Monday, April 23, 2018

We're starting to give up on the ideal of Australia as a nation of equals

Self-promoted ethics "expert" Simon Longstaff below "feels" that there is great heartburn among many Australians about inequality in the country.  People feel very alienated from the society in which they live.  I talk with everyday Australians quite a lot and have yet to hear a complaint about inequality.  I think Longstaff is just projecting his own chronic Leftist anger onto others. In my thorough 1982 study of Alienation in Australia, I found that on average Australians were slightly below the midpoint on Alienation.  There was some alienation but it was not high overall.

And why should there be equality?  There IS no objective equality in Australia, there never has been such equality in Australia and utopian experiments in equality emanating from Australia have all been spectacular flops.  Given that circumstance Dr Longstaff should surely offer an argument about why there SHOULD be equality.  He does no such thing.  Given the twisted mazes of moral philosophy I don't blame him but it leaves his argument entirely up in the air. He just expects us to agree with his inchoate values.

He points out that in some contrived experimental situations  people are uncomfortable with inequality.  And that may be true.  But moving from an 'IS' to an "ought" is a totally unsustainable doctrine.  Many Yemenis are at the moment being starved to death.  Do we therefore argue that Yemenis SHOULD be starved to death?

So what is this "fundamental" equality that the man with the long staff talks about?  It is undefined and therefore unexaminable.

He is however talking about something that is a sort of tradition in Australia.  Australians are often said to have "egalitarian" values. "Jack is as good as his master" is the usual formulation of it.  And Australians do tend to feel that Australia is mostly pretty egalitarian.  So how do we deconstruct that popular belief?  I think it is talk about dignity.  I think that we Australians tend to treat everyone among us with equal dignity.  We don't treat Jack's master any more deferentially than we treat Jack.  And I think Australians have largely achieved that in practice. 

But the man with the long staff wants far more than that, it would seem. He wants material equality. He is unlikely to get it.  The Soviets tried and they failed

And why do such attempts always fail?  The unthinking Longstaff has not considered that. Could it be that IQ is a major determinant of economic success and that IQ is unequally distributed?  It is probably beyond Longstaff's capacity to think that thought but, if he can ever get his brain off its Leftist tramtracks, he might like to look at Charles Murray's book on the subject

One of the most significant findings to emerge from the work of behavioural economists is that human beings would rather go without than be treated unfairly.

This was discovered in a series of experiments involving two people — one of whom had $100 and the other who had nothing.

The person with the money was told they must offer an amount to the other — with each keeping the amount agreed.

Older economic theory assumes the person with nothing should be happy to receive as little as one dollar. After all, they are then better off than they would be with nothing.

Class Act

Australia has a class system, and it has real consequences in people's lives. Explore the full series.
However, the theory seemed to bear little or no relationship to practice.

It turned out that most people would rather have nothing than accept anything less than about $40. That is, people expected to receive a fair — rather than equal — share of the money.

What might explain this behaviour which seems, on the face of it, not to be rational?

In my opinion, the best explanation is that those insisting on fairness did so because they could see no fundamental basis for distinguishing between themselves and the lucky person who had the $100 in hand.

Growing sense of discontent

In other words, there is a presumption that — at the most basic level — people are equal in intrinsic dignity.

This idea is deeply written into the ethical codes of most societies. Whether arising out of religious beliefs (e.g. that all persons are made in the image of God) or from the work of philosophers like Immanuel Kant (all persons belong to the "kingdom of ends"), the idea runs deep that human beings possess intrinsic dignity — that can neither be earned nor diminished.

It is this concept of "respect for persons" that lies behind the prohibition of slavery — or any other practice that reduces a human being to the status of a mere tool to be exploited by others.

Yet, in recent years, there has been a growing sense of discontent — and this is despite a general increase in affluence across the developed world.

It used to be that the feeling of being marginalised was experienced by those who were literally on the margins of society.

The most egregious cases of deprivation, in Australia, have fallen on a significant number of Indigenous Australians — precisely because of a failure to acknowledge their fundamental equality.

