THOUGH not won over by Waleed Aly’s contention this week that the idea of a ‘wellbeing budget’ is gaining traction – as evidenced, he thinks, by its adoption in such Axis of Oestrogen strongholds as Canada, Scotland and New Zealand – I do favour it in a limited sense. There is indeed more to life, more to citizenship and more to civilisation than what econometrics measure. Etymologically, economics derives from a Greek word for a homely skill-set wherein the utilitarian and the humane were understood to be indivisible. The orderly prudence of a household manager served the best interests of his or her kin. The rise of nation states and trading empires eventually diluted the old homespun nature of what became the discipline of economics.
Some of it still endures, however – and not just as Dispatch Box references to “mums and dads.” It survived even the pseudo-theology of the 17th century Calvinists whose pessimism about mankind may have inspired Adam Smith to posit an “invisible hand” that disinterestedly gifted a chance to all – even if God the alleged predestinator didn’t. Contrary to Max Weber’s well-known mythology, it was agnostic Smith’s slightly more Catholic (or at least Arminian) attitude to the natural order of things – not Protestant novelty – that revivified the European capitalism founded centuries earlier by the Benedictines. In any case, mission and salvation – of which ‘wellbeing’ is a secularist version – have defined the very purpose of economic thought for centuries.
By the time a locomotive world – more industrial, citified and atomised than the Father of Economics could have imagined – steamed through the fin de siècle, the remnants of hearth in his progeny-cum-profession had been buried like a Pompeiian mosaic beneath the ashen accretions of dialectical materialism on the left and scientistic objectivism on the right. Because the latter functioned and reigned symbiotically within democratic, Judeo-Christian polities, it was the more salutary of the two. Not sufficiently so for Pope Leo XIII whose Rerum Novarum (1891) put God-made man back at the centre of the economic household – over against Carnegie and Vanderbilt as much as Marx and Engels. In 1906, a companionable notion occurred to Justice Higgins in the Harvester case.
The essence of the Sergio Leone stand-off in economic philosophy between good intermediacy, bad command and ugly rampancy hasn’t changed much in the century and a quarter since. Socialists, Keynesians, Friedmanites, Wets and Drys all claim to be proffering curatives for the common man. Not until the Great Delusion 2019-22, however, did the officials in charge of peacetime economies act in such calamitous accord to slay the sovereignty of the common man. ‘Pandemic’ gauleiters, climate cultists and the maniacal proponents of Endless War inverted Leo’s cri de cœur that “Man precedes the State.” The reason the West is in crisis – why energy bills in the resource El Dorado of Australia are set to rise by up to 80 per cent; why 140,000 people will lose their jobs; why inflation is out of control; why gross debt is on track for $1 trillion – is that governments and corporations decided the State precedes Man. Jefferson’s inalienable rights are all theirs. We’re not innocents, though. It isn’t the government’s fault we can’t afford the NDIS, aged care and childcare. Humanity cannot be at the heart of economics if abnegation isn’t at the heart of humanity.
I wasn’t in the lock-up with the journalists and I haven’t read Jim Chalmers’ bibs ’n bobs ‘budget’ but I know there’s one word that doesn’t appear anywhere in his speech or in Treasury’s footnotes: sorry. It would be unjust to castigate Chalmers for its absence. The doctor of Keating is merely this week’s spokesman for the Uniparty. The disaster was first engineered and then shamelessly sold as a necessity. Acknowledgement of iniquity and confession are the hinges on the door of redemption but Joe Biden, Rishi Sunak, Anthony Albanese, Peter Dutton et alia won’t admit they were wrong – or maliciously indifferent – about lockdowns, masks, mandates, vaccination injuries, children’s trauma, unaffordable electricity, net zero and the featherbedding of the Bigs – Pharma, Arma and Alarma. They must laugh at Cardinal Barberini’s aphorism about forgiveness being easier to obtain than permission because they ask for neither. Yes, then, to ‘wellbeing’ and the humanising of the dismal science but the “dragon we need to slay” isn’t inflation. It’s lies.
Any bets on the timing of the next recession under the doctor of Keating?
Excellent piece, C.L.
Not until the Great Delusion 2019-22
… yet, greater delusion this way comes.
Pretty much one of the biggest issues I have with libertarians. They would gladly replace their own family, let alone their own nation, with someone who’s willing to work for less, regardless if they’re a group who openly wished them dead.
