By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
Great Expectations: Government, Entitlement and an Angry Nation
By Laura Tingle (Quarterly Essay/Black Inc., $19.95, softcover, 93 pages)
Australians being disenchanted with politics and politicians is not surprising, but the notion that we are really angry is explored, and answered, with remarkable alacrity.
In Quarterly Essay 46, Laura Tingle illustrates that the answer lies deep in Australian culture with our expectations of government. Hopes that have “not been met and a belief in entitlements they are due”.
From the 1980s deregulation era, we wished that the governments could do more.
Prime ministers have wrestled with this predicament: ‘Keating wanted to change expectations, Howard to feed a culture of entitlement and Rudd to reconceive the federation’.
“It is wrong to see the anger of the last few years as a ‘one-off,’ which might go away at the next election,” Tingle says. “The things we are angry about betray the changes that have been taking place over recent decades. Politicians no longer control interest rates, the exchange rate, or wages, prices or industries that were once protected or even owned by government. Voters are confused about what politicians can do for them in such a world.”
Even though the world is changing, at the base is an almost innocent desire of the government: as a rescuer and provider.
She makes a persuasive argument that as a nation, “a polity, we have not sat down and worked out what exactly we expect ‘the government’—by which I mean its administrative side, as well as the politicians of the day—to be and to do. We haven’t settled the idea of what we think we are ‘entitled’ to get from government”.
However, we are certain the government has not met our great expectations that it will look after us. Nonetheless, we are entitled to be looked after.
Edition 330, 11 September 2012
To find out more about Rama Gaind click here.