QED

Democracy Isn’t Dead, but it Does Look Wobbly

Those words were written nearly two hundred years ago by French diplomat and observer of American democracy Alexis de Tocqueville. Since that time many others have forecast that when those entitled to funding from Treasury outgrow the resources of Treasury, Western democracy fails. I would suggest that Australia is staring into that abyss.

Across the Western world we see voters looking for alternatives to major parties of both left and right, many seeking to get on the gravy train before it runs out of gravy. De Tocqueville’s observation is also relevant in understanding the political landscape developing in Europe, the US and Australia. The populations of Western democracies have seen millions of pages of commentary, along with thousands of hours of TV and the internet’s presumptions to knowledge in regard to our susceptibility to the COVID-19 panic-demic and its economic consequences. As a result, Joe Public has developed a near-schizophrenic condition.

While many live in fear, receptive to official urging that they mask up, bunker down and report to authorities any neighbours not doing likewise, others have  grown increasingly distrustful of government and a mainstream media reporting the latest edicts and restrictions from bended knee. After what is getting on for two years of being told masks work/masks aren’t needed, lockdowns work/no they don’t (just ask Daniel Andrews, still a lockdown lover, despite six ruinously quixotic attempts to eliminate the virus) we are mentally bloated with balderdash while famished for hard facts. Obfuscation on the one hand and  sensational falsehoods and flat-out official idiocy (pizza boxes and footballs are mortal threats) on the other have left us thirsting for truth.

Across the Pacific we see an incoherent, muddle-head administration moving from spendthrift incompetence to debacle and back again, both of which seem to have inspired the Morrison government’s approach. A Commonwealth demand that states open their borders is first taken to court but then abandoned; in effect ordaining the premiers as unchallenged dictators of eight distinct polities divided by checkpoints and show-me-your-papers authority.  Canberra, meanwhile, apes Biden’s even deeper dive into a sea of red ink by running up the national debt to previously unimagined levels, all the while seemingly giving no sign that it grasps, as the sentient members of Cabinet surely must, the dire fiscal and political consequences of its actions.

The mendicants lining up outside our Treasury for their handouts include not just the genuinely needy pauperised by lockdowns but the “I-have-a-grievance” minority groups and members of quasi-scientific collectives who have learnt that the sure path to the further grants on which their conference-attending lifestyles depend must be blazed with preposterous predictions. Also aboard the gravy train are rent-seeking entrepreneurs and green industries, all demanding public funding to save us from their own sensational predictions. Electricity prices soar in step with the subsidies for wind turbines and solar farms while political figures live in fear of a harsh word from doom-burdened schoolchildren who have been taught they are masters of science while being unable to spell or correctly punctuate the angry placards they wave.

What does all this mean for Australia, and how do we develop and prosecute policies that will again make us independent, productive and prosperous?

We’re not alone in these follies, and we must learn from what is happening beyond our shores if we are to avoid blundering down the road to national bankruptcy. Most Western democracies, whether governed by either right or left factions, have gained and stayed in office over at least the last decade by bribing voters and building a sense of entitled access to other people’s money — taxpayer money, to be precise. Convincing voters that their needs, both vital and imagined, can be provided by “My Government” has led to dishonest promises and unscrupulous borrowing. What this policy of endless debt has spawned is the huge growth of bureaucracies and mounting tax burdens on an ever-decreasing percentage of productive citizens. The biggest snouts in the trough of entitlement belong to the governing class and its mendicant courtiers.

The huge debts accrued to fund this nirvana are unlikely ever be repaid, unless by runaway inflation. The reining in of budgets in Europe and Australia, half-heartedly attempted in the wake of the 2008 great financial crisis,  has been discarded. Any amount of money is justified to defeat the dreaded COVID. Locally, Australia’s addiction to debt is propelling us into national penury. Future generations, born into debt, will face hardship and diminished living standards.

