The Australian’s report on Kevin Rudd’s address to the CIS

5 08 2008

I am basing this discussion on the Australian newspaper’s reporting of a speech given by Kevin Rudd to the Centre for Independent Studies Consilium last Saturday: I’m assuming accuracy of reporting by the Australian. I have not been able to find the article on the Australian’s website and cannot locate a transcript of the speech on the CIS website. So if anyone finds either, please inform me. Within media circles, Kevin Rudd is becoming famous for spouting a whole lot of meaningless drivel. I would have thought his over-use of meaningless generalities, floating abstractions, cliche and vague euphemism may have been avoided when addressing a prominent think-tank with economic expertise such as the CIS. But I was wrong. Kevin Rudd starts off his speech with some typical general drivel. He says political challenges “don’t have easy solutions”. Well I suppose so, but what challenges is he talking about?  He doesn’t say but he starts to sound a bit like a whingeing child when he continues with this line of self pity towards the end of his talk. “Would we take the easy path of business as usual (ie: continue with previous government policy)…… or would we take the harder path…….We are determined to take the harder path”. This is not only an attempt at pity, it’s simply a lie. The Liberal party is incredibly unpopular and has been for well over a year now. To continue Liberal party policies (business as usual) such as not ratifying Kyoto or not repealing Work Choices (policies later mentioned by Rudd)  would actually be much harder by my judgment. Not that the ease or hardness of legislation has got anything to do with how good the legislation is. So the speech starts and ends with irrelevancy.

He states that “Australian’s aren’t much interested in the old battlelines of yesterday’s ideological wars”. Then in the next sentence he states that he “watches the traditional Right and Left in today’s policy debates….”. Firstly I wonder why Australians are arguing from Right and Left standpoints if they’re not interested in them. He continues by saying “the old Right and Left thinking is often an ideological straightjacket” and “We simply don’t have to choose between Hayek and Brezhnev”. 

Since when did Hayek represent the Right?

Rudd goes on to err via  non-sequitor. He says the “the old Right and Left thinking is often an ideological straight jacket” and that a compromise of the two is the solution: “The solutions will come from people willing to challenge the false choices of the old paradigms that said that our only options are heavy-handed regulation or unrestrained market forces.”  Wordy huh? This is logically incorrect.  If two social theories A and B are both wrong, asserting that the solution must lie within the realm or range but not at the extremes of the economic aspects of these two theories is not necessarily true.  But what he actually means appart from government intervention in the economy is very vague. 

And since when has a country ever adopted the “old paradigm” of unrestrained market forces.  I’d love to see it. 

IMO Rudd may be implying ideology itself is at fault. This is logically incorrect. Failure of the Right or Left ideology means simply that, not failure of all ideology. Obviously bad theories are possible, but that doesn’t mean theory-practise dichotomies are inevitable. Note that ironically, those who do not believe accurate economic theory and political ideology are possible are themselves promoting an ideology eg/ skepticism, nihlism, determinism etc or just general subjectivism.

Rudd transparently fails at his woeful attempt to pay lip service to his pro free market audience. “We believe unapologetically in the power of market forces as the most efficient and effective means of generating economic prosperity. Just as we also believe in the public goods that constitute the pre-conditions for a market economy to perform efficiently and effectively”. Firstly, let’s define things . A free market is a black and white concept. Either it’s free or it’s not. Scale and compromise only come about once a free market is not in existence ie: measuring how un-free the market is. So Rudd supports limited market forces. It’s very easy for Rudd to “unapolagetically believe” in something so vague and broad. 

Kevin Rudd makes an egregious statement that “public goods constitute the pre-conditions for a market economy to perform efficiently and effectively”. Bullshit! Rudd explicitly uses the word “pre-condition” here.  As if public goods somehow preceed voluntary private organisations.  I think he needs a history lesson. “Public goods” are of course not defined, but public goods by any reasonable definition are not pre-conditions for a healthy economy. Private property rights and low crime rates achieved by a legal system that respects individual rights are the real pre-conditions for a healthy economy. Rudd has ignored the real causes and in his vagueness simply supports government intervention in the economy generally.

