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February 14th 2017 print

Peter Smith

The Politicians We Deserve

Conservatism is not the best hope for mankind simply because of its positive agenda. It is the best hope because it offers a limited bulwark against a progressive political class that professes to be improving the lot of mankind while almost invariably making things worse

barry with jointPeople are apparently sick of politicians. I am not sure anything has changed. Personally I think most  have always viewed politicians as a necessary blight. They recognise that leaderless people turn into mobs. Better, therefore, to be led by dimwits and carpetbaggers than not led at all.

One of the charges levied against politicians is that they are ‘all talk no action’. Oh, if it were only thus. I like them better when they talk endlessly, stalling the exponential growth of pages of legislation and regulations. I admired Kevin Rudd in verbosely failing to get in place an emissions trading scheme.

Filibusters are a great American invention and might have saved the world if they’d been available to all democratic parliaments since the dawn of civilised time. Unfortunately it is now too late. Urgently, we need the kind of action which goes deeply against the psychological disposition of politicians. To wit, action which undoes action of their ‘esteemed’ predecessors, most of whom ended up with gongs for public service; when they should have been put in stocks.

Australia’s fractured parliament is preventing things from getting done. Is it not? No, it is preventing things from getting undone. Try to get an unaffordable social welfare benefit reduced or rescinded without some compensating measure; there is Buckley’s chance.

Wonder why Australia’s parliament is fractured and therefore can’t get things undone? It is because politicians of the past have created such a mess that people are flailing around for answers. Misfits become appealing. Try herding misfits into a corral without offering inducements. Ironically, the damaging legacy of past politicians is protected by the very social malaise they created.

Mind you, a fractured Parliament simply makes matter worse. Even in the best of circumstances, getting anything undone brings out numbers of special interests who have nothing better to do than fight for their ‘rights’. And, of course, increasingly the courts are used to protect the status quo.

Consider some of the main policy goals of Donald Trump. He wants to repeal Obamacare, which is in process of collapsing in any event; to dismantle job-killing regulations and onerous environmental overreach; to reduce uncompetitive rates of taxation; and to undo damaging trade deals. Sure he also has a ‘doing agenda’ (e.g., building a wall) but much of his agenda is tearing down political idiocies of the past. Already there is strident political opposition, and not just from the Democrats; and the beginning of endless litigation.

What is Theresa May’s biggest policy goal? Clearly it is to make Brexit a reality; to get something undone. Fear-driven political leadership in the past led a world-trading Britain into making common cause with an insular, sclerotic, bureaucratised, European sanctuary. Never mind, nothing to see there. Yesteryears’ politicians did their pathetic best, even if they contributed to undermining the cultural identity and cohesion of British society. Now you can get arrested for quoting Churchill. Just maybe, out of Europe, you will eventually be able to freely quote Churchill again. Though don’t bank on it. Can’t blame the EU for everything.

A conservative political agenda is not the best hope for mankind because of its positive agenda. It is the best hope because it offers a (limited) bulwark against most politicians, who desperately want to do things to improve the lot of mankind. Almost invariably these things worsen the lot of mankind. Often this takes a long time to become evident. By then the political perpetrators are gone. They undeservedly escape opprobrium. If not dead, their fat pensions continue to be paid.

Why do we get the politicians we get? Often on their face they are self-promoting mediocrities. I don’t know the answer, but I assume we deserve them. I once joined the Liberal Party and found its branch meetings to be enervating and the two candidates I met to be (in my insensitive view) empty heads. I left. I didn’t fight to change it. So I suppose, along with other bystanders, I deserve what I get – Trent Zimmerman in my federal electorate.

I honestly thought the game was irredeemably lost until Brexit and Trump’s triumph. If Marine le Pen and Geert Wilders make it I will begin to dream. Would this be a foolish and forlorn dream? Don’t answer! I don’t want reality intruding into my reverie.

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

Comments [28]

  1. Bran Dee says:

    Right on Peter with your call for smaller government and less regulation. Judith Sloane makes much the same point in the Oz today. She says: ‘After a promising start by the Abbott government to axe a number of wasteful, intrusive and damaging regulatory agencies, Malcolm Turnbull put his foot on the brake and has instead embarked on a massive program of new regulations, – - -’.'Do you remember Repeal Day? The Prime Minister has repealed it’.
    When Labor comes to office it follows quickly that previous key conservative policies are repealed, think ‘Work Choices’. When conservatives are returned to office they make little effort to dump the previous governments socialist programs such as the Fair Work Commission. Sloane says:’The Fair Work Ombudsman is another doozy. With a budget of more than $120 million – gosh, we used to rely on trade union officials and a handful of state inspectors – its activities are both out of control and wide of the mark’.

  2. chuckp61 says:

    It’s all about incentives Peter – and theirs are not aligned with ours.

