Begging the Question: Recovery to What?

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It’s a curious symptom of the consensus trance zombifying the American public and its auditors in the media that something like a “recovery” is now deemed to be underway. And, as events compel me to repeat in this space, it begs the question: recovery to what? To Wall Street booking stupendous profits by laundering “risk” out of bad loans with new issues of tranche-o-matic securitized paper? This I doubt, since there isn’t a pension fund left from San Jose to Bratislava that would touch this stuff with a stick, even if it could be turned out in collector’s editions of boxed sets.

Does it mean that American “consumers” (so-called) are awaited momentarily in the flat-screen TV sales parlors with their credit cards fanned-out like poker hands, ready for “action?” Not too likely with massive non-performance out in cardholder-land, and half the nation’s electronics inventory wending its way onto Craig’s List. Are we expecting more asteroid belts of new suburbs carved in the loamy outlands of Dallas and Minneapolis, complete with new highway strips of Big Box shopping and Chuck E. Cheeses? Go to banking’s intensive care unit and inquire (if you can) among the flat-lining production home- builders and the real estate investment trusts on life support when they expect to rev up the heavy equipment.

The idea that we’re about to resume the insane behavior that induced the current epochal malaise of economy is so absurd it will only be heard in the faculty dining halls of the Ivy League. And if America is not picking up where it left off eighteen months ago – the orgy of spending future claims on wealth unlikely to accrue – then what is our destiny? Based on what’s out there in the organs of public thinking, it seems that we don’t want to think about it.

So many forces are arrayed against a return to the previous “normal” that we will be lucky, in another eighteen months, to still find ourselves speaking English and celebrating Christmas. What’s “out there” is a panorama of mutually reinforcing critical problems pertaining to how we live on this continent. Like the obesity, heart disease, and diabetes that plague the public, these problems are disorders of lifestyle habits and the only possible “cure” is a comprehensive revision of lifestyle. With the onset of spring weather and the cheez doodles and monster truck rallies and NASCAR tailgate barbeques and the drive-in beer emporiums all beckoning, can the public shift its attention from these infantile preoccupations to saving its own ass?

So far, the most striking piece of the economic fiasco is the absence of any galvanizing spirit among the millions getting crushed in the tragic unwind of our relations with money. It will be interesting to see, for instance, if there is any uproar over the evolving story of Goldman Sachs’ latest raid on the U.S. Treasury, after booking billions in taxpayer-funded payouts funneled through AIG, based on double-hedged credit default swaps. Such magic tricks are understandably hard to follow, but a dozen-or-so federal attorneys with a middling background in differential calculus might suss out the trail that leads from Ben Bernanke’s work station to Lloyd Blankfein’s cappuccino machine. Something similar may be said in regard to revelations last week of White House economic advisor Larry Summers’ connection with a number of hedge funds shoveling millions into his deep pockets for showing up once a week to cheerlead their “innovations” – not to mention his shadowy visits to the Goldman Sachs gravy train even after he signed onto the Obama campaign. As long as the stock markets seem to rally – no matter what else is really going on in America – nobody will pay much attention to these disgusting irregularities.

Since it is that time of year, and I am haunting the gardening shop, one can’t fail to notice the many styles of pitchforks for sale. My guess is that the current mood of public paralysis will dissolve in a blur of blood and spittle sometime between Memorial Day and July Fourth, even with NASCAR in full swing, and the mushrooming ranks of the unemployed lost in raptures of engine noise and fried cornmeal. It doesn’t take too many determined, pissed-off people to create a lot of mischief in a complex society.

On the agenda in the second quarter of ’09 are ominous rumblings in the oil and food sectors. Half a year of cratered oil prices have decimated the oil industry and we’re driving at 100-miles-an-hour straight off a cliff into a new kind of supply crisis – even if industrial production and global exports remain moribund. So many drilling rigs are being decommissioned that the oil industry itself looks like it’s preparing for its own death, investment in exploration and discovery has withered with the credit markets, and the world may never recover from the year long hiccup in oil industry activity – translation: peak oil is biting back now with a vengeance. Its peakness will look peakier and the yawning arc of depletion beyond will look steeper and pose a threat to every globalized and continental-scale enterprise in the known world.

