To be righteous is one thing, to be right another

Today in The Australian




The Liberal staffers who videoed themselves masturbating in Parliament House are morons, not monsters. And if we gasp at Andrew Laming’s conduct, it is less because it was manifestly unethical than because it shows, all too clearly, that while you are only young once, you can be immature forever.

About Henry Ergas

Henry Ergas AO is a columnist for The Australian. From 2009 to 2015 he was Senior Economic Adviser to Deloitte Australia and from 2009 to 2017 was Professor of Infrastructure Economics at the University of Wollongong’s SMART Infrastructure Facility. He joined SMART and Deloitte after working as a consultant economist at NECG, CRA International and Concept Economics. Prior to that, he was an economist at the OECD in Paris from the late 1970s until the early 1990s. At the OECD, he headed the Secretary-General’s Task Force on Structural Adjustment (1984-1987), which concentrated on improving the efficiency of government policies in a wide range of areas, and was subsequently Counsellor for Structural Policy in the Economics Department. He has taught at a range of universities, undertaken a number of government inquiries and served as a Lay Member of the New Zealand High Court. In 2016, he was made an Officer in the Order of Australia.
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33 Responses to To be righteous is one thing, to be right another

  1. Clam Chowdah says:

    Love your writing, Henry.

  2. min says:

    Immature morons are advising the politicians ! I wonder the vaccine rollout is such a mess .

  3. OldOzzie says:

    Excellent Henry – loved

    The Liberal staffers who videoed themselves masturbating in Parliament House are morons, not monsters. And if we gasp at Andrew Laming’s conduct, it is less because it was manifestly unethical than because it shows, all too clearly, that while you are only young once, you can be immature forever.

    That such things occur is hardly surprising. As Carlo Cipolla, a great historian, concluded in his marvellous book on The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity, there is in every human subpopulation — be they philosophers or pole dancers, members of parliament or members of criminal gangs — a constant proportion who are idiots. And precisely because they are and act like idiots, the sole aspect of their behaviour that is utterly predictable is that it will astonish those who are not.

    But those obvious facts didn’t stop the leaks from provoking howls of outrage, as if they proved that the Morrison government had plunged from the thunderbolts of Sinai to the insensate debauchery of the Cities of the Plain. In an already overheated atmosphere, the opposition was able to raise the temperature to boiling point, further eroding the government’s standing.

  4. Duane Walker says:

    I have been thinking of cancelling my Australian subscription lately. It seems to have gone woke.

  5. Baa Humbug says:

    They are morons with an inner monster itching to bust out.
    Give these bastards some power and see how quickly the monster emerges.
    We’re not doing anyone any favours by dismissing these people as immature frat boys. They are more than that.
    We are seeing what these types are capable of in real time over in America. They are destroying lives and celebrating on social media.

  6. Ed Case says:

    ***The Liberal staffers who videoed themselves masturbating in Parliament House are morons, not monsters. ***
    Nationals Staffer, wasn’t he?

  7. Ed Case says:

    The Liberal staffers who videoed themselves ………… in Parliament House are morons, not monsters.

    Nationals staffer, wasn’t he?

  8. Tom says:

    For those who don’t have a subscription to The Australian:

    To be righteous is one thing, to be right another
    HENRY ERGAS

    The Liberal staffers who videoed themselves masturbating in Parliament House are morons, not monsters. And if we gasp at Andrew Laming’s conduct, it is less because it was manifestly unethical than because it shows, all too clearly, that while you are only young once, you can be immature forever.

    That such things occur is hardly surprising. As Carlo Cipolla, a great historian, concluded in his marvellous book on The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity, there is in every human subpopulation — be they philosophers or pole dancers, members of parliament or members of criminal gangs — a constant proportion who are idiots. And precisely because they are and act like idiots, the sole aspect of their behaviour that is utterly predictable is that it will astonish those who are not.

