How much inequality is enough?

I was going to write about ‘social justice’, because it has been cropping up a few times in the last week or so. In fact this essay is about inequality, once again, because I want to deal with one aspect of it before embarking on ‘social justice’. And that aspect is how much inequality can a community accept without much unhappiness. It is well known in the literature that people in general consider their own economic position by comparing it with those whom they encounter constantly (hence ‘keeping up with the Joneses’) rather than with that of, for example, the Queen or Bill Gates. And I’ve been pondering about why that might be so, and why there isn’t for example, a great outcry about how much money some people get for their work (leaving aside vice-chancellors, a group I will return to).

Thirty years ago I visited the home of the National Science Foundation in Washington DC on a fact-finding trip, which taught me a great deal about how parochial we in Australia were in terms of research funding and research policy. I learned from a wise man at NSF about the sheer scale of the USA. They had no national policy, really, in the fields I was interested it. Their attitude was a bit like Mao Zedong’s ‘let a thousand flowers bloom’, though I doubt I mentioned the comparison at the time. He pointed out that if you could provide something cheap that every American wanted you would sell around 300 million of them at a dollar each. Your share was only ten per cent. Bad luck! You only made thirty million dollars. We talked about many other things, like inventories, and cash flow, and the small role, really, of invention, in the final outcome, compared to development and commercialisation.

But it was that issue of scale that stayed in my mind. The world has become more global since then, and world GDP has increased, perhaps five times, since the mid-1980s. Impressed as I was then with the scale of the USA, seen as a society and an economy, today’s global world, in which billions of people have the kind of income that allows discretionary spending of many kinds, provides a much larger canvas. The ten top movies of 2016 earned about US3.5 billion in the USA, while two films Avatar and Titanic, alone have earned about $US 5 billion, about two thirds of that money coming from outside the USA. You have a small piece of a film that does well? You will quickly have a great deal of money. Alec Guinness thought Star Wars, the original one, was an appalling story, though fun to do, and his little share of the proceeds brought him a nice house and kept him in comfort for the rest of his life.

When what you do has global ramifications, and it does well, you will do well, whether you are a consulting geologist, an inventor of interesting defence bits and pieces, or a lawyer with a handle on international trade. I am thinking here of people whom I have known over the years. They all have earned far, far more than I have, and I don’t begrudge them their prosperity. Even an aspiring second-level tennis player like Nick Kyrgios can count his winnings in millions (about twelve of them now, I would think). Golfers, and other sportspeople can earn huge amounts of money.

OK, that’s point one. Point two is that if you have a lot of money, and you manage it well, it will grow and grow. After a while, you simply stop spending it on more clothes, boats, cars, houses and the like, though some try. You have become wealthy, really wealthy, or ‘seriously rich’. While I accept that there are some who got that way through inside knowledge or criminal activity, there will be much larger numbers who have become wealthy through skill, effort and persistence. Once you are wealthy it may take you and your family a hundred years to get rid of the money (‘clogs to clogs in three generations’). My extended family all came from poor backgrounds. They moved from blue-collar into white-collar jobs, and into the professions. They were all provident, and as they have died their estate have passed to their children, who are almost all more comfortably off than their grandparents. None of us is rich. None of us won Lotto. We are good examples of the Australian middle class.

Point three is the extent to which the community accepts rapid elevations of wealth, and then the persistence of it. My own sense of it is that no one much cares. They would all like more, or at least, there are moment when they would all like more. That it is somehow wrong that Nick Kyrgios has so much does not, I think, worry them. That the younger Packer and the younger Murdochs all have squillions — well, life’s like that, isn’t it. To those who think great wealth is ‘obscene’ while there are poor people, all I can say is that it has always been like that. And then I would follow it up with, ‘how much inequality will you accept?’ And then ‘why that much?’ — always assuming that the conversation got any further. I would point out that all the indices show that world poverty is declining quite steadily, and that more and more countries are moving out of the ‘undeveloped’ into the ‘developing category’, while some of those in the latter group are becoming wealthy like us. Even India has a middle class of 70 million or so, and the Chinese middle class is of the same size. The lower bounds make these middle classes poorer than ours, but the numbers and the upper bounds are growing quickly.

