When it comes to our freedoms, former Russian president Boris Yeltsin, got it right. He believed that people don’t appreciate what they have until it’s gone. ‘Freedom is like that,’ he said. ‘It’s like air.’
There was a time when we cherished our freedoms. We even fought two world wars to preserve them. But, over the last fifty years, first by stealth, then with determined haste, a growing coalition of anti-democratic elites have colluded to reset society and render those sacrifices in vain. We ignored the warning signs and began taking our freedoms for granted. Now, as we feel the effects of government’s pervasive, suffocating, actions, we are understanding what Yeltsin meant.
Of course, when we struck our bargain with the forces of darkness, we were promised that in exchange for the surrender of a few personal freedoms here and some individual responsibility there, everyone could be better off and live more equitably at the expense of everyone else.
For half a century, that compact was restated, yet only one party kept its side of the bargain. It is the people who naively continued to cede responsibility for themselves and their families to an ever-expanding army of officials who began progressively interfering in every aspect of their daily lives.
The trade-off – the promise of greater prosperity and equity for all – has been an ever-receding horizon. Indeed, according to a recent report released by the Productivity Commission, economic growth per person over the past decade has slipped to its slowest rate in sixty years, both in terms of GDP per capita and income per person. And not only that, but the wealth of the top twenty per cent of Australians has grown sixty-eight per cent in the past fifteen years compared to six per cent for the bottom twenty per cent.
But then, while cloaked in good intentions, the ‘promise’ was always about powerful interests colluding to deliver power, patronage and protection to a chosen privileged few. Even the Reserve Bank played a part by creating a systemic moral hazard, dubbed ‘too big to fail’. By making credit cheap and plentiful, it de-risked the stock and real estate markets underwriting enormous gains for the rich and well-connected.
Central bankers also lent their weight to push economy-destroying, emissions abatement regulations. This peculiarly Western obsession helps transfer wealth from the poor to rich renewable-energy rent-seekers via subsidies and consumer taxes. Soon governments will be able to use an app to monitor household emissions, giving them a seat right at the kitchen table.
Far fetched? Perhaps once. But not any more. The unprecedented use of force to control the population during the pandemic means all previous notions of limited state power belong in the dustbin of history. Any lingering doubts evaporated when Victorian protesters, alarmed by their losses of liberty, were fired on by their own police.
Worst of all, this atrocity was met with a deafening silence. The media behaved like an arm of government. The Prime Minister and the federal and state parliaments were silent. Business leaders were invisible. It was a defining moment in our nation’s history and confirmed that we now live in a society where freedom and the rule of law are at the sole discretion of the state.
This is the ‘great reset’ our children and grandchildren have been prepared for. From primary school on, they have been brainwashed to be ashamed of their heritage, their parents’ values and their traditional institutions. They have been taught how capitalism and markets are evil and that our colonial settlers were nothing more than oppressors, slave owners and environmental vandals.
They learn that fighting for freedom on the battlefields was nothing but the assertion of white supremacy. Their curriculum includes Marxist critical race theory and gender fluidity. Academic assignments lead students down an ideological path which, if they are to pass exams, they must take. This merciless moral scrutiny of the nation’s past and present is intended to cancel the past and confer legitimacy on today’s illiberal new direction.
Unsurprisingly, the most recent report from the OECD Program for International Student Assessment confirms that when measured against eighty countries, Australia has continued its 20-year decline in the quality of schooling in reading, mathematics and science. Indoctrination may not give tomorrow’s leaders the critical edge in a competitive world, but at least they will get their pronouns right.
Who dares speak against this brave new world, where even the word ‘mother’ can cause offence to some? Where to be politically incorrect can be career limiting or socially ostracising. Understandably, intellectual cowardice abounds.
There is certainly no mention of freedom or smaller government in today’s election campaigns. Voters are expected to forget the past’s multiple costly blunders like the NBN, the NDIS and the French submarine project and embrace new, expensive thought-bubbles, none of which will achieve their stated intent.
But, as US economist Herb Stein once quipped, ‘If something can’t go on forever, it will stop’. Massive debt overhangs, growing deficits and economic waste and distortions will soon prove him right in a way that neither the electorate, nor the political establishment, are expecting. Then the incompetence and frivolous nature of today’s political class will be exposed. So too, how centralised power has concentrated risks and robbed society of its resilience. But don’t expect the elites to relinquish their power and privilege. They will use the moment to expand them.
It’s as Mark Twain observed. ‘Every civilisation carries the seeds of its own destruction, and the same cycle shows in them all. The Republic is born, flourishes, decays into plutocracy, and is captured by the shoemaker whom the mercenaries and millionaires make into a king. The people invent their oppressors, and the oppressors serve the function for which they are invented.’
We have been warned. But have we the courage to turn back?
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