Tag Archives: Ideology

What is Modern Monetary Theory?

Before we begin, let me just say this is not an introduction to Modern Monetary Theory (MMT).

I’ve been trawling my new local haunt over at Macrobusiness but to understand what I’m about to say (or rather quote) you will need to have some passing familiarity with Modern Money Mechanics.  What caught my eye was a comment by someone using the ever popular nom de guerre Montgomery Burns from July:

To the extent that MMT is a description of the operational and accounting realities it is not an ideology any more than me saying my car is white is an ideology [unless it is not white :) ]. If we get a budget surplus in this country we will have a private sector deficit (we run a current account deficit). That is just a statement of accounting e.g. when I asked Saul Eslake about this when he wrote a column a couple of months ago he produced treasury estimates that showed a decline in the private sector (in the event of a government surplus).

Some MMT commentators attach an ideological perspective to that operational understanding but people need to distinguish between editorial and fact. MMT is independent of ideology. As Harrison himself says MMT is not incompatible with libertarian views (because it is a description of the monetary system).

Most, if not all, economic ideologies seem to derive from gold standard days and apply gold standard thinking which is why they don’t get it and why they keep frakking up the economy, and why they can’t distinguish Greek debt from Japanese debt.

The short answer of course is one is sovereign in its own currency (it issues it) and the other is not.  I would love to see a copy of those treasury estimates Saul Eslake produced, assuming of course Burns recollections are correct.

I do note that Monty alternates pseudonyms but his gravatar is always consistent.


Racism and Nationalism

From 2005

What follows is a literary quote, if you can tell me who wrote it, you are well-rounded.

An empire country comprised of disparate peoples must always expect these little outbreaks of nationalism & racial discord. Its the nature of the insignificant to try to find some way to assert their importance. It’s pathetic, but racism is generally the last refuge of the unimportant.

I think the above speaks volumes in relation to the Cronulla Riots and perhaps on the other riots as well.

Racists come from all cultures and all walks of life often chew history over and over again and lay the blame of injustices and perceived injustices on the descendants that may or may not have caused it in the vain hope of gaining an advantage from it. They refuse to let go of the past and get on with their lives. They will live in a perpetual state of ‘feeling sorry for themselves’.

Libertarian Stoush

I am not one that buys into the left/right dichotomy paradigm of political philosophies but I will use the terms if it helps to get a message across.

A few weeks ago there was a bit of debate about what the “Left” represent and it was well addressed across the blogosphere.

What I thought I would do is have a look at one of the sides that supposedly fits on the “Right”.  It is a fairly positive evaluation of one half of the Right’s constituency.

Written Late 2006

There has been a bit of a Libertarian Stoush going on around the place.

I must say I value many civil liberties but I also find aspects of the Libertarian philosophy repugnant.

Unlike others I don’t claim to be an academic or a variation of an elitist and I have not read monumental amounts of Liberal works.

That said, this is the best evaluation in support of Libertarianism I have ever read:

I evaluate the benefits of libertarianism through the notion of the Kantian ethical framework. This relies on individual autonomy as the greatest good, and the assertion of our humanity and individuality as categorical imperatives of the individual. From this, the role of the government must always be to support individual autonomy.

The way it can do that is by allowing individuals to essentially be free to act in their own accord, and solving collective action problems which threaten autonomy but otherwise cannot be solved by individuals. These collective action problems fall into one of three categories: life, liberty, or economic.

The first category is life. There are sets of circumstances in which the life of a member of a society is threatened, the individual cannot protect his or herself, and the value of autonomy (which relies on life and existence) is threatened. This collective action problem can be solved by government, usually by raising an army. In this case, the government can act to protect life, which protects autonomy.

The second category is liberty. Again, there are sets of circumstance in which the liberty of a member of a society is threatened, the individual cannot protect his or her liberty, and the value of autonomy (which relies on our ability to do as we please) is threatened. Again, this collective action problem can be solved by government, usually by creating and enforcing laws that guarantee liberty. In this case, the government can act to protect liberty, which can protect autonomy.

Finally, the third category is economics. There are sets of circumstances in which the functioning of an economy is threatened, the problem cannot be fixed by the individual, and the value of autonomy (which relies on a successfully working free market) is threatened. This collective action problem can be solved by the government, usually by breaking up monopolies and ensuring fair competition practices. In this case, the government can act to regulate markets, which can protect autonomy.

These are the benefits of libertarianism, and supported through the Kantian ethical framework, I hold that the protection of individual autonomy is the greatest good and cannot be sacrificed, no matter the cost. Anything that upholds individual autonomy is acceptable; anything that does not is not acceptable.

Liberty and Utility

Now for something a bit lighter than what has been posted over the last few weeks.  An initial look at liberty, freedom and other synonymous terms and an alternative.

This is a very generalised post written in late 2005.

Liberty is for Libertarians and those classed as Classical Liberals. Personally I can’t separate the distinction between Libertarians and Classical Liberals.

