The sine wave in politics

By November 17, 2020History, Politics

I’ve had another a spell in hospital, with ‘septic shock’, and this essay was written, ready to go, a week ago. No matter. It makes no less sense (or more) now than it did then.

A few weeks ago I was chatting with my grandson Jesse about his next assignment in Politics which centred on the right/left divide, and I put to him the issue of the slow move of bodies politic from one side to the other, a sort of sine wave, a gentle smooth regular movement like an ocean swell. You could see it happen over time, and you could see why. Since then I’ve been puzzling about the slow move, and think I was short-changing my grandson. In the USA Biden has about 75 million votes and Trump about 71 million. That’s nothing like a sweeping victory, and doesn’t add weight to the notion of a sine wave. So let me try to puzzle it out, using Australian data, rather than American.

I start with some potted history, which I should have thought about much earlier. Until everyone has the vote, you can’t have a sine wave. Or if you can, it’s of a different kind. First there were kings and nobles and knights and peasants. While the kings had the power, and were supported by the knights, there was nothing much the peasants could do. They weren’t asked to vote, and when voting arrived, it was for those with property who were so entitled. Voting for everyone came about in slow moves. In New South Wales, voting for men arrived in the 19thcentury, and for women at the end of that century.

Politics is always about who gets what, when, how, to take the title of a famous Politics book of the distant past by Harold D. Lasswell. Even when there were just kings and nobles, the king wanted more revenue to fight wars, and the nobles objected to finding the money, while the peasants really objected to more levies, since the nobles passed on the king’s demands to those peasants who worked for them. So there was a live political situation, which erupted from time to time in rebellions, and on one historic occasion into an agreement that we call the Magna Carta, the Great Charter, which set out restrictions of the power of the kings to do things in return for which they gained some rights to tax.

As England grew larger and more prosperous the business of financing a civil service as well as an army and a navy required even more money. By now there existed a lively and prosperous mercantile class, making and selling things. If they were to be taxed they would need a say in things too. So voting was extended to the wealthier of them, and as time passed the property limits were extended downwards. In any case there were many makers and traders, as England was increasingly the wealthiest of the European nations. What did the mercantile class want? Free trade, no restrictions on imports or exports, low taxes or rules, and all that went with them, like child labour, canal and railway building, and other infrastructure projects that would fatten their pockets.

Eventually, males gained the vote, in part because there was a growing fear that if they were not inside the tent they would be outside it, and pissing in. A more genteel take on that remark was that if they had a share in the growing prosperity of the nation they would fight to protect it, and their voice needed to be heard. European leaders like Bismarck of Germany were the first to argue this way, offering old-age pensions and unemployment relief. The British PM, the Marquess of Salisbury, took up this way forward. British women had longer to wait for their own vote. To go back to the beginning, it was not until all adults had the vote that it was meaningful to talk of a shift in the electorate from left to right and then back to left in some kind of regular way, so we are really talking about the 20thcentury and our own, not about the 19thcentury or earlier.

What did it mean? In the ‘beginning’, from 1901 onwards, people voted for the way of life they thought would benefit them most. In our case you were either for protection or you were for free trade. In NSW, with abundant land and income from land sales, most were for free trade. In Victoria, where land was relatively scarce and the bulging population drawn by the gold rushes needed something to do, making things for that population became the ruling dogma, and it was protectionist from the beginning. You can see its effects now more than a century later, such as the private funding of high schools and hospitals compared with the public funding of those institutions in NSW.

But before very long the free trade and protectionist tags were not enough to deal with the growing variety of political issues, and new political parties emerged to fill the gap. The Labor and Country Parties, both formed at the end of the 19thcentury, showed the way, and by 1910 the main non-Labor party, first and still called the Liberal Party (after a couple of intermediate name changes) was formed to oppose the ALP. In coalition with the Country (now National) Party, or as a single entity, it has been the right-wing alternative. From 1910 to the present you can sensibly talk about a movement to and from the left, but to do so  requires even more history.

