Looking Back on the Decade
The most significant thing about the last decade is that the politics have moved faster than the politicians. This has been a natural consequence of the rise of social media which tends to escalate events before the politicians can respond. As a consequence, politicians have tended to appear lead footed while the demands by the public that they do something, escalate. This is unfair on the political class who so far have managed to avoid war, increase prosperity and accommodate a growing population.
Perhaps the most significant achievement for Western countries has been the defeat of ISIS. The West, and the United States in particular, deserved a great part of the blame for the creation of ISIS because of their ham-fisted management in post-war Iraq. However, when ISIS proved to be an existential threat to Iraq and Syria and a danger to other countries particularly in Europe, the US used its military superiority to shut it down. It is doubtful whether any other country could have been as effective.
Another feature of the decade has been the rise of China as an economic and strategic superpower. Other countries have yet to work out how to accommodate the growing power of China. Australia needs to develop a policy that rationalises the greater influence that China will have in Australia as a result of economic integration, with the need to protect our national sovereignty. At the moment our biggest weakness is that we do not have enough people who know and understand China and the thinking of its leaders.
Another major feature of the decade was the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States. For the Democratic Party of the United States Trump’s election was invalid, if not illegal, and they have spent all their time since trying to reverse the outcome of the last election. The latest impeachment proceedings are simply a manifestation of this objective. Unfortunately, they will be unsuccessful in their quest for impeachment and most likely lose the next election because they have spent all their time focusing on the last one.
There are signs that Trump, having disrupted the world order in his first term, will start building a new one in his second term in an attempt to leave permanent legacy. He is beginning to rewrite global trade rules, fix bilateral problems with China and take a more benign approach to NATO. He will also try and consolidate relations with Boris Johnson’s Britain through the conclusion of a free trade agreement.
Boris Johnson has now achieved the election win he needs to complete Brexit. Although this is seen as a significant event, in reality nothing much will change. Any free trade agreement between Britain and the EU will reflect the current trade arrangements. Only wholly or predominantly British goods and services will get free access to the European market and they will have to meet European standards as they do now. There will still be free movement of people provided they are able to support themselves and the UK and European economies will continue to be closely integrated.
For Australia the issue of the decade has been has been energy and climate change. Policy debates are dominated by ideology and dog whistling by vested interests. Since 1998 the Productivity Commission has been pushing successive governments to allow it to prepare a report on the costs and benefits of various energy and emission reduction options. Every time it has been rebuffed. As a result, the debate has been conducted in the absence of any evidence of the economic consequences of various policy approaches.
It is time for the Government to develop an evidence-based policy so that the public can make an informed judgement.
Have a very merry Christmas and remember the health guidelines say you should not have more than two drinks a day, so take it easy.