However, that unsettling feeling has been spreading.

My sense is that a growing number of Australians feel that the mythic ideal of Australia as a nation of equals is losing all credibility.

They are angry. They are disappointed. They are vengeful. Above all, they are fearful that the nation's underlying "social compact" could have been so carelessly broken — and that the presumption in favour of basic equality has been replaced by indifference to a widening gap between: city and country, "elites" and ordinary folk, the "haves" and "have nots", the "political class" … and just about everyone else.

In essence, a very large number of people have come to feel they are just cogs in a machine — counting for nothing more than their capacity to work and vote.

They feel they serve a system that is indifferent to their hopes and interests — and that will exploit and discard them at will.

They feel robbed of their intrinsic dignity — and the basic equality that is their due.

The Committee for Economic Development of Australia's (CEDA) latest research report, How unequal? Insights on inequality, turns the spotlight on this dimension of contemporary life. It provides a factual account of the extent of the problem — along with analysis and recommendations for addressing the underlying issues.

My contribution to the report has been to provide a philosophical underpinning to the discussion of inequality.

But beyond this, I have tried to show how the current situation is at odds with the intentions of philosophers like Adam Smith, who established the intellectual foundations for market economics.

Opportunity not merit-based, but 'accident of birth'

Economics as a discipline — and the market as a tool — were originally conceived of as means for increasing the stock of common good. Smith had no time for a kind of dog-eat-dog, let-it-rip economy. He championed a free market that depended on the maintenance of solid ethical foundations.

He denied the legitimacy of those who lie, cheat or use power oppressively because all such vices distort the market.

Furthermore, the market was supposed to be an arena in which all could transact as equals — not in terms of outcome but in terms of opportunity.

Despite this idea being written into competition legislation, we seem to be a long way from realising Smith's ethical ideal.

Technically, the market is "open" and "free". In reality, too many people are denied the basics in education, health, civic infrastructure, etc. to be on a genuinely equal footing.

Worse still, the lack of opportunity, for some, has nothing to do with merit — but everything to do with mere accidents of birth.

We can and should do better. We should reform markets — and our democratic politics — to realise their original purposes as arenas in which all are fundamentally equal.


Our segregated cities keep rich and poor as far apart as possible

This is normal.  All cities that I know of worldwide have prestigious and less prestgigious areas.  Towards the end of the article the writer has some silly dream of getting the rich and poor to mingle more.  What he overlooks is that the rich FLEE the poor.  Why? Because crime is much higher in poor areas.  Those who have nothing tend to steal to get something.

“For richer, for poorer” is a popular phrase used in wedding ceremonies to demonstrate commitment. It is intended as a galvanising statement. But in the world of the social geography of Australian cities, the phrase has come to symbolise the reverse. There are rich suburbs and there are poor suburbs scattered across metropolitan Australia, and each kind represents different tribes.

In fact, so effective are our cities at enforcing segregation that Australia’s rich and poor need never meet or even cross paths.

Let me explain how this works.

There are many ways to measure the rich and the poor using the census, but perhaps the simplest method is median personal income. For Australia in 2016 this figure was $34,000, which meant half the population aged over 15 earned more than this amount and half earned less. The figure is dragged down by the unemployed, pensioners, students and non-working spouses.

Median personal income typically rises in the well-to-do yuppie suburbs of the inner city. Lots of double-income-no-kids and professional-type households have the effect of injecting buckets of disposable income into a local area. This is a different world to what are effectively welfare suburbs. My point is that Australia’s Goldilocks suburbs — places where income levels are astronomically high — are located close to the city centre. The rich do not commute. The poor, on the other hand, have no choice in the matter and are flung out to the city’s edge as if propelled by some centrifugal force to the margins of civilisation.

And therein lie the two worlds of metropolitan Australia — each, of course, containing different life forms — that now orbit the central business district at different radiuses and that never, ever connect.

