Eat Your GreensWe speak truth to power and we eat our greens
There are no recipes here, although the advice holds - it's good to eat your greens. Eating our greens is good for us and, in time, we come to love them. Some of us even end up growing them. Being informed is also good for us, it's a core responsibility we have as humans, as is giving way to pedestrians, sharing our food with a stranger, greeting our neighbour and not drinking bad coffee.
Even more than that, if we want a kinder, gentler, more compassionate society, one which, presumably, we would all benefit from, it's also incumbent upon us to refrain from taking a position on any subject by basing that position on an ideology, merely because we are not prepared to apply the intellectual rigour required to properly understand it.
With that as a foundation, it's reasonable therefore to conclude that in today's world, there is a surfeit of news coverage, and with it no shortage of opinion, on topics various - drought, bushfires, water management, the environment, climate change, economics, human rights, the welfare of others, political machinations, the list goes on. It's against this background of news saturation that a library of 3,000+ (and counting) pieces of credible journalism from reliable sources was established. It morphed into 'Eat Your Greens', in an attempt to present information, easily accessible, that contributes to making us a better informed, gentler and kinder society. It's also incumbent upon us, if we are to have this kinder, gentler, more compassionate society, that we hold the political class to account.
'Eat Your Greens' attempts to expose this and hold accountable those who weild power, by shining a light into some dark corners and turning over some rocks - and - who wouldn't want that. If you'd like a recipe for a top notch mushroom & fennel risotto, let me know. Read on.
Every now and then someone will begin a sentence with "I'm no expert but …" which will invariably, though not always, precede a monologue resembling little more than a passing acquaintance to the subject at hand, revealing the speaker's pre-conceived version of the truth. This is not knowledge, it's an opinion, which, as Plato put it, is the bridge between ignorance and knowledge, and which outs itself as nothing more than ideology.
Ideology is not grounded in kindness or knowledge, it's usually grounded in the preservation of power, in privilege, prejudice, in any or all its manifest forms, or in fear, or a combination of all of those things. Ideology preserves injustice, destruction of environment, marginalisation of minorities, racism, institutionalised discrimination, species extinction, preservation of privilege, and high-office graft. And for the ideologue, the truth of a matter, or the facts that may prove or undermine their ideology more often than not is less important than the number of people prepared to believe in it. Ideology encourages hyper-partisan reasoning due to what psychologists call "motivated cognition," which is the act of deciding what you want to believe and using your reasoning power, with all its might, to get you there. Just as it's true for individuals, it's also true for organisations and nation states.
Economic Ideology, for example, as it's extant is underlined by the following patently contradictory statement by Australia's Prime Minister, meeting at the junction of ideology and neo-liberalism (which we'll get to), probably unaware of his statement's obvious juxtaposition, in response to the government's reducing the Jobseeker payment - "the government can’t allow the lifeline [to] hold Australia back as we move into the next phases of recovery." (Nov '20). Whilst this statement (article here) demands closer examination it's perhaps best left to let it speak for itself, or, in the spirit of Hamlet, allow it to be "hoist with its own petard."
'Eat Your Greens' looks at the juxtaposition between economy and society, a distinction that political ideology fails to make. Making political decisions based solely on an Ideology starts wars, divides communities, discourages innovation, promotes secrecy and advances prejudices. And yet ideology is often based on minimal examination or appreciation of the things that make a society work. It's good then to ask oursleves how we might go about defining one.
The modern incarnation of the term, popularised by post World War II free-market proponents, such as economist Milton Friedman, emanated out of a push-back against post-Keynesian theories that advanced the view that the state is best positioned to support the social and economic well-being of its citizens.
