Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Citizenship vs the linear trap.

Download PDFDownload PDF

Unemployed At Last!

I was trying to think how to begin this and on the way over I was reading Collins' Such Is Life, a great Australian classic, and somehow that opening line just kept going through my mind again and again, "Unemployed at last!" with a sort of joyous exclamation mark, and I thought, apart from being a brilliant beginning to a novel, that it was a phrase that couldn't be used quite that way any more. Not with exactly the same kind of joy, perhaps more with dark irony now. And curiously enough, I don't know if anybody's ever said this in Australia before, but really it's a book that reminds me of Waiting For Godot, Beckett.

You know, the opening of Waiting For Godot is the two bums are out on stage and Estragon says, "Rien faire," nothing to be done. A great sort of sense of inevitability that hangs over them. Inevitability about the big directions that are beyond the horizon just off that sort of minimalist stage that it's always done with and you simply have to adjust to whatever that reality may be turn out to be. I mean, there are other options and Vladimir and Estragon discuss the other options almost right away. Vladimir says, "What do we do now?" and Estragon says, "Wait." "Yes, but while waiting, well what about hanging ourselves?" "Well, it would give us an erection."

This is the greatest play of the century, I'm allowed to quote it. And if you'll excuse me taking some very simple lines and putting maybe a meaning Beckett would not consciously have thought of behind them, what they're really talking about is loss of real power to the individual and the need through, you know, hanging yourself or getting an erection for nothing, of embracing what I would call false individualism. I suppose you could say that, you know - somebody said the other day that I never talk about the millennium. There, I've said it, maybe the first time I've ever said it, I've tried to avoid it, and you know, we do this whole thing not for any particularly interesting reason but just as a distraction.

I say that until I arrived in Adelaide and I was walking down Rundle Mall and I saw a sign outside a building site that said, "David Jones,

bringing you an exciting shopping experience for the new millennium." Now, I know what to do with the next thousand years; something really new. It's always an awkward thing when you give a talk when the previous talk was televised. So I don't know how many of you saw that or not, but when I was here in Sydney in January I talked a lot about the mediocrity of the ideas tied to globalisation. Globalisation as it is being implemented.

Not globalisation because globalisation is something like anything else that has to be defined and it's been defined in a very narrow and particular way and the particular way in which it's been defined is, to put it politely, childlike, immature, naive and not very interesting. There are all sorts of other ways in which it could be defined and indeed has been defined again and again over the centuries, much more interesting ways.

I think even the British and French Empires, which after all engaged in globalisation, had definitions which were four to five times more complex and interesting than what's being put forward today basically by departments of economics and large transnational corporations and the people they can convince to go along with their rather low level single digit IQ definitions, to put it mildly. The way it's been defined has an unnecessarily negative impact on democracy, on responsible individualism, on citizenship, on everything we've accomplished over the last 100-150 years in our democracies. There are many, many more positive suitable approaches available to developed democracies if they want to globalise at the end of the 20th century.

What I wanted to just talk about a bit today was the actual mechanisms which have given us this sense of powerlessness, of inevitability, before this rather simplistic approach towards changing our society and I want to talk a bit about alternative approaches towards globalisation, another view, restructuring our society. I want to talk about more appropriate mechanisms in a very quick sort of way but just to show that it can be done, I suppose. First of all I just want to say in passing that to attempt to restructure our public services, our civil services, our Government services, whether it be health care, education, whatever, police, whatever, to try and restructure them on the basis of a private sector model is absolute lunacy.

Democracies As Corporations

There isn't, as far as I know, a single example in 1500 years of - let me call it - the Western style of development of Government, democratic Government, there isn't a single example of democracies successfully moving forward by acting as if they were corporations.

It simply hasn't been done and doesn't work. The only example I can come up with is Venice, which was certainly commercially successful and was led by business. It had a few disadvantages which was it was great to buy paintings and to paint, it was great to play music and listen to music but don't talk whatever you do.

One of the most admirable characteristics of citizens of Venice was their right as citizens to anonymously denounce other citizens. I mean, there aren't any examples of marketplace models for democratic societies. So certainly the kind of explanations that have been given to us over the last 10 to 15 years don't indicate any great intellectual breakthrough in this area. They haven't justified pretending that citizens are clients and customers and that hospitals are actually marketplaces. They haven't justified it intellectually, practically, democratically or any other way which is recognisable to societies such as ours, and what's more, we rejected all of the models that they're putting forward very clearly in election after election after election in the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century.