    But those obvious facts didn’t stop the leaks from provoking howls of outrage, as if they proved that the Morrison government had plunged from the thunderbolts of Sinai to the insensate debauchery of the Cities of the Plain. In an already overheated atmosphere, the opposition was able to raise the temperature to boiling point, further eroding the government’s standing.

    To some extent, the pressures, which have intensified steadily since Brittany Higgins’s allegations emerged, reflect factors that were apparent in the response to the bushfires of 18 months ago.

    Convinced a new age was about to dawn, large sections of the left, and its allies in the media, never accepted their election defeat, accumulating reserves of rancour that the COVID crisis suppressed but hardly diminished. As that crisis ebbed, the claims of pervasive misogyny allowed the rancour to explode in righteous anger.

    But to be righteous is one thing, to be right another. In reality, far from deteriorating, the core indicators of gender equality have improved, in many cases spectacularly, under the Coalition.

    For example, the gender pay gap soared during the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years from 15 to nearly 19 per cent, as Labor’s splurge on pink batts and school halls compounded the mining boom’s boost to earnings in male-dominated occupations; but since the Coalition took office, the earnings differential between men and women has shrunk to an unprecedented low of 13.4 per cent.

    And just as women’s relative earnings have risen towards those of their male counterparts, female labour force participation has reached record highs, aided by policy changes that make working more worthwhile.

    None of that implies that the problems have disappeared. But the contrast between the progress and the protests underscores Alexis de Tocqueville’s observation of nearly two centuries ago that revolutions are triggered not by dashed hopes but by mounting expectations.

    Noting that the devastating famines of 1693-94 and 1709-10 had caused barely a murmur, Tocqueville argued that the measures the French monarchy adopted in 1730 to ensure relief was widely available meant that it came to be viewed as being responsible for food supplies, setting the scene for the uprisings that occurred in the wake of the much milder short­ages of 1788-89.

    In other words, the government’s expanding role, instead of assuaging expectations, boosted them, creating a vicious spiral in which outcomes could never keep up with what public opinion believed it had been promised.

    Compounding the tensions, the economic and social progress that followed the monarchy’s successive reforms had instilled an entirely new sense of limitless possibility. The eternal “tomorrow” of utopian political visions suddenly seemed to move closer, fuelling the belief that — come the revolution — injustice, superstition and poverty could all be eradicated in the next glorious hour.

    The Revolution was therefore the progeny of the ancien regime’s achievements rather than the symptom of its failings. But while the revolutionaries stormed to power under the banner of freedom, they delivered the exact opposite. That, said Tocqueville, was no accident.

    Inevitably, those who want to drastically reshape social arrangements find themselves strengthening the apparatus of repression, as if “liberty, like a child, had to go through a stage of tears and weeping in order to reach maturity”.

    And equally inevitably, so as to justify the greater coercion, they adopt a “grotesquely distorted account of reality” in which they portray themselves as “wholly good”, while attributing “demonic power to the adversary”.

    Ignoring “the ineluctable imperfections of human existence”, they come to hold others to moral standards they could never live up to themselves, thereby preparing the ground for those excesses of rage and frenzy that, in Edmund Burke’s words, “pull down more in half an hour than prudence, deliberation and foresight can build up in a hundred years”.

    To say that is not to suggest that the guillotine beckons, although there is a distinct whiff of burning in the air. It would, however, be a mistake to think the mechanisms Tocqueville identified have lost any of their relevance.

    On the contrary, today’s upheavals have all the hallmarks of those that preceded them: the reluctance to acknowledge how much has already been achieved; the relentless demonisation of real or imagined adversaries; the thirst for what Yeats grimly called “the blood-dimmed tide”.

    And even if they are not as deadly, they are no less vitriolic, insisting, as did the Jacobins, the Bolsheviks and the Maoists, that any alleged perpetrators (or their presumed accomplices in the government) must be in bad faith, with the only way of proving good faith being for the “enemies of the people” to concede what their assailants seek — that is, abdication or self-annihilation.