Neo-liberalism's underlying principle is one of the state having a passive, not an active, role in society and economy. It's proponents claim that the market is better positioned to deliver prosperity, health outcomes and many services hitherto the preserve of governments, adopting a “if it's not working, and particularly if it is working, let the market take it over” philosophy. If there was a single event to punch a crater size hole in that theory it is Covid-19, although it's not as if we weren't warned, with the failure of the privatised aged care system being its poster child. A neo-liberal would advocate government staying out of the way and allowing individuals decide, individualism being the bastard child of neo-liberalism. This meme falls at the first and most fundamental hurdle, that being a mis-interpration of what economics actually is. Economics has very little to do with maths, or statistics, it’s not logical, it never has been. Economics is a study in sociology, the market is not logical, it’s irrational, mad as a cat and prone to outbursts that defy the logic purported to it. A neo-liberal, even a rabid one, would surely not attempt to make the claim that their theory is a panacea but nonetheless, they will almost always look to the market as the default setting for addressing what they adjudicate to be a hitherto faulty or implacable situation.
Let’s step back a bit - the natural enemy of the neo-liberal would be the socialist, another term most people would struggle to muster up a definition of. Broadly speaking, socialism is the democratic (or in some cases, the revolutionary) socialisation of the means of industry, production, distribution and exchange. In its diluted form then, socialism exists in some form or another, in every developed country in the world. Each time a government interferes in the market, it is, by its actions, setting aside any ideological adherence to neo-liberalism while at the same time trumpeting its virtues. Publicly funded health care is a form of socialism yet very few of us would demand that the government placed the responsibility for health care wholly and solely into the hands of the market, particularly given that private health care costs two to three times the cost of operating the public system, which would represent something more than an act of political folly.
Neo-liberalism, econonically speaking, advocates a takeover, while politically it abdicates responsibility, arguing that it has handed over control and therefore oversight, to the market. It will argue that is therefore not at fault if the whole thing implodes. And here is the rub, neo-liberals find it almost impossible to seperate a society from an economy, they view the economy as holding primacy and believe that all good things emanate from it. Time and time again they are proved wrong and time and time again, they look for new strategies to implement and promote their logic. We only have to look at how neo-liberalism increased inequality in the aftermath of the GFC to prove the point.
There is no doubt that the market has given us great innovation, it can and does drive progress but it is, at its core, an amoral system, it makes no attempts at being moral, nor should it - such that any contingency related to catering to the needs of people, be it fairness kindness, or compassion will have a price, or cost, assigned to it, set against the end result, which is not fairness, kindness or compassion but profit.
It’s important to note that Socialism on it’s own does not work any more than neo-liberalism on its own does, however, neo-liberalism as it’s advocated by our current government, does not deliver a strong or fair civil society any more than putting a saddle on a horse guarantees that you will be able to ride it. Neo-liberalism makes no effort to account for suffering, citing disadvantage as a natural by-product of a healthy economy and therefore, according to the neo-liberal model, a healthy society. I enjoy the dynamics of the market and the benefits it can provide but at the same time I bristle when caring for people is reduced to an auction, it begets the things that diminish us as a society and reflects back to us our core values.
Modern monetary theory: the rise of economists who say huge government debt is not a problem (Jul '20)
Don’t worry about the debt: we need more stimulus to avoid a prolonged recession (Oct '20)
The spending splurge matters, regardless of what modern monetary theory says (Jul '20)
There’s serious talk about a “job guarantee”, but it’s not that straightforward (Jul '20)
The government still treats debt like it is economic poison but now is the time to invest (Jun '20)
Could Frydenberg ease this crisis by printing money? (Aug '20)
We do not have to worry about paying off Australia's coronavirus debt for generations (Aug '20)
