The word "elite" gets bandied about alot but often defies definition due the nature with which it is used. One of the most insightful descriptions of the Australian elite I have seen is by
. In his novel
one of his characters called the elites the "Professional Australians".
in my opinion is Australia's best author, and would rank him as the person on this planet I would most like to have a beer and a chat with. While he writes mainly in Science Fiction, he is not scared to add wider social issues into his novels. Most post-cyberpunk sci-fi authors often limit themselves to the near future, Egan does not always do so, but his novels which do have implemented near future Australian social and environmental issues.
, published in 1995, is one such novel.
Distress contains a lengthy commentary on the Australian "elites". Egan writes from the viewpoint of an Australian character named Bill Munroe who was one of the original pioneers on the bio-engineered coral island of "Stateless" out in the Pacific. Stateless had earned the enmity of modern nations as it was built on stolen biotech intellectual property from America by the biotech engineers who created the technology.
In the novel, Australian is one of the strictest nation-states toward Stateless. It has trade restrictions on the island and won't allow any direct flights. The main character, Andrew, has to fly up into South East Asia to catch a flight to Stateless which is east of Australia. The following discussion is between Andrew and Bill Munroe takes place on Stateless and explains why Munroe came to live in Stateless and why Australia is the strictest nation-state toward Stateless;
I said, "Did you really come here [Stateless] for the light?"
Munroe shook his head. "Hardly, I just had to get away."
"All the noise. All the cant. All the Professional Australians."
"Ah" I'd first heard that term when I was studying film history; it had been coined to describe the mainstream directors of the 1970's and 80s. As one historian had put it: 'They possessed no distinguishing features except for their nationality; they had nothing to say, and nothing to do except foist a claustrophobic vocabulary of tired nationalist myths and icons on to their audience, while loudly proclaiming themselves to be "defining the national character", and to represent, in person, "a nation finding its voice".' I'd thought this was probably a harsh judgement - until I'd seen some of the films. Most of them were stultifying horse opera's - rural colonial melodrama's - or sentimentalised war stories. The nadir of the period, though, was probably an attempted comedy in which Albert Einstein was portrayed as an Australian apple farmer's son, who 'splits beer atoms' and falls in love with Marie Curie.
I said, "I always thought the visual arts had grown out of that long ago. Especially in your mode [painting]"
Munroe scowled, "I'm not talking about art. I'm talking about the entire dominant culture."
"Come on! There is no 'dominant culture' anymore. The filter is mightier than the broadcaster." At least, that was the net-swoon line; I still wasn't sure I bought it.
Munroe hadn't. "Very Zen. Try exporting Australian medical biotech to Stateless, and you'll soon find out exactly who is in control."
I had no answer to that.
The discussion between Andrew and Munroe picks up again soon after;
He [Munroe] said, "Don't you ever get tired of living in a society which talks about itself, relentlessly - and usually lies? Which defines everything worthwhile - tolerance, honesty, loyalty, fairness - as 'uniquely Australian'? Which pretends to encourage diversity - but can't ever stop babbling about its 'national identity'? Don't you ever get sick of the endless parade of buffoons who claim the authority to speak on your behalf: politicians, intellectuals, celebrities, commentators - defining and characterising you in every detail ... from your 'distinctive Australian sense of humour' right down to your f**king 'collective subconscious iconography' ... who are all simply, liars and thieves."
I was taken aback for a moment, but on reflection this was a recognizable description of the mainstream political and academic culture. Or if not the mainstream, at least the loudest. I shrugged. "Every country has some level of parochial bulls**t like that going on, somewhere. The US is almost as bad. But I hardly notice it anymore, least of all at home[Australia]. I suppose I've just learnt to tune it out, most of the time."
"I envy you then, I never could."
The tram slid on, displaced dust hissing softly. Munroe had a point: nationalists - political and cultural - who claimed to be the voice of their nation could disenfranchise those they 'represented' just as effectively as sexists who claimed to be the voice of their sex. A handful of people pretending to speak for forty million - or five billion - would always wield disproportionate power, merely by virtue of making the claim.
So what was the solution? Move to Stateless? Become a-sex? Or just stick your head in a Balkanized corner of the net, and try to believe that none of it mattered.
Munroe said, "I would have thought that the flight from Sydney was enough to make anyone want to leave for good. Physical proof of the absurdity of nations."
I laughed drily. "Almost. Being petty and vindictive with the East Timorese is understandable; imagine dirtying the bayonets of our business partners for all those years, and then having the temerity to turn around and take us to court. What the problem is with Stateless, though, I have no idea. None of EnGeneUity patents were Australian-owned, were they?"
"So what's the big deal. Even Washington doesn't go out of its way to punish Stateless quite so ... comprehensively."
Munroe said, "I do have one theory."
"Think about it. What's the biggest lie the political and cultural ruling class tells itself? Where's the greatest disparity between image and truth? What are the attributes which any self-respecting Professional Australian boasts about the most - and possesses the least?"
"If this is a cheap Freudian joke, I'm going to be very disappointed."
"Suspicion of authority. Independence of spirit. Nonconformity. So what could they possibly find more threatening than an island full of anarchists."