    My 27 year old daughter has just moved jobs from event management/sales to Real Estate sales – I’m sure she will be very good at it – we recently had a long conversation about incentives and how the seller and the estate agent have very different incentives which are not aligned. The seller wants the highest possible price (often unreasonably high) the estate agent wants to maximize sales/mth. When the offers fall way short of the expectations (which were probably encouraged by the agent) the agent talks the seller into being ‘realistic’ as the 50k lower offer has a very small effect on the agents commission.

    It’s not really different in the relationship between Politicians (sellers of BS) and voters (buyers of said line of BS). Their primary goal is to stay in power ours is for them to first do no harm and then to improve the infrastructure that allows us to flourish unhindered by morons.

    Trump seems, so far, to be an exception. But his incentives and those of the MSM and political class are most assuredly not aligned.

    • Jody says:

      I have just sold a beach house (Ulladulla, NSW). The agent suggested a price and we wanted $20,000 more. She said we needed to be ‘realistic’ and I said I was being realistic. Day 1 we had someone interested; he offered $25,000 less. The agent said “you need to make a counter offer” and I said, “yes, the price advertized is that counter offer”. She rang 3 hours later, “sold”. The house ended up last Wednesday in the local rag to demonstrate “record prices being achieved in the area”. Only my insistence was responsible. We’ve had that experience before when we sold another house on Day 1.

      Nobody is responsible for the price of they get for their home apart from the owners themselves. Forget agents; just tell them how much commission you’ll pay and what you want. My agent is grateful she ‘negotiated’ commission for 1 day’s work!!! You need to be ruthless in life – and that includes politics.

  3. Ian MacDougall says:

    The US went all out for free trade when it suited its political class to make it so. America at the time was in a highly advantaged economic position.
    Since China (wisely IMHO) decided to go down the same path, the US has seen many of its manufacturers export their activities to China, to the impoverishment of the US working class, to whom Trump makes his pitch. He is trying to undo that development.
    He is optimistic in that he appears to believe that this can be a one-handed game, and that it will not set off a chain of reprisals, finishing up in a full-on trade war.
    Of course, he could always trump (!) America’s critics by pushing for tariff barriers to be erected between the states of the Union, arguably stimulating local businesses no end, as well as internal trade.

  4. gardner.peter.d says:

    “Better, therefore, to be led by dimwits and carpetbaggers than not led at all.”

    Led where? Often it is better just to be happy where we are. Most of the big changes have been done. We are in a relatively satisfactory state. Sop charging around looking for causes to champion, things to be afraid of. Be still and at peace.

    • Jody says:

      I have a slightly different take on this. Essentially we get the politicians we deserve; these people are from our society and not Mars or some other planet. The society is so wishy washy on most things and generally wants everything it can get for free. I’d hate to be a politician and the 2 or 3 I know in the federal government have a largely thankless job trying to placate EVERYBODY whenever he/she wants to make the smallest decision. Howls and screams accompany each and every idea. Terrible.

  5. gardner.peter.d says:

    The tragedy of Britain’s experience in the EU is that the supremacy and unaccountability of supra-national EU government has bled Britain of the ability to be be a self-governing sovereign state. The present breed of politicians seem unable to think for themselves. It is a mental habit, in some an addiction, to consult with ‘our European colleagues and partners’ on everything. The majority of laws come from the EU so neither the Government nor the Parliament of UK can or need to account for them to the British voters. This is of course at times very convenient for both MPs and Ministers, for they can hide behind the EU, in which decisions are made by secret votes.

    I find talking with Australian friends and colleagues they really have very little understanding of the EU beyond it being a common market. They find a desire to leave most extraordinary. When I put it to them that it is as if Australia were governed by a bunch of people in Manila, gathered from the Asia Pacific countries and with no accountability to Australian voters and your government in Canberra has no veto so there is nothing it can do about laws imposed by these people on Australia, I am met with shock and a very slow realisation that perhaps there might a problem here.

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      Well put.
      BUT somewhere in its history I recall a desire to create a United States of Europe, to counterbalance the US across the Atlantic and the USSR at the eastern end of Europe. When the USSR eliminated itself, a major reason for the EU went with it. But now Putin threatens to revive it, putting everyone back somewhere close to Square 1.

    • en passant says:

      We already have that domination. It is called the UN and Agenda 2030.

  6. Keith Kennelly says:

    Yesterday’s answer to today’s politicians.

    We need a party of only conservative politicians. No broad church, no central right Liberal/socialists corrupting the conservative message. Conservative politics gives us a workable economy, not wishywashy liberalism, no grandiose ‘legacies’ and a sense of responsibility instead of entitlement, smaller government with less bureaucracy, reduced deficit and debt.

    It’s simple really a Conservative government with conservative members.