In fact if we are, you know, in the second half of the 20th century, the most successful, prosperous, complex, whatever, fair societies that ever existed, it is precisely because we have rejected the idea of private sector leadership. Now, I'm not saying for a second it doesn't have its role. I believe in capitalism. I believe in competition. We need it, we need the marketplace, we've always had the marketplace, we always will have the marketplace. It would be naive to believe, I think, and ideological to believe that we could do away with it, but to believe that it could lead, well it's to slip into the cliches of our day, to say: well, we have no choice but to follow this new model because it's - I don't know - a question of money. We have no choice, everybody else is doing it.

It's always somebody else's fault somewhere else. You've noticed that one of the characteristics of globalisation is that it's sort of like ghost stories, it's always in the next room, that's why you can't do anything about it. If you think about that concept what was the point in spending billions of dollars over the last 200 years creating the largest functioning elite in the history of the world so that that elite could turn around and say to us today: well, there's absolutely nothing we can do because it's somewhere we can't see it. I mean, it's awfully expensive to create people like me and if we turn around and say we can't do anything, well then I would suggest shutting down the universities and getting rid of 98 per cent of the elite.

Either they can function and do something or let's do without them. I mean, they have to make up their minds whether they want to be an elite in a functioning democracy or whether they don't want to be an elite in a functioning democracy. If they don't, well maybe we should

try somebody else or something else or another method for doing things, another way of doing things. What we're witnessing is a refusal of most of the elite throughout the democracies, a refusal to take responsibility given the positions of responsibility they're in.

I mean, one has to remember, and this is a little bit like treating ourselves as children but that's the way we're being treated, one has to remember that there are always good reasons for doing the wrong thing. There are usually better self-interested reasons for doing the wrong thing than for doing the right thing. Democracy is not about facility, it's not about ease, it's not about the best reason, it's the hardest road to go down. One of the great signs of a failure of an elite is that it sets about energetically rationalising doing the wrong thing, forgetting the fundamental structure of its own obligations as an elite in a democratic society.

Now, let me just take a small example. I don't want to pick on anybody, I'm not in that sort of business, but I've read the paper since I've come here. There's no point in me quoting Canadian politicians to you. I mean, I'm in Australia. I just read a little thing about your Federal Minister of Health speaking out about health cuts, you know, it could be the Canadian Minister of Health talking about the same health cuts or the English or the French or the German, and he said, "Our health care is regarded as the best universal system in the world."

Now, I hate to tell you, our Minister said that about a month ago. I hate to tell you, it's about the 12th time I've heard this line and this is about avoiding reality. This is about trying to pass off PR phrases rather than dealing with the reality of what's being done. Let me take two quick examples which may have a small reverberation in Australia to show the extent to which we have gone off track. I could give exactly the same examples in any other developed democracy today. The first has to do with gambling.

Gambling Is The Ultimate Privatisation

Gambling is, if you actually think about it intellectually and philosophically, which one has to do because it now represents a very important source of income in our democracies, gambling is the ultimate privatisation. It drags democracy down to the lowest form of market forces, throwing the dice. Just throw the dice. Right? I mean, you can't get any lower in terms of market models than gambling and it reminds us that in the 19th century which economics was for a short time near the top and caused great suffering in our societies, it reminds you that when economics is in control of the direction of

democratic societies then ethics and the self-respect of the elite, the self-respect of the elite, is marginalised.

Now, you can't blame anybody for this. I mean, there isn't a single political party that I know of anywhere in the democratic world who actually really entirely opposes the rise of gambling as a way of funding the civil society and what's more, the civil service has taken an active part in either encouraging or helping the politicians to do it. There are ways for civil services to discourage politicians from doing things; fair or not. I've seen no signs of them attempting to do that. Apparently in South Australia you now raise 13.9 per cent of your taxes from gambling. It's become one of the most important sources of funds.

Apparently in Australia you now have, according to recent statistics, 330 problem gamblers and then of course the families that go along with that. Your Prime Minister says he's ashamed, your Premier says he regrets it. Great. Great. The reality is that a fundamental, existential, philosophical choice has been made and that is to raise taxes from the lower, lower middle and middle classes, who are already overtaxed, in other words to triple tax them, because the Governments and the civil services are unwilling to come to terms with the basic responsibility of their job, which is to face up to the people who have the 13.9 per cent and take it away from them. That's all.