Occasionally someone will shoot from the world of the poor to the world of the rich — Eddie McGuire made the transition from Broadmeadows to Toorak in one generation — but for the most part, and here is the bit that I think we need to change, each world tends to beget and envelop its own. Social mobility should be integral to the story of the Australian people in the 21st century.

The richest community in Sydney, and indeed within Australia, is the harbourside enclave of Point Piper, located 4km from the CBD, where the median personal income reaches $89,000, or almost three times the national average. The poorest suburb in Sydney by this measure is Yennora, located 22km west of the CBD and 27km west of Point Piper. The median personal income in Yennora was just $19,200 at the time of the last census. I doubt many Point Piper residents have been to Yennora or many Yennora residents have been to Point Piper, even for a Sunday drive. How about both suburbs do precisely that this weekend? Go to Yennora. Go to Point Piper. See how the other half lives. And this is my point. The social geography of Sydney is such that the richest and the poorest can live out their lives without bumping into each other. Each group sticks to its own geography. The cross-fertilisation of ideas and of aspiration and maybe even of compassion is constricted by the separation of the richest from the poorest parts of Sydney.

The same is true for Melbourne, where the median personal income peaks at $70,400 in Cremorne (Richmond). Cremorne (population: 2000) and Point Piper are small residential enclaves, especially when compared with the vastness of the mighty Toorak nation that spills and sprawls its way across 14,000 residents. The injection of aspirational but nevertheless proletarian apartments right into the ribs of Toorak has had the effect of dragging down the suburb’s average income. Toorak’s rich are there on large garden allotments but they’re kinda intermingled with flat dwellers.

Point Piper’s poshness is a tad less trammelled than are the tribes of Toorak.

Melbourne’s poorest suburb is Meadow Heights, located 21km north of Cremorne; there the median personal income is $19,800. Cremorne is to the Melbourne CBD as Point Piper is to the Sydney CBD. And Meadow Heights is to Melbourne as Yennora is to Sydney. It is almost as if the narrative of both cities has been scripted to some grand design.

In Brisbane the richest suburb by the same measure of income is Teneriffe whereas the poorest suburb is Inala. Teneriffe is a nifty 3km from the CBD; the public housing estates of Inala are 18km further south.

The bigger the city, the farther the poor are from the rich. In Sydney, the Yennora-Point Piper axis is 6km longer than Melbourne’s Cremorne-Meadow Heights axis, which in turn is 3km longer than Brisbane’s Teneriffe-Inala axis.

If nothing else, Australian cities are clinically efficient at social segregation. The distance between Adelaide’s richest and poorest suburbs — Unley Park and Woodville Gardens — is 12km. Perth also follows the trend with Mirrabooka’s poor being positioned 18km from Cottesloe’s rich. Even in the smaller capitals the rich and the poor manage to separate themselves. Hobart’s richest citizens live barely 1km from the CBD at Battery Point, but even in this smallish capital city the poor are sent 17km up the Derwent River to the province of Gagebrook.

Darwin’s smart set bunkers down on the waterfront’s Bayview whereas the battlers do the best they can 15km farther to the east in Moulden.

And in Canberra the place to be for aspiring mandarins is Barton, which is 16km from Belconnen’s battlers at Charnwood. Although I must say that the idea of rich and poor is differently defined in the nation’s capital.

Median personal income in Barton at $82,000 is second only to Point Piper in this exercise. But the same figure for Charnwood ($39,000) is not that much lower than the best for Hobart at Battery Point ($47,000).

We can say the poorest urban communities in Australia are located in the public housing estates of Sydney and Melbourne. We can say Point Piper really is in a league of its own. We can say it is the poor who have shifted across time from the now gentrified suburbs of the old walking city to the creeping edges of the modern car city. And we can say that the bigger the city, the farther from the city centre the poor must live.

By the middle of the 21st century it is likely that Sydney and Melbourne will be approaching the eight million mark. Based on the figures and the ratios cited above, I am pretty sure that Point Piper and Cremorne and Teneriffe and even Battery Point still will be locations prized by the city’s rich.

