May you live in idiotic times

You want socialism we’ll give you socialism. This is the front page of The Oz this morning: DEPRESSION BUSTER with the headline all in caps just as you see. We are going to keep handing out money to people for not working and let them stay at home. Maybe this is what people really have always wanted. I wrote my own post last night but didn’t put it up and I, too, used caps, just like this. Here is my take on where we’re off to from last night. It was addressed to the Prime Minister.

WORSE THAN WHITLAM

If I hadn’t just listened to Steve Conroy present the Labor side of things on Andrew Bolt, I would not have known that they are even more absurd than you and your national cabinet. But I don’t really blame you since you are an economic simpleton. I blame those buffoons in Treasury who are giving you and your Treasurer this advice. They are your enemies. They are incompetent. Don’t you know that?

The important part of what first needed to happen was to ensure that no one runs out of purchasing power, which means that no one runs out of MONEY. This was not supposed to be an endless supply of cash unbacked by any productive activities. It was only supposed to be a stop-gap of a week or two and only for those who have been caught short of cash to spend.

If you think this kind of funding of unproductive activity can go on for even a couple of months, never mind six, you will go down in history as WORSE THAN WHITLAM.

I understand that such considerations have gone out of fashion, and are never mentioned in an economics text, but have you ever heard of this thing called the private sector? Do you understand the conception surrounding the notion of value added? If you do not do as much as possible to ensure that incomes are related to productivity, you are guaranteed to run the Australian economy off the rails. You will make the Liberal Party poison for a generation if not longer.

I am perfectly aware that governments skim billions that have been earned through actual value-adding work through taxation and other forms of revenue acquisition. I am just as aware that these tens of billions you gather in are spent on producing assets that never have a positive return on funds invested. The NBN, the train lines in Melbourne or the streetcars in Sydney are a sinkhole of loss that must be covered by actual value-adding projects in the private sector. The ratio of wages paid to value produced in the public sector is a massive negative. You guys have never managed a payroll in your lives which shows in almost every economic decision you make.

But to take these stupidities and extend them even farther is gross negligence. To fund the economy’s wages bill while you have shut down productive activity all across the continent is nuts.

We have eighteen dead from the Corona Virus. People are getting sick, and anyone of us, particularly our older citizens, might end up with this disease and some may die. But to crash and burn an economy because there might eventually be a few thousand of us caught up in this medical firestorm is so bizarrely disproportionate as to defy belief. Have you no sense?

Say you are doing everything you can to overcome this virus, and then do everything you can. There are cures coming, vaccines being developed to prevent its spread, forms of isolation and treatment on the way that will limit how much further the disease continues. Common sense ought to be the prime prerequisite for a Prime Minister. That is why we elected you, to make difficult decisions. People will die from the Corona Virus, that is a certainty. They will also die from incompetent economic decisions.

You must open the economy up as much as possible and do it as soon as possible. Everyone now knows they need to be careful of what they do. Everyone is aware of what they must keep an eye out for. But if you do not let us get back to work, you may ultimately be held responsible for the greatest economic disaster in Australian history.

Anyway, we shall see. We have become the stationary state John Stuart Mill used to discuss and even looked forward to. All that for a subsequent post.

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32 Responses to May you live in idiotic times

  1. Iampeter

    May you live in idiotic times

    This heading is more on the nose than you realize, Steve.
    You’re an uncritical supporter of Trump who is just now responsible for signing a bill representing the single greatest piece of wealth redistribution in human history and at the same time you’re complaining about socialism.

    Idiotic times indeed.

  2. 2dogs

    The end of these restrictions will see the return of inflation. With a vengeance.

    People will lose their homes when the can’t afford the higher interest rates that will follow.

    But if you’re a younger, newly qualified tradie who has yet to buy their first home, it’ll be great.

  3. egg_

    Has SloMo founds his Khemlani, yet?

    X i?