I don’t have an answer, and I’m not sure inequality offers us a question that is worth answering. About how much people should be paid who work in organisations that are funded mostly from the public purse, however, I do have views, and my central one is that the salary paid to the CEO must bear some arguable relationship to the salaries paid to others in that organisation, and not at all because people in other organisations are getting more, or that ‘if you pay people peanuts you get monkeys’. In the higher education world, currently under a little scrutiny, I opted, when I was asked by the Chancellor how much I should be paid, for a salary double that of a professor (in those days they were all paid the same). That seemed right to me, and I raised my eyebrows at colleagues elsewhere, whose packages were approaching a million. I do not think that heads of Commonwealth departments should be paid more than the PM, nor that those running Commonwealth agencies should be paid annual salaries in the millions. But no one has sought my advice on this matter.

As I have argued in earlier essays, I do not think that fussing over ‘inequality’ gets us anywhere, unless we are talking about inequalities in access to publicly provided health, or justice, or education. And with respect to health and education, if you want to spend your money on a quicker operation or a ‘better’ school I find it hard to see why you shouldn’t be able to do so. We are not short of doctors or schools save in the remote areas. Yes, people with lots of money have access to governments that the rest of us don’t have. So does the ACTU. So does the AMA. That’s the way it is. Large clusters of money and influence are always interesting to governments. All the remedies are I have heard for dealing with the imagined evil effects of money and power push us further in the direction of more powerful government. I am unpersuaded that is at the way to go.

In a compassionate society there ought to be a floor for those faced with catastrophe of some kind. We have such floors. I’m not opposed in principle to lowering them, but I want to see the best case, with all the costs, not just the benefits.

Oh, and how much inequality will you accept as enough? And how would you go about producing a world in which you achieved your goal?

Join the discussion 56 Comments

  • Bryan Roberts says:

    Don, I am aware of David’s respect for me, but apparently it now extends to trying to be me. The ghost is still in the machine.

  • BoyfromTottenham says:

    Hi Don, thanks for another thought-provoking article from your good self. I agree with the points that you make regarding inequality, executive salaries, etc., and like you I do not begrudge successful people their wealth. These days, expression of compassion for the poor and disadvantaged seems to have been turned into ‘victimhood’, and ‘the poor (or any disadvantaged group)’ seem to have turned into ‘minorities’, both of which labels are emotive and are generally unhelpful. I have read several articles recently that blame this change of language on ‘cultural Marxism’. Regardless of the cause, this change of language seems to me to make it much more difficult to discuss these issues in a rational and dispassionate way. Maybe that is what was intended. I’m glad that sensible folk like yourself still exist to provide a balanced view of social issues using clear and objective language that we can readily engage with. A pity that we don’t see more of this in our mainstream media these days.

  • Aert Driessen says:

    Thanks Don, another thought-provoking piece so please keep writing. I don’t have the wherewithal to answer your question at a policy level (no time nor policy experience) but I can provide a reaction. I have never been driven, even half-heartedly, to keep up with the Jones’. Instead, I have drawn from past experience. I have survived times of not having enough and when that situation turns around, having enough engenders feelings of gratitude. I have always felt that gratitude is one of life’s most powerful forces. In 1971 I resigned from an international oil company to take up a job in Canberra at half the salary just to escape Sydney pressures and experience more of family life. It is the best decision I have ever made. I abhor people who get paid obscene amounts of money for no good reason (I hope that that young woman knocks off John Coates from the Australian Olympic Committee later today). I have always felt that being a good CEO requires little more than sound common sense, respect for others, and knowing who to ask for advice. I still have ‘enough’ and it is a wonderful feeling.

