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GOOD ECONOMIC MANAGER? May 24, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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How good an economic manager is John Howard? Or in claiming to be the indispensable preserver of Australian prosperity is not such a proposition a contradiction conceding the ground to his opponents? Then again, has the management of the economy effected a profound transfer of wealth from most Australians contrary to the overtly stated goals and values of the prime minister?The less loaded question is simply to ask what has Howard done to create economic conditions?


The insight promoted by Marx is still pertinent that ideology is often conditioned and not a universal truth, which explain contradictions in peoples attitude’s and the advancement of their self interest. Of course, Howard’s claim to be the indispensable economic manager is not premised on evidence. It is premised on fear. Vote against me and the economy will go pear-shaped. Inflation will rise, yet monetary management and interest rates are set by the Reserve Bank. Labor will be profligate. They will, for example, spend millions of dollars of taxpayers money on a public relations campaign for a public policy on a legislative amendment that does not exist, and whose amendment adamantly denied while the original legislation was rushed through parliament in a travesty of the legislative and democratic process. The resources boom will end because (presumably) the Government of China will end its contracts if John Howard is no longer prime minister, and his replacement can speak Mandarin. And so it goes.

I will leave to others, and to history, an impartial assessment of Howard as economic manager, but I will not accept the frame created by some dominant economic players built around their values not necessarily shared by the broader community, whether they end up voting for the Howard Government or not.

The Australian Wheat Board scandal is hardly the shining bushel in the garden of outstanding economic productivity or testament to the economic prowess of the government. Downer, Vaile, and even Howard were using the Gonzales Defence, even before there was a Gonzales Defence, or perhaps sheer incompetence and deception were given a successful, early run in Australia, which in turn impressed the Americans with what is possible. Still the AWB issue has not yet fully run its course as is evidence by the ructions that broke out in Federal Parliament between two West Australian MHR’s, former ministers, representing electorates with wheat growers.

There is a global context for national policies that go to such questions as environmental sustainability, economic inequality and development, and increasing population pressures. Domestic policies, if Jeffrey Sachs is right, will in an increasingly interconnected world be judged in the frame of planetary survival and the well being of all humanity. Howard did not join the Kyoto Agreement. He has been in the camp on global warming that chooses simply to deny the evidence by in essence denying the methods of science. He has joined us in the US Imperium in Iraq, inviting the inevitable hatred and blowback whose effect if this policy is not reversed will impact in twenty to thirty years, or sooner.

For Howard, all migrants are economic migrants, and as a corollary all refugees are economic migrants, or something like that. They get on unseaworthy vessels and then they throw them overboard into the sea. A multicultural world is a bad thing, and a multicultural society is even worse. Still, Jeffery Sachs is a liberal economist and he apparently disagrees ( from the third 20007 Reith Lecture):

Continued immigration, across cultural and economic divides, is not only inevitable but also broadly beneficial. Immigrants deepen the ties that hold our world together. Today’s migrants don’t abandon their homelands, but bridge their homelands with their adopted countries. They make links, economic, cultural, and social. Immigration needs to be steady and sure, neither a floodgate nor a trickle. A floodgate would disrupt the long-term processes of social trust and institution building in the host and source countries. A trickle would allow a build-up of global pressures and illegal population movements to an intolerable degree.

The problem of our politics is inherent in its design because why should we assume that they will not be pragmatic and do what it takes. What we as citizens should do, is not so much condemn the mere mortals who assume political office, such as John Howard, whatever their god-like claims like those of the Roman emperors, but we should take responsibility for the processes, electoral and legislative, and act to change them when they cease to efficacious to the public good.

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