It's not very complicated. It's a question of courage and cowardness and what we're dealing with today is a public sector throughout the developed world which is profoundly cowardly because it will not face up to the people who have the power the way people did in the 19th century, the way people did in the 20th century. They won't do what democratic Governments have done again and again and again throughout history, conservative Governments, liberal Governments and social democratic Governments, they won't do it, apparently because they don't have the courage to do it.

It shows, of course, in addition, no respect for the citizen as the source of legitimacy in our society. It shows that they haven't perhaps read the dozens and dozens of political sources which indicate that this is the wrong way to go: Rousseau in A Social Contract. As for despotism, instead of governing the subjects in order to make them happy it makes them miserable in order to govern them. Bourke, you know, hardly a radical, "We whip the child until it cries and then we whip it for crying."

You Can't Be Mad 232 Times A Day

Second example. The GST. Again, it's a way to avoid taking clear

responsibility for taxation. Instead one has it indirectly. Again, one taxes the lower, lower middle and middle classes. It's hard for people to get a handle on it because it comes in dribs and drabs, it's 2 and a half cents at a time, 29 cents at a time. You buy paper, you go to a restaurant. I mean, you can't sort of be mad 232 times a day over 4 to 5 years. It's very hard to do that so it's a way of actually deflecting citizens from concentrating on how money is being raised to fund the state.

Now, the interesting thing about the GST is that it's the most, apart from being a triple or quadruple taxation system, it is in fact one of the most ineffective and inefficient systems for raising money. Suppose you want $30 billion, just to take a number, there are two ways of doing it I can think of. One of them would be think up 60 people who have $500 million, I mean big companies, you know, and then hire two civil servants and say: you've got an afternoon to send out some faxes to them and raise the money. Fairly efficient and effective.

The other way of doing it is to say that we're going to raise 3 cents at a time on sticks of chewing gum from millions and millions of people in billions and billions of operations. We're going to hire thousands of civil servants in order to collect this and - one of the most interesting things because I think this is something which isn't talked about enough - we are going to create a whole new kind of inflation because, of course, the collecting of this tax and the management of it by the people who have to pay it is a totally inflationary activity.

I look at the owner of a small book store who has a limited number of employees, he is going to have to once a month put one of these employees or himself probably to work for a day in order to do the paperwork to make sure that they're not in a fraudulent situation over the payment of this tax and that activity, in pure economic terms, I'm going to try and do this so people don't go to sleep, I mean economics is so sleep-making, but I mean in pure economic terms that activity is pure inflation. Nothing is produced. Nothing is produced. No good comes out of it. It is wasting time.

What's more, what's interesting is the wasting of time that's most dangerous in the case of the GST happens to self-employed people like myself and small to medium size businesses like Greg's. This is a tax, a dream tax, for the big, fat, inefficient, bureaucratically led large corporations for whom it's just another 500 or 200 or 100 bureaucrats, technocrats, that they will hire in the private sector to manage this thing. It's their kind of tax; waste a lot of time. They just love getting it in 2Ýcents at a time. I don't have the time to do it that way and I think that we know from the economic investigation that's been done that growth in our societies, real investment in our

societies, real R and D in our societies, is not coming out of the big transnationals and the big corporations it's coming out of the medium and small size companies. They're the ones who are being penalised for this.

What I'm saying isn't a left wing argument, it isn't a right wing argument, it's a sensible, down to earth economic argument and yet country after country after country, with you coming in almost last, lucky you, got away with it for a few years, now have gone the route of this tax. Again, because of an unwillingness of the civil services, the intellectuals in the economics departments and the politicians of all the parties, to face up to raising tax in a clear and effective way.

The result is that I think before the GST in Australia you had 400 pages of tax regulations and I don't know what it is with the GST added on to it. That complexity, that weight of stuff of regulations is what alienates citizens from their own democracy. They can't understand how to pay, who they're paying or what they're paying for. So it is, particularly when it's brought in by Governments who believe in public service, it does great damage to the idea of the public good.

Sinking Under The Weight Of Success

So how did we get here? How did this happen to us? Well, I think what's happened is that we have made the wrong use of the enormously successful half century that we've just been through. In a half a century developed democracies have leapt forward in terms of levels of justice and levels of services. We've never seen anything like this before in history. It has been an enormous success story. It was done by social democratic Governments, liberal Governments and conservative Governments, real conservative Governments, not neo liberal, neo conservatives pretending to be conservatives.

