Tuesday, November 29, 2011

An urgent column from a stranded Gerard Henderson riddled with a sense of entitlement ...

It was one of those breathtakingly simple-minded generalisations - as most generalisations, including this one, are - and naturally it was to be found in a Gerard Henderson column, ushered into the world under the header European culture of entitlement is mercifully absent Down Under.

Speaking of entitlement, it seems the poor possum is having a terrible time:

I am currently in Jerusalem, wondering whether I will be able to make it to London later this week. There is a public-sector strike scheduled for Britain tomorrow, which is expected to close schools and hospitals and there is talk of up to 12-hour delays in getting through immigration at Heathrow.

Oh the suffering of the unentitled.

I must remember to sound similarly unentitled the next time I catch a train in Sydney ...

But back to that sweeping statement:

The concept of governments spending more than they obtain in revenue is common to social democratic and conservative administrations. Yet it is more a phenomenon of social democracy.

Note carefully the ostensibly even-handed first line, followed by the unsubstantiated second, but as evidence for the wild generalisation, Henderson offers up this:

For example, in Britain today the leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, and the shadow chancellor of the exchequer, Ed Balls, advocate greater spending and borrowing as the way of resolving current economic difficulties. The Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, with the support of coalition partners the Liberal Democrats, advocates long-running cuts to government spending and a clampdown on schemes and benefits as an entry to lifelong welfare.

Ye doddering cats and ancient suffering mice, Henderson seems to think that somehow it's Ed Miliband's fault - a man in opposition and without any levers to pull - that the planes are slow in Europe.

When he might have noted that the hapless Nick Clegg - the man who's slept with no more than thirty women - and his party are about as social democrat as they get, or at least so they say, if not their fearless leader:

While he (Clegg) sought to persuade his party that they were now at the centre of British politics, delegates had earlier passed a strategy paper that called for the Lib Dems to fight as a party of social democracy.

The motion that was passed said: "The UK Liberal Democrats are based firmly in the historical and global traditions of the liberal and social democratic philosophy and beliefs." (here, reporting on party voting to affirm commitment to social democracy).

In Henderson's myopic world, social democracy is in fact a stilted euphemism for leftist thinking, but we can now modify his bold generalisation a little:

The concept of governments spending more than they obtain in revenue is common to social democratic and conservative administrations. Yet it is more a phenomenon of conservative administrations because social democrats like Nick Clegg are happy to go along with the degutting Britain ...

In fact, if you wanted a social democrat comedy in three acts, you couldn't go past Nick Clegg, whose party is now in a polling slump of a first class kind - an Australian 'GST' Democrats of the motherland if you will - which helps explain why they're wanting to be seen as the social democrats of the nineteenth century, responsible for every radical reform there ever was:

The presentation, made by the party's marketing director Collette Dunkley, admitted that party had lost much of its public identity as a result of joining the coalition. The document called for more 'short-term political expediency' to boost the party's popularity and said the party should claim credit for momentous historic reforms in the past such as the abolition of slavery and the Great Reform Act.

Both episodes occured before the Liberal party was formed, but the brand advisers appear to believe the Lib Dems can take credit for the work of the Whig party, one of the precursors of the Liberal party in the 18th and early 19th centuries. (here).

The social democrats might be having an identity crisis, as they actively conspire to thwart Gerard Henderson's travel plans:

Last November his role as the number one hate figure for student protesters, who hit the streets shouting "Nick Clegg, we know you, you're a fucking Tory too," seemed to be getting him down. Clegg looked worn out by it all and appeared to be taking things personally. But not any more. (Nick Clegg insists Lib Dems will stop Britian repeating mistakes of the 1980s).

But enough of how those Nick Cleggian social democrats are in the vanguard of doing over students and pensioners in the noble cause of supporting the banks and the City, let's roam a little further abroad.

How about Silvio Berlusconi? Well while the world will fondly remember him for bunga bunga and bizarre attempts to make the Italian system of justice meaningless (as the Economist noted here in 2009), Berlusconi described himself as a conservative, fancied himself as one, and acted like one (it's a well known fact that in Vaucluse and Toorak toga parties have now been tossed away in favour of bunga bunga).

Of course during Berlusconi's conservative rule, the Italian economy developed a severe fit of the wobbles, so we might amend Henderson's rule as follows:

The concept of governments spending more than they obtain in revenue is common to social democratic and conservative administrations. Yet it is more a phenomenon of conservative administrations where bunga bunga rules ...

And then there's the case of Nicolas Sarkozy, another conservative swept into power way back in 2007, and therefore able to take full credit for the current state of the French economy. Perhaps we could amend Henderson's statement to take this phenomenon into account:

The concept of governments spending more than they obtain in revenue is common to social democratic and conservative administrations. Yet it is more a phenomenon of conservative administrations where conservative French presidents are required to have a trophy wife...

