Don’t shoot the piano player, she’s doing her best

By skepticlawyer

As I pointed out yesterday on this thread, I was not enamoured of the Greens getting anywhere near the levers of power on the grounds that they’d be likely to break the levers, followed by breaking the government. The climate change stushie on LE’s thread convinced me even more strongly that many environmentalists do not grasp the extent to which government is about compromise, public policy is about consensus and political parties like the Libs and the ALP are, of necessity, broad churches.

Since yesterday, however, a friend’s comment on facebook — pointing out that the only way the Greens are going to learn about governance is by actually governing — made me think that they will either crash or crash through when it comes to being part of the political establishment. And that’s a good thing.

I do wish, however, that more people appreciated why it is so difficult for Gillard (or Abbott; after all, he only just lost) to attend to a single set of concerns or anything but the broadest constituency. Lots of balancing has to be done, and often no-one gets exactly what they want. Over at Tim Lambert’s place, I made the following observations:

I got very cranky in that thread because I watched people blithely assume that their particular ‘value’ (in this case, climate change mitigation) should trump all other values (particularly those progressive values a leftie like LE holds dear) […] Roger’s excellent point that scientists often take rationalist positions that do not work at all when adopted in public policy is entirely accurate and represents my experience as a policy advisor for the Tory Party over here in the UK. Many people, however, do not appreciate this. They think their value (to use Ronald Dworkin’s phrase) is a ‘trump’ (okay, I’ve played too much Bridge), when it isn’t.

You have to negotiate. You may find people have equally compelling reasons for rejecting your ‘trump’ and inserting one of their own. You will have to compromise. This is not because the ALP (or the Tory Party, or the Lib Dems, or whoever) are filled with Evil Minions ™, but because they have to govern for all of us.

If nothing else, the universal franchise ensures that lots of different values are taken seriously. Proving the science is one thing. Pretending that some sort of top-down centrally planned intervention will work is another. Drafting workable laws (that’s my job, and LE’s) is another again.

If you want climate change mitigation (in whatever form) to work, then you will have to work with us lawyers and parliamentary draftsmen. One of the great life lessons of law is that bad laws have unintended consequences. Often, they make the problem they were designed to correct even worse. I’m not a climate change sceptic. I don’t want that to happen. So if a skilled and experienced lawyer queries how you’re going to achieve what you want to achieve, listen to him.

Of course, the sheer number of Labor’s or the LNP’s constituencies means that policies are often so anodyne as to be almost inert, one reason why some people join smaller parties (like the Greens). Even viewed from afar, the election campaign was pretty uninspiring. That said, Australia’s long history of very good governance and elections conducted in entirely the right spirit shone through. Can you imagine, for example, a ‘hanging chad’ controversy happening in Australia, followed by a court case in order to ensure that there is an executive arm? What about people locked out of polling stations (as happened during the last UK election), purely because there was a much higher than expected voter turnout?

I think it reflects well on Australia and its institutions that the worst that could be said about the process was that the independents enjoyed their spot in the sun a bit too much and went on rather, although as Pavlov’s Cat points out here, it’s probably good for the nation’s collective soul to be forced to pay attention to political reasons in the round rather than experiencing them only as soundbites.

So now, the government has to govern. One can be sure that Gillard will be doing her best within a large set of constraints. And that’s fine.

29 Comments

  1. Peter Patton
    Posted September 11, 2010 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    SL

    Brown and Rhiannon are not bosom buddies. While Tasmanian Greens are basically greenies/environmentalists, NSW Greens – ESPECIALLY Rhianon – are Communists.

    Rhiannon was a classic Red Diaper Baby.

  2. Peter Patton
    Posted September 11, 2010 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    As I see you have quite exhaustively documented above! 🙂

  3. PAUL WALTER
    Posted September 12, 2010 at 2:51 am | Permalink

    So it continues. Good comments from desipis and LE, Murdoch agit prop from SL and pure bunkum from Lorenzo.

  4. Posted September 12, 2010 at 5:07 am | Permalink

    Paul, if you’re going to make assertions like that on this blog, you actually have to make your case. You’ve already sailed very close to the wind with one payola slur. Accusing me of agitpropping for Murdoch when it’s well known that my relationship with News Ltd is absolutely poisonous is heading into the same territory. I know it’s uncomfortable and awkward dealing with a blog where no-one lines up predictably on the political spectrum, but you’ll find it very rewarding if you try.

  5. Posted September 12, 2010 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    Murdoch agit prop from SL and pure bunkum from Lorenzo.