But it is the poor who’ll move during the 2020s and the 2030s. Perhaps farther upstream from Gagebrook, perhaps farther north from Meadow Heights and perhaps farther west from Yennora. And if this is the case then the chances of inspiring social mobility will drop as each of the city’s bubbles tightens around its kin.

And of course between these hot spots of prosperity and despair there lie broad stretches of middle Australia blossoming on our great suburban savanna.

Our cities are on the move demographically and socially, and perhaps even geographically, as the poor push farther outwards in search of shelter and support. But it doesn’t have to be like this. Maybe we can inject enclaves of prosperity into the middle and outer suburbs. Maybe we can create affordable housing for the marginalised within the hipster zone. Maybe we can create a truly diverse society where all ethnicities, all social groups, all income levels at least occasionally get the opportunity to serendipitously bump into each other.

I’m sorry but I find the alternative — the retreat into ever tightening tribal bubbles — not only boring but perhaps even corrosive to our national ideal of social mobility, inclusion and tolerance.

There are better ways to organise the way we live — and with the right town planning responses I think we can deliver even better big cities in the future.


"Dry" Western Australia gets heavy rain

Despite the doom talk of Greenie false prophet Tim Flannery

WA’s South West and Peel regions copped a drenching in the past 24 hours, with rainfall of between 30mm and 39mm.

There is more expected too, with the Bureau of Meteorology forecasting between 50mm and 60mm in some centres south of the Perth.

Highest falls recorded in the past 24 hours were in Mayanup (39mm), Balingup (35mm) and Waroona (32.6).

Closer to Perth, Rottnest Island received 13mm.

Up to 3mm was recorded in the Perth metropolitan area, with forecast rainfall of up to 30mm in the city today.

Bureau duty forecaster Jun Chen said centres south of Perth, such as Rockingham and Mandurah, could receive between 20mm and 40mm today, with some places receiving between 50mm and 60mm.

Today’s forecast for the South West is 15mm to 30mm of rain, with up to 50mm in some places.

Miss Chen said rainfall in Perth was expected to continue throughout the day and overnight, with isolated showers tomorrow and clearing on Tuesday.


Aussie men calling for change of discriminatory singlet rule

I wear blue singlets with no shirt quite a lot when I go out so this affects me personally

SURF clubs across Queensland are facing backlash for “discriminatory” dress standards that see women able to wear singlets but not men.

Clubs Queensland has reportedly sent out a newsletter to member clubs in order to highlight the issue with this dress rule.

“A prohibition on men wearing singlets is arguably less favourable to men than women who are permitted to wear singlets,” Clubs Queensland said in a March bulletin to its members.

“This will also apply to other prohibitions such as footwear and hats.”

Adding that the controversial dress code “may inadvertently be breaching Australia’s anti-discrimination laws by discriminating on the basis of gender”.

The common differences observed between dressing standards for men and women include:

Men not being permitted to wear hats inside the club

Men’s singlets (or sleeveless T-shirts) being prohibited inside the club, and

Men’s open footwear being prohibited inside the club.

The Anti-Discrimination commission has warned that it is against the law to set different rules for men and women and doing so may be a breach f the federal Sex Discrimination Act.

Coolum Beach Surf Club has already changed this singlet rule, telling the ABC that they were losing customers over the “sexist” dress code. “We’d have a couple come in they’d both be wearing singlets we’d say yes to her and no to him,” general manager Mal Wright said.

“If people have got a good attitude we want them to be customers at the club, we don’t want them to go away and be unhappy just because of the clothes they’re wearing.”

In response to the question of why this is suddenly an issue now, Clubs Queensland stated in a newsletter that it has been unlawful since the enactment of the Sex Discrimination Act in 1984.

They said that the reason most places are only hearing about it now is that “no one has taken the club to task over it”.

The newsletter stated that any club that refuses entry because of gender-specific dress codes may risk having a discrimination complaint filed against them with the Australian Human Rights Commission.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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