Anglo Radical Right Libertarianism and Economics

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The Anglo world especially including the US, UK and Australia, and elsewhere, have been subjected to neo classical economics, monetarist etc. theories exemplified by demands for small government, low taxation, cuts to state services, low regulation etc., with unwitting support from conservative and other voters.

 

Nancy MacLean in ‘Democracy in Chains’ stumbled across odd bedfellows and links to discover this movement promoting nineteenth century economic ideology and eugenics.

 

Radical Right Libertarians – MacLean

Misinforming the Majority: A Deliberate Strategy of Right-Wing Libertarians
BY
Mark Karlin, Truthout
PUBLISHED
July 9, 2017

When and how were the seeds sown for the modern far-right’s takeover of American politics? Nancy MacLean reveals the deep and troubling roots of this secretive political establishment — and its decades-long plan to change the rules of democratic governance — in her new book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America. Get your copy by making a donation to Truthout now!

 

Many individuals who follow politics and journalists think that the right-wing playbook began with the Koch brothers. However, in her groundbreaking book, Nancy MacLean traces their political strategy to a Southern economist who created the foundation for today’s libertarian oligarchy in the 1950s.

 

Mark Karlin: Can you summarize the importance of James McGill Buchanan to the development of the modern extreme right wing in the United States?

 

Nancy MacLean: The modern extreme right wing I’m talking about, just to be clear, is the libertarian movement that now sails under the Republican flag, particularly but not only the Freedom Caucus, yet goes back to the 1950s in both parties. President Eisenhower called them “stupid” and fashioned his approach — calling it modern Republicanism — as an antidote to them. Goldwater was their first presidential candidate. He bombed. Reagan, they believed, was going to enact their agenda. He didn’t. But beginning in the early 2000s, they became a force to be reckoned with. What had changed? The discovery by their chief funder, Charles Koch, of the approach developed by James McGill Buchanan for how to take apart the liberal state.

 

Buchanan studied economics at the University of Chicago and belonged to the same milieu as F.A. Hayek, Milton Friedman and Ludwig von Mises, but he used his training to analyze public life. And he supplied what no one else had: an operational strategy to vanquish the model of government they had been criticizing for decades — and prevent it from being recreated. It was Buchanan who taught Koch that for capitalism to thrive, democracy must be enchained.

 

Buchanan was a very smart man, the only winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics from the US South, in fact. But his life’s work was forever shaped by the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision. He arrived in Virginia in 1956, just as the state’s leaders were goading the white South to fight the court’s ruling, a ruling he saw not through the lens of equal protection of the law for all citizens but rather as another wave in a rising tide of unwarranted and illegitimate federal interference in the affairs of the states that began with the New Deal. For him what was at stake was the sanctity of private property rights, with northern liberals telling southern owners how to spend their money and behave correctly. Given an institute to run on the campus of the University of Virginia, he promised to devote his academic career to understanding how the other side became so powerful and, ultimately, to figuring out an effective line of attack to break down what they had created and return to what he and the Virginia elite viewed as appropriate for America. In a nutshell, he studied the workings of the political process to figure out what was needed to deny ordinary people — white and Black — the ability to make claims on government at the expense of private property rights and the wishes of capitalists. And then he identified how to rejigger that political process not only to reverse the gains but also to prevent the system from ever reverting back.

 

Why, until your book, has his importance to the right wing been largely overlooked?

 

There are a few reasons Buchanan has been overlooked. One is that the Koch cause does not advertise his work, preferring to tout the sunnier primers of Hayek, Friedman and even Ayn Rand when recruiting. Buchanan is the advanced course, as it were, for the already committed. Another is that Buchanan did not seek the limelight like Friedman, so few on the left have even heard of him. I myself learned of him only by serendipity, in a footnote about the Virginia schools fight.

 

How would you draw a line connecting Buchanan to the Koch brothers?

 

Charles Koch supplied the money, but it was James Buchanan who supplied the ideas that made the money effective. An MIT-trained engineer, Koch in the 1960s began to read political-economic theory based on the notion that free-reign capitalism (what others might call Dickensian capitalism) would justly reward the smart and hardworking and rightly punish those who failed to take responsibility for themselves or had lesser ability. He believed then and believes now that the market is the wisest and fairest form of governance, and one that, after a bitter era of adjustment, will produce untold prosperity, even peace. But after several failures, Koch came to realize that if the majority of Americans ever truly understood the full implications of his vision of the good society and were let in on what was in store for them, they would never support it. Indeed, they would actively oppose it.

