The Irrationals

Élite institutions blind to the real world.

“When the Irrationals rule, the fate of nations is ruin.”

By Gary Scarrabelotti

It surely can’t be another plot by the Murdoch Media. But there it is: more “crap” – to use Prime Minister Gillard’s indelicate expression – on the front page of a newspaper.

“The Empress has stated forth in her new clothes, and the people have hissed and booed.  Not only do the people think Julia Gillard’s new green packaging is threadbare, it turns out that they like the empress even less than the clothing.

“… Gillard’s latest policy outing is not a political failure but a disaster.”

“… the most unpopular Prime minister since Paul Keating.”

“… voters do not trust the government’s plans to compensate them for the effect of the carbon tax. …”

“Gillard is not the government’s chief salesperson.  She is the chief credibility problem.”

It sure looks like another News Limited beat-up, except for one thing: it was on the front page of the Fairfax-owned Sydney Morning Herald (July 18, 2011) and the journalist in question was Peter Hartcher. He was backed by a front page spread on the latest Nielsen Poll with its dire 26% Labor primary vote.  This is similar to a recent Morgan Poll showing the ALP on a 70-year low primary vote of 27.5%.

As if to establish that this really is an authentic “Fairfax line” on PM Gillard, just two days later, on July 20, a front page Sydney Morning Herald headline described her as “doomed”.

So perhaps “régime change” is not a Murdoch plot after all, but a natural process observable even to newspapers and journalists disposed to back the ALP, the Prime Minister, a “carbon tax” and support theories about human-caused global warming.

It’s all coming unstuck – and that for several reasons.

First, because the underlying rationale of government policy is not a proven fact, but an hypothesis that has yet to mature into a well-founded, repeatedly-confirmed theory.  What so many scientists in their intellectual vanity put their faith in, ordinary folk grow increasingly doubtful about it.  And they do so because their lack of expertise in climatology is compensated for by an intellectual freedom greater than that typically exhibited by tub-thumping, “fundamentalist” scientists.  The non-specialist bloke in the street has no reputational skin in the climate science game.  To that that extent, he can think a little more sceptically than those who do.

Secondly, because Prime Minister Gillard destroyed her credibility – already in doubt over her assassination of Kevin Rudd – by concealing from the electorate her real policy intentions in regard to a “carbon tax”.

And, finally, because she made the moral and strategic error of entering into alliance with the Greens and making them a de facto part of the Government.

There is no conspiracy here.  The Prime Ministership of Julia Gillard, and her government along with it, is imploding because of its “internal contradictions” and disconnection from reality.

The real …

There are two kinds of “reality”.  There is the world as it is; and there is the world as it is imagined.  The extra-ordinary thing is that very often men and women try to escape the real world and to reconstruct their lives (and sometimes whole societies and nations) according to designs conceived in the world of fantasy.  The results – as the 20th Century stunningly demonstrated – can be horrendous.

That remarkable genius of revolution, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, understood perfectly how to convert the world of intellectual fictions into reality:

“A lie told often enough becomes the truth.”

For “lie” we can substitute the “illusions” and “self-deceptions” devoutly held by people not normally capable of the blatant lie: the gullible, true believers who find a meaning to life in the tides of fashionable fiction created and peddled by others. The things we parrot become true because we parrot them. This way institutions and classes can become dominated by irrational ideas fiercely held.

Two contemporary instances stand out.

One concerns Australia’s federal Treasury.  Recently the Gillard government officially launched its carbon tax plan and accompany compensation package.  The launch was backed by Treasury modelling which purported to show the wisdom of the government’s measures.

… and the unreal

When modelling the impact on the Australian economy of the carbon tax and its subsequent evolution into an emissions trading system, there was one scenario that Treasury did not consider.  This was the one under which there would be no agreed international policy, and no concerted international action, on reducing CO2 emissions, and no world market price on “carbon”. This, however, represents a probable global future.  Failed UN climate conferences, the determination of India and China to push ahead with rapid industrialisation, and the fact that, in the USA, carbon taxes and emissions trading schemes have no political support, make up real world conditions that Treasury has refused to consider.

Let’s switch to Europe and to a different problem.  Here we find that, while the EU is in crisis over how to deal with Greece and the spread of its contagion to Portugal, Italy, and Spain, European authorities are refusing to contemplate what to do if, under the stress of events, the Euro should fail as a single currency.

In 2010 and in 2011, the European Banking Authority conducted “stress tests” to determine the robustness of European banks in a crisis.  But the one scenario – and this highly plausible – that the EBA declined to model was the collapse of the Euro.

It is irrational to deny what is true.  It is irrational to pretend that an hypothesis is a proven fact. It is irrational to ignore or deny real and present dangers.  And, yet, here we have one of the most important institutions in Australia, and another of the highest importance to the EU, generating advice and comfort to governments, and to peoples, based on irrationality of the deepest kind.

What is worse, this absurdity is sanctioned – even directed – by governments and represented to those they govern as the acme of prudence.

When the Irrationals rule, the fate of nations is ruin. Australian voters, however, have sensed this and, if they get a timely opportunity, they will pay out Prime Minister Gillard and Labor big time.

What does the future hold?

Will the Australian electorate get in time the chance to stop dead Gillard’s flights of fantasy; or will Labor MPs have the courage to act on behalf of voters to take out Gillard before she completely destroys their party?

(This is an edited version of an article originally published on 22 July 2011)

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