What About Economic Sustainability?
Amidst the deafening and ceaseless talk about environmental sustainability, Australia seems to have lost any reality based sense of the need for a sustainable balance between production, taxation and expenditure.
All over the world developed nations have created more government than their increasingly uncompetitive, over-regulated, over-taxed economies can support. Deficit spending is epidemic and borrowing is reaching the limits of capacity to even maintain payments on interest. Increasing numbers of local, state and national governments are running on empty. Unpaid bills, layoffs and cuts to welfare and essential services are spreading. Financially desperate governments seem determined to seek and destroy any remaining pockets of economic viability via increased taxation and regulation.
While better off than most, Australia is not immune to this global malaise. We too suffer from chronic balance of trade deficits, unsustainable government commitments and proliferating bureaucracy strangling any productive activity. Australia has the highest house prices in the world, the highest level of personal debt, the steepest increases in food prices of any OECD country over the past decade and a declining manufacturing sector that is now the smallest in the developed world.
The city-centred cult of environmentalism puts up dire tales of species loss and climate change as barriers to new resource development, energy production, and manufacturing projects. But these tales frequently have no connection to reality, and draw their ‘facts’ from the popular media.
Like over-indulged children, the non-producers feel neither guilt nor gratitude, but rather a sense of entitlement. To this purpose environmentalism serves an important role. The world of non-producers begins at the shop and ends at the rubbish bin and it largely exists in an urban realm wherein nature has been virtually exterminated. From this viewpoint, only producers despoil the natural environment. Environmentalism affords non-producers a satisfying sense of moral superiority over those who support them. Not surprisingly, it is a popular belief commonly held with great conviction and righteousness.
Anyone who produces anything is seen as an irresponsible exploiter. Our failure to make sensible use of our own fisheries is just one example:
In fisheries the situation is even worse. With the largest per capita fisheries resource in the world, we have the lowest production and our harvest rate is the lowest in the world at only 1/30 of the global average. Our fishing fleet has already been reduced to one-third of what it was two decades ago. All this is entirely because of bureaucratic mismanagement and over regulation. None of it is due to overfishing.
That we now have to import two-thirds of the seafood we eat, and all of it comes from much more heavily exploited resources elsewhere, is unconscionable. That we are selling off non-renewable resources to pay $1.7 billion annually to import a renewable one we ourselves have in abundance, then call this sustainable management and pat ourselves on the back with self-proclaimed status as the world’s best fishery managers, is beyond moronic.
Over the last few years, at both state and federal level, we have seen increased government spending, massive debt, manufacturing hampered, land and other resources locked up, and a failure to build and maintain transport and energy infrastructure.
How is this responsible and sustainable?