In Australian politics there are two ideologies at play.
The Liberal ideology is one of a market driven society. If government just gets out of the way, the market will ensure we are all prosperous and happy. Plenty of jobs and plenty of goods to buy. They believe government stifles free enterprise. Too much government equals too little growth. Companies move offshore or don’t enter Australia. The other end of the free enterprise stick is that if you have enough job growth, you all but eliminate unemployment and so reduce benefit payments.
How this is still considered a valid ideology is difficult to understand. It is exactly this environment that spawned the GFC. The government got out of the way and let the US financial institutions run the economy. When greed triumphed, the economy collapsed.
The thing to remember is that it is not corporate greed. It is the greed of individuals who make up this corporation. It is the greed of investors, and superannuation contributors who want to see bigger profits, bigger dividends and higher share prices. Anyone you know?
The Labor ideology is almost the opposite. It says wealth should be redistributed from the rich to the poor. From those who have, to those who don’t. It accepts that certain people, at certain times in their life, cannot support themselves and need help. That help should come from those who can afford to pay taxes.
Note I said “at certain times in their life”. For some people – for example those with a life long disability – it may be all their lives. For most who may have just lost their job, or had to leave work to have a baby, it is a period of time. Some might call this a “christian” approach to life where we look after our fellow man. We are part of a group called Australians. We look after each person in the group.
So the ideology comes down to our personal philosophy. Do we see ourselves as more important then the group? Do we believe that what we want trumps everything else? Or do we see we have a responsibility to share our life with those less fortunate? Do we believe that we must make a contribution to our fellow Australians who cannot look after themselves?
There may be people at either pole but most of us sit somewhere in the middle. Between Gordon Gecko and Mother Theresa. We want to fulfill our own needs, but also have some moral code that says providing for the less well off is a good thing. If we didn’t, charities would not exist.
The problem with the two ideologies is that from time to time, governments swing too far away from the middle. Labor governments want to act like Mother Theresa and Liberal governments act like Gordon Gecko. Too big a swing makes us uncomfortable.
That brings us to where we are today. Too close to Gordon Gecko. Dump the less well off, and support the greedy. That is why Australia is so angry. (I was going to use the phrase “up in arms” but that would be more applicable to the US. A blog for a later date.)
With the GFC still smoldering in our memories, how dare a government punish the needy and reward the rich. What affront to remove those institutions that restrain corporate greed. Everything from watering down financial regulation to dumping media control organisations. What gall to treat ordinary people as though they cannot tell the difference between a lie, and the truth. How could a government be so naive as to believe we are so stupid. It makes you wonder what sort of universe they have created where they can convince one another the budget lies were going to work.
The only positive to come out of it, is that the ideology has become so blatantly obvious that they will certainly be rejected at the next election. A hung senate should ensure they cannot do much in the next few years so maybe it will be a case of let’s go into suspended animation for a few years until we can vote them out.