There was virtual agreement in the great centre from the left to the right that this was the road to go but because we live in democracies, because we have certain ways of winning elections and making laws, we did this in an ad hoc manner, little step by little step. We put health care systems in place and so on and the result was that at the end of more or less a half a century the social progress was there but the methodology for creating it was an ad hoc methodology, thank God, and the result was this enormous pile, this complex pile which was the infrastructure of the fair, just, democratic state, and it still works.

I mean, it really works, considering how complicated it is, it really works pretty well and the intent is still there but it's hard to keep it going, it's hard to remember the intent on a day to day basis and of

course we need enormous numbers of very good civil servants to run that, and they do it very well in general, but again, it's very difficult to make the whole thing move forward in an effective manner. So it is in effect a good, well-intentioned but opaque system.

I believe that the real job of the reform minded elite, if you like, democratic, public service, electoral, whatever, over the last 20 years, the real job was to carry out a new revolution which was the revolution of consolidation to say: this thing is great, now we've got to take the 26 books of laws on this particular subject and we have to grab the intent out of them and boil it back down to one book. We have to do the same with the medicals, we have to do it with all of the systems. Why? Because if we don't do it the citizens will not be with us because they will not understand how it works and we will have given a present to experts who in a sense won't, can't, don't want to explain themselves to the public and the public will become more and more cut off from the great advantage which they created through the political process in these reforms over the last half century.

We have to create a new solid basis, clear, concise, transparent, clear basis on which we will run our society, which will be the consolidation of everything we've done over the last half century. And instead of that the progressive elites spent most of the last two decades defending the structure in place, not the intent of the structure, not the purpose of the structure, not the revolution of the last half century but actually defending the details of that, the ad hoc details. They put themselves in a totally defensive position. They hid behind all sorts of complexities, because it's very complicated. It's not complicated because of new technology, it's not complicated because we're in the end of the 21st century, it's complicated because that's the way democratic societies put things together and at a certain point you've got to clear up the complication in order to recreate new complication.

That's the history of democracy, of successful democracy, otherwise you sink under the weight. So instead of doing that the progressive elites went on the defensive, which is the position of the loser, and left the whole field of revolutionary activity, so to speak, because it was a revolution what the moderates did over the last half century, left the whole field of revolutionary reform activity clear and it was therefore occupied, and different countries have different members, therefore occupied by people who hated the reforms of the last half century but were able to occupy that space and pretend that they were reformers, pretend that what they wanted to do was bring clarity, when what they actually wanted to do was to destroy a large part, not all, but a large part of the advances of the last half century.

The progressive elites found themselves in an impossible strategic

position, they were defending tactical details, and the people who hated social justice, the social justice of the last half century, were able to speak in the great broad terms of revolutionary reform. It was a terrible strategic position to find oneself in. I think you could say that the greatest failure of the progressive movement over the last 20 years has been the failure to carry out what - let's just call it legal reform, consolidation reform. The result has been double, politically.

At the conceptual end, Parliaments have been gradually reduced to administrative bodies who spend most of their time passing laws. That's all they do is pass laws. That's not the purpose of a Parliament. The purpose of Parliament is to talk and think and argue and from time to time to pass a law. Only a little while ago, a couple of months ago, I was in Paris talking a little bit about this area and Robin Bananterre, one of the very good Ministers of justice of France over the last couple of decades, was on stage with me and I sort of said in joking that, you know, we could probably have all of the protections, all the laws, all the justice that we currently have with about 20 per cent of the actual legislation. Don't lose anything, but just 20 per cent of the legislation. And he laughed his head off and said, "Oh no, that's much too much, we could do it with 10 per cent."

So that what happened is that in a way the bureaucratic process, the administrative process was ennobled into the legal process and in that sense the democratic process lost its real power because the Parliaments were castrated of ideas, of debate. I mean, there's no real - there may be some politicians in this audience, they know very well that standing up and giving a really interesting intelligent speech, there isn't much time for it in Parliament and it certainly isn't rewarded. What's rewarded is getting through more and more bills, which is to say acting like a super civil servant, not like a politician.

Hypnotised By The Detail

Now, step back from this description of the trap of success, the complexity out of success and say: well, what does it mean? What does it really mean? What's happening to us? Well, I think what's happening is that on one level, the level that most of us know, we the citizens, the civil servants, the politicians, are drawn on a minute by minute basis deeper and deeper into the maw of legal and administrative mysteries. I mean, it's really fun in some ways, it's very complicated, it takes up all of our time. We're lost in tactics.

