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How market forces have failed the nation (its citizens and consumers)



I hope you’re right. The prospect of Monbiot’s Totalitarian Capitalism seems all too real to me at the moment.


I’m currently listening to Friendly Fascism, by Bertrand Gross. It was written before Reagan was elected, first published in 1980, and the author notes in the introduction that the first publisher to have accepted it was closed down by its parent company a week or so before publication. (Not enough cash-flow was the excuse.)

I have been considering posting a review in the off-topic parts of this community, as it has some fascinating insights into where the US has been heading - and leading the rest of the world.

Essentially, we might call ourselves a democracy but on issues of real importance none of our major parties is willing to counter the ‘real rulers’ of capitalism. We are stuck between a choice of lizards.


For insights into how we got where we are, I recommend Democracy in Chains. Its focus is the US, but the impacts are global.

And a more recent contribution from a former governor of the Reserve Bank:

Which, unless I miss my guess, is precisely as our overlords want it. Divide and rule.


Precisely. Get people worried about migrants, refugees, or ‘others’, and they will ignore the ways in which their ‘democracy’ is actually a duopoly that votes the same way on important (as opposed to publicised) issues.

This is why Machiavelli is worth reading - he lifts the drape.


The more things change, the more they stay the same. Reliance on Market Forces is really just the privileged organising things so they can avoid paying their fair share. Hence the push for lower taxes on them and their businesses.

and something a bit more philosophical:


In a nutshell:

“As I’ve got older and wiser, however, I’ve realised that, though economic inefficiency has nothing to recommend it, efficiency isn’t the only worthwhile goal of public policy, and there are often times when other objectives should take priority.”


Like, perhaps, people? Just putting it out there, along with something I stated in another thread about the unemployment ‘benefit’ having stayed the same for twenty-one years. In fact, if I count back that takes us to 1997 - one year into the Howard government!

We have government ministers who say “it’s fine - I could live on that”… but don’t show us how, without their own home and family networks. Unemployment is partly dictated by government policy, and could be much lower than the ‘official’ one person in twenty who is currently unemployed (the definition leaves out many more).

Australia is an incredibly rich country, per this article in the SMH:

Our problem is that this wealth is very unevenly spread, and no recent government has done anything to change that. As the article states, median wealth is $US191,453, while mean wealth (which the writer confuses as ‘average’) is $US411,060. That is, half minus one of all Australians have less than $US191,453, but a few at the top have an awful lot more than $US411,060.

Of course, we could leave tax policy to PwC and other stalwarts of ‘the establishment’, which recommends abolishing the tax-free threshold entirely:

One might suggest that an alternative is to close some of the loopholes that PwC helps its clients to use in avoiding or evading tax. Maybe look at trusts, more progressive tax rates… who knows, even negative gearing? (Oops - it appears that article’s author is ahead of me.)

We as a country are the third-lowest taxed per GDP in the OECD, after the US and Switzerland, but I don’t think too many Australians want to live like people in the US - yet consecutive governments are leading us there.

When my wife and I went on holiday to the US in 1996, we were shocked to see beggars in the streets of major cities - especially San Francisco. Now, there is regularly one person or another at our small local suburban shopping centre seeking help to pay for accommodation and/or food! I don’t remember being asked whether this was okay with me, and I certainly do not think any Australian should have to find themselves in such a situation.

We need to pay more taxes. We need more progressive taxation. We need less opportunities for tax avoidance and evasion. We need a government that actually fulfils the needs of the people who elected it, rather than those that paid for the campaign - or who run their own campaigns via newspapers or radio. We need to have a voice on ‘free’ ‘trade’ agreements our government enters into on our behalf before they are signed.

And we need to get rid of corporate welfare, wherever it may be found.

Edit: I just read a summary of Buchanan’s Nobel Memorial Prize-winning book. It sounds perfectly designed for the modern conservative movement, and less than considerate of individual needs.

Edit 2: There is an interesting, and sometimes amusing, 16 page review/attempted demolition of Democracy in Chains, published by… the Cato Institute (i.e. one of the supporters of Buchanan’s ideas).

Mises has published a somewhat less considered hit-piece.