  4. Petros

    How did ScoMo become head of the NZ office of tourism and sport at the age of 30 and then MD at tourism Australia at the age of 36?

  5. candy

    Idiotic times indeed.

    I think Americans seem more energised and entrepreneurial and bounce back. Might make a difference. Time will tell.

    Australians have grown to expect sit-down money.

  6. Mak Siccar

    An excellent comment to this article in Quadrant Online. The comment refers to Adam Creighton’s inane rant in today’s Australian.

    https://quadrant.org.au/opinion/qed/2020/03/this-cant-go-on-much-longer/

    Peter OBrien – 31st March 2020
    On the subject of those whom Creighton categorizes as ‘those who are being saved’ it is as well to remember that to date, no one has been saved by the extraordinary measures taken by the government.. Until the 2200 ICU beds that we had before the crisis erupted are fully occupied, then no-one is in this category. And I doubt that after it’s all over, anyone will be.

  7. Beachcomber

    May you live in idiotic times

    Indeed. That is a very apt heading for a post in these times of popular delusion and madness of crowds.

    We have eighteen dead from the Corona Virus.

    This is a key misperception. 18 elderly, frail and ailing people who have died also tested positive in an unvalidated COVID-19 test procedure. We don’t know if any of these fatalities were due to a corona virus. It’s quite possible that none of them were.

  8. Des Deskperson

    Here’s a tweet going around from Mike Carlton.

    “I’m told that Greg Combet was the architect of the Jobkeeper Plan, with Sally McManus. They sold it to Christian Porter and Treasury. Morrison took a lot of convincing, but eventually got on board. This is leadership and national unity of a high order from all concerned.”

    Dunno what to think.

  9. thefrollickingmole

    Dunno what to think.

    Uniparty uber ales?

  10. stackja

    egg – Jim Cairns forgotten?

  11. The Golden Age Of Stupid … Has arrived in all its glory … Hallelujah I tips me hat to the simpletons of the world !

  12. Adelagado

    I have no confidence in anything the Government or the bureaucrats say. Three weeks ago they said stop panicking about toilet paper.

    Three weeks later there is still no toilet paper in the shops.

  13. max

    How does money created out of nothing create wealth?

    we are going to find out before year ends.

  14. Bear Necessities

    Here’s a tweet going around from Mike Carlton.

    “I’m told that Greg Combet was the architect of the Jobkeeper Plan, with Sally McManus. They sold it to Christian Porter and Treasury. Morrison took a lot of convincing, but eventually got on board. This is leadership and national unity of a high order from all concerned.”

    Nothing surprising. ALP sets policy in Australia and the LNP implement it. NDIS, NBN, etc. This time they are cutting out the middle man and going straight to the ACTU. The only thing the LNP will have left the ALP are the subs!

  15. Archivist

    I understand that such considerations have gone out of fashion, and are never mentioned in an economics text, but have you ever heard of this thing called the private sector?

    They’ve heard of the private sector, and can even tell you what it is.
    It’s something that provides tax revenue!

  16. Tim Neilson

    Three weeks later there is still no toilet paper in the shops.

    There is in a small supermarket near me.

    The large one on Victoria Street seems not to have.

    I’ve heard similar stories from elsewhere – some places get hit by the hoarder gangs of no particular nationality, while others seem to be overlooked.
    Maybe it’s economy of scale – not worth pillaging the very small outlets.