  • margaret says:

    No individual person can make one iota of difference to the growth of inequality in a global world and our awareness of its increase.
    Those of us who have no possibility of attaining wealth nor any actual desire of being King Midas, just keep on truckin’.
    Many of us enjoy the beauty of the natural world, our kids, our grandkids, and our own creative imaginations, because we know what happened to King Midas, and no-one lives forever.
    That doesn’t answer any questions raised in this essay because, there are none.
    I feel middle class but it’s not the same middle class that many say they belong to who have monetary wealth they’ve accrued in various ways (be it real estate or shares etc.), but who hate the thought of the word wealth being applied to their situation.

    • Bryan Roberts says:

      Wealth is when you can afford the dog food; mere affluence is when you don’t have to think about eating it.

  • Chris Warren says:

    I do not think inequality is a problem where it is due to skill, luck, and/or inheritance. The real problem is any tendency for inequality to increase over time.

    Another factor is that some inequality is due to different individuals’ productivity, but some is due to exploitation and this can spiral out of control.

    In the case of an American selling $300 million and receiving 10% [$30 million], this is a windfall profit, which under free markets, will be competed away. This should cause any inequality and we all get the benefit of what ever innovation the $300 million represented. Fair competition and ensuring that those who are productive get the value equal to their productivity, may result in inequality, and even bankruptcy for some, but this is the natural way of things.

    As Picketty noted the real problem occurs when some get a return that is greater than productivity, as this inplies than others get returns that are less than their productivity. This form of inequality is highly dangerous.

  • Patrick says:

    It is obvious that everyone in the community needs enough to house, clothe & feed themselves and their dependants.
    The inequality which really worries me, Don, is the one whereby the government’s welfare bill exceeds the aggregate PAYE tax. I have no problem with community support being provided to those who genuinely need it but I have first hand experience of 3rd generation welfare dependants who have no motivation to contribute anything by way of effort or responsibility. A friend of one of my sons graduated with a degree in archeology from ANU and for at least a decade managed to evade any gainful employment. (He would present humself unkempt & unwashed at any ‘job interviews’.) I wonder how prevalent such attitudes are. Like you, I do have a problem with some of the ‘obscene’ salaries paid to some individuals e.g. CEOs even after they have presided over huge failures, job losses and have moved on to yet another company after receiving a golden handshake.

    • margaret says:

      What happened at the end of that decade though? Is your son’s friend’s inability to productively use his architecture degree for ten years any more detrimental to ‘equality’ than the Westconnex chief’s apparently amazing productivity that earns him $3000 per week?

    • BoyfromTottenham says:

      Chris, I have a problem with your quote from Picketty that ‘some get a return that is greater than productivity, as this inplies (sic) than others get returns that are less than their productivity. This form of inequality is highly dangerous.’. If you can think of a way to meaningfully measure a person’s productivity and relate this to their (presumably financial) ‘returns’ then you are ahead of most economists. I am a co-founder of a new tech start-up, and would love to know how to do this. Instead I just carry on working as hard and smart as I know how, and hope that my ‘returns’ eventually justify all my hard work. Otherwise I will lose my investment – so be it. And why you should agree that such a situation is ‘highly dangerous’ I cannot fathom. Do you fear that someone (e.g. you?) might be disadvantaged by my (future) success as an entrepreneur? If so, you need to remember that a countries’ wealth is only ever created by the private, risk-taking sector (although Monsieur Picketty may think differently, being French). As Ayn Rand put it so well in ‘Atlas Shrugged’, if the private sector wealth creators were to go on strike, the economy would grind to a halt, and all the rent-seekers, layabouts and bureaucrats would be shown up for what they are – mere parasites on the body of those who created the wealth that they demand a share of. As Don says, inequality is a natural state, but individuals have a responsibility for their own self-improvement, not a right to demand a share of wealth that they had no part in creating. Or do you live in France?

      • Chris Warren says:

        BoyfromTottenham

        Yes there is a problem measuring “productivity”. It is a lousy term. But in a business sense, why not just take a market view and say if I sell a commodity for $100, then my productivity is $100 divided by the period involved.

        However if you try to measure productivity based on “returns” you end up with problems because “returns” are always competed away [according to Marshall’s economics]. Production continues nevertheless.