The first half of the 20thcentury included two great wars and a major depression, following an earlier one in the 1890s. These events were hugely important in uniting people under new ideological banners — ‘socialism’, ‘freedom’, which allowed the formation of quite specific policy proposals. If you voted for one party’s candidate you were in effect voting for a specific way forward in policy terms. People found that useful. In 1910, for example, only Liberal and Labor candidates won seats in the federal election of that year, and shared 95 per cent of the vote. It was never so structured again, but from 1910 to the present the two major party groups have won a clear majority of the votes at every federal election, and there have been few truly independent MPs. Yes, there have been a few minor and splinter parties, but they have not lasted.

So the First World War brought on a split within the Labor Party, as did the Depression. The Second World War saw the reformation of the Liberal Party, a greater unity within the electorate, and indeed a move to the left. Labor was never more successful than in the1940s. Labor split again in the 1950s over ‘communism’, but for quite a time the Liberal/Country Party coalition was putting into practice a lot of Labor policies formed in the 1940. As Australia grew wealthier and more populous cries of ‘freedom’ and ‘individualism’ could be heard, and the sine wave moved to the right again. Why shouldn’t people spend their money on private health or private education? Who said so, and what was their reason? People voted to support the new right-wing mantras, and the political parties caught the drift. The Hawke/Keating budgets of the mid 1980s were a far cry from the Labor socialism of the 1920s.

Where are we now? A mixture, I think. We are divided, with a substantial proportion to the left, wanting the money tree to keep giving forth, while the provident, prudent conservatives are worried about where this will all end up. Inasmuch as it reveals itself in election result, the left is ahead.

Join the discussion 12 Comments

  • Chris Warren says:

    Good interesting essay, although those who may be characterised as:

    “wanting the money tree to keep giving forth” are not Left.

    They are various types of Keynesians and business lobbyists looking for their super-profits and monopoly-rents.

    According to journalist Patrick Commins in the “Australian” – 18 July, global debt (the money tree) is now at $388 trillion over 3 times global GDP.

    So it seems they are running the global economic system pretty much the same way as they are running the global climate system.

  • Karabar says:

    “In the USA Biden has about 75 million votes and Trump about 71 million.”
    How do we know this? Fifty years’s Engineering experience has taught me to skeptical about the data, and the data collection mechanism in particular.
    If there were no corruption, this might be the case.
    However, signed afficavits of former Dominion employees, as well as the server recovered from Frankfurt suggest that 38 milllion Trump votes were flipped to Biden.
    So, disregarding all of the distractions of thousands of ballots from dead people, duplilcate votes, harvested ballots, etc. the count is somewhere in excess of 109 million vs somewhat less that 37 million Biden. Given the size of the Trump rallies, and Joe campaign strategy of remaining basement bound, this seems much more realistic.

  • Karabar says:

    “t could surely not have been coincidental that Joe Biden chose 7th November to deliver a ‘victory’ speech to a couple of dozen Americans in a parking lot in Delaware. It was on 7th November 1917 that Petrograd was seized by the Bolshevik Party.”
    Jani Allan

  • dlb says:

    Sine curves describe simple harmonic motion, as seen in pendulums or the seasonal variation of daylight. Unfortunately to me politics seem a bit like a pendulum, in that polices don’t seem to live in the middle ground for long with noisy attractors at each end vying for the masses attention.

    I’d like to think there are dampers in the mechanism to keep things from getting too out of control, but in this internet age these dampers seem less effective.

    There is also a well known sine curve in the media, but despite it’s balanced logo, it seems to be stuck on the left side.

    Don, hoping you are out of hospital and on the mend.

  • Neville says:

    Don,I’m sorry you’ve had another stay in hospital. I hope you’re feeling better soon and are soon on the mend.
    This year has been a real political roller coaster and CV-19 will leave a legacy of debt and instability for decades into the future.
    I’m hoping that the US DEMS don’t win in the senate as I understand there’s an outside chance this could still happen. Biden/Harris are clueless and anything to throw a spanner in their crazy rush for more ruinables etc will make their spread more of a challenge for other countries.
    This is not the time to be wasting trillions $ on more of the S&W idiocy and their so called GND.

