Libertarian Economic Policy Promotion and Think Tanks

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The Anglo world, especially the US, UK and Australia have conservative governments all pursuing similar or even identical radical right libertarian economic policies informed by think tanks, like Australia’s IPA Institute of Public Affairs.

However, the many lobby groups masquerading as think tanks now populating Anglosphere media, politics and academia have much in common including a need to promote libertarian policies to MPs, governments, media and society.

Further, most if not all policy their ideas emanate from US based proponents of radical right libertarian policies including James Buchanan, Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, Hayek and von Mises.  The support, communication and promotion of these ideas comes from Koch Network(s) of think tanks, especially the Atlas Network which includes AEI American Enterprise Institute, ALEC American Legislative Exchange Council, Heritage Foundation etc., while in Australia it is CIS Centre for Independent Studies and the IPA.

From the IPA Institute of Public Affairs, recommendations for then Australian PM and now UK Brexit trade envoy Tony Abbott:

Be Like Gough: 75 Radical Ideas To Transform Australia

John Roskam, Chris Berg and James Paterson Started 5 August 2012

If Tony Abbott wants to leave a lasting impact – and secure his place in history – he needs to take his inspiration from Australia’s most left-wing prime minister.

No prime minister changed Australia more than Gough Whitlam. The key is that he did it in less than three years. In a flurry of frantic activity, Whitlam established universal healthcare, effectively nationalised higher education with free tuition, and massively increased public sector salaries. He more than doubled the size of cabinet from 12 ministers to 27.

He enacted an ambitious cultural agenda that continues to shape Australia to this day. In just three years, Australia was given a new national anthem, ditched the British honours system, and abolished the death penalty and national service. He was the first Australian prime minister to visit communist China and he granted independence to Papua New Guinea. 

Whitlam also passed the Racial Discrimination Act. He introduced no-fault divorce.

Perhaps his most lasting legacy has been the increase in the size of government he bequeathed to Australia. When Whitlam took office in 1972, government spending as a percentage of GDP was just 19 per cent. When he left office it had soared to almost 24 per cent.

Virtually none of Whitlam’s signature reforms were repealed by the Fraser government. The size of the federal government never fell back to what it was before Whitlam. Medicare remains. TheRacial Discrimination Act – rightly described by the Liberal Senator Ivor Greenwood in 1975 as ‘repugnant to the rule of law and to freedom of speech’ – remains…..

Libertarian Wish List of Policy Actions:

1 Repeal the carbon tax, and don’t replace it. It will be one thing to remove the burden of the carbon tax from the Australian economy. But if it is just replaced by another costly scheme, most of the benefits will be undone.

2 Abolish the Department of Climate Change

3 Abolish the Clean Energy Fund

4 Repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act

5 Abandon Australia’s bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council

6 Repeal the renewable energy target

7 Return income taxing powers to the states

8 Abolish the Commonwealth Grants Commission

9 Abolish the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

10 Withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol

11 Introduce fee competition to Australian universities

12 Repeal the National Curriculum

13 Introduce competing private secondary school curriculums

14 Abolish the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)

15 Eliminate laws that require radio and television broadcasters to be ‘balanced’

16 Abolish television spectrum licensing and devolve spectrum management to the common law

17 End local content requirements for Australian television stations

18 Eliminate family tax benefits

19 Abandon the paid parental leave scheme

20 Means-test Medicare

21 End all corporate welfare and subsidies by closing the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education

22 Introduce voluntary voting

23 End mandatory disclosures on political donations

24 End media blackout in final days of election campaigns

25 End public funding to political parties

26 Remove anti-dumping laws

27 Eliminate media ownership restrictions

28 Abolish the Foreign Investment Review Board

29 Eliminate the National Preventative Health Agency

30 Cease subsidising the car industry

31 Formalise a one-in, one-out approach to regulatory reduction

32 Rule out federal funding for 2018 Commonwealth Games

33 Deregulate the parallel importation of books

34 End preferences for Industry Super Funds in workplace relations laws

35 Legislate a cap on government spending and tax as a percentage of GDP

36 Legislate a balanced budget amendment which strictly limits the size of budget deficits and the period the federal government can be in deficit

