Bourgeois dignity, an Australian perspective

Last week in the United States the economic historian Deirdre McCloskey delivered a speech to a gathering organised by the Cato Institute. A link to the website providing the presentation is here.

The speech itself concerns important themes, such as the power of rhetoric to effect material changes in the human condition and the execution of productive plans emboldened by rhetorical dignity to the bourgeois, which will surely feature prominently in McCloskey’s forthcoming book, The Treasured Bourgeoisie: How Markets and Innovation Became Ethical, 1600?1848, and Then Suspect.

If you have an hour of spare time, I do recommend you take time to watch the video contained in the link. The excellent after?speech presentation by George Mason University economist Donald Boudreaux (convener of the Cafe Hayek blog) also makes for compulsory viewing.

Any discerning observer of current Australian political affairs would be well aware of the great risks to economic activity posed by the irresponsible use of language by senior federal government ministers.

Rhetorical attacks on the wealth attained by entrepreneurs, honestly attained through the market process, represents an attack on all those, both residing domestically and overseas, who volunteer to purchase their products. When Swan and other ministers attack the rich, they also attack every Australian’s economic prospects, by harming the nation’s reputation as an private sector investment destination and, perhaps worse still, discouraging people from setting up their own businesses in the service of others.

Further, when the Gillard government rhetorically praises the growth in legislation during its period in office it not only endorses the statism they clearly seek to perpetuate, but the resulting labour, energy, education, childcare, health, transport and other cost increases induced by regulations serves as another backhanded slap of disrespect toward those engaged in productive conduct.

I consider Deridre McCloskey to be correct when she states that the elixir of economic prosperity does not solely rely upon the materialist explanations of the modern economics profession. Language matters, rhetoric matters, and ideas matter, too.

Everyday participants in the Australian economy have had to suffer six years of economic policy indignity which, at its core, have been inspired by the language, rhetoric and ideas of socialism infusing the minds of the political class.

This situation is not absolutely guaranteed to change in the event of a prospective change in government come September 2013. However, if the current lot are sent packing then, at least, such an outcome would serve as a suitable punishment for the grotesque political abuse of language conducted in our names from late 2007.

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7 Responses to Bourgeois dignity, an Australian perspective

  1. Viva says:

    Doris Lessing was on to this problem. As Wikipedia informs us her sci-fi novel The Sentimental Agents in the Volyen Empire “is a social satire written in the tradition of Jonathan Swift and George Orwell which focuses on the debasement of language in political rhetoric. In Lessing’s fictional universe it is propaganda that keeps the fragile empires afloat, and when language becomes too distorted, some of her characters succumb to a condition called ‘undulant rhetoric’ and are placed in a Hospital for Rhetorical Diseases.”

  2. Palmerston says:

    It does not surprise me that this government seeks to measure its success by referring to the number of bills passed. What worries me is the number of times I have read commentary by journalists in which they also approvingly refer to quantity of legislative output as evidence of good performance.

  3. Everyday participants in the Australian economy have had to suffer six years of economic policy indignity which, at its core, have been inspired by the language, rhetoric and ideas of socialism infusing the minds of the political class.

    This situation is not absolutely guaranteed to change in the event of a prospective change in government come September 2013, but if the current lot are sent packing then at least such an outcome would serve as a suitable punishment for the grotesque political abuse of language conducted in our names from late 2007.

    You just said a mouthful there. The first term of an Abbott government isn’t going to be pretty, even if he does the right things. I’m concerned he won’t, but I’m still prepared to chance it.

  4. Tintarella di Luna says:

    I live in NSW and can tell you the quantity of legislation simply constipated the state for 16 long arduous years. And now we appear to have a Laboral government. Some things have changed but much remains the same, including too many of the leftovers.

  5. Rafe says:

    Orwell was onto something in 1984 where the Ministry of Truth was in charge of propaganda.

    I blame the philosophers (apart from Oakeshott and Popper) for the corruption of language, partly due to their obsession with it, instead of interesting and important problems.

    Looking forward to Sinc’s guides to the books of Oakie.

  6. Jim Rose says:

    Consider the J.R. Rowling parable: A Scottish welfare mum decides to cheer her-self up and write a book, going to local cafés to do so to escape from her unheated flat.

    The initial print run was 1000 books, five hundred of which were distributed to libraries. Today, such copies are valued between £16,000 and £25,000.

    Rowling is the first to become a billionaire by writing books.

    G.A. Cohen twisted and turned to argue that the fruits of Rowling’s mind, in effect, belong to us all?

    How many more Harry Potter books would have been written if Cohen is right and his ideas applied for a maximum income?

    Are you willing to risk explaining your answer to the young fans of Rowling’s books about how it would be part of a better world for them that these additional harry potter books were not written?

    What happens to share prices when there is a surprise CEO resignation? Apple share values went up and down in billions on news of Steve Jobs’ health.

    When Hewlett Packard’s CEO Mark Hurd resigned unexpectedly after a sex scandal, the value of HP stock dropped by $10 billion! His $30 million in annual pay was a bargain for his shareholders. Hurd was exploited by his employer and shareholders – a wage slave

  7. ralph says:

    “Are you willing to risk explaining your answer to the young fans of Rowling’s books about how it would be part of a better world for them that these additional harry potter books were not written”

    There is no need for fans to go without additional HP books. The “The Wind Done Gone” copyright case would indicate that there could be literally hundreds of additional Harry Potter books that fans could enjoy, but not necessarily written by Rowling. Perhaps it would be a better world if we had HP books from Rowling (the original author) and other authors. Copyright is nothing more than government regulation.

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