  • Karabar says:

    This year the pendulum has swung and may never be allowed to swing back. The people of the rural Midwest are solid. Especially farmers. One of them was kind enough to share her thoughts about the election. Here is Mary’s open letter to President Donald J. Trump, urging him to fight:
    “FREEEE-DOMM,” cries William Wallace at the most climactic moments of the movie Braveheart. And that noble and profound shout emanates and reverberates now, from the enormous heart of an admittedly—until 2016—unlikely man, namely, President Donald J. Trump.

    In this, an open letter to President Trump and to all Republican lawmakers, I offer an urgent message from a wife and mother who is raising up boys in the rural Midwest.
    Mr. President, I urge you to stay the course. Just as you have fought for all American workers, taxpayers, troops, veterans, the unborn, and many others, now you are fighting for the sanctity of the American vote. Please, I beg you, continue taking this election fight to the courts, just as William Wallace took his fight straight to the English. So much about these election “results” stinks. Normal people see it.

    And hear me, Republican party lawmakers across America, you are the “nobles,” from the Braveheart story. Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to dig deep and find some selfless heroism somewhere inside your collective souls so that we can change the Braveheart ending. To you, I say, stand with our Braveheart. Do not conspire against him for your own gain, lest you be remembered as the reason America’s election integrity was trashed forever without murmur in front of God and everybody, and our freedoms of speech, assembly, press, religion, to bear arms, and more were lost to a Harris—yes, Harris—administration.

    As a parent I have learned to “inspect what you expect.” Shouldn’t America do the same? In our home, a child’s coverup is a worse offense than any original disobedience. And so it should be in our great republic. Republican efforts to hastily move beyond the election, to ignore the brazen and audacious fraud committed in full public view, are nothing less than a coverup, and are thus a morally worse act than the original malfeasance.

    Even children watching on election night recognized that vote counting was mysteriously halted at the key moment and in the key states, at just the point when the President’s enormous leads could be rightly assessed (and algorithms deployed?). Even children found it “weird” that vote counting had to be paused for any reason whatsoever in a country as technologically advanced as ours. Since then, votes have been “found” and poll-watchers forcefully shut out, as Democrats scrambled—for 72 hours at this writing—to counter President Trump’s enormous leads. Wisconsin’s registered voter turnout was 90%, we’re told. Sure it was. And 47 Michigan counties suffered “computer glitches” in Mr. Biden’s favor. Right. We tell our children that “nothing good happens after midnight.” And so it was that votes for Mr. Biden were “dumped” in Michigan and Wisconsin at three and four in the morning on November 4. And the number of known dead persons who “voted” grows daily.
    And big tech and mainstream media sycophants have obliged their Democrat overlords by censoring and thwarting every rightful effort by at least half of this country’s citizens to discuss, organize, protest, or otherwise counter the Democrats’ long-planned dirty pool.

    Every illegal vote disenfranchises at least one American citizen, no matter their race, class, creed, gender or ideology. Are our Republican politicians and state and federal legislatures going to sit still for such malfeasance, like neglectful parents? If so, what reason will anyone have, going forward, not to cheat? Good parents know this. Why is it so hard for our Republican lawmakers to get on board and sound the alarm? Proper methodical investigations will either prove the wrongdoing, or debunk it. Either way the citizens of our country need to know, and, more to it, they have a constitutional and God-given right to know.

    And as for the non-elected class, will our Supreme Court continue to look the other way as, for example, Pennsylvania’s Democrats openly thwart the United States Constitution by bypassing their state legislature, and judicially changing election laws at the eleventh hour?

    Mr. President, on behalf of, not only myself, but also so many family, friends and neighbors, I profoundly thank you for everything you have selflessly done for our country since January 2017. We recognize and lament the egregious, relentless and baseless attacks you and your family have endured since your election, and we fully support you and your teams as you take this fight for the heart and soul of our great nation to the courts – instead of to the streets as I believe Mr. Biden would do in your place, and may still do, given the Democrats’ strong ties to Antifa and BLM.

    To our Republican lawmaker “nobles” currently doing nothing, or worse, I say, don’t be foolish—they are coming for you next. We must fight on—alongside President Trump—and, with God’s help, we must win. Our precious constitutional FREEEE-DOMMs, entrusted to us by our Founders, are now hanging in the balance.

  • spangled drongo says:

    Hope you are recovering OK, Don. A very interesting bit of history.

