Thursday, September 08, 2016
By Con George-Kotzabasis July 21, 2016
Breathing democratic freedom is neither easy nor free; it entails both rights and obligations and most importantly knowledge of current fundamental issues. But in most democracies their constituents tend to uphold and demand more their rights than their obligations, and more deplorably, a sizable number of them exercise their rights in a state of ignorance. This imbalance, however, between rights and obligations, as well as lack of knowledge of the real issues, puts in jeopardy the functioning of a politically just and economically productive democracy, and indeed endangers its existence as a form of government.
Moreover, it makes its voters who are uninformed of the points at issue captive to populist slogans and to that everlasting traducer of democracy, identified by Aristotle, demagogy, that appeals to the hopes and fears of the electors and by propagandistic lies and false promises opens the doors of power to demagogues. This is exemplified by two recent political events in our times: Alexis Tsipras and his party of Syriza winning the elections in Greece on a wave of populism and unprecedented lies and false promises in the political history of the country, and of the plebiscite of the UK, whose two leaders of Brexit, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, with a farrago of lies and dire fictions were able to hoodwink a major part of the populace to vote for the exit of Britain from the European Union. On a smaller scale this also has happened in the Australian elections, when the Labor Party by its scare campaign that the Liberal Coalition would privatize Medicare, succeeded in convincing a large part of the electorate of this fictitious threat with the result of Liberals losing so many seats that brought the country on the edge of a hang parliament.
How can one remedy the weaknesses of democracy and protect its constituents from becoming victims to populism and to demagogy with catastrophic results to the well-being of society and to its continued economic prosperity? Some people believe that the answer lies in bringing cultural and ethical changes among the people that would make them immune to this toxic virus of populist-demagogy; and thus leading gradually to the cashiering and inexorable dismissal of all demagogic and populist leaders from the domain of politics. The difficulty and danger of such a solution however is that cultural change is a slow process and during its gestation and vicissitudes in a long run may in the meantime unhinge democracy from its door of freedom, by the actions of feckless, inept, and irresponsible politicians, and incarcerate it within the dungeon of dictatorship. A safer and faster solution would be to enact radical changes to the electoral voting system by suspending in certain circumstances temporarily parts of the electorate from voting.
On what principle could one suggest such an unequal voting system that would discriminate so deliberately between social groups in the ambience of democracy, and which group would be the unequal part in the democratic process? The guiding principle of the first part of the question must explicitly aim to the continued viability and stability of a democratic system, in the context of which, the economic well-being of society depends and guarantees the further expansion of wealth that renders to the people a wide choice where to employ their talents and skills that would push their living standard onto higher plateaus and make their lives congenial to their desires. The second part, i.e., the social group that would be unequally treated, would be identified as that part that depends on welfare for its living and as a ‘debtor’ client of the government easily succumbs to populist slogans and rabble rousing; also, due to its low educational level and lack of interest in important matters, it deprives it from having adequate knowledge of the issues involved and hence is completely unqualified to make a sober judgment on these issues. It is mainly this social group that brings to power demagogues and millenarian ideologues that imperil the stability of the polity and its economic system. And, indeed, ironically pits this same social group into absolute poverty, and in turn destabilizes democracy itself, as it has happened with the political rise of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela; where its people after a contrived false prosperity are presently hunting dogs and cats to feed themselves. The same has happened with the Marxist Alexis Tsipras in Greece, where the pauperization of many of its ordinary people is exacerbated every day and has reached unprecedented high levels under his totally inept, ideologically barren and irresponsible government.
The enactment of this radical legislation would specifically suspend from the right to vote any person who had been on social welfare or unemployed for more than a year, and only with his/her ceasing on being on welfare or unemployed his/her right to vote would be restored. Such legislation would not only strengthen and secure the viability of democracy and the prosperity of its economic system, but would also deprive populist demagogues and political parties of a constituency upon whose existence they depend. Moreover, it would substantially reduce the spending of the welfare state and make it less precarious to the fiscal policy of the state and hence to the well-being of the country. This radical enactment takes a leaf from the cradle of democracy in classical Greece, Athenian democracy. The latter disenfranchised and suspended from voting citizens who had failed to pay a debt to the polis. Likewise, in a modern democracy people who were in debt for their living to the government, that is on welfare, would be suspended from casting a vote.
Needless to say, such a radical proposal, to occur in the ambit of the 'spoils' of the welfare state that has spoiled at least two generations of people by our carefree and stand at ease democracy, will not be easy to implement as it will rouse all the wrath and opposition of the ‘progressive’ bien pensants and the ‘good fellows’ of the dole. It will require extraordinarily strong and sagacious political leadership tha will unite parliamentary opposition parties into a gigantic wave that relentlessly will sweep away this ‘progressivist’ praetorian guard of the human rights, without responsibilities, of the dole takers, and throw this defiance of the sanctimonious goody-goodies into the dust bin of history.
