Post-Truth Politics and Conspiracy Prejudices

A number of commentators have argued that we are in a "post-truth" world [1], where there is a "circuitous slippage between facts or alt-facts, knowledge, opinion, belief, and truth" [2], that has led to a politicisation of the validity of scientific knowledge. Of course, science and politics have never been entirely separate, as science is often organised, funded, and institutionalised through public policy. Whilst political culture has historically been dominated by normative matters of civil rights and law, political economy, and economic policy, there is an increasing component of "post-truth politics". This sort of politics engages in appeal to emotion, talking-points, short news cycles etc., the strength of which is sufficiently relevant that the Oxford dictionary chose "post-truth" as "word of the year" in 2016 [3], which also occurred in Germany with the word "Postfaktisch" by the Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache (GfdS) [4]. A post-truth environment has a profound importance for the survival of democratic governance, public representation, policies, and consequences.

Classical Neoliberalism and Market Socialism: A Comparison

Classical neoliberalism resembles market socialism in many ways. It, of course, is not socialist but the basic structure that it recommends is effectively analogous to market socialism in many ways. I find it interesting that two very different political philosophies could end up recommending such functionally isomorphic basic structures. To prove this point, I will need to outline the basic structure of a just polity as proposed by each philosophy.

Classical Neoliberalism & Its Basic Structure

The classical neoliberal model contains several key components: (1) anti-trust laws and government regulation of corporations in order to encourage socially acceptable behaviors, (2) a land value tax, (3) a minimum income guarantee, and (4) universal healthcare. These are the key components of what a classical neoliberal polity would look like if the old-school neoliberals were allowed to design a State from scratch. Of course, so-called "neoliberal" politicians have failed to provide us with a genuinely neoliberal polity in the real world.
The classical neoliberals, if designing a system from scratch, would opt for a land value tax, but they are not strong advocates of land value tax in practice. F. A. Hayek and Milton Friedman could both agree that a land value tax is the "least bad tax." However, all taxes entail injustice in their estimation. In their estimation, the cost of switching from our current tax system to the geo-libertarian alternative is likely not worth it.

Remembering History, Changing the Present

A statue or plaque commemorates and honours a person's work, and the ideals that the person represents. Of course, no person is perfect and the ideals and the reason for the statue have to be put into a continuum and the reason for the installation. It is certainly part of history, but it is designed to promote and advocate the ideals that they the statue or plaque was installed for. It is the first part of this sense that some critics of the recent removal of of such honourifics claim to object to. The reality is that every society add and removes people from their honour roll, and often this involves a recollection of their history, rather than erasing it. As the American History Association (AHA) has stated to remove a monument "is not to erase history, but rather to alter or call attention to a previous interpretation of history." As long as the are recalled, of course. Shelley reminds us that monuments to the most powerful of humans will eventually be just a "colossal Wreck" surrounded by desert sand.

Intellectual Property - Pushing back at the abuse

Intellectual Property was - maybe - how investors be motivated to invest, and then protect their investment. But, if this was ever the case, intellectual property (IP), is much more an excuse for corporations to flex their muscles and intrude into our lives. Property rights should empower us as individuals if they are worth having at all, but corporations are building fences inside our private lives. While I don't want to overstate it, Pirate Party Australia has policies that challenge these trends, and quite apart from whether you vote for us, we try to build up awareness about it both generally and politically.


Patents are a license to be the sole manufacturer - or licensee - of an invention. Transfer of ownership has meant the price of epipens - used to treat allergic reactions - skyrocketed. They were first developed for the US military so soldiers could administer nerve gas antidotes, but somewhere along the way owners were able to dramatically increase the price. Notionally there were improvements, but it seems the profits were still extreme and the increases difficult to justify - perhaps you could have retained a cheaper basic version.

For all the criticisms of the US military, they gave us the internet and one set of GPS satellites, without charge. For sure, a lot of money is wasted in the US military. But, somehow, this innovation was lost in the morass of private contracts and IP sales within private industry.

Australia's Forward Defence Pandemic Strategy

Government's role is not to get out of the way of business but to look after the needs all the people they represent. Australia's response to the COVID-19 crisis has been hamstrung by the balancing act between business and community needs governments have had to deal with.

Increasing population growth, rapid urbanisation, climate change, industrial farming practices both on the land and in the ocean have dramatically increase the possibility of organisms crossing the animal-human barrier. COVID-19 isn't a one in a hundred-year pandemic, it is a harbinger of what is the come unless radical changes are made to the way we create wealth and redistribute it. In the interim it is critical Australia develops a forward defence pandemic strategy in order to deal with the possibility of a wave of pandemics that will have far more devastating consequences and SARS, MERS and COVID-19. Less than 700 years ago over 50% of the world's population perished as a result of the plague.

Is Trump a fascist?

Most people, myself included, are guilty of using the word “fascist” hyperbolically. And a lot of people, myself included, use it to describe Donald Trump. So how fascist is Trump? Two weeks before the 2016 US Presidential election the Washington Post asked that same question (link in the comments below).

In the article the Washington Post used a checklist complied over decades by historians and political scientists. It lists 8 traits of fascism as a political ideology and a further 3 traits of fascism as a political movement. For each criteria Trump was awarded a score of 0 to 4 Benitos.

