The intellectual collapse of the right

John Quiggin reprises an old theme of his – which I recall supporting previously (I’d forgotten that my post “the stupid party” was actually in response to another of John’s posts/columns). In any event, I was talking to a CIS person the other day and mentioning that for me the IPA had lost all credibility with me by sponsoring the visit of Lord Monckton. He pointed out that the CIS had been offered the rare privilege of sponsoring the tour and turned it down. Anyway, it’s a pity how hard it is to be serious on the right these days. It’s not as if the right aren’t the custodians of an important strand of thinking about our society. But they’re not if they’re getting Lord Monckton to tell us how wicked the carbon and mining taxes are. It was Monckton’s focus on the evils of the latter mining tax that shows his true colours. No clue as to why the tax, which the free market Treasury has regarded as a crucial tax reform for some time might be a good idea.

This entry was posted in Economics and public policy. Bookmark the permalink.
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
399 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Mike Pepperday
Mike Pepperday
10 years ago

Totally off topic…

Remember the thread a week or two ago on Libya’s prospects of the Dutch disease on account of they have resources? It’s on. The headline in today’s NYT:

“West Sees Libya as Ripe at Last for Businesses
By SCOTT SHANE
Companies from NATO countries hope that gratitude for assistance in the Libyan rebellion will be a factor in awarding contracts.”

So it does rather look as if Libya is about to succumb to a new clique of oppressors aided and abetted by NATO countries.

Jim Belshaw
10 years ago

From a purely personal perspective, Nicholas, I struggle to understand what is meant by left or right today or even how I fit in within the spectrum as defined. According to those sometimes popular quizes, I am now left of centre, yet my instinctive reactions to some of the left of centre blogging clearly places me on the right or at least the centre right.

I would argue, I think, that the problem with both the “left” (John Q, Club Troppo, Larvatus Prodeo) and the “right” (Catallaxy)is that they combine responses on values or particular issues with certain analytical models to make judgements as to whether something is left or right. They are also both selective.

To my mind, there is a risk of circular argument. Surely the question of the intellectual poverty of the right, or of the left for that matter, depends on how you define the terms?

Yobbo
Yobbo
10 years ago

Perhaps Nick could explain why the mining tax might be a good idea. Nobody else has been able to do so up to this point.

It was Monkton’s focus on the evils of the latter mining tax that shows his true colours.

Yeah, his true colours as a person who thinks new taxes on business – in a country with one of the highest tax rates in the world – are a bad idea. Someone put a stop to this madness.

Yobbo
Yobbo
10 years ago

But certainly in Australia the current Abbott Opposition seems pretty empty headed and prepared to say and oppose pretty much anything

If the Gillard government came up with a single decent policy proposal in their entire term, Abott’s coalition probably wouldn’t oppose it. But so far it’s been one dismal failure after another from the worst government in Australian history.

Yobbo, why do you think Treasury which supports lower taxes supported the resource rent tax?

Because it results in more money for Treasury. And while we’re on this subject, does Treasury even support lower taxes? Proof please. The plan put forward by Gillard would increase the total tax paid on income, and treasury supports that, so how can you say they support “lower taxes”?

KB Keynes
KB Keynes
10 years ago

err Yobbo,

The mining tax too less as a% of profits than royalties etc did in the 60s.

Everyone saw that when it was put on the public spotlight.

you cannot have lower taxes unless you have lower expenditure and we haven’t seen that from either side as the public do not demand it.

Jim Belshaw
10 years ago

Yobbo, I don’t want to get into a debate on Mr Abbott because this detracts from the original discussion. However, I do want to pick up a couple of points. This comment deals just with your point on the resource rent tax.

The original discussion on the tax was based on rigorous structured arguments. Now I happen to to have reservations about those arguments, but I do not deny their intellectual content.

My own reservations were threefold.

First, I simply wasn’t sure about the likely impact on economic activity. I placed greater weight on the potential adverse effects.

Secondly, I had real problems with a proposal that combined tax with spend. These are different issues. Even if I supported the tax, and here I was open to arguments, I might well oppose the expenditure side.