To most Liberty is about freedom.  So it is to Libertarians.

Liberty is about the freedom of choice.

Libertarians, the followers of the ideal of Liberty place only one restriction on people: that is that you do not force others to do what you want and prevent them from living by their own choices.

The major dilemma with Libertarians is that given the choice, they do not have to have concern for the social well-being of the rest of society.

Utility is the effective happiness and security of a group. In short, Utility is concerned with society’s welfare.

The major dilemma with utility is that what maximises utility under one set of circumstances may not under another. Utility is very context specific or judged on a case-by-case basis.

Utilitarians are willing to restrict the liberty of some to interfere with their choices, if doing so will promote greater benefit and general welfare of society than not doing so. This is something Libertarians cannot tolerate. As long as you are not interfering with other people’s choices, then no person, group, or government should disturb you in living the life you choose; not even if doing so would maximize happiness and security for the majority of society.

This is only the very basics of Libertarianism and Utilitarianism.

Liberty promotes choices. Utility promotes happiness. Which one do you prefer?

What is a Liberal?

In the Australian context, the two major political parties are the Liberal Party and Australian Labor.

The Liberal party is a fusion of classical liberals, libertarians and conservatives.

Classical Liberalism is a doctrine stressing the importance of human rationality, individual property rights, natural rights, constitutional limitations of government, the protection of civil liberties, an economic policy with heavy emphasis on free markets, and individual freedom from restraint.

Libertarianism believes that every person is the absolute owner of his or her own life and should be free to do whatever he wishes with his person or property, as long as he respects the liberty of others. There are two types of libertarians. One type holds as a fundamental maxim that all human interaction should be voluntary and consensual. They maintain that the initiation of force against another person or his property – with “force”  meaning the use of physical force, the threat of it, or the commission of fraud against someone – who has not initiated physical force, threat, or fraud, is a violation of that principle. Libertarians generally do not oppose force used in response to initiatory aggressions such as violence, fraud or trespassing. Libertarians favor an ethic of self-responsibility and strongly oppose the welfare state, because they believe forcing someone to provide aid to others is ethically wrong, ultimately counter-productive, or both. Libertarians also strongly oppose conscription because they believe no one should be forced to fight a war they oppose.

Conservatism is a political philosophy that favours traditional values. The term derives from the Latin, conservare, to conserve; “to keep, guard, observe”.  Since different cultures have different established values, conservatives in different cultures have different goals. Some conservatives seek to preserve the status quo, while others seek to return to the values of an earlier time, the status quo ante.

In Australia, Conservatives are mostly of the status quo ante variety believing that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. The rule of law above a monoculture of absolutes.

Conservatives want to conserve particular forms of human identity and relationships. These include:

– the relationship between members of an ethnic group based on a shared ancestry, culture, religion, history and language

– our masculine identity as men or feminine identity as women

– our role as fathers and mothers or husbands and wives within a family and our place within a family tradition

– marital love and paternal & maternal love

– our sense of connectedness to nature and our attachment to a particular locality

– a positive sense of our moral nature and of the existence of an objective moral order

Conservatives believe that historically, individuals did not create these things for themselves. Instead these forms of relationships grew in a distinctive way within a particular tradition. Some of these oppose the very idea of classical liberalism.

Collectively this fusion of philosophies like to govern in the manner of economic rationalism or neoliberalism as it is called in other parts of the world.

Neoliberalism refers to a political-economic philosophy that de-emphasizes or rejects government intervention in the domestic economy. It focuses on free-market methods, fewer restrictions on business operations, and property rights.

There are other similar definitions:

  • Government policy combining domestic free markets with coercive opening of foreign markets by political means
  • A philosophy that takes the conditions of the market to be the moral perfection of mankind and unconnected to efficacy of producing goods.
  • The rule of the market entirely by microeconomic units and rejection of macroeconomic concepts and hierarchies such as the good of the state and society.

With the wane of trade union influence on Australian politics we can focus more on today’s underlying philosophy of the Australian Labor Party than the communist and socialist affiliations of the traditional union.

Today’s Labor consists largely of social liberals and social democrats.

Social liberals value liberty, rights and freedoms, and private property as fundamental to individual happiness, and regard democracy as an instrument to maintain a society where each individual enjoys the greatest amount of liberty possible. While the State does have an important role in ensuring positive liberty, social liberals tend to trust that individuals are usually capable in deciding their own affairs, and generally do not need deliberate steering towards happiness.

Social democracy, on the other hand, has its roots in socialism, and (especially in democratic socialist forms) typically favours a more community-based view. While social democrats also value individual liberty, they do not believe that real liberty can be achieved for the majority without transforming the nature of the State itself. Social democrats retain a strong scepticism for capitalism, which needs to be regulated (or at least “managed” ) for the greater good. This focus on the greater good may, potentially, make social democrats more ready to step in and steer society in a direction that is deemed to be more equitable.