I rest on my oars: Your turn now
Saturday, July 30, 2016
By Con George-Kotzabasis July 28, 2016
The following was my short contribution to a Seminar held in the Law School of Melbourne University, on July 28, 2016, with the theme “The Jihadist Challenge to International Law…,” whose main speakers were two professors of International law of Harvard and Yale Universities respectively.
The Jihadist challenge to the ‘mountain’ of International Law must not give birth to a ‘mouse’ that will be at the mercy of the cat’s paw, of humanitarian lawyers. It must be taken off their gentle hands and must be handled by judicious and realist legislators, who are fully aware that this is no mere challenge to International Law but an existential threat to Western civilization. Lawgivers therefore must enact the harsh laws that will protect this civilization.
If the Jihadists are prepared to fight with the laws of the jungle, then they must also be prepared to suffer the whole hog of these laws. They must not expect that they will be protected by the humane laws of the West.
Finally, it is a great fallacy to believe that non-intervention or non-resistance by the West will touch the souls of these fanatics. On the contrary, it will strengthen their belief that the West is weak and they will attack it more ferociously and murderously. And indeed, in their wild chase of the chimerical seventy-two virgins they will not hesitate to use weapons of mass destruction against the West.
Wednesday, June 29, 2016
By Con George-Kotzabasis June 28, 2016
Since the economically profligate Whitlam era, the only Labor government that was bracketed off from Labor’s inveterate stupidity was the Hawke-Keating government. The present leadership of Shorten-Bowen taking a leftist turn in its politics, like the Rudd-Gillard administrations had done, as adumbrated in its pre-electoral commitments of “big-government,” is repudiating the prudent policies of Hawke-Keating and wilfully adopting, retrogressively, the stupid and disastrous paradigm of European socialism that had sunk Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Cyprus into the abyss of bankruptcy, economic crisis, and political instability. Moreover, it is doing so in the face when even the Scandinavian haven of the social democratic Welfare state is severely clipped of its largesse, as at last has been realised to be no longer economically viable. Anders Borg, the wunderkind as finance minister of Sweden, initiated the incremental dismantling of the Welfare state, lowered taxes in the private sector, which has galvanized the creation of new jobs.
Returning back home. The leftist political editor of The Sydney Morning Herald, Mark Kenny, is forecasting “dire trouble” for Labor on the debt and deficit front. Terry McCrann, of The Daily Telegraph, ominously declares “Shorten would plunge the country into greater debt”. And Henry Ergas, of The Australian, claims that even the latest backflips of Labor will not be sufficient to close the deficit gap and its “mythmakers” will be tempted “to conjure revenue increases out of thin air, just as the Rudd-Gillard governments did pointing to a golden future time when receipts would soar.”
But to believe in myths and tales of future increases in revenue, when The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund slash hopes of economic growth in the near future, is highly precarious, as it would lead the country into complacency and prevent it from taking the necessary measures to countervail a looming long recession. Furthermore, such a possibility is strengthened with the present event of Brexit, which could ominously beget both the dismemberment and the disintegration of the UK and the European Union, whose widespread ramifications upon the geopolitical and economic spheres of the world would devastate any prospects of economic growth for many years. And it is most unlikely that there will be, like in 2008, another China to save Australia from woeful economic distress.
Further, Labor with egregious lack of imagination and foresight is not factoring-in such imponderables as a precipitous fall in world prices of minerals in a context of world recession and the calamitous consequences that would follow, hitting public finances to smithereens and engendering a seriality of deficits with no hope of being reduced, with the outcome of plunging the country into the abyss of bottomless debt and insolvency. Is Bill Shorten going to be the “Maduro” of Australia, who, as the world price of oil dropped to lower depths, as a socialist president of Venezuela, continued the dissolute economic policies of his predecessor, Chavez, that turned the country from contrived prosperity to real poverty, once the government coffers were emptied, and indeed, into a hunting ground for dogs and cats to feed his people?
It goes without saying, of course, that this is an exaggeration and one could hardly imagine Australians shooting dogs and cats to feed themselves. It is merely used as an example to emphasize the dangers overshadowing an economy, when its Stewarts, the government, insouciantly do not take in consideration future possible events that could dramatically affect the economic course of a country and do not take prospective measures that would shield the country from such catastrophic effects.
One asks the question why the smart as they come politicians of Labor, such as Andrew Leigh, the assistant shadow treasurer of Labor, let their guard down and are reluctant to prepare themselves for these uncertainties of the future, believing that Australia somehow is protected by divine mandate from the ills of world recession and that Australia’s “economy is indestructible”, to quote Rex Connor, a minister in Whitlam’s government? For people who have studied the policies of Labor over a number of years the answer is simple and obvious. All their major policies are motivated by their passionate belief in the socialist utopia. And the implementation of these policies requires, according to this ideological schema, big and interventionist government and hence, high taxes; and the redistribution of wealth and not its greater increase are their priority. Despite the glaring evidence showing that augmenting the size of wealth is the only and sure way to enhance the standard of living of the ordinary people. The latter proposition has indisputable historical precedents, as it was the flourishing and ever increasing wealth of capitalism, that for the first time in history, pulled millions of people from the hovels of poverty onto peaks of prosperity. But Labor is blind before this historical fact. Like a drug addict Labor is fixed to its socialist doctrine and lives in a stupefied world of unreality and wishful thinking.