Thirdly, I thought that the way the whole thing was done was a breach of federal principles. It would have been open to the Feds to work out an arrangement that took state needs into account. They chose not too.

KB Keynes
KB Keynes
10 years ago

Jim’s second point is what had Warwick McKibbin up in arms. He wanted the revenue coming in to dissipate part of the increase in National income coming from the commodities boom. Unfortunately the government chose to use a lot of the revenue to make expenditure in other areas.

This was the bad policy.points one and three are arguable.

Jim Belshaw
10 years ago

KB Keynes, you are absolutely right on one and three. They are arguable.

Continuing, Yobbo.

I find it hard to describe the Gillard Government as the worst Government in Australian history. I remember aspects of the Whitlam and Fraser Governments. I could also point to various state governments including the now departed NSW Labor Government.

If we forget Nicholas’s focus on the right and focus equally on right and left however defined, I note Pedro’s comment, the problem we have is that both sides talk at each other. There is, I would argue, very little real discussion.

A lot of public policy discussion is actually purely technical, centered on the question of likely results. Here the need is simply to tease the arguments through.

Another part of discussion focuses on values. My view, for example, on growing disparities in income and wealth is both technical (am I right, what does it mean) and reflects my views about equity. Take whaling as another example. This is all about values, although the question of practical effects is relevant. In discussion, it is important to tease the value components out.

One more comment to come after dinner & my favourite TV show.

KB Keynes
KB Keynes
10 years ago

Of course it isn’t the worst government.

We avoided the GFC and now have had the fastest fiscal consolidation without much help from the commodity boom.

Concur on both Whitlam and Fraser.

Captain Australia
Captain Australia
10 years ago

Look Nick you are just going to have to stop bluffing mate. You don’t understand climate science and have no evidence that could justify the global warming fraud.

I’ll tell you what. Talk to me about a rotating body, with an atmosphere, versus a non-rotating flat body, without? Talk to me about the concept of SURFACE TEMPERATURE as it relates to the latter. Then since you idiotically and erroneously think of yourself as an expert, you tell me how you can derive a temperature anomaly, heroically leaping from the one to the other.

You are going to have to accept that you know nothing. Nothing about science. Nothing about economics. Nothing about epistemology. So quit with the arrogance, You are in no position to be arrogant.

Captain Australia
Captain Australia
10 years ago

“It was Monckton’s focus on the evils of the latter mining tax that shows his true colours. No clue as to why the tax, which the free market Treasury has regarded as a crucial tax reform for some time might be a good idea.”

You see this is just all nonsense.

1. The treasury is not, and never was, free market. They were never economically competent. They were idiots.

2. The mining tax is proof positive of their incompetence, when it is an increase in royalties that ought to have been their focus.

Yobbo
Yobbo
10 years ago

It’s managed to get through carbon pricing against heavy opposition and with a minority in the House.

And in the face of massive public opposition, and the rest of the world’s ambivalence. And you think this is an example of why the Gillard government is good?

I mean, if that’s really your thought process here, then we don’t really have much to discuss, so what’s the point.

but both policies are highly worthwhile and politically difficult to boot.

lol

Peter Patton
Peter Patton
10 years ago

I find it very difficult to keep a civil tongue on the topic of that Roxon woman. WTF is she doing in the ALP?

Sancho
Sancho
10 years ago

And in the face of massive public opposition, and the rest of the world’s ambivalence. And you think this is an example of why the Gillard government is good?

Like the GST? And the Iraq war?

Unpopular decisions by governments seem to be classed either as incompetence or bold leadership depending on which side of the political divide the critic is coming from.

As for “massive public opposition” to carbon pricing, 60% of the population believes polluters should pay more, a third think it’s currently about right, and only ten percent believe they pay too much. The government is acting on behalf of the majority of Australians.

Yobbo
Yobbo
10 years ago

Like the GST? And the Iraq war?

Both of these were taken to an election, and won. The Carbon Price was ruled out by the Labor government before the election, and then introduced afterwards, in the face of massive public opposition.