    The changes that have occurred in our culture only aggravate those dynamics. As the traditional Australian virtues of stoicism, and a laconic, somewhat disabused, realism, have given way to the glorification of uninhibited emotions, the nation’s capacity to distinguish tantrums from traumas seems to have completely disappeared.

    And with it has vanished the capacity to distinguish sanctimonious grandstanding from serious consideration of the difficult questions — including those related to sexual assault and to our political culture — that do need to be addressed.

    Unfortunately, simply understanding the processes at work doesn’t make them much more tractable: merely to cry, as Dostoevsky famously did in The Possessed, that “the fire is in the minds of men and not in the roofs of houses” does not quell the flames, any more than psychosis can be relieved purely by being diagnosed. And with no shortage of stupidity left to surface, the hysteria isn’t about to abate.

    But the worst response would be to cave in. Rather, we remember our Kipling: keep your head when all others about you are losing theirs. And as the crowds swirl and the howls mount, make sure you hold it tight.

    https://www.theaustralian.com.au/inquirer/to-be-righteous-is-one-thing-to-be-right-another/news-story/266a64f16fed247ec8cbcf055f4bb992

  9. BalancedObservation2 says:

    The story is simply another reflection on what The Australian is fast becoming : a rag.

    Of course I’m only going by the quote but it’s enough. There’s this pay wall many of us who’ve cancelled our subscriptions now encounter.

    To downplay that behaviour is plain stupid.

  10. Tom says:

    I tried to liberate Henry’s excellent column from The Australian‘s paywall, but the spaminator ate it. Hopefully, Doomlord will shortly set it free.

  11. Iain Russell says:

    Condemnation of the secret spoofers and gay orgyists is pure homophobia! Isn’t it?

  12. BalancedObservation2 says:

    I’ve always found Henry Ergas has a way with words. The trouble is he often seems to get lost in his own pretentiousness.

    Writing such an article shows an incredible lack of sensible judgement.

  13. Mak Siccar says:

    Hopefully this works.

    To be righteous is one thing, to be right another

    HENRY ERGAS

    The gender pay gap soared during the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years from 15 to nearly 19 per cent. Picture: AFP

    12:00AM APRIL 3, 2021

    The Liberal staffers who videoed themselves masturbating in Parliament House are morons, not monsters. And if we gasp at Andrew Laming’s conduct, it is less because it was manifestly unethical than because it shows, all too clearly, that while you are only young once, you can be immature forever.

    That such things occur is hardly surprising. As Carlo Cipolla, a great historian, concluded in his marvellous book on The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity, there is in every human subpopulation — be they philosophers or pole dancers, members of parliament or members of criminal gangs — a constant proportion who are idiots. And precisely because they are and act like idiots, the sole aspect of their behaviour that is utterly predictable is that it will astonish those who are not.

    But those obvious facts didn’t stop the leaks from provoking howls of outrage, as if they proved that the Morrison government had plunged from the thunderbolts of Sinai to the insensate debauchery of the Cities of the Plain. In an already overheated atmosphere, the opposition was able to raise the temperature to boiling point, further eroding the government’s standing.

    To some extent, the pressures, which have intensified steadily since Brittany Higgins’s allegations emerged, reflect factors that were apparent in the response to the bushfires of 18 months ago.

    Convinced a new age was about to dawn, large sections of the left, and its allies in the media, never accepted their election defeat, accumulating reserves of rancour that the COVID crisis suppressed but hardly diminished. As that crisis ebbed, the claims of pervasive misogyny allowed the rancour to explode in righteous anger.

    But to be righteous is one thing, to be right another. In reality, far from deteriorating, the core indicators of gender equality have improved, in many cases spectacularly, under the Coalition.

    For example, the gender pay gap soared during the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years from 15 to nearly 19 per cent, as Labor’s splurge on pink batts and school halls compounded the mining boom’s boost to earnings in male-dominated occupations; but since the Coalition took office, the earnings differential between men and women has shrunk to an unprecedented low of 13.4 per cent.

