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September 20th 2017 print

Peter Smith

Good Stewards Just Say ‘No’

Those proposing to change the marriage act are impatient and ill disposed, to put it mildly, to any and all discussion of possible consequences. We have no idea whether we are doing the right thing now and, by extension, what we are bequeathing future generations. That's lousy stewardship.

no worries IICollectively we have stewardship of our cultural conventions and moral standards. On a more prosaic level, we have stewardship of the economy and of our national defences. Future generations will benefit or suffer as a result of the quality of our stewardship.

Now we can’t go around forever thinking of future generations. In fact, some people say ‘stuff them they’ll be richer than us and can fend for themselves’. There is an in-between.

We are not required to have their interests uppermost. It would be too wearing and remote from current experience. However, if we do the right things today we will likely provide them with a reasonable inheritance.

There’s the rub. How do we assess what’s right? Take an economics example.

Proposals to raise taxes are usually examined through the narrow prism of who will pay and how much revenue will be raised. How many times do you hear about the effect this might have in reducing saving and therefore investment and therefore future growth? And, in turn, how this might ultimately reduce taxation revenue and, thereby, constrain choices? You don’t.

Consequences muddy the water, so they are ignored or glossed over. Certainly, in this case, by the side which wants to raise taxes.

Switch to the debate on same sex marriage (SSM). Giving gay people equal rights is the start and finish of the proposal. Nothing else to consider we are told.

Children take little account of consequences. They are children. Unfortunately, politicians have child-like attributes when promoting their favoured policies.

In the SSM debate, those proposing the change fit within the norm of being impatient with any discussion of consequences. Sometimes in the economics sphere, though not often enough, we have the advantage of an independent inquiry by the Productivity Commission.

The issue of SSM would have benefited from an independent inquiry.  Instead we are flying blind. We are being asked to vote on a profound change to a longstanding and fundamental institutional arrangement without benefit of any objective analysis of the consequences which might flow from such a change.

In fact, politicians in favour of the change are treating us like children by telling us there are no consequences. How infantile is that?

If we vote Yes, we have no idea whether we are doing the right thing now and, by extension, what we are bequeathing future generations. It’s lousy stewardship.

It is simply not safe or responsible to vote other than No in these circumstances. This is not an argument against SSM. It is simply to say that we should behave like adults. Adults need to understand and evaluate consequences before deciding on change.

 

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

Comments [10]

  1. gardner.peter.d says:

    Indeed. Just imagine in 10 or 15 years time trying to legislate that because SSM has resulted in unintended and unwelcome consequences, one of the following:

    “the Marriage Act (Amended) 2018 will be amended to remove all special provision in law of marriage which, being a union of two or more people, differentiated from other groups only by a non-binding ceremony and having no purpose other than recognition of their living together, which, being more economic than living separately, no longer merits any special consideration in law.”

    or

    “the Marriage Act (Amended) 2018 will be amended to redefine marriage as a union between two or more people, differentiated from other groups only by sexual relations between all in the union.”

    I am looking forward to he Government’s proposals for changes to the divorce laws. Personally, I think it would have ben better to start with these and work back to the ON/OFF switch. As an engineer with responsibilities involving heavy and dangerous machinery I was always trained how to shut it down before I was allowed anywhere near the start-up procedure. Old fashioned health and safety.

  2. mags of Queensland says:

    The lack of respect by both the Government and the Opposition for the people who pay their salaries on the matter of ssm is disgraceful and disgusting.Do they think we are children to be led by the nose and told what is best for us? The decisions we make can have unforeseen consequences as we have experienced many times in recent years. Voting blind on the ssm issue is not the behaviour of adults.

    • Jody says:

      I despise seeing children used as political pawns and standing in front of a crowd to say how great it is being the child/ren of a SS couple. I’d like to see these same kids when they hit about 15 years of age!!!! But the politicization of children is appalling.

    • gardner.peter.d says:

      Yes, they do think that. It is the philosophy of technocratic and supra-national government advanced by Thomas Paine in the 18th & 19th centuries. It is the ethos of the EU. Basically they really do believe the average voter does not understand the complex issues that governments deal with and that only governments have the access to the knowledge and expertise required to understand them and the funding, authority and time to grapple with them. Voters should not be asked. The pro EU side in the UK’s debate on its membership of the EU is particularly keen to assert this.
      It doesn’t matter how often or how badly governments stuff it up. It is always the fault of opposition. the empirical evidence from the performance of the EU is that the bigger the government and the less opposition (aka accountability) it faces the more it will stuff up, the worse and more widespread are the consequences. It’s the fault of nation states, which still have a measured of autonomy. the solution is always the same: centralise and improve efficiency by removing or diluting accountability and streamlining processes of debate and accountability to cover less, more quickly.
      Because leading politicians travel the world exchanging views with like-minded people and comparing career notes – they are nearly all now professionals – they are all infected by this philosophy which serves to inflate their importance, gives security of numbers of like-minded politicians, bureaucrats, technocrats and heads of organisations dependent on the public purse…

  3. Doc S says:

    Moreover we are being told by the PM that, should the expected ‘Yes’ result get up, they will set about introducing the required legislation. Legislation to change the Marriage Act on trust, of which as yet not even a proposal has been sighted. Alrighty then… we should trust the PM. What could possibly go wrong? [shakes head in despair]

  4. Don A. Veitch says:

    The USA has been hijacked by psychopathic oligarchic antinomians.
    China/Russia, in fact are at war with the USA,
    we are at the brink of nuclear war,
    but,
    QOL is obsessed/worried about pooftahs.

    Please CANCEL my subscription!

    • Jody says:

      Don, that’s a social problem – not Quadrant’s problem. The noise from the homosexual community is deafening and I’m fed up with it myself, but when core social values are under attack one is FORCED to defend them sir!!! The job of dealing with North Korea is America’s. And I disagree that Trump is a psychopath. He’s not an ideal leader but surely the Americans earned him as a response to the overwhelming social engineering, repression, division and censuring from the ascendant Left. It TERRIFIES ME!! Conform or else is the prevailing ideology. No wonder they got Trump!!

    • psstevo says:

      Thanks for another insightful article, Peter. One (belated) solution is not to vote ‘children’ of the present parliament. That will get rid of the whole pack of wasters. Don Veitch does have one good point however – the world may well be teetering on a death-defying issue. What is really scary is the pack of idiots in Canberra are also responsible for an ADULT response to that issue too. Heaven help Australia!

  5. Patrick McCauley says:

    Worry on QOL … worry long and deep … take it as far as the imagination can see … because this is a problem of nuclear war dimensions.We’ve heard plenty about the ‘antinomians’. We could auction Don’s remaining sub on eBay ?