identify over-arching themes that can bring out the relationships among the various approaches. This is commendable but it will not, on its own, result in a reformed economics.
[I haven’t been completely idle, just focussing on other things. This article hasn’t been placed yet, but here it is for now.]
Whenever it is proposed to enforce the most minimal standards on commercial media, they erupt in righteous indignation at the supposed threat to free speech, and the need to preserve “independent” and “quality” media. The recent screening of First Contact by SBS and NITV, and the proposed cuts to ABC and SBS funding, bring the issues of quality and independence into sharp relief.
If the commercial media’s offerings had some serious quality, then shows like First Contact would not be so remarkable, and so much remarked. Many more of us would already know the gist of what the five participants learnt, in the course of a month’s immersion in Aboriginal Australia.
Published today at Independent Australia, as Australia, the United States, the Islamic State and oil. The IA version has some excellent videos included.
US foreign policy flow chart
There was a story from one of the Gulf Wars about a reporter asking Western troops why they thought they were there. A US soldier said something like “Ah’m here to serve mah country ma’am.” A British soldier said “Wool, itsa oil, innit?”
As yet another Western intervention/invasion in the Middle East gathers pace, why is the commentariat apparently oblivious to the role of oil? Oil has driven a century of meddling by Western countries, meddling that has fed generations of resentment and radicalisation, and you can be sure oil is behind the current interest of the US in Islamic State.