Tax and Wellbeing: The impact of taxation on economic wellbeing (Oct ’20)
The New Zealand Wellbeing Budget 2019 (Jun ’19)
New Zealand's world-first ‘wellbeing’ budget to focus on poverty and mental health (May ’19)
New Zealand’s Next Liberal Milestone: A Budget Guided by ‘Well-Being’ (May ’19)
New Zealand’s well-being approach to budget is not new, but could shift major issues (May ’19)
Don't be fooled by the spin – Tuesday's budget will be political and ideologically driven … (Oct '20)
Budget 2020: the people most likely to be left behind … (Oct '20)
Albanese promises $20 billion plan to modernise electricity grid, and $6.2 billion for child care (Oct '20)
'The chips have been placed': experts weigh in on the Australian budget 2020 (Oct ’20)
Australian budget preview: what we already know, and what the experts think (Oct ’20)
Australian federal budget found to be the most secretive ever produced (Oct '20)
The overlooked parts of the 2020 Australian budget you should know about (Oct '20)
Australia's English test for partner visas could leave women at mercy of abusers, experts warn (Oct '20)
Jobmaker hiring credit: how does it work and who is eligible? (Oct '20)
The budget is blokey because Morrison's 'core values' make it so (Oct '20)
Budget 2020 does little for the vulnerable (Oct '20)
Morrison had been telling us he wanted a private sector-led Covid recovery. Turns out he wasn't lying (Oct '20)
How much the budget undervalued conservation: 16 World Heritage sites received less than Sydney Harbour (Oct '20)
‘Backwards’ federal budget: Morrison government never fails to disappoint on climate action (Oct '20)
Top economists back boosts to JobSeeker and social housing over tax cuts in pre-budget poll (Sep ’20)
Why a social housing stimulus is a measure Morrison cannot ignore. (Sep ’20)
Aged care sector responds to missed opportunities in Federal Budget (Oct '20)
Morrison government to spend $1.6bn funding at-home care for older Australians (Oct '20)
The budget must address aged care — here are 3 key priorities (Sep '20)
Careless budget overlooks reality of many women's lives (Oct '20)
Women were hit hardest by coronavirus job losses and now they're 'left out' of the budget (Oct '20)
That women are the losers in *this* history-making big-spending budget is shameful (Oct '20)
There are thousands of very credible women across Australia fighting for equal rights (Oct '20)
Like the care economy, arts and culture are an opportunity missed in the 2020-21 budget (Oct '20)
The Morrison government argues tax cuts will power our recovery. They won't (Oct ’20)
Keating is right. The Reserve Bank should do more. It needs to aim for more inflation (Sep '20)
Could Frydenberg ease this crisis by printing money? (Aug '20)
Department of Environment, Water and Agricutlure: Major Projects (Jun '20)
Let's look at the Thatcher years shall we (Apr '13)
Vital Signs: Stamp duty is an economic drag. Here’s how to move to a better system (Jul '20)
We should simplify our industrial relations system, but not in the way big business wants (May '20)
Jim Chalmers says two-thirds of the debt in the budget was borrowed before the start of the pandemic. Is he correct? (Aug ’20)
Some Facts About Debt … per capita (Apr ’20)
We do not have to worry about paying off the coronavirus debt for generations (Apr ’20)
Do the grandchildren really pay the debt? The problem with Scott Morrison’s plan for recovery, and MMT (Jun '20)
NBN rollout in Grose Vale causes residents' concern over communications during bushfire season (Oct '20)
A white flag moment on the NBN was inevitable. (Sep '20)
Backflip to the home: NBN to upgrade FttN areas with fibre (Sep '20)
NBN Debacle. Wherefore art thou, minister? (Jul '20)
Fixing fibre-to-the-node across Australia could cost the NBN $7 billion: study (May '20)
Internet traffic is growing 25% each year. We created a fingernail-sized chip that can help the NBN keep up (May '20)
NBN offering not good enough for 21st Century Australia (Mar '20)
Fibre-to-node NBN users often not getting speeds they're paying for, watchdog says (Feb ’20) (Feb '20)
The NBN is wrecking a whole industry (Jun '19)
Around 50% of homes in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane have the oldest NBN technology (May '19)
Why New Zealand outplayed Australia on the NBN … Australian Financial Review (Aug '17)
The NBN: how a national infrastructure dream fell short … (Jun '17)
What will the NBN really cost? (Dec '15)
In his own words: Tony Abbott on the NBN … (Sep '13)
Australian farmers, Chinese consumers and the political and trade tensions in between (Aug '20)
China raises the cost of Australian beef as ChAFTA safeguard is triggered (Jul '20)
Vital Signs: Australian barley growers are the victims of weaponised trade rules (May '20)