Sunday, December 02, 2007

And for all this

I did say I didn’t have a horse in the election, but I guess I did have a preferred outcome. That outcome would have been a narrow victory for one side or another, narrow enough to lend some power to the independents and stifle any hyperbole about mandates and morning springing at the brown brink eastward. A narrow victory would have been the best thing to nourish democracy and stifle its great enemy, the legislative activism that is ceaselessly sowing the tares of law until they stand thick and tall choking every patch of fertile ground. If you followed my link to Belloc in the last post, you might have read the following bit about one of the reasons for the appeal of Islam in the ancient near east. But as you probably didn’t, here it is again:

…society had fallen, much as our society has today, into a tangle wherein the bulk of men were disappointed and angry and seeking for a solution to the whole group of social strains. There was indebtedness everywhere; the power of money and consequent usury. There was slavery everywhere. Society reposed upon it, as ours reposes upon wage slavery today. There was weariness and discontent with theological debate, which, for all its intensity, had grown out of touch with the masses. There lay upon the freemen, already tortured with debt, a heavy burden of imperial taxation; and there was the irritant of existing central government interfering with men's lives; there was the tyranny of the lawyers and their charges. To all this Islam came as a vast relief and a solution of strain.

Anyway, is it safe for me to read the papers again? Have all the people who were outrageously pleased by the election result finished jubilating? It was principally the thought of the ‘Howard Haters’ celebrating with all the subtlety and intelligence they brought to their complaining that made the prospect of a Labor victory unpleasant to me. I always found the depth of their hatred incomprehensible. Here was a man seamlessly continuing the Hawke-Keating era agendas of privatizing stuff, of interning asylum seekers, of gutting higher education, and loyally supporting the US alliance. All governments since 1975 have more or less done the same thing. The Coalition government was not remotely ‘of the right’ in any way that would be recognisable historically anywhere. It wasn’t socially conservative, it wasn’t economically conservative, it wasn’t small-government conservative, it didn’t have any autocratic tendencies that weren’t shared with the Hawke and Keating governments. Of course, Howard’s government made far too many laws. True, he did that bullshit ‘never ever’ thing. I trust Lexifab’s appraisal that standards of accountability nosedived under his watch. And he seems to have been, on balance, more of a lying weasel than the other guy seems to be. But I don’t think there was anything particularly dark and evil about the man or his government. He seemed to be more decent and more competent than the general run of leaders in the Western world.

I expect Rudd will be, as well. I liked him when he used to appear on the TV in the mornings in the days when I watched TV in the mornings. He voted the right way in the ‘Let Scientists Go Crazy Ape Bonkers with Their Drill and Sex’ vote on embryonic stem cells. (Like Howard and Costello, and Peter Garrett; and unlike Brendan Nelson or Malcolm Turnbull.) I hope he goes through with his undertaking to abandon the old government’s move to introduce an identity card by stealth. I know that what he has said and what the old lot said about climate change and foreign policy, once you scrape away the rhetoric, is almost exactly the same, so I don’t feel any unease there. I don’t expect his government will be any better or worse for my sector than the last one- especially as Higher Education is now one of many far-flung satrapies watched over by a Minister for Everything. But I might allow myself to be a teensy bit hopeful there. I’m also happy with the way Rudd distanced himself from the frivolous cultural obsessions of Keating. I felt a Costello government would have been far more likely to subject us to another time-wasting constitutional change debate.


Perhaps only a Labor government will be able to get away with not implementing ‘Son of Kyoto’. Perhaps only a Labor government will be able to get bipartisan support for Hilary’s invasion of Iran. I hope so.

This really is the Lucky Country. Howard did a decent job. I am pretty sure Rudd will do a decent job. The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out, like shining from shook foil. And if the Howard Haters have finished rejoicing, I can happily go back to reading the papers!


Marco said...

Ah, yes, smugness in victory (and sore loser-ness in defeat) is extremely irritating. I got my wish in that I found employees to two positions vacant I had, without advertising! I can only hope that small businesses continue to dismiss people because soon they won't be allowed to any more.
Kevin Rudd has a great deal of trouble saying the U word. That is a little bit endearing to businesses. It is practically taboo in business management to mention the word in a good light also.
His stance on Kyoto troubles me a little.

Dr. Clam said...

Don't worry about Rudd and Kyoto, I expect we'll just do what the Europeans have done: sign up and then not meet our obligations. Garrett has already gotten in trouble for implying that Australia would sign Son of Kyoto if it didn't include developing countries, so I don't think we're likely to sign up to any economy-sabotaging madness in 2012- assuming Labor are still in power. By then I hope the irrational hysteria about Climate Change will have abated, and I fear that the main drivers of this irrational hysteria in Europe will have more important things to worry about (e.g, Iranian nukes, terrorist-sponsoring failed states in the former Yugoslavia, Russian sabre-rattling)

Marco said...

1- Australia as a government and as individual voters tend to hold themselves to account more with obligations than Europeans. That is part of the reason we didn't sign in the first place. I expect Rudds Government will come under sustained attack for signing and not meeting targets even more than Howard did for not signing. Rudd appears naive in the sense that he actually believes the environmental measures announced will be sufficient to meet the targets.
2)Re: By then I hope the irrational hysteria about Climate Change will have abated
This is exceedingly wishful thinking. You underestimate peoples "pseudo-religious" persistence with these kinds of things.

Dr. Clam said...

Of course it is wishful thinking, that is what 'I hope' means :P By 'abated' I mean 'not be as bad as it is now', not 'disappear'. I expect the True Believers will still be tub-thumping when you and I are grouchy antediluvians.