So many dire elements are ranging around our food production system (i.e. farming), from widespread drought and water table depletion to “input” shortages (especially fertilizers) to sickness in credit availability, that we’re all one bad harvest away from something that will make Pieter Bruegel-the-elder’s “Triumph of Death” look like Vanity Fair’s annual Oscar Party in comparison.

Barack Obama, charming as he is, had better drop his pretensions about kick-starting the old consumer economy, fire the Wall Street clowns and parasites who are running that futile exercise, and start preparing a US Lifeboat Economy aimed at reducing the scale and scope of our outlays so we can survive the coming siege of austerity. Meanwhile, I’m glad that he finally got a dog for the White House, because the President knows full well where to turn in Washington if you want some genuine love and affection.

Regards,

James Howard Kunstler
for The Daily Reckoning Australia

James Howard Kunstler
(born 1948) is an American author, social critic, and blogger who is perhaps best known for his book The Geography of Nowhere, a history of suburbia and urban development in the United States. He is prominently featured in the peak oil documentary, The End of Suburbia, widely circulated on the internet. In his most recent book, The Long Emergency (2005), he argues that declining oil production is likely to result in the end of industrialized society and force Americans to live in localized, agrarian communities.
James Howard Kunstler

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  1. […] Barack Obama, charming as he is, had better drop his pretensions about kick-starting the old consumer economy, fire the Wall Street clowns and parasites who are running that futile exercise, and start preparing a US Lifeboat Economy aimed at reducing the scale and scope of our outlays so we can survive the coming siege of austerity. Meanwhile, I’m glad that he finally got a dog for the White House, because the President knows full well where to turn in Washington if you want some genuine love and affection. The Daily Reckoning Australia […]

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  2. Obama won’t sack the Wall Street clowns who put him there in the first place – he’d rather die first. Alternatively, they’d rather him die first, take your pick.

    All of this is like buying a car. If your old car works, then it’s easy to make a considered, unhurried decision. But if the old car is dead, and you absolutely have to work to avoid going broke, then you are going to be a sucker for any used car that the salesman shows you – and it’s very likely to be the lemon nobody else would buy.

    As much as I’d like to disagree, you’re right about the cultural shifts. When the financial and political fear really sets in, people will be accepting whatever absurd solution their local talking head will give them. History: Experience, Forget, Rinse, Repeat.

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  3. Check this out Stephen long on ABC late line. Click on (glimmer of hope based on a long shot) 3 min 30 seconds http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/

    I wonder if he reads the DR?

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  4. I guess the author forgets about the S&L crisis and the various market crashes, bubbles and scandals we have had before? Will we resume the bad lending practices of the past…of course we will, they will just be in a different form so that they can slide around what ever new regulations come into force :)

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  5. Greg Atkinson – Yes, governments and banks and markets are definitely very keen on a return to the good old days (of 2007 at least) – Except for the French and Germans who remain a bit recalictrant apparently?
    But your point is well taken – Rely on the governments of (most) developed Western nations to fib, cheat, bluff, fudge, fiscally stimulate, inflate their way out of all problems and you’ll be spot on – If you had been my investment advisor over even the last 10 years, I very well may be a mega-millioniare right now … Dead serious! (But I also bear in mind the general investment warning that “Past Performance is no guarentee of future performance.”)
    Put simply I suppose, I’m not as confident as you in the ultimate efficacy of such actions.
    These turkeys went really close to losing it very big time only 8 months ago – Full on 1930s global Great Depression type stuff. And have since acknowledged it.
    And they still aren’t necessarily out of the woods yet. Jeez Greg, QE as a “solution” – That is pretty desperate stuff? These gents don’t have control of their economies back. But they certainly may well have bought some time for now.
    But at huge cost – Way more than the S&L crisis, Asian Crash, dot.com, Enron etc things you mention/allude to – Way more like the WWII aftermath deficit. Which the world did wiggle out of OK. But it is really quite possible more stimulus will be required. (George Soros thinks so – If he is telling the truth – At this time I don’t trust too many people in the world at all unless I’ve known them personally for quite some time and have also consistently found their words and actions to align with those of people with very considerable integrity.)
    But if what you are saying is correct, these are people of integrity – In that we can always trust them to fib, cheat, bluff, fudge, fiscally stimulate, inflate their way out of all problems – OK I probably really should accept that – Thank you for the thought to ponder at least!
    Sincere Regards.

