Whining about Stiglitz, Sloan undermines herself beautifully

For all of Judith Sloan’s righteous ranting against Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, her piece essentially boils down to this: Joseph Stiglitz is American, Australia is doing better economically than America, and so therefore Stiglitz should shut up and go home.

A pretty babyish position to have.

Still though, taking Sloan at her best, what she’s suggesting has a pretty fundamental problem. It’s been true for the past two decades that Australia is doing better economically than America. But it’s also true that Australia is an economy with more government intervention than America’s.

It’s a pretty fundamental truth that Sloan is pretty eager to ignore. These kinds of comparisons are superficial and don’t tell us much, but since Sloan thinks it’s good argument to use them, I could just as easily suggest that that reason we’re doing better is because we have a much better mix of government intervention, and that going backwards on that is likely to worsen our problems.

People who regard themselves as commentators should be above this kind of crap. Unfortunately, I don’t have much confidence that Sloan will improve on this front anytime soon.


“Compassion-mongers” or just people with common sense

Writing in The Australian, Nick Cater continues the conservative campaign against asylum seekers, labelling those against the conservative worldview as “compassion-mongers”.

He wrote as though compassion wasn’t a quality you would want in anyone with the temerity to call themselves human. I would’ve thought that “mongering” would be more associated with things like “fear-mongering”, which is what people like Cater love doing, day-in and day-out.

Cater did himself no favours either by getting his readers to take a “look at the scoreboard”.

Between 2002 and 2007, when the Pacific Solution was in place, there were 288 arrivals. From 2008 to last year, when the rules were eased, there were 51,796 arrivals.

Sorry Cater, but that’s not the point. There were probably thousands of refugees who could have arrived that 2002 and 2007 for whom the opportunity for us to offer protection was forgone. Regardless of how many asylum seekers that could have arrived between 2002 and 2007 that we would have rejected, that group of “genuine refugees” would have been much larger. And what a tragedy that is for those refugees.

Misuse of the English language aside and childish references to the scoreboard aside, there is still the unanswered argument that asylum seekers, regardless of the outcome of their claims, have certain rights and dignities that Australia currently does not even pretend to respect.

Even when some asylum seekers turn out to be economic migrants and economic migrants only (and thus have their claims rejected — this is not a point in dispute from the left), Australia doesn’t have the right to punish them — through detention centres, crap food, abuse etc. — for the crimes of people smugglers.

This group of asylum seekers were essentially deceived into handing over good money by criminals. It is unreasonable to expect that they should have known better, given the general assymetry of information. Most asylum seekers don’t even know Australia does offshore detention!

It’s not as though the Australian government also punishes anyone who’s been scammed on the Internet for having the nerve to fall for a scam. The entire point is that the scammed didn’t know that they were being scammed, just as asylum seekers don’t know that this isn’t the most effective channel to get to Australia.

Once we start accepting that line of analysis, then we should at least be able to restore some sorely needed balance to our bizarre approach to refugees.

Gary Johns, waffling cheerleader with no substance

In one of the worst instances of drivel I have ever seen in The Australian, Gary Johns advises that the Prime Minister Tony Abbott should advocate for lower energy prices. Without ever coming up with any substantive reasons why that would be a good idea beyond that it would be “popular” and would “grind the Red/Green enemy into the ground”.

Beyond mockery of Johns for his intellectual lightweightedness and his ludicrously over-the-top rhetoric, there are some pretty good reasons why lower energy prices isn’t something we should necessarily be enthusiastic about. You know, if they came at the expense of much more carbon emissions, well that wouldn’t be so good. At some point, the cost of increased natural disaster cleanup and sea rise mitigation would cancel it all out.

But I give Johns too much respect here. No real need to come up with legitimate policy responses when the best he’s got is a comparison of Abbott against the Red/Green enemy with the Brits against the Germans.

The cultural elite, they’re so powerful!

The Age today published an article by one Nicolle Flint, who claims that Australia is ruled by progressive softies who’ve never seen hard times and who make a living from, of all things, thinking about the world. They “tell us what to think and when, who to like and how” when they’re not agonising about how animals aren’t food. We’re “beholden to their power”, lemmings poised to be led off the cliff.

Yes, because polls showing a historic defeat for the ALP really means the evil left has taken over for good.

Laying aside the low-hanging fruit, it really is news to me that Australia has become a culture dominated by some cultural elite. For better or for worse, anti-intellectualism is a pervasive part of our psyche. If anything, the lack of respect we have for people who have actually studied the subject matters we pass ignorant judgements on is the real eye-opener.

Then I read the author info and found out that she was, wait for it, a PhD candidate at Flinders. An academic wannabe talking about how the smart people are ruining the country.

Credibility: none.