The election of Donald Trump gave the American people — many of them, anyway — fresh hope. As a front page  New York Times headline put it on the morning after voters foiled Hillary Clinton’s presumed coronation, “A blue-collar town in decline and in despair turns to Trump”. Then came Biden’s dubious election victory, after which his subsequent missteps have destroyed that hope. Inflation is back, America has been humiliated by the Taliban’s weird beard militias, and all the while the national debt keeps mounting. The mess will be wall-to-wall when all the chickens have come home to roost, and that ordeal-to-come’s repercussions will be felt around the world, including in Australia.

Australia is borrowing some four billion dollars every week just meet the overhead and payroll. Indeed, we are accruing debt at a faster rate than most other Western democracies, a fact never mentioned by the politicians who write the cheques. Can we imagine that behind the closed doors of party rooms there are voices speaking against the tide of profligate folly? One likes to imagine so, but you wouldn’t want to bet on it. Parties have become infested with pole-climbers who gain preselection with the intent of representing not their constituents nor the broader public or even their own convictions (allowing any are present to begin with)  but the party itself. These failing parties and their governments all lack the capacity and will to govern in the national interest and, as a result, have allowed the infection of the bureaucratic controls and regulations sought by lobbyists. Industry is hobbled, opportunities crimped, future prosperity curtailed.

How did we get to this depressing state and how do we correct it?

First, the Fourth Estate, so vital to democracy, came to be dominated by left wing orthodoxies and ideologues given to predicting and defining the news, rather than adhering to truth and reporting events in a balanced and truthful fashion. One need only watch the ABC or read the Fairfax press, especially if the topic is, say, climate change, Aboriginal poverty or same-sex marriage to witness the deference accorded one side’s arguments and a barely concealed contempt for the other. At the various premiers’ morning COVID scare conferences have you ever heard a reporter ask why cheap, off-patent ivermectin has not been embraced, not even reviewed with anything resembling an appropriate urgency? No, that wouldn’t do at all. Authority (“experts” in the parlance of headline writers) has spoken, so there is nothing to emerge from the briefings but stenographic renderings of the various Dear Leaders’ pronouncements, edicts, caprice and, of course, promises of punishment.

The second reason is that this policy propagation by media, rather than elected representatives acting on behalf of their constituents, happened because the defence of truth was deemed no longer possible. We remained mute as relativism came to rule and, more than that, as a society we abandoned the expectation that one of democracy’s key foundations must be observed:  Thou shall not bear false witness, even if only by omission. As the mainstream press fails us, we allow the sensationalism and false claims to go largely unchallenged. That is, perhaps, the distinction between the publicly funded Left, as represented by the ABC, and the rest of us. We work to pay the bills, raise families and be left in peace. The Left, meanwhile, has its expenses covered by the public purse and those entities standing to benefit from its activism. No need to guess which faction gets its runs on the board. Untruths — dying rivers and doomed reefs, for example — become the counterfeit currency of narrow and restricted “debate”, but mostly they are challenged only by the much smaller voices of the relative few who still care.

Speaking personally, I find all this monstrously depressing, but I have not yet given up all hope. It seems to me we are witnessing the burgeoning of a growing revulsion at the fecklessness of the two major parties, a loss of faith in their capacity to govern for the common good. As Ronald Reagan once warned, “Freedom can be lost in one generation”. Should this realisation grow and spread, should it touch a nerve in those who have been cruelled by the lockdowns and appalled at the incoherent arrogance of the leaders who impose them, there is light ahead.

Or am I just a hopeless optimist? There is a comment thread below in which I invite readers to let me know.

