Straw Man: ‘Neo-liberalism’ cops a hiding (again)

Thousands of books now littering library shelves would never have been written, were it not for those poor victims of the unthinking – the straw men.

Found another one copping a hiding in the Weekend Australian’s ‘Review’ section of May 30-31. Here, on page 18, the victim is that most put-upon of Australian straw man, ‘neo liberalism’, and the genius wielding the headmaster’s cane is a man called Roy Williams, author of the easily forgotten Post God Nation?.

Williams writes that he is horrified by ‘neo-liberalism at full throttle’:

the obsession with short-term shareholder returns, the selling off of public assets, higher and higher executive earnings, and lower and lower income taxes … The commodification of education, especially at the tertiary level … The plain fact is that neo-liberalism does not sit well with basic Christian teaching.

Got that? Apparently Jesus was in favour of short-term shareholder losses, the compulsory acquisition of private assets by the state, lower executive earnings, and higher and higher income taxes, as well as non-commodified education (whatever that is).

For God’s sake. I mean, really.

My knowledge of Christianity is a bit old now, but I thought Jesus was all about the perfection of the Mosaic law, the salvation of the souls and preaching the revelation of the kingdom of heaven. Even assuming that what Williams writes is true, what all of this has to do with Christianity is, to be kind, not clear – especially as Williams presents no ‘chapter and verse’ support for his contentions. It seems, rather, that Williams has just drawn up a list of ‘Fings vat I don’t like much’ and declared that they are anti-Christian.

And these people write books. Dunning-Kruger much?

Anyway, let’s go to the review article, ‘Arguments in favour of faith’, written by a Gerard Windsor, to reveal the internal inconsistency within Williams’ magnum opus:

Williams works his way through numerous reasons for Christianity’s decline in Australia, some of which are self-inflicted wounds. The stark statistic is that in the 1901 census 96 per cent of the population identified as Christian and half the adults were churchgoers. In the 2011 census 61 per cent were willing to call themselves Christian but only 8 per cent attended church.

I can absolutely guarantee you that, in 1901, when the pews were full of happy young Christians:

  • businesses were even more strongly profit-driven than are their bloated, bureaucratic, over-regulated 21-century successors;
  • ‘public assets’ were many fewer than in today’s over-regulated nanny-state inefficient socialist hell;
  • executive earnings were high – who do you think built all those magnificent houses in Toorak, the eastern suburbs of Sydney, etc?;
  • income taxes were non-existent;
  • some primary and secondary education, and all tertiary education, was run as a private market.

Thus the evidence suggests that ‘neo-liberalism’, as defined by Williams, appears to be completely consistent with strong Christian observance. So why bash ‘neo liberalism’ as being inconsistent with Christian teaching? Oh, that’s right. Because ‘convenient’. Because ‘can’t think to save myself’. Because ‘unthinking, unreflective prejudice’.

I thought this was interesting:

“The beginning of the steep decline in rates of churchgoing in Australia can be traced to a specific event: the introduction of television in 1956. Numbers at evening services straight away fell sharply, and have never recovered.” Contemporary social media, he adds, “are antithetical to traditional forms of worship, which require extended periods of quiet, uninterrupted contemplation”.

Watching ‘Six O’Clock Rock’ beats upping your chance at eternal life, apparently. Holy Mother Church weeps with hairy-armed Esau at the human tendency for hyperbolic discounting.

But fear not! Williams has a plan of action for getting the sheeples back beneath the steeples:

Williams will not allow that entropy is written into Christianity. He wants it to make a comeback and believes it can. His prescriptions include a drastic resumption of the teaching of religion, particularly in state schools; a redistribution of the churches’s wealth; a wholehearted and generous response to the victims of clerical abuse; vigorous proclamation of orthodox supernatural theism; total opposition to war and support for “brotherhood of man” issues such as foreign aid, refugees, climate change.

Yeah, well ok, but what about television? And what about that horrid ‘neo liberalism’? If they caused the problems, then surely getting people back pew-side requires addressing them?

And note the obligatory reference to ‘doing sumfink about climate change’. Just to round off the idiocy.

Here’s a challenge for Williams – ask ‘god’ why he/she/it chose to inflict the most recent glacial period of around 100,000 years’ duration on the world, almost wiping out humanity’s ancestors? Sort of puts television, lower taxes and the ‘anthropogenic climate change’ bogeyman into perspective: why bother going to evensong when the earth’s temperature is guaranteed, sometime over the next X-thousand years, to plunge mass-murderously as we enter another glacial period? Thanks ‘god’.

And if you really think ‘god’ is all powerful, all knowing and all loving, why not just leave the business of reviving Christianity to him/her/it? Going by the evidence of this book, he/she/it is obviously more competent to deal with the problem than Williams.

Roy would have better employed his time watching Backyard Blitz.


About Stebbing Heuer

A person interested in exploring human perception, reasoning, judgement and deciding, and in promoting clear, effective thinking and the making of good decisions.
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