Lee Rhiannon says capitalism isn’t working but we’ve found at least five ways it’s made your life better

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon yesterday told ABC Insiders that “capitalism isn’t working”.


Say what, Lee? We beg to differ.

Here are just five ways capitalism has worked a treat around the world.

  1. It has dramatically reduced the share of people living in absolute poverty

Ourworldindata.org notes that “As more and more countries industrialised and increased the productivity of work, their economies started to grow and poverty began to decline.”

Absolute poverty has plummeted.


2. It has led to us living longer

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DISCUSSION FORUM: Is laissez-faire still fair?

In one of the first articles contributed to this site, small business council CEO Peter Strong argued that we should “put laissez-faire economics…in with the dirty laundry and be a community of action, support, reward, understanding and common sense”.

His argument was based on the idea that laissez-faire economics has led to “government inaction and policy domination by powerful vested interests” which get away with it under the banner of ‘letting the market decide’.

Many readers have disagreed with Peter’s article, so I’d like to open it up to debate below.

But first some context.

The concept of laissez-faire has been used in a number of different ways since it was first popularised in the 18th century. It means “allow to do” – essentially, if you don’t interfere in markets they will find their own way based on the aggregate of each individual’s personal decisions. As a simple example, the price of a coffee is a combination of what the cafe is willing and able to sell it for and what buyers are willing to pay for it. If it’s not worth the cafe’s while to buy equipment, set up shop and pay a barista, there will be no cup of coffee to buy; if the coffee is too expensive, there won’t be enough buyers to make the café’s existence viable, as consumers choose another way to get caffeinated.

Adam Smith described these supply and demand forces as the work of an “invisible hand”. The concept underlies the idea of a moral market, in which the social good is promoted by each attending to his or her own interests. The principle has become fundamental to the way we understand the workings of a decentralised economy.

But Adam Smith also recognised that, at least in his time, most nations (and especially colonies) were mercantilist, that is, made up of monopolies controlled by the monarchy. Where these monopolies were not actually owned by the government, the government had considerable interest in maintaining them for a range of reasons, including to preserve employment and ensure provision of a service that might otherwise not be available. He was also very concerned with anticompetitive behaviour, especially price collusion, arguing that “people of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment or diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices”.

Now it is open to debate whether the Australian economy, born of colonialism, has evolved far enough from the nationalised or quasi-nationalised institution to genuinely have the conditions for a functional laissez-faire approach. Certainly, the existence of Australian Consumer Law and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is an acknowledgement that we do have problems that require ongoing monitoring.

Peter’s argument is that big businesses represent a significant enough portion of the economy that many believe are “too big to fail” and that together with big unions they have developed a powerful alliance, often through secret deals, which has put small business at a disadvantage.

And so I would invite our readers to discuss a few questions here over the weekend:

  • Do you agree with Peter? Why, or why not?
  • Does Australia have a free market?
  • If not, where are the distortions?
  • Should we be seeking to correct distortions?
  • If so, how can these be corrected as gently as possible, that is, without causing undue misery due by way of unemployment?
  • What are the most important industrial relations reforms to pursue today?

Leave your comments below or here on our Facebook page.

I would also emphasise that this shouldn’t be a discussion as to what we should ideally be – utopias rely on the idea of human perfectibility. We’ve never achieved this kind of divinity in history and it seems foolhardy to hope we’ll suddenly develop it. I believe we should accept that humanity will always be a mix of good, bad and indifferent moral characters and that the “ideal” outcome is one which achieves a satisfactory equilibrium among these that results in civilised behaviour, tolerance and the ongoing goal of individual and social improvement.

But I’d like to hear what you think.

I look forward to a lively and intelligent debate!

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The Words of the Week: Needs-based. Union. Slamming.

Wants Vs Needs

Each week The Fair Go distills the week in politics into three words that have led the news cycle and dominated debate and explains what they really mean.

The terms that jumped out at us this week are: Needs-based. Union. Slamming.

They almost form a sentence.


Definition: An important concept which acknowledges that resources are limited, and that efficient, outcome-oriented use of funding is key to good government. Liable to come under fire where there is debate over the definition of need versus want. See for reference: Oh lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz, copyright Janis Joplin, 1970.


Definition: An alliance of individuals who are very often confused as to the needs/wants distinction above. Liable to hunt down and intimidate your children if you disagree with their definition of needs and wants.


Definition: Albo’s happy place. He’s either slamming tunes or slamming his party leader. He used to be all for slamming by unions but now he’s against them slamming so he can slam Shorten for not slamming them. Got that?

Who’s your grand-daddy?

Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders

We can’t be the only ones who remember that brief, disturbing time in which Australia declared the newly-minted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to be “daddy”.

