Arrogance and Delusion Atop the Greasy Pole

Jim Chalmers 2023 has joined the duo of Kevin Rudd 2009 and Wayne Swan 2012 to remake capitalism through the medium of The Monthly. Imagine what wonders could be wrought if they were to form a triumvirate to guide Australia’s economic future.  As it is, Rudd’s and Swan’s efforts came to nought; now forgotten. Yesterday’s ideas. Fear not, stout-hearted capitalists, Chalmer’s efforts will suffer the same fate.

I don’t want to comment directly on Chalmers’ thought bubbles. I did comment on Swan’s back in 2012 and have a number of times explained the unique virtues of capitalism.  Here and here for instance. It gets tiresome to keep making the case in the knowledge that socialist nincompoops, like Chalmers, will forever think that the world would be a better place if only business could be brought to heel and tamed by Big Government. They will never learn. As it is, Nick Cater and Judith Sloan, among others, did a fine job in print of demolishing Chalmer’s silly economics, as did Andrew Bolt in discussion with Terry McCrann on the telly.

Democracy has a problem. That’s my topic. The problem is that the skills required to climb the greasy pole of backroom party politics and become a candidate in a safe seat are not those required to hold executive positions in government. That tends not to be a problem if and when genuine conservative parties are in power. They usually have muted ambitions to change the world. Amity Shlaes’ take on Calvin Coolidge’s political philosophy, in her book The Forgotten Man, sums it up: “Do no harm.” In contrast, the raison d’etre of left-wing political parties is precisely to change the world. However, that need not be cataclysmic in practise. 

I recently read an account which compared Jacinda Ardern unfavourably with other female leaders, including Angela Merkel. Hmm, I thought. Ms Ardern may arguably have left New Zealand in worse shape than she found it, but she didn’t flood her country with millions of cultural-clashing illegal migrants. I doubt anything Ardern did couldn’t be undone. No so with Frau Merkel.

To be considered whenever those on the left gain power are their intentions, their grand plans, and I include the new breed of political third columnists who pretend to be centre right. Do they intend to remake the world in ways which will be extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, to undo? And, are they naïve enough, untutored in the real world, to think that they can succeed? Back to Chalmers.

Our Treasurer went from university to Labor Party apparatchik. If he applied for the job of Treasurer in any open process I imagine he wouldn’t make the first cut. The search consultants would provide a polite pro-forma rejection. No interview for him.

You might think that his lack of expertise and experience would mute his ambition; lead him to stick to his last. Being a Labor man, propose a range of increased taxes to be spent on social welfare, health and education. At the same time, try to emulate Swan and promise, albeit forlornly, to bring the budget into long-term balance and reduce debt. In other words, make a stock standard left-wing pig’s ear of things which a subsequent Liberal government would need to clean up.  There is always residue. But nothing that free-market capitalism, given its head, can’t afford to fund.

Instead Chalmers has apparently decided he has the key to supplanting free-market capitalism with something better. “Values-based capitalism” he calls it, taking a lead from the ex-governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney. Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek go sling your hooks.

Fanciful thinking of the Chalmers’ kind has a long history. In more recent times, a conference on so-called “inclusive capitalism” was held in London in 2014 and then again in New York in 2016. Justin Welby and Prince Charles attended the London conference, as did the aforementioned Mark Carney, to give you a sense of how highfalutin it was. This series of conferences eventually morphed, in 2020, into the Council for Inclusive Capitalism (CIC), which has partnered with the Vatican, no less. Not sure where that leaves Welby, ecumenically speaking.

In the meantime, Klaus Schwab and the World Economic Forum (WEF) are gung-ho for “stakeholder capitalism.” It’s all the same thing. It’s also been called conscious capitalism and cooperative capitalism. None of them, whatever called, exist or can ever exist. They are chimeras. Inventions of febrile minds. Products of arrested development, which is the key to understanding all socialistic tendencies in middle-late age. If you don’t grow up; and having real jobs helps you grow up, then on the left you remain. Stranded in short pants and sandpits.

I would be worried if Chalmer’s could carry out his threat. But the CIC and WEF are both impotent and vapid. Blah, blah, blah and private jets. Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. And Chalmers is a pipsqueak in comparison. Unless communists take over, the profit motive will win out. Friedman’s shareholder (free-market) capitalism will prevail against the nebulous concept of stakeholder capitalism or its pseudonyms.