37 Force government agencies to put all of their spending online in a searchable database

38 Repeal plain packaging for cigarettes and rule it out for all other products, including alcohol and fast food

39 Reintroduce voluntary student unionism at universities

40 Introduce a voucher scheme for secondary schools

41 Repeal the alcopops tax

42 Introduce a special economic zone in the north of Australia including:

a) Lower personal income tax for residents

b) Significantly expanded 457 Visa programs for workers

c) Encourage the construction of dams

43 Repeal the mining tax

44 Devolve environmental approvals for major projects to the states

45 Introduce a single rate of income tax with a generous tax-free threshold

46 Cut company tax to an internationally competitive rate of 25 per cent

47 Cease funding the Australia Network

48 Privatise Australia Post

49 Privatise Medibank

50 Break up the ABC and put out to tender each individual function

51 Privatise SBS

52 Reduce the size of the public service from current levels of more than 260,000 to at least the 2001 low of 212,784

53 Repeal the Fair Work Act

54 Allow individuals and employers to negotiate directly terms of employment that suit them

55 Encourage independent contracting by overturning new regulations designed to punish contractors

56 Abolish the Baby Bonus

57 Abolish the First Home Owners’ Grant

58 Allow the Northern Territory to become a state

59 Halve the size of the Coalition front bench from 32 to 16

60 Remove all remaining tariff and non-tariff barriers to international trade

61 Slash top public servant salaries to much lower international standards, like in the United States

62 End all public subsidies to sport and the arts

63 Privatise the Australian Institute of Sport

64 End all hidden protectionist measures, such as preferences for local manufacturers in government tendering

65 Abolish the Office for Film and Literature Classification

66 Rule out any government-supported or mandated internet censorship

67 Means test tertiary student loans

68 Allow people to opt out of superannuation in exchange for promising to forgo any government income support in retirement

69 Immediately halt construction of the National Broadband Network and privatise any sections that have already been built

70 End all government funded Nanny State advertising

71 Reject proposals for compulsory food and alcohol labelling

72 Privatise the CSIRO

73 Defund Harmony Day

74 Close the Office for Youth

75 Privatise the Snowy-Hydro Scheme’

For more articles and blogs about Australian politics, climate change, conservative, economics, environment, government budgets, libertarian economics, media, political strategy and populist politics click through.

Higher Education – University Funding – Course Delivery Threats

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Presently we see results of neo-liberal policies in education, including higher education and universities having budgets cut, with research, course content and study choices manipulated through favouring STEM over liberal arts of humanities.

 

One does not think it’s a coincidence that seemingly disparate issues and groups, whether focused upon climate science denial, low taxes, immigration restrictions or white nationalism seem influenced by underlying ideology of radical right libertarians joined at the hip with eugenics, wanting to influence education, research and student outcomes.

 

Excerpts from Inside Story Australia:

 

The four-and-a-half-decade higher education squeeze

 

Rodney Tiffen 17 JUNE 2020

 

Calls for universities to reduce their reliance on international students ignore the incentives created by successive governments

 

‘It’s a long time — forty-five years in fact — since government funding of tertiary education peaked in Australia at 1.5 per cent of GDP. These days, the government contributes 0.8 per cent, or just over half that proportion. Back in 1975, around 277,000 students were enrolled in higher education; by 2016, the number had increased fivefold to 1.46 million.

 

Those figures capture the essential story of Australian universities over the past forty-five years: massive growth combined with declining public investment.

 

The suddenness of the Coronavirus pandemic has hit Australian universities very hard, but the acuteness of their problems has been greatly exacerbated by trends that have been building for decades. The federal government has offered much less support to universities than to other deeply affected parts of the economy, and many conservative commentators have used this as yet another occasion to criticise the sector.

 

Backbench Liberal senator James Paterson (graduate of the Koch affiliated IPA), for instance, says that “universities have not done themselves many favours in recent years,” as if reacting to the diminishing level of public support, especially from his own party, has not been a central driver of the strategies for survival universities have had to adopt.

 

Over the period 1989 to 2017, domestic student enrolments more than doubled, according to former Melbourne University vice-chancellor Glyn Davis, yet the federal government’s contribution to operating costs rose only by a third. Between 1995 and 2005, when OECD governments increased their contributions to tertiary education by an average of 49.4 per cent after inflation, the Howard government provided no real increase at all.

 

As Glyn Davis wrote before the pandemic, “By withdrawing public funding, government has deeded Australia a university system that relies heavily on the families of Asia. If our neighbours tire of cross-subsidising Australian students, the number of local places would shrink rapidly.”