  17. Cynic of Ayr

    Iampeter is a very blind and stupid individual. TDS has him totally consumed. He always proves this whenever the writes.
    Mind you, Sheridan has the same disease.
    However, I admit to the complete opposite.
    If there is one person in the free western world capable of handling the Virus and the Chinese inventors, it is Donald Trump.
    Think about it. Who else? Pelosi? Schumer? Nadler? Warren? Biden???? Clinton? Morrison? Albanese? Shorten? Gillard? Merkel? Macron? Trudeau? (haha!) How about Turnbull? What does everyone think Turnbull would be doing right now, as compared to Trump?
    None of these have the basic common sense it takes to run the USA, let alone keep an eye on the rest of the world.
    All the others have a political agenda that rules completely over the top of any smidgen of common sense they might have. This is Trump’s strength. He is not particularly political. He is merely pro-American, and by extension, pro-Western.
    You do not have to have any economic training to realise that this sort of money handout bullshit cannot go on for a month, let alone six or eighteen.
    I said in another comment,
    If a fraction of the cost to the economy was directed to testing on a huge scale, just maybe the unaffected could carry on and support the affected. As it is, Morrison is going to run out of money real quick, and no one will be supported.

  18. Faye

    Never had a clue about Hayek and Keynes until you Steve at Catallaxy woke me up to a few things.
    With all your dedicated work to try to change economies for the better (Keynes OUT/Classic IN), do you see a glimmer of hope? What is the most encouraging sign you have seen so far. Also have you consulted with President Trump and his team who are in charge of fixing the American economy?

  19. Faye

    I forgot, does the present Australian government ever ask for a meeting with you?

  20. Shy Ted

    Some of us aren’t getting any free cash. What did we do wrong? I know, we went to work and paid taxes and didn’t identify as anything other than Australians.

  21. OldOzzie

    Coronavirus: ‘Not the time for fun’, but this police state tone is deeply worrying

    CHRIS KENNY

    In Sydney’s harbourside Rushcutters Bay Park, police cars with flashing lights dispersed people getting some fresh air and sunshine, in Perth, encouraged by Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan, police flew drones over parks warning people to go home. In Victoria and New South Wales the governments and police forces are warning of $10,000 fines for people who leave home for reasons not covered by prescriptive lists.

    In Queensland there are similar threats from police and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk explained that now is “not the time for fun.”

    I don’t think anyone is having fun. But this police state tone is deeply worrying.

    On the medical front we are entitled to be encouraged. We have curbed the overall level of new infections because we have cut the number of cases coming in from overseas.

    We must listen to the expert medical advice that says there is a long way to go, that community infections are the real concern and they could take a fortnight or more to show up. We understand that the worst is likely yet to come, and that it why rules are tightening rather than relaxing.

    But we are entitled to reflect that border closures, compulsory quarantine, an extensive and growing testing regime, shutdowns of travel, tourism and hospitality businesses, and physical distancing rules and practices have enabled this country to make some tangible progress. We have reduced the growth in new infections, despite testing going up.

    We have had an activist media, driven by the inanities of social media, pushing state and federal governments for what they like to call a full lockdown. They have paid scant regard to the human toll of even more draconian measures.

    Governments are wary about being accused of not doing enough – especially after the often illogical and hysterical criticism of governments over the summer of bushfires. We also have activist academics and medical representatives, many with political agendas, prodding and bullying governments and ministers over their responses.

    The strident calls have continued for weeks; shut everything down, shut down society, shut down schools, shut down businesses and shut down the economy. We have had continued high-level medical advice that schools should be a safe option; a place to keep kids organised and focused, coached on hygiene demands, away from vulnerable people and continuing with their education.

    Yet our schools are as good as closed, students are actively discouraged from attending and those that do turn up are minded rather than taught.

    We have citizens being threatened with heavy fines if they leave home. We have people being abused and threatened with legal action if they go to the beach.

    We have police putting drones into the sky to check that no more than two of us are out in public together. Is this proportionate?

    Is this reasonable given we live in an educated, sensible, liberal and egalitarian society? Is this the way we should operate when we confront a community challenge?

    This is not a government project; this is not a police operation; it is not even a medical task. This is a challenge for society; this is a time when citizens deliver the outcome.

    It is citizens who provide the medical care, run the pathology test, make the deliveries, clean the bathrooms, stack the shelves and prepare the food. We are all in this together, for each other.

    Governments and other authorities need to make difficult decisions, they need to enforce new laws, provide information so people can take reasonable precautions for their own sake and the sake of others.

