Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Recession We Had to Have … or Was It

The AFR on 1 June reported John Howard as saying of the 1991 recession “One of the myths is that in some way the recession was an essential part of economic reform process rather than policy failure.”

Howard went on to say that “I am an economic realist in the obvious sense that economic reform can only be achieved if the public is taken with one.”

It is hard to justify the severity of the 1991 recession, as it is widely recognised that it was severe because it was triggered too late. But it appears from Howard’s statements that he believes that not triggering the recession at all, or not letting it be as severe after the fact that inflationary pressures were out of control would be preferable.

Clearly the two party system that has degenerated to a “winner takes all” view of Government leads to the view that doing what’s popular is more important than doing what’s right. In Howard’s words “It’s better to be 85 percent pure in government than 130 percent pure in opposition. You do need to strike a balance between what is achievable and what represents the ideal.”

It’s not the attitude you really want to hear, is it?

Many, many years ago the first modern democrats tried this – and as a consequence Robespierre wound up following the mob, and hence the Terror in the French Revolution began (see below).

And finally – you do worry about the idea that John Howard was ever Treasurer when he thinks you could be 130 percent pure.

Note: There is no speech or transcript on the PM's website at time of writing to confirm the AFR reporting.

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