    And just as women’s relative earnings have risen towards those of their male counterparts, female labour force participation has reached record highs, aided by policy changes that make working more worthwhile.

    None of that implies that the problems have disappeared. But the contrast between the progress and the protests underscores Alexis de Tocqueville’s observation of nearly two centuries ago that revolutions are triggered not by dashed hopes but by mounting expectations.

    Noting that the devastating famines of 1693-94 and 1709-10 had caused barely a murmur, Tocqueville argued that the measures the French monarchy adopted in 1730 to ensure relief was widely available meant that it came to be viewed as being responsible for food supplies, setting the scene for the uprisings that occurred in the wake of the much milder short­ages of 1788-89.

    In other words, the government’s expanding role, instead of assuaging expectations, boosted them, creating a vicious spiral in which outcomes could never keep up with what public opinion believed it had been promised.

    Compounding the tensions, the economic and social progress that followed the monarchy’s successive reforms had instilled an entirely new sense of limitless possibility. The eternal “tomorrow” of utopian political visions suddenly seemed to move closer, fuelling the belief that — come the revolution — injustice, superstition and poverty could all be eradicated in the next glorious hour.

    The Revolution was therefore the progeny of the ancien regime’s achievements rather than the symptom of its failings. But while the revolutionaries stormed to power under the banner of freedom, they delivered the exact opposite. That, said Tocqueville, was no accident.

    Inevitably, those who want to drastically reshape social arrangements find themselves strengthening the apparatus of repression, as if “liberty, like a child, had to go through a stage of tears and weeping in order to reach maturity”.

    And equally inevitably, so as to justify the greater coercion, they adopt a “grotesquely distorted account of reality” in which they portray themselves as “wholly good”, while attributing “demonic power to the adversary”.

    Ignoring “the ineluctable imperfections of human existence”, they come to hold others to moral standards they could never live up to themselves, thereby preparing the ground for those excesses of rage and frenzy that, in Edmund Burke’s words, “pull down more in half an hour than prudence, deliberation and foresight can build up in a hundred years”.

    To say that is not to suggest that the guillotine beckons, although there is a distinct whiff of burning in the air. It would, however, be a mistake to think the mechanisms Tocqueville identified have lost any of their relevance.

    On the contrary, today’s upheavals have all the hallmarks of those that preceded them: the reluctance to acknowledge how much has already been achieved; the relentless demonisation of real or imagined adversaries; the thirst for what Yeats grimly called “the blood-dimmed tide”.

    And even if they are not as deadly, they are no less vitriolic, insisting, as did the Jacobins, the Bolsheviks and the Maoists, that any alleged perpetrators (or their presumed accomplices in the government) must be in bad faith, with the only way of proving good faith being for the “enemies of the people” to concede what their assailants seek — that is, abdication or self-annihilation.

    The changes that have occurred in our culture only aggravate those dynamics. As the traditional Australian virtues of stoicism, and a laconic, somewhat disabused, realism, have given way to the glorification of uninhibited emotions, the nation’s capacity to distinguish tantrums from traumas seems to have completely disappeared.

    And with it has vanished the capacity to distinguish sanctimonious grandstanding from serious consideration of the difficult questions — including those related to sexual assault and to our political culture — that do need to be addressed.

    Unfortunately, simply understanding the processes at work doesn’t make them much more tractable: merely to cry, as Dostoevsky famously did in The Possessed, that “the fire is in the minds of men and not in the roofs of houses” does not quell the flames, any more than psychosis can be relieved purely by being diagnosed. And with no shortage of stupidity left to surface, the hysteria isn’t about to abate.

    But the worst response would be to cave in. Rather, we remember our Kipling: keep your head when all others about you are losing theirs. And as the crowds swirl and the howls mount, make sure you hold it tight.

