Sheep’s Clothing Words

Image Attribution: Creative Commons

Words That Seem Harmless But There’s A Wolf Inside

SHEEP’S CLOTHING WORD LIST

Australian way of life

Balanced budget

Border protection

Competition

Democracy

Free market

Level playing field

Low taxes

Mandate

Market forces

Outsourced

Private enterprise

Small government

Will of the people

Australian way of life: 

This expression contains the seeds of racism. It can be a first step in a tirade against foreigners. The White Australia Policy was our way of life for a long time. I can remember in my childhood innocently making fun of different races coming to live with us. I remember too the tones of acceptance when the term “new Australian” was introduced.

Donald Trump provides a strong illustration for another country. Burt Neuborne reveals Trump’s version of the assaults on the American way of life. 

Trump’s tweets and speeches similarly demonise his political opponents. Trump talks about the country being ‘infested’ with dangerous aliens of colour. He fantasises about jailing Hillary Clinton, calls Mexicans rapists, refers to ‘shithole countries,’ degrades anyone who disagrees with him, and dreams of uprooting thousands of allegedly disloyal bureaucrats in the State Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, the FBI, and the CIA, who he calls ‘the deep state’ and who, he claims, are sabotaging American greatness. Source

Implicit in Trump’s speeches is a glorification of his nation’s way of life and a determination to verify American exceptionalism.

Balanced Budget:

This is a catchcry of every neocon. It is one of their excuses for privatisation. For small government. It is the declared goal, the mostly unfulfilled dream of politician-treasurers. It is why welfare, hospitals, education and pensioners suffer reduced financial support in Australia and elsewhere. It has been a longstanding missed target. But the dream lingers on. Stephen Grenville, writing in the Financial Review makes a relevant point.

Meanwhile, the Thatcher/Reagan revolution was underway, extolling free markets, private enterprise and radical deregulation. The moment was right, as both the USA and the UK had sclerotic institutions in need of shaking up. Like all revolutions, it was driven by fanatics and went too far. But the central fiscal message stuck: governments should run small balanced budgets. Source

It is very striking to note how Covid-19 has reversed this way of thinking. The virus has changed the world and taught us a lesson. According to your sense of values, some problems actually demand you run into debt to solve them. Maybe now there is hope for the poor suffering souls of the earth.

Border Protection:

A connotation of this term is that borders are under threat. Fear of outsiders by voters is a very useful political tool. It helps make excuses for highly lucrative weapons manufacture, as well as laws that restrict the freedom of your enemies or rivals. Indefinite detention of refugees is an example. Amazingly, these suffering fellow humans of ours are so often managed by privatisation.

The Department of Home Affairs has begun taking steps to outsource its visa processing to private service providers… Home Affairs claims privatisation will improve efficiency and reduce costs. But it also comes with major risks, some we’ve seen already play out in the privatisation of immigration control through commercialised immigration detention, such as on Christmas Island. Source

Competition:

Must we constantly compete to achieve perfection? Has not cooperation in times of crisis saved many a society? Look at the current Covid-19 episode to see what good cooperation can do throughout the world. And should even our children be forced into competitive situations?

Alfie Kohn has some interesting ideas on this.

There is good evidence that productivity in the workplace suffers as a result of competition. The research is even more compelling in classroom settings. David Johnson, a professor of social psychology at the University of Minnesota, and his colleagues reviewed all the studies they could find on the subject from 1924 to 1980. Sixty-five of the studies found that children learn better when they work cooperatively as opposed to competitively, eight found the reverse, and 36 found no significant difference. The more complex the learning task, the worse children in a competitive environment fared. Source

Democracy:

Democracy is these days a well-worn, idealistic platitude. Recently some leaders, elected by the majority, have behaved appallingly. There are so many examples from Hitler to Thatcher to Nixon to Trump. If the majority choose a leader, does that mean that the leader and the associated crew will automatically work in the best interests of a nation? No.

The tyranny of the majority is a very real plague in many democracies. Witness the lot of minorities such as muslims, Kurds, hispanics, indigenous peoples and refugees in so many unjust, political situations. Minorities should not be ignored in civilised society. Unfortunately, because their votes don’t count, they are so often treated as if they don’t exist.

A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inactions, and in either case he is justly accountable to them for the injury. John Stuart Mill: On Liberty Fourth Edition, Longmans London, 1869, p.24.

Free market:

The free market in my experience is a myth. Like the level playing field it doesn’t exist. There are too many distortions of freedom. Even if it did exist, it would be a cruel thing. Kimberley Amadeo sums this aspect up quite well with a simple statement.

The key mechanism of a market economy is competition. As a result, it has no system to care for those who are at an inherent competitive disadvantage. That includes the elderly, children, and people with mental or physical disabilities. Source

I would add the homeless to the list of disadvantaged, voiceless minorities.

Level playing field:

The existence of a level playing field depends on equality of opportunity. The fantasy of untrammelled, level, magical market forces that intrinsically produce the best outcomes, has been blown to pieces throughout recent history.

If you look at the great playing fields, such as the Sydney Cricket Ground, you will find they are not level. Indeed the star players are those who use the slope to their own advantage. It’s the same with business. Expansion is the goal. Collusion is the reflex action. The playing field is deliberately kept askew.

