Conservatives, neoliberalism and the projection of greed

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(Cartoon by Mark David / @mdavidcartoons)

The world is divided into two sorts of people: those who believe everyone is motivated solely by greed and self-interest, and those who are not solely motivated by greed and self-interest.

The latter group is by far the larger yet, sadly, to the detriment of all, it is the former who run the world.

They certainly run this country, at present. This has been demonstrated by three recent events: the latest Stuart Robert rorting scandal, the Sydney Opera House projection debacle, and the Government’s out-of-hand rejection of the latest – most alarming − IPCC report.

But before we consider those events, let’s look at why the people who run the world think everyone is else is also avaricious, just like themselves.


The people who run the world mostly call themselves conservatives, but are really radicals of the most rapacious kind. They have built up a vast armoury of dogma to justify their sociopathic level of greed.

As economist John Kenneth Galbraith wrote:

‘The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.’

Neoclassical economics and its ideological offshoot, neoliberalism, provide the bedrock of this dogma.

It provides, indeed, one of the fundamental assumptions of modern economics: “rational self-interest”, or “market theory”. It is the theory that everyone always works to maximise their self-interest — to do otherwise would be “irrational”.

As Jeff Sparrow explained in the Guardian on Monday, market theory has also been applied by so-called conservatives as the basis for public policy:

Market theory famously posits the individual as first and foremost a rational profit maximiser, making economic choices entirely on the basis of self-interest. [Public choice theory holds] that political and public decisions should be understood in the same way. A parliamentarian might claim he looked out for the country but he inevitably simply protected his own privileges and entitlements. Bureaucrats manoeuvred to create more bureaucracy; academics, whatever they said in their scholarly papers, really sought further funding increases.

As a result, commercial decisions were necessarily more legitimate than government restrictions on commerce, since the latter merely cloaked sectional motivations behind self-serving bunkum about “the public interest”.

It suggests that no sensible person ever puts aside their own personal interests out of kindness or compassion, or desire for the greater good, but always simply looks to maximise their own returns. It is, in short, the ideology of sociopathy.

If this is what conservatives truly believe – that everyone is just as greedy as they are – then the three recent scandals mentioned earlier are far easier to comprehend.


Newly appointed Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert was last week caught rorting his parliamentary allowances. It emerged he had been recouping from the taxpayer over $2,000 a month for his home internet over several months. Robert claimed that it was all to do with charges for exceeding the data allowance on his provider’s plan. Just how much and what he was downloading to incur these astronomical charges is not known. After being caught, Robert agreed to pay back all the excess charges.

This was not the first time Robert has been caught for rorting the taxpayer. He lost his previous ministerial job after claiming travel expenses related to a private trip to China. He was also one of those implicated in the infamous “fake” Rolexes affair, and he has been involved in numerous other notorious incidents of alleged financial and ethical breaches, including being investigated by the Queensland Corruption Commission.

It is a pattern of behaviour consistent with an overriding sense of entitlement and greed, yet he has never once apologised or admitted fault for anything. But he is a self-professed “Christian” who has self-published books on Jesus. How can all this be reconciled? Be morally justified?

Well, under public choice theory, quite easily. Robert has been simply doing what a conservative would assume any other rational person would do in his position: maximising his returns.

As for his so-called Christianity, Robert is a Pentecostal Christian, which preaches “prosperity theology” — that God rewards the faithful with riches. It’s a sort of Gordon Gecko, “greed is good” branch of Christianity. You know, just like Jesus preached.


This week has seen outrage aplenty after the NSW State Government caved in to radio bully Alan Jones’ demands, on behalf of racing interests, that they broadcast the barrier draw of a Sydney horse race onto the City’s famous sails. The main purpose, it emerged, was to provide a colourful backdrop at a swanky party for NSW racing figures and NSW politicians.

Objections were intense and centred around the decision being opposed to the public good. That it was out of character − and possibly illegal − for this World Heritage-listed national icon and centre for the arts to be used as a tacky promotion for gambling and commercial interests. A poll showed that more than 80% of NSW residents opposed the plan. Articles were written, social media was in full froth, a petition of more than a quarter-of-a-million signatures was collected opposing the move and more than 1,000 people turned out last night to chant and shine their torches on the Opera House sails to disrupt the display. The Chaser boys even did a prank.

Nevertheless, the display went ahead, with politicians from both sides of politics supporting the move, most citing the "commercial" benefits. That is, to their rich mates in the racing industry.

As conservative torch-bearer Margaret Thatcher famously said:

… there is no such thing as society … people must look to themselves first.”

And so conservative politicians do.


The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change on Tuesday, 9 October, released its alarming latest report, which stated the world needed to act to lower carbon emissions to keep temperate changes to below a 1.5⁰C increase on pre-industrial temperatures or suffer cataclysmic consequences. These effects include, amongst many others, crippling droughts, mass starvation, rampant disease, the loss of 98% of the world’s reefs, and mass plant and animal extinction.

The IPCC report noted that the world – and Australia − was not on track to meet its 2030 Paris Agreement commitments. It also stated that Australia should phase out mining coal by 2050 if the world was to have a chance of limiting warming to just 1.5%.

Despite being a signatory to the report, the Australian Government dismissed it out of hand. The PM, Deputy PM, the Treasurer and Environment Minister all variously declared yesterday Australia’s unwavering commitment to mining coal for as long as we can shovel it out of the red dust.

Obviously, the only rational move is to phase out coal, but the conservatives won’t do that for rational reasons of self-interest. Not jobs for the public, of course, but their own — both in Parliament and out. Because coal is a major conservative donor and the fossil fuel lobby bribes conservative MPs with the promise of cushy jobs once they leave politics. It makes sense.

If self-interest rules, why would politicians care about generations to come when they will most likely be dead?

As Oscar Wilde once quipped, these people know ‘the price of everything and the value of nothing.’

People with a sense of public good – the ones the sociopaths who run everything pretend don’t exist – must be installed in power in short order.

Or else it is all our doom.

The is a condensed version of the weekly IA members only newsletter editorial. The full version of this editorial may be read in the IA members only area HERE

Access the members only area – and all the other subscriber extras – by subscribing to Independent Australia HERE.

You can follow managing editor Dave Donovan on Twitter @davrosz. Follow Independent Australia on Twitter at @independentaus and on Facebook HERE.

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