Heroin for Dole-Bludgers

– A plan for Australia

I heard an very good story on ABC’s PM a while back. Apparently treasury –working on “the principle of least regret” – don’t want unemployment to go any lower for fear of triggering dangerous inflation.

Well, I thought, I guess I can stop faking my fortnightly Job-Seeker-Diary then?

In my head I saw treasury official coming into Centrelink office and standing up on the counter to get our attention. He speaks:

Fellow citizens, our nation owes you a debt, if it were not for your sacrifice, for the poverty and humiliation in which you live, we, the successful ones, could not prosper, or feel superior to some one. You serve two great purposes in this nation, keeping those with shitty low level jobs motivated to show up for fear of joining your warty and unappealing ranks, and providing a non-racial scapegoat, ideal for redirection of scorn from the burgeoning ethnic middle class. We know that in your hearts you crave a place in society where you can contribute, where your talents and good nature can be appreciated by colleagues and those who benefit from your work, but sorry, the current system simply cannot provide that for everyone. It’s a zero-sum game, if we help you we hurt mainstream Australia, and I mean who would you pick? The battlers or a bunch of skummy dole-bludgers?

Have any of you considered heroin? We’ve done the research and found it is the most effectitive way to sap any ambition or long term goals. Users even say it destroys the part of them that feels shame, so they no longer care what the rest of society thinks. We’re introducing a new scheme, where centrelink will increase your fortnightly payments to $750 from the current $500. We’ve calculated this to be exactly enough to support a moderate to heavy heroin addiction along with a subsistence diet of beans and discarded cooking oil. Sure, you wont be the builder, baker, community worker or national parks ranger you