I pointed out the disparity between Bush's inaugural speech and the reality of his situation. Bush is not unique, the denial of reality extends to Australian politics as well. In 1995, Egan pointed out that the emperor was wearing no clothes - ten years later, Australia remains bare arse naked.
Scrymarch raised my attention to this book by Peter Turchin
. It is definitely an interesting book, and I think the idea of multi-ethnic frontiers being the point that other imperial nations develop the cohesion to establish themselves is one very worthy of merit. Turchin also explores some other aspects of the development of imperial nations such as Asabiya
and the study of cliodynamics
. I also try to determine how Turchin's theories relate to Australia.
I covered this in some detail in the article; Edge Effects: Frontier Induced Cohesion
Ibn Khaldun was a Tunisian from the 1300s who developed the philosophy of collective solidarity or Asabiya
. This capability in a group enables it to co-operate for the benefit of the group which include defence and domination over others. In North Africa the towns would establish themselves and due to greater numbers were unified against the Bedouin raiders from the desert.
But if the state fell into disarray or degeneration it quickly became easy prey despite having fortifications and large numbers of defenders. Those conquering Bedouins then establish themselves and over several generations also lose their Asabiya
until the next strong raiding band takes over their city.
Turchin chooses Asabiya
over the term social capital
. I think this is a good thing. Capitalism has its limits, and with the complete commodification of information transferral we are moving from scarcity to abundance; or post-capitalism. Social capital is a clunky and clumsy term to try and describe social wealth in economic terms.
For Turchin's thesis Asabiya
is forged in the multi-ethnic frontier regions due to the constant pressure from other ethnic groups, and from the permanent presence of an expansive empire. For instance the Gauls and Germanic tribes spent several centuries on the Roman frontier under the threat of Rome's legions and expansionism. This created a strong Asabiya
amongst the Gauls which led to the Carolingian Empire dominating western Europe for nearly five hundred years.
is not just co-operation, but often the sacrifice of the individual to the collective goal. Turchin writes;
The capacity to sacrifice self-interest for the sake of the common good is the necessary condition for co-operation. Without it, concerted collective action is impossible ...
An extreme example of this is Palestinian suicide bombers. Another example is Roman troops cursing their foe and preparing to have themselves accepted into the underworld. It is the Roman equivalent of suicide bombing. Turchin notes the role of religion in the ethnic divide and the willingness of individuals to sacrifice themselves.
While this sort of sacrifice suggests the immense strength of Asabiya
, Turchin argues that it is quickly under-cut by inequality, and in particular economic inequality. The Romans in the expansive cycles had strong equality, not only did Senators not earn much more than the yeomanry, but they fought at the head of the Roman legions. In one battle with Hannibal, one third of the Senate was killed.
Ironically when great inequality appeared it was often quickly rectified as the empire went through a down cycle. An example of this was the Frankish Empire. When the nobles got rich and began fighting over the same production of their peasants the rich went through a cycle of violence which was mainly amongst the elite and aristocracy. Duels between nobles and conflicts between city-states with the nobles doing the fighting occurred with rapid frequency. This cut the numbers of the nobles down drastically, helping to reduce the large numbers of the elite.
Another measure was the monarchs themselves who did not like challengers to their power. Queen Victoria used a type of progressive consumption tax on the rich English nobles, and would appear in their court with her retinue of several hundred. The Queen's retinue would then stay under the noble's hospitality until the noble was effectively bankrupt.
Turchin creates a new science of historical dynamics which he calls cliodynamics
. This is an appended word from "clio" which is the muse of history and "dynamics" which is a study of processes which change over time. This is basically a study of "crowd history", as opposed to great individuals being the rate determining steps in decided the path of history. Instead the interdependencies and interactions of last numbers of individuals acting collectively are the determinants of history.
I can recall ten years ago being in a philosophy lecture on the subject of human rationality. The lecturer said that we know we are going through a rationality change, but no-one is quite sure what it is yet. The deterministic universe which could be known through reductionism was blown out of the water with relativity and quantum mechanics.
We are starting to see in the last ten years the recognition of complex systems as being the rate determining steps in change. From opensource software, tail economics
, crowd wisdom in markets, permaculture, cliodynamics, asymmetric warfare
, etc etc etc. This recognition of complex systems and collective action will have political ramifications as well. I have argued this in the past in relation to sortition
, wisdom of the people
and many-to-many economic systems
Cliodynamics is another study of abundance (as opposed to scarcity by focusing on individuals in history). Information has moved to abundance, business models through many-to-many systems and the long tail are moving to abundance, social interaction has always been about abundance as well. It is inevitable that the scarcity structure of representative government and mass media will be replaced by abundance structures which funnel collective wisdom and action.
Peter Turchin calls an empire a large multi-ethnic territorial state with a complex power structure. In the modern world he points on the finger at the US, at the EU, and China. He also looks at Russia, and its Chechen faultline as potentially guiding Russia back to Empire. In terms of the complex power structure Turchin explains it from the point of view of the US;
Although the internal arrangements of the US are reasonably simple - it directly controls the 50 states, the District of Columbia and dependent territories (such as Puerto Rico and a number of Pacific islands), its external influence reaches across the globe. It militarily occupies Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. It has a strong degree of indirect control via heavy military presence (for example South Korea) or economic subsidies (Israel). Given the economic and diplomatic help that Israel gets from the US, it is essentially an American client state.
