03 April 2006

Clive Hamilton: old snake oil in new bottles

So there was Clive Hamilton at the Sydney Writers' Festival a few years ago, with Robyn Williams, having a right old lefty love-in about rapacious capitalism. Now I hate love-ins (loves-in?) because it's not only those present who get screwed. I put it to him that the reason why publicly-listed companies are so focused on growth is because the major shareholders tend to be awash with superannuation funds, and that they are struggling to afford to pay out to all those baby-boomers in a few years - hence it is baby-boomers wishing to earn while not working who are putting the pressure on companies for ever-greater profits.

Well! I was hissed, old Robyn glared at me, and Clive whimpered something about baby-boomers receiving a lot of criticism (as well he might, the room was chocka-block with baby-boomers straight out of yoga class who looked to Clive for an excuse to let them off the treadmill). Dodged the question as artfully as ever Peter Costello might. It's still a good question and his subsequent book doesn't address it, and I doubt he ever will (especially as many of his bosses are super fund trustees themselves). To be fair to him he can't do so without coming across as some wacky alienating polemicist who, to quote the Beatles, ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow.

I was reminded of Clive when I read this, a morality tale for a post-morality age. It is possible to be cheeky without being offensive, Clive, and a real thinker would have pondered the why and wherefores of echoing the Fred Niles and Steve Fieldings of this world - along with other examples of hypocrisy. What's left is less the question than: what's the point? The brand in question has been around for years and is on its way out, two more reasons why it is mystifying that Clive should make it a target. Surely there have to be bigger targets than a declining foreign clothing retailer, but that assumes Clive has a clue.