Goliaths like Woolworths and Coles go to great lengths to control product sources; this gives them dominance over prices. That playing field is not level. For example, many a dairy farm has come close to grief because of vertical milk integration – a strategy whereby a company owns or controls its suppliers, distributors, or retail locations to control its value or supply chain. (Google Dictionary)

As he so often does, Noam Chomsky has some important thoughts.

The “dominant theory” is that of the rich and powerful, who have regularly advocated liberalisation for others, and sometimes for themselves as well, once they have achieved a dominant position and hence are willing to face competition on a “level playing field”–that is, one sharply tilted in their favour. The stand is sometimes called “kicking away the ladder” by economic historians: first we violate the rules to climb to the top, then we kick way the ladder so that you cannot follow us, and we righteously proclaim: “Let’s play fair, on a level playing field.” Source

Low taxes:

Billionaire citizens and their mouthpieces are hypersensitive concerning taxation. They constantly denigrate welfare policies as sources of big taxes.

This you will understand if you do the arithmetic. Tax me 5% of my $50,000 annual salary and you get $2,500. Tax me 5% of my billion and you get $50,000,000. Now that is really a sizeable amount. It is well worth spruiking the constant propaganda against high taxes, in an effort to keep it.

Call me a tax lover if you like because I am. I see it as a kind of crowd funding. If you want good hospitals, good education, good public transport, good lifestyle in general, you should be willing to pay for it. The pain is small when everyone pays. If your paying population is 25 million, 25 million times $2,500 (5% of my hypothetical annual wage) is a lot of money and would help to keep ownership and control of all the resources in the hands of the people. Really quite a small price though, for each individual to pay.

Mandate:

The meaning I am interested in is this: the authority to carry out a policy, regarded as given by the electorate to a party or candidate that wins an election. (Google Dictionary) Such alleged authority is so often misused.

For example, if your election policy is border protection and you are voted in, does this give you the right to forego habeas corpus with asylum seekers or even terrorism suspects? I don’t think so. But authoritarian governments, especially past Fascist entities, would disagree with me.

Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practises a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression… John Stuart Mill: On Liberty Fourth Edition, Longmans London, 1869, p. 13.

Market Forces:

The belief in the essential nature and validity of the free market is a present day religion. Speeches linked to the stock market refer to trust of the free market as axiomatic.

Noam Chomsky sums up the deception reality well. Regarding this religion he is a learned atheist. 

And the principle of really existing free market theory is: free markets are fine for you, but not for me. That’s, again, near a universal. So you — whoever you may be — you have to learn responsibility, and be subjected to market discipline, it’s good for your character, it’s tough love, and so on, and so forth. But me, I need the nanny State, to protect me from market discipline, so that I’ll be able to rant and rave about the marvels of the free market, while I’m getting properly subsidised and defended by everyone else, through the nanny State. And also, this has to be risk-free. So I’m perfectly willing to make profits, but I don’t want to take risks. If anything goes wrong, you bail me out. Source

Outsourced:

Once in the days of the guilds, craftsmen survived through pride in their work. The apprentice on graduating became a journeyman, travelling to find even more skills to devote to his craft. Today things are very different.

In the age of efficient markets, cutting costs has become a major philosophy. Why spend costly hours refining your work when you can get slave labour to do it overseas for half the cost? Lower the price and elasticity of demand makes you rich. To Hell with pride in your work. This is the age of miracles and wonder. Gesture hypnotically and the product sells.

Private Enterprise:

Private enterprise is a euphemism for unlimited profiteering. Its motive is financial gain ahead of service. As a young Australian I was very “rich.” I owned two banks, an airline and more than one airport, a very functional post office, an insurance business, electricity generators, well paid up water storage systems, serum laboratories, aerospace technologies, an industry development corporation and a fine government printer, to name but a few of my riches. One government publication explains this really well.

In a plague of mindless efforts to balance budgets and pay off debts, people have drastically reduced, since the 1990s, my control of my wealth. Instead of creatively building sources of productivity, above and beyond what you can dig up or cut down, the drones of government have sold off the family jewels to get their funds.

Small government:

This is the axiom of the kakistocracy. It is the catchcry of the billionaire activist to promote privatisation for his own benefit. It is a scream of self interest well illustrated in Australian history. To keep the government small you sell off what you can to the corporate world.

For more details, go back to that government publication.

Will of the people: 

Fascism promised renewal of the nation and irresistible power to the people. Are we in danger of a fascist revival today? Note, for example, Donald Trump’s promise to the people: “Make America great again!” Jonathan Wolff has some relevant words on this posture.

Ours is the age of the rule by ‘strong men’: leaders who believe that they have been elected to deliver the will of the people. Woe betide anything that stands in the way, be it the political opposition, the courts, the media or brave individuals. Source

Liberal democratic institutions, such as those we have now, exist only so long as people believe in them. When that belief evaporates, change can be rapid. Beware leaders riding a wave of crude nationalism. Beware democracy submerging into a vague notion of the will of the people. But why now? In 1920s Germany, it was obvious. Loc. cit.

These additional words of Burt Neuborne (loc.cit) add meaning:

The Nazis did not overthrow the Weimar Republic. It fell into their hands as the fruit of Hitler’s satanic ability to mesmerise enough Germans to trade their birthright for a pottage of scapegoating, short-term economic gain, xenophobia, and racism. It could happen here.

My word, some of those words in that list have important, subtle meanings. All of them in fact.

royciebaby

Revived from an earlier post: “A Little Book Of Monsters”

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