Turchin also mentions NATO, as well as its program of installing friendly governments in Latin America, and even former-communist Russia, such as Georgia and Ukraine. I would prefer to think Georgia, Ukraine and Indonesia were from internal demands for responsive government and that the US is no longer interfering directly in Latin America as it did in the 1970s. However Turchin didn't mention the IMF or World Bank which are both heavily bankrolled and influenced by the US.
According to Turchin the imperial nation-state relies on "us and them" to solidify its internal support for the nation. The most extreme examples of this are Ann Coulter's trolling in the mass media that all the Arab nations should be invaded and converted to christianity. Despite the often shrill nature of the media and intellectuals this does not mirror the day to day feeling of the American people. They are far more compassionate, tolerant and good willed than would appear if someone was building an impression of the US from the mass media alone.
The modern multi-ethnic frontier is the Middle East. In World War I there was no Palestine as we know it today, but due to spending fifty years with Israel on their border, it has created a strong feeling of being Palestinian. Strong enough that people will blow themselves up in suicide attacks for Palestine. It also appears that Palestine will become a full blown nation-state with the backing of the US.
The difference between the Roman-Gaul border and the Middle East today is communications. Now a muslim in Britain, through the media both broadcast and narrow cast, may feel a strong enough affinity for the muslims in the multi-ethnic faultline to give themselves to the cause in a similar manner to those in the faultline. We saw this recently with the train bombings in London.
Australia and Turchin's Theory
The smaller multi-ethnic faultline near Australia is not the Australian-Indonesia border, but instead Bali. According to Turchin's theory this should be where many ethnic cultures meet. This is true, western culture (predominantly Australians) come to Bali for holidays; the Balinese are largely Hindu (having been established as a Hindu colony in the 1300s); Indonesia is predominantly a muslim nation, while Buddhism also exists on Bali.
Indonesia is also a strongly multi-ethnic nation, party because of the remnants of the Dutch East Indies, but also because of the expansionist policies and military campaigns of Sukarno and Suharto. These are the correct conditions for a group like Jemaah Islamiah to arise and focus on Bali.
But what of Australia itself? For many years Australia defined itself as a nation apart and denied its geographic reality of being amongst Asian nations. Australia sought to establish itself as British, and held on to that identity far longer than any other dominion nation other than New Zealand. Today, both Australia and New Zealand fly defaced Blue Ensigns with Union Jacks on them.
Australia also maintained a White Australia policy which was established to discriminate against the Chinese and Kanakas. The Aboriginal people were less of a concern as the frontier tensions had been dominated by the sense that the Aboriginal people were dying out as a race. The lack of a Bill of Rights in the Australian Constitution was explicitly so the Chinese could be discriminated against. It is hard not to look through Australian history and seeing the xenophobic fear of the "yellow peril" as an "us and them" value which led to strong abisaya and a national policy of discrimination.
Australia did maintain aspirations of being the British Empire in the Pacific. In the 1880s Queensland prepared militia to invade German New Guinea. Britain was horrified, concerned that it would precipitate war in Europe between Britain and Germany. Australia got its chance in 1914 and invaded New Guinea once war was declared, it was not until the 1970s that Australia gave it up as a territory.
It is hard to see Australia as being positioned as an Imperial nation any longer, its foreign policy has made it pretty much a client state of the US in that respect. We are uncritical supporters of the US in defence and foreign policy. American global objectives are Australian global objectives because Australia makes it so. By that definition Australia is part of the US Empire; possibly as a protectorate.
I do not think I would like to see an Imperial Australia, but feedback mechanisms invert on themselves and leave an actor no choice sometimes. I think a Greater Australia
is a noble goal, but I would prefer, rather than pursuit of empire, Australia instead went the path of Europe's 16thC most impoverished state; Scotland
. They gave the world the Enlightenment. This served as the basis for western rational thought through to the information revolution. Creating a twenty first rationality should be the goal of Australians.
A quick look at the federal referendums as told by graphs in percent states and electors for.
Wikipedia has an excellent section
on the Australian Referendums
with plenty of data. These graphs are built from there. The
Section 128 of the Australian Constitution
This Constitution shall not be altered except in the following manner:--
The proposed law for the alteration thereof must be passed by an absolute majority of each House of the Parliament, ...
And if in a majority of the States a majority of the electors voting approve the proposed law, and if a majority of all the electors voting also approve the proposed law, it shall be presented to the Governor-General ...
This is sometimes called the triple majority requirement. An absolute majority in parliament, the states and electors. Which is fair enough in a federalist system where it is expected that state electors would be precious of state's rights.
One of the questions is, does this triple majority make the constitution too difficult to alter, and is this why the High Court has taken to altering constitutional practice outside of referendums; and why the federal government elicits signed agreeance from the states to allow the federal government to oversee what are state responsibilities rather than constitutionally required federal responsibilities.
The referendum which allowed the territories to vote did not allow the territories to count toward a state majority in referendums. So throughout federal referendum history, four of six states must pass a referendum.
The columns marked in green were successful. Note that there were a lot that achieved three out of six states in the for column, but that was not sufficient enough for a majority.