On another level beneath our feet where strategy takes place there's a strategic revolution going on in terms of how everything's going to be organised and we're not even looking at that as societies because we're so caught up in this, the maw of this detail, of protecting this little thing and that little thing, which are all good things. I'm not

saying they're bad things. I'm just saying that by being hypnotised by the detail we can't actually see the great movement which is taking place, except to complain about it and be frightened by it and to give in more or less, more or less, when we're told that it's inevitable.

When I was here last time in Sydney I mentioned very briefly that at the international level you look and you see that there have been dozens and dozens and dozens over the last half century of international binding treaties in the area of economics and there are about that many other areas. So that we have completely destabilised our society because we've put at the international level all the powers, the real powers, over economics, which is a sort of tertiary level thing in terms of importance, and we've kept all the other things at the national level in a sense powerless. Not powerless because of the invisible hand of a natural balance, powerless because we let go of one of the key controlling elements without getting agreements on the other areas beforehand or at the same time.

I mean, the international binding agreements that have to do with social and political law are tiny, fragile, disjointed fragments and they have to face overbearing legal structures when it comes to commerce. It wasn't inevitable. It was a political error. Look at globalisation as it's presented. I mean, think about the way it's presented. We're told that it's happening because, you know, there has been this enormous growth and growth in technology and new trade and new capital and this all leads to, naturally, a weakening of a nation state, and we all feel rather frustrated and do we have to wave the flag and be nationalistic, and the real loser's position is to move into nationalism, right, when you're faced by real power. It's a classic loser's position.

But the truth is that this growth, this technology, this trade and this capital, what produced it? The nation state, the democratic nation state produced it with its enormous success in social policy over the last half century. That's how we became so successful. So why is it that we would have been clever enough to produce this thing and as soon as we produced it it is the reason for us to commit suicide, to hang ourselves and merely get a little erection in return.

This globalisation is the product of our success in the developed democracies. We unleashed it and therefore what it should mean is the strengthening of the democratic nation state and the rights of the citizen, not the weakening. The logical extension is strengthening not weakening. A great deal of it was made possible by our intelligence in putting through 100-150 years ago laws which made it possible to raise capital in our societies, and it wasn't possible in other societies, and our intelligence in allowing a structure that would permit the raising of capital produced a great deal of this wealth.

Second point. They - I mean, one has to have a "they" otherwise it would take a lot of time - they say that globalisation is new and unstoppable. It isn't new at all, as I mentioned at the beginning where this is about the 25th act in globalisation in the last 1500 years. Each one of them is a little bit different. It's only unstoppable if you want to believe it's unstoppable. Education, our knowledge, our technology. It means that more than ever more in history we are in a position to give direction to globalisation, much more than they were in the 19th century and yet they managed to do it.

The third point. The technocratic leadership whether it's in the public sector, the private sector say: oh, you can't possibly give direction to this new force. Why? The reason why is because they're incapable of leadership. They're the ones who are lost in details. They're the ones who are buried in tactics, not the citizens. They being technocrats, being managers. I mean, this is why I keep saying, "Shut down the business schools. Shut down the management schools."

I may be slightly exaggerating but the problem is we're creating a pretend elite. People who are experts in something which is really a secondary or tertiary talent, maybe a fourth level talent, we're pretending it's a first level talent. They are managers. They are technocrats. They don't see themselves as leaders in the real sense of the word "leader" and certainly not as democracies understand leadership. So they see themselves as people who would follow somebody else and since there's nobody around for them to follow they come up with all sorts of funny things like: we're following technology; we're following the invisible hand; we're following the invisible balance. I mean, it's really childish romanticism. It's a sign of incompetence, of lack of imagination, of lack of quality as leaders.

A Schizophrenic Elite

The strength that we have as a nation states, democratic nation states, has nothing to do with nationalism, it relates to our sophistication as democratically minded, responsible, sophisticated citizens, individuals. That's the strength that we have. Interestingly enough we produced an elite which is much less competent than the society as a whole, and in fact what's interesting is that most of the specialist elites are more intelligent as individuals and citizens than they are as specialists but the problem is they are only rewarded for being specialists so they deny that they also exist as citizens and individuals. It's a schizophrenic problem that our elites suffers from.

A fourth example. Globalisation is to the advantage of the big private corporations and to the disadvantage of the nations state. Why? Well, there's the technology, internationalism, they can be anywhere etcetera, but you know having an international view, a long term

view, is far, far easier for a national government than it is for the managers of a transnational corporation with its, you know, quarterly needs to produce profits, its enormous bureaucracies and its absence of any purpose for existence except for some very, very interesting but low level purposes for existence, which is to say self-interest.