        Ayn Rand is correct but biassed. Her statement applies to any and all factors of production so, in effect, is meaningless.

  • Chris Warren says:

    In the above:

    The sentence, ” This should cause any inequality and we all get the benefit ….”

    should read, ” This should not cause any inequality and we all get the benefit

  • Boambee John says:

    As a former Commonwealth public servant, I particularly endorse your comments on public service remuneration.

    Public servants, at any level, and others paid by taxpayer money, should not become markedly wealthier than the general run of taxpayers who pay their salaries.

    Heads of Commonwealth departments who are paid more than the PM are overpaid, as are judges, heads of statutory authorities or government business enterprises (Australia Post is a particularly egregious example).

    I have pondered for a while whether government remuneration should be linked to AWOTE. Perhaps five or six tines AWOTE for the PM and judges, down a bit for other ministers, a bit more for heads of departments/statutory authorities/GBEs, and down the pyramid.

  • Boambee John says:

    five or six times, not tines!

  • spangled drongo says:

    In the big inequality picture as third-world standards rise to match western standards of living, as you note in your comments about China and India, you would expect this to have a negative effect on western standards of living but ever-increasing govt welfare and employment is filling the gaps in the lost manufacturing jobs that the west is suffering. This is leaving western countries with huge, incurable, budget deficits which at least limits their purchases from these new world manufacturers by devaluing their currencies and making their exports more competitive. There seems to be a serious competition among western countries to see who can out deficit and devalue the other.

    The net result in global terms is expected to enormously reduce inequality but will the expected rising tide float everybody’s boat?

  • margaret says:

    “Point three is the extent to which the community accepts rapid elevations of wealth, and then the persistence of it. My own sense of it is that no one much cares. They would all like more, or at least, there are moment when they would all like more. That it is somehow wrong that Nick Kyrgios has so much does not, I think, worry them. That the younger Packer and the younger Murdochs all have squillions — well, life’s like that, isn’t it. To those who think great wealth is ‘obscene’ while there are poor people, all I can say is that it has always been like that. And then I would follow it up with, ‘how much inequality will you accept?’ ”

    I can accept Nick Kyrgios having earned so much. The rapid elevations of CEO’s salaries, I can’t accept.
    Nick Kyrgios and elite athletes like him provide the opiate for the masses. Most CEO’s give nothing back (I have to say ‘most’ because for all I know perhaps some do, but not for public enjoyment). Where’s the philanthropy from their massive executive salaries? If it exists why don’t we hear about it?

    • margaret says:

      “The big change happened in the 1990s. In 1965 the multiple was 20, and by 1978 it had risen only to 30. The next decade, going into 1990 saw the multiple rise to 60. But then from 1990 to 2000 it jumped from 60 to well over 300 – where it has averaged since. So it was long ago that large company CEO pay made its huge gains, and such compensation has now become the norm.

      But this does rile some folks. After all, when a hired CEO makes more in a single workday (based on a five day week) than the worker does in an entire year, justification does become a bit difficult. And when we recognize that this has happened in just one generation it is a sea change.”

      2015 article in Forbes “Why CEO’s Make so Much Money”

      https://www.forbes.com/sites/adamhartung/2015/06/22/why-ceos-make-so-m uch-money/

      Even though it’s an American article, Australia follows and it would seem that for CEO’s the late ’90’s was the just the beginning of the time to make your pile.
      I find it gross.
      Average workers cannot afford the increases in costs of living that occur as a result.
      That’s how much inequality is enough.

  • BB says:

    I as do the rest of you I live in a capitalist country. We espouse free enterprise and free-market as the operating principles. In this system there are winners and losers. How successful the winners are is not really a problem between them and myself. It is a problem with the system or maybe not. If a company or other organisation chooses to pay its executives obscene amounts of money it really does make me very envious. But I don’t think I have any sensible reason to complain. They stand or fall by their decisions and the market will decide the validity of their operation. When it comes to the losers though I think it is reasonable for government in our society to ensure the quality-of-life for losers if they are considering eating the dog food is one commentor remarked.