The real worry for us is not Chalmers but Chris Bowen. Now there’s a dangerous man. He, too, has a background unsullied by real jobs; at least so far as I can find. His ambition is for Australia to become a renewable energy superpower while, in the blink of an eye, burdening us with electric cars and ridding us of fossil fuels. This will equally prove to be unachievable. But, and it’s a big but, along the way it may well create an enormous amount of irreparable damage to Australia’s industrial and export base.

I haven’t mentioned Anthony Albanese and the Voice. Yet again, irreparable harm in the wings. Come back, Gough Whitlam, Jim Cairns and Rex Connor. Blow out the budget. Re-employ Tirath Khemlani to broker shady borrowings. See if we care.

23 thoughts on “Arrogance and Delusion Atop the Greasy Pole

  • Adelagado says:

    Any child under the age of 15 who expresses a desire to go into politics should immediately be jailed for life. It’s not natural to want power over others at such a young age. It should be treated as suspiciously as a child who tortures animals or dissects roadkill. In the USA the minimum age to win a seat is 25. We should have minimums here. It might force a few to work in real jobs… for a few years at least.

  • brandee says:

    Well said Peter, and your exasperation is on show with “Come back, Gough Whitlam, Jim Cairns and Rex Connor. Blow up the Budget.”
    The avatars came back last year right on the 50th anniversary of these Labor ‘deities’ Whitlam Cairns and Connor. Can we dispose of the avatars in 3 years like the first cleanout from 1972-1975?
    It is easy to agree with your claim Peter that “Democracy has a problem. The problem is that the skills required to climb the greasy pole of backroom party politics and become a candidate in a safe seat are not those required to hold executive positions in government”. It so obviously applies to the Labor Party but also to the Liberal Party and after listing the name of Scott Morrison as a prime example from the latter group I rest my case without mentioning other Liberals such as Matt Kean or Julian Leeser.

  • vicjurskis says:

    You’re pretty right Peter except that the irreparable damage is already happening. It started under Turnbull and Morrison. Net Zero = Stone Age. Fake Renewables, Fake Nations with a Fake Flag and One Voice are lunacy. Pushing coal-powered cars whilst shutting down coal power is part of it. But, our young 122-year-old nation is in critical condition because the skills required to produce goods are not those required to obtain the right to vote. Joh’s alleged jerrymander, detested by their ABC, was much fairer than government by rainbow watermelons from cities sustained by an immigration ponzi scheme.

    • DougD says:

      Vic – “Joh’s alleged jerrymander”. Nothing “alleged” about it. Joh just built on a long jerrymandering tradition by Labor in Queensland. The SMH for 18 May 1923 reported on the then recent election there, saying “Labour is in a strong position in the new single-Chamber Parliament of Queensland because of the gerrymandering of the State on the occasion of the last electoral redistribution.” The SMH gives full details. It is erroneously thought that the Queensland “gerrymander” was first introduced by the Australian Labor Party government of Ned Hanlon in 1949, that used a series of electoral zones based on their distance from Brisbane.

  • Ceres says:

    Another great post Peter. The arrogance of never had a real job Chalmers, is breathtaking as he fails upwards. Talk about delusions of grandeur as he spews out his agenda for socialism.
    As you point out, a lot to worry about in Oz with maniacal energy decrees and the anti democracy race based referendum in the pipeline, not a lot to rejoice about but that’s what Labor does. No surprises here.

  • rod.stuart says:

    Definitely another spectacular Peter Smith piece.
    The hypocracy of the Teals and the Green lobby is nothing but astounding.
    For decades they have been crying foul whenever the mining or oil and gas industry apply for a permit.
    But when the environment must be demoslished to make room for bird slicers? Not a word from the ALP, the Greens or the Teals. Theere are a couple of enlightening videos here:

  • Sindri says:

    Those who want to get into Parliament by climbing the greasy pole of the party bureaucracy, the staffers, apparatchicks and other assorted flacks, are precisely the people the Parliament doesn’t need, yet they seem to infest the place these days, on both sides.