13 comments
  • Greg Williams

    Ron, I am a bit of a glass half full sort of person, so I think we have to remain optimistic that someone will come along to lead us out of this swamp. Obviously, whoever attempts such a task is going to have to put up with the slings and arrows of the contemptible MSM, but someone once said, evil flourishes when good people do nothing. At the turn of this century over here in WA, the government (or rather the education bureaucracy ) was trying to implement an outcomes based education curriculum on the secondary school students here. They had already implemented something like that in the primary school sector (I think it was called “First Steps”) and the plan was to take it through to the end of secondary school. I was in my middle 50’s at the time, and had had a reasonably successful career teaching Mathematics in secondary schools. I went to a few of the indoctrination sessions the then called Curriculum Council ran to see how this wonderful new system was going to make us the envy of the world. It filled me with despair, and I was seriously thinking of quitting teaching. However, after I sent in a few letters to the local rag here, and after reading a book called “Dumbing Down” by Kevin Donnelly, another teacher, similarly disaffected, and I decided to offer some opposition to the nonsense that was being thrust upon us. The web site we established and the resulting rush of teachers to comment on the attached blog, instantly earned us (the other teacher and me) considerable notoriety in the education circles. While much of this notoriety was hard to take, as the so-called leaders in our respective bureaucracies wanted us “cancelled”, there were also a lot of positives, many of which related to the realisation that we were not alone in our disdain for the OBE. After about 4 years of solid campaigning, the government decided to ditch the plans and we went back to a more reasonable approach to secondary education. I see that recently ACARA is starting up with the same sort of nonsense, so someone will have to fight a campaign to keep that at bay. These lunatic ideas in education are like a cancer metastisising – they just won’t go away. I guess the bottom line of this comment is that it doesn’t take a huge number of people to start the fight, as almost certainly, there are a lot out there who agree with a particular line of thinking and just need some good leadership to inspire them to fight the good fight.

  • lbloveday

    “….they just won’t go away”.
    .
    Like euthanasia bills – last month passed by the SA Lower House at the 17th attempt in 26 years.
    .
    Years back a SA MP told me “We have to win every time, they only have to win once”. And so it came to pass.

  • Lewis P Buckingham

    The Federal Administration is writing in clauses to obviate any appeals against their decisions.
    On MyGov the following appears
    ‘9. What we are not responsible for
    We are not responsible for:

    making sure myGov is error free;
    ensuring any defects with myGov will be fixed;
    ensuring that you have continuous access to myGov;
    any Loss as a result of your use, or your inability to use, myGov or a connected Member Service;
    any Loss as a result of you not accessing a myGov Inbox message;
    any notification delivery failures to your nominated mobile number or email address, telling you to access your myGov Inbox to read a message;
    ensuring that the information on a Member Service website is accurate, complete, current or does not infringe on the rights of any person;’
    Wow!
    https://my.gov.au/mygov/content/html/terms.html
    Their responsibilities are all couched in taking ‘reasonable’ steps.
    Is there a way to obtain recognition of the right to work after two jabs other than accepting these onerous terms?
    As I understand things, to obtain a medicare link you have to sign up to myGov first.
    So you have to agree to these terms.
    If you don’t, then no certificate to work.
    Lay down misère to force assent.

  • Peter Smith

    Adam Smith in the late 18th century said that there is a great deal of ruin in a nation. There is consolation in that maybe. On the other hand, I doubt he would have ever imagined just how much ruin lay in wait in the 21st century. I think the game is done. I’m a realist not prone to optimism Ron, except when my football team is playing. But to echo or paraphrase another great man, we have to continue to fight even when all hope of victory is gone.

  • ianl

    @Ron Pike

    From your 3rd last paragraph above:

    >”Thou shall not bear false witness, even if only by omission” [in reference to the propagandising MSM]

    I’m afraid that paragraph uses the royal “we” both indiscriminately and unfairly. “We” have no say in how the MSM propagandises and distorts. The large bulk of the population is both scientifically illiterate and mathematically innumerate with absolutely no intention of changing that, so unawareness remains the status quo. “We” cannot change this. Dumbing down is a deliberate strategy from those afflicted with powerlust, aided by a willing teaching force, and it obviously works. Use Google search, or Wiki ? Disinformation deliberately abounds. You’ll see that the standard response to this is “Conspiracy Theory !!”, designed to suppress by ridicule.

    Nonetheless, I appreciate your angst. I can’t see any resolution to it and haven’t for close to decade now.

  • Occidental

    “What does all this mean for Australia, and how do we develop and prosecute policies that will again make us independent, productive and prosperous?”
    I guess this is the central issue of your article. To me the first and primary need is to improve Australians. By this I make an implicit judgement that we as a people are a bit lacking. I have thought about this for a long time and my solution is to make self employment more advantageous for the average Australian . I abhor employment, and all my life have preferred the conversation of self employed people. When there is no certainty of a wage, and your family’s circumstances are dependent on your success in generating income from week to week, you change. I have seen people become larger before my eyes with self employment. Many would say that my prescription is far too simplistic, but the reality is that it is the individual who is the building block of a family, and the family of the community.
    The other issue that needs to be addressed in my view is to take a hammer to representative democracy. The world has changed a lot in the 300 years or so that representative democracy has existed for. The average man in the street is equal to, in every reasonable measure, those they elect. The answer is direct democracy of one sort or another. In this country this could be achieved over night by electing in the senate a party along the lines proposed in the 2007 and 2013 Federal elections, by the Senator Online Party. Again on the surface such a step seems simplistic, but if you think about it, the changes to our political system would be profound. Overnight it would force all parties to engage with the public, it would render lobbyists obsolete, but most importantly would make Australians directly responsible for governance outcomes.

  • pgang

    An opinion I have always espoused at Quadrant is that the future for the West is bleak unless it repents of its careless denial of the Holy Spirit. This is not just a theological opinion, but logic also dictates that a culture built on a fundamental view of the world will not survive if that worldview becomes debased.
    The materialist humanists who control this generation, whose mindset is born of the carelessness of easy living, will not see better times again. Nothing can change until this generation is out of the way, and the inherent socialism of their secular humanism goes with them. This generation beats the same drum in the face of all woes – waiting for government to save us from the problems created by government, often in the name of a bankrupt ideology called ‘conservatism’.
    There is absolutely no doubt that the future will be diminished. We are already long past the inflection point. The question is whether or not future generations can revive the reality of Christ in their lives, and rebuild Western culture in God’s image. I’m doubtful. Time is running out for this fallen world.

  • STJOHNOFGRAFTON

    Australia has become a collective of tinpot banana republics ruled by competing Premiers. The PM is there in name only.

  • Stephen Due

    Australia is transitioning, with the help of Google and Facebook, from representative democracy to a new form of government. This process is described in detail by the V-Dem (Varieties of Democracy) Institute, University of Gothenburg, Sweden. It is called ‘autocratization’. The result will be a form of government called ‘elective autocracy’. The final piece of the puzzle is the vaccine passport.

  • STD

    (?)

  • STD

    HONESTY………………………………………………………………………………………………….………..wobbly

  • Taxi Bob

    Mr Pike, a man after my own heart! A good man, a smart man, a hopeless optimist.

    Sadly it’s wrong to be an optimist, right now the fact checkers at distinguished sandcastle uni RMIT have you spotted. And you saw how they handled last years BLM protest, any talk of a super- spreader event was squashed before the idea even popped into the slow underbelly population. Things do not look good for you Ron I’m afraid. Wise not to show your profile picture. But fruitless in the end, every Pike this side of the Indian Ocean will now have a cloud over his and her head. “Could that be the Pike that is the empirical white fascist the secretly subscribes to Qanon?” Aunty will ask aloud.

    Much better to be Cynical in one’s optimism and hope the left will eat the left after they are done with the conservatives.

  • davyddwilliams

    Clearly, Australia needs a circuit breaker to avoid the coming catastrophe, when all the chickens come home to roost. I can’t envisage how that might happen other than by Australia losing its sovereignty and becoming a tribute state of China.
    The only other alternative is to analyse the origins of the mess brought upon us by the misrule of a bloated public sector, the transfer of our industries offshore and the corruption of our culture by an education system devoted to cultural Marxism.
    Those origins lie in the abandonment of faith and the abandonment of our Constitutional Preamble which says; “We the people………relying on the blessings of Almighty God…..”.
    The mess can only be rectified when the people decide to do just that.

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