CL: In short, you fancy a bit of Benedictine capitalism? Or what I call, Vatican hocus-pocus. Let’s not forget the contribution of the Catholic Church Inc to various recent disasters, including the Holocaust, financing during the Depression, school financing and – dare I mention – child abuse.
Economics is no more than politics, as Albanese, Biden, Truss, Scholz, Xi, Trump, Erdogan and many other demonstrate daily. Best keep God bothering out of it.
Keynesian Economics has already been slain … just read “The Failure of the New Economics” by Henry Hazlitt … same guy who said, “Democracy, good n hard”.
Trouble is that Keynesian Economics is far too convenient to stay down … and that’s why we end up with both inflation and also endless excuses for said inflation.
Wonderful essay CL, I always learn something useful when I read you.
I agree with everything you have said about the ‘Great Delusion’.
The only person associated with government to consistently argue against intrusion into what should have been private health decisions
whether to mask or not, whether to socially isolate or not, etc was Tony Abbott. ( for those who need to be constantly reminded, my view that vaccines provide a measure of protection for those at risk of covid have nothing to do with the political decisions made in the Great Delusion)
And abnegation of personal responsibility is indeed at the heart of the bottomless pits called NDIS, aged care and childcare subsidies.
Tel, that’s kind of what I was driving at re NDIS, aged and child care. We want free stuff because, culturally, we’ve outsourced a lot of the old familial responsibilities to the state. That makes it easy for politicians, constituency whisperers and rent-seekers to game the system to institutionalise deficit spending. Governments went berserk between 2019 and 2022 but they were given years of affirmation from voters for their degeneracy.
Rosie, I think that’s true re Abbott. By the way, I didn’t acknowledge Dutton’s phony contrition in his budget reply about the Morrison government ‘making some mistakes’ managing covid. He offloaded all responsibility for lockdown extremism to the states – which is a cop-out.
Yes, the Federal government funded the states thus facilitating the draconian lockdowns, the federal government kept the international borders closed for far too long, opening international borders earlier would have put enormous pressure on the lockdown losers.
Morrison was utterly useless.
And why doesn’t anyone ever say anything about those ‘courageous’ Dan Andrews daily press conferences with their pathetic announcement of, in comparison to 2022, handfuls of covid related deaths?
More of the same please, no doubt, in November.
Now that is what I call a “tour de force”.
No one, let alone the preposterous z-grade frauds masquerading as j’ismists can mine the shitegeist and all its myriad absurdities like your good self, Squire.
Keep up the good work.
I love your mind, CL.
A good deal of the blame lies with our right’s pathetic resistance to Keynesian dogma, not one of whom seems to have read a classical economist, let alone a member of the Austrian School.
the “dragon we need to slay” isn’t inflation. It’s lies.
too bloody right
love your rants CL, they’re like comic surgery
I don’t know if the various blogs share the Catictionary but I vote that Rabz’ ‘Shitegeist’ is added if it isn’t already there.
If Austrian economics worked Bruning would go down as one of the great Chancellors of germany indeed the longest serving one.
He did not. The Nazis went from being an asterisk in elections to winning them.
Even Hayek realised his advice to Bruning was wrong.
The Trampis reduces an entire school of economics to the 2 year term of one political figure who held power during the Great Depression in a country nobbled by oppressive reparations.
well it made the country worse not better.
Indeed that is what it does. Even Friedman thought it silly.
They support expansionary fiscal policy when the economy is growing and contractionary fiscal policy when it is slowing as that is what occurs when you advocate for a balanced budget all the time.
Economics makes strange friends. Keynes and Hayek were on friendly terms whilst Hayek and Friedman were not.
Yet Friedman went on holidays with Galbraith!
I’m afraid Trampis is making a serious Keynesian error. Countries do not require a so-called fiscal expansion to recover from a depression. Neither do they need loose monetary policies or deficits. Recoveries from depressions in Nineteenth century Britain plus Australia’s recovery from the Great Depression is proof positive that Keynesians are wrong.
Professor Quiggin’s Keynesian Creed Destroyed by Australia in the Great Depression
Next time you tell us your favourite politician needs more time for their policies to work can we remind you of Bruning?
Why wait for the next time? Remind him every day. He seems to have Short Term Memory Loss, so that will ensure that he never forgets.
Nice essay Gerry
Thank you, Buccaneer.
awesome imagery. and so true