Since 1977 the territories count toward the national total for referendums.
The green columns note the successful referendums. An interesting pattern is that many of the referendums hovered just under the fifty percent mark and some over. There are relatively few referendums that had the popular vote and not the state majority, but many of them had high 40s support and no state majority.
What is obvious, is that the referendums which did pass into constitutional change were very popular.
The small number of Australian states can make the results for referendums seem wildly for or against, despite the pattern of the elector's voting to be predominantly be mildly for or mildly against. This makes constitutional change that sparks ambivalence in even a small minority difficult to pass.
These two graphs alone don't answer the question's posed earlier in the article, a closer examination of what the referendum's were, on what topics, and what they represented is needed. I will deal with that in another article.
Is social democratic organisation the only way an elected government can maintain their legitimacy against intrusion from non-state movements?
An aspect of globalisation is over-lapping sovereignty. For instance legislation from a nation-state to ban spam and gambling is futile. Data and money are globalised. They cannot be controlled effectively by a nation-state.
Weak-states find similar problems in their borders. Under Turchin's
model of cliodynamics, new egalitarian movements of collective action coalesce and form in areas of weak state control.
We see this through Hamas and Hezbollah; both of which established their civil governance legitimacy by providing social services and order before being involved in a political push for government.
For instance Hamas
Hamas, running for the first time in national elections, vowed to fight corruption and lawlessness in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. While it moderated its stance toward Israel, not mentioning its goal of destroying the Jewish state in its official platform, the movement says it won't give up its arms.
Along with its fight against Israel, Hamas has built its popularity over the past two decades by providing health services and social welfare programs that weren't available from the Palestinian Authority and international refugee organizations.
In the case of Hezbollah they rival the Lebanese Government in employment
The outskirts of Beirut are known as the dahiya , Arabic for "suburbs." It has come to mean the poor, dense and sometimes dangerous maze of slums that is also Hezbollah-land. Its dirty alleys are crammed with concrete-block shanties.
Gnarled masses of wire run from one building to the next, illegally tapping into electrical, phone and television lines. While lights burn brightly in trendy downtown Beirut, the dahiya is often eerily dark because of sporadic electricity.
Hezbollah has become an enterprise in the dahiya, often outperforming the state. It runs a major hospital as well as schools, discount pharmacies, groceries and an orphanage.
It runs a garbage service and a reconstruction program for homes damaged during Israel's invasion. It supports families of the young men it sent off to their deaths.
Altogether, it benefits an estimated 250,000 Lebanese and is the country's second-largest employer.
The Islamic militia which now controls Mogadishu followed a similar path. Their governance became more palatable through their application of health services, law and order prior to taking over the capital.
Lee made the comment
that in many of these places Islam's dependence on sharia as part of the religion makes it easier to establish cohesive order.
This same drama will play out time and again. Whichever group proves best at bringing civil order will first win the hearts and minds of the people. Once these hearts and minds are won long enough to come to power, all that needs to be done is maintain civil order relative to the expectations of the people.
It appears that the nation-state has to maintain not only civil-order but services in a homogeneous manner. Any heterogeneity in that coverage allows for discontent to arise, or in the case of chronic absence of social services, a socially based non-state competitor to arise.
Hamas and Hezbollah are examples of this. While they have radical ideologies, they also invest socially and locally to ensure popular support. In the absence of elections to legitimise them, this becomes their sovereign base.
Australia is on the neo-liberal side of liberal democracy. It is a low taxing state by world standards and has a fairly libertarian approach to most issues - outside of nation-state authority.
Australia sucks in approximately 30% of the nation's production as taxes and then spits it back out. The federal government is the largest economic entity in the country which makes many companies and industries dependent on the government to remain viable.
Australia is a welfare-state, or aspirational-state as a I called it recently
. Australia invests heavily in education, health, services, infrastructure, etc. In the name of re-election and monopoly on legitimacy, there is no area that it will refuse to act as an agent for voters.
But the reach of those services are not always homogeneous and leave vacuous pockets. Especially in areas that have existing authority structures that can challenge the nation-state's structure.
The recent tensions in Wadeye, Noerthern Territory
which arose explain this. From an article by Jack Waterford in the Canberra Times
There's no real work, or prospect of any, the health and education system is a shambles, housing is appalling, and the cost of delivering services is phenomenal. The communities are artificial anyway, composed of different and antagonistic groups, and there is a lot of drunkenness, fighting, domestic violence, trauma, suicide, imprisonment, apathy and despair.
No civil order, no services, lack of dignified social mobility; so why hasn't an Aboriginal group popped up like Hamas or Hezbollah has to provide local social services?
The conditions being described are similar to Palestine or Southern Lebanon. Canberra and Darwin is probably fortunate that what can be called Aboriginal religion is not unified, and lacks a seductive radical strand as Islam does.
From images I saw in the SMH and ABC, the Aboriginal kids causing disorder dressed in the stereotypical American 'gangsta' fashion, rather than traditional Aboriginal tribal identification or radical indiginous movements.
Aboriginal culture certainly has a cultural/tribal equivalent of sharia law. If order and social services remain chronic, it is possible that an Aboriginal movement will arise in these vacuums to perform the functions Canberra and Darwin will not.
