Authors Note: The title was changed from "The End of the Age of Entitlement". Editor: Originally published on 2015-01-28 19:13:10 +1000, it has been republished today to bring it up to top of front page again, with the new title.
The Paid Parental Leave goes to people who deserve it, you see, that is, the people who don't need it. The Liberal Party retain a Calvinist mindset, where wealth is an indicator that one has been gifted and blessed by God. The poor, well, they must deserve to be poor. To say that the Liberal Party want to take Australia back to the 50's, implying the period of the 1950's, is overly generous. We're looking at some "50's", but something more like the 1550's
Poor Joe, to touch fleetingly on what modern Western society needs to do, but rather than grabbing on and pulling himself into the 21st century, he turns back to a past no one wants to revisit.
The Age of Entitlement IS over, but for a completely different reason. The latter half of the 20th century, and in particular the last two or three decades, have been built on the unsustainable foundation of neo-liberal economics and hair brained social theory. Built on ideas which promise so much but cost even more. It is fair to say that our society and our economy is slowly regressing back to a quasi-theocratic, stagnant and un-free state, but with neo-liberalism and Political Correctness replacing Christianity as the ruling religion, and technocratic economists and Politically Correct intellectuals filling the role of priests. These priests, who we don't call priests, but who act as if they were, exist only to manipulate the masses into accepting that their rulers are fair, right and eternal. Just as it has always been.
Our economy is built on debt, or more specifically, funny money, printed to bail out lenders who put people into debts they can't pay back. We have more or less been living a life of high consumption with ostensibly low cost. We have been led to believe there was no cost. That the cheap imported goods from China as opposed to locally made goods was a free kick. (It is hard to believe today that Australia used to produce electronic goods like radios and TV's. Anyone remember Amalgamated Wireless Australia?). We were told, again and again that despite the loss of manufacturing jobs, all was OK because we'd do "service jobs", and we'd all be able to buy seven hundred thousand dollar brick veneer homes preparing coffees for each other and acting as middle men. We convinced ourselves that rampant waste of resources tearing down houses and building them up again to sell them immediately afterwards for profit, or just to speculate on capital gains, was efficient use of resources, and good for everyone. Voices of the establishment allayed fears that the the dumping of tons of e-waste in developing nations is good for all involved. Mass immigration we were told, was a 'win-win' scenario, a bet on a horse race where all punters come out winners.
This set up It is nothing more than a sham system that those in power have to maintain to keep the support of those that keep them in power. Because it is the 'new normal', we no longer question the logic and maths behind it. Those days are past, and we are in a new era with a new mathematics. We believe the balance sheet remains reconciled. We have convinced ourselves that we can prepare for retirement by using government funds to subsidise a loss-making investment property, which appreciates in value more than the productive capacity of the nation is increasing, and that no one loses out. We treat the planet as infinite, resources as infinite. Stuck in a system where consumption and resource use must always increase, we invent reasons for why we shouldn't worry about this logical problem.
We shelter ourselves with 'nice' theories'. We distort the markets to make it appear that wealth is being generated and leave debt for future generations. Markets are rigged and deliberately distorted. Despite the fact that this practice conflicts with fundamental laws, we adopt the theories which suit us.
Theory and practice sometimes clash. And when that happens, theory loses. Every single time.
- Linus Torvalds.
This is the 'entitlement' which is ending, and has to come to an end. The 'entitlement' to burden future generations with debt to increase current consumption and inflate asset prices. The 'entitlement' to live a lifestyle we haven't created for ourselves. The 'entitlement' to pretend that T-shirts really do only cost two dollars and that is it perfectly OK to go through a new phone every year, phones which produce toxic e-waste and use the rare metal Indium.