  • Stephen Due says:

    As we have seen throughout the late pandemic, the typical Australian politician lacks the moral fibre and the intellect to manage anything more difficult than raffling a duck in his/her own electorate. As leaders they are completely useless, driven purely by sentiment and party loyalties.
    The same applies in other ‘democracies’ – all of which, like Australia, are rapidly turning into elected dictatorships with a wonderful gravy train for the dictator class. The idea that politicians in office somehow ‘represent’ the people in their electorates is wearing thin.
    The key to a better democracy, in reality, is to dismantle the administrative state. We must drastically reduce the size and reach of government. We must get rid of the ubiquitous surveillance technology and other tools of tyrannical control, especially state-controlled education and health care.
    The truth is that no person or class really has the qualities that we would expect of those in positions of great power. The only rational response in this situation is to restrict as far as possible the power at the disposal of government. Anyone who reflects on the vast power, actual and potential, that government has over them, should be worried. The concentration camps have already been built in Australia. Beware.

  • Alice Thermopolis says:

    Remaking capitalism may be less of a challenge if your mates are directors of super funds and ever so keen to invest in the Minister of Climate Change’s RE fantasies.

    Jim Chalmers MP
    Wayne Swan is champion of the battler, a mate and a mentor. An extraordinary honour to serve alongside @SwannyQLD and to have worked for him for many years and especially during the global financial crisis. In many ways he’s the keeper of the @AustralianLabor flame.
    6:40 AM · Feb 10, 2018

  • padraic says:

    Peter is correct about the current crop of politicians, most of whom have climbed the greasy pole he describes. In the not so distant past candidates for the 3 major parties joined the party in a part-time capacity whilst holding down a full time job. With Labor it could be a labouring, office work or a tradie job – plus others, with Liberal it could be someone in business, banking, law etc and with the Country Party it would be someone actually being a farmer or grazier or a local stock and station agent et al – all of whom knew what was involved at the coal face of their work and if elected took that experience with them into Parliament. The above broad brush classifications do not exclude people in the predominant groups joining other parties. But the point is they knew what was involved in real life. These days, as illustrated in Peter’s article, most who join Parliament come straight from the valley of the shadow of university education which now impacts on professions and skills that previously escaped or partially escaped such a fate, like nursing, teaching etc. Adelago has the right idea with the following statement “In the USA the minimum age to win a seat is 25. We should have minimums here. It might force a few to work in real jobs… for a few years at least.” If they can do that in America with all their legalistic civil rights culture surely we should be able to have something similar here. Perhaps party membership should be afforded only to those who have had substantial work experience in the real world.

  • Geoff Sherrington says:

    I think (and hope) that many people think similarly to you about this.
    Vicjurskis mentions “our young 122-year-old nation” which, at my age of 82 I have witnessed for 67% of its time. There have been comings and goings of unusual and/or ignorant politicial ideals.
    So, time to jog the memory. Bob Hawke 1984.
    My boss asked my wife and I to attend the ALP conference of 1991, where Wayne Swan waxed lyrical. (Alice remembers him). The local news media has us photographed on front page leaving early.
    Now, the cyclic regurgitation of hate of the success of free enterprise has returned via Jim Chalmers. As Federal Treasurer, no less. Sad times ahead – again. Geoff S

  • BalancedObservation says:

    Jim Chalmers’ paper published in The Monthly can best be described as rambling, puffed-up, self-indulgent, condescending confused and devoid of any remotely actionable economic policies at all.
    The following small extract from the 5713 words is to me quite revealing in itself (the capitals are my emphasis):
    “I’m sure EVEN readers of The Monthly struggle to stay interested in all the arcana of economic policy. FOR YOU , I thoroughly recommend British historian Adam Tooze’s Chartbook newsletter. The studied dullness of the title couldn’t be more at odds with content that ranges from brutalist architecture to Dionne Warwick lip-syncing on a Paris rooftop.”
    This comment shows a condescending attitude towards readers of The Monthly consistent with an attempt to present himself as a sort of highly knowledgeable academic economist – which, on looking closely at his qualifications, he isn’t.
    It may also explain why Jim Chalmers diverts obtusely to Greek philosophy and historians. He’s probably more at home with them, politic science and the politics of spin than he is with economic theory and practice.
    From the lack of clarity, understanding and any precision about economic solutions in his paper I’d say he has a problem himself following economic theory and practice and seems to cover over that with the waffle of the consummate political spin doctor who’s more at home with politics and spin than economics.
    The lack of real economic relevance in a number of the sorts of references Chalmers uses is staggering.
    However generally so far in office, according to the polls, he’s pretty much got away with it. It’s testament to the effectiveness of his spin and the weak opposition we now have. He would not have got away with it with an opposition leader like Tony Abbott who’d have had him for breakfast.
    I hope it’s all talk and confused waffle about “reimagining” and restructuring our free enterprise markets. Waffle and spin won’t do nearly as much damage as an economically confused spin doctor trying to rearrange our proven free enterprise markets with inspiration from the likes of Greek philosophers.