Then again the cliodynamic answer would be that no movement has arisen as the Aboriginal people have low Asabiya, and lack the social cohesion for unified collective action.
Liberal democracy only appears sustainable if it adopts a welfare-state approach to order and social services. This brings into question the libertarian belief that commercial services will fill the vacuums where the state leaves.
As is seen in the Middle East, collective groups bound by religion have replaced the nation-state as the main supplier of order and social services such as health.
The smallest of the liberal democracies are the United States, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. They tax the least but still spend heavily on areas such as health and welfare. The US spent nearly 650 billion USD on health and welfare
This was the single biggest expenditure by the US federal government, greater than defence and debt servicing. This figure does not include the money that the American states, counties and towns spend on health and welfare.
The US, despite being the most libertarian of the liberal democracies has a public health system. The government and industry does not survive without those subsidies.
As this graph shows
], the US is one of the highest public providers per capita amongst nations.
It should be noted from that graph that most nations spend between $1000 and $2200 USD per capita on public health. There is rough consensus on government involvement in health services.
The equilibria for a nation-state to remain an unchallenged political entity is somewhere between 30% and 50% GDP taxation, most of which goes to providing order, civil and social services. That seems to be the cost to ensure a universal approach to services that stops non-state social and collective competitors from arising.
The Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs has tabled a report on
harmonisation of legal systems
. The media reporting on it has been
that Australia and New Zealand should form union
is that it will end up in a
. The inquiry advocates harmonisation on a case by case basis - but their methods cause centralisation.
From the report;
2.19 The main mechanisms by which legal harmonisation can be facilitated or achieved within Australia include:
High Court judicial interpretation;
High Court declaration of a single Australian common law;
Referral of powers to the Commonwealth by the States;
Cooperative legislative schemes; and
The constitutional amendment has buckley's chance as voters have been
rejecting centralising referendums
in large numbers. I also like how they also believe the High Court can have a role in subverting the commonwealth and states with a proclamation on high - probably using the old standard of the corporations power (j/k).
To be truthful I find options one and two repugnant. A judicial arm of government is not supposed to operate that way.
We also need to recognise that nationalising laws and unitary parliament is a structural weakness. The co-operative legislative option is far better a choice.
Chapter 3 of the report includes a section of harmonisation of laws between Australia and New Zealand - noting that this is already occurring by different means on a case by case basis. The recommendations include;
The Committee recommends that the Senate and the House of Representatives of the Australian Parliament invite the New Zealand Parliament to establish a trans-Tasman standing committee to monitor and report annually to each Parliament on appropriate measures to ensure ongoing harmonisation of the respective legal systems.
The Committee further recommends that the trans-Tasman standing committee be required to explore and report on options that are of mutual benefit, including the possibility of closer association between Australia and New Zealand or full union.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government actively pursue with the New Zealand Government the institution of a common currency for Australia and New Zealand.
The Committee further recommends that appropriately equitable arrangements would need to be put in place with respect to the composition of a resulting joint Reserve Bank Board.
The Committee recommends that the participating Australian governments move to offer New Zealand Government ministers full membership of Australasian (currently Australian) ministerial councils.
Increased co-operation between Parliaments is always a good thing. There is always a romantic sentiment to bring New Zealand into the fold of Australian federation, to finish what should have been done in 1901, but under globalisation the costs of being a nation-state are getting less and less.
New Zealand already gets many second-order effects from Australia anyway - such as a benevolent region due to Australian military projection. This means New Zealand has been able to avoid spending heavily on its military.
However, New Zealand isn't a basketcase and it is doubtful it needs Australia at all. This looks like Australian big-government centralisation with seems to be the dominant philosophy of governance in Australia.
Since this is my first diary entry, and this is an Australian based blog, I thought I'd better start with the issue of Australian union.
New Zealand Herald
asked for the opinions of its readers on whether New Zealand should join the Australian federation. I disagreed (with one mistake I didn't notice before publishing!):
"New Zealand has almost all of the advantages of being a state of Australia, without actually being one. We can freely travel and work across the Tasman, our exports enter Australia freely and we enjoy a close defence relationship with Australia. Joining the Australian federation would not change any of these things. It would relegate New Zealand to Australian stateship, and more than likely make little differen[ce] to the outlook of New Zealands economy, save billions of federal funds being spent here (which New South Wales and Victoria more than likely wouldn't want to provide)."
Which is of course the nub of the issue.
Contrary to popular belief, New Zealand doesn't have the automatic right of entry into the Commonwealth of Australia
under their constitution. The other issue is that the smaller states (And by that I mean states in Australia smaller than New Zealand in terms of population - Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland) wouldn't be too happy that their representation was being watered down by another large state.
x-posted on holdenrepublic.org.nz
Dick Cheney gets backed into a corner and, when given a choice, makes the logical and diplomatic response. Too bad it undermined the long held position of the Australian government and lent support to the opponent of Cheney's host and ally. That he so cavalierly damages Howard's policy speaks volumes about the value of loyalty to Cheney.
When asked about potential damage to the alliance between Australian and the US if Australia was to pull out of Iraq, Vice President Dick Cheney said:
"I don't see any prospect of damage to the alliance. I think this alliance has been solid. We do from time to time, as all governments do in democracies, have differences of opinion on various and sundry issues, but I think the alliance is rock solid."