I was listening to them rabbiting on, and on, and on, about climate change on the ABC radio this morning, and it *was* terribly reminiscent of a religious broadcast. Allowed to pass without comment as part of the Holy Writ were such debatable assertions as:
*Global warming is imperilling world food supplies.
*Our island neighbours are at risk from rising sea levels
*Third world nations are already suffering because of global warming
*We are using so much energy because we are frivolous and decadent, and for no very good reason

Never once considered was whether signing Kyoto and acting on it will have any beneficial effect at all.

Hang on, I excised this topic... sorry to suddenly go on about it again. I'll think of a new angle on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and get back to you!

Dave said...

Don't go back to the papers. They don't agree with you. Even The Australian has been dancing on the corpse, and the SMH has been positively vitriolic at times. It's been, I have to say, the most entertainingly theatrical bloodsport in ages. I wouldn't worry though - eventually they'll settle down and start laying into Rudd. No point harping on yesterday's man, after all - that only works for Philip Adams, and then only sporadically.

On Howard-haters, just by the way, I can't speak for anyone else, but I hated him (too strong a word - disdained is better, loathed is in the vicinity) precisely because he was a lying weasel. I believe I have every right to expect minimum standards of ethical behaviour from my elected representatives (whether I voted for them or not), and seven or so years of "I was not informed, blame some public servant" has served us extremely ill as a nation. Screw Howard and anyone who thinks they are more important than the society they represent.

Back to civility, I agree Kyoto is in itself meaningless, as will be whatever emerges from Bali. I hold the hope that the mainstreaming of climate change as an issue will encourage technological improvements to eventually break the developed world's dependency on oil and not result in complete social collapse when it becomes prohibitively expensive to obtain. Which by some estimates could be as early as 2020 (but more likely the middle of the century).

You're dreaming if you think climate change will abate as an issue, though. I see it becoming as centralised a concern as health or education in the next decade (i.e. everyone agrees it's important and nobody does much about it).

Dr. Clam said...

I will dream on! Surely there must be some limits to human gullibility?
Ten years from now, it will be at one with Nineveh and Tyre and Y2K, mark my words. :)

Marco said...

I have to point out here that the only country to be within their Kyoto target is Russia. The message is clear - the only proven successful way to reduce emmissions so far in the Kyoto experiment is a complete collapse of the economy! Interestingly, Rudd has warned Australia to expect higher energy prices. I guess even if there is a spectacular collapse of Australia's economy, we would probably still celebrate the victory of reaching Kyoto targets. I'm not sure it's a win-win but....

Dave said...

I'm less pessimistic about the economy, I guess. I suspect it can take a bit more pressure, and in any case it's much more likely that the doomed US economy - which I boldly predict will *not* be greatly affected by vigourous action on climate change any time soon - will take ours down with it when it goes.

While I will admit that I've always been a bit of a climate change alarmist and that the evidence I've seen to date has done little to dissuade me from my blinkered beliefs, I think there are real benefits to multilateral coorperation that you only get in times of impending crisis. The real advantage of this one is that the perceived threat cannot be bombed into submission and there's a general perception that the problem is a long term one requiring strategic approaches and eschewing quick fixes.

The other thing is, there's a whole new scientific and industrial side to this - new energy sources, improved energy efficiency, carbon fixing technology, whatever else smart people think up - that presumably can give some economic advantages to those on the R&D leading edge.

Am I just too optimistic?

Dave said...

By the way:

1) What about Tyre?

2) Happy birthday Dr Clam!

Dr. Clam said...

Yes, I will obviously be over the moon if the upshot of all of this is "Let's throw enormous amounts of money at scientists and engineers to solve our problems." Though my bias is doubtless obvious, that is sure to be productive in all sorts of expected and unexpected ways. I would be happy to accept huge sums of money to help society deal with a perceived leprechaun plague, or to combat the M. Night Shyamalan menace. However, I haven't seen much sign of enthusiasm for technical solution yet, unless they can be combined with pork-barelling in some more explicit way (e.g., biofuels) My impression of the frenzy of activity at the moment is that it is more a "Legislate it into submission" paradigm involving throwing large sums of money at bureaucrats who aren't Lexifab.

Thanks for the birthday wishes, Lexifab!

And yeah, well, I guess *technically* Tyre is still going strong...

Marco said...

Who needs Buffy? Global warming can be hot, violent and sexy :)

I have many gripes about throwing money at reducing carbon (especially since I envision myself as the press-ganged thrower more often than the throwee), but my current biggest gripe is the barstadisation of emmission offsets. The idea of trading emmissions hinges on *allocation* and *trade*. The purchasing of offsets that are actually being used at the moment (to buy energy efficient light-bulbs, planting trees, investing in solar) is a setup to a dangerously faulty system. It is like as if the Sulphur emmissions traders (of the US system) were allowed (if they were over their quota) to invest in low-sulphur coal ore bodies, to buy Hydro-chloric acid (which absorbs Sulphur) or on research into low-sulphur technologies instead of purchasing them off other emmitters under their quota. The sulphur-emmitting businesses would gasp at the fact that they could get away with that, and buy the cheapest that they could get away with - eventually damaging the whole set-up JUST when it is relied upon to achieve something.

Marco said...

My bad Hydrochloric acid doesn't absorb sulphur? Anyway, I guess that doesn't damage my point.

Marco said...

Barstadisation : born from ideas unweddeded to proven frameworks of policy.