Missing Link Friday – Books, factories, politics & welfare

In this week’s Missing Link Friday, bloggers remember Sydney book seller Bob Gould, US blogger Mark Perry explains what’s up with manufacturing, Andrew Norton examines a new poll on attitudes to welfare, and various writers complain about the dismal state of politics today.

Remembering Bob Gould. Sydney book seller Bob Gould died on Sunday at 74. He was sorting books at his shop when he fell and hit his head.

At Happy Antipodean, Matt da Silva remembers visiting Gould’s huge secondhand book shop in Newtown: "The system chaotic. The vibe was one of handled-paperback grunge and a kind of Sisyphean mnemonic: a hundred years of good intentions stacked to the roof inside a structure with all the charm of a country barn."

At Bluepepper, Justin Lowe remembers Gould "as a gruff but affable enough chap who would answer any enquiry with an impatient wave of the hand in the general direction of the hectares of books all around him."

Sam Roggeveen at the Lowy Interpreter remembers him as a man with strong opinions and an intriguing past: "I made the mistake of selecting a volume by the conservative intellectual Frank Knopfelmacher, which I took to Gould at the register. For my troubles, I got a short lecture about the evils of the Right, which soon evolved into what seemed an utterly incredible tale of Gould’s role in one of Australia’s very rare acts of political violence …"

At Catallaxy Rafe Champion shares memories of Gould and slips in a critique his politics: "It would be nice to think that Bob was the last of a hard left line, so future generations of idealistic reformers can discover a better way, but it is apparent from the hard core of Green activists that the destructive flame still burns under a different label."

The decline of manufacturing. Manufacturing accounted for over 21% of Australia’s GDP in 1970. By 2009 it had fallen to only 9%. The same thing has happened in the US. According to Mark Perry at Carpe Diem, this doesn’t mean that manufacturing capacity that was once in the US has now shifted to China. Instead, "the decline in U.S. manufacturing as share of GDP is a really a global phenomenon as the entire world becomes increasingly a services-intensive economy." Via Sinclair Davidson at Catallaxy.

The decline of the Liberal Party. The Australian Liberal Party faces "the prospect of being represented by a lost generation of drones" writes Andrew Elder of Politically Homeless. In a long rant sparked by Niki Savva’s recent opinion piece for the Australia, Elder argues that older MPs like Bishop, Bishop, Abbott and Andrews, "are all about a Howard Restoration: the idea that they can and will take the country back to 2006 and keep it there. Lose the next election and that dead crust gets scraped off the Liberal Party."

We are all conservatives now? In the UK, Maurice Glasman wants to reinvent the Labour as a conservative party. Mark Richardson at Oz Conservative is impressed, particularly with Glasman’s position on immigration. Glasman told the BBC that: "What you have with immigration is the idea that people should travel all over the world in search of higher paying jobs, often to undercut existing workforces, and somehow in the Labour Party we got into a position that that was a good thing."

"Labour politics is rooted in the democratic resistance to the commodification of human beings", writes Glasman in the Guardian. He argues for a more communitarian approach to politics that stresses human relationships and the common good. At Liberal Conspiracy, Adam Lent compares Philip Blond’s Red Toryism with Glasman’s vision for Blue Labour:

In short Blond and Glasman represent a new breed of party intellectual who do not share the mainstream party consensus on the importance of embracing material aspiration and individual freedom but instead favour ethical virtue and community action.

To this extent both Blond and Glasman offer a stimulating and potentially important break from politics as usual.

Does Australia need a third party? Labor "has in many ways become a corrupted version of the Liberal Party where aspirational party hacks without a trace of idealism or conviction see party politics as a way of maximising the economic value of their limited skill sets" writes Harry Clarke. At Troppo Ken Parish is also disillusioned: "If only there was a genuine ‘third force’ in Australian politics, a bit like the Lib-Dems in the UK."

Working families don’t get welfare (they get family tax benefit). Family tax benefits are available to people who don’t pay tax and are administered by Centrelink. So you might think that makes them welfare. But as Andrew Norton writes: "John Howard disliked the idea that family payments were ‘welfare’. That’s why they were called ‘family tax benefits’, to emphasise that FTB was giving families back their earned money, rather than giving them a handout."

Norton might not buy this argument, but according to a recent Essential survey, most Australians do.

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10 years ago

Even the Economist has a go at our pollies :)


[…] commenter Patrick links to a recent article in the Economist that likens Australian politics to a non-stop […]