Next Rudd comes out with a quote showing a high level of economic naivety. He says “We also recognise that free markets fail”. Any serious supporter of free markets will straight away challenge a ridiculous statement such as this. This is a floating abstraction. Firstly markets “fail” at what? Since when do free markets need to guarantee success?  Let’s for arguments sake say free markets fail at making Joe Blogs a millionaire, does that then imply government intervention will give a better result? That a 3rd party with the power of gun-backed force that arrogantly assumes it can make better decisions than those parties directly affected by their choices, will not “fail”?! When considering the horrendous faliures of socialist planning evident in numerous countries during the 20th century and even obvious throughout the 1950s-1970s in the west – to simply say “free markets fail” as a justification for government intervention, regulation and denial of property and individual rights is a slap in the face to anyone with half a brain.

Rudd states: “We believe in a compassionate society……..not through episodes of private philanthropic endeavour, but through the actions of the state” So he doesn’t think charity is effective? Well it sure involves big bucks these days.  But more importantly, what has government forced welfare got to do with compassion? There’s no compassion invovled at all when the power of free will is taken away. Clearly Rudd supports a welfare state, and with more than 60% of Australians receiving some kind of welfare payments, he’s quite safe there. – Yeah that’s right, Australia is the fattest country in the world but for some reason 60% Australians need tax payer funded assisstance?

Rudd now moves on to begging the question. He states: “to allow…….social institutions such as the family to fend entirely for themselves against unrestrained market forces”. In the context of the speech, Rudd is implying that these forces will have negative outcomes. What exactly do you need to fend off from a free market? A free market means voluntary exchange of goods. There’s no force involved that needs fending off. However, the Rudd supported political gun-backed force into these voluntary exchanges that by definition violates economic freedoms – now that needs fending off. He states that “families need fundamental protections in the workplace”. Sure all individuals need protection from genuine crimes in any setting eg/ violence – However Rudd doesn’t mean protections of rights. He is using “protection” as a euphemism for government intervention without substantiating that protection is needed or achieved. These arbitary claims should simply be discarded IMO.

In the entire body of his speech, Rudd does not once justify why or how government intervention would deliver better outcomes on average for more Australians.

Let’s consider the next paragraph (emphasis added): “And the challenges of policy innovation and solving complex problems often arise from the nuts-and-bolts questions, such as how we design markets …. ”

Yes we know you think markets need designing. 

“…..that harness the innovative potential of market incentives that operate trasparently with informed and empowered consumers and that are supported by the most appropriate provision of public goods, while intervening where necessary when markets fail” This is meaningless! These concepts are not concretised to reality. This is classic vague, arrogant, pretentious Rudd. And he tops it off by repeating the naive floating abstraction “when markets fail”. At what? He makes the same intellectual fault at the end of the next paragraph by claiming government intervention will “see Australia through”. Through what? How will government intervention be better?

Kevin Rudd very rarely goes into specifics, in fact he is a master of saying a lot of words that convey very little information. Is he engaged in deliberate obsfucation or perhaps just plain pretentiousness? Who knows, but Kevin Rudd obviously has a very poor grasp of epistemological theory and the processes of logic and thinking. He’s also IMO subscribes to subjectivist type ideology, characterised by his inability to acknowledge objective economic reality, his implications of theory-practise dichotomies and his approach of applying compromise indiscriminately to all political problems etc. The guy must be an intellectual light weight. And there’s little hope for any decent economic reform in Australia over the next few years.

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2 responses

22 08 2008
How can Australia’s leading newspaper employ someone as useless as Emma Tom? « Tim Robinson

[…] the same irrelevant “compassion” argument as Kevin Rudd in his address to the CIS (see previous post). She spends a lot of time talking about how no welfare means no compassion. This is not true […]

27 04 2010
Should the moral character of PM Kevin Krudd be brought into question? « Tim R

[…] of economics at least.  eg/ John Humphries’ article “Ruddomics: the crisis“, or my thoughts on Rudd’s address to the CIS (Centre for Independant studies) from Aug 2008.  Brookesnews is […]

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