I believe sensible libertarians or their offshoot known as minarchists would also find a home in Australian Labor along with the social liberals. Minarchists have a consequentialist or utilitarian viewpoint. Instead of having moral prohibitions against initiation of force, Minarchists support a limited government that engages in the minimum amount of initiatory force (such as levying taxes to provide some public goods such as defense, law, and roads, as well as some minimal regulation), because they believe it to be necessary to ensure maximum individual freedom.

Today’s Labor also governs in the manner of economic rationalism but are not entirely against socialist or arguably social democratic principles of nationalising infrastructure and they are not opposed to intervention in the economy in a Keynesian manner.

So we have liberally applied intervention in Labor and liberally applied individual autonomy in the Liberals.

So I ask, what is a Liberal?

Kokoda Day

Kokoda Day, commemorates the day in 1942 that a small band of Australian soldiers re-took the township of Kokoda as part of a legendary campaign.

It is not an official holiday like ANZAC day that celebrates our great escape from Gallipoli or as some would say, our greatest war time loss. Not withstanding it is the battle that forged the greatest nation in the world, Australia.

Kokoda Day is about celebrating Australia’s greatest war time victory; The defence of the very nation itself.

Now there are a few who wish the date to be the 29th August in honour of Private Bruce Steel Kingsbury who earned the VC posthumously on this date.

In New Guinea, the Battalion to which Private Kingsbury belonged had been holding a position in the Isurava area for two days against continuous and fierce enemy attacks. On 29th August, 1942, the enemy attacked in such force that they succeeded in breaking through the Battalion’s right flank, creating serious threats both to the rest of the Battalion and to its Headquarters. To avoid the situation becoming more desperate it was essential to regain immediately lost ground on the right flank. Private Kingsbury, who was one of the few survivors of a Platoon which had been overrun and severely cut about by the enemy, immediately volunteered to join a different platoon which had been ordered to counter- attack. He rushed forward firing the Bren gun from his hip through terrific machine-gun fire and succeeded in clearing a path through the enemy. Continuing to sweep enemy positions with his fire and inflicting an extremely high number of casualties on them, Private Kingsbury was then seen to fall to the ground shot dead by the bullet from a sniper hiding in the wood. Private Kingsbury displayed a complete disregard for his own safety. His initiative and superb courage made possible the recapture of a position which undoubtedly saved Battalion Headquarters, as well as causing heavy casualties amongst the enemy. His coolness, determination and devotion to duty in the face of great odds was an inspiration to his comrades. 9th February 1943.

Or it could be on one of the days where Australian Forces took back control of the Kokoda track. At least this day will be on the correct day given our similar timezone with PNG, not a day early like we do with ANZAC day due to timezones.

It is said Gallipoli forged a nation (Ken Oath) and Kokoda saved a nation (Strewth).

Too Right I say.

Flag Flap

The Daily Telegraph reports today that NSW Premier Nathan Rees has called for a new national flag in a message for the upcoming National Flag day (I’ve never heard of it).  It is interesting that the focus is on the flag when the meat of Premier Rees suggests more of a dramatic change to the Constitution than the flag.  I think most people that follow politics and the boundaries of the current federal structure would be in favour of new federalism.  He also said to let it all naturally evolve or to use his words ‘grow organically’, so perhaps the report was taken just a little out of context.

Written Australia Day 2007

In the last five or so years it has become popular to literally wrap yourself in the flag.

I will not condemn the practice as if you cannot show pride in yourself and your country, what can you show pride in. Be aware of the cliche though, pride comes before the fall.

I’ve been a flag wrapper (not literally) for the past 15 years. I never understood why there were not more people like me.

There are those that claim these people are nationalists. Some of them may be. This mean it takes precedence over any other social and political principles. So consequently, if a perceived nationalist is against further immigration they claim it is racist. Nevermind the fact that the person may be genuinely concerned about a country’s sustainability.

How do they know these people are not patriots? Oh wait the critics wrap them up in the same rag as nationalists.

Patriotism is the ability to show pride in one’s country and to be able to criticise it. Nationalism does not allow this conceit.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, patriotism means:

One who disinterestedly or self-sacrificingly exerts himself to promote the wellbeing of his country; one whose ruling passion is the love of his country (J.); one who maintains and defends his country’s freedom or rights.

And nationalism is:

Advocacy of or support for the interests of one’s own nation, esp. to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations. Also: advocacy of or support for national independence or self-determination.”

The OED adds a note:

Whereas patriotism usually refers to a general sentiment, nationalism now usually refers to a specific ideology, esp. one expressed through political activism.

I have no qualms with the flag. I also do not mind if the flag is changed as long as I am happy with the end result.

Update:  I meant to include this the first time. Skepticlawyer puts the situation well.

Much as there was some idiot behaviour from various idiots at last year’s BDO, that behaviour is a function of idiocy, not the Australian flag.