Friday, August 04, 2006

Issues with the Howard Government

Supporters of the Howard government base their support on the claim that it has a good economics track record. My current theory is that this claim is (a) 100% accurate, and (b) completely missing the point.

Economic indicators are good. Inflation is low, unemployment is low, the budget is in surplus. Part of this is due to reforms made by Labor in the 1980s which the Howard government inherited, but it seems incredibly foolish to suggest that the current government played no part in creating the current stable economic situation.

So the Howard government is strong on economic management, and this is a good thing to have in a government. The reason that this doesn't win me any sympathy for the Howard government is because I don't believe economics is everything. Their agenda on other issues leaves me very cold.

Worse, it appears to me that the Howard government actively tries to promote economics as the most important aspect of government: more important than national security, more important than welfare, more important than anything. They not only promote their strength on economic issues, but promote that this strength should be the prime concen of voters. Whether or not this is actually true, the principle effect that I see is the subtle de-emphasis of issues on which I disagree with the current government which are not based on economics: gay rights, for instance.

By emphasising economics and de-emphasising everything else, the Howard government obscures its weakness on issues not related to economics. Seriously, what good has this government done in which the primary concern is not how it affects the hip pocket rather than, say, how it affects the environment?

What I fear most from this overemphasis on economics is how it seeps into the population. Is it just me, or is the population of Australia becoming less friendly and more selfish than it used to be? I get the impression that it is, and I think this changed character of society reflects the changed character of the government: in both government and the population, giving help to others where it's needed has been sacrificed for the sake of maximising economic output. All that I want is enough money to live comfortably - I don't feel the need to be rich, especially if it means sacrificing my time from pursuits which are economically inferior but emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually fulfilling.

This economy uber alles agenda extends to religion as well: I suspect that there is a kind of spiritual hole left in a person by pursuit of the Almighty Dollar at the expense of having any sense of non-economic value to someone besides yourself. Enter Hillsong, and the perfect spiritual solution to this problem in the form of HIllsong's Prosperity Doctrine, which says that wealth is a sign of God's favour, so maximising profit grants you worth as a human being in the eyes of God.

I believe that the Howard government's encouragement of Australian society to overfocus on economics helped bring about Hillsong's influence and power.

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