    Abuse substituting for argument is a sure sign of intellectual bankruptcy.

  6. TerjeP
    Posted September 12, 2010 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    It shouldn’t surprise that communists would want to join the Greens and would rise through it’s ranks given the policy platform of the Greens. What is ironic is that the average income of people who vote Green is higher than the average income of the voters for any other Australian political party. If the Greens ever get to implement their prefered tax policies they will implode. They will survive as a major player only if they change. I do sense that in recent years they have become less militantly in favour of soaking the rich, but it is still their policy and communists in their ranks is a bad sign.

  7. desipis
    Posted September 12, 2010 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Lorenzo @ 41,

    I actually do not see any value as a trump

    That’s generally how I see things too. Is there a political label for that? “moderate”? That paper (thanks for the link) was interesting and helpful in understanding ways in which probably not libertarian.

    I should probably add that my assessment of corporations threat to liberty is more short term. I think that although the government has more ability it coerce us it also has checks and balances. Corporations don’t have these checks and to a certain extent are able to circumvent the governmental checks to get the government to enforce their will.

  8. Posted September 12, 2010 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    When the Greens ran Yarra Council they reduced council debt faster than any other Victorian municipality.

    This is something seldom discussed. The Greens, thus far, do have integrity in office. There’s not much by way of vested interests riding behind them. Thet turn up to work regularly and they take stands against graft. We should give them credit.

    Most Greens are well aware that there wish-list relies on a strong economy.

    If only they were aware what that necessitates.

  9. Posted September 12, 2010 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    It shouldn’t surprise that communists would want to join the Greens and would rise through it’s ranks given the policy platform of the Greens

    I’m not exactly certain but I think the platform came after the Comms joined. My impression of the party is that the ex-Comms have stacked the policy vessels in the party. I believe there’s tension but the consensus ethos prevents any real showdown.

    They will survive as a major player only if they change.

    Mmmm 🙂

  10. Posted September 12, 2010 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Murdoch agit prop from SL and pure bunkum from Lorenzo.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA – Oh sorry you’re being serious. In that case much different.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA (Choke)

  11. desipis
    Posted September 12, 2010 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    skepticlawyer,

    Thanks for the bit of history. It’s a bit hard to know how to take the claims in the midst of an election campaign.

    Even if true, I still think they need to be taken in the context of a major party that sought a constitutional amendment to ban an opposing political party, and both the major parties that supported the Iraq invasion as well as the bipartisan terrorism scaremongering and corresponding threats to liberties.

  12. mel
    Posted September 12, 2010 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    “I have heard that Bob Brown isn’t a huge Rhiannon fan but not much more than that. Mel, do you know any details”

    Sorry, I have no links. What I said was based on party scuttlebutt. As I’m very fond of many of the people I met in the Greens, I’d never betray confidences by naming names.

  13. Posted September 12, 2010 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Fair enough, Mel. Paul Howes mentioned it in that radio interview I quoted, but he’s (obviously enough) Labor and has a vested interest, which is why I didn’t repeat it.

  14. JC
    Posted September 12, 2010 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    The Greens running Yarra Council meant that property taxes went way up and commercial property taxes sky rocketed.

    There was nothing magical about closing the gap.

    What is hard is to close it by reducing spending and avoiding tax hikes like GOP governor Christie.

    As for Brown disliking the Commie in the party……Perhaps he prefers social conservative commies like Happy Hamilton rather the Rhiannon seeing that not only did he endorse Hamilton but also gave him glowing reports.

    To suggest he doesn’t like Rhinnon and that somehow means anything about his real ideological make-up doesn’t face up to reality when Hamilton is taken into account,.

    Greens policies a far left. Period.

  15. mel
    Posted September 12, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Adrien says:

    “I’m not exactly certain but I think the platform came after the Comms joined. My impression of the party is that the ex-Comms have stacked the policy vessels in the party. ”

    You talk so much poop, Adrien. Please give us the names of some of these “policy vessel stacking communists” to whom you refer.

  16. Peter Patton
    Posted September 12, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    I have a couple of old friends who are still involved in the fringes of the far Left – they themselves being of the Communist hue – and they keep me up to date on the bizarrely byzantine machinations and intrigues on the far left.

    Communist types find themselves between a rock and a hard place. They realize that top down social engineering, which is explicitly anti-growth, is no way to attract the sympathies of the proletariat. But they also very much believe AGW is real, happening, and must be addressed.