 

The pandemic has thrown university budgets into chaos. No other sector so badly affected by the coronavirus has been treated with so little sympathy, let alone tangible support. It seems the government’s cultural antipathy to universities overrides all else…..

 

There has been an ever present battle over universities and education, not just in Australia on funding, nor recently but in the past e.g. Milton Friedman in 1955 essay “The role of government in education” for the minds and wiring of students.  

 

In some places it is normal for fringe right wing parties new to a governing coalition to request seemingly unrelated portfolios of defence, home affairs, and education…..  Control of the latter gives control over curriculum content and the hidden curriculum; Jane Mayer describes (in ‘Dark Money’, as does MacLean ‘Democracy in Chains) the machinations going on in US (and further) by radical right libertarian donors to not just change what people think, but how they think… (or not).

 

Over generations there has been a move to more liberal student versus teacher and authority centred learning, both overtly and via the hidden curriculum.

 

Hence the curriculum is based on freedom, discovery, experience and creativity, as opposed to engaging with a pre-existing body of knowledge to which the teacher is an authoritative and wise guide.

 

(Liberals, Libertarians and Educational Theory – Lindsay Paterson, 2008)

 

MacLean (like Mayer) has also upset the libertarians:

 

Stealth Attack on Liberal Scholar? Historian alleges coordinated criticism of her latest book, which is critical of radical right, from many who have received Koch funding.

 

Collusion, alternative facts, shadowy billionaires: the words sound ripped from the political headlines, but they also describe the controversy surrounding Duke University historian Nancy MacLean’s new book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America (Viking)….

 

…..Some nevertheless say they worry that swarm-style attacks on progressive scholars’ works — especially in an era of online harassment of professors and plummeting public trust in academe — could become a new normal. MacLean, they say, is the victim of just such an effort.

 

But taking advantage of student centred or liberal approaches can go both ways.  Such antipathy towards the humanities and scholarship does not preclude the likes of Kochs promoting their own ideology through funding academic schools’ programs or research, think tanks and lobbying MPs to promote their ideology e.g. George Mason University, many GOP politicians and think tanks (globally) affiliated through their Atlas Network, e.g. IPA Institute of Public Affairs in Australia promotes climate change denialism. (from Crikey Australia).

 

One does not think it’s a coincidence that seemingly disparate issues and groups, whether climate science denial, low taxes, immigration restrictions or white nationalism seem influenced by underlying ideology of radical right libertarians joined at the hip with eugenics, wanting to influence education, research and student outcomes, into the future…..

 

For more blogs and articles about Ageing democracy, Australian politics, career guidance, climate change, conservative, Covid-19, critical thinking, curriculum, demography, economics, environment, fossil fuel pollutiongovernment budgets, higher education teaching, instructional design, international education, international student, learning theory, nativism, pedagogy, political strategy, populist politics, science literacy, soft skills, student centred, VET vocational education and training, work skills and younger generations.

Create Growth for Society not Wealth for the Rich

Much discussion of economic policies, business and government, especially in the Anglo world, revolves around monetarist or libertarian need for lower business and personal taxes, trickle down effect, few government services, smaller government and talk of individual prosperity.  However, the result has led to increasing indebtedness, more wealth for the already wealthy, more significant spread in the gini coefficient and sub-optimal economies.

 

From Inside Story:

 

Need growth? Scrap policies that favour rich people and monopolies

 

Adam Triggs 1 June 2020

 

Breaking self-perpetuating cycles of rising inequality will be key to Australia’s economic recovery

 

The American economy was stuck in a vicious cycle before Covid-19. With highly indebted poorer households spending less, demand was falling and economic growth had been weakened. To stimulate activity, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates to make borrowing cheaper, resulting in even more debt and worry. And so the cycle started over again.

 

New research from economists Atif Mian, Ludwig Straub and Amir Sufi shows that this cycle is fuelled by inequality. Wealthy people have cornered a greater share of national income, and are saving more. Less well-off people are receiving a smaller share of income, and borrowing more. The resulting decline in interest rates has kept the cycle going.

 

It sounds eerily similar to the situation in Australia, and it’s not the only cycle that’s increasing inequality. A lack of competition between firms is having a similar effect: transferring wealth from poor consumers to rich shareholders. Breaking these self-perpetuating cycles will be critical to Australia’s economic recovery.

