Conservative social democrats are back

The latest issue of Policy is out.

It contains an article by David Alexander making the argument that Australia’s low-tax egalitarianism confounds the world.

In Australia, we benefit from the dynamism and freedom that comes with smaller government, but we have done it in a way that reflects our values about egalitarianism and the fair go. Our arrangements are the end-product of our culture and history—a strong egalitarian ethos grafted onto a deep underlying British love of liberty. Our pioneers’ strong sense of camaraderie and the bushman’s talent for running things on the smell of an oily rag has translated into lean but fair-minded government.
The emergence of this Australian model—this platypus model—may confound the old northern hemisphere thinking that small government and egalitarianism are mutually incompatible. But it presents a sustainable model for successfully addressing the two eternal challenges of statecraft—maintaining internal harmony while possessing external strength.

This reminds me of John Howard telling the American Entreprise Institute that Australia had a tax system with a social vision. While that is true, it also highlights that there is little difference between conservative social democrats and the more traditional kind of social democrat. Arguments over spending revolve not around the size of government but the identity of favoured constituents.

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52 Responses to Conservative social democrats are back

  1. C.L.

    In Australia, we benefit from the dynamism and freedom that comes with smaller government…

    LOL. Yeah, right. A population smaller than Greater Los Angeles and we have at least nine governments.

    a deep underlying British love of liberty

    Australians don’t love liberty and neither do the Brits.

    Our pioneers’ strong sense of camaraderie and the bushman’s talent for running things on the smell of an oily rag has translated into lean but fair-minded government.

    I here vomit with disbelief. We just spent billions burning houses down.

    The emergence of this Australian model — this platypus model

    Oh God, make it stop.

  2. Infidel Tiger

    The emergence of this Australian model — this platypus model…

    The Platypus must refer to the enormous bill the taxpayers are slugged with each year. Or perhaps that we are pond scum.

  3. JC

    Oh jeez… the platypus model. Oh FFS I can’t believe it.

    The dolt then suggests our love of small government is unique with the love of egalitarianism. Egalitarianism is perhaps one of our truly ugly features.

    What freaking small government? They re just banning fast food joints in south Australia FFS.

    But it presents a sustainable model for successfully addressing the two eternal challenges of statecraft—maintaining internal harmony while possessing external strength.

    What an ugly sentence.

  4. C.L.

    The Platypus must refer to the enormous bill the taxpayers are slugged with each year.

    LOL!

  5. C.L.

    Does the Wombat Whisperer believe in the Platypus Model, that is the question.

    Perhaps Possum knows.

  6. Sinclair Davidson

    JC – to be fair, he does have a whole bunch of graphs showing that Australia has small government wrt spending compared to the OECD. The problem revolves around meaningfully measuring the size of government – that is one thing that Julie Novak is looking at in her PhD.

  7. jtfsoon

    The guy was one of Costello’s advisers and obviously was talking about long term trends, not referring specifically to the successes of Rudd/Gillard.

    Guys, things really aren’t that bad in Australia compared to the rest of the world. I take issue with his support for progressive taxation but in general he is not far off the mark, Australia still has one of the highest economic freedom scores in the world and generally rational economic policies compared to the rest of the western world.

  8. Infidel Tiger

    The worst thing about the Australian “platypus” model is that we have taken Europea’s love of redtape and bureaucracy and added American health fascism for good measure. We are the most over governed and regulated pussies on the planet – even the damn Brits laugh at us.

  9. jtfsoon

    I’m not sure your view is supported by any of the available statistical indicators, IT.

    Australia would score considerably higher on economic freedom than Europe, while we also have better targeted welfare than the US, IT, which is his point.

    This is all going by pretty low standards but be thankful for small mercies.

  10. C.L.

    It’s not all about econometrics, Jason. Not only is his Rolf Harris rhetoric embarrassing but his arguments about Australian governments getting the balance right on liberty and having a track record of doing so (somehow connected to bushmen) is preposterous. Dirigisme took hold firmly in Australian culture from the earliest colonial days, culminating in its institutional synthesis, the old Federation-era Settlement. Socially, there is a lingering and apparently entrenched supineness in this country when it comes to government encroachments on freedom.

  11. Peter Patton

    There are some worthy points made. But me old china, you can stick your “underlying love of British liberty” where the sun don’t shine. The liberty we love is “Australian”. Those pasty, cloven-footed, 2 digit IQ, mouldy-toothed fat slags and chavs bear little resemblance at all to us. The EU can ‘ave ’em.

  12. Rococo Liberal

    Yes it’s great we have relateively small government, but that is despite a horrible strain of egalitarianism, not because of it.