    But now the Green primary vote is approaching 15%, it is clear a lot of that is very soft, much is single issue and/or protest, and will revert back to the majors at the drop of a hat.

    Rhiannon types had red nappies bought for them while they were in the womb, and saw The Greens as a godsend to hide within, and incubate, after the fall of the Berlin Wall when marxist products were all so defective.

  17. Posted September 12, 2010 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    You talk so much poop, Adrien.

    I’m Taurean. We’re inclined to bullshit.

    Please give us the names of some of these “policy vessel stacking communists” to whom you refer.

    My, as I said, impression of the party is thru the prism of one branch in addition to my familiarity with Comm Party people when I was an undergrad and, obviously, the Gosplan style of their policies.

    Just my impression. Am I mistaken?

    Viz naming names: I’m disinclined, for the reasons you yourself gave above.

  18. Posted September 12, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Rhiannon types had red nappies bought for them while they were in the womb, and saw The Greens as a godsend to hide within, and incubate, after the fall of the Berlin Wall when marxist products were all so defective.

    A couple of those Comm Party types ran a ticket as ‘Watermelons’ way back when, both Greens now. They were roasted at a Christmas dinner receiving an award for proving that ‘red plus green made brown’. 🙂

  19. Peter Patton
    Posted September 12, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think there is any doubt that NSW communists are classic entryists.

  20. Posted September 13, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    Desipis @56 Glad you liked the link.

    I should probably add that my assessment of corporations threat to liberty is more short term. I think that although the government has more ability it coerce us it also has checks and balances. Corporations don’t have these checks and to a certain extent are able to circumvent the governmental checks to get the government to enforce their will.

    One can reasonably argue corporations have more checks and balances. After all, they have to get far more regular and specific consent for their income than governments do, they can be driven into bankruptcy, can be sued for any action (if it generates an actionable tort), have no “off limits” assets etc. Any lack of accountability is usually the result of regulatory privilege.

    They can be a focused interest group, with significant resources in areas of direct interest. But they do not exactly have many votes in their pockets, have some distinct PR disadvantages and are often up against serious political competitors. Areas where their effect does seem to be distinctly noxious are generally things like intellectual property, where it is a classic focused-interest group trumping general interest, but there is nothing terribly specific to corporations in that.

  21. PAUL WALTER
    Posted September 14, 2010 at 1:30 am | Permalink

    Well, chastened as the writer was in the wake of SL’s accusation that he “flew too close to the wind”, he settled down, suitably humbled, for tonight’s episode of Media Watch.
    Can you imagine my disbeleiving outrage when I dicovered that “Media Watch”, too, had made the same sinful error of criticising the Murdoch press and the Chris Mitchell McCarthyite beat up on the Greens Lee Rhiannon?
    Here was I almost rehabilitated at re education camp gitmo, when these cheeky ABC people come and undermined the whole, the very plank of, my re education.
    Well, had better dust off the old valve wireless under the bed and start sending back messages back to Soviet Moscow- the rumour of the Wall falling nearly a generation ago is obviously that; just a rumour, and we do need to get those secret messages out to the Soviet panzer army corps waiting in the Rocky Mountains to attack South Dakota, just like “Posse Commitatus”, “Aryan Nation” etc, say.

  22. Posted September 14, 2010 at 4:17 am | Permalink

    [email protected] Being intrigued by your reference to Media Watch having “dealt” with the issue of Ms Rhiannon, I looked at the episode online. Yes, typical “Media Watch”. Much gratuitous sneering, precious little substance. There was far more actual information on Ms Rhiannon in one comment by SL @44 than in what Media Watch managed to put together with how many research assistants?

    Typical public sector inefficiency, clearly. Especially since Mark Aarons has happily been interviewed on ABC about other matters, such as there was a Canberra spy ring and so forth.

    Or maybe one role of “Media Watch” is to point and sneer at journalists who wander off the reservation?

  23. desipis
    Posted September 14, 2010 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    [email protected],

    they have to get far more regular and specific consent for their income than governments do

    While that may be true for specific individual transactions, the actions they take in order to be able to offer such transactions and thus dominate the market are not subject to such constraints. It’s also a stretch to equate this to a democratic system. Unlike democracy, individuals potentially have to make significant personal sacrifice to ‘vote’ in the market.

    they can be driven into bankruptcy

    Which in no way undoes any damage to society.

    can be sued for any action (if it generates an actionable tort)

    Not by those who cannot afford length legal representation.

    have no “off limits” assets

    They do have limited liability, off shore shell companies, etc that can isolate them from the down side of their actions, particularly when risk is involved.

