Economic correctness gone mad



It's time we called out Economic Correctness. It's gone too far. The minute you voice even the smallest doubt about the Current Way of Things (neoliberal capitalism) you get hammered. If, for example, you ask why large multinationals should profit from aged care, the guardians of Economic Correctness look at you funny. Either they don't quite get what you mean or they do get it and cast you as an enemy of democracy.

Close-up of a smoking cigar butt (Credit: shutterjack via Getty)We don't talk about Economic Correctness. But seriously, it's gone mad. I mean, the Prime Minister wants to outlaw boycotts against the powers that run the Current Way of Things — the ones we are meant to be grateful to because they sometimes pay taxes into the public coffers. But in the Creation Myth of the Current Way they're not even really public coffers. Since they are supposedly filled by the current powers (may they be blessed!) they are decidedly private. And private is good, private is best. It means you get what you put in, that those who have a go get a go.

The Creation Myth teaches that they created the wealth and that we must thank them because they share a little of this through jobs and taxes. They let some of the wealth trickle down. But it is theirs to do with as they wish. They built this country, through hard work, risk, and a level of ingenuity that you and I can only dream of. Most of all, they make the economy strong. And we must all make sacrifices for the economy. If we don't it is our children who will suffer.

We also need to adapt to change by giving up some of our rights. How can the economy stay strong if we adhere to this nonsense of collectively bargaining for better wages and conditions? We are paid too much as it is. And all this penalty rates nonsense, and being treated to sweets like annual leave and sick leave, how is the economy going to stay competitive if we behave like naughty children?

As for unions they belong in the bin. Better for the economy if we each cut our own deals with our employers. They need the flexibility to be able to pay us when they need us and leave us waiting when they don't. Better for the economy, better for everyone (for the economy is everyone) if we are kept on our toes and learn to practise a little discipline, get a bit more competitive with each other.

Which is why we shouldn't pamper the unemployed. If we make life miserable for them we gain a bit more leverage in keeping wages down and stripping conditions. There's nothing as bracing for a worker as the fear of unemployment. Why should the powers pay more for our labour when someone else can offer it for less?

And why should they have to give away huge (to us, not to them) chunks of their hard-earned profits because all of us want too much stuff for free — like education, health, and a helping hand from time to time? Why can't we learn to do as they do, and pay for what we need individually, like grown-ups? 


"Her analysis constitutes a serious offence against Economic Correctness. It is unflinchingly honest. And this is exactly what we need."


As for us organising ourselves together to do anything, and the whole notion that there are some things that should not be privatised, these are the perfect examples of Economic Incorrectness and they should be corrected! It's when we are allowed this childish nonsense that you get situations like people wanting to protest on the streets. As things stand, it's the powers who have to foot the bill for such theatrics.

If any of the above doesn't quite pass the credibility test, then perhaps you too feel that Economic Correctness has gone too far. On ABC's Q&A recently, anti-ageism advocate, Ashton Applewhite, said: 'I would say capitalism is probably the biggest driver, in that we don't respect people who don't contribute in conventional economic terms, which means children and retired people, even though they contribute in many ways that are harder to measure, and often enable other people to contribute in conventional ways.'

This analysis constitutes a serious offence against Economic Correctness. It is unflinchingly honest. And this is exactly what we need. Yes, you will be called out for blaspheming against the orthodoxy of Economic Correctness. But how can we stay silent when market fundamentalism has crept into every corner of our lives, transforming the social into the commercial, the essential into the commodifiable, displacing an ethic of care with a market for the purchase of care?

We are in the thick of an aged care crisis that has been constructed with the bricks of Economic Correctness. Our governments hold that structures that are, by definition, attuned to the logic of putting profits before people will, left to their own devices with loads of public money, magically start putting people before profits. And we have been taught not to question this sacred belief.

It is time to question the orthodoxy, time to ask, not how we can accomodate the commodification of everything, but how we can reclaim the commons, and begin to democratise, rather than privatise, what should be there for all of us. As the Turkish proverb goes: 'No matter how far you've gone down the wrong road, turn back.'



John FalzonDr John Falzon is Senior Fellow, Inequality and Social Justice at Per Capita. He is a sociologist, poet and social justice advocate and was national CEO of the St Vincent de Paul Society in Australia from 2006 to 2018. He is a member of the Australian Services Union.