As for “massive public opposition” to carbon pricing, 60% of the population believes polluters should pay more, a third think it’s currently about right, and only ten percent believe they pay too much. The government is acting on behalf of the majority of Australians.

That must be why they are polling so well.

Sancho
Sancho
10 years ago

And yet an unprecedented number of people voted for the Greens, which went to the election with a carbon price firmly in sight, which caused Labor to adopt it as the price of forming a coalition government.

Those new Greens voters didn’t defect from the Liberals, did they? Because of the way our electoral system works, the majority of Australians did vote for a carbon price. The way 60% are in favour of it as of October this year is another clue as to what the electorate voted for.

It’s interesting that you avoid the dismal polling numbers against a carbon price and instead want to focus on Labor’s current numbers. Nicholas already mentioned Labor’s inability to sell its brand, but that’s a separate issue to the carbon price.

Yobbo
Yobbo
10 years ago

Because of the way our electoral system works, the majority of Australians did vote for a carbon price.

How do you figure? Only one party went into the election with a carbon price, and they received less than 12% of the primary vote. Labor categorically ruled it out, although they were later proven to be liars.

Sancho
Sancho
10 years ago

Labor lost votes to the Greens due to Labor’s Liberals-lite facade, and right now 60% of Australian voters are in favour of a carbon price.

Unless you believe that a carbon price is the one and only issue that the electorate cares about, it’s perfectly clear that most Australians went to the polls, if not actively in favour of it, then certainly not opposed.

As for Labor being “liars”, Labor wouldn’t have introduced the carbon price if it had won the election outright. But when you form a coalition, compromise is necessary. That’s how we have a supposedly free-market, no-subsidy conservative party that can’t win a federal election without siphoning votes from a party of rural socialist tariff addicts.

And, really, as long as the leader of the Liberal party is a former minister of the Howard government, with its “non-core promises” and a Saddam WMD under every bed (paid for by Alexander Downer and the Australian Wheat Board), accusations of lying amount to nothing more than comedy.

Yobbo
Yobbo
10 years ago

But when you form a coalition, compromise is necessary.

The key difference being that people who voted for the Liberal/National coalition knew in advance that’s what they were voting for.

Most Labor voters did not know they were in fact voting for greens policies, which is why they have jumped off Labor in historically unprecedented numbers.

Sancho
Sancho
10 years ago

Do you mean that voters knew they were voting for “non-core promises”, or that they knew they were voting to invade Iraq in pursuit of WMD which didn’t exist?

The Liberals went to elections on promises they had no intention of fulfilling, while Labor went in with a promise that it was unable to keep because of the election results. Not quite sure how you conclude that it’s the latter that qualifies as a lie.

The polls clearly show that the electorate is in favour of a carbon price, with only a tiny, noisy minority opposed. Plus, so many Australians were disappointed in Labor’s election platform that they voted for the Greens instead.

No matter how you spin it, the majority of Australians were either neutral or actively in favour of a carbon price going into the last election, and are clearly in favour now.

Yobbo
Yobbo
10 years ago
Pedro
Pedro
10 years ago

Nicholas, maybe your own evidence for the defence is the same stuff the prosecution will adopt.

The carbon tax was not an achievement, it was the price of the treasury benches; and was negotiated with a bunch of people all for it from the get go. The extent of that “achievement” is best demonstrated by the list of people who have turned against it.

I’m surprised you are in favour of the increase in super. The mining tax has been completely mismanaged, the NBN a farce, refugee policy a disaster. Their greatest claim is the mildness of the local recession, but I don’t for a second believe you think the previous 20 years had less to do with that than the immediate policy reaction of PM Henry. In fact, policy management is a constant weakness.

Oh, and the Fair Work Act.

Marks
Marks
10 years ago

I suggest that the proposition by the right that the present government is the worst is an excellent example of the right’s intellectual collapse.

Is this assessment accompanied by any comparison of key performance indicators? Is it accompanied by any historical comparison of governmental dealing with important issues such as wars, economic crises, legislation passed good or bad? In other words, is there any intellectual basis for the position being put by the right at all? Or is it just saying it?

