Public First Program


Shane Elson


email Shane

+61-3-5952 5780

+61-4-1349 7828

Nov 2008 # 4

(Right Click here to download Audio - MP3)

Back to Editorials 2008

Not Winning. Losing

It’s amazing how time flies when you’re having fun. And haven’t we been having some fun lately. Work, mortgage, work, car repayments, work, groceries, work and on and on it goes. 

Meanwhile, out in the ‘real’ world, elections have been had, grand finals lost, economies collapsing and all that stuff. If it wasn’t for the distractions of work, mortgage, work, car repayments, work, groceries, work and so on, one could get very depressed. 

Take the oldies. A bunch of them recently got together in Melbourne to vent their spleens over the cost of living and the pittances they get as pensioners. My, what a sight it was. However, they failed to realise that their greatest advocate (according to his memoirs) is no longer in office. 

Instead of a bloke about their own age, they now have a PM who is young(ish) and more concerned about his frequent flier points than doling out more cash for those he sees as being ‘great contributors to the nation’. The pensioners and retirees who gathered in Melbourne need to ‘get with the program’ a little and realise that the greatest contribution to the nation they can now make is to unselfishly get back to work and do so until they kark it! 

Then, at the other end of the life spectrum, we have the kiddies. They’re the ones who don’t mind taking a dump in their pants when you’re in the middle of coffee and buns at the café and who cause you great embarrassment when they spew their lunch all over the back seat of your best friend’s Audi. 

It seems that despite successive government’s endorsement of private child care, the great saviour of mankind (sorry sisters) that is capitalism, doesn’t really do much to solve our biggest problems after all. 

Now, before we get all starry eyed and blame the Howard government for the ABC fiasco, lets recall that it was the Hawke and Keating governments (which according to my memory were Labor) who deregulated the child care ‘market’ and opened it up to ‘for-profit’ companies. Seems like the whole shebang is coming down around our ears.  

Now I could talk at length at the disappointment we Geelong supporters have over not winning the flag this year … but I wont. It pales into insignificance when compared to what is going on as governments around the world bailout whatever multinational comes knocking and enter into the ‘socialist phase’ of capitalism. 

The wonderful thing about capitalism seems to be that it is blind to age, infirmity, middle wealth, poverty and the environment. These impediments to the upward redistribution of the common-wealth do not stand its way. Well, not really “its” because capitalism isn’t really a ‘thing’ as such. Neither are the ‘ailing’ or ‘weakening’ markets. 

If you’ve ever been to a market the first thing you will notice is the people. There are people behind the stalls. They want to sell you something and you want to buy. The market without people is just an empty space with stalls in it. There is no activity, no trading, no fracas and no exchange. In other words, the market place is only created when rational people, who have an aim to maximise their utility, come together and trade whatever commodity they have. 

So, if the market is made up of rational people who trade according to rules they agree on, then we have to agree that if the so called ‘global financial crisis’ is having material outcomes (no more retirement funds, collapsing businesses and so on) then it must have been people who caused it. 

On the surface this sounds fairly simple. Yet, the reality is much more complicated and far less understandable. However, in order to make sense of it all, it is important to remember that the biggest benefits of capitalism do not accrue to those who must adhere to its ‘rules’ but to those who manipulate or ignore the rules and bribe the umpires. 

Elections, as we have seen, do not bring regime change (and neither does invading a sovereign nation under false pretences). As we see Obama putting together his new government we must really ask, is this not a rearrangement of the deck chairs? Similarly, and despite his “apology”, the Rudd government is failing to live up to its promised ‘saviour’ status. Even the mysterious Mr. Garrett must be getting worried about his latest album. Tuneless melodies and obscure lyrics mean his latest work is not being received by the masses as well as his managers had hoped. 

Meanwhile, back at the coal face, we are encouraged to work harder, volunteer more, drink less and enjoy the ride. We are reassured that noting beats working when it comes to living a fulfilled life. Who was it that said “Arbeit macht frei”? 

Now, I can accept that my beloved Geelong didn’t have the mettle to go all the way this year. What I can’t accept is that we are still expected to swallow the whole ‘work will set your free’ mantra. The worst thing we can do is sit back and accept that there is no alternative. There is. But it won’t come free. 

While I am the first to admit that, as a theory, capitalism has some upsides, I am not stupid enough to miss the fact that, like any theory, it can used to justify dogma, ideology and the severest human rights abuses. The fact that the “market” has been corrupted cannot be missed by even the strictest adherent to its tenets. Even though it scares the bejesus out of me, I can’t help but have a chuckle when I see one of the “leading economists” turn themselves in knots trying to explain why the public purse needs to be used to bail out those who caused the problems in the first place. 

The bottom line is, with thousands more about to lose their jobs over the next few months as factories close and the ‘economy contracts’, the question for us, will be, are we really content to just work, pay the mortgage, work, make the car repayments, work, buy the groceries and work more in order to see our inheritance used to enrich those who see us as nothing more than stepping stones to their own enrichment?


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