Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Gerard Henderson, Polonic Pedantry, Small Business, Carbon and Armchair Jibber Jabber

Right wing columnists love to rail about armchair theorists - a peculiarly loathed breed - from the comfort of cosy leather-lined chairs that afford easy access to keyboards and computer screens.

But that's the least of the contradictions, especially when you come to a proud pedant like Gerard Henderson, worthy Polonius, advisor to any prince, potentate or pope prepared to listen, and devout pumper of the sacred private sector.

How's this for an entree in his column How to tame the angry beast?

Sometimes debate over word use is little more than pedantry. However, on occasions, a slight difference in wording constitutes a shift in meaning.

Which is to say others are pedantic, but I'm incisively insightful about the meaning of words, like Humpty Dumpty, albeit you might think I'm being pedantic, because you are unable to grasp that a slight difference in wording constitutes a profound shift in meaning. Which is to say how clever and subtle I am, and sucks boo to you followers of helpless, hapless Kevin Rudd. Impenetrability, I always say.

Casting through the runes and the chicken liver entrails, Henderson sees enormous, gigantic, humongous significance in the difference between one government announcement on December 8th when the $10.4 billion security strategy would "create" up to 75,000 jobs, and the February 3 $42 billion package which would "support" up to 90,000 jobs.

Strangle me in the shallow water before I get too deep.

Out of this little word change, the magical weaver of dullness through words sees a profound admission that governments do not create employment, except in so far as they recruit people to the public service. 

On other occasions, governments make economic decisions which may, or may not, lead to an increase in employment and a decrease in unemployment.

Like say dropping $10 billion on a piece of infrastructure like a rail system might - or might not - lead to a few extra jobs. Or giving Macquarie infrastructure a nice little tender might - or might not - give work to ex-politicians like Bob Carr.

What was that I read recently? That research that showed health and community services will add more jobs to the economy than any other industry in the period 2007-2012, with some 170,000 jobs.

Thank god the health and services sector has got nothing to do with government or government expenditure.

For the rest of it, of course, there's only small business. And of course what must be restored immediately is the John Howard legacy. The electorate voted very firmly in favor of John Howard's Work Choices legislation at the last election, and clearly the Rudd government's new unfair dismissal legislation is a clear disincentive to employment.

Say what? John Howard lost the last election? No never? Well hardly ever. And Work Choices and unfair dismissal was a subject of some controversy? Sssh,  say it isn't so, and don't tell Gerard, he's still living in the warm embrace of John, back in the dreamtime, the golden age, when all was right with the world. Instead of this age of lead, this age of mudd, this age of Rudd.

And of course it wouldn't be a Henderson column without some raillery about the carbon tax and its devastating effect on business. Especially since China or India are disinclined to do anything, and Obama is likely to be just George Bush in drag. Why shouldn't we all get out and party like it's nineteen ninety nine?

Then in a concluding flourish Gerard does the now standard slagging off of Roosevelt's expansionary New Deal, and the USA's slow recovery, in contrast to the 'rapid recovery' of Great Britain in the absence of any fiscal stimulus. 

This kind of historical revisionism, an anti-Keynesian riff of cosmic and disingenuous, if not outright deceitful  proportions, has been developing over the past decade as armchair theoreticians of the Republican kind haven't wanted to look too closely at the Bush legacy, and have preferred to shift the debate back to the thirties, where they can rely on the way few people have studied the period, and even fewer give a toss about history's lessons. They can slag off FRD without worrying too much about contradiction.

Henderson's one paragraph re-writing of history, citing a couple of like-minded sources, is glib, fanciful, facile, distorted, and yes, I have to say it, fey (in the sense of having or displaying an otherworldly, magical, or fairylike aspect or quality, as opposed to the notion of one having visionary power or clairvoyancy. Perhaps in the sense of appearing touched or crazy, as if under a spell, rather than the Scots notion of full of the sense of approaching death. Oh dear god, reading Gerard has turned me into a pedant, just like him. Noooh.).

Anyhoo, thinking like that led to the Conservatives being kicked out after the second world war - people in Britain had a long memory of the suffering experienced during the thirties - so keep going Gerard, you might just enshrine the Rudd government for a long time, by keeping on and on (and did I say on) about the wonders of the Howard government's glorious policies of WorkChoices makes benefit for humble workers in antipodes.

But Gerard can never resist can he? 

If the Rudd Government has any cash left over, it would be advised to focus on reducing taxation and costly regulation on small business. Unlike government, small business is the main driver in Australia of job creation and job support.

That's right, drawing himself up to his full pontificating height, as always he seeks to offer timely advice to politicians, even as you might suspect that the politicians, confronted by an economic crisis which sees Japan in full blown depression, will think of him as just another jibber jabbering armchair theoretician with a pedantic streak a mile wide, and worse still, proud of it.

What a pity we're small cheese, small beer. There's a job available down here for Paul Krugman, but what with small minds doing small business, it's hard to imagine him wanting to spend twenty hours in a plane chewing up avgas to save us from our armchair experts.

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