The incideous perils of modern ‘democracy’

Many politicians and bureaucrats systematically cause delays and unnecessary expenditure, and ignore reality.  Even worse, many from the ‘Left’, progressives, Cultural Marxists and activists keep trying to stymie democracy with their shrill, often illogical and ideological views. The following articles provide evidence.

More previous articles are linked below the most recent three.

Beware creeping authoritarianism in Australia

Beware creeping authoritarianism in Australia  By Maurice Newman, The Australian, 11 October 2017

Green shoots of authoritarianism are sprouting in the nation’s capital as calls come for ­executives to rush to Canberra to receive lectures from senior politicians.

Scott Morrison’s “cry me a river” comment after hitting the top five banks with a special tax certainly sounded dictatorial, as did his cop-this announcement that delivered the banking regulator even greater powers to intervene in senior management through the Banking Executive Accountability Regime. It requires executives and senior managers to register with the Aus­tralian Prudential Regulation Authority.

If the culture in some banks needs attention, that’s the preserve of shareholders and boards, not politicians.

Rather than oppose the Treasurer’s proposals with a vigorous campaign objecting to this intrusion into bank management and explaining how it will weaken international competitiveness and lead to risk aversion, the industry association says the regime should be extended to all entities regulated by APRA, such as insurance companies and superannuation funds. Go figure.

Energy companies also have incurred the wrath of Canberra.

In a letter to seven retail electricity chiefs, plus the Australian Energy Council, Malcolm Turnbull said the companies’ various hardship programs were not enough. Australian Energy Market Operator chief executive Audrey Zibelman said the federal government would have no choice but to put more regulation on electricity retailers if they could not show how they were going to cut prices, especially to poor households.

What the Prime Minister really means is that it’s fine for companies to profit handsomely from incoherent energy policies that predictably lead to higher electricity prices but, should the government lose votes as a conse­quence, they will be blamed and disciplined. As the companies’ revenue depends on taxpayer and consumer subsidies, they will obey.

These days industry is careful not to upset its political masters. Most discussions occur behind closed doors. Publicly, business leaders such as Minerals Council of Australia chairwoman Vanessa Guthrie endorse the government’s policy direction. While representing Australia’s extensive, high-quality coal interests, “which can deliver clean, affordable and reliable energy”, Guthrie says, “Our singular goal must be a more affordable, reliable electricity supply which meets our international commitments and our community’s desire for a lower environmental footprint.” All bases covered.

That “lower environmental footprint” has distorted the domestic energy market, resulting in a possible gas shortage next year. Former Labor resources and energy minister and now gas industry adviser Martin Ferguson says the gas sector is being used as a political pawn and held to ransom to solve the instability created by short-term political decisions.

After the federal government threatened to impose export controls, the major gas exporters agreed to meet the predicted shortfall, but on price, committed only to “reasonable terms’’.

Depending on what those terms are, a self-inflicted political crisis will be averted. But is coercing business for political ends to become the new policy normal?

Well, when governments choose state corporatism over the efficiency of market forces, yes. When the priorities are political, not economic, shareholder sovereignty takes a back seat. Increased corporate welfare and regulatory protection have empowered government, and captured and politicised much of big business. It gives credence to the notion that business operates under a “social licence”. This encourages morally virtuous social engineers in industry superannuation funds and elsewhere to push their latest environment, social and corporate governance fashions. The “one size fits all” mentality is socially driven and adds to red tape and distractions for management.

The media-left loves this form of collectivism. It promotes anti-capitalist ideas and beats into submission businesses that fear community reprisals from non-compliance. It explains why so many companies give uncritical support, however marketed, to perceived popular causes such as global warming and same-sex marriage. Political correctness may be a topic of wonder and derision at family barbecues, but to the business elite, in language and in deeds, it is deadly serious stuff.

German author Sebastian Haffner kept a secret journal in the 1930s in which he wrote: “There are few things as odd as the calm, superior indifference with which I and those like me watched the beginnings of the Nazi revolution in Germany, as if from a box at the theatre.”