 

The nub of the problem is that rich people have a nasty habit: they save too much and spend too little. This isn’t necessarily a problem if their savings are invested in expanding businesses, creating jobs and contributing to economic activity. Sadly, though, Australia’s well-documented increase in inequality hasn’t been accompanied by an increase in investment. Quite the opposite: while inequality has grown, investment has flatlined.

 

Mian, Straub and Sufi’s research shows that this “savings glut of the rich,” as they call it, is creating as well as financing the debts of the non-rich. Too much saving and too little investment has depressed interest rates; and lower interest rates are fuelling debt levels among non-rich households, which are borrowing to keep up. For the first time, this research shows, the rise in the share of income taken by the rich can explain almost all of the increased household debt of the non-rich……

 

What to do?

 

Australia’s inequality problem isn’t new, but we are becoming increasingly aware of just how damaging it is economically, politically and socially. More alarmingly, we are learning how the macroeconomic and competition effects are creating self-perpetuating cycles of inequality. The recovery from Covid-19 will require deep structural reform to lift growth, and also presents an opportunity to break these cycles through holistic reform of tax, welfare and competition.

 

The tax system is too generous to the rich, and the welfare system is too mean to the poor…..

 

We can also change the welfare system to directly reduce poverty and thus inequality…..

 

To boost competition, the government should reform the laws that shield many industries from competition — including those in airlines, pharmacies, coastal shipping, the legal profession and the medical profession……

 

The laws regulating mergers and acquisitions should be tightened to guarantee more scrutiny of proposed mergers in industries that are already concentrated…….

 

Past epidemics have one thing in common: they made inequality worse. There’s no reason to think Covid-19 will be any different. The Australian economy can’t afford to snap back to old habits. 

 

For more articles about Australian politics, business strategy, consumer behaviour, economics, finance, GDP growth, global trade, small business and strategic management.

 

Anglosphere Libertarianism in US, Australia and UK Tories with Dominic Cummings

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We have observed Anglospehere conservative politics being taken over by radical right libertarianism in the US, UK and Australia, entwined with eugenics or xenophobia manifested by white nationalists and neo liberal policies; the Conservative Party in the UK suffers the same presently with Dominic Cummings in the limelight.

 

Facilitated by key individuals such as Dominic Cummings, Steve Bannon, et al. via media, PR and strategists including or via Murdoch’s NewsCorp, Crosby Textor, Cambridge Analytica et al., informed by libertarian think tanks like Koch Atlas Network influenced by Nobel Prize winning economist James Buchanan, behind the Austrian and Chicago Schools (along with Hayek, Friedman, Rand et al.).

 

For example there are Atlas links between ALEC American Legislative Exchange Council, IPA Institute of Public Affairs (Australia) and IEA Institute of Economic Affairs (UK) promoting strong neo-liberal ideas including smaller government and lower taxes.

 

This is in parallel with promotion of immigration restrictions linked to ideas and tactics of the late John Tanton e.g. ZPG Zero Population Growth, TSCP The Social Contract Press, FAIR Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform, Sustainable Australia, Population Matters and Migration Watch UK; maybe coincidence but only one or no degree of separation between them (privately or publicly)?

 

Brexit may have been about antipathy towards Europe, immigrants and nostalgia for a greater Britain but for many, mostly in the background, it was radical right libertarianism avoiding trade and other regulations, helped along by the Leave campaign:

 

The real reason we should fear the work of Dominic Cummings

 

Carole Cadwalladr
Downing Street’s controversial top adviser faces new accusations of poisoning politics, but his true nature was clear during Vote Leave’s Brexit triumph.

 

On 2 March 2017, shortly after my first major article on Cambridge Analytica was published, a furious tweeter appeared in my timeline: “1/ big @Guardian by @carolecadwalla on Mercer/Cambridge Analytica = full of errors & itself spreads disinformation.”

 

It marked the moment that Dominic Cummings entered my life – though at the time I had no idea who he was. At that time few people did. Cummings was the dark horse, known to just a few Westminster insiders, who had stealthily steered Vote Leave to victory in June 2016 while the rest of us were looking the other way.

 

But that is no longer the case. In the past two weeks, he has emerged from the shadows and burned himself on to the nation’s consciousness. As Boris Johnson’s chief adviser, he’s helped mastermind some of the most audacious – and outrageous – moves ever committed by a British prime minister: an attempt to suspend parliament, and the expulsion of 21 moderate MPs from the Conservative party. Moves that led the mild man of British politics, the former prime minister John Major, to call him a “political anarchist” who was “poisoning politics”.