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  6. Ned S I am not saying that the turkeys will solve any long term problems but the global economy is a big place. The U.S. will probably take a long time to recover from this mess (and maybe never fully) but there will be winners….not sure who they will be though (wish I did). A lot of wealth has been destroyed and assets have changed hands but the world will go on. I appreciate things look very bad, (and they are) but the global economy has the amazing ability to bounce back..it just takes time. I know this is not a popular view on this site..but I will toss it out there anyway :)

    We all know the post bubble routine. Everyone gets mad, the politicians are outraged and they swear they will implement measures to make sure it never happens again. But after a while the banks start making money again, the politicians need to be re-elected and suddenly bankers are back at the party fund raisers again.

    Having said all that I agree with you that QE is a sign of desperation and I also do not have too much confidence in many the people calling the shots but… (sigh)…what can we do?

    Mind you I also think we are being taken for a bit of a ride and that some governments are using the crisis to seize more power.
    If you have time please have a look at my rant on the subject and let me know what you think: The great recession swindle

    Cheers!

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  7. Greg Atkinson – Have had a look at your “The great recession swindle” article – I concur. Lots of comments I’d love to make but at the moment I’ll have to settle for just confining myself to a few in relation to one general topic:

    The GFC has caused me to question many things about how the governments of developed Western democracies operate. Some thoughts (but no answer sadly):

    * If I recall correctly one of the American founding fathers made a comment to the effect that Yes this democracy thing may serve us pretty well for quite a while but at some point we’ll probably have to come up with a better system – Never have been able to find the reference again, but I’m almost certain I did read it somewhere once? (There were some deep and very forward thinking men amongst those blokes – I’d like to find time to read more of their thoughts some day.)

    * But regardless of what anyone else thinks/thought, at the moment I tend to think of democracy (at least as we have it in the West just now) as some approximation to “Government of the short-sighted and self-interested, by the short-sighted and self-interested, for the short-sighted and self-interested.” (Not that there is anything wrong with a bit of self-interest mind, providing it isn’t totally overdone.)

    * But given that thought, if I was America, I just might be inclined to back off on my recent push to export that system quite so actively to the presumably less enlighted parts of world for a while – Leastways, until I’d had a bit more of a think about it.

    * Could it be that our system of popularly elected government every 4 years contributes to our policymakers being inclined to be far more short sighted and considerably less practical regarding their visions for the future than the Chinese perhaps?

    * Not that I especially wish to pack up and go and live in China – Because it sure doesn’t sound like a full on utopian paradise to me – But hey, if they’ve got some bits right that we’ve got wrong, then it might be wise to have a think about how we might be able to adopt those good bits into our system.

    * In that regard, I’ve also had cause to have a reasonable think about the old Soviet system – The “bad evil commie threat to all that is good and decent in the world” according to the Western propaganda of my youth – But which actually had some pretty decent fundamentals in place if anyone actually does take a look – Providing you weren’t on Stalin’s purge list of course – But Joe Stalin’s odd naughty ways aside, the Soviet system truly did believe that its citizens had a right to housing, health and education. And it did a pretty decent job of seeing that people got them within its financial limitations – It was probably never really much more than a developing economy at best that was trying to support a huge and highly sophisticated military while also giving its citizens lots of good basic things, but in being overly controlling and decrying and even actively denying the fundamental drive of people to “get ahead”, sowed at least some of the seeds for its own collapse perhaps – And collapse it surely did – So there was something wrong with it irrsepective of whether my take on what that was, is correct or not – But, again, hey, don’t throw out the baby with the bath water I’d suggest? Look for the good bits and see if we can maybe make use of them in some way to improve our own system. Because there surely was much in the system that was good. Despite the bad.