    Fitzgibbon’s high-profile dissent within Labor that is going on at present reminds me of the DLP days, created because of opposition to the perceived extent of communist influence in the union movement of the ALP in the 1950s.

    Look what’s happening to the great “solidarity” of Hunter Valley unionism today.

    How does an ALP leader treat a member for Hunter like that?

  • Neville says:

    I suppose we should ask whether voter fraud is possible during elections and how that could be carried out?
    In this Prager Uni short video they seem to make very plausible allegations and cite actual cases. I think “ballot harvesting ” by parties is very dangerous and should be outlawed immediately.
    A number of books cite Chicago Mayor Daley’s role in shifting the vote decisively for Kennedy in 1960 and jokes about how the cemetery voters swung behind him and carried him over the line.
    Mark Latham and Rowan Dean laughed about this recently on Sky Outsiders program. Here’s this interesting short video.

  • Neville says:

    In the study of left and right of politics we seem to be rushing to fresh possibilities.
    According to the Washington Post Biden could impose penalties on Australia because of our use of coal and gas and to punish us for our exports of these products.
    The Krudd donkey has been yapping about this for some time and thinks Morrison will be forced to give way to this type of left wing extremism.
    Biden has also been making noises about the UK and their Brexit plans as well.
    Who needs enemies when you have back stabbers like Biden , Harris and the DEMs helping to take us down?
    The Chinese must be relishing the start of the treasonous Biden Presidency.

  • Neville says:

    More about the left wing Krudd HIPPO and all this after he once tried to suck up to Murdoch and his journalists.

    It’s a good thing that the Bolter never forgets and here’s just a short intro to part of his column.
    And Krudd was very sure of Turnbull then and said so in his usual crude type of lingo.

    Andrew Bolt, Herald Sun
    November 19, 2020 10:20am

    “Oh, that hypocrite Kevin Rudd. Hey, Kevin, remember that strip club? Remember whispering sweet poisons in my ear?

    Rudd must think we in this Murdoch empire have forgotten.

    There he is now, buddying up with another ex-prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull — a man he once called a “little f–king rat” and a “piece of shit” — to demand a royal commission into Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

    How enraged they are by the “Murdoch bullies” they blame for their fall.

    How it suits them to believe they were actually brilliant leaders, cut down by the evil Murdoch and not sacked by their own MPs for ineptitude.

    And how it now suits Rudd to forget the skin-crawling lengths he once went to ingratiate himself with the same News Corp he now demands be brought to heel”.

  • PeterD says:

    Hi Neville,

    I’ve never been a supporter of Kevin Rudd or Malcolm Turnbull but the idea of media diversity, fair coverage of issues, and matters around ‘fake news’ in Australia is worth investigating.

    In terms of Tuckson Carlson in America, it’s a disturbing fact that when he invites evidence about Sidney Powell’s voter fraud allegations, he is turned upon by immutable Trump supporters – he, a media voice, that has long been loyal to Donald Trump.

    Don concludes that the ‘left is ahead’ and you theoretically speculate on ‘is it possible’ and ‘could’ voter fraud has occurred rather than the empirical question on whether in fact it has occurred’ and what evidence support such allegations.

    Perhaps it is time to move beyond partisan, ideological positions and reflect on the critical lessons from this Trump period – even in relation to climate change as well

    Some themes:

    * More than 70 million Americans voted for Donald Trump
    * The Trump period showed that people in charge of major U.S. institutions weren’t as elite as they liked to believe; Trump’s unique contribution to American electoral politics was harnessing anti-establishment views
    * Stagnant wages, casualisation of the workforce, increasing debt – impacts on many who are not well-off or are struggling
    * Youth have existential concerns about systemic racism, the well-being of the planet and mass shootings in their schools and on their streets.
    * On whose side is corporate America—the owners of capital and the highly educated technocrats who serve them?
    * Need to find a way forward that treats others with respect, even when we disagree strongly with them.
    * In the digital marketplace of ideas, where most of us now get our news, falsehoods go viral while facts go begging
    * The universal dilemma: talented politicians with vision and the courage to lead

    The following link which includes contributions from 35 scholars develops these themes and others:

    It may be heavy and unwelcome reading for many but perhaps worth a look for some.

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