For political ideology Trump scored 20/32 Benitos, and as a political movement 6/12, for a total score of 26/44 Benitos. A pretty half-arsed fascist and a fair assessment at the time.

COVID-19 Options; New Zealand Hard Elimination, Sweden's Light Suppression

In late July, Dr. Gigi Foster, Professor, Director of Education, School of Economics, with a PhD in economics, University of Maryland, and a BA, magna cum laude in Ethics, Politics, and Economics, Yale University, made the suggestion that Australia "... can follow in the footsteps of many other countries in the world, some of which have not had lockdowns as strict as we have had here, such as again, Sweden - and look at the death tolls in those countries.." Indeed, Dr. Foster is quite correct, one should look at the empirical data. Because the argument that Australia should follow "the Swedish model" when managing COVID-19 has become a bit of a talking point among some in the community who feel that the economic damage is too much compared to the lives saved. Some, such as commentator Andrew Bolt, argued that all that the movement restrictions was doing was saving a few months off the lives of the elderly. The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has confirmed that as far as the National Cabinet is concerned, Australia will be following a path of suppression, rather than elimination.

Let us look at the evidence, and how well suppression has worked in Sweden, which has community social distancing, minimal movement restrictions, no mandatory masks, and an excellent health-case system. First, with any sort of comparative analysis, one should compare the nation in question with those who have similar conditions to ensure a close correlation for policy comparison. The following is as of August 5, 8.38am AEST (Denmark is August 10, 11.02pm, because I didn't include them originally), from world meters.

James Meade's "Middle Way" : Liberal-Socialism and the Mixed Economy

James Meade was, perhaps, the most innovative social-democratic theorist of the 20th century. An economics professor at the London School of Economics and, later, at Cambridge University, he won a Nobel Prize in economics in 1977. His Wikipedia page notes that he is remembered for his theories related to international trade and economic growth, but there is no mention whatsoever of his role in shaping modern social democratic thinking. There is also no mention of his profound influence upon John Rawls. Even the online Encyclopedia Britannica entry for him fails to mention his unique contributions to social democratic theory. My goal here is to give a brief introduction to his contribution to social democratic theory.

James Meade was, alongside figures like Anthony Crosland, part of the Labour revisionist movement of 1950s England. Meade followed the revisionist line in arguing that public-ownership of all enterprises is not necessarily desirable and ought not to be the goal of socialists. Instead, the revisionists promoted a mixed economy and a greater emphasis on the welfare state. Meade, however, was more radical than Crosland and was influenced by the ideas of his friend C. H. Douglas, as well as by the Lange-Lerner model of market socialism. As a result of this, he was a strong proponent of a social dividend (a policy akin to a universal basic income).

The Radicalism of Systems Theory

I find myself increasingly engaged in systems theory without having a self-awareness about it until just now. I'd pretty much forgotten about systems theory and hadn't studied it for quite a while. Anyway, after some review I don't think it's unfair to propose there are plenty of relevant and contemporary applications that leftist movements and general society would find practical. Ever since industrialization social theorists have gradually abandoned universal principles, simplistic reductions and totalizing models for a conceptual and perceptual disposition with more general forms of knowledge often involving evermore context-specific analyses. This is partially because industrialization represented a period of rapid evolutionary changes and growth in human social complexity.

"The language of intrinsic human rights represented a significant advance beyond the previous language of world religions in terms of its universal applicability and its thiswordliness."
Immanuel Wallerstein, World-systems Analysis: An Introduction, 2004

Misunderstanding Machiavelli

In the course of my life I have engaged in two major discussions with people who have completely misunderstood Machiavelli, in both cases thinking that he argues for the acquisition of power for its own sake in politics. To be fair, one of these people was an idiot sandwich, who would go on to win the aus.politics Net Kook of the Year award, apparently revived just for their benefit. But the other, more recent, was far more disappointing. With a doctorate in the natural sciences and an interest in ensuring public policy was better informed by scientific knowledge, one cannot doubt the honour of their motives. But what was common between both was in astounding inability that they had completely misunderstood Machiavelli, misunderstood his book on the power-hungry, "The Prince", and misunderstood how social institutions are positive and normative. Misunderstandings, of course, are acceptable if one makes the effort to correct one's self. Our interpretations may be incorrect, or memories might be faulty. But also in common with the two encounters was their absolute refusal to admit error, even when direct, checkable, empirical evidence was provided. It is understandable that the idiot sandwich would do this. It is utterly tragic that the otherwise intelligent person would lack the humility to recognise when they have it wrong. In either case, the following is a few notes on how Machiavelli is misunderstood, and how honour can be restored to his name.

If one wants to reference "The Prince" itself, a multitude of editions are available online. Project Gutenberg has the Marriot edition, the first modern English translation. Wikisource offers the Hill Thomson translation. The Bennet translation is available on Early Modern texts, the Burd translation, with an introduction by Lord Acton via the Online Library of Liberty (Mises Institute), IULM University has the Parks translation, Monoskop has the Soares edition, in Italian, and there is the ever-useful Annotated Prince website.


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