 

So, Koch went in search of an operational strategy — what he has called a “technology” — of revolution that could get around this hurdle. He hunted for 30 years until he found that technology in Buchanan’s thought. From Buchanan, Koch learned that for the agenda to succeed, it had to be put in place in incremental steps, what Koch calls “interrelated plays”: many distinct yet mutually reinforcing changes of the rules that govern our nation. Koch’s team used Buchanan’s ideas to devise a roadmap for a radical transformation that could be carried out largely below the radar of the people, yet legally. The plan was (and is) to act on so many ostensibly separate fronts at once that those outside the cause would not realize the revolution underway until it was too late to undo it. Examples include laws to destroy unions without saying that is the true purpose, suppressing the votes of those most likely to support active government, using privatization to alter power relations — and, to lock it all in, Buchanan’s ultimate recommendation: a “constitutional revolution.”

 

Today, operatives funded by the Koch donor network operate through dozens upon dozens of organizations (hundreds, if you count the state and international groups), creating the impression that they are unconnected when they are really working together — the state ones are forced to share materials as a condition of their grants. For example, here are the names of 15 of the most important Koch-funded, Buchanan-savvy organizations each with its own assignment in the division of labor: There’s Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Mercatus Center, Americans for Tax Reform, Concerned Veterans of America, the Leadership Institute, Generation Opportunity, the Institute for Justice, the Independent Institute, the Club for Growth, the Donors Trust, Freedom Partners, Judicial Watch — whoops, that’s more than 15, and it’s not counting the over 60 other organizations in the State Policy Network. This cause operates through so many ostensibly separate organizations that its architects expect the rest of us will ignore all the small but extremely significant changes that cumulatively add up to revolutionary transformation. Gesturing to this, Tyler Cowen, Buchanan’s successor at George Mason University, even titled his blog “Marginal Revolution.”

 

In what way was Buchanan connected to white oligarchical racism?

 

Buchanan came up with his approach in the crucible of the civil rights era, as the most oligarchic state elite in the South faced the loss of its accustomed power. Interestingly, he almost never wrote explicitly about racial matters, but he did identify as a proud southern “country boy” and his center gave aid to Virginia’s reactionaries on both class and race matters. His heirs at George Mason University, his last home, have noted that Buchanan’s political economy is quite like that of John C. Calhoun, the antebellum South Carolina US Senator who, until Buchanan, was America’s most original theorist of how to constrict democracy so as to safeguard the wealth and power of an elite economic minority (in Calhoun’s case, large slaveholders). Buchanan arrived in Virginia just as Calhoun’s ideas were being excavated to stop the implementation of Brown, so the kinship was more than a coincidence. His vision of the right economic constitution owes much to Calhoun, whose ideas horrified James Madison, among others……

 

…..Having said that, though, I also believe that panic is the last thing we need. There is great strength to be found in the simple truth that Buchanan and Koch came up with the kind of strategy now in play precisely because they knew that the majority, if fully informed, would never support what they seek. So, the best thing that those who support a robust, non-plutocratic society can do is focus on patiently informing and activating that majority. And reminding all Americans that democracy is not something you can just assume will survive: It has to be fought for time and again. This is one of those moments.’

 

For more blogs and articles about economics, populist politics and white nationalism click through.

Fighting Fake News in Finland via Schools

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We have witnessed years now of conventional and now digital media being manipulated to confuse, misinform and mislead the public of all ages round science of climate change or global warming, politics and campaigns, immigrants and population growth, vaccinations, natural disasters, religion and minorities etc.

Like some states in Australia used to teach critical thinking to high school students in the 1970s, since been ’embedded’ and/or disappeared, Finland has taken the lead in developing skills at primary school age dealing with Russia especially, and global warming denialism.

From The Guardian:

‘How Finland starts its fight against fake news in primary schools

Country on frontline of information war teaches everyone from school pupils to politicians how to spot slippery information

You can start when children are very young, said Kari Kivinen. In fact, you should: “Fairytales work well. Take the wily fox who always cheats the other animals with his sly words. That’s not a bad metaphor for a certain kind of politician, is it?”