After all self-interest is important, it's necessary but it really rates low in terms of human characteristics. What's more, technology is far easier for the democratic nation state to use than for the corporations to use. I mean, you know, up until very, very recently the money markets happened in all sorts of different places with people shouting and screaming loud so they could be heard and throwing bits of paper in the air and ripping them up and throwing them on the floor. It was virtually impossible to administer it. We did but it was very, very difficult.

Today it's all done on the machines which are going 24 hours a day and which are all linked to each other. So for the first time in history governments, you, are in a technical position to control and manage the money markets. It's exact opposite of what they're saying. All it requires is a certain minimum amount of co-operation between the governments. The problem with the transnationals is they're run by managers, I've already described them; they can't rise above self-interest, which is the mediocre characteristic, it's fine, you need, it's okay, but it's not a big deal; they don't understand real leadership; they are extremely weak repositories of really effective power, creative power; they're very frustrated, I'm always hearing how frustrated they are at not being taken seriously as thinkers or leaders.

The reason they're not taken seriously as thinkers or leaders is because they have in general a very narrow utilitarian role and if I am one of their shareholders I would hope they would have a utilitarian role. That is their role, but they're very frustrated that they are treated as having a narrow, utilitarian role. Usually, they're very ill read. I'm generalising but, you know, I travel around on aeroplanes and I can tell you in business class it's a long time since I've seen anything other than a thriller. You know, Sidney Sheldon is really big in the modern, functioning, international elite.

Well, how can you expect them to have interesting ideas when they're reading. I mean, it's a little bit unfair, there are exceptions, but I haven't seen many in my experience and I've got a relatively wide experience. I just don't know many of them who've read anything. You know, they read things that come to them from their junior, little reports. They don't even read the newspapers most of them, they get clipped things, you know, articles that are relevant to them so they don't actually know what the structure of a whole newspaper looks like unless they have an interest in sports or something like that.

I mean, if we have got to talk about an elite, I mean, we've always been very cruel about our elites in the past, it's one of the qualities of a democracy is we're allowed to be cruel about them because they're not allowed to hang us, I mean, for being cruel about them. They can hang us, or they can put us away if we're cruel to them in other than a democratic manner but we are, you know, basically allowed to say what we want and the fact is that in comparison to earlier elites we haven't seen anything as mediocre as this since the end of the French aristocracy in the late 1800s.

I mean, Voltaire is very funny about the fact that they couldn't read anything so they hired people to read for them, right? We now call those sort of research institutes which are funded by the large corporations. We're exactly where we were in about 1760 - 1770 in terms of the functioning elite and they're not doing a very good job. They really don't understand. I mean, and I hope they don't understand in a sense. They're not very good at the co-operative complexity of real leadership in a real society. They don't need to be because they're just running companies where they tell people what to do if they can get through the board.

They're not even this sophisticated in getting people to do things as generals are because good generals can give orders but because the danger of death lies just around the corner in order to actually get them to go around the corner you have to be able to do more than give the order, you have to get them to believe that around the corner it's going to be good. Whereas the heads of our large corporations don't need to have that quality. They're at a very low, low level of leadership.

Happy In Fertility Of Invention

I mean, I was reminded of - I read Watkins' ..... since I was here last time, that fabulous diary of early Australia and found this wonderful quote about the convicts and he said, "We found the convicts particularly happy in fertility of invention and exaggerated descriptions hence large freshwater rivers, valuable ores and quarries of limestone, chalk and marble were daily proclaimed soon after we had landed," and it really reminds me a lot of the private sector in terms of their approach towards globalisation and ideas and so on, it's sort of like, childlike imaginary ideas about how the world should work if only they were really allowed to lead it.

Now, one of the origins of this problem, specific origins of this problem is the importance which we've come to give to commercial law. This is another opportunity to fall asleep. I said a few moments ago that we created laws which would allow the raising of finance. It

was a very brilliant move that started out in the 18th century actually and was confirmed at the end of the 19th century, and it was based on a sort of cornerstone of company law which was a principle, a totally imaginary principle and some strengths of democracy is our ability to have useful imagination.

The principle of their independent existence, the companies independent existence as legal people. We've said: look, in order to raise money we're going to create limited liability partnerships etcetera, but what we really said was, "We're going to treat you the company as if you're a person so that the actual people working there aren't going to get into too much trouble when you try to raise capital and you get into trouble." It was a brilliant, brilliant idea and it did help us to develop our economies.