    But the penalties, policing and political messages run the risk of being over the top and counter-productive. It is no good assuaging the shrill voices of Twitter (not the real world) if you infantilise and antagonise mainstream Australians.

    We know there will be idiots and scumbags – we’ve had people allegedly spit at police, and illegally open bars – and we would expect the book to be thrown at them. But threatening all Australians isn’t really on.

    Please tone it down.

    There is not a citizen in the country who doesn’t understand what is at stake. But fair go – except in the most egregious and obnoxious examples, governments shouldn’t be threatening people about leaving home, or spying on them with police drones at the park.

    We all need to play our role to slow the spread and protect the vulnerable; most of us have elderly family and friends, so we are apprehended by the danger. Australian citizens, who are doing the heavy lifting in this crisis, do not deserve to be treated like delinquents.

    They are the ones who are suffering from this pandemic, losing their jobs, their businesses, their schooling and their social interactions. They are also the ones who are combating it, running the hospitals, providing the essentials, staying home, schooling their kids, and offering state and federal governments, police and other authorities the appropriate support.

    Those authorities should reciprocate by treating people like adults, recognising they are doing this in partnership with us, not against us. We fight the virus with community co-operation, not police sirens.

    Whether you are a government minister, medico, teacher or policeman, we appreciate your work, we appreciate the pressure you are under and we support your aims; we are all in this together.

    Rather than tackle a horrible health and economic crisis with some version of a police state, our leaders must try to appeal to what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature”. Because that is what will work; by maintaining social cohesion and ensuring we don’t lose our national character just when we need it most.

  22. Petros

    You should have pissed it up against the wall, Shy Ted. The system rewards these types nowadays.

  23. Tel

    The end of these restrictions will see the return of inflation. With a vengeance.

    Entirely likely. Check a macro-economist and they will immediately tell you that inflation is a good thing, so we are going to get a good does of that good thing.

    People will lose their homes when the can’t afford the higher interest rates that will follow.

    Some will … but if you can make it through that high interest period you survive it with a valuable asset intact and the principle of the loan gets destroyed by the very inflation that was the good thing in the first place. Gonna be a time of sorting. Of course those who sailed a little too close to the wind will demand government step in and fix everything for them.

  24. Herodotus

    Harsh but fair, Steve.

  25. Squirrel

    This taxpayer is having great trouble understanding the logic of paying some people more to not work than they were hitherto paid to work (as a part-time casual).

    On the broader question, a scheme along these lines was inevitable, given the scale and likely duration of compulsory business close-downs. We have a high proportion of workers with no leave entitlements, and (presumably) little in the way of superannuation to draw upon.

    We also have some of the most indebted households in the world, thanks to our epic national property bubble – the latter point a reminder that this scheme will, as much as anything, be about staving off (or at least delaying until we’ve got the virus contained) a banking crisis.

  26. Robber Baron

    There is no wisdom in government.

  27. How did ScoMo become head of the NZ office of tourism and sport at the age of 30 and then MD at tourism Australia at the age of 36?

    Not because of ability, that’s for certain!

  28. Andrew

    And yet by the AbC and Huardian standards , it still does not satisfy them

  29. I’ve heard similar stories from elsewhere – some places get hit by the hoarder gangs of no particular nationality, while others seem to be overlooked.
    Maybe it’s economy of scale – not worth pillaging the very small outlets.

    The smaller outlets tend to be manned at the turnstile by an owner-operator, alert as a farm dog, and besides having skin in the game, they have to live among their regular local clientele for the next 20 years or more.

  30. Mr Anderson

    Politicians: We are all Keynsians now.

  31. Hasbeen

    I wonder why we are going to give the unemployed more than the pensioner, simply because of a virus. Surely the pensioner will have extra costs due to the virus equally with the unemployed.

  32. Clam Chowdah

    If he doesn’t respond send a second email advising you have subscribed to The Age. That’ll let him know you are serious.

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