 

From Politico

 

British PM’s special adviser inspires greater loyalty among many key officials than Johnson does.

 

By CHARLIE COOPER AND EMILIO CASALICCHIO 5/26/20, 9:45 PM CET Updated 5/31/20, 1:04 AM CET

 

LONDON — Never mind whether Boris Johnson should get rid of Dominic Cummings, the real question is whether he can.

 

To the U.K. prime minister, his top aide — whose lockdown journey from London to Durham has dominated headlines for days — is more than just an effective political adviser. He is the lynchpin of the Downing Street operation; someone who — according to several people who have worked with the two men in and out of government — gives Johnson policy direction and operational grip, while commanding more loyalty among a number of key officials and ministers than the prime minister does himself.

 

From The New Yorker

 

New Evidence Emerges of Steve Bannon and Cambridge Analytica’s Role in Brexit

 

By Jane Mayer

 

The possibility that Brexit and the Trump campaign relied on some of the same advisers to further far-right nationalist campaigns has set off alarm bells on both sides of the Atlantic.

 

For two years, observers have speculated that the June, 2016, Brexit campaign in the U.K. served as a petri dish for Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign in the United States. Now there is new evidence that it did. Newly surfaced e-mails show that the former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, and Cambridge Analytica, the Big Data company that he worked for at the time, were simultaneously incubating both nationalist political movements in 2015……

 

There are direct links between the political movements behind Brexit and Trump. We’ve got to recognise the bigger picture here. This is being coordinated across national borders by very wealthy people in a way we haven’t seen before.”

 

Bannon has been strongly influenced by Jean Raspail’s dystopian novel ‘Camp of the Saints’, from The Huffington Post:

 

This Stunningly Racist French Novel Is How Steve Bannon Explains The World.

 

“The Camp of the Saints” tells a grotesque tale about a migrant invasion to destroy Western civilization.

 

The same author Raspail had been interviewed by Australian academic Dr. Katherine Betts (collaborator with Dr. Robert Birrell deemed ‘Australia’s best demographer’ by Sustainable Population Australia patron Dick Smith and cited frequently by mainstream media in Australia as an expert on immigration) in John Tanton’s TSCP:

A Conversation With Jean Raspail‘ reprint from original 1994-95

Not only is Tanton intimately linked with founding TSCP but had also crossed paths with others of note at the Koch’s ‘bill mill’ ALEC including Heritage Foundation’s Weyrich, Falwell of the Christian Nationalist right and the deep pocketed Mercers, along with others,’wheels within wheels’?

 

Three right-wing organizations founded nearly forty years ago by conservative activist Paul Weyrich are rediscovering their shared origins. The Republican Study Committee, a caucus of 169 right-wing Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, is establishing a partnership with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the controversial “corporate bill mill” for state legislators

 

ALEC & SLLI – “Bipartisan” Bigotry. There appears to be a dirty little secret lurking in the halls and cocktail parties of the of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) meetings – overt racism…..The John Tanton Network and the Anti-Immigrant Movement in America.
One man is at the heart of the most influential network of anti-immigrant groups in the country. This man, John H. Tanton, has created an empire of organizations populated by lobbyists, lawyers, legislators, and “experts” that have permeated the very depths of America’s social and political debate on immigration.

 

What appears to the public as myriad separate voices all advocating for one cause, i.e. severe immigration enforcement, is nothing more than a facade, a collection of craftily constructed front groups, faux-”coalitions,” and spin-offs that are collectively unified in their goal to overwhelm any reasonable debate on immigration with their branded worldview of bigotry.

 

This collective is known as the John Tanton Network.’

 

The Alt-Right and the 1%.  When President Trump equated white supremacists with anti-racism protesters, he was sending a message to the thugs in the streets and to some in executive suites…. ….Mercer, the co-CEO of the $50 billion Renaissance Technologies hedge fund, is also one of three owners of Breitbart News, the outlet Trump strategist (and former Breitbart editor) Steve Bannon has described as a “platform for the alt-right.”

 

With Mercer’s financial support, Breitbart has become a significant media force. While readership is down from its peak during the election campaign, the site attracted 11 million unique visitors in May of this year.