With democracies around the world threatened by the seemingly unstoppable onslaught of false information, Finland – recently rated Europe’s most resistant nation to fake news – takes the fight seriously enough to teach it in primary school.

In secondary schools, such as the state-run college in Helsinki where Kivinen is head teacher, multi-platform information literacy and strong critical thinking have become a core, cross-subject component of a national curriculum that was introduced in 2016.

In maths lessons, Kivinen’s pupils learn how easy it is to lie with statistics. In art, they see how an image’s meaning can be manipulated. In history, they analyse notable propaganda campaigns, while Finnish language teachers work with them on the many ways in which words can be used to confuse, mislead and deceive.

“The goal is active, responsible citizens and voters,” Kivinen said. “Thinking critically, factchecking, interpreting and evaluating all the information you receive, wherever it appears, is crucial. We’ve made it a core part of what we teach, across all subjects.”

The curriculum is part of a unique, broad strategy devised by the Finnish government after 2014, when the country was first targeted with fake news stories by its Russian neighbour, and the government realised it had moved into the post-fact age.

Successful enough for Finland to top, by some margin, an annual index measuring resistance to fake news in 35 European countries, the programme aims to ensure that everyone, from pupil to politician, can detect – and do their bit to fight – false information.

“This affects all of us,” said Jussi Toivanen, chief communications officer for the prime minister’s office. “It targets the whole of Finnish society. It aims to erode our values and norms, the trust in our institutions that hold society together.”

Finland, which declared independence from Russia in 1917, is on the frontline of an online information war that has accelerated markedly since Moscow annexed Crimea and backed rebels in eastern Ukraine five years ago, Toivanen said.

Most campaigns, amplified by sympathetic far-right, nation-first and “alternative” Finnish news sites and social media accounts, focus on attacking the EU, highlighting immigration issues and trying to influence debate over Finland’s full Nato membership.

Resistance is seen almost as a civil defence question, a key component in Finland’s comprehensive security policy. Toivanen said: “We are a small country, without many resources, and we rely on everyone contributing to the collective defence of society.”

The programme, piloted by a 30-member, high-level committee representing 20 different bodies from government ministries to welfare organisations and the police, intelligence and security services, has trained thousands of civil servants, journalists, teachers and librarians over the past three years.

“It’s a broad-based, coordinated effort to raise awareness,” said Saara Jantunen, a senior researcher from the defence ministry who has been seconded to the prime minister’s office. “Like virus protection on your computer: the government’s responsible for a certain amount, of course, but ultimately it’s up to the individual to install the software.”…

…..He wants his pupils to ask questions such as: who produced this information, and why? Where was it published? What does it really say? Who is it aimed at? What is it based on? Is there evidence for it, or is this just someone’s opinion? Is it verifiable elsewhere?

On the evidence of half a dozen pupils gathered in a classroom before lunchtime, it is an approach that is paying off. “You must always factcheck. The number one rule: no Wikipedia, and always three or four different and reliable sources,” said Mathilda, 18. “We learn that basically in every subject.”….

…..Part of that continuing education is also provided by NGOs. Besides operating an effective factchecking service, Faktabaari (Fact Bar), launched for the 2014 European elections and run by a volunteer staff of journalists and researchers, produces popular voter literacy kits for schools and the wider public.

“Essentially, we aim to give people their own tools,” said its founder, Mikko Salo, a member of the EU’s independent high-level expert group on fake news. “It’s about trying to vaccinate against problems, rather than telling people what’s right and wrong. That can easily lead to polarisation.”

In the run-up to Finland’s parliamentary elections last April, the government went so far as to produce an advertising campaign alerting voters to the possibility of fake news, with the slogan “Finland has the best elections in the world. Think about why”.

Similarly, Mediametka has been developing and working with media literacy tools since the more innocent days of the early 1950s, when its founders were motivated mainly by fear of the irreparable damage that comic books might do to the minds of Finnish children.

These days, the NGO, part-funded by the culture ministry, organises ed-tech hackathons with inventive Finnish startups in a bid to develop “meaningful materials” for schools and youth groups, said its executive director, Meri Seistola.

“We work with pictures, videos, text, digital content; get our students to produce their own; ask them to identify all the various kinds of misleading news,” said Seistola: from propaganda to clickbait, satire to conspiracy theory, pseudoscience to partisan reporting; from stories describing events that simply never happened to unintentional errors of fact.

