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Kevin, Peter, Malcolm … and Jim … on 2009 not being 1996…

31 Jan

Or why George W, John H, and all the merry crew of retirees and yesterday’s people are no longer relevant and perhaps never were.

Which would be too harsh, I suppose, but I can’t help wondering about all the economic pap we were fed for the past decade or two. You can’t help wondering what, had he been re-elected, John H would be doing right now. Surely he must deep down be dancing little jigs in some back room of his mind because he wasn’t re-elected, and can just sit and polish the gong George W gave him in his dying moments, while the good luck he traded off flies away.

To be fair, Peter van Onselen does point out in today’s Australian that Peter Costello was not totally off the mark towards the end:

NOT being listened to when you are right is one of the most frustrating things a person can experience. In this respect, Peter Costello is sharing a little of the experience of Cassandra, daughter of king Hecuba of Troy.

In ancient Greek mythology she had the gift of prophecy but was cursed by Apollo and denied the power to persuade.

In the lead-up to the 2007 federal election, Costello as treasurer warned that a financial tsunami was on the way, and Australians should be careful about who they voted for to run the economy.

To be sure, when predicting the tsunami Costello was first and foremost referring to what would happen if China floated its currency, the yuan.

That hasn’t happened yet.

But he was also referring more generally to what would happen if China’s economy faltered. Data released this past fortnight indicated China’s growth has dramatically slowed to 6.8 per cent. By Chinese standards that puts them in a virtual recession.

More important, Costello’s tsunami comments also made reference to the impact the US sub-prime mortgage crisis would have on world economies, including Australia’s. That impact is now known as the global financial crisis, the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression.

Costello was ahead of the curve in predicting it…

In politics, Costello was alone in cautioning that an economic meltdown was on the horizon. While Labor was talking up the risk of high inflation, John Howard was campaigning on his promised ability to reduce unemployment to less than 4 per cent. With the financial crisis now in full swing, unemployment is expected by some to hit 9 per cent. Had the Coalition won the election Howard’s unemployment pledge would have sat neatly along side his 2004 election pledge to "keep interest rates at record lows"…

Now, it appears, Kevin Rudd is firing all his guns in the pages of the February Monthly. Paul Kelly outlines the argument:

KEVIN Rudd has put his ideological spin on the global crisis – arguing the great neo-liberal experiment of the past 30 years represented by Thatcher, Reagan, Greenspan and John Howard has failed.

Rudd has defined himself, his Government and his re-election strategy by declaring that only social democrats and the Labor Party can recruit state power to save capitalism.

He has thrown the Liberal Party on to the trash heap of history, saying it is "the political home of neo-liberalism in Australia" and that the former Howard government aimed to reduce state power "as much as possible".

Declaring that a failed 30-year epoch in world history has come to a conclusion, Rudd says the crisis means "one orthodoxy is overthrown and another takes its place".

The new epoch is about using state power "to save capitalism from itself". Rudd’s aim is to hold global neo-liberal policies responsible for the catastrophe and the Howard government as local upholder of these fatal ideas. His game plan is to position Labor as the long-run political and ideological winner from the crisis.

In his latest essay for The Monthly, to be published next week, Rudd turns the global crisis into a decisive ideological event. The resort to government intervention demanded by the crisis fits perfectly with Rudd’s philosophy. He presents Malcolm Turnbull with an ideological challenge by insisting the Liberals stand on the wrong side of history.

The significance of Rudd’s essay is that Labor will become the party of ideological attack and neo-liberalism and its backers will become the targets. This is a device to keep Labor united during the coming recession and the Liberal Party on the defensive…

Kevin Rudd has written (well too) for The Monthly before – but not as Prime Minister. Some may wonder about that, but I do plan to give what he says consideration. It may also be – but then I am naive – that the real significance of the article is not the party-political one Kelly refers to. What if it is just true?

Sojourners’ Jim Wallace, currently in Davos, would seem to be part of an ever-expanding choir. Mind you, he has been a member for years.

Every morning when I wake up in Davos, I turn on my television to CNN in my hotel room. And every morning, there is the same reporter interviewing a bundled-up CEO with the snowy “magic mountain” of Davos in the background. The question is always the same: “When will this crisis be over?” They actually have a “white board” where they make the CEO mark his answer: 2009…2010…2011…later.

But it’s the wrong question. Of course it’s a question we all want to know the answer to, but there is a much more important one. We should be asking, “How will this crisis change us?” How will it change the way we think, act, and decide things — how we live, and how we do business? Yes, this is a structural crisis, and one that clearly calls for new social regulation. But it is also a spiritual crisis, and one that calls for new self-regulation. We seem to have lost some things and forgotten some things — such as our values.

We have trusted in “the invisible hand” to make everything turn out all right, believing that it wasn’t necessary for us to bring virtue to bear on our decisions. But things haven’t turned out all right and the invisible hand has let go of some things, such as “the common good.” The common good hasn’t been very common in our economic decision-making for some time now. And things have spun out of control. Gandhi’s seven deadly social sins seem an accurate diagnosis for some of the causes of this crisis: “politics without principle, wealth without work, commerce without morality, pleasure without conscience, education without character, science without humanity, and worship without sacrifice.”

If we learn nothing from this crisis, all the pain and suffering it is causing will be in vain. But we can learn new habits of the heart, perhaps that suffering can even turn out to be redemptive. If we can regain a moral compass and find new metrics by which to evaluate our success, this crisis could become our opportunity to change….

If we wait until the economic crisis is over to get back to business as usual, we will have missed the chance we now have for re-evaluation and re-direction. Some of the smartest people in the world are assembled here on the mountain. But are we smart enough not to miss the opportunity this crisis provides to change our ways and return to some of our oldest and best values? Almost half the world’s population, 3 billion people, live on less than $2 a day — virtually outside of the global economy. Maybe it’s time to bring them in.

There are some interesting comments on the thread following that post.

Oh — and Malcolm? Well, he tries…

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Posted by on January 31, 2009 in America, Australia, Australia and Australian, challenge, generational change, globalisation/corporations, John Howard, Kevin Rudd, Malcolm Turnbull, Political, politics, right wing politics, USA

 

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