MacLean’s book did have impacts, like kicking an anthill. As there seems to be some interest, here’s another article, in which MacLean is interviewed:


The OECD about to publish their outlook until 2060 for world material growth. There is a teaser here by Gittins. He reports they are taking the view that world GDP will quadruple but material requirements will only double. They are predicting some decoupling, hopefully they are right, because that scenario will be difficult enough, Quadruple growth in material requirements would render all predictions null because shortages would then be eating into both population growth and per capita GDP growth in the poorer countries. Malthusian constraints may yet happen and it won’t be pretty.

The report will not be public for another month. What is the bet our fearless leaders will totally ignore it?


Unfortunately we rely on government too much to drive change, and the solutions of government has to fit into the policy mix government is used to (or allowed to do under the constitution).

There are many examples of government intervention in the market which has resulted in unforeseen or undesirable outcomes.

Governments, through policy and regulation, have changed the structure of the market making the market more restrictive and compliant to these policies and regulations. This stifles innovation and alternative trains of thought.

While many alternatives to the government narrative could be potentially drive a worse outcome in some circumstances, there will be some that will potentially lead to better outcomes for all.


Apparently as a betting nation we are world leaders at loosing? :money_mouth_face:

No need to place any bets on this one! :sleeping:

On topic perhaps, “ignorance is Bliss”, and poor judgment more prevalent than we might like, however we still like to have a go and somethings do turn out for the better in the end, despite the odds.

On that @phb has made a great synopsis.


There are also cases where government has failed its duties, with foreseeable outcomes. The Banking Royal Commission comes to mind.

It’s a question of where the line is drawn. Extremes fail. Consequences of extreme Capitalism are no more agreeable than those of extreme Socialism.

In a Democracy, there’s no escape. We elect the government. We’re therefor responsible for the narrative.


An interesting twist:

(a) We have a product (Australian Standards) created for the public good and for the benefit of Australian businesses;

(b) The product is created for the Australian people by a not-for-profit agency (Standards Australia) with extensive voluntary expertise and support contributed by a host of professionals;

(c ) The product can only come to the market through a private company with monopoly distribution rights.


I just realised that REDMAP had not yet been mentioned here. It was a project by the US Republican Party to gerrymander the population into submission for at least ten years. Not sure why it failed in 2018, but they’re still at it.


It didn’t fail. Without the gerrymander, the Republican loss would have been much worse.


I gather it’s an accepted circumstance over there!

Not that this is exactly on topic, but over here we have refined the electoral process such that there is no obvious corruption of the will of the people.

Typically 40% sometimes less of the electors (primary vote) get to choose the government of the day for the benefit of the other 60+% who may not agree on any of the policies of the 40%. One way a minority can have a majority of the representatives? I recollect a Qld government formed with more than 90% of the members from one party on only 51% of the primary vote. That only 10% of the electorate didn’t love the LNP at the time seems a little beyond reason?

Does this really matter and is it anything to do with market forces - other than we tend to follow the corporate imperatives of other nations?


Apparently so. The power of structuring electoral boundaries is held at the state level. The main effort seems to be to make sure that when you hold the numbers in the state to make the best of it rather than to institute independent electoral commissions or the equivalent. There is much about the US system that is undemocratic despite the gloss.

It is interesting that the anti-establishment populists are not anti-gerrymander. Sloganizing against vested interest is more important than real action. Which leads us to think that the real intent is to replace the existing oligarchy with one of their own. Who’d have thought.


However their slogans are usually more advanced and complex than our equally effective 3 worders!


Actually, we all get to choose. Some of us just don’t get our first preference. I’ve heard it said that, under preferential voting, the winner is the one with the fewest votes against them.


Second question first - is it anything to do with market forces? Absolutely! Modern politics is nothing but the application of market forces. Buy a voter here, a representative there… I mean, persuade and lobby of course. /s

Does it really matter? Australia is a slave to fashions, or more precisely US fashions (it used to be British when we still thought of ourselves as part of the empire). I attended schools that were set up on the US model, and it failed me dismally. We can look at what Reagan did in tax cuts for the wealthy, what Thatcher did in selling off the family silver, and what Australia subsequently decided was a ‘good course of action’ in both these and many other areas. (Reagan - or his advisers - did have one ‘bright’ idea. If you cut taxes, then the governments that follow won’t have enough money to pursue their social income redistribution policies. The LNP has adopted this whole-heartedly.)

So yes, market forces affect politics and this is in part why our politicians are failing to hold them in check.