And now an aside for the thinking men who might have made it this far in the detailed consideration of the world of social democrats:

Apologies to social democrat feminists, and moving right along, astute political observers will remember that Iceland, the place where some of the economic madness started, has long been run by the Independence Party, a strongly individualist and anti-interventionist centre right party, with a strangehold on supplying Prime Ministers to the country.

Perhaps the Henderson rule needs another modification:

The concept of governments spending more than they obtain in revenue is common to social democratic and conservative administrations. Yet it is more a phenomenon of conservative administrations supported by wild-eyed fishermen and Icelandic big business. (What a pity Ian Parker's Letter from Reykjavik for The New Yorker is behind the paywall).

And so we come to the question of Greece, where in recent days one of the major conservative parties has refused to sign off on reform pledges in return for crucial loans (Greek conservatives reject signing reform pledge).

It turns out that these very same New Democracy chaps were the controlling force in Greece politics from 2004 to 2009, at the time when Greece's problems were brewing.

Of course nothing is but what is not in Greek politics, so there are "liberals" and solid rightists at war within the party (War in New Democracy due to splits), but I think we're now in a position to add another variation to Henderson's rule:

The concept of governments spending more than they obtain in revenue is common to social democratic and conservative administrations. Yet it is more a phenomenon of conservative administrations who think that staging the Olympic Games will bring vast prosperity, riches and tourists in droves.

Oh okay, the Greek conservatives won in March 2004, and the Athens games were only in August, and the deeply conservative Bob Carr government organised the Olympic games in Sydney, thereby depriving Sydney of much needed investment in infrastructure, but if we're in the business of silly generalisations, why not be silly.

It's surely better than making a cheap joke about Greek rural voters supporting the conservatives ...

It almost goes without saying that George W. Bush's administration was profoundly, prodigiously spendthrift, extravagant and recklessly wasteful (heck, let's not have one war, let's have a couple), and John Howard's regime showed an uncanny knack for buying votes by pandering with cash subsidies to voters.

By this time, you can amend Henderson's rule yourself to suit the circumstances, but that brings us back to Henderson, who spends much of the column harking back to former Chairman Rudd's now long ago piece for The Monthly, and berating social democracy, before delivering up further absurdities:

During his years as prime minister between December 1949 and January 1966, Robert Menzies was no economic reformer. But in the early 1950s, Menzies and his Coalition colleagues made a conscious decision not to take Australia down the road of from-cradle-to-grave social welfare.

Uh huh. I wonder what the biographer at the Australian Dictionary of Biography was taking when he scribbled:

In the years after 1958, when the minister for trade (and industry) (Sir) John McEwen was leader of the Country Party and deputy prime minister, promotion of Australian production and export through protection, tariff manipulation and aggressive international trade negotiations became characteristics of the Menzies era. McEwen's department was sometimes at odds with the Treasury, occasionally to Menzies' displeasure. This was the case in 1965, for example, when Menzies rejected—on Treasury's advice—the report by Sir James Vernon's committee of economic inquiry, a document understood to embody the views of McEwen's public service lieutenants, in particular his former departmental secretary Sir John Crawford. Nevertheless, though temperamentally different, Menzies and McEwen saw eye to eye on most matters. On the eve of one Federal election in the 1960s Menzies could write to McEwen: 'There never has been such a partnership as this in the political history of Australia'.

Yes, there's never been a better protectionist government of the old school, with splendid cradle to the grave policies for cockies and squatters.

Now back to Henderson for the rousing finale:

Consequently, Australia never adopted the ethos of entitlement which still affects western Europe and parts of North America. It is this concept which has bankrupted so many governments and which explains the public-sector strikes scheduled for this week in Britain.

Yes indeed. And let's not have any more talk of agrarian socialism, not even as Barnaby Joyce goes into full agrarian socialist mode to snatch the water from the Murray river and distribute it to the long suffering masses yearning for a drink or two.

Talk about a wondrous sense of entitlement. Right up there with Mr. (nee Dr.) Henderson's.

Ain't it grand how a single strike that affects Henderson's travel arrangements stands as an indictment of social democracy, and that in a country currently being run by conservatives and pseudo-Cleggian cons.

Meanwhile we just have Qantas lock outs in Australia, and naturally you can find Gerard Henderson explaining why it was only just and proper that thousands of Australian travellers be stranded by management, and why Qantas workers must face global facts of life.

Well as they used to say at Tamworth High, it seems it's now Gerard Henderson's turn to suck it and see ...

Unless, unless ... could it be that deep down Alan Joyce is a social democrat, at one with the strikers in Europe?

(Below: could this be Gerard Henderson's favourite cartoon this week?)

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