10 February 2008

Think about it

It seems that John Roskam's straw-man work has spread throughout the organisation he heads, the Eye Pee Yay. Thankfully this peanut holds an honorary title, but it's the thought that counts: the thought that attacks can be prefabricated, targetted at imaginary abstractions and used to develop useful perspectives on government and society - abstractions that seem to wheel back and smite those who launch them. Chris Berg shows you don't need to be a committee to produce poor outcomes.
There is a strange fantasy held by many serious people in politics that if you get enough experts in a room, some sort of magical consensus will emerge and everything will be wonderful.

Really? Where, whom?
Given that it is unlikely the Rudd Government will adopt any of the summit's proposals - at least, none they weren't already familiar with - the 2020 talkfest is unlikely to do too much harm.

What a silly set of givens this is. The government is expected to commit to ideas that haven't been thought through yet, so that even Chris Berg could go them.
No doubt the proposals from 2020 will be as pedestrian as those produced by the half-dozen "future-oriented" conferences around the country each year. That is, we should do more on climate change, spend more on education, infrastructure and innovation, engage more with Asia, the republic is the most important issue facing Australia today, children are our future, and on and on and on.

Not much credit due for foresight there - where is the straw man who seriously believes that the republic is that important? I suppose that any progress on these issues will be step-by-step, incremental changes to the forward positions of individuals under their own locomotion - i.e., pedestrian. Berg's use of the word seems to be pejorative. Strange.
So if the only big idea behind Rudd's education revolution was to set up an education committee at a gigantic conference, it's hard to avoid wondering why we bother having revolutions at all.

Assuming that was the 'only big idea', Chris.

We've just had 11 years where any idea that departed even slightly from an already-decided official line was attacked, not on any intellectual level and not in terms of competition, but in petty, sub-Keatingesque ad hominem attacks on individuals who dared question that the policy of the incumbent government was in any way sub-optimal. Nobody expects this hundred-flowers thing to go ion indefinitely, but getting people's ideas engaged with the machinery of government will be a nice change from what had gone before. If you're going to have an education revolution, for example, you need the whole unruly bunch of educators involved. That's revolutionary, and that's the point, Chris.
After all, what great idea ever came from a committee?

Well, I won't count those wackers on Mont Pelerin if you won't. Do the Wright Brothers count as a committee? Does the IPA? Led Zepplin? The Diet of Worms? The AIF? Geelong Cats?
The dirty secret of Australian politics is that conflict makes good government.

Not really. The Howard government ramped up the conflict, and government got worse rather than better. "The blame game" is only a game until it becomes tiresome, which it has.
The idea behind Federation was that the states would compete to develop the best public policy and that the Commonwealth would do the things that the states didn't. If they start working closely together, as Rudd has assured us will now happen, it will only further erode our critically weakened federal system.

I'd love to see an example where this competition yielded positive results: a better way of teaching maths, or running hospitals, anything would do. You have 106 years of examples from 1901 to 2007, go to it Chris. Give us something to be sorry for that which has disappeared, other than a vague dream.
Similarly, trying to get business and government working together is fraught with difficulty. Usually, the only things business want from government are money or protection from competitors. The only thing governments want from business is help achieving political goals.

And when the government works with the "community", it inevitably ends up consulting special-interest groups who harbour ideological views not shared by the community as a whole. It is us, as citizens and consumers, who get the raw deal.

Yep, that governing is difficult Chris - not sure what solution you're offering there, if any. It's difficult, therefore not worth doing?

I liked this self-defeating argument best, the intellectual boomerang that smacked Chris Berg on the back the head thus:
It would be easy to run a country on consensus if everybody shared the same views. But not only do people disagree on means, they also disagree on ends ... special-interest groups who harbour ideological views not shared by the community as a whole.

Having established universal agreement as a fantasy, he then criticises government for not even attempting to struggle toward a fantasy, which would, one assumes, make it easier for someone like Chris Berg to complain.
The 2020 summit is more than just a happy-clappy approach to governing.

Is it? I thought you started your article saying it was exactly that, that and nothing else.
Rudd has to be careful that his eagerness to build "consensus" doesn't leave the Government open to interest groups and poor policy.

But could you expect anything else from a government, Chris? If so, what would it be?

- Andrew Elder is a Senior Mountebanke and Pifflemeister-General at the Politically Homeless Institute, similar to the IPA but less well funded and much more poorly edited.


  1. Wow, Andrew, you take silly little opeds very seriously, don't you?

  2. Yes Chris, the final paragraph in that post reeks of self-importance, doesn't it? That and the profile, every other post on this blog - poor analysis on your part, but you're probably doing your best.

    Feel free to be as silly as you need to be: I certainly do. What the IPA and The Age need to do is left their standards above the silly. If you can learn to develop a coherent line of thought, and be clear about what you think, someone other than me will take you seriously.

    Face it: you were very seriously chuffed at being pulished in your hometown broadsheet, and very seriously peeved that I've run you through so comprehensively.

  3. Heh, chris berg -- pwned