  • Rebekah Meredith says:

    February 6, 2023
    The US age requirements for government office were established in the Constitution and apply only at the federal level: 25 for the House, 30 for the Senate, and 35 for the Presidency. The constitutions of individual states have their own age requirements; some are as low as 18 or 21. Therefore, a man could still enter politics without ever having a “real job” (considering that most of us would not choose to endure the difficulties of life in government, I think that that statement is rather harsh; but I get the point). However, at least he does have to work his way up.
    Interestingly, the US constitution also requires members of the House to have been US citizens for at least 7 years, Senators to have been citizens for at least 9 years, and the president to be a natural-born citizen and to have resided in the country for at least 14 years. The US constitution also requires a member of Congress to reside in the state he represents. That, at least, should surely be a minimum requirement, even though it IS against British tradition.

  • Alice Thermopolis says:

    Balanced Observation (above): “Waffle and spin won’t do nearly as much damage as an economically confused spin doctor trying to rearrange our proven free enterprise markets with inspiration from the likes of Greek philosophers.”

    If only the Treasurer had spent less time on Swan’s Way – and possibly Aristotle’s The Art of Rhetoric – and rather more reading Plato’s The Apology of Socrates, noting his conception of wisdom:

    “Well I am certainly wiser than this man. It is only too likely that neither of us has any knowledge to boast of; but he thinks that he knows something which he does not know, whereas I am quite conscious of my ignorance. At any rate it seems that I am wiser than he is to this small extent, that I do not think that I know what I do not know.”

  • Daffy says:

    Two problems:
    We don’t support ‘capitalism’; that’s a Marxist straw-man propaganda word. We are ambitious for free markets with minimum red tape, almost no green tape, and no ‘crony capitalism’.

    The left’s inherent problem is two-fold: they think they know better after Lukacs shooting in foot notion that only the proletariat know the truth, but the upper bourgeoisie (intellectuals and leftist politicians) feel free to tell them what that truth is. The forget the kicker: they are not the working class and therefore are excluded from truth; which is blatantly obvious. And they think they know better than markets in selecting what constitutes value.

    We need to keep reminding leftist governments that leaving people alone is the first rule of government in the western tradition. Wrecking their relationships is the first ambition only of Marx’s wreckers.

  • BalancedObservation says:

    The fact that different people get diametrically opposed messages from the Jim Chalmers’ paper is a good indication of how confused the paper is.
    Respected political commentator Michelle Grattan from her soundings says some say there’s not much to see in the paper other than a virtual continuation of the policies under Keating and Hawke.
    Whereas she says the “business community and the business-oriented media see it as interventionism on steroids” – “a repudiation of Hawke and Keating”.
    Peter van Onselen, writing in The Australian says there’s not enough “meat on the bone” ( in 5713 words mind you!) to be able to distinguish whether Chalmers is a disciple of Wayne Swan or Paul Keating.
    It isn’t surprising people have such diametrically opposed views given the paper’s confused level of unadulterated waffle and a total lack of any indication of likely policies which could possibly follow from the paper.

  • lbloveday says:

    Never too old to learn! I’ve not seen or heard “stick to his last” used in that context and had to look it up – seemingly originated from Apelles telling a shoemaker that he should give no opinion beyond the shoes and morphed into the English ‘let the cobbler stick to his last’.
    Asked my best two wordsmith mates, one knew it (Colonel (ret)), one had not (retired Teacher).