Main image credit: shutterjack via Getty

Topic tags: John Falzon, capitalism, aged care



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Excellent appraisal, John Falzon. What you describe is the obscene extremes of current capitalism, something equally as obscene as the extremes of Marxist socialism. Both systems paid no heed to the poor who suffered miserably under both. There was a middle road in Western society once which promoted social services, something which was in the forefront of this country's political policy which society seems to have abandoned with the progressive march of privatisation which has spawned the gathering clouds of revolution. We have seen two world changing revolutions in France and Russia and if the cycle continues we are on track to have another in about 20 years or so. Like the other two it will probably have a far greater affect on our children and grand children that the dreaded climate change!
john frawley | 14 November 2019

"Our governments hold that structures that are, by definition, attuned to the logic of putting profits before people will, left to their own devices with loads of public money, magically start putting people before profits." For once I agree with Dr Falzon. As a radical free marketeer, I find the idea of mixing private and public funding and regulation to be fatally flawed in its incentive structure. It is a brilliant recipe … for the worst getting on top, as Hayek put it. However, let us not assume "democracy" is the answer. After all, it's democracy that has delivered us the swampy status quo! I’d also point out that old people were best treated with due dignity in the era when Catholic Christianity held sway. Monks, nuns and Catholic laity took in the isolated old, poor and infirm and cared for them in vast and sophisticated “private” networks throughout Christendom and in missionary lands. The Little Sisters of the Poor carry on, quietly and humbly, that glorious tradition: they should be our inspiration and guide. Forget democracy: we should aim to reconvert our society. “Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven …”
HH | 14 November 2019

Thoroughly enjoyable... and left me thinking about how to democratically take back the common. A few years ago we (the Plaintiffs) were coerced, conned and cajoled to select from a new lot of energy service providers, assured that privatization would drive competition and savings... then it was cordially explained that costs must increase because each company had individual management and administration systems, prices increased and BECAUSE we did exactly as expected - individually selected the various providers - we now have confusing pricing structures (just like the various phone and internet packages). Despite PM Turnbull's "stern letter" and continued public complaint we've still got the highest energy costs in the world. So what can the public do in a privatized "free" market? Get everybody to buy from ONE supplier!! Just like we did before... sure, the companies who lose market share will discount heavily to attract the business back but we all know the honeymoon Contract will expire and revert to higher charges. When one service provider has the lion's share they become answerable, until we achieve this biased market situation the likes of banks, insurance, energy and ISP companies will continue to treat clients with contempt.
Ray | 15 November 2019

So bloody obvious, we do not need to be debating it. Thank you for shining a light on the dark recesses of our lazy smugness. His Holiness expresses similar sentiments.
Roy Fanthome | 15 November 2019

Nailed it again John.
Bernie McMahon | 15 November 2019

Thank you, John Falzon, ever the prophet shining a fierce light on the realities of social and institutional injustice.
Rose Marie Crowe | 15 November 2019

Our current prime minister is a " Miracle " one. He believes in Miracles. No one who has experienced a miracle continues with the same beliefs. A conversion occurs. Let's hope that our prime minister will hear the call to " LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS I HAVE LOVED YOU " Jn 13: 34 He has to change regarding the poor, the homeless, the mentally sick, the refugees in detention.
Andre Adolphe | 15 November 2019

Bravo! Your article is informed, insightful, hard hitting and written with delicious irony. I couldn’t agree with you more. Thank you!
Laura Murray Cree | 15 November 2019

Hi John, I loved the cheeky way in which you assessed the current mantra by the LNP and their "big end of town "bosses" of Neoliberalism . Maybe its time the ordinary worker started to protest at the obscenity of the current economic/social system.If our children can protest at the prospect of a hostile climate which we are passing onto them , maybe we adults need to learn from them! I worked for 50 years .I was a union member for the whole of that time. I have seen great advances in the welfare and wages in my time but now I am witnessing the worst excesses of Capitalism .It is so sad for our children who have to fight alone for a decent wage deal. As my wife says;"The ball is round!"
Gavin | 15 November 2019