In response to accusations that Mr Cheney's answer contradicted the position held by senior Cabinent Ministers and the Prime Minster himself, Mr Howard replied that:
"Mr Cheney was doing the diplomatic thing by staying out of the Australian political debate. But he made it very clear during the time that he was in Australia that America both appreciates our presence in Iraq and wants us to maintain our current commitments."
Allow me to get the two obvious and snarky jokes out of the way. Firstly, Dick Cheney was being diplomatic? Oh no, the pod people have reached the White House! Secondly, marvel at John Howard tacitly acknowledging that when foreign nations comment on internal political issues of other nations, it is undiplomatic. Oh sure, the question was on a topic that Mr Cheney is involved in, his nation is involved in and is cogent to his job; but Mr Howard tells us that Mr Cheney had grace and style and kept his nose out.
I have my doubts keeping out of Australian domestic politics was foremost in Cheney's mind. I have my doubts the Australia-US alliance was foremost in Cheney's mind. He was probably wishing the reporter who asked the question was a lawyer on a duck hunting trip with him, because the question pushed Cheney into what is an uncomfortable corner for the Bush Administration.
The Australian contingent in Iraq is militarily insignificant; they are not really doing much there except guard duty and training. Logistically they're not really taking much pressure off the US either, with a contribution of about one percent of the US force; the US could probably find that many troops for a long-term deployment if it had to. What Australia bought to the table was political support; here was another of America's
allies joining in and making it a coalition. Australia isn't like Poland and Spain who have been neutral or even on the Other Side in the last fifty years. Australia isn't like even Italy who have been allies for years by being a founding member of NATO. Australia has been a faithful ally for years and even joined with the US in That Other War that sparks controversy when compared to Iraq. Australia gave what the Taiwanese get from the diplomatic recognition of countries like the Solomon Islands - moral support.
The British gave the same sort of support. They made a significant military contribution, and I'm sure that was appreciated by the US, but the moral support was just as significant as the military support. Orders of magnitude more so that the same moral support that Australia lent because the UK rightly or wrongly throws more weight around the international stage that Australia - I suppose that comes from having nuclear weapons and being for around close to a millennium as a - more or less - continuous political entity.
When the Tony Blair made his pullout announcement shortly before Cheney's trip, it must have made hearts in the White House sink just a little bit. Not really because the moral support will go; that the UK parliament had been debating the pullout so openly for so long had long since washed away the moral and political support the US garnered from British troops on the ground, never mind the same pullout being called for by a majority of US citizens. It is because it was always going to be difficult to maintain that the alliance between the US and the
wasn't going to be damaged. Hence the statements from the White House that it was good news, boded well for the situation in Iraq that the UK was pulling troops out, statements that are ludicrous on the face of it and made more so every time multiple Iraqis are killed by car bombs.
So when Cheney was asked that question, he had a choice to make about who was more important to the US. Someone was going to be embarrassed if he said something. If he was being diplomatic he would have pretended not to hear the question - a tactic that wouldn't work in a press room as opposed to walking past a press pack on the way from or to a vehicle - or he could have dodged the question. Cheney has practically made a Vice Presidential career out of not dodging questions, hence the long path of controversial and shading-the-truth responses that litter the path from Number One Observatory Circle to Undisclosed Locations Alpha, Beta and Gamma. Dick Cheney is like a Colonel Jessep that doesn't deride our truth handling abilities and doesn't need to be tricked into saying what he really thinks. So what does he say? Does he stick to the White House line and say there would be no damage and thus not cause a diplomatic stink between the US and the UK, or does he agree with John Howard and say, yes it will damage the alliance. One would cause personal embarrass John Howard and - surely - fatally undermine the policy of staying in to make sure the big kid still likes us. The other would - and I don't think I am at all over-stating it - cause an international diplomatic incident. No brainer, isn't it.
being diplomatic; he was diplomatically not damaging the UK-US relationship and he left John Howard flapping in the wind. From a man who is otherwise so loathe to engage in real politic that he spurns the idea of negotiating with Iran, Syria and North Korea so much that his boss needs to wait till he is out of the country before announcing an agreement with North Korea, he sure does seem to be making some cold, hard political evaluations. And to think he came out here to shore up Australian support for the surge, or as I like to refer to it, the unconscionable prevention of 20,000 US troops returning home after already completing their tour of duty. John Howard must privately be pissed off.
The questions for the citizenship test are a waste of time and effort
. It is feel good politics that adds to the overhead of an individual being in sync with the asinine bureaucratic machinations of the nation-state. One of the questions is who was the first Prime Minister of Australia. The multiple choice questions do not impart any of the drama that went into that episode of Australian history.
The options are: a. Sir Edmund Barton, b. Sir Henry Parkes, c. John Curtin and d. Sir Robert Menzies.
When the Commonwealth was established it was up to the new Governor-General to ask a politician to form the first government. The Earl of Hopetoun was the first Governor-General and had previously served as the Governor of Victoria.
It was assumed that Edmund Barton would be asked to form the first government, instead Hopetoun asked William Lyne, the NSW Premier. It made sense, NSW was the biggest colony and Lynne was leading the government in that colony, but the federalists would not have a bar of it. Lynne had originally told Barton he would not try to form a government, but try he did.
