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September 26th 2013 print

Peter Smith

The Kiddies’ Crusade

When it comes to shaping the nation, kiddies of all ages should be seen and not heard. The blatherings of Bob Brown, Christine Milne and others make that point very nicely.

I was talking to a Greens friend of mine the other day. He said, you know, you may have a point about those visually-polluting windmills killing birds, creating a health hazard for those in their vicinity, working only intermittently, requiring lots of energy and raw materials to build them, not to mention the nasty pollution their construction leaves behind in China.

You’re right, I am making this up. I don’t have any Greens friends. I wouldn’t mind having a Greens friend or two, but I suspect they wouldn’t like me, despite my winning personality.

Presently I am in Hong Kong. Why would this make me think of not having Green friends? Well, because everything appears to be un-Green and on the go in HK. Industry is rampant; building is everywhere. Elderly people who might be relaxing in their dotage are doing their bit at market stalls to help lift the family fortune.

I guess their guiding philosophy, or one of them, must be that idleness is the path to indigence. It is as though they fear that everything they have built might fall into decay if they slackened their pace. And, fundamentally, they are right. They have an adult perspective. Contrast this with the Greens and all of those on the far left and, often, the not-so-far left. Their perspective is essentially childish. They want to share the spoils of today as though there were no tomorrow.

Adults understand that without the risk-taking of successful (and therefore rich) entrepreneurs; without the exploitation of resources; without saving and reinvestment; and without hard work, the spoils of today will become only a distant golden memory. The mines and factories and machines of a generation ago are now largely gone or transformed. Each day that nothing is done something falls into disrepair. Our physical capital, upon which our current and future prosperity is based, is here today and gone tomorrow unless it is continually maintained and renewed.

I might have missed it but I can’t recall ever hearing the Greens talk about producing spoils, only of consuming them or about reducing our ability to produce them by closing down coal mines and building windmills, and such like. Presumably, this is because producing is a nasty brutish business. Mines cut through the countryside. Factories belch out “carbon pollution” and other unmentionable abominations. Rich industrialists and other assorted capitalists ride around in fancy cars while the workers “slave away” on the factory floor or in deep and hellish mine pits. Or something like that.

It is far better for Greens to shut their minds to the production side of the economy rather than risk the psychological trauma of facing up to harsh economic reality and, in consequence, of having to ditch their childish fantasies. A tour of Hong Kong might be salutary. Then again their power of ignoring inconvenient economic logic and facts would probably withstand anything HK could throw at them.

Mind you, the Greens are not alone. They have playmates. Look at the last government’s professed “achievements”: disability care and education “reform”. Spending the money of those who produce things is apparently the sine qua non of successful governing.

There will be squeals from the Greens and the Labor Party (to its shame as supposedly representing workers) if the Abbott government stays true to its policies of tearing down red and green regulatory obstacles to new business development and new jobs. Squeals are common in the playground and are generally best ignored.

Hayek proposed that parliamentarians should be at least 50 years of age. Only then would they have the maturity and experience necessary to help us run our lives. “Politicians are required to manage the nation’s affairs”, the preselection advertisement might run, “only mature and experienced adults need apply”.

Unfortunately, Hayek’s rule isn’t an infallible guide to political adulthood, as Christine Milne and Bob Brown, among many others, amply demonstrate. Nor, of course, does it quite fit our age, within which twenty-year-olds, not to mention teenagers, are actually and incredibly thought to have views on social and political matters worth hearing.

Nevertheless, even accounting for our modem appreciation of callow views, it is passing strange that people can attain high political office without being adult enough to understand the basic proposition that making money is a lot harder, and is a prerequisite, to spending money. Parents understand this in their own households. Their kids don’t have to; and they generally don’t.

Peter Smith, a frequent Quadrant Online contributor, is the author of Bad Economics