Finland has something of a head start on information literacy, ranking consistently at or near the top of international indices for press freedom, transparency, education and social justice. Its school pupils have the EU’s highest PISA score for reading.

“The level of trust in national institutions, in the media, in society as a whole, does tend to be higher in the Nordic countries than in many others,” said Faktabaari’s Salo. “But that means we really need even greater vigilance now, to prepare ourselves for the next phase. Because we have more to lose.”’

 

For more articles and blogs about younger generations, critical thinking, climate change and curriculum click through.

 

Global Warming – Climate Change – Eco-Fascism

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With the science of climate change and global warming under attack as Australia experiences bushfires not seen before in scope and intensity, there are now clear links between white nationalism and niche environmentalism, or ‘eco-fascism’.  According to many this has included long term support from fossil fuels oligarchs’ foundations in promoting eugenics and anti-immigrant sentiment as an ecological solution.

Parts of the environmental movement are linked to white nationalists and eugenics.

Fossil Fuels and Eco-Fascism (Image copyright Pexels)

Jeff Sparrow in The Guardian Australia presents a summary of his recent book Fascists Among Us: Online Hate and the Christchurch Massacre below:

 

‘Eco-fascists and the ugly fight for ‘our way of life’ as the environment disintegrates

Genuine fascists remain on the political margins, but we can increasingly imagine the space that eco-fascism might occupy.

Earlier this year, when the fascist responsible for the El Paso massacre cited ecological degradation as part motivation for his killing spree, many considered him entirely deranged.

Eco-fascism sounds oxymoronic, a mashup of irreconcilable philosophies.

Yet, while eco-fascists violently oppose contemporary environmentalists, they often appropriate ideas from the past of the environmental movement.

In the United States, the first conservationists – men like Teddy Roosevelt – were wealthy big-game hunters trying to preserve creatures they liked to shoot.

These elite enthusiasts for “the manly sport with the rifle” blamed impoverished arrivals from eastern and central Europe for “pot hunting” – that is, for killing game for food or money rather than for fun. But they also saw immigrants as polluting America’s racial stock, making an explicit parallel between “lesser races” and the invasive species threatening native animals and plants.

On that basis, Julia Scott from the Daughters of the American Revolution could speak at the National Conservation Congress of 1910, urging attendees not only to protect flora and fauna but to conserve “the supremacy of the Caucasian race in our land”.

You can get a sense of the centrality of eugenic theory to the early movement from the career of Madison Grant, the most important environmentalist of his generation.

We can thank Grant for saving the American bison, the bald eagle, the pronghorn antelope, the Alaskan bear and the fur seal, as well as, according to his biographer, contributing to the preservation of elephants, gorillas, koalas and many other charismatic species.

But Grant also campaigned for the racist Emergency Quota Act of 1921 and the Immigration Restriction Act of 1924, and wrote the bestselling The Passing of the Great Race, or The Racial Basis of European History, an impassioned defence of white supremacy that Hitler described as his personal “bible”.

The book’s popularity in Germany was not coincidental. Grant, like many of his colleagues, derived his environmentalism from a conservative Romanticism, the philosophical source for Nazi concepts about the importance of Lebensraum (living room) and Blut und Boden (blood and soil).

Modern eco-fascists still draw on the same Romantic contrast between the sublime hierarchies of nature and the supposedly effete degeneracy of modernity.

They also exploit the legacy of a tendency influential in environmental circles in much more recent times.

In 1968, Paul Ehrlich published a book called The Population Bomb, in which he argued that ecological destruction – and, indeed, almost all social problems – could be attributed to overpopulation.

As the historian Thomas Robertson notes, few signs of a mass environmental movement existed when The Population Bomb first appeared. Yet, “by the spring of 1970, Americans could hardly pick up a magazine or a newspaper without seeing mention of ecology and the environment”. That year, the first Earth Day attracted an astonishing 20 million people to environmental teach-ins, a result attributable at least in part to Ehrlich.

Today, his influence – and that of population theory more generally – has waned considerably, not least because the rate of world population growth has slowed substantially while his predictions of ever-worsening famines in the 1970s proved spectacularly wrong.

But progressive environmentalists also recognised the succour populationism provided to the extreme right.