The federalists such as Deakin declined to form government under Lynne, who was forced to ask Hopetoun to request that Barton form a government. Lynne did serve in the Barton Cabinet but after Deakin took over Australian politics with the Fusion Party, a forerunner to the Liberal Party, Lynne was on the outer and denounced Deakin. Lynne died soon after losing his seat in 1913.
Multiple choice citizenship tests do such a great job at pointing out how diverse, interesting and rich Australian history is (not).
Jared Diamond argues that the Australian continent was incapable of progressing humanity to agrarianism or the iron age because it lacked three things; a domesticatable animal, domesticatable plants; and finally, because of its isolation as a landmass there was little to no osmosis of technology between societies and cultures.
Jared Diamond is the author of Guns, Germs and Steel
, as well as Collapse
. Both of which focus on why societies succeed, and, or fail. There is a transcript of a speech he made in 1997
which discusses the geographical differences in why Eurasia came to dominate the globe, while Africa, the Americas and Australia did not. In particular he describes why the Aboriginal people did not develop agriculture and were unable to advance as a society beyond the stone age.
The most obvious answers are that Australian animals and plants have proved impossible to domesticate. Even with 21stC technology we have not managed to domesticate and farm Kangaroos in the same way we do beef or sheep cattle.
Though there is 'the cull' each year in which a million or so Kangaroos are hunted and sent to local abattoirs. But that method of farming Kangaroos is exactly the same as how the Aboriginal people did it, though with the increased productivity of rifles and spotlights, rather than spears.
Diamond notes that the only Australian plant which has proved suitable for domestication is the macadamia nut. Some of our trees are grown overseas, but to get from stone age to iron age there needs to be a food surplus so labor specialisation can occur in towns and cities. Hunter-gatherer societies just don't have that dynamic.
The Aboriginal people did practice land management, and there were also attempts to modify the environment in order to increase the yield of local food; such as placing logs in creeks and rivers so grubs could be harvested each year - but that wasn't sufficient food density to enable the Eurasian agricultural growth in productivity.
The Aboriginal people also managed to domesticate dingos in certain instances, but the dingo isn't suitable for growing as cattle, and the dingoes were used as aids in hunting.
Diamond also argues that Australia's continental isolation was brutally dominant in ensuring that no cultural and technological osmosis happened between the Aboriginals and other cultures or societies - even amongst each other. He uses the Tasmanian Aboriginals as an example:
Astonishingly, the archaeological record demonstrates something further: Tasmanians actually abandoned some technologies that they brought with them from Australia and that persisted on the Australian mainland.
For example, bone tools and the practice of fishing were both present in Tasmania at the time that the land bridge was severed, and both disappeared from Tasmania by around 1500 B.C.
That represents the loss of valuable technologies: fish could have been smoked to provide a winter food supply, and bone needles could have been used to sew warm clothes.
By comparison, Eurasia was connected by one landmass which shared a similar climate. So when sheep were domesticated in the middle east, they quickly ended up in European and Asian flocks. When horses were domesticated on the Russian steppes they quickly spread to China, and when citrus fruits were domesticated in Asia, these soon ended up in European agriculture.
It is interesting to note that when the English and Eora met at Sydney Cove the stealing that went on between them was usually over a prized technology. For instance the Eora quickly realised the productivity enhancements that iron tools offered, while the English valued the Eoran fizgigs (fishing nets) for the same reasons. So immediately upon contact there was technological osmosis.
All other things being equal, the rate of human invention is faster, and the rate of cultural loss is slower, in areas occupied by many competing societies with many individuals and in contact with societies elsewhere.
If this interpretation is correct, then it's likely to be of much broader significance. It probably provides part of the explanation why native Australians, on the world's smallest and most isolated continent, remained Stone Age hunter/ gatherers, while people of other continents were adopting agriculture and metal.
I think there is value in that interpretation. We see constantly in other areas of technology and endeavour that the edges are the most dynamic part of a system and that monocultures approximate stagnancy.
It is interesting to note that Bill Mollison designed his Permaculture system around maximising edge effects rather than sterile industrial agricultural practices of thousand upon thousands of acres of monoculture.
Peter Turchin's analysis of political empires, or cliodynamics, identifies the edges as the area of the greatest dynamicism and the nucleation points for future empires.
Modern economics argues the same thing. Protectionism or central planning makes a big national economy with minimal edges. It is sterile, inefficient and unable to progress. The edges in such a system where transfer does occur - unfortunately - is usually through the black market. Witness North Korea.
Free trade effectively makes the edge effects occur everywhere and the borders become self-determining through comparative advantage which stops the sterility that occurs in the mono-economic centre of a protected economy.
To summarise; this pattern of edge effects being absolutely important for innovation and progress is not a new one. I think it, along with the restrictions of the animals and plants on the Australian continent, makes a reasonable explanation why the Aboriginal people did not advance to an agrarian or iron age society.
Australia has always had a toe in globalisation simply because of the supposed geopolitical isolation, so Australians would look to foreign shores with awe and a glint of adventure. With the global economy integrating, the back-packing right of passage has become one of seeking economic opportunity.