    But esteemed Catallaxians, don’t fall the usual trap of failing to understand the difference between small and weak. We right-wingers should want a strong, but small government that does well the few things that governments should do.

    Where we consrvative and you libertairains should differ is over the moral duty of society.

  13. JC

    Sinc:

    The OCED measure is fast becoming a crock (in my book) as most of the countries that comprise that rotten organization are furry little European states which appear to be on their hind legs drowning in debt and low growth.

    Why compare a sufferer with pancreatic cancer to some poor sufferer of a brain tumor and try to figure which is better off? Both are inoperable and terminal.

    Australia still has one of the highest economic freedom scores in the world and generally rational economic policies compared to the rest of the western world.

    Jase, I think there’s a tyranny of aggregates in there. Are we say as free as Texas in terms of economic freedom?

    A large part of our recent wellbeing has to do with selling stuff in the ground that a large part of the world’s population want. It’s luck, not good governance and a load of the bad stuff is covered up by that.

    It reminds me of trading.. year in year out perhaps no more than 5% of my trades make the most money and turn the year in to a profit. In other words our luck covers up a great deal of shit left on the pavement to walk in.

    We just spent 4.5% of GDP on essentially worthless crap and because of mining tax receipts and large portfolio inflow that allows us to sell the farm at a premium covers that up.

    (sorry But I’m really angrified over some idiot CEO today and won’t rest till his head in hanging on my office wall…… Figuratively speaking of course)

  14. jtfsoon

    Yes dirigime took hold early. The 1980s reforms cleared out some of that, a point which most political commenters acknowledged.

    We got the balance better from the 1980s, then with Rudd et al it has swung a bit back. Still we are better than most of the rest of the Western world at present.

  15. Sinclair Davidson

    Jason – you could at least put the word ‘better’ in scare quotes 🙂

  16. C.L.

    The liberty we love is “Australian”. Those pasty, cloven-footed, 2 digit IQ, mouldy-toothed fat slags and chavs bear little resemblance at all to us. The EU can ‘ave ‘em.

    Well said. Hear hear.

  17. Michael Sutcliffe

    even the damn Brits laugh at us.

    Then I’m rollin’ on the floor gasping with laughing pains at them.

  18. JC

    Still we are better than most of the rest of the Western world at present.

    But that arrow is pointing the wrong way in my book.

    We’re about to re-regulate an important freaking part of our economy (telco)and the mass of the public seems to be supporting this unadulterated swill.

    They want to tax our most efficient industry on equity false grounds.

  19. Rococo Liberal

    The obvious incompatibility between liberty and equality has been the major political fissure between right and left since those idiotic french revolutionaries shackled these two antithetical concepts together back in 1789. The third part of the trinity, fraternity, was always a poor relation that could never conciliate it’s two warring siblings, though I suspect that is what the original lefties wanted it to do. “We are all free to be levelled to the same degree of degradation, but we will love each other like brothers whilst we do it.” And that is the philosphical three-card trick that the left has been trying to play ever since. There are always silly people ready to fall for it, because it is easy to salvage your conscience by seeming good rather than actually being good.

  20. JC

    And we’re about to “pud a pwice on carbin” on some incoherent reason that we can meddle with global temps all by ourselves.

    FFS… that arrow is pointing straight down.

  21. Peter Patton

    JC

    I liked the points you were making recently over at club troppo about how placed like the OECD continually misrepresent US taxation figures – downwards.

  22. Peter Patton

    even the damn Brits laugh at us.

    Even while Warnie’s rootinng Liz Hurley!?

  23. JC

    How could she?

    But you have to hand to the portly bogan. He seems to get away with it.

  24. Infidel Tiger

    Your average Britisher is a homosexual or an Islamist, so poor Liz had to settle for an Australian. I’ve never thought much of her myself, she looks like an attractive version of Nicola Roxon.

  25. Sinclair Davidson

    IT – that’s way off topic.

  26. Infidel Tiger

    Apologies. Feel free to delete.

  27. Peter Patton

    Sinc – ya reckon? 🙂

  28. rog

    At the risk of wasting more time

    But esteemed Catallaxians, don’t fall the usual trap of failing to understand the difference between small and weak. We right-wingers should want a strong, but small government that does well the few things that governments should do

    And what should governments do?

  29. JC

    And what should governments do?

    Do what you do, Rog… mope around and complain about he people that think you’re a moron.

  30. rog

    See what I mean? Any attempt intelligent discourse is blocked by the uber-moron.

    Moderator, please take this idiot outside and flog him with a wet, tightly rolled edition of The Australian. Then both dogs might lay together.

  31. rog

    There is an “at” missing JC, you can insert it where you please.