Like today, it was easier to accept the lived realities and adapt to them than to resist. When your and your organisation’s future are linked to being on one political side, you pay close attention to the new doctrines. It shapes your behaviour. Haffner calls this “sheepish submissiveness”. “There was not a single example of energetic defence, of courage or principle. There was only panic, flight, and desertion,” he wrote.

It may be melodramatic to draw parallels between 1930s Germany and contemporary Australia. But there is no denying Canberra is warming to a culture of enforcement. And freedom’s champions are few. Today, all economic actions are seen through a political prism. The leadership of both parties is rapidly finding the allure of command more appealing than markets. And, like those in Haffner’s box, we miss how this is ­affecting our own freedoms. Meanwhile, the political class uses capitalist prosperity to underwrite our social decay.

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Modern democracy is soft-headed, wimpy, sly socialism

Modern democracy is soft-headed, wimpy, sly socialism  By Nick Cater, The Australian, 26 September 2017

There were two paths the government could take, Kevin Rudd said in 2009 before explaining to the ABC’s Kerry O’Brien why he’d ­decided to take the wrong one.

The first was to build the National Broadband Network, a nation-building project said to be as bold as the Snowy Mountain Scheme or the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

“The alternative,” said Rudd, “is to sit back and do nothing.”

The information superhighway, as Rudd called it, would have been built by now if his bullish predictions had come true.

As it is, more than half the country is still waiting, though not exactly clamouring, since other technology seems to be working just fine.

The Akamai 2017 State of the Internet report found mobile broadband to be 41 per cent faster on average than fixed broadband in Australia, and improving twice as quickly.

The decision to plunge the commonwealth into a high-risk, low-return, capital-intensive business it knew nothing about was made in the anxious days of the global financial crisis when Labor convinced itself that capitalism was broken and it was the state’s job to fix it.

Today Labor appears incapable of shaking off that thought, let alone admitting there was anything unseemly in its post-crash embrace of Keynes­ianism.

“What the last 10 years confirmed,” Wayne Swan told the National Press Club last month, “is that government intervention worked.”

Not everyone would agree. They might argue Labor’s ­interventionist tendencies emboldened by the financial crisis led to some of the worst policy decisions in Australian history for which we continue to pay the price. Labor’s legacy is a broadband network that is well behind schedule, slower than its competitors and that has suffered a $10.7 billion loss in the past four years.

Labor’s intervention in the energy market, forcing the construction of unreliable wind and solar generation, together with state government injunctions on the exploitation of gas, has doubled the price of electricity.

The list of government bungles is extensive. The National Disability Insurance Scheme’s failings are too extensive to be regarded as mere teething ­problems.

We spent three-quarters of a billion dollars on developing a personally controlled electronic health record and there’s hardly anything to show for it; ditto the $700 million Carbon Capture and Storage Institute; $1.2bn invested in halving homelessness by 2020; the Education Revolution, the Digital Education Revolution and the Building the Education Revolution; triple cash grants to first-home buyers; and so on.

The inescapable conclusion is that, however well-intentioned, governments are blundering, lame and unimaginative beasts without the sense to recognise their failures, let alone learn from them. The little they achieve comes cheaply and it is frequently outweighed by unintended consequences.

The present weaknesses of the Western world are not rooted in capitalism but in fundamental weaknesses of the state, in its structural fiscal deficits, burdensome regulation and world-trailing public services. As Niall Ferguson said in a recent interview: “State failure is not capitalism’s fault but the fault of inadequate politicians, ineffective public administrators and public sector unions that are too ­powerful.”

Ferguson’s 2013 book, The Great Degeneration, is a convincing rebuttal of the fairy story, embraced by social democrats as fact, that the financial crisis was caused by deregulation.

On the contrary; the crash occurred because the regulations were so complex that the banks were able to game them, calculating that if anything went amiss they were too big for the state to let them fail.

The present fashion for regulation is, at best, “beside the point”, says Ferguson and at worst encourages moral hazard.

That the most fervent support for the neo-interventionist left should be among voters under 35 should come as little surprise.

Millennials have no memory of the economic troubles of the 1970s and 80s and are unlikely to have been taught about them in school. Economics has become unfashionable, and economic history even more so.

