Market Democrats

In this podcast Craig Emerson outlines his political philosophy in a speech to the Sydney Institute on 13th June.

There is nothing revolutionary in the substance of what Craig Emerson says, but it is nice to hear a minister in government offer such a thoughtful commentary on the nature of government. And in particular to hear one say something intelligent about self interest and to talk about the importance of opportunity without banging on endlessly about “equal” opportunity.

Some response commentary here.

In these circumstances, last night’s speech to the Sydney Institute by the Minister for Small Business and Independent Contractors, Craig Emerson, outlining a vision for prosperity and fairness in a market democracy, is a breath of fresh air. Dr Emerson’s comments give some comfort that there is someone in the Labor Party who is prepared to argue for an intelligent way forward. This is no doubt due in part to Dr Emerson’s time spent working as an economic adviser to former finance minister Peter Walsh, who famously knew the difference between the truly disadvantaged and “rent-seeking spivs” and “hairy-legged Stalinists”.

I don’t agree with every detail of the speech however if Craig Emerson as epitomized in this speech was actually represenative of the entire ALP then I’d almost feel confident that the levers of government were in safe hands.

14 thoughts on “Market Democrats

  1. I get a similar feeling towards the Australian Democrats. I am sorry to see them leave Parliament. If they were more economically literate, they could have been a starting point for Parliamentary power of a libertarian faction and could have won support by opposing One Nation.

    I only hope the economically literate of the Australian Democrats who lament it’s demise as an impotent party find the LDP and help us make it a better party.

    I don’t agree with emerson on the dynamics of competition but I’d be happier if he was PM.

  2. i guess he can’t use the phrase “liberal democrats” because its already taken by their competitor. Even if it describes his set of beliefs.

  3. Just finished listening to his speech. I get very mixed signals from Emerson.

    On the one hand, he keeps hammering on about “equal opportunity” and “fairness”, about helping the vulnerable, working poor, weak and elderly.

    On the other hand, he attacks the modern welfare state quite fiercely and repeatedly. He criticises them as being ever expanding and promoting a culture of dependency. He talks about property rights, about regulations to support property rights.

    He talks about government helping to share information to make markets more efficient, and about it having a valid role with anti-competition laws and regulations. He says that free markets fail at delivering things with positive spillovers, and justifies subsidies to R&D and patents.

    In the end, he puts forward a middle ground philosophy talking about the best of both worlds, but .. he doesn’t at all talk about which direction we should be heading from the status quo !

    Mr Emerson – Are current taxes and regulations too high or too low ?

  4. Jono — there is nothing wrong with helping the vulnerable, working poor, weak and elderly. Indeed, I think those are wonderful ideas. And it is because we care about everybody (including the vulnerable, working poor, weak and elderly) that we support the free-market and small government… which will lead to more opportunities for everybody.

    Emerson has been a consistent critic of excessive welfare and big government. He is probably the most libertarian person in parliament… though of course the burden of being in power and party unity mean that he’s going to have to say and do some stupid things. Like his dumb defence of the recent car subsidy.

  5. His past form on the toyota subsidy does suggest he is going to choose to say and do some dumb things because he values the utility of party unity and power. However he isn’t compelled to say and do dumb things, it is a choice.

    The question is whether there is any utility in a principled stand. And on the flip side whether taking a principled stand only when there is utility in it, is really very principled at all.

  6. p.s. That last paragraph was a philosophical question and I’m not infering any particular answer. It is not meant as a personal attack on Emerson.

  7. I guess Emerson may be libertarian leaning, but he couches his speech in progressive PC-speak.

    In other words, he talks positive and avoids the details.

    He doesn’t say which taxes to cut, which welfare payments to drop.

  8. Emerson does say which taxes to cut. All of them. And he has previously argued against lots of specific spending programs. He has given plenty of speeches and written plenty of articles that outline the details. I’m suprised you’re so hostile to the guy.

    He’s much better than anybody in the Liberals.

    As for using progressive language — what’s wrong with that? I do that too sometimes. There is nothing wrong with being concerned about poor people… and libertarians need to learn to give up their instinctive right-wing rhetoric if we’re really going build an independent political identity.

  9. I was referring to the strange John character who insists on calling himself Temujin. 😉

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