Is that lack of intellectual approach due to a decision not to worry about facts, or a complete inability to actually assess any facts?

Now, maybe the present government is the worst. However, there is absolutely no intellectual basis for saying so – in terms of what most people would regard as intellect that is.

FWIW, unintellectually speaking, I would vote the MacMahon Coalition government as being Australia’s worst, and perhaps the Menzies years too should figure in the pantheon of the incompetent.

I mean, years of living under a resources boom in agriculture, under high tariff walls for decades leaving Australian industry so inefficient that it was still producing valve radios in the sixties, and do you remember the Australian cars of the late sixties compared to the Japanese counterparts? Frankly, it is a wonder that Whitlam was able to achieve anything (oh, and there was an oil price shock in there too). However, when these ‘worst government in history’ jibes are thrown around, there is zero analysis.

Of course, the left is not far behind. I have not actually heard a challenge to the right on this worst-government-ever claim which actually calls for the right to put up some hard data.

derrida derider
derrida derider
10 years ago

… the IPA had lost all credibility with me by sponsoring the visit of Lord Monkton …

Well they’ve never had credibility with me. I’ve always regarded the IPA as a bunch of shills for whoever paid their bills today, and (worse) low-rent shills at that. They lack originality sa well as integrity – that’s why I don’t bother reading Des Moore’s letters to the AFR anymore (how does he get printed there so often? If I wrote that poorly the editor would put it straight in the discards).

The IPA is very unlike the CIS, which is worth getting angry at. In fact I wish more of our lefty writers had as much intellectual verve and integrity as some of the CIS people.

Richard Tsukamasa Green
Richard Tsukamasa Green(@richard-green)
10 years ago

Nicholas – Even if we ignore Monkton as an extreme example (albeit an inexplicably coddled on), we still get left with people like Niall Ferguson, whom you’ve lamented before. Somehow he maintains a currency, including with people I generally respect, despite their absurdities..

This review is astounding. It has the kind of quotes you need to preface with “Not from The Onion.

‘America’s brightest and best,’ he complained, ‘aspire not to govern Mesopotamia but to manage MTV; not to rule the Hejaz but to run a hedge fund.’

‘If one adds together the illegal immigrants, the jobless and the convicts,’ he argued, ‘there is surely ample raw material for a larger American army.’

KB Keynes
KB Keynes
10 years ago

no-one voted for a GST. howard got the lowest vote ever for a government and the worst result in the Senate since Trumper was batting.

Despite that I approved the GST.

Gillard ruled out a carbon tax but said that an ETS was certainly on the Agenda.

We have an ETS.

mining tax has been mismanaged but we still will get one at least.

Why is the NBN a farce?

Refugee policy has been a disaster ever since Keating put Refugees in prison

what is wrong with the rise in SGC. People do not put up enough money to live in retirement by themselves. Everyone who has looked at this across the world has known this for sometime.

That is why our Retirement income set up has widespread support from the world Bank, OECD etal.

Richard Tsukamasa Green
Richard Tsukamasa Green(@richard-green)
10 years ago

DD – A point of clarification is that Moore isn’t at the IPA, but rather the IPE (or as it is more generally known “Des Moore’s bedroom”).

KB Keynes
KB Keynes
10 years ago

DD is on the money.
the IPA is a bit of a joke whereas the CIS has always been intellectually rigorous on most subjects.

no Richard it is the white room

Sancho
Sancho
10 years ago

Which polls show that Sancho?

http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/carbon-tax-opposition-grows-newspoll-20111025-1mhfa.html

http://www.news.com.au/national/tony-abbott-would-win-an-election-in-a-landslide-if-it-were-held-as-voters-oppose-carbon-tax/story-e6frfkvr-1226168098094

Aah, well now we’re into the arcana of polls.

The poll I cited asked 2000 Australians for their views, and enquired about the carbon price in three different ways, two of which returned a majority in favour of polluters paying more, and one with a majority either favouring more government expenditure to combat carbon pollution, or satisfied with current spending.