  14. C.L. says:

    But to be righteous is one thing, to be right another. In reality, far from deteriorating, the core indicators of gender equality have improved, in many cases spectacularly, under the Coalition.

    For example, the gender pay gap soared during the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years from 15 to nearly 19 per cent, as Labor’s splurge on pink batts and school halls compounded the mining boom’s boost to earnings in male-dominated occupations; but since the Coalition took office, the earnings differential between men and women has shrunk to an unprecedented low of 13.4 per cent.

    And just as women’s relative earnings have risen towards those of their male counterparts, female labour force participation has reached record highs, aided by policy changes that make working more worthwhile.

    First of all, Henry, there is no such thing as a “gender pay gap.” You shouldn’t accept a dumb premise just to advance a broader polemic. It is not a good thing that women’s relative pay has increased when it is the result of “male-dominated occupations” taking continuous hits from reckless policy-makers and market downturns. Nor is it an uncomplicatedly good thing that women’s workforce participation is at “record highs.”

    This, however, is inspired:

    Convinced a new age was about to dawn, large sections of the left, and its allies in the media, never accepted their election defeat, accumulating reserves of rancour that the COVID crisis suppressed but hardly diminished. As that crisis ebbed, the claims of pervasive misogyny allowed the rancour to explode in righteous anger.

  15. C.L. says:

    Writing such an article shows an incredible lack of sensible judgement.

    You have to explain why.

  16. Win says:

    Morons maybe but their behaviour ejaculating on a ministers desk is grotesque ,lacks judgement and demonstrates petty spite and childish behaviour. What next into her food at the cafeteria?

  17. Ed Case says:

    Frydenburg told the Parliament in the last week of sitting that 88,000 new jobs had been created and 80% of those went to Women.
    No one pulled him up, so the % must be legit.
    Sounds incredible, though.

  18. Ed Case says:

    One of the cooks on a ship [name started with V, not the Voyager] captained by a future Governor of Queensland had an interesting tale about the regular “garnishing” of the Captain’s dinner.
    So it’s not a new thing.

  19. Clam Chowdah says:

    One of the cooks on a ship [name started with V, not the Voyager] captained by a future Governor of Queensland had an interesting tale about the regular “garnishing” of the Captain’s dinner.
    So it’s not a new thing.

    A cook did that in the sergeants mess at Kapooka and when it became known was beaten so badly he looked like a Dalmatian.

  20. Boambee John says:

    Vampire or Vendetta?

  21. Cynic of A says:

    Yes, I agree they are morons. The world, at the moment, is chockers with them.
    Some Cats have despaired at these morons being in some sort of advisory position in Parliarment.
    However, like AOC in the U.S. and Sarah Two-Dads in Australia, (plus quite a few more) do we not have morons as Parliamentary Representatives?
    I am inclined, presenting my self as a target, the aforementioned tuggers are no worse than the two I’ve mentioned, and apparently, it’s a lot more difficult to sack the latter.

  22. candy says:

    “Moron” implies stupidity.

    It’s not that. They are senior staffers advising senior ministers. It is simply vicious. Ministers there would be right to feel very concerned about biohazards and threats to their health, and now in a COVID era, if they don’t support a policy the advisors like, such as same sex marriage which is the hub of the issue.
    You’d never want people who do things like that in your workplace. And why should the cleaners be expected to clean up after them.

  23. twostix says:

    The unconventional conservatism of wanking on peoples desks in parliament.

    The absolute state of “conservatives” ™.

  24. Roger says:

    “Moron” implies stupidity.

    Moral stupidity.

    There’s a lot of it about.

  25. OldOzzie says:

    Henry Excellent – liked

    The Liberal staffers who videoed themselves [email protected] in Parliament House are morons, not monsters. And if we gasp at Andrew Laming’s conduct, it is less because it was manifestly unethical than because it shows, all too clearly, that while you are only young once, you can be immature forever.

