The War on Money

Watching the commencement speech of the new Master of Ormond College (a local private high school), I was struck by how the defining challenge of our generation will be the overthrow of vested interests, in the interest of saving the planet.

Two things have become increasingly apparent to me over recent days:

  1. Government organisational structures are the last hold-outs in broader society against an entrepreneurial ecosystem that is able to rapidly change in response to new challenges and attitudes. The business and community sectors are far more in sync with what people want than those in elected office, and yet it is governments who are able to have the greatest impact on the defining challenge of our times: reversing humanity\’s negative impact on the environment.
  2. A key force in defining government attitudes is the ability of those with money to lobby governments to maintain the status quo.
  3. Ergo, there are two things we can do to shift government priorities. Restructure government itself, or reduce the value of money to almost zero. Or both.

Stay tuned.

3 Replies to “The War on Money”

  1. that’s three dot points.

    and, yes, you’re most probably correct.

    although I think you might have forgotten that government is going to really continue to watch ineffectually from the sidelines.

    this nonsense with the desalination plant seems to be a colossal case of Being Seen To Be “Doing Something”.

  2. I always find this concept of ‘government being out of touch with what the people want’ kind of odd. It is true in some specific instances, those being normally of a ‘larger picture’ one of international politics and relations.

    The ‘governmental’ problem, as I see it, is one similar to the ‘absolutely we should have (insert your choice of nuclear reactor, recycled water or any of a hundred other things) but not in my backyard’ philosophy in society.

    A straw poll will show that people WANT change and action. They agree that things are crap, that we need to do something, and that it needs to be done now. Provided, of course, that it doesn’t impact them directly. Provided their fuel bills don’t go up. Provided funds aren’t being diverted from their specific sphere of interest.

    Yes we are running out of oil, that needs to be fixed but scream blue murder if the price at the bowser goes up.

    The government, or any political party in a democratic system, have a top priority of winning votes at the next election, as corporates make money for shareholders. To do so they tend to have to not COMPLETELY stuff up running the country…as far as the majority are aware.

    The day the pollsters start feeding back that action will win votes, or that inaction will cost votes, to the level of making a change in power is the day things will start to change.

    Truth is the majority DON’T care enough to do anything meaningful about it, it WON’T factor into their vote, no matter how many times they say it will.

    Government needs to act. They are doing poorly. I think we are being a bit silly if we believe, though, that it’s not a reflection of society (really human nature?).

    You are right, though, sometimes our democracies are like communism in the ‘good in theory’ stakes. Reality is most people don’t think or care enough to make an informed voting decision, and so this crap perpetuates. I personally am open to alternatives.

    Score one more for micro reality versus macro reality.

  3. Thanks for the comment Lyndon, and for the most part I completely agree with you.

    I’m sure that, from a polling point of view, Government is in touch with what people say they want. Notice I didn’t say “what they need” or “what they want” – a misreporting of what one’s real priorities are, and the disconnect between preferences in a poll and preferences at the ballot box, are both well-studied phenomena.

    I think one area of influence over government that isn’t addressed in your comment is the exaggerated influence that vested interests have over policy. Big industrial players, who are usually the biggest polluters, can afford to wine and dine government officials to a disproportionate degree. And, in part, allowing those lobbyists a voice is part of good governance – their decisions affect a large number of livelihoods.

    However there’s no denying the distortion this introduces into the political process. A great example is the huge amount of energy that the mining industry has put into the “carbon tax costs jobs” argument. They have successfully convinced a large number of people in the mining industry, particularly labourers, that they will be fired if a realistic tax is put on polluting industries.

    There is a prima face case here that is valid, but it’s not the whole picture.

    Countless times through history, the industrial world has shown incredible adaptability to legislative change. Yes, industries have risen and fallen, but generally speaking as industrial development goes up the capacity for invention and prosperity goes up, regardless of which industries rise or fall.

    But legislation has to come first. The government has to have the political cojones to pass tough, binding legislation that forces industries to adapt to a new world in which the external costs of production (disease, poverty, long-term environmental degradation) are finally integrated into the broader economic models that we use.

    And, from my (admittedly naive) perspective, this legislation will not happen while the polluting industries have a disproportionate voice in our capital, and other capitals around the world.