Superb, thank you. The deliberate destruction of collective bargaining and the union movement and is one of the most worrying trends, closely followed by planned persecution of activism. Almost every benefit to ordinary working people has been gained by energised group activity. I await a coherent reply from a Christian politician on the right, but of course there won't be one.
Llewellyn Davies | 15 November 2019

Thanks John for the best thing I have read in ages. Your connection between blind faith and market fundamentalism is central to our current malaise. Myths maketh the man. The market is the god who must be appeased; not questioned. The nation is now an economy. We are customers not citizens. And the commons have been stolen by privateers, yes pirates. The only indicators or evaluation criteria are dollars. More obscured as you point, out are measures of pain, suffering, inequity gaps and commutative justice. The land is not worth conserving;just exploit it. Society is a useless concept.The missionaries of neo liberal capitalism have done their indoctrination thoroughly. They have colonized the vacuum left by Christianity. They have used their obscene wealth to graft media, universities, publications and those oxymoronic think tanks. You and I and others ask what we can do. Your article is a good start. Another place for readers of Eureka Street to question is the investment in religious colleges which increase investment in the wealthy class instead of the resourcing public education. As a mate of mine says the poor have had it too good for too long.
Michael D. Breen | 15 November 2019

Excellently expressed, with more than a touch of sarcasm. But what infuriates me is that all of this Thatcherite hogwash ideology (to be fair, she had some principles - unlike recent incumbents in the Old Dart and here) was bleedingly obvious at its entry in the '80s. So why, oh why, did we endlessly hear Paul Keating banging on about the inevitability of "deregulation" and "globalisation" - just as if he were in the abominable Peter Reith's IPA echo chamber? For, I recall both of them parroting the selfsame neoliberal shibboleths to the sainted Andrew Olle on my drive to work in the '90s. As Obi-Wan complained to his former apprentice Anakin: "You were the Chosen One! You were supposed to destroy the emperor - not join him!". I know this isn't constructive; however, sooner or later the truth beyond the Labor mythology also has to be articulated.
Frederick Green | 15 November 2019

well done John: insight emotion and aptness.
Gerard Moore | 15 November 2019

Brilliant John in expressing that the emperor has no clothes.
Reg Wilding | 15 November 2019

John your criticism of neoliberal capitalism is very accurate. Thank you. The levels of exploitation of the environment and ordinary working people - especially in developing countries - by the super rich and powerful is at an historic high. I think that when these people promote their Economic Correctness", we need to point out that there is a certain amount of criminality in their model because they want to grossly underpay those providing the profits, they do not want to pay their fair share of tax, provide healthy and safe working conditions or implement strategies to protect the environment from the pollution they create. In addition politicians in the pay of the rich and powerful cut back on essential services and the social wage for the have-nots , refuse to legislate for fair tax systems or effective care of the environment, but introduce legislation to shackle the unions and others fighting for a fairer society. It has to be said that the super wealthy and the politicians who support them are contributing mightily to human rights violations and the high levels of pollution that is causing climate change and a toxic environment that is causing immense environmental health problems.
Andrew (Andy) Alcock | 15 November 2019

Reflecting on John's original and sage comments two things strike me as essential for change. Humour and the arts.
Michael D. Breen | 15 November 2019

Power is currently in the hands of employers. While part of the reason for that is conservative governments legislating against unions, it partly is the result of employees shooting themselves in the foot. Over my working life union membership has dropped. the reason I have often heard is that employees are not prepared to pay a few hundred dollars each year for union membership. Therefore the power of unions to maintain let alone improve conditions and wages for employees has gradually waned. It has resulted in people not having any security of employment, casualisation, etc. Then they are not able to get mortgages because of their insecure jobs. And so it goes on.
Frank S | 15 November 2019

John is absolutely right. It's time... to put people before profits again and start living in a society instead of an economy. I am sooo sick of it.
Nola | 15 November 2019

i could never see why anybody or multinational organization equated a human life with a dollar sign. it is not morally acceptable.
maryellen flynn | 16 November 2019