The attribution of ecological destruction to demographic growth obscures the social relations through which, for instance, a mere 20 fossil fuel companies can be linked to more than one-third of greenhouse gas emissions in the modern era.

Worse still, arguments that (in theory) blame all people often (in practice) target particular people: usually the poor and the oppressed.

The Population Bomb itself opened with Ehrlich describing how he’d understood the case for population control “emotionally” during a visit to Delhi where, he said, the streets “seemed alive with people” and the “dust, noise, heat and cooking fires gave the scene a hellish aspect”. At the time, Delhi housed some 2.8 million while the population of Paris stood at about eight million – and yet it would be difficult to imagine Ehrlich reacting with equivalent disgust to crowds on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

Other populationists came to oppose not just fertility but also immigration, on the basis that, if the teeming masses from poor nations moved to the rich world, they’d adopt a western resource-heavy lifestyle. As a result, as academics Sebastian Normandin and Sean A Valles argue, America’s modern anti-immigrant movement “was built and led by – and in some cases is still led by – a network of conservationists and population control activists”.

The vast majority of greens now disavow the environmental populationist John Tanton, who, according to Susan A Berger, constructed many of the anti-Mexican organisations relied upon by Donald Trump as he electioneered for his border wall during the 2016 poll.

Yet the argument that ordinary people, rather than social structures, should be blamed for climate change still circulates – and invariably pushes in rightwing directions.

Think of the El Paso shooter and the document in which he justified his racial massacre.

“If we can get rid of enough people,” he wrote, “then our way of life can become more sustainable.”

The glibness with which he advocates environmental murder marks the El Paso perpetrator as distinctly fascist.

Fortunately, genuine fascists remain on the political margins in the English-speaking world. Nevertheless, we can increasingly imagine the space that eco-fascism might occupy. When asylum seekers fleeing floods and famines arrive on Australian shores in their millions, how will politicians respond?

Unless there’s a radical shift in the political culture, they will, presumably, rely upon the strategies perfected during decades of bipartisan anti-refugee campaigning, deploying the familiar arsenal of boat turnbacks, naval patrols and offshore detention, albeit on a much, much larger scale.

In other words, they’ll embrace an approach already advocated by European racist populists like Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, who posits massively intensified border policing as a “realistic” response to the inevitability of the environmental disaster.

Just as the stop-the-boats campaigners of recent decades depict refugee advocates as indifferent to drownings at sea, the supporters of “green” border policing will denounce climate activists for sabotaging “practical” responses to climate change with their utopianism.

It’s not difficult to imagine “eco-authoritarianism” or what Naomi Klein calls “climate barbarism”: a politics centred on the state making “our way of life” sustainable as the environment disintegrates. Future governments committed to this project will be able to draw upon the vast array of coercive powers they’ve acquired over the past decades: draconian anti-protest laws; secret trials and imprisonment; the deployment of the army to quell civil disturbances; and so on.

Eco-fascism represents a related but distinctive tendency. It will emerge not through the state but as a political movement, with people like the El Paso perpetrator violently defending climate privilege against immigrants, environmentalists and progressives.

We’re nowhere near that point yet. But it’s a lot less unimaginable than it should be.

Jeff Sparrow’s new book, Fascists Among Us: Online Hate and the Christchurch Massacre, is out now through Scribe.’

 

For more blogs and articles about white nationalism, environment and population growth click through.

Tactics Against Bipartisan Climate Change Policy in Australia – Limits to Growth?

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A recent ABC article ‘The day that plunged Australia’s climate change policy into 10 years of inertia‘, endeavoured to describe how climate change consensus was broken by former Liberal MP Andrew Robb who claimed he had followed the ‘Limits to Growth’ (LTG) theory via the Club of Rome but changed his mind, hence withdrew support on bipartisan support on carbon emission measures (?).

And so it was that Andrew Robb made one of the most extraordinary and — by most conventional measures — indefensible tactical decisions in the history of political chicanery.

Also reported in climate science denial blog in the USA Watts Up With That with post titled ‘How “The Limits to Growth” Broke Australia’s Bipartisan Carbon Tax’, as did Catallaxy Files in ‘Australia Follow the climate money and the time when Tony beat Malcolm by one vote’ which also promotes climate science denialism.