What’s worse, the deregulatory reforms of the 80s that put Australia back on track are demonised in universities and increasingly by mainstream politi­cians of what was once the centre-left.

The consequences of “the teetering edifice of neoliberalism”, Swan told the press club, were “falling real wages for more than a generation; mass blue-collar unemployment; drug epidemics; rising working-class mortality rates; and ongoing political crises”.

This unexacting argument underpins his call for an “activist fiscal policy” to promote what he and other progressive would-be intellectuals like to call “inclusive growth”.

If the consequences of Swan’s last spell of fiscal activism were not enough to expose the flaw in his argument, we could always look to Venezuela, where fiscal activism was enthusiastically embraced by Hugo Chavez’s Fifth Republic as part of the socialist “pink tide” sweeping Latin America. Chavez, like Swan, believed in ending inequality and warned that horrible things would happen if his country took “the American road”.

But we digress, for after various experiments in central planning across two centuries the case surely has been made that light regulation, low taxes and economic freedom have a far higher success rate.

An early 19th-century political scientist, Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-59), once described the dispiriting consequences of an interventionist state that “covers its surface with a network of small, complicated, painstaking, uniform rules through which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot clear a way to surpass the crowd”.

This is not outright socialism as practised in the communist bloc: it is soft-headed, wimpy, sly socialism, the socialism advo­cated by socialists who prefer not to use the S-word if they can possibly help it.

“It does not break wills, but it softens them, bends them, and ­directs them. It does not tyrannise, it hinders, compromises, enervates, extinguishes, dazes, and ?nally reduces each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd.”

It’s a perturbing picture but, then, what would a neoliberal trickle-down crackpot like de Tocqueville know?

Nick Cater is executive director of the Menzies Research Centre.

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Two New Totalitarian Movements: Radical Islam And Political Correctness

Two New Totalitarian Movements, Radical Islam And Political Correctness  By A.Z.Mohamed, via The Gatestone Institute, 25 August 2017

The attempt in the West to impose a strict set of rules about what one is allowed to think and express in academia and in the media — to the point that anyone who disobeys is discredited, demonized, intimidated and in danger of losing his or her livelihood — is just as toxic and just as reminiscent of Orwell’s diseased society.

The main facet of this PC tyranny, so perfectly predicted by George Orwell, is the inversion of good and evil — of victim and victimizer. In such a universe, radical Muslims are victimized by the West, and not the other way around. This has led to a slanted teaching of the history of Islam and its conquests, both as a justification of the distortion and as a reflection of it.

Thought-control is necessary for the repression of populations ruled by despotic regimes.That it is proudly and openly being used by self-described liberals and human-rights advocates in free societies is not only hypocritical and shocking; it is a form of aiding and abetting regimes whose ultimate goal is to eradicate Western ideals.

Political correctness (PC) has been bolstering radical Islamism. This influence was most recently shown again in an extensive exposé by the Clarion Project in July 2017, which demonstrates the practice of telling “deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them in order to forget any fact that has become inconvenient” — or, as George Orwell called it in his novel, 1984, “Doublespeak.”

This courtship and marriage between the Western chattering classes and radical Muslim fanatics was elaborated by Andrew C. McCarthy in his crucial 2010 book, The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.

Since then, this union has strengthened. Both the United States and the rest of the West are engaged in a romance with forces that are, bluntly, antagonistic to the values of liberty and human rights.

To understand this seeming paradox, one needs to understand what radical Islamism and PC have in common. Although Islamism represents all that PC ostensibly opposes — such as the curbing of free speech, the repression of women, gays and “apostates” — both have become totalitarian ideologies.

The totalitarian nature of radical Islamism is more obvious than that of Western political correctness — and certainly more deadly. Sunni terrorists, such as ISIS and Hamas — and Shiites, such as Hezbollah and its state sponsor, Iran — use mass murder to accomplish their ultimate goal of an Islamic Caliphate that dominates the world and subjugates non-Muslims.

The attempt in the West, however, to impose a strict set of rules about what one is allowed to think and express in academia and in the media — to the point that anyone who disobeys is discredited, demonized, intimidated and in danger of losing his or her livelihood — is just as toxic and just as reminiscent of Orwell’s view of a diseased society.