Throughout the world, slowly, theory is colliding with practice. The tremors are felt in the form of financial crisis, deteriorating quality of life, deteriorating national integrity, loss of sovereignty, loss of stability and increasing pessimism. All the while we are told that this is temporary. Just a little more debt, just another bailout, just a little more migration, just a bit more 'stimulus', just a bit more 'growth'. Each time this fails, we are told that it wasn't enough 'stimulus', not enough new debt created, not enough 'growth'. Time to double down and open those borders further, allow more foreign exploitation and encourage even greater personal debt levels.
We either rebalance the books and bring our society back into equilibrium in a controlled fashion, or do it in a chaotic and uncontrolled manner by colliding violently with reality.
Austerity versus paradigm shift
Austerity measures, such as those tried in the 'PIGS' nations, and the budget cutbacks proposed by Joe Hockey aren't a solution for a rather simple reason. They exist to enforce the status quo by placing the blame elsewhere, anywhere but the system. "Austerity" measures are implemented by technocrats who maintain faith in neo-liberalism.
Austerity kills productive ability without addressing any of the issues which led to austerity being necessary in the first place. Joe's budget does nothing at all to get Australia manufacturing again, to encourage new business, or to redirect money to productive activity and away from speculative waste. It does little to address the problems which led to the budget crisis in the first places. The upper middle class welfare remains. Despite there being a current rise in the creation of new jobs, unemployment is still rising with our population growth rate negating this rare positive development.
Ending the age of entitlement in a post growth world.
The challenge is in moving society away from its addiction to consumption and growth, away from largesse and waste. Few, if any political parties exist which have feasible plans, so we may have to wait until the situation further degrades before parties appear promising action.
A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.
- Lord Woodhouselee
The debt from overconsumption may be paid, in part, by loss of freedom and quality of life. This is a price already being paid, as decision making regarding planning is moved away from local communities to accommodate growth, to accommodate debt, and new laws are brought in to curtail freedom of speech and increase surveillance, which largely seemingly have root in the results of Australia's population-engineering policies.
In a broad sense, the following reforms need to happen. These are not minor reforms, but fundamental shifts in the way we view society, conduct business and run our nations.
- Economic transparency and honesty: Tighter regulation of the financial sector, in particular regulation against market distorting financial instruments, fraud, corruption, monopolies and collusion. Reforms to the way in which money is issued into the economy are also required. The specifics are beyond the scope of this article, and may be looked at in future but significant, fundamental changes are required in the way we run central backs and in fractional reserve banking. Money needs to be reinstated as a representation of real wealth, with real backing and not a tool to manipulate economies. Government must be kept separate from business and money and political systems must be reformed to be more resistant to being bought by money. A more direct democracy, perhaps even involving citizens drafted to serve in government may be preferable. Government should have a separate regulatory body to ensure that vested interests are kept separate from politicians, and those politicians who betray democratic principles can be ejected.
- Decentralisation and localisation: Large cities are examples of dis-economies of scale. Costs involved with transportation and infrastructure increase per capita, and problems become more expensive to solve.
In order to reduce energy consumption, people must be encouraged and allowed to move to more low energy lifestyles. More efficient cars are a help, but environmental gains are offset by increased commute times and increased travel times, caused by urban sprawl and limited affordability which pushes people away from places of business and leisure. Smaller scale, self contained communities can reduce travel distance and make public transport more feasible, reducing the requirement for people to travel. Detached dwellings have lower energy requirements for lighting, heating and cooling than units and apartment towers. Back yards allow a degree of self sufficiency in growing basic foods, with a far lower carbon footprint for transport, as compared to vegetables shipped from China, stored in a Sydney warehouse then trucked to Melbourne. It is the overall trend here which is important, that the more 'rural' model which allows people space to practice self sufficiency through growing food, placing solar panels and water tanks can reduce consumption and cost. High speed rail and fibre optic internet makes distance less relevant.