    And the middle will vote for them and their policy because they know it works. Let the others vote for labor greens communists. Their policies don’t work nor do centrist policies.

  7. Keith Kennelly says:

    Of course you Think Trump won’t work. Why would you. You think Australia reducing co2 emissions is going to stop climate change. Hahaha

  8. Keith Kennelly says:

    Hahahaha humour doesn’t sit too well on MacDougalls fingertips. Who bothers with his blather. He’s made such a goobles goose of himself.

  9. Keith Kennelly says:

    Jody

    You disagree with my ideas not because of any reason other than you don’t like my conservatism and it’s scant regard for centrist right acolytes and the positions they occupy.

    People of the centrist right, like you, who join and support the Liberals and have achieved change in the liberal party away from its traditional conservatism … are the enemy. The Liberal Party is now so conflicted it is tearing itself apart. The centrists need to go form their own party or join the socialist centrists.

    They have failed us all by taking over the Liberal Party and trying to suppress its conservatism.

    We have have a PM who supports same sex marriage, multii culturalism, climate change, co2 targets, renewables and republicism, and who hates Abbott and Trump. How are those conservative positions?

    How do those things help make a cohesive set of principles? They undermine the economy and social cohesion. Conservatism champions a growing well run economy and social cohesion and the things that create

    • Jody says:

      Yes, I’m the ‘enemy’. I didn’t know we were at war but you frame everything in terms of enemies and adversaries, bullying and hectoring. These, I repeat, are never arguments. The PM is entitled to believe in the tooth fairy if he so desires. As long as he’s the leader and has the support then tooth fairies it shall be.

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      We have have a PM who supports same sex marriage, multii culturalism, climate change, co2 targets, renewables and republicism, and who hates Abbott and Trump. How are those conservative positions?

      Quite easy, Keith. They are all supported by people who identify as ‘conservatives’.
      Conservatism is as conservatism does. There are, to my knowledge, no tablets of stone handed down from the sky into which the immutable, unalterable, eternal and omniscient principles of ‘conservatism’ are chiselled.

  10. Keith Kennelly says:

    There you go again. Jody. Still don’t get it do you?

    I’m like everyone else Jody, sick to death of being labelled by educated elitists, where the elitists can’t argue the point or get their own way.

    Your attacks no longer work.

    Why don’t you address the positions I’ve set out?

    .Where I’m forthright and honest you label and attempt to display sophistication and nuance. That is not working for you or the elites any longer.

    See where you say the PM can have any beliefs he wants … I say those beliefs are centrist right and have no place in a Conservative party and certainly shouldn’t be held by a conservative PM.

    Where is your argument against that? Oh that’s right you say he can believe anything he likes.

    And I’m hectoring and bullying.

    Unless you can tell me why a PM with those views isn’t undermining Conservative values and isn’t an enemy of conservatives your behaviour could clearly be labelled passive aggressive trolling.

    • Jody says:

      “You don’t get it do you?” What? I’m supposed to “get” your ideologies and viewpoints and not have my own? Great real, sir. I have a mental image of you in heavy jackboots as you type these words. “Ve have vays and means of punishing you if you don’t get it!!”

      Yeah, right. Passive aggressive. Stop making things up!!

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      Isn’t the Liberal Party supposed to be a ‘broad church’?
      There are many issues on which I (shock, horror!) support it, border controls being amongst them.

  11. Keith Kennelly says:

    There you go again. You sunk straight to labelling and abuse.

    I simply asked you to address the issues I raised. You did not. You did what the educated elites always do.

    Demonise and abuse those who present ideas different from their own and that show those ideas as unworkable or indefensible.

    What you don’t get is that this tactic has been the tactic employed by the elites to dominate debate in this country. It can’t work any more.

    It is passive aggressive to deliberately ignore the opponents views in a formal debate, in fact any debate, and to merely name call and merely continually assert things without logically presented argument.

  12. Keith Kennelly says:

    That is irritating. And if I wasn’t a patient and gentle person with a great deal of understanding, and no anger, you would have me angry with you and yelling at you.

  13. Stuart says:

    I have to pull out David Stove. From his essay “The Columbus Argument”:

    Do you understand television sets well enough to be able to repair a non-functioning one or to improve a malfunctioning one? Probably not: very few do. And if you, being one of the great majority, nevertheless do set out to repair or improve a TV set, it is a million to one, because of the complexity of the thing, that you will make it worse if you change it at all. Now human societies, at least ones as large and rich as ours, are incomparably more complex the TV sets, and in fact no one understands them well enough to repair or improve them. Whatever some people claim, there are no society repairmen, as there are TV repairmen. So if anyone gets to try out in practice his new idea for repairing or improving society, it is something like billions to one that he will actually make things worse if he changes them at all. Of course it is possible that he will make things better, but that is trivially true: it is possible, after all, that a furious kick will repair your ailing TV set.