    A read an article once which stated when there is an economic downturn large supermarket chains note that the purchases of pet food goes up! Welfare though can be fairly insidious it buys votes from a stupid public. You give the populace benefit and then you tax them to pay for it and they are grateful? Our current governments are full of unneeded function which is evidenced by the continual expanding intrusion into our lives. No cost benefit analysis is done, introduce new regulations on a whim and then set up government departments to administer them. I do have a problem with the very large salaries for departments, particularly those that I think should be abolished. One of which I would nominate is the ABC.

    As for inequality we are headed for a welfare system where we should all have exactly the same standard of living. That means that if James Packer has an oceangoing yacht the government should provide one for each of us! If the government cannot afford it then obviously oceangoing yachts should be banned.

    • spangled drongo says:

      Well said, BB. As long as the “losers” get enough to sustain them but not enough to comfort them, then the system is working.

      Modern govts are over doing it.

      I can recommend that pet food, especially when backpacking. It’s usually packaged much smaller and lighter than human food and those kitty kat specials are quite fancy.

    • Chris Warren says:

      BB

      A capitalist society is not described as:

      free enterprise and free-market as the operating principles.

      In order to obtain a “capitalist” profit you must have some degree of monopoly or restrictive trade practice.

      Truly “free enterprise” and truly “free-markets” would be some form of non-capitalist merchantilism.

      • spangled drongo says:

        Ain’t it wunderbar how the BCs of this world who thrive of unlimited red and green nannytape don’t believe in copyright or being able to patent your own ideas and inventions.

        They think the only “free market” is piracy?

  • margaret says:

    “… the wealth of our country is created by every Australian. You can create wealth by owning a business, but you can also create wealth by working for a business. You can create wealth by working on the top floor of an office tower, but you also create wealth working down a mine, in a factory, in a shop, in a hospital, in a music studio, a kindergarten, a school, a TAFE college and a university. We are all wealth creators, and the inference that small business owners, union members, the low-paid, the poor, the old and the ill have no legitimate voice in our economic debates, and have no right to share in our national wealth, is one that I’ll fight to my last breath.”
    Wayne Swan

    … no surprise to anyone that I agree with the above, but if James Packer has an oceangoing yacht (Mariah Carey enjoyed life on board for a while), I don’t care and I’m not expecting to have one also.
    I doubt whether anyone in the queue at Centrelink wants one, they’re scrabbling for the cash to pay for their groceries in Aldi and the non pet owners are trying to avoid the rows of dog food.

    • spangled drongo says:

      Oh dear, marg can’t tell the difference between the makers and the takers.

      Just because Wayney-poo says they’re the same it must be so.

      I wonder if the Frogs are smart enough today to increase their employment and wealth by doing a Frexit.

  • spangled drongo says:

    Job quality and earnings equality:

    http://www.oecd.org/statistics/job-quality.htm

  • BoyfromTottenham says:

    Margaret, your Wayne Swan quote is a classic piece of Labor Party self-serving untruthfulness. As I said above (in an economic sense) “a countries’ wealth is only ever created by the private, risk-taking sector”. I’m sure that you understand that government taxes both our private ‘income’ (wages, etc.) and our ‘wealth’ (capital gains, business profits, etc.) to spend on what we all agree are socially useful activities such as defence, education, health, welfare and so on. In doing so the government necessarily redistributes a significant portion of privately generated and owned wealth from those who created it, to those who did not. In this quote he uses an untruth to confuse the issue of public and private wealth by first saying “You can create wealth by owning a business, but you can also create wealth by working for a business.”, and then follows this by saying ‘We are all wealth creators” (a line surprisingly similar to the “You didn’t build that” phrase used by ex-president Obama). In my opinion the key word that is missing before “business” here is “private” (or “non-government” if you prefer) – because, other than in socialist / communist economies, the private sector has to first generate the wealth before the government can tax it. That is why taxation by government (and kings for that matter) could appear only after countries reached a certain level of economic development, and not before. Interestingly, history tells us that prior to the imposition of such government (or royal) taxation, the private sector (in the relatively developed world at least) voluntarily used its own wealth to fund private armies, found schools and universities, and indeed to provide a level of health and welfare for its subjects. But please don’t ask Mr Swan to remind us of this.

