Food For Thought #14: Australia And The ‘American Way’

Sometimes a really nice comparison graphic suiting your particular bandwagons just falls into your hands.  This one came as part of an email and was published originally in the New York Times of February 19, 2011.  It was entitled ‘America’s Shame’, and looking at it from an Australian perspective it could quite easily be retitled ‘Pretty Bloody Good Australia!’, or ‘America – Not the Preferred Model!’  So here’s the graphic.

We’ve been down a similar track before in earlier posts. Food For Thought#8: The Gini (Coefficient) Of The Lamp – Or, Are We A Country of Inequality? and Food For Thought #9: It’s Confirmed! – Australian’s Are A Bunch of Hanrahan’s*This graphic serves to reinforce the points made in those particular posts and to generate some additional cogitation.

Judging from messages coming from Tony Abbott and the Coalition conservatives there seems to be a desire to take this country down a free-marketeering, minimalist government regulation and protection, free-wheeling, carpet bagging emulation of how America operates.  Why one wonders do they seek to turn this country into one where inequality is rampant, democracy is traduced, people’s well-being is reduced, food insecurity is increased, life expectancy is decreased, there’s an increased prison population and student performance is woeful?  Consider the information in the graphic and decide for yourself which country you’d prefer to be living in.  Against every comparator America fares worse than Australia (and most other countries). In fact Australia is well and truly amongst the top of the heap.  I don’t think I’ll be moving overseas on a permanent basis any time soonAnd I’m particularly disinterested in the ‘American Way’ coming here!

Surely our models should be those Advanced Economies in the list that have the best scores for the measures compared and, Australian government policy should be directed towards achieving the best outcomes for each measure? Shouldn’t it?  If a government isn’t working to achieve such goals then perhaps they shouldn’t be in Government?

And yes, I know that we have to be fiscally responsible but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be working towards ‘World’s Best’ in all these measures whilst keeping within our means.

Some Tony Abbott statements made during his recent visit to America and speech to The Heritage Foundation are below.  The foundation is an American conservative think tank with the stated mission to; ‘formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values and a strong national defence’.  I get the feeling that the Foundation is not too far removed from the ultra-conservative Tea Party and holds Adam Smiths ‘Free Market Capitalism’ and ‘Invisible Hand’ dear to their hearts*.

Tony Abbott: “The Heritage Foundation’s support for free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional values and strong national defence; and its mission to promote freedom, opportunity, prosperity, and civil society closely correspond with the objectives of my own party.”

“Few Australians would regard America as a foreign country”.  “We are more than allies, we’re family.”

“. . . . . . . , the more other countries come to resemble America, the more likely they are to be forces-for-good in the wider world.”

Well Tony: a) I suspect that the Foundation is just a tad more radical than your view; b) No, we are not family, nor are we part of some fanciful ‘Anglosphere’ and; c) think Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, South America, Iraq, Afghanistan.

So, would I druther live in Australia, or in a country where rampant capitalism treats people as commodities, where government regulations are so loose that economic manipulation and rorting are widespread (think GFC, housing crisis, bank collapses), where if you can’t pay through the nose for health care you don’t get it, where 1% of the population controls 40% of the countries wealth, where wages for the rich have surged and the poor have become poorer and, where restaurant workers rely on tips for a living wage?

And, would I want to give my vote to a political party that seeks to make Australia more like America?  Now that really is food for thought  . . . . . .!

 *Adam Smith used the term ‘Invisible Hand’ to describe the natural force that guides ‘Free Market Capitalism’ by way of competition for scarce resources.  The reasoning being that in a free market each participant acts to maximise self-interest and the interaction of market participants leading to the exchange of good and services.  This enables each participant to be better off than when just producing for themselves.  Smith also considered that no regulation of any type would be required in a free market since the invisible hand would guide market participants to trade in the most mutually beneficial manner.

PS:  I must admit though that I prefer John Maynard Keynes: “Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.”

About deknarf

Australian born and bred who has spent most of his working life in R&D and IP management with earlier forays in the newspaper industry and martial arts. Fortunate enough to be living in one of the best countries in the World, even though I might get grumpy with it from time to time.
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