 These rules are not merely unspoken ones. Quoting a Fox News interview with American columnist Rachel Alexander, the Clarion Project points out that the Associated Press — whose stylebook is used as a key reference by a majority of English-language newspapers worldwide for uniformity of grammar, punctuation and spelling — is now directing writers to avoid certain words and terms that are now deemed unacceptable to putative liberals.

Alexander recently wrote:

“Even when individual authors do not adhere to the bias of AP Style, it often doesn’t matter. If they submit an article to a mainstream media outlet, they will likely see their words edited to conform. A pro-life author who submits a piece taking a position against abortion will see the words ‘pro-life’ changed to ‘anti-abortion,’ because the AP Stylebook instructs, ‘Use anti-abortion instead of pro-life and pro-abortion rights instead of pro-abortion or pro-choice.’ It goes on, ‘Avoid abortionist,’ saying the term ‘connotes a person who performs clandestine abortions.’

“Words related to terrorism are sanitized in the AP Stylebook. Militant, lone wolves or attackers are to be used instead of terrorist or Islamist. ‘People struggling to enter Europe’ is favored over ‘migrant’ or ‘refugee.’ While it’s true that many struggle to enter Europe, it is accurate to point out that they are, in fact, immigrants or refugees.”

To be sure, the AP Stylebook does not carry the same weight or authority as the Quranic texts on which radical Islamists base their jihadist actions and totalitarian aims. It does constitute, however, a cultural decree that has turned religious in its fervor. It gives a glimpse, as well, into the intellectual tyranny that has pervaded liberal Western thought and institutions.

The main facet of this PC tyranny, so perfectly predicted by Orwell, is the inversion of good and evil — of victim and victimizer. In such a universe, radical Muslims are victimized by the West, and not the other way around. This has led to a slanted teaching of the history of Islam and its conquests, both as a justification of the distortion and as a reflection of it.

As far back as 2003, the Middle East Forum reported on the findings of a study conducted by the American Textbook Council, an independent New York-based research organization, which stated:

“[Over the last decade], the coverage of Islam in world history textbooks has expanded and in some respects improved…. But on significant Islam-related subjects, textbooks omit, flatter, embellish, and resort to happy talk, suspending criticism or harsh judgments that would raise provocative or even alarming questions.”

Thought-control is necessary for the repression of populations ruled by despotic regimes. That it is proudly and openly being used by self-described liberals and human-rights advocates in free societies is not only hypocritical and shocking; it is a form of aiding and abetting regimes whose ultimate goal is to eradicate Western ideals. The relationship between the two must be recognized for what it is: a marriage made in hell.

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About Peter Senior

I'm a very experienced and pragmatic management consultant. I've reviewed and led the restructuring of many organisations - large and small corporations and Government Departments, much of the time as President of the New Zealand Institute of Management Consultants. Before that I was General Manager of a major NZ newspaper; earlier, an analyst for IBM UK. I gained an honours degree in engineering at London University, and studied management at Cambridge University. This wide range of experience has left me frustrated: I continue to see too many examples of really bad management. Sometimes small easily fixed issues; sometimes fundamental faults; and sometimes really tricky problems. Mostly these issues can be fixed using a mixture of common sense, 'management 101' and applying lessons from years of management experience. Unfortunately, all too often, politics, bureaucracy and daft government regulations get in the way; internal factors such as poor culture and out-of-date strategies are often evident. So what's gone wrong, and why, and most importantly, how to fix 'it'? I hope there are like-minded people 'out there' who will share their thoughts enabling 'us' to improve some significant management failures that affect the general public. If you just accept bad management, you don't have the right to complain! If you'd like to share thoughts on any aspects of management, send me an email to petersenior42@gmail.com . My latest project has the interim title 'You’ve been conned. Much of what you were taught and read is largely irrelevant, misleading or plain wrong – this is the REAL story of life: past, present and our possible future.' The working paper so far comprises 105 pages, many listing references and interim conclusions. The main problem is finding sufficient credible evidence, and realising the more Iearn, the more I realise I don't know!
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