The Lowy Institute's report
on the Australia Diaspora in 2004 noted that it has become increasing white collar and even gold collar. While the diaspora may get public attention from time to time, gone unnoticed has been the increasingly globally integrated nature of the Australian workforce.
Australia has hit a population of twenty-one million
. I have argued in the past that Australia should have population of sixty million, while the Imagining Australia folks have argued for forty million. That size of population is necessary for economic and political power.
Some are quite happy with Australia being in the quaint little back suburbs of Asia and watching the big boys pass us by, but without the economic and political weight, our policies will be stuck in the flotsam and jetsam of international policy.
For instance, why do we have an FTA with the US that heavily restricts trade and adds news layers to our legal system rather than negotiating an open borders treaty with the US?
Why wasn't Australia able to negotiate something truly wonderful such as what France, Belguim, Holland and Germany have done where they have the unrestricted movement of capital, goods and labor?
I am of the opinion that economic liberty is incomplete unless there is freedom of movement for labor as well as goods and capital; the FTA would have been a perfect opportunity to establish that style of relationship.
One of the reasons Australia was not, apart from it being rushed through on the last election campaign, was because Australia was not powerful enough, and the US did not have to treat us as equals.
Despite that, Australia is a leading nation in the rhythm of globalisation, we have nearly five percent of the population, or ten percent of the current workforce, outside of the country and working in other nations at any one time. We also have twenty-five percent of the current workforce as foreign born.
In this environment nativist or nationalist policies, such as the citizenship test, really have no place. The citizenship test is an electoral prop - not a policy. It goes against the increasingly integrated nature of the Australian workforce; at home and abroad.
The challenge for nation-states is going to be giving these global wanderers political voice, such that they don't become permanently stateless.
It is possible that at any one time one million Australians overseas have been purged from the Australian electoral rolls, and are not citizens of the country they are working. It is also possible that two and a half million people living in Australia who are foreign born face a similar issue.
Nation-state are based on political exclusivity for citizenry, presumably on some homogenising attribute, which makes that nation-state politically and socially stable. Globalisation has blown that out of the water and provided a liberal future where political stability is not dependent on nationalism or cultural homogeneity.
If nation-states are to survive under globalisation, and stave off a stateless political-underclass, they are going to have to find a way to give the diasporas full political expression - which includes voting rights.
Most Popular on South Sea Republic
The articles that have been viewed the most:
Most Popular Restaurants in Phoenix
Phoenix Eats Out
is the restaurant review site for Phoenix
and Old Town Scottsdale
which lists the modernist and contemporary restaurants, taverns and bars in the greater Phoenix area.
This is the list of the most popular restaurants pages from phoenixeatsout.com that have been viewed the most;
My personal favourite restaurants in Phoenix are AZ88
, Humble Pie
, Orange Table
, The Vig
and others coming close behind. View the complete list with the photo-journalistic style images on phoenixeatsout.com
Most Popular Hikes in Arizona
Arizona is an outdoor state and has lots of hiking in the city and around the state. Phoenix is unusual for most cities in having several large mountains in the center of the city with great hiking. Anyone who comes to Phoenix has to do the Echo Canyon trail on Camelback
and the Summit Hike on Squaw Peak
or Piesta Peak. The views of the city, suburbs and surrounding mountains are wonderful from Camelback and Piesta Peak.
For more experienced hikers there is the McDowell Mountains in North Scottsdale that has several difficult and strenuous hikes in Tom's Thumb
and Bell Pass
. Alternatively, you can hike the highest mountain in Arizona. At 12,600 feet Humphrey's Peak
is a long and difficult hike.
Alternate Australian Constitutions
Between 2004 and 2009 this site, southsearepublic.org
, was a constitutional blog based on scoop which focused on Australian and global constitutional issues.
One of the strongest aspects of it was the development of constitutions by those involved in the blog. These constitutions are the outcome:
The constitutions were built using principles from Montesquieu's separation of powers, the enlightnment's universal political rights and the ancient Athenian technology of sortition and choice by lot.
Archives For South Sea Republic
South Sea Republic started in 2004 as an Australian constitutional blog in 2004 based on scoop software. It was an immigrative outgrowth of Kuro5hin. The archives for each year since then;
The articles are ordered by views.
Who Is Cam Riley
I am an Australian living in the United States as a permanent resident.
I am a software developer by trade and mostly work in Java and jump between middleware and front end.
I originally worked in the New York area of the United States in telecommunications before moving to Washington DC and
working in a mix of telecommunications, energy and ITS. I started my own software company before heading out to
Arizona and working with Shutterfly. Since then I have joined a startup in the Phoenix area and am thoroughly enjoying myself.
I do a lot of photography which I post on this website, but also on flickr. I have a photo-journalistic website which lists
the modernist and contemporary restaurants in phoenix. I have a site on the Australian Flying Corps [AFC]
which has been around since the 1990s and which I unfortunately
lost the .org URL to during a life event; however, it is under the www.australianflyingcorps.com
The AFC website has gone through several iterations since the 90s and the two most recent are Australian Flying Corps Archives(2004-2002)
Australian Flying Corps Archives(2002-1999)
which are good places to start.
Websites Worth Reading
Websites of friends, colleagues and of interest;