    Ultimately the problem is that the system treats people, communities and corporations as equals when there are significant inequities involved.

  24. desipis
    Posted September 14, 2010 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Interestingly, the paper on the moral psychology of libertarians indicates they score high on systematic thinking.

    Interestingly, I feel that I disagree with libertarians mostly due my systematic thinking.

  25. Posted September 14, 2010 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    [email protected]

    the actions they take in order to be able to offer such transactions and thus dominate the market are not subject to such constraints

    Dominate which markets? Look at the rates of return on capital for, say, Coles. If you are a Coles manager, you are worrying about fractions of cents. This is not exactly a body in a “dominant” position. All their income comes from acts of consent in one form or other.

    It’s also a stretch to equate this to a democratic system. Unlike democracy, individuals potentially have to make significant personal sacrifice to ‘vote’ in the market.

    Yes, they do, which means they pay more attention to it. Such “votes” are also far more specific. Market consent is typically much more regular, specific and fine-grained than political consent, with far more come-backs. Hence the differences in the quality of the products.

    Not by those who cannot afford length legal representation

    Which is why Slater&Gordon (which nurtured our esteemed PM) and various advocacy groups exist.

    That corporations can be driven into bankruptcy limits the damage they can do. And while there are various legal measures available, they are not all that practical for a corporation of any size.

    Generally, when corporations are a serious problem, it turns out that it is really a political problem at bottom.

    My point is not that corporations are blameless or perfect, but that their noxiousness tends to be over-rated, their virtues undervalued and the relative problems exaggerated.

    Corporations are thick on the ground in societies people want to live and thin on the ground in societies people try to leave: there is a reason for that.

  26. desipis
    Posted September 14, 2010 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    No, Coles would never do anything economically destructive for their own benefit. Woolworths wouldn’t either.

    Yes, they do, which means they pay more attention to it. Such “votes” are also far more specific.

    The problem with such a system is the inherit gravity of wealth within it. Those with more money get more “votes”. With those votes they shift the system so they get better returns on their money. This gives them more “votes”. Rinse. Repeat.

    Note, I’m not arguing against markets or corporations, just un(der)regulated versions of such.

  27. Posted September 15, 2010 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    [email protected] I fail to see how corporations falling foul of the Trade Practices Act is a sign that there is some problematic about corporations in other than “they are human things” sense. I am not, after all, trying to argue they are blameless, perfect or should not be subject to the law.

    The problem with such a system is the inherit gravity of wealth within it. Those with more money get more “votes”. With those votes they shift the system so they get better returns on their money. This gives them more “votes”. Rinse. Repeat.

    Which seems a fine point until one looks at how things actually operate. Then one notices that corporations are very fluid over time — trace which corporations are in the top 100 or top 500 over time, there is a lot of flux over the decades. One also notices that prosperity and opportunity — particularly for the marginal — is better in societies with lots of corporations.

    just un(der)regulated versions of such

    Everyone who is not an anarcho-capitalist is against things being “under-regulated”, the question is where the balance lies. It is noticing that a lot of regulation privileges economic actors — particularly well-connected economic actors — which is the beginning of wisdom in such matters.

  28. desipis
    Posted September 15, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Lorezo,

    My point with Coles and Woolworths was it was an example of corporations (without support of the government) taking action to reduce the choices available to people, which is a very direct limitation on the day to day freedom people have. In those particular cases there was regulation in place to provide disincentives but that isn’t always the case. The fact that those two corporations are continually being investigated indicates that current regulations aren’t strong enough to discourage action.

    Which seems a fine point until one looks at how things actually operate.

    My views are based on the practical outcomes where in many capitalist countries the divide between rich and poor is increasing. A trend which started around the same time as Reagan started pushing the “small government/free-market” policies and rhetoric.

    It is noticing that a lot of regulation privileges economic actors — particularly well-connected economic actors — which is the beginning of wisdom in such matters.

    I don’t disagree. I do think however, that corporations are a significant tool used to achieve this corruption of the regulation. Another point is that a lack of regulation in a capitalist economy also privileges certain economic actors in ways that are detrimental to the economy and society as a whole; those arguing against regulation are just as likely to be self interested as those arguing for it.

  29. Posted September 15, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Another point is that a lack of regulation in a capitalist economy also privileges certain economic actors in ways that are detrimental to the economy and society as a whole

    Please witness Tony Blair’s refurbishment of rural England to suit Wal-Mart.

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