  32. Infidel Tiger

    And what should governments do?

    Protect the borders.
    Enforce contract law.
    Basic social safety net.
    Ensure beer supplies at Xmas.

  33. FDB

    What do you mean, Conservative Social Democrats are “back”?

    They’ve been running this country, with a couple of brief interludes, since WWII.

  34. JC

    Intelligent discourse? LOL. From you? hahahahahah

    Dunno why you’re so haughtily upset Wodge, as you’re a fine one to talk. You’re the worst offender here.

    And what’s with the whining about “Caxtallaxians” at other blogs, you cowardly muppet?

    I’m always prepared to see you change your attitude and with that you’ll see changes in the way I react to your comments.

  35. rog

    Y’know what JC, I have been thinking about updating my yacht. What I have in mind is a blue water performance cruiser, for extended passages up to the whitsundays and pacific etc. My current boat, whilst fast And seaworthy (we always win line honours but get handicapped to smithereens) isn’t really set up for cruising. Trouble is, the boat I have in mind is over in S/F, so we have a forex situation here.

    What do you reckon, will the $US go up or down?

    I don’t ask this question lightly and I do recognise your market skills, which are apparently without parallel.

  36. rog

    I never picked IT as closet pinko, but as JC has often reminded me, I am a little slow.

  37. JC

    see open thread for a response.. Rog.

  38. Paul Williams

    I’m deeply suspicious of anything being touted as “sustainable”.

    A “sustainable” “platypus” model of government sounds like a complete crock.

    Egalitarianism probably developed as a reaction to the British class system, but humans seem to love a hierarchy.

    So now we have Oprah.

  39. Greego

    “even the damn Brits laugh at us.”

    Then I’m rollin’ on the floor gasping with laughing pains at them.

    On the social side, particularly around the “sinful” stuff (alcohol, drugs, gambling, censorship, porn, etc) the UK feels considerably freer than Australia.

  40. You can buy beer at 24 hour convenience stores in England. I don’t know about the rest of Australia, but in WA that is considered a severe risk to public order and is highly illegal.

  41. Quentin George

    As for the “Brits” not understanding liberity – the English do, but they are shackled by having to pay for the socialism of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and hence get governments that continually screw the south over.

    Remember, English history is a long one of decreasing the power of tyrants, be they kings (Magna Carta) or guys like Cromwell. Scotland’s history revolves around its obsessive hatred of England.

  42. TerjeP

    Jason is right but there is still such a lot we can do to slim down the state. And there is a substantial amount of sliming that can be done without seriously jeopardizing egalitarian sentiments. The obvious area for reform is in health. The hospitals should be privatised. Medicare should be an income contingent credit facility like HECS. Income taxes should be substantially trimmed accordingly. Those that want it should get private health insurance, those that don’t want to shouldn’t have to. Nobody would miss out on medical care for financial reasons, most people would get insurance or pay their own way, the medical industry would be much more efficient and responsive to demand and taxes would be a heck of a lot lower.

  43. Sinclair Davidson

    Not ‘obsessive’, well-deserved. 🙂

  44. .

    There is a rising tide of illiberalism in our legal system.

    Juries ought to be subject to conscientious objection as is in South Australia, and majority verdicts ought to be repealed.

  45. dover_beach

    Juries ought to be subject to conscientious objection as is in South Australia,

    What do you mean? That some should be able to avoid jury duty on the grounds of conscientious objection?

  46. Quentin George

    “Not ‘obsessive’, well-deserved.”

    Well, it led to the stupid decision of defying their feudal overlord (a very short-sighted decision in medieval Europe) and then shackling themselves to a disastrous alliance with France that was pretty much solidly benefiting the French, but relegating Scotland to a series of futile and expensive wars with its powerful neighbour.

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  48. Sinclair Davidson

    Well, yes. The Scots have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity – but that doesn’t absolve the ‘bastard’ English 🙂

  49. Felix the Cassowary

    LOL. Yeah, right. A population smaller than Greater Los Angeles and we have at least nine governments.

    I say, “the more the merrier”. We all accept that we’re better off for having competition in the marketplace, and any government is more powerful than a corporation. I don’t want anyone to have a monopoly on power….

    (BTW, what definition are you using for “Greater Los Angeles”? The biggest I can find is still less than 18 million. Aside from the federal and state governments, that area has five counties and 183 cities. Possibly not so different from us after all, especially once you consider our vast geographic size.)

  50. Don Arthur

    Sinclair – How does Australia’s superannuation system affect the size of government comparisons?

    Contributions aren’t optional so in that sense they’re like a social security tax. But they don’t go to government so I’m assuming they’re not counted.

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