We were curious how UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and US Democrat candidate Bernie Sanders would stack up in the daddy stakes. Corbyn got a huge slice of the youth vote and Sanders didn’t make it through the primary but still commands the hearts, minds and Twitter feeds of voters craving a political quality which has been thin on the ground.

It’s The Fair Go’s considered opinion that this quality is Daddiness. Or maybe more like grand-daddiness. Hear us out.

At first glance, you’d have to say that these old white leaders (OWLs) are unlikely heroes for a woke generation. But the young, white and wealthy just can’t get enough of them.

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The values we hold to be self-evident

Parnell McGuinness

Values underpin all our actions – by their existence or absence. They are the key to successful immigration and integration.

Unlike the constitutions of the United States, France or Germany, the Australian constitution is a deeply prosaic document, more of an MOU on how government is to be organised than a statement of fundamental principles. It has proven perfectly serviceable as a contract among the states to co-operate as a federation, but says nothing of the values we share.

Nonetheless, Australians today do have shared values and our society is structured around them. We feel them, though most of us couldn’t clearly articulate them. As Dennis Denuto says in The Castle, it’s just the vibe of the thing.

Still, it’s no accident that Australians from a wide range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds have been able to form such a cohesive society. Australia has a long history of scholarly thought and, in certain circles at least, sophisticated debate around how to build a successful multi-ethnic society.

“thanks to our integrative approach Australia has avoided creating parallel societies”

It is thanks to this thoughtful, integrative approach to immigration that Australia has avoided much of the division and subsequent social unrest which is manifesting in the parallel societies of Europe.

It is vital that our immigration and residency criteria protect Australia from going down the path of a Europe which has been weakened by division and is now being wracked by Islamic terrorism.

One of the foundation stones of effective integration is a shared language. That does not mean the eradication of other languages – arguably we should encourage Australians to learn more languages from a younger age. It is simply a statement of the obvious: people who can communicate can participate more successfully than those who can’t. It is also a way of protecting new migrants against exploitation within their own communities and ensuring they can partake of the freedoms Australia offers; again, where Europe has failed to insist that immigrants possess a good command of the language, especially woman are often effectively held hostage by their inability to understand their right to state protection from domestic violence and other abuses.

Moreover, if you believe in a minimum wage, a standard of English which allows immigrants to participate fully in the economy is not “bizarre snobbery”, it is a protection against the language barrier discount which unscrupulous employers can impose on immigrants desperate to secure a path to permanent residency.

“the most important criteria for citizenship is the desire to share the Australian vibe”

But perhaps the most important criteria for citizenship is the desire to share the Australian vibe – that is, to live within the rules and values which underpin Australian society.

Asking immigrants to respond to “shared value” questions won’t guarantee that they actually share those values. But it will at least confirm that they have read them and are familiar with them. The questions will make signing the Australian Values Statement more significant – effectively, there will be no avenue to seek a reduced sentence on the basis of cultural differences, or a lack of familiarity with Australian mores.

Make no mistake, violations of the individual tenets outlined in the statement are already crimes. This will simply strengthen to the backbone of the rule of law.

Yet the ALP has called it “massive overreach”. The new criteria are steps which, according to Tony Burke, “Australia should never take and which are inconsistent with who we are as a nation.”

But then who are we as a nation? What do we stand for?

Is it equality between men and women that the ALP objects to? Freedom of religion? Respect for the freedom and dignity of the individual? A spirit of egalitarianism that embraces mutual respect, tolerance, fair play and compassion for those in need and pursuit of the public good?

It’s incumbent on anybody who objects to say.

Signing a statement of values won’t prevent security risks from entering the country but it will provide a strong basis for Australian society and law to deal with, and where appropriate deport, those who don’t uphold them. Enough with this hypocrisy. We need to preserve our Australian take on Western enlightenment values so that we can continue to be a beacon of freedom and prosperity for all.

The road to happiness

Road to happiness

It’s a good thing money can buy happiness. Since we worked that one out, we’ve been on the easiest policy trajectory yet: we’ve put all our money in a communal pot and we buy each person the exact right amount of happiness.

Of course, there were a few arguments when we first came up with the idea. In fact, there was a fair amount of disagreement about what happiness is, and what makes people happy. Some people said it was having great friends and work-life balance. Others said it was having lots of material possessions. Then there were those who insisted travel and new experiences are where it’s at. This made buying happiness for other people really hard. And the people who had so much money that they couldn’t possibly buy any more happiness with it sometimes insisted that happiness wasn’t the only thing money could be used for. It was a bit of a mess. People got very angry. There was lots of fighting and we were this close to war.

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