In fact the LTG theory, ‘a riddle wrapped up in an enigma’, is irrelevant to climate change as it was developed as a PR construct of liberal and environment ideas or theory then (misre)presented publicly as grounded and tested empirical science to confuse debates, then both opponents and protagonists.

The pseudo-science of LTG was developed and presented via the Club of Rome and applied by some of the participants and collaborators including Herman Daly’s ‘Steady-state economy’ (autarkist economy), Paul Ehrlich’s ‘population bomb’ and his Zero Population Growth (ZPG) colleague John ‘passive eugenics’ Tanton to support immigration restrictions for non-Europeans.

Interesting was that the Club of Rome was hosted on the Rockefeller (Standard Oil/Exxon) estate and sponsored by Fiat and VW, while ZPG had support from Rockefeller Brothers, Ford and Carnegie Foundations; strong whiff of fossil fuels, global corporates/oligarchs and eugenics.

LTG helped encourage a pincer movement of seemingly unrelated ideas or constraints which in fact protect the corporate and personal interests of such global players.  Daly’s autarkist Steady-state theory stresses nation states, avoidance of trade agreements (and environmental regulations) etc. while allowing long standing global corporates (with existing footprints) to operate without commercial, competitive or regulatory constraint (James Buchanan’s radical right libertarianism for all, i.e. ‘Public Choice Theory‘, except when there is state support for global corporates).

From University of Sussex on Limits to Growth or ‘Models of Doom‘:

‘An interdisciplinary team at Sussex University’s Science Policy Research Unit reviewed the structure and assumptions of the models used and published its finding in Models of Doom; showing that the forecasts of the world’s future are very sensitive to a few unduly pessimistic key assumptions. The Sussex scientists also claim that the Meadows et al. methods, data, and predictions are faulty, that their world models (and their Malthusian bias) do not accurately reflect reality.’

How could they promote not just junk science but inequitable libertarian economics to the masses for the benefit of the few and have ‘Turkeys vote for Christmas’?

Brexit is a good example, Trump also and Australia since Tampa refugee incident, i.e. dog whistling immigration, population growth, and white nationalism, then encourages borders, withdrawal from trade agreements and insular view of the world, while allowing global corporates to fly under the radar and conservative political parties to gain votes (especially amongst the upper median age cohort) to implement the right policies (or not at all).

 

The day that plunged Australia’s climate policy into 10 years of inertia

BY ANNABEL CRABBUPDATED SUN AT 1:28PM

Ten years ago Andrew Robb arrived at Parliament House intent upon an act of treachery.

No-one was expecting him. Robb was formally on leave from the Parliament undergoing treatment for his severe depression.

But the plan the Liberal MP nursed to himself that morning would not only bring about the political demise of his leader, Malcolm Turnbull, but blow apart Australia’s two great parties irrevocably just as they teetered toward consensus on climate change, the most divisive issue of the Australian political century.

They have never again been so close.

A decade later, according to the ABC’s Australia Talks National Survey, climate change is a matter of urgent community concern. Eighty-four per cent of respondents said that climate change was real and that action was warranted. When offered a range of 19 issues and asked which were of gravest personal concern, climate change ranked at number one.

As bushfires ravage the landscape and drought once again strangles vast tracts of the continent, the inability of the Australian Parliament to reach agreement on how to answer the threat of climate change — or even discuss it rationally — may well be one of the drivers of another shrieking headline from the Australia Talks research: 84 per cent of respondents also feel that Australian politicians are out of touch with the views of the people they represent.

This is the story — told on its 10th birthday — of a political event that changed the course of a nation’s history.

How bipartisan policy fell apart

Robb was on sick leave from his job as shadow minister for climate, managing the notoriously difficult transition from one anti-depressant medication to another.

In his absence, acting shadow minister for climate Ian Macfarlane had successfully negotiated, with the authority of Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull, a deal with the Rudd government to land the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, or CPRS.

An extraordinary tactic

And so it was that Andrew Robb made one of the most extraordinary and — by most conventional measures — indefensible tactical decisions in the history of political chicanery.

Parliament House is no stranger to mental illness. Historically, its sufferers have covered their tracks, loath to be seen as vulnerable.

But this must be the only recorded occasion on which mental illness has been used as a tactic.

Robb ripped himself a scrap of paper and scrawled a note to Turnbull.

“The side effects of the medication I am on now make me very tired. I’d be really grateful if you could get me to my feet soon,” he wrote.