The matchsticks foundations of socialism are collapsing all over the world, especially in Europe, yet Bill Shorten’s Labor continues adamantly to believe that from this wreckage one could still build the just and equal society as envisaged by Labor’s quixotic visionaries. It is under this standard of socialist ideology that Shorten undermines and repudiates the prudent and pragmatic policies of the Hawke-Keating government, whose “Accord” between employers and workers engendered a congenial milieu for investments and the creation of new jobs with the consequence of increasing the living standard of Australians. Bill Shorten’s silence about these productive structural reforms and fiscal frugality of the Hawke-Keating era that had put Australia on a track of prosperity is a contemptuous affront to the two architects of these reforms. It was therefore rather surprising and amusing to have seen the two conductors of this inimitable political and economic performance sitting on the front-row of Shorten’s Launch of the Labor campaign, clapping at a leader who had mockingly renounced their wise policies. For Paul Keating, especially, standing next to Bill Shorten who had adopted and announced policies that would lead to a “Banana Republic,” it must have been an exceedingly painful occasion. Perhaps as painful as replacing Placedo Domingo with rock-and-roll.
I rest on my oars: You turn now
Thursday, June 02, 2016
By Con George-Kotzabasis May 19, 2016
The following is an unconsummated reply to professor Andrew Leigh’s lecture with the title, “Markets Monopolies and Moguls…” held at Melbourne University, on May 19, 2016. This was due to the chairman’s instruction that only a sprinkle of questions would follow the end of the presentation and there would be no debate
I’m overly distrustful of people who use scarecrows, in this case the “mogul” Richard Pratt, to make their argument. Moreover, it is a term associated with sinister practices and easily tantalizes and incites the feelings of the crowd to purge the evildoers. But more dismally it is wrong in your case, as it is an exercise in a fallacy of composition: Just because there are few rotten apples in the cart it does not mean that all apples are rotten. The unprecedented prosperity of capitalism was not engendered by rottenness but by the creative, innovative, and dynamic spirit of entrepreneurship.
The great economic historian, Fernand Braudel, depicts the shifts of capitalist centres and their entrepreneurial moguls, from Venice, Genoa, Antwerp, Amsterdam, London, to New York, spreading boundless prosperity to these metropolises and their environs by means of the ceaseless division of labour, international trade and the capitalist dynamic ethos of entrepreneurial creation. It was the sun-king of entrepreneurial capitalism that had pulled millions of people out of the sunless caves of poverty into the sunlit vistas of capitalist plenitude, heightening their standard of living, for the first time in history, on ever-higher plateaus.
(The scientific writer, Arthur Koestler, contends that the great discoveries of science were motivated by ambition, competition, and vanity, which happen also to be the inherent characteristics of capitalist moguls.)
You have mentioned a lot of negatives about “bigness” and market concentration but not the fact that they rather have a short life since there is no blockage of entry in a competitive economy to other entrepreneurs into these concentrated areas. One example, the entry of the innovative entrepreneur ALDI into the food-chain services and its reduction of the prices of its products in comparison to other chains, not only attracted many consumers to its stores but also forced the other two major super markets of COLES and WOOLWORTHS to reduce their prices at the feel of the competitive pinch of the newcomer. Competition does not discriminate between big and small but it equally affects both.
But to deal with your argument that inequality should be a major consideration in competition policy, and regulating mergers and prices would be beneficial to the consumer. The competitive market in itself, without the need of regulation, spreads its cheaper products to an ever-greater number of consumers and therefore decreases inequality. The competition of Telstra and Optus is an example. The same applies to iPods. Ride a train, a bus, or a tram and you will see even the lower classes fully equipped with these cheaper gadgets of a competitive technology and once again the line of inequality is lowered down for the less wealthy consumer.
It is not the business of government to regulate mergers and pricing. This is the bailiwick of entrepreneurs who decide if such a merger will be profitable, whether it will be able to compete with an already established corporation producing the same product, and setting its price on such a level that it will attract consumers to buy its product en masse.
Furthermore, as far as the regulation is close to the estimates and interests of the entrepreneurs it is superfluous; and as far as it is distanced from these estimates and interests, it is destructive. No businessman will invest his money in a venture where profit is unattainable. Hence, your regulation, that aborts the setting-up of a merger that would produce cheaper products for the consumer, by depriving the latter from having these goods, increases the inequality of the mass consumer. Not surprisingly, as often happens, good intentions lead to bad results.
Therefore, your proposal of government dirigisme as a panacea in regards to competition and regulation is inutile, fanciful, and fallacious, and more perniciously may turn out to be a destructive force.
I rest on my oars: Your turn now