We have many, many good things in our society, such as the excellent public health and education systems. Of course there are flaws, but these are fixable. Economic Rationalism/ 'Correctness' and its high priests/priestess - Ayn Rand would be a goddess - are trying, as much as possible, to hive off the profitable bits and leave the rest. They see the rich and powerful as the Brahmins of society, whilst the poor and disadvantaged are the outcastes 'because it's their fault'. It's not and the fact it's not and that something needs to be done by the former for the latter as part of genuine mutual responsibility is a central tenet of the Judaeo-Christian-Muslim creed. Jesus preached immediate, practical social justice. He hit the rich in the face about it. The Medieval Church in the West was the godmother of our modern social welfare system. The Scandinavian countries, even though, on paper, they are 'less religious' , with their excellent comprehensive social welfare systems are direct heirs to the medieval church here. This is a legacy we need to foster. It comes from a belief that a coherent, mutually supportive society is what nurtures people.
Edward Fido | 16 November 2019

Good on you John for calling this out
John G Haren | 16 November 2019

Was hugely entertained by ur ironic analysis, John - only the brutal truth of the content prevented me from laughing out loud. U have spotlighted every flaw in our current economic climate. I place the responsibility not on Democracy per se, but on the human propensity to exploit other people - especially the most 'powerless.' Democracy could work, the alternatives do not bear thinking about, it is human greed that will despoil even a potentially reasonable system. Thank u so much. Where to from here, John?
Helga Jones | 16 November 2019

This is very compelling, and i have asked Paul Krugman to comment , please..He is an ( the ) economic writer for the rest of us, albeit a Nobel laureate.
jpb | 16 November 2019

Michael B - let us hope the poor can find some humour in their plight and afford the entry fees to enjoy the arts! Then it will all be OK once more.
john frawley | 16 November 2019

Sure, we would prefer such good endeavours be not-for-profit but problem is that governments fail to manage these. Government enterprises in Australia are quickly undermined and neutered by unions and unmotivated management. Joe
Joe Sicher | 16 November 2019

Great piece John - congratulations. A more recent case of “free market” gone mad was the sell off of water rights by no less than the National Party Leader to a group of Sydney merchant bankers who listed it as their assets onto the Australian stock exchange and became very wealthy. Who owns Australian Water? I would have thought the Australian tax payer and therefore not the governments to sell, thus separating water from the production of food. Who sold the rights off? The National Party with their then leader denying any responsibility. Who has become the new poor? The Australian farming community and all country towns who are now paying $900 a economic unit for water, not $200 before it was privatised because that’s how a free market operates right? Who benefits? The merchant bankers who now lend money at usurious interest rates to the farming poor, newly created by the national party policy of market determination. Who are the big losers? Australian country towns, family farms, the Australian tax payer who had their water asset stolen by their elected representatives and listed on the stock exchange, and ultimately Australia itself as inter generational farming and production skills are lost to the economy forever. On the current dog eat dog path Canberra so admires, they are already creating a new poverty class in the country. A farmer who has to spend more than four times what he used to for water has no money left for educating his children or paying the health bills. So this is wealth creation market force style? Think again Canberra. In this rich nation you are creating a lot of poor people with such policies which takes a great deal of shortsighted incompetence.
Helen Cameron | 18 November 2019

Helen Cameron. Your claims are the stuff of revolution and if verified, the sooner the better!
john frawley | 19 November 2019

This is the first article I can remember, and a serious one at that, the replies to which were universally in agreement. So it is established that the present system is leading us on the highway to hell. But, as Lenin asked, what is to be done? And who - leaving aside the acquiescent Labor party and the small but massively libelled and thus despised Greens - is to do it?
Patrick Mahony | 19 November 2019

H.C.: "So this is wealth creation market force style?" No. It's theft. Markets consist of people voluntarily swapping their goods and services for those of someone else. When force, fraud or coercion have a role, it's no longer a free market. That's why the whole water bungle is light years from a free market situation, and much more akin to the cronyism that goes on in Venezuela or Russia. It's important to grasp the difference, and not misdiagnose.
HH | 19 November 2019

Amazing, John. We ES readers are a mixed bunch indeed, but we seem to have been united by your piece of ironic ‘theology’ on behalf of the worshippers of Mammon/the Economy/the Market. I agree with all the comments so far (!) and have only one thing to add. The Economy, the Market, and Mammon are only false gods and don’t deserve the capital letters our society seems to give them. We need to go back to the worship, in spirit and truth, of the One God, the God incarnated in Jesus Christ. Thanks again, John Falzon, for giving us a lens through which to see clearly what we’re currently worshipping.
Joan Seymour | 20 November 2019


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