    • margaret says:

      Boy from Tottenham
      I expect it all depends on whether one wants to live within a society or above it, high on the hill or behind a tall gated fence.
      If it’s the former as in my case, I’d like as little inequality as possible. So I’ll advocate for that basic universal income that may one day be a necessity for (as Strangled Drongo likes to brutally call them), the ‘losers’ of the now nightmare of capitalist greed.

      • spangled drongo says:

        Stop feigning imbecility to make a weak point, marg. You were a contributing school teacher, not a freeloader.

        You just happen to think you are a socialist with your holy grail in sight.

        Always be aware of the people who would rob you blind.

        The world has plenty of them but it is our “capitalist” western free market system that is the best operator for your well being that you are ever likely to stumble across.

        There’s a lot of wood amongst those trees if you actually look.

        • margaret says:

          That’s right I was a teacher who married young. Husband was a young electrical linesman with an Intermediate certificate by way of education. A can do attitude and a sharp mind meant he went on to do a range of other things, all of which helped us to bring up and educate three kids but none of which enabled security in retirement.
          Thank you Australian governments for the age pension because once a 66 year old has had a quad heart bypass, which he did a few years ago and returned to life with a vengeance, there is still little opportunity to find work. No violins, just facts. We’ve had a great life in the best of times.

          • spangled drongo says:

            That’s wonderful, marg. May you both live a long and happy life. You deserve it.

            My cheese’n’kisses and I don’t find it necessary to spend any more than the pension even though we don’t get one because we have some savings.

            Simple living is always the best. And you’re right. It has been the best of times in this country since WW2.

        • Chris Warren says:

          Stop feigning imbecility

          But clearly you are the imbecile ….

  • Ross says:

    Hi Don. A little off topic. Regarding where the centre of the political spectrum lies.
    Considering the conservative Government has just released what almost all are calling a ‘Labor’ Budget, would you agree that ‘The Centre’ of politics has moved to the left?
    Feel free to take a few days to reply.

    • ianl8888 says:

      > ” … would you agree that ‘The Centre’ of politics has moved to the left?”

      Nope, just the superficial definition of “Centre” as a leftoid attempt to control the debate by redefining language. A very common propaganda ploy – and may work if enough people pay no attention to the sleight of hand.

      > “Feel free to take a few days to reply”

      Low-level sarcasm – very droll from the glib set.

      • Ross says:

        Hi Ianl8888,
        Thanks for responding, but I don’t think you thought through my question.
        From what I have read in the MSM and rightish blogsites (Bolt etc.) The consensus is that The Federal Liberal/National Party has ‘Lurched’ to the left.
        How often do you hear the term Labor Lite, to describe the modern LNP?
        A constant complaint is that Turnbull must win back and appease the ‘conservative base’.
        From what has been reported on the latest budget, The LNP has decided to give the base a wide birth.
        So seeing the current government has decided to not bother ‘appeasing’ the conservative base, and I’m pretty sure that Labor or the Greens won’t fill that vacuum, that leaves a few minor parties upholding the needs and wants of this so called conservative base.
        About 15% of the population? (Feel free to challenge that number) Going on the last election, I think that’s what’s left after you take the LNP, Labor and Greens out of the equation.
        I don’t know anything about ‘redefining the language’ Ian. Just observing what is happening in front of us.
        Feel free to tell me where I have got it wrong. (I very well may have!)
        My low level sarcasm referred to often having to wait 3 days before seeing my post appear. Can make conversation a bit tricky, sometimes.
        Thank you Don for allowing me to respond to Ian’s thoughts.

        • ianl8888 says:

          > ” … I don’t think you thought through my question”

          Oh yes I have. You go on to quote all sorts of “meeja” notions but that is my exact point. Simply redefining words to suit your agenda, as the MSM do constantly, is just propaganda to push an agenda. My guess as such from your reply is that you are unaware of this perniciousness. You do it because you have not thought it through and perhaps don’t wish to.

