Monday, January 5, 2009

Paul Sheehan, Skidelsky, French Champagne, Fireworks, Money and Moral Failure

Paul Sheehan has the cheek to start off his column "The Corruption of Money" with a reverie about how a year ago he was sitting with the Governor-General and his vivacious wife watching the celebrations from the front lawn of Admiralty House sipping Verve Cliquot, and standing within touching distance of PM Rudd and partner watching the exploding sky.

This year the brave columnist renounced all such corrupt behaviour, and gave it all up. He didn't celebrate at all - but only because he'd overdosed on Christmas. So the point escapes me completely. It hardly seems to matter that you tighten the belt in the New Year only because it exploded at Christmas.

What follows is a sanctimonious piece, largely made up of quotations from a Prospect article by Robert Skidelsky, bemoaning the moral and intellectual failure of the market place, and doing a Chicken Little on the way depression almost made the sky fall in. Sheehan thinks we've escaped a depression, which is an interesting call, as assorted experts in the USA still think things are teetering on the edge of a very high cliff.

Sheehan, acting like a Sir Echo, very much in the Duffy style, joins Skidelsky in bemoaning the failures of neo-conservatism. including offshoring jobs, undermining national communities and raping nature.

Yes, well, that's all and good, but Sheehan is a bit like the Emperor who decides to put on his clothes long after it's been pointed out he's decidedly naked. Reveling in borrowed expensive French champagne hardly amounts to decadence - not from the man who promoted magic water - but going neo-Presbyterian isn't much of a solution either, especially when our fearless leaders have urged a spending spree to match their own grandiose spending efforts as a way of hand-cranking the flailing engine of the economy. 

For those of us who can't afford French champagne at the best of times, and can't boast of our extremely well heeled connections as a way of setting the tone for an abstemious return to the monastery, the plight of millionaires' row is profoundly amusing.

For the unctuous tone alone, and its careless homage to Marie Antoinette (look at me drinking champagne and watching the fireworks in the company of rich and famous people you losers), this piece of cheekily borrowed analysis is a prime contender for most useless conspicuous consumption of newsprint in troubled times.

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