 

Here’s How Breitbart And Milo Smuggled White Nationalism Into The Mainstream. A cache of documents obtained by BuzzFeed News reveals the truth about Steve Bannon’s alt-right “killing machine.” In August, after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville ended in murder, Steve Bannon insisted that “there’s no room in American society” for neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, and the KKK.

 

But an explosive cache of documents obtained by BuzzFeed News proves that there was plenty of room for those voices on his website.’

 

One Man Created a Bunch of Hate Groups. Now, Those Hate Groups Are Dug in With the Trump Administration….Steve Bannon, former White House Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to the President, was the CEO of Breitbart, which frequently reports on the Tanton network’s “research” and gives column space to Tanton allies. Bannon’s favorite book, a racist French novel, was published in English by another of Tanton’s organizations.

 

The deep connections that Tanton’s anti-immigrant network has in the Trump Administration is concerning in its own right; but the immediate and long term effects of its influence on policy will continue to be devastating for the lives of countless immigrants. Under the Trump Administration, CIS, FAIR, NumbersUSA, and the rest of the Tanton network have more power than ever — and they’re using it to reshape American immigration policy, possible for decades to come.’

 

Britain’s Steve Bannon Is Tearing Boris Johnson’s Tories Apart…….Just six weeks later, Cummings is in the limelight as the new hate figure in British politics and the man many Conservatives blame for wrecking their party and pushing the country into chaos all in the name of delivering Brexit.’

 

Conservatives in the USA, UK and Australian politics should be concerned as their respective parties are being torn apart by radical right libertarian driven white nationalism and populist politics.

Population, Environment and White Nationalists in Australia – US Links

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Article titled ‘Green Anti-Immigration Arguments Are A Cover For Right Wing Populism’ summarises ZPG Zero Population Growth in Australia, US white nationalist links, citing Paul Ehrlich and John Tanton. A symptom of US based radical right libertarianism and eugenics, presented as liberal, environmental and science based, but in fact supported by oligarchs.

 

The clearest signals emerged in the US in the ’70s when simultaneously fossil fuel companies became aware of global warming due to carbon emissions (and threatened by Nixon’s EPA), ZPG was established with Ehrlich, Tanton et al., supported by Rockefeller Bros. (Standard Oil then Exxon), Ford and Carnegie Foundations (according to the Washington Post), Club of Rome promoting Limits to Growth PR construct (including carrying capacity, Herman Daly’s steady-state economy suggesting protectionism to preclude global competition etc.) hosted on Rockefeller estate, sponsored by VW and Fiat, while James Buchanan and later Koch’s et al. started promoting libertarian economics (also Friedman, Hayek, Rand and Chicago School), nativism and developing think tanks for influence in politics, academia and media (according to MacLean’s ‘Democracy in Chains’ and Mayer’s ‘Dark Money’), including ALEC, Heritage Foundation etc..

 

Green Anti-Immigration Arguments Are A Cover For Right Wing Populism

 

Tony Goodfellow | 22nd February, 2019

 

With the backdrop of dramatic decrease in migration to Australia in 2018 to a 10 year low, the population debate has reared its ugly head. In recent months Dick Smith has run an advertising blitz with the title ‘overpopulation will destroy Australia’ that compares population growth to cancer and recently took stage at Dark + Dangerous Thoughts at Mona arguing “no” for the proposition “Do We Let Them In?”. Dick Smith’s intervention comes as members of the far right continue to focus on immigration as a major issue. For example, the newly minted Katter’s Australian Party senator, Fraser Anning, praised the White Australia Policy in his inaugural speech and echoed Nazi rhetoric saying “the final solution to the immigration problem of course is a popular vote”. The Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also recently spoken about reducing Australia’s immigration intake.

 

The two views, although, coming from different perspectives, one nominally in the name of “sustainability” and the other a throwback to colonialism steeped in racism and xenophobia, arrive at the same destination, a hermetical view of the world projecting fear onto an outsider. In Dick Smith’s view the outsider is coming to destroy the environment and it Anning’s version they threaten the “European-Christian” ethno-white state.

 

The environmental rhetoric of the population debate might be alluring to progressives. Who would argue against clean air and clean water? Who wouldn’t agree that the current paradigm of growth is unsustainable? The problem is that an analysis based solely in population is superficial, creating solutions that end up marrying with the worst parts of Australian politics – far-right populism. If unchecked environmentalists focused solely on population threaten to be co-opted and driving a wedge in the environmental movement – because on the surface the arguments sound appealing.
Debate about population within the environment movement has played out many times, with many of the arguments not being new. Dick Smith’s manifesto proclaims “The prime reason for the decline in living standards for many Australian workers is our population growth.”