    * I also incline to the feeling at the moment that the fact that someone actually wants to be a politician (at least in our Western systems as they function at the moment), just almost could be a very good reason for NOT wanting them to be? The arrogance that underlies the “I know the answer/I have the answer” attitude that seems to be required to make them even want the job simply seems to somehow make them fundamentally unfit for the job if you take my point?

    * So where does that lead me? To the thought that the best leaders just might actually be somewhat unwilling and almost necessarily “conscript” types who really didn’t want the job, but out of a true sense of civic duty would say something like OK I’ll do it – But for no more than seven years mind – After that it HAS to be someone else’s turn! With my feeling being that if we could somehow manage to get a mix of maybe some sort of Paul Volcker, Warren Buffet, Mother Theresa types to take the jobs on we may well be way better off. (Presumably the odd mistake would occur and we’d get a Bernie Madoff in the mix once in a while – But I have a suspicion any such problems could be resolved.)

    * But therein lies a basic problem – Just who gets to choose the somewhat unwilling but ultimately accepting “conscripts” – Democratically electing them certainly wouldn’t seem to be the way to go. Any ideas?

    * No wonder our policymakers are in a hurry to get things “fixed” – They just don’t need to many people starting to think silly thoughts like mine and starting to question if the problems might not just be better fixed by tossing out the whole system (and them along with it) and putting in a new one – Whatever it be.

    * But then my solution probably really would be overkill. Because it would seem to me that we did a “good enough” system in place that would never have broken in a huge way if Mr Greenspan hadn’t made the mistake of saying Yes that rule those fiscally conservative old chappies put in place back in the 1930s to prevent way too much bank leverage is a bit restrictive and we just won’t bother with it anymore. (There are other issues of course – But more on them at another time perhaps.)

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  8. Ned S – the Soviet Union’s positive points (of managing cities, transportation and health) were not because of Stalinism or Communism or any other ideology, but simply through the presence of meritocracy. It’s as simple as that. If you introduce a proper merit based system in any area of society, that area will prosper and excel. Allow corruption to take over, and stagnation and degradation will occur. The system of government in this regard is irrelevant.

    The GFC, water mismanagement, infrastructure mismanagement, political incompetence, are all due to incapable (and corrupt) people being promoted over and above the capable (and honest) ones on the basis of bluff, contacts, memberships and other attributes other than ability and merit. It applies on a micro and macro scale. Travel around and you will see what I mean.

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  9. Ned S – I enjoy you interesting musings. You might also consider the benefits of a ‘benevolent dictatorship’. True – it all goes sour if you get a ‘dud’/self interested/megalamanic dictator, but if you score a benevolent, compentent ruler – it can have a lot going for it!

    I would agree that what we currently experience is hardly true ‘democracy’ – but a democratic facade overlaying the unelected ‘warlords’ of the media, finance, business and other tribal groups of our society. The involvement of the masses on election day is a mere formality (to avoid uprisings!)

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  10. Dan – Meritocracy – I had to look up the meaning of that – But Yes, providing we make sure we have a Mother Theresa type or two in there to balance the mix it sounds good to me. But I’m tricked how one gets such a system in place – Using democratic process to vote in popularly elected governments obviously doesn’t achieve it. But the alternative of NOT being able to line our masters up on a reasonably regular basis and call them to general account seems particularly unpalatable. Your thoughts please?

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  11. Ned S – I am see a lot of problems with our current form of democracy but I think Winston Churchill once said like that democracy was the worst form of government except for all the other ones.

    I am not a big fan of the Soviet system because it did result in the pretty inefficient use of resources and a few too many people digging at salt mines.

    I agree with you comments about politicians and short sighted government and I am not really sure what the answer is but I have an idea in mind that I just need to work on more..it is pretty radical. (and along the lines of just having the senate and fewer higher quality federal politicians). One problem we have though is “we the people”. I would suggest that 80% or more of people who vote could not write a half page bio of the person they were voting for in their local electorate. So is it any wonder we end up with so much dead wood in Canberra? Like you mentioned above the people who want to be politicians are probably not the people we need sitting in parliament…yet we vote them in anyway, what choice do we have?