That is 150 years ago. Our big corporations today don't need that law. Our big corporations today are banks unto themselves. That's why we have, all the laws we get are actually to the disadvantage of the small corporations because of the domination of these very large corporations and they're slowing down our economy because of their conservatism, slowness, ineffectiveness and lack of leadership. Instead they're using this protection of being the fictional legal person to do completely different things from what we originally intended.

They're using it to protect themselves against fraud charges. They're using it to sue people for libel. I mean, why should a corporation be able to sue for libel? It's not a person. It's a way of preventing people from getting at what they're producing. Let me just read you a little example here from Business Week. It's about 7 years ago. I just want to see that there is a theme running through this from Waiting for Godot. "Makers of the Stealth condom, sales slogan 'They'll never see you coming'" - this is from Business Week, and this is a law suit -"are embroiled in a legal fight with Northrop Corporation" - you know, the big aeroplane producer who make the Stealth fighter? -"the aircraft maker, manufacturer of the Stealth bomber" - which proved to be actually useless the last time out, but anyway - "claims that the red, white and blue condom sold in a cardboard replica of their bomber is a trademark infringement."

Now, my point is too bad. Too bad. This is a democracy we have more important things to do. They don't need that kind of protection. They don't need it. They shouldn't have it and it's ridiculous to be tying up our courts with not just that but thousands and thousands of other cases which are really used to stop the free market from operating. That's what it's actually designed to do. I believe in the free market and I don't think they should have that kind of power because it's against competition, that kind of power.

So against fraud charges, for suing for libel, against environmental charges, and increasingly in order to increase their power over copyright. Now, a lot of writers think that's just great that we increase the power of copyright but we're now reaching the stage where the power of copyright is becoming a severe limitation on your freedom of speech and your right to know and I'm getting myself, personally very concerned about it, and they're using it in order to undo the laws of the 19th century, the anti-monopoly laws, the anti-concentration laws.

So that we're seeing a return to monopolies and oligopolies on the basis that it's too complicated to administer at home, you know, the ad hoc complexity and we've deregulated at the international level. So we've sort of cut off our powers at both levels and suddenly we're slipping right back into where we were in 1870, 1880, 1890 and that sort of sense of inevitability takes over. We feel there's nothing we can do. They're going to be allowed to do what they were allowed to do in the 1870s and 80s because of this new wonderful form of globalisation.

That's why you're getting - I mean, last year $1.6 trillion in mergers in the United States alone, the same thing in Australia, the same thing in Canada, the same thing everywhere, and it doesn't work. The mergers don't work. They don't produce better, more effective companies. They produce higher and higher levels of bankruptcies, of ineffectiveness, of inefficiency, of bureaucracy, of directionlessness in the private sector. It's a sort of private sector technocratic game. It has nothing to do with capitalism.

Now, there's a curious thing, I am not at all obsessed by large corporations. They don't actually dominate our lives. We see very little of them. They don't employ very many of us. They employ less than a per cent of us, more or less, the big ones. They're really very unimportant in terms of their central role in our societies but they have people who they hire, you know, the Voltairean think tanks whom they hire to work on long term big policy, in self-interested policy. They buy whole university departments, thanks to the way we're now funding our universities increasingly, to do work, to find out truths, which they know in advance.

They have people who are paid on a very long term and expensive basis to do deep government lobbying. They are great specialists in the complexities of law and so they can do what none of us can do because we don't have the time or money to do it. Neither do our politicians. Neither do our civil servants. They lobby very effectively at the international level in the same way in places like the OECD and the WTO. So that they have produced laws at the international level which suit them and they're now getting reforms at the national

and the state and provincial levels which suit them, even though they're actually rather unimportant to us.

Absolute Power Exists To Be Abused

You know, let us just remember the old fashioned arguments about monopolies and oligopolies didn't belong to Marx. There isn't a single respectable figure over the last 1500 years from the right to the left who believed that private sector monopolies and oligopolies were a good thing. Last quote, Michael Oakshott, you know, sort of Godfather of the American Neo Conservative Movement - actually, they obviously haven't read him because he's an English Conservative not a Neo Conservative, but anyway - Michael Oakshott, as solid as a 20th century Conservative as you can imagine, quotes, "Concerning monopolies, have no illusions. I will not consider them optimistically hoping that they will not abuse their power. It is mere foolishness to complain when absolute power is abused. It exists to be abused."

