There has been much mindless comment about Bob Brown wielding excessive influence on the Gillard government. But this presupposes Gillard wanted anything other than the same outcome for Australia as Bob Brown. Not so, the Green Party in Australia is basically the old ALP socialist left. It is the natural philosophical home for someone of Gillard’s persuasion.
Gillard, like Rudd before her simply said and pretended to be whatever would help her get elected. After all, the end justifies the means. And in her mind nothing is more noble than her desired ends. Besides there is no such thing as truth. Why should she be constrained by bourgeois values of honesty and integrity?
Don’t be fooled by Gillard’s replacement. Labour needs to earn our trust, not be serially rewarded for deceiving us.
Lest you underestimate the importance of bourgeois values that Gillard and the left scorn:
The Biggest Economic Story was not caused by trade or investment or exploitation. It was caused by ideas. The idea of bourgeois dignity and liberty led to a rise of real income per head in 2010 prices from about $3 a day in 1800 worldwide to over $100 in places that have accepted the Bourgeois Deal and its creative destruction.
Innovation backed by ideology, then, promises in time to give pretty good lives to us all. Left and right tend to dismiss the other’s ideology as “faith.” The usage devalues faith, a noble virtue required for physics as much as for philosophy, and not necessarily irrational. But maybe both sides are correct. A socialist maintains her faith in governmental planning despite the evidence that it doesn’t work to the benefit of the poor. A conservative maintains his faith that what’s good for the military-industrial complex is good for the country despite the evidence that it impoverishes and coarsens the people.
Yet innovation, even in a proper system of the virtues, has continued to be scorned by many of our opinion makers now for a century and a half, from Thomas Carlyle to Naomi Klein. At the behest of such a clerisy we can if we wish repeat the nationalist and socialist horrors of the mid-twentieth century. If we imagine only the disruptions of a pastoral ideal, and reject the gains from innovation, we can stay poor shepherds and dirt farmers, with little scope for intellectual and spiritual growth. If we worship hierarchy and violence and the nation, we can hand our lives over to the military-industrial complex. If we abandon economic principles in our worrying about the environment, we can revert to $3 a day, and live in huts on a hillock in the woods by Walden Pond, depending on our friends in town to supply us with nails and books. Now in the early twenty-first century we can even if we wish add for good measure an antibourgeois religiosity, as new as airplanes crashing into the World Trade Center and as old as the socialist reading of the Sermon on the Mount.
But I suggest that we don’t. I suggest instead that we recoup the bourgeois virtues, which have given us the scope, in von Humboldt’s words, to develop the highest and most harmonious of our powers to a complete and consistent whole. We will need to abandon the materialist premise that reshuffling and efficiency, or an exploitation of the poor, made the modern world.