    I also think the mainstream media is not really working these days as the “fourth estate” and at present we also have an opposition that is not functioning very well either. This means the check and balances that help keep the democratic system healthy are fairly weak and I suspect we will live to regret this a few years.

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  12. Chris – Benevolent Dictatorship – Valid point – The key word being “benevolent” I guess. With the common thread running through the various posts I’ve read on it here possibly being that lots of systems can work pretty well, providing the right/best people are in place at the top. The questions being a) how to ensure that we get them there in the first place, b) how to make sure their successors are the right/best people too and c) how to be have some safeguards built into the system to toss them out just in case either a) a genuine mistake was made or b) it begins to become apparent that they may no longer be the right/best people for any one of a number of changes that could happen.

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  13. Maybe the Romans had the right idea…after all for their faults they did have a pretty good run and done okay for a bunch of farmers? Perhaps we just need a senate and an emperor?

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  14. Greg Atkinson – Yes, I think it was Churchill said that re democracy. An entertaining gent was Winnie – If I recall correctly he also said something along the lines of You can always rely on America to do the right thing … Eventually! (We can only hope he was correct in that I guess.)

    I don’t want to sound like I’m singing the praises of the old Soviet system big time at all, because a) I simply don’t know enough about it and b) from the little I think I might know about it, I strongly suspect there were significant flaws in it/problems with it and c) it failed! (With that last bit is a real big worry!)
    But I do know that even now (when times are still pretty tough in Russia), rather than see anywhere near as much unemployment as there might otherwise be, people very often job-share – Natalia serves the counter at the chemist shop this week and Anastasia does it next week type of thing. While they are both poor, neither of them is on the trash heap so to speak (by their standards anyway) with the other being comparatively wealthy through no better reason than perhaps Natalia got the job first so there is no job for Anastasia – And the fact that neither of them even seem to question whether that might not be the best way to do things, (even though they both would really much prefer fulltime work and also both quite genuinely do need fulltime work), is very likely to be a carry over from the way in which people had become accustomed to thinking under the old Soviet system I suspect? Because there is surely NOTHING in the modern day Russian capitalist system that would encourage such thinking!
    But there is still lots of that old style Soviet thinking about – For better and for worse. With an example of the “for worse” maybe being that once someone has a job (at least in a government department?) sheer incompetence, disinterest, unreliabilty and laziness are not nearly a good enough reason to sack them. Which can be extremely frustrating if someone is a quite senior and dedicated and conscientious accountant in a government department who is trying to get some reliable figures together for head office in Moscow to base a budget on and they have a few staff who just aren’t playing along at all (because they know they are pretty much unsackable) so said senior accountant can’t wave them good bye and employ some replacements who are a bit more motivated and/or competent.

    I do look forward to reading your thoughts “along the lines of just having the senate and fewer higher quality federal politicians” as being possible changes our system could benefit from, once you’ve worked through them a bit more.

    Yes “we the people” as you say – I’m not even sure compulsory voting is a good thing? But then, I’m no longer an unquestioning advodacate of democracy even. Fact is I’m pretty open to listening to any alternatives on all such things.

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  15. Greg Atkinson – Re Rome – Lucius Cornelius Sulla comes to mind – Not a particularly benevolent dictator at all. But certainly a very effective one. One of the quaint things about Rome is when they did actually get one of the best possible men in the job (Julius Caesar – He even inclined towards forgiving his enemies – At least if they were Roman), the lesser mortals who felt they’d been outshone, did the Ides of March routine on him. And they had just a bit more up their sleeve than being a “bunch of farmers” as you surely do know. Cheers!

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  16. Dan,
    Your car analogy would have been more astute if you had mentioned public transport or cycling as unappealing but possible alternatives.

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  17. Richo – Re: Car analogy. Yeah, actually the best idea would be to move house so that a car is no longer required. But every analogy breaks at some point!

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  18. Ned S – Briefly re: Meritocracy. To my thinking, identifying and promoting people on the basis of merit is firstly a cultural phenomenon. Like the “work ethic” in Germany, or society’s deep regard for academic achievement in Singapore.

    Secondly, low level social systems can encourage merit basis, such as transparency in job application processes, universal examination processes at school (no fiddling of results by private school teachers, for example), equality of education (through equal pay of teachers across the public/private divide), freedom of information, whistle blowing and so forth.

    Thirdly, systems of government can be better or worse at producing a meritocracy. Dictatorships are too dependent on underlying cultural norms, democracies have an averaging effect.. and modern democracy appears to have failed scaling (as population grows, the meaning of representative democracy diminishes). I know this is a plug, but distributionism is worth a look as an alternative system of government and economy… but I’m still reading about it myself and not entirely sure.

    Fourthly, and maybe most importantly, there is the need to shun and diminish the influence of clubs and societies in the social order. When people get groomed for top jobs because of what association they belong to, then someone else (who arguably has higher principles) misses out. I’m not advocating some kind of discrimination – but the removal of positive discrimination.

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  19. Dan – Distributionism eh? – Thanks. (I like your thought re democracy having failed the scaling test.)

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  20. […] Begging the Question: Recovery to What? […]

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  21. I just phoned the CBA to leave some positive feedback – Yes, the Australian ONE! The chap who answered thought that was possible but wasn’t sure how it was done and had to check before putting me onto the appropriate area (“Client Relations” if recall corectly?) Look for the good I reckon. Look for the bad I reckon. And make the most appropriate possible noises about both – I reckon???

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  22. Here is a somewhat radical thought perhaps? :- How come if America gets to affect the world so much, the ONLY people who get to vote in American elections are Americans? That just seems a bit unreasonable and unfair to me? (But then I’m not an American of course.)
    I think other even naughtier thoughts on occassion I fully suspect?!

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  23. Ned S – I have gone out on a limb and written a piece on how I would change our system of government. Please have a look at: Bring back the toga Feel free to drop your comments over there as well so I can kick off a debate on the subject.

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  24. Greg Atkinson – Re your “Bring back the toga” article: There is nothing there I’d see as being a show stopper at all. Two broad comments and then some more specific ones:
    Broadly speaking a) We either have have way more bottoms on seats in Canberra than we actually need (given that they’ll just vote along party policy lines anyway) OR we have way too few of them (if our aim is for them to be achieving truly effective representation of their constituents who they know and to whom they are known) – You allude to that problem when you talk about the inability of most constituents to write any real bio on their reps I think? As does Dan when he says democracy has failed the scaling test.
    And b) I personally question the value of party politics a lot – Because, firstly to me it seems to detract from any real open debate based on having tried to become informed prior to entering the debate (the “they’ll just vote the party line line anyway” certainty) and secondly if there is any real difference between what our two major political parties will do in a given situation, as opposed to what they say they’ll do, then I’m sure having trouble seeing it.
    Some more specific comments:
    * I don’t see “politicians” as adding much value at all – By and large they basically just seem to puff wind to push particular self interest group/popularist concepts (within party policy constraints) – And that’s the best of them I mean – The ones who are even bothering to do that much.
    * No one should be given a paid job to do that on a fulltime basis – In that anyone who actually cares enough can and should and will be doing that for and on behalf of themselves/that list of names on a petitition you mention.
    * While I have not thought it through at all fully, my natural inclination is to probably lean towards a “Decision Making Team” of only 7 people maybe because my personal understanding is that once a group is bigger than that, effective communication between them is difficult. (And in lots of ways, it is probably what is happening now in reality I suspect anyway?)
    * One of that 7 will simply and naturally be elected/stand out/be accepted within that group as “Team Leader/Group Spokesperson” – As a citizen I don’t feel a need to vote for that specific person – If we get the basics right, that person will naturally appear – I think?
    * Sure, have the 76 Senators working their butts off to bring together all sorts of State MPs, Public Service Chiefs, Industry bosses, Private Petition gathering spokespeople (and fully supported by all the rsources of the Public Service) but without voting “rights” – But just maybe with Veto Rights (just thought of that – Might be handy??? Or not? But worth more thought perhaps.)
    * As for payment, if these people are doing a good job then they are worth serious money – The Senators, and the 7 decision makers even more so – I have no issues with it being BIG HEAPS – To “Not Discourage” as opposed to “Attracting” quality people to the jobs perhaps?
    * Not that everyone works primarily for money. But I think that most people recognize it can have its uses – So the Mother Theresa type on the decision making team of 7 will donate most of her BIG HEAPS payment to her favourite Calcutta slums charity (or whatever other charity) – Good for her. But recognize the value of what she is doing and say “Thank you!!! And Oh, do with it as you will please!”
    * The House of Reps is actually quite possibly its own worst enemy regarding its right/need to exist I suspect – Leastways to any one who has ever listened to and/or noted writeups on their point scoring equivalent of lower grade primary school children squabbling. (The more mature upper primary school 11 and 12 year olds are very grown up in comparison – Sadly.)
    * I’m not at all sure just how we achieve something better. But a) it certainly does seem to be necessary and b) it certainly can’t be too difficult given what we are trying to improve on – Because it is simply childish. These are not mature adults attempting to engage in open minded debate as best they can after having attempted to inform themselves to the range of possible community viewpoints and the underlying facts with a genuine goal of attempting to achieve the most desirable possible outcomes – But the equivalent of 6 year olds squabbling along the lines of “My Daddy is smarter than yours” – As in “My Party Policies are best!” That doesn’t sound like it should be too difficult to improve on surely … Over to you – Smile!

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  25. Ned S, thanks for the feedback.

    I agree with your comments about political parties and think we would be better served by having shifting alliances based on the issues at hand. For example an alliance could be formed to support certain legislation rather than people being tied to voting along party lines. To do this however we would need to think about how we could support the rise of minor parties and independents.

    I am a little cautious about your decision group suggestion as it would seem to focus a lot of power on a very small group of people. It sounds like a variation of the High Court..or maybe I am getting the wrong idea?

    One thing I am still unsure about is how we would fill cabinet positions and maybe the U.S system is better in that they can draw people in from outside politics to fill these posts. Payment is important, but I guess we need to also make sure we get people who have a sense of national duty and are not just in it for the money.

    Cheers!

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  26. Party politics is a way of having a democratic process without having to bother with doing what people actually want. If you want a two year old to do what you want, give it two options, each of which is a rewording of the same thing. It works, and the two year old will not lose face. Most two year olds never cotton onto this trick. Most adults don’t either.

    Another way to look at it is to say that a good democracy is necessarily an unstable one. If we had regular hung parliaments, people crossing the floor every other week, early elections, leadership crises and so forth, then I’d say our democracy was working. But currently, it’s as boring as a speech by Brezhnev. It stinks, even before you use the newsprint for toilet paper.

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  27. Dan party politics is also a way to concentrate power because the major parties can simply outspend the minor parties and independents. I guess in OZ we did have a moment there when the Democrats could have made a difference but they imploded and so any faint hope of change went the same way as a certain senators Doc Martins.

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  28. Greg Atkinson and Dan – I’d feel happier with our current form of democracy if we saw people crossing the floor a lot too. But the party politics system precludes that of course. Floor crossers tend to find themselves standing as independants at the next election I’d think? (Without party supplied funds to get their message out.)
    Which actually might not be a bad thing at all because most of that party funding comes from sources that expect to be remembered when it is time for policy to be made if my take on it is correct?
    So to my way of thinking they should all be independants anyway.
    I read an interesting article once that went along the lines that most of the funds for US electioneering actually come from about 200 big old money families and they all fund Democrats and Republicans pretty much the same with the ultimate effect being that they get a suitably bought and paid for Democrat presidential nominee and a suitably bought and paid for Republican presidential nominee – And then it is just a matter of having the American public choose which suitably bought and paid for person gets to actually be president. With the final result being pretty much immaterial to the 200 big old money families that did the buying and paying because their interests will be well and truly represented either way. (I don’t know enough about the American system to even begin to speculate on whether there might be any truth in the article. And it certainly smacks of being a conspiracy theory possibly? But it was an interesting thought regardless – I ran it by an American friend on one occassion and all I can say is that she wasn’t prepared to dismiss it out of hand despite having a very decided and long held personal preference for one of America’s major parties over the other one. As an aside, she did comment to me that despite her long held and firm allegience to her party of preference she had seriously contemplated finding out a bit more about Ron Paul before voting for her traditional preference this time around, but decided Nope, it would a waste of time because she didn’t want to waste her vote and needed to be directing it towards one of the only two possible winners – not a 100% certain loser. That is not to say that Ron Paul would be OK or not – I simply don’t know. But I do know it’s a bit sad when Party politics forces people to think like the lady I mention.
    Party politics does seem to be a lazy society’s way of getting its government I suspect Dan. And being lazy about the process has its peculiar and specific rewards perhaps?
    I’m very cautious about my suggested 7 decision makers as well Greg. But say, well, we know that even a single dictator can actually do a respectable job providing we have a good one. But the risk level associatted with that is way too high for my liking and I simply don’t believe that any one person can possibly bring the required balance of empathy and compassion and business drive and conservative as opposed to progressive thinking etc to the table. But 7 just might. With another advantage to a number like 7 being that they are a small enough group to get to know each other pretty well and iron out any suspicions as to things like Just what hidden agenda might this person have that I need to be taking into account when I’m listening to them? And operate as a team with pretty high levels of trust between them. 7 seems to about the right number when it comes to team size re decision making I heard once? With a team of 7 tending to be able to reach a considered view through consensus rather than having to engage in any formal voting process at all – If they are the right 7. And I don’t see that same potential in a group that is as large as 76 – That is more likely to just reflect what we have now with a tendancy for lots of noisy squabbling and point scoring and lack of trust within the group. And ultimately a tendency for the simple majority vote to prevail, where I simply don’t believe that the majority view is always the best one or even necessarily a good one. But 76 could just be a very realistic number of people to have working fulltime to make sure that the team of 7 is being presented with the information they need to stay well informed enough to be able to make the best possible decisions. But my caution about 7 was what also made the thought pop into my mind that it just might not be a bad idea if the 76 had a right of veto over the 7???
    Remuneration – It’s important to recognize the value of the job I think. Even though most of the 7 won’t be specifically motivated by the pay if we have the right 7. But I wouldn’t want to see them demotivated by it either. Or even actively saying No I can’t take it on, Sorry – The pay is just too low to really compensate me for all dislocation its going to cause in my life. Because a reasonable number of them could be presumably making mega bucks if they hadn’t chosen to give up their day job to be part of the 7 for a while. And they will have actually been exceptionally good at their day jobs and probably enjoyed doing them a lot. And are asked to give that up for something that may well be far more hassle and considerably less rewarding so that they can perform a civic duty. And after they’ve been used up and worn out and waved goodbye to, their old day job just may have left them behind in a lot of ways. Because I don’t see these people as being or becoming long term career politicians. About 7 years in the job tops maybe and then we want them out and if they were the right people they will have well and truly had enough and be wanting out by then themselves.
    But even if someone does see merit in such thoughts, the question still is How to get the right 7 ?

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  29. The bit about American politics is their ability to design a 2 party system, that like Dans says is just a conglomeration off a common pool of clubbed societies driven by the fraternites and their links with the various mafias that fund or nurture the parties be they industrial, industrial-defence, gay, jewish, union, or public service. You vote for who they dress in one of two colours of football guernsey and they push forward. And this is said to be democracy and unfortunately it has taken a grip in Australia and the UK. In fact it is more destructive the closer the prevailing political system gets to socialist hedonism and a command based economy.

    How strange it is that Jefferson has become portrayed as a figure only to be celebrated among vigilantes by the aristocracy of so-called western democracy and the english language version of the label liberalism.

    Executive goverment perpetuated entirely by an elite, be it in togas or otherwise, is the worst form of governance in my book.

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