    That such things occur is hardly surprising. As Carlo Cipolla, a great historian, concluded in his marvellous book on The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity, there is in every human subpopulation — be they philosophers or pole dancers, members of parliament or members of criminal gangs — a constant proportion who are idiots. And precisely because they are and act like idiots, the sole aspect of their behaviour that is utterly predictable is that it will astonish those who are not.

    But those obvious facts didn’t stop the leaks from provoking howls of outrage, as if they proved that the Morrison government had plunged from the thunderbolts of Sinai to the insensate debauchery of the Cities of the Plain. In an already overheated atmosphere, the opposition was able to raise the temperature to boiling point, further eroding the government’s standing.

  26. Bar Beach Swimmer says:

    Ed Case says:
    April 3, 2021 at 10:46 am
    One of the cooks on a ship [name started with V, not the Voyager] captained by a future Governor of Queensland had an interesting tale about the regular “garnishing” of the Captain’s dinner.
    So it’s not a new thing

    It may not be “new” in the history of the navy but the location and circumstances of the thing done here is new.

    (IMO, the navy anecdote suggests a general type of illegitimate insubordination: a wild act of “up yours” retaliation against a superior in a regime that does not allow any grievance or dissent.)

    The other act has no basis in the former scenario.

    Apart from the obvious misuse and abuse of their paid time and dereliction of their duty to their employer and reportedly enabling unlawful people to enter the building, which must be illegal, the act(s) is/are misogynistic because the accused have focused on a female representative to humiliate anonymously.

    These people (apart from one?) are not members of the parliamentary Coalition and therefore have no standing to participate in the vote of the joint party room on any policy, despite their positions as advisors.

    They have deliberately sought to undermine the legitimacy of those who are tasked with finalising policy decisions and hence changes to the law.

    What has been discovered is a cabal or fifth column of advisors who have manipulated and undermined their parties’ decision-making in order to seek to change the law. And they have done so. In usurping the power of the joint party room for their own motives they are a cancer on the body politic. They should all be named and sacked.

  27. Ed Case says:

    Vampire or Vendetta?

    That’s the part i’ve forgotten.
    Did that Governor captain both ships?
    Anyway from the account i heard, he was a First Class c…

  28. BalancedObservation2 says:

    OldAussie

    Thanks for the extended quote. It confirms what I said earlier that Henry Ergas might have a way with words but he often loses himself in his own pretentiousness.

    Rather than directly addressing issues he more often than not uses the opportunity to showcase the extraneous facts he’s managed to accumulate during his life to impress readers.

    He’s a bit like the Barry Jones of the right but less affable and often a tad more obtuse.

  29. Professor Fred Lenin says:

    So the parliament workers are wankers ,in the right place there with their bosses being Polliewankers Lot of it about .

  30. The Sheriff says:

    The gender pay gap is a myth but why would any reasonable person celebrate the elimination of the gap, which means a reduction in fertility and the marriage rate?

  31. Bar Beach Swimmer says:

    They’re not morons and they’re not stupid; their behaviour would have to be sackable in any professional, commercial organisation.

    This is real misogynistic behaviour. As well as an intolerable antagonism to anyone with an alternate view.

  32. Baa Humbug says:

    For example, the gender pay gap……

    FFS there is no such thing. How often do we have to revisit this bullshit narrative.
    If anything, there is a gap developing where women are actually being paid more than men in both direct payments and benefits. Companies have to attract females to appease the wokescolds.

    Comparing yearly and lifetime earnings of people who make different choices is just stupid and is done to spin a narrative.
    What hope do we have of ending this lie if those on our side embrace it?

    Name me one job in Australia where a man gets paid more purely because he is a man and a woman gets paid less purely because she is a woman.

  33. Lee says:

    Name me one job in Australia where a man gets paid more purely because he is a man and a woman gets paid less purely because she is a woman.

    Funny how no one can ever cite comparable instances of a woman earning less than a man for the same job.
    Because an employer would never get away with it under workplace laws.

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