Turnbull called Robb to speak soon after. He rose, and denounced the proposed scheme in forensic detail, his words carrying significant weight as the erstwhile bearer of the relevant portfolio.

The deal never recovered. The meeting went on for six more hours. Turnbull — a streetfighter when cornered — added the numbers of shadow Cabinet votes to the “yes” votes in the party room and declared that he had a majority.

Leadership contest

The party room wasn’t buying it. Turnbull was cooked.

One week and one day later — December 1, 2009 — a ballot was held for the leadership of the Liberal Party.

Tony Abbott — who nominated against both Turnbull and shadow treasurer Joe Hockey — won by a single vote.

The Abbott opposition was born, with its strident campaign against Labor’s “great big new tax on everything”.

The next day, the emissions trading scheme legislation went to a vote in the Parliament and was defeated soundly.

Both the Coalition and the Greens voted against.

The Rudd government relinquished its attempts to put a price on carbon. Rudd himself was overthrown mid-2010. Julia Gillard staked her political life on installing a carbon price, but lost it at the 2013 election in the face of Abbott’s muscular anti-carbon-tax campaign.

Abbott installed his “Direct Action” model which survives to this day, despite Turnbull’s subsequent prime ministership, during which he tried and failed to introduce the National Energy Guarantee, a legislative device aimed at establishing reliable supply and reduced emissions from the energy sector….

….’You can still see the scars’

For Kane Thornton, chief executive of the Clean Energy Council, the past 10 years are a tale of intense frustration.

“What happened back then has just so fundamentally shaped the direction and the context for climate and energy policy ever since,” he says…..

…..Visiting Sydney this week, the founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, British-born Michael Liebreich, was brutal in his assessment of Australia’s contemporary energy situation.

“It’s unbelievable how you can have a country with such cheap solar power, such cheap wind power, frankly such cheap natural gas and yet you still have expensive power and an unreliable grid,” he told ABC’s AM.

“I mean, how do you do that? It’s a government failure.”

Turnbull, in an interview published on Saturday by The Guardian, said the climate debate in Parliament was hostage to “insurgents” inside the Coalition.

“There are plenty of odd beliefs out there and conspiracy theories but what I have always struggled to understand is why climate denialism still has the currency that it has, particularly given the evidence of the impact of climate change is now so apparent, and it is particularly apparent to people living in regional and rural Australia,” he said.

“Precisely what has been forecast is happening.”…..

…..Robb admits that his was an extraordinary intervention in a sliding-doors juncture of Australian political history.

“I’ve seen so often in my career where something monumental gets down to one vote. Then when the vote’s taken, it sticks, and the world adjusts. It was the beginning of Tony — who won by one vote. Democracy’s an amazing thing, really. And it does show you that if you’ve got half of the votes or just over half or just under, that can reflect community attitudes too,” he says.

“This is not a fault of democracy, it’s a fact.”

He mentions that when he was a much younger man, he was “a great student” of the Club of Rome, an association of scientists, bureaucrats, politicians and public thinkers who in 1972 published the book Limits To Growth, warning that the world’s resources could not withstand the depredations of ceaseless economic growth indefinitely.

Limits To Growth is still the highest-selling environmental book in the history of the world, having sold 30 million copies in more than 30 languages.

But Robb’s early fascination with the work gave way to distrust of its conclusions and primitive computer modelling; he says its warnings of resource exhaustion and economic collapse towards the end of the 20th century were overstated.

“The thing they didn’t talk about was technology. That you could find gas 300 kilometres offshore, for example, and find a way to bring it onshore. Because of this, the Club of Rome — which was quite a reputable group of people — looked more and more ridiculous as the years rolled on.”

The Club of Rome has its critics and its defenders; Limits To Growth was commonly derided by the 1990s as a misguided Doomsday scenario, but has enjoyed something of a renaissance lately. The CSIRO published a paper in 2008 finding that the book’s 30-year modelling of consequences from a “business as usual” approach to economic growth was essentially sound.

But what’s not deniable is that this work influenced one young man who grew up to be one member of a parliamentary party with a singular role to play in one vote on a policy that would either change or not change the course of a country.

Democracy, he says, is an amazing thing.

Or an infuriating thing. Or mysterious. Or random.’

 

For more articles and blog posts about population growth, immigration and white nationalism click through.