Yet you feel powerless. You feel powerless in an area where there is absolutely no reason to feel powerless where our whole history tell us that we should not be powerless. Where our whole history tells us it is essential not to be powerless. Not because we're against the private sector, not because we're on the left, but because democracies cannot function when faced with large private sector monopolies and oligopolies. That is a truth discovered in Athens, in Rome, in the British and French Empires, you have to have a regulated system if you want decent societies to exist.

In a way we feel powerless partly because we're caught up in the myriad of small inevitabilities. The weight of the small inevitabilities prepares us to feel powerless when faced by a big theoretical inevitability. Now, let me just finish by saying a couple of things in almost point form. I think that it's very important for us to begin thinking differently about the economy. Yesterday when we were -Michael Rohan very kindly took me out to drink wine and in the middle of drinking a very good bottle of '96 Fox Creek, yes, very good, he said: you know, that maybe we should think about the economy as a parasite of society. I think that's a brilliant idea.

You know, at first you think: well, that's a very anti-economic thing to say. Not at all. I mean, human beings are parasites of the planet. There's nothing wrong with being a parasite. Children are parasites of their parents. I love wild mushrooms, they're parasites. Orchids are parasites. Parasites are great, you have to have parasites, but the important thing about parasites is they mustn't get too big. If they get too big they kill you. That's why throughout 1500 years of history economics and the economies and economic leaders are kept at third and fourth levels of societies. They're not capable of being at the top

level without destroying it because they're driven, the thing that links the parasite to the body is self-interest and self-interest cannot lead society. It can only kind of follow at a lower level.

Second, I think we need to demote management. I think we have to say, "Thanks, but no thanks. You have failed over 25 years as leaders of our society. I think you have to go back to being say number three. Maybe just above rough economics, if you like." We have to stop producing the enormous quantities of managers in every field of education including the arts and think about education in a non-management manner. Just get the number of management people that we need but no more.

Effervescent, Imaginative Disorder

We have to go back to remembering that democracies work not because they're well managed. They work because of effervescent, imaginative disorder. The great governments are not smooth. You know, I wasn't here but I believe that - I mean, Don Dunstan is probably a good example. I mean, the great governments are filled with ideas and a bit of instability. The managers are there to kind of pick up the pieces and give it a shape underneath. But when you have shape on the top and smoothness on the top you're in very deep trouble.

We have to re-establish very seriously the idea of choice. Choice is central not only to democracy but to the intelligence of the citizen of the individual. That's how we make our break throughs. That means destroying the idea of inevitability. We have to stop worshipping technology and technological information methods as if by following them we were going to find a great truth. They're great, but to be faced with tonnes of raw material and messages is just a modern version of the barbarian bureaucratic nightmare. It's something to be used, it isn't something to follow.

We have to beware the Mantra of the knowledge economy. The knowledge economy is tied to the concept of the ownership of knowledge. I talked about the danger of the race towards copyright being pushed at the international level. It isn't a knowledge economy. Democracy is based on knowledge. Some things deserve copyright. We have to be very careful, we have to limit the extent to which the word "knowledge" is attached to the word "economy". We have to rethink the structure of our social reforms because we're still acting as if in 1900, old fashioned as all the other management theories, as if we are still in 1900 dieing age 50 instead of age 80 or 90.

We're still pushing kids out into the work-force fast and retiring young. When in fact people are going to live to be 80 or 90 or more,

maybe, and we therefore have the time, really the time for people to be pushed into citizen participation from the beginning. We have to take our time to give broad educations. And then we have to carry out the consolidation revolution if we really want to have the kind of balanced mixed, fair society which we developed over the last half century. I think that's of enormous importance and it's going to be very difficult for the people who benefit from the complexity whether they're civil servants or private sector people or lawyers, or you know, consultants, but we have to carry out that revolution. That is a job.

Finally, I think we really have to push our national governments, and we don't like doing it in places like Canada and Australia. We kind of get on their backs when they leave the country and they're not dealing with our, you know, drivers licence or whatever. I guess, that's the sort of tall poppy syndrome or something. I mean, we have to stop thinking like that. We have to push our national governments to concentrate on the social political aspects of international restructuring.

Coming from the United States you don't need - if you come to the United States you don't need a foreign policy. Thank you. If you come from a small to medium-sized country like Australia or Canada you desperately need an integrated long-term foreign policy. Canada or in Australia and others will live or die over the next few years on the basis of succeeding or failing at binding arrangements at the international level on social political questions. Thank you, very much.