 

However, whose environment is he trying to protect?

 

Background to the environmental population debate

 

In the late 1960’s and onward a debate raged in environmental groups that threatened to tear them apart. The hotly debated issue was about population, spurned on by the publication of the neo-Malthusian The Population Bomb by Paul R. Ehrlich.

 

The Population Bomb is an easy-to-read polemic written for a popular audience and a guide for organising. In Ehrlich’s view over-population is leading to societal and environmental collapse and the issue needs immediate policy action. It thus begun with the famous lines, “The battle to feed all of humanity is over,” and the pace continues:

 

“Overpopulation is now the dominant problem.

 

Overpopulation occurs when numbers threaten values.

 

…regardless of changes in technology or resource consumption and distribution, current rates of population growth guarantee an environmental crisis which will persist until the final collapse.

 

There are some professional optimists around who like to greet every sign of dropping birth rates with wild pronouncements about the end of the population explosion.

 

Many of these countries, some of which are the poorest, most undernourished, and most overpopulated in the world, are prime candidates for a death-rate solution to the Population explosion

 

Our position requires that we take immediate action at home and promote effective action worldwide. We must have population control at home, hopefully through changes in our value system, but by compulsion if voluntary methods fail.”

 

He argues that population is a geometrical ratio:

 

“If growth continued at that rate for about 900 years, there would be some 60,000,000,000,000,000 people on the face of the earth…Unfortunately, even 900 years is much too far in the future for those of us concerned with the population explosion. As you will· see, the next nine years will probably tell the story.”

 

He graphically compares population growth to cancer, just like Dick Smith:

 

“We can no longer afford merely to treat the symptoms of the cancer of population growth; the cancer itself must be cut out.”

 

In “Chapter 1 The Problem” Ehrlich writes that “I have understood the population explosion intellectually for a long time. I came to understand it emotionally one stinking hot night in Delhi a few years ago.”

 

It would be hard not to be terror-stricken after reading The Population Bomb and it inspired many to action – perhaps prematurely. One argument, coming from a milieu of a white middle-class that some scholars have called an “apartheid ecology”, could be characterised as the “Green anti-immigrant” position. This position argued that there needed to be a national population policy in the United States that centred on radically reducing immigration.

 

This debate had echoes of the 18th century where many often turned to population control to solve social ills. This movement was famously satirised by Jonathan Swift’s ‘A Modest Proposal’ or its longer title ‘A Modest Proposal For preventing the Children of Poor People From being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and For making them Beneficial to the Publick’. It also had echoes of Thomas Malthus who posited in An Essay on the Principle of Population that population would exceed food supply:

 

“The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race

 

Taking the population of the world at any number, a thousand millions, for instance, the human species would increase in the ratio of — 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, etc. and subsistence as — 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, etc. In two centuries and a quarter, the population would be to the means of subsistence as 512 to 10: in three centuries as 4096 to 13, and in two thousand years the difference would be almost incalculable, though the produce in that time would have increased to an immense extent.”

 

An Essay on the Principle of Population expressed a view where empathy to certain groups, such as the poor, would spell disaster. His ideas led those in power to look at famine as good for society and that support for those not well off as creating “the poor which they maintain” . Marx famously argued against Malthus:

 

“The hatred of the English working class for Malthus—the ‘mountebank-parson,’ as Cobbett rudely called him…—was thus fully justified and the people’s instinct was correct here, in that they felt that he was no man of science, but a bought advocate of their opponents, a shameless sycophant of the ruling classes.”

 

This account was pretty accurate considering Malthus has been used to wage war on the poor. “Over the last 200 years” according to eco-socialist John Bellamy Foster “Malthusianism has thus always served the interests of those who represented the most barbaric tendencies within bourgeois society.”

 

Malthus’ view would end up marrying with Eugenics to form an ideological base for the Nazis. From early on Hitler fetishised the idea that population was the problem:

 

“The annual increase of population in Germany amounts to almost 900,000 souls. The difficulties of providing for this army of new citizens must grow from year to year and must finally lead to a catastrophe, unless ways and means are found which will forestall the danger of misery and hunger.”