It is important to note that increasing density to avoid urban sprawl trades one set of problems (increasing distance and loss of land to urbanisation) for another (increasing energy usage, loss of independence and increasing crime rates)
- Rediscovery of workmanship and quality:
The influx of cheap products has changed attitudes towards consumer goods. Where in the past, items like computers and TV's were expensive acquisitions to be maintained and repaired, cheap goods foster a 'throw away' mentality. It is cheaper to dispose of a DVD player and buy a new one than repair a minor fault. This waste results in an environmental cost, but our economy values this economic destruction less than a small proportion of our time. This is a false economy, as the costs are considered externalities and left off the price tag. By leaving out the environmental cost of production, consumption and disposal from the price tag, we have adjusted ourselves to this 'new economy'. An economy of cheap shoddy products which are to be obsoleted quickly, where quality, durability or workmanship means little. We must factor in the true cost in the price tag, which will result in rising prices.
- Rediscovery of the Nation:
People need to take back ownership of their nation, their communities, their government, their economies, environment and systems. Placing ownership and control of societies infrastructure and apparatus in the hands of those who don't have personal interests in it is problematic. Do international bankers care about local communities, about identity, culture, a countries future? No, there are merely tools for a system, commodities and resources. It is the people within the nation and the community who have a shared vested interest in maintaining it, and when their shared interests conflict with the will of those who run it at distance, clashes occur. In Europe this is manifesting itself in the clash between the EU super bureaucracy and the new populist parties. The people want control of their country back, but the cosmopolitan globalists see this is a barrier to their continued domination. As a result, many of the populist parties are subject to smears from the establishment.
The founding of the USA provides a good example of "enlightened nationalism", where a nation "By the people, of the people and for the people" was established for OUR (The American peoples) prosperity. A nation for a people, not a proposition, theocracy, monarchy or dictator. The USA has moved away from this, to a propositional nation, based on an economy, on ideals, and as a result is losing its freedom, power and spirit.
De-Globalisation: Another fundamental error in neo-liberal economics, is the assumption that nations are interchangeable, and that differing manufacturing costs, wages and costs of living are merely the result of economic systems. This is a major misjudgement. This assumption supposes that the market rate regarding wages and costs is purely a factor of systems in place, and words which define those systems. If nations adopted the same systems, the same regulations, the same words, then in theory, the economies would equalise.
This is a significant error in judgement which is discussed... nowhere at all.
This model leaves out one very important factor, demographics. That is, the disparity in wages between, for example Australia or Germany and the Philippines or Bangladesh is NOT just a matter of whether one has certain central banking policies, certain attitudes towards Capitalism, but it is indicative of the nations ability to create a desirable lifestyle. The current globalist assumption, is that the disparity in wages between the workers from different nations has no fundamental basis, so why not the cheaper one? In reality, there is a basis, and it has real world ramifications.
Australia, as does much of the Western world, in order to survive and prosper into the future need broad political and economic reforms. Reforms which go further than adjusting interest rates, changing term limits or changing how the voting preferences system works. Reforms of game changing significant. Our political system is simply not up to this, so only by popular political revolution can this come about. Europe is seeing the rise of populist parties which step outside of “centrist” policies, and despite fierce opposition from the establishment, they continue to grow. Likewise in Australia, we need to further divorce ourselves from the current systems and push real changes.
It isn't so much that we need to adopt new ideas, but that we should jettison old ideas which don't work, but which some people stick to as those who stick doggedly to ideas tend to do. Those ideas are the economic falsehoods which have entered our collective consciousness, various modern political 'ideologies' which make moral demands of us but offer no tangible benefits in return and the idea that in a modern world, the individual must further and further cede control to large bureaucracies and technocrats, who in reality are generally no more entitled or capable than anyone else. We have to drop the 'inevitable future' that we are told we must prepare for, and create our own, as no future is inevitable, except those pushed by force on complicit subjects.
Lastly, we have to accept our limitations, assess what it is we are really entitled to as opposed to what we think we deserve.
 Joe Hockey's speech to the Institute of economic affairs in London on April 17, 2012.