I finally got round to reading the controversial “anti-billionaire” essay by Australian treasurer Wayne Swan in The Monthly. There were some connotations there that seemed uncomfortably familiar. Something about the language he was using really made me concerned.
In the last couple of years, Australia has seen the emergence of our own distributional coalitions willing to use their considerable wealth to oppose good public policy and economic reforms designed to benefit the majority. The combination of industry deep pockets, conservative political support, biased editorial policy and shock-jock ranting has been mobilised in an attempt to protect vested interest. It’s reflected in how the Coalition under Tony Abbott has recently radicalised itself into an Australian version of the Tea Party, more than willing to kneecap Australia’s three-decade reform project for cheap political points.
There are many Australians of great wealth who make important and considered contributions to the national debate. I always welcome that involvement in the discussion of public policy whether I agree with them or not. What characterises the vested interests that I’m concerned about is how they misrepresent their self-interest as the national interest. There has been a perceptible shift in this country in recent years, and it is sadly very much in the American direction of stronger and stronger influence being wielded by a smaller and smaller minority of vested interests. Crucially, much of our media seems more and more inclined to accept that growing influence.
… The latest example of this is the foray by Australia’s richest person, Gina Rinehart, into Fairfax Media, reportedly in an attempt to wield greater influence on public opinion and further her commercial interests at a time when the overwhelming economic consensus is that it’s critical to use the economic weight of the resources boom to strengthen the entire economy. Without a blush, her friend and fellow media owner John Singleton let the cat out of the bag when he told the Sydney Morning Herald that he and Rinehart had been “able to overtly and covertly attack governments … because we have people employed by us like Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones and Ray Hadley who agree with [our] thinking”.
I fear Australia’s extraordinary success has never been in more jeopardy than right now because of the rising power of vested interests. This poison has infected our politics and is seeping into our economy. Though these vested interests have not yet prevailed, every day their demands get louder.
… Instead of capitulating to the demands of the vested interests, and allowing the benefits to amass disproportionately to them, we have a chance to bend the extraordinary shift in the global economy from West to East to the advantage of all Australians. This is neither the fierce pro-market capitalism that got us into a global financial fix, nor is it anti-market socialist ideology. It’s simply the best way to keep growing Australia’s economic pie so ultimately we all end up better off. Ensuring the social contract does not erode is vital if we want to avoid a hollowed-out capitalism assured of its own collapse.
Then it clicked.
Wilhelm Marr, founder of the League of Antisemites, in Victory of Judaism over Germanism, 1879:
Highly gifted, with great flair for activities like these, the Jews dominated retail and wholesale trade as early as the Middle Ages and outwitted the hard working common folk.
The common people realized that their own sense of ethics was not shared by the Jews, because these, rather than striving for emancipation preferred to accumulate wealth.
… The same goal, disintegration of the Germanic state for the benefit of Jewish interests, is consistently pursued everywhere.
The daily press is predominantly in Jewish hands, which have transformed journalism into an object of speculation and industrial production, into a business with public opinion; critique of theater, of art in general — is to three quarters in the hands of Jews. Writing about politics and even religion is — in Jewish hands.
… After Jewish hustle and bustle had reduced journalism to a trivial but commercially successful enterprise directed at the mob’s liking of gossip and scandal, it had found the largest possible audience for its attempts at Judaizing. Centuries of a factual predominance of Jewish realism had done its preparatory work. Jewry dictated public opinion in the press.
…And in Germany, who carried off the prize of raw, material advantage? Jewry, represented by a handful of Jewish bankers; Semitic brokers. We Germans got the abstract, imaginary result — to be “Friends of the Reich”, to console us with the “Reich of dreams”.
… Starting from modest beginnings, [this Semitic people] outgrew you, it corrupted society in all of its aspects, squeezed all idealism out of it, occupies the most controlling influence in trade and daily life, penetrates ever more into public office, controls the theater, forms a social-political front and has left almost nothing for you, except raw labor which it itself has always shunned; it has tranformed talent into shiny virtuosity, pimpish advertising into the godess of public opinion and — rules you today.
… In our parliaments, where the topic of usury is paraded about as of burning importance, one can as usual, only hear — twaddle. The dogma of “individual freedom”, which really stands for the impertinence and gall of the most unbridled avarice, has become such a basic tenet of society, that our valiant representatives — what a despicable picture they offer — attempt to make an omelette without breaking the egg. Why! One might also have to curb the unbridled manipulations of big industry and of big capital and this is the reason why the question of usury remains without practical response and does not advance beyond theoretical resolutions.
The doctrinarism of our Judaized society is an aid in getting around the cliff of usury. The impoverished members of every layer of our society remain victims of usury and of its corrupted German helpers, who with the help of Jews would love to make 20 — 30% per month from the hardship and misery of the poor!
Note: I am very aware that Swan did not mention Jews or Israel anywhere and his essay is not remotely antisemitic. I am in no way equating him with the architect of Nazi-style antisemitism!
What I am doing is illustrating that his style of rhetoric and the specific accusations that he is levelling at Reinhart et al are polemical, conspiratorial and reminiscent of some extremely dangerous ideas from an earlier era.