 

Tragically his solution to his manufactured population problem was to violently enlarge the borders of the state, encourage higher fertility of anyone who was in Arthur de Gobineau’s ahistorical category of the true Germans or Aryan race while offsetting this by genocide of certain populations he deemed too foreign, not nationalistic enough or inferior.

 

Brief History of the rise of concern for population to be anti-immigration.

 

After The Population Bomb was released the new wave of the population debate played out in the one the largest and oldest conservation groups, the Sierra Club, leading to a decades old internecine struggle. The publication solidified for many that overpopulation was the most important issue for environmentalists. The polemic had a forward by David Brower, the executive director of the Sierra Club. He tied the Sierra Club’s mission to the call to action of the The Population Bomb, writing:

 

“The roots of the new brutality, it will become clear from The Population Bomb, are in the lack of population control. There is, we must hope and predict, a chance to exert control in time. We would like to predict that organizations which, like the Sierra Club, have been much too calm about the ultimate threat to mankind, will awaken themselves and others, and awaken them with an urgency that will be necessary to fulfillment of the prediction that mankind will survive. We must use our political power to push other countries into programs which combine agricultural development and population control.”

 

One scholar writes that the Ehrlich’s polemic “convinced many people that population expansion would eventually transcend the earth’s carrying capacity, leading to ecological disaster”. In doing so population became the pre-eminent concern for many environmentalists. It wasn’t long before environmental groups split on the issue. Population policy brought up many difficult questions that advocates could not address. On the question of scale, for example, should population be addressed globally or nationally? How do you address it nationally when the fertility rate is so low? Some proponents of addressing overpopulation decided the most politically acceptable way was to address it nationally, primarily through drastically reducing immigration. This focus on immigration somewhat overlook the arbitrary nature of both the new population goal and narrowly focusing on national population instead of consumption. There was no evidence that immigration size was related to ecological damage but the fear of population getting out of control was an overriding logic, and immigration provided a useful political tool……. continues……

 

Further reading

 

I’m an environmental journalist, but I never write about overpopulation. – Here’s why: https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2017/9/26/16356524/the-population-question

 

Greenwash: Nativists, Environmentalism and the Hypocrisy of Hate: https://www.splcenter.org/20100630/greenwash-nativists-environmentalism-and-hypocrisy-hate

 

Life in a ‘degrowth’ economy, and why you might actually enjoy it: https://theconversation.com/life-in-a-degrowth-economy-and-why-you-might-actually-enjoy-it-32224

 

Here’s what a population policy for Australia could look like: https://theconversation.com/heres-what-a-population-policy-for-australia-could-look-like-101458

 

Other related sources:

 

Betts K, Ideology and Immigration, Volume 1, Number 4 (Summer 1991), The Social Contract Press, https://www.thesocialcontract.com/artman2/publish/tsc0104/article_56.shtml

 

Betts K, Population Policy Issues, Volume 8, Number 2 (Winter 1997-1998), The Social Contract Press, https://www.thesocialcontract.com/artman2/publish/tsc0802/article_698.shtml

 

Betts K, A Conversation With Jean Raspail*, (Reprint) Volume 15, Number 4 (Summer 2005), The Social Contract Press, https://www.thesocialcontract.com/artman2/publish/tsc1504/article_1340.shtml (* Steve Bannon’s favourite)

 

Birrell R, Australian Nation-State, Volume 7, Number 2 (Winter 1996-1997), The Social Contract Press, https://www.thesocialcontract.com/artman2/publish/tsc0702/article_615.shtml

 

Bricker D & Ibbitson J, 2019, Empty Planet, Signal Books, https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37585564-empty-planet

 

Haney-Lopez I, 2014, Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class, Oxford University Press USA, https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17847530-dog-whistle-politics

 

Jaco S, Anti-Immigration campaign has begun Washington Post May 8 1977 https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1977/05/08/anti-immigration-campaign-begun/

 

MacLean N, 2017, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, Viking, https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30011020-democracy-in-chains

 

Mayer J, 2016, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, Doubleday, https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27833494-dark-money

 

Pearce F, 2010, The Coming Population Crash: And Our Planet’s Surprising Future, Beacon Press, https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7788578-the-coming-population-crash

 

van Onselen L, MacroBusiness (Australia) many articles about immigration, NOM net overseas migration, international education and population growth using research of Birrell and Betts https://www.macrobusiness.com.au/author/leith/

 

For more articles and blogs about Australian politics, demography, population growth and white nationalism click through.