None of the three questions, from two thousand respondents, found a majority against a carbon price or against more spending on carbon abatement.

Now, putting aside that Galaxy is NewsCorp’s pet polling agency and Newspoll conducts its carbon price polls for The Australian, have you got some information about the methodology of the polls you cited?

The only Newspoll I can find regarding a carbon price is from July, and surveyed 1200 people, while Galaxy seems to be in the habit of taking samples of 500 as representative of the entire population.

The ANU poll appears to be superior in every facet and gives a much more comprehensive assessment of the public’s opinion.

Sancho
Sancho
10 years ago

DD – A point of clarification is that Moore isn’t at the IPA, but rather the IPE (or as it is more generally known “Des Moore’s bedroom”).

Except when Moore writes to the newspapers to defend the interests of his clients, of course. In those cases he omits the Institute and broadcasts his opinions as a private citizen.

If people realise he’s a corporate lobbyist it might, you know, detract from the message.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

IPE was appended to his letter in the Fin today.

Sancho
Sancho
10 years ago

That’s progress. Shame all his just-plain-old-Des-Moore letters to the Oz in defence of corporations are paywalled now.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

Yeah, but pfff, it’s the Oz for Heaven’s sake – complaints about integrity and intellectual honesty here are tragically misplaced.

Pedro
Pedro
10 years ago

Homer, I’m glad you agree that the mining tax has been bungled. The NBN is a farce because at great expense the govt is turning the internet into the GPO so some jackeroo gets a quicker download on debbie does dallas.

I didn’t say the carbon tax was or wasn’t a backflip, I said it was not an achievement.

You might not have liked the old refugee policies, but they didn’t become a policy management disaster until after 2007.

As for the super contribution, I’ll bet that there are plenty of people who would rather have that extra 3% in their pay packet, which I recall is the treasure view.

Sancho
Sancho
10 years ago

The NBN is a farce because at great expense the govt is turning the internet into the GPO so some jackeroo gets a quicker download on debbie does dallas

You truly, honestly believe that porn is the only function of communication technology?

FDB
FDB
10 years ago

From Des Moore’s letter:

If there is to be any chance of meeting the aim of keeping temperatures increases to no more than 2 per cent

Dude’s really up on the science, that much is obvious.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

Or indeed the simple definitional difference between interval and ratio measures.

Sancho
Sancho
10 years ago

Be fair. It’s not like he’s an archbishop or something.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

Snap.

Yobbo
Yobbo
10 years ago

The ANU poll appears to be superior in every facet and gives a much more comprehensive assessment of the public’s opinion.

Colour me surprised that after applying your intense, objective scrutiny to all the polls that you came to that conclusion.

Put your money where your mouth is. Who needs to interpret a poll when you have bookmakers?

Sancho
Sancho
10 years ago

Ah, the good old evasive non-sequitur.

To clarify, you concede that the ANU poll is more accurate to the Galaxy and Newspolls, and you cannot provide any information on their methodology. Correct?

Now, which bookies are taking bets on whether there was massive public opposition to the carbon price?

TimT
10 years ago

Hmmm, you wouldn’t be stirring up a bit of controversy for controversy’s sake now would you Nick? ;)

It depends what you mean by ‘intellectual’ but certainly a superficial survey of the net would reveal a large number of thoughtful right-wing bloggers both from the libertarian and conservative strains: this is evidence of intellectual strength, not weakness.

To what extent should a intellectual faction dominate a political movement anyway? I know pollies like to give the impression that they are experts about everything, but their reliance on jargon and rhetoric, and willingness to misrepresent, exaggerate, and straight out deceive, in order to win a minor point belies that

Sancho
Sancho
10 years ago

a superficial survey of the net would reveal a large number of thoughtful right-wing bloggers both from the libertarian and conservative strains: this is evidence of intellectual strength, not weakness.

Can you name some?

TimT
10 years ago

Yes. You can’t?

Sancho
Sancho
10 years ago

Nope. Go ahead.