          A simple example ? The very real difference between an hypothesis and a theory is almost never acknowledged in public discourse. In fact, some people actively try to prevent hypotheses being tested so that these may advance (or not) – probably because they fear being wrong. But pushing the line that the “Centre” is now to the left without first defining “Centre” is glibly shallow. Waffle won the Lower House by one NP seat without spruiking any detailed policies during the election campaign. The Senate became completely incoherent. This is not evidence of some trend in any direction, rather just indeterminate chaos. The MSM does not speak for the majority despite its’ concrete block of vanity in assuming it does.

          That Don Aitkin may or may not allow you to comment under 3 days is a “goal post mover”. As I said, you are of the shallow, glib set.

          • Ross says:

            Hi Ian8888.
            Thanks for your response.
            Shallow and glib? Quite possibly. I’ve been called worse.
            But…
            Do you think (after the latest budget) the current government is represents true conservative values?
            From what I have read from readers on conservative blogs, (Jo Nova, Andrew Bolt, Tim Blair, Larry Pickering, etc) the answer is a resounding no.
            All of these posts and articles have a list of demands that have to be met, to appease the ‘conservative base’. Tony Abbot often leads the conversation through the meeja.
            As you say, The current government did indeed squeak in with a one seat majority.
            Would you say, with the latest budget, that they have now appeased their conservative base? Honestly?
            From what I have heard from angry conservatives, the answer is…no.
            If anything, the Governments message appears to be (rightly or wrongly) “we don’t need you.”
            So if the Liberal Party has lurched to the left. Labor are to the left, and the Greens are over the hill and far away, left. Where do you think the current centre of politics lie? (It’s always shifting)
            Where is the major party that represents ‘true conservative’ values? One Nation? Bernardi Party? Can you see either one, or both, forming a government any time soon? (If you believe neither of these parties truly represent conservative values, what then?)
            The centre of politics has shifted, Ian.
            I didn’t write my post to enrage anyone, Ian. Just to ponder the what is actually happening around us. If I have it wrong, I’m happy for anyone to point out how. Feel free to have another bash.

            Thanks again for you thoughts.

          • margaret says:

            To Ross
            When ‘they’ don’t want to engage silence reigns … maybe the brain cogs turn too slowly to process such interesting comment.
            Maybe they’re rusted. As in rusted on.

        • Don Aitkin says:

          I’m sorry if you have had to wait for three days. The rule that applies to you is your comments go into moderation, which means I have to see them and approve. I try to do this (for you and others) at least once a day, but there have been times when I have been away from my desk, and in the bush for more than a day. It can’t have been often.

        • margaret says:

          I thought it was David who had to wait, now Ross also?! – what is the point of this rule and how does it become applied to individuals? Also, is it permanent?

  • Peter WARWICK says:

    Don, your new look site is very good. However, a suggestion. At the display point (before entry) of a topic, place “Latest comment is 10 May 2017 at 1600hrs” and make this clickable, which would lead to viewer to the latest comment. I am a regular viewer the site, and it would be handy to be able to navigate to the latest comment, rather than having to wander through all previous comments to find the most recent.

  • Don Aitkin says:

    There will be some more changes to the website in the next little while as I move servers. I hope to have sorted out some of the problems in that process.

  • […] What are we to make of it in contemporary Australia? What does it mean, what should it mean? If you search for meanings on line you will find, I think, an emphasis on equality, egalitarianism, and fairness. But of course that doesn’t get you very far. These are not the only things human beings desire. How much equality do you want? In what areas of life? How much liberty would you trade for how much equality? If we wish to be free to do what we like, following John Stuart Mill, we must allow others an equal freedom to do what they would like. What if I want to earn a whole lot of money, and I can do so being a first-class tennis player? And what if I were successful? Wouldn’t that make us unequal? I wrestled with some of that in my last essay. […]

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