  • BalancedObservation says:

    Jim Chalmers is an excellent example of how fraught the climb of the “greasy poll” to political power is.
    To best way to illustrate that and to assess how well qualified Jim Chalmers is for office is to look what he’s actually done as Treasurer, particularly regarding the main problems currently confronting our economy.
    On the immediate problem of inflation he’s pretty much sat on his hands and left all the heavy lifting to the Reserve Bank to use higher interest rates to get inflation down. Admittedly Chalmers has talked a lot. But he’s done very little at all. Most of his talking seems to be aimed at distancing himself from any negative impact of the higher interest rates and putting the RBA firmly in the frame for them.
    It’s been a pretty blatant strategy to do virtually nothing and to avoid accountability. His lack of fiscal action has meant that interest rates have had to rise faster and higher than otherwise would be the case.
    Interest rate policy has pretty much been the main choice of conservative governments since the Global Financial Crisis to stimulate or to restrain economies. And yet these are the governments Chalmers is so highly critical of in his paper. But in practice he does the same as they do – yet at the same time he tries to paint himself as a great economic theorist and innovator.
    On the other main issue currently confronting Australia – the fact that many people can no longer get access to or afford healthcare – he’s avoided doing anything in the short term to help.
    Meanwhile he doggedly retains his middle class welfare election policies on childcare and home ownership which give handouts to people on joint incomes up to $500,000.
    So much for the fairness and innovation of Jim Chalmers’ new value economics. His confused paper bears no resemblance to what he does in office.

  • Alice Thermopolis says:

    AFR columnist Karen Maley outlined yesterday “how Jim Chalmers plans to put the acid on super funds”.
    Maley argues that his essay provides” a key clue on how he plans to redraw the country’s investment landscape.”

    “If I were a trustee of a super fund, I’d be extremely anxious about one sentence in Jim Chalmers’ essay that holds the key to understanding his radical plan for transforming the country’s investment landscape.

    This is the sentence where Chalmers announces that in 2023, the government will “create a new sustainable finance architecture, including a new taxonomy to label the climate impact of different investments”.

    This new framework, he says, is necessary because “investors should be able to work out the climate-risk rating of a firm just as a lender can work out a credit-risk rating”.

    Hence the government has a role to play in encouraging “impact investing” because, it believes the market in these sectors is broken.

    Now, it’s not obvious why the government needs to provide this new framework. There are already private sector firms that are already working out methodologies to quantify climate risk, and global carbon [dioxide] reporting frameworks have been widely adopted.

    The other unusual aspect of Chalmers’ new “taxonomy” is that it will “label the climate impact of different investments”.”

    In other words, if Maley is right we can expect the Treasurer to use the bogus CC scare doing all he can to force super funds from investing in those nasty – yet very profitable – “fossil fuel” companies.

    As for “methodologies to quantify climate risk”, expect to see even more dodgy analysis claiming confidently it can do the impossible.

  • BalancedObservation says:

    Further to what I said above about the government shifting as much blame as possible onto the Reserve Bank – they must have been ecstatic when the Greens called for the sacking of the RBA Governor over recent interest rate rises.
    No wonder Jim Chalmers was very quick out of the blocks to emphasize the independence of the RBA and add that he doesn’t take economic advice from the Greens ( which must be quite an insult to the Greens as he seemed to take it from some pretty weird and diverse quarters in his recent paper).
    With one stroke Chalmers and Co were able to defend the independence of the RBA and ensure that the current Governor could hang around for long enough to take the blame for any fallout for getting inflation under control.
    Meanwhile the government could continue to sit on its hands avoiding accountability and taking no real fiscal action to address the inflation threat. That inaction has led to interest rates needing to go up higher and faster than if some responsible fiscal action had been taken.

    • Brian Boru says:

      I notice that some Labor members are now calling for the RBA Governor’s term to not be extended. You talk above about the RBA being left to do the heavy lifting. Now Labor appears to be scapegoating him.

  • BalancedObservation says:

    In reply to Brian Boru.

    Yes, there’s recently been a long line of Labor MPs criticising the RBA Governor, saying his term should not be extended.
    It’s starting to look like an orchestrated campaign against him to shift blame onto him so the government can avoid any accountability for getting inflation under control, and avoid any fallout from taking necessary action.
    The government has taken virtually no fiscal action to get inflation under control. That’s meant that interest rates have had to be lifted faster and higher than they would otherwise have needed to be lifted.
    In the last budget Labor actually added billions to demand and they’ve doggedly held onto their middle class welfare election promises despite the need for restraint. Those election promises involve handouts to people earning joint incomes up to $500,000.
    Responsible fiscal restraint from the government would have meant that interest rates would not have to have been as high as they are nor as high as they will likely still need to go.
    As a result the government will be accountable if inflation measures by the RBA trigger a recession. Labor’s fiscal inaction has made the Governor’s job far more difficult than it needed to be.

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