Rudd in “The Monthly” – but there really is more

05 Feb

Just about everyone in this country must know by now that Kevin Rudd has been doing some homework — writing an essay indeed — and  the result is now on show. First off, there is a note at the end suggesting it isn’t entirely K Rudd’s unaided work. I rather think Andrew Charlton, among others, may have had some input at the very least.

Now to be offensive to some.

After a century and a half* of playing at Marxism in one form or another we ought really to be totally disabused of that blind alley. May as well base Chemistry on the phlogiston theory. It’s still good (like Freudianism or Neo-Freudianism) for some spectacular academic performances, but otherwise has gone the way of all grand theories. I have met so many ex-Marxists – it seems to be the inevitable outcome – who nonetheless remain Left, though you do get weird exceptions who polarise in the opposite direction. Then on the other hand there is the equally touching faith and mysticism masquerading as scientific economics and politics under the banner of Hayek. Pox on both, I say.

Now with that out of the way, you may see why I found the Rudd essay to be actually rather good – in fact, very good. I suggest reading it is much better than reading about it. Just $7.95 at the newsagent, after all, and even on my pension I could cop that just this once.

What has escaped notice, however, is that it isn’t a one article magazine. There is an excellent dissection of Baz’s Australia by Peter Conrad.

A paragraph of introductory piffle in Australia defines the outback as a place where ‘adventure and romance were a way of life’. Nothing could be less true. Hardship, privation and dying remain a way of life on our unromantic frontier, where adventures are as scarce as trees on the Nullarbor Plain. We know that the land we only marginally occupy will always be indifferent to human incursions; we also ruefully acknowledge our lack of moral right to possess it, since earlier settlers evicted its traditional owners…

Wanting his characters to be mythical embodiments of the land, Conrad organises a continental orgasm when Kidman and Jackman make love. Hot monsoonal rains drench them. The sky splits open, the earth heaves, and the camera giddily skims across Australia as rivers overflow and waterfalls froth. Back at the desert station it is suddenly Christmas, with wild flowers blooming from the fertilised earth. I wouldn’t dream of impugning Jackman’s virility, but I can’t quite imagine that one man has the capacity to irrigate and inseminate the whole drought-parched nation…

There’s a generous account of Professor Ian Harper by John Hirst, which you may read online:

Ian Harper’s free-market friends rib him about his job: what’s a liberal economist doing setting a minimum wage? Better a liberal economist, he replies, than anyone else. But he is rather bemused by how little Australian employers of the low-paid believe in the market. They rely on him to set and alter their wages. They are mostly happy to pay a decent wage but they want to be told what that is and they don’t want to be undercut by a rogue employer; nor do they want to be ahead of the pack in the wages they pay."…

Harper is a good talker and performer; he tells of his work in public policy as drama, playing himself and all others verbatim, with full inflexion and gesture. He calls himself an academic economist but the skills he most enjoys using are political. He likes settling conflict, hearing both sides sympathetically, prodding antagonists to see a common purpose, finding a route beyond an impasse. He is an economist but not a labour economist, yet he was charged with fixing a minimum wage where he could use his skill in reconciling employers and employees. His work on the Melbourne Town Hall organ was in the same way political …

I was delighted to find a free-market economist who was so ebullient and warm-hearted, and chastened, as an old social democrat, to discover that his free-market principles made him highly creative about the proper use of public goods.

There’s also a photo essay on Palm Island by Chloe Hooper. And much more…

So if you don’t happen to like the Rudd essay (unlike me) you will probably find something more to your taste…

* Dating from The Communist Manifesto (1848).


2 responses to “Rudd in “The Monthly” – but there really is more

  1. Benjamin Solah

    February 5, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    I’m interested to read this, especially since Rudd apparently has thrown the ideology of the free market out the window. He basically calls the whole period of neoliberalism a mistake.

    Who’s been playing at Marxism for a century and a half? The theory hasn’t gotten that serious a look in in some time. Though I must say interest in these politics has risen a bit since the start of the crisis. No surprise there even if you personally don’t agree with the theory.

    It is true that there’s a heap of ex-Marxists, plenty from your generation. I often see them in Melbourne, they’ll stop to have a chat and buy the magazine for a bit of nostalgia but are a bit disallusioned with most theories.

    I’ve been told that during the huge post-war boom, a lot of Marxists couldn’t explain why it was happening. Some thought capitalism worked and left, and others blindly kept shouting that the economy was going to collapse at any second – and of course it didn’t, mainly because of the huge investment in weapons. There were a select few that stuck with it, looked at what was happening and said that the collapse would happen again, but acknowledged that the couldn’t predict it. And in 2008, it happened.

    lol, went on a bit of a tangent there. Sorry for hijacking the comments. But hope you see this comment was written in the spirit of friendly debate, not attacking you or anything.

  2. Neil

    February 5, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    No offence taken, Benjamin. I rather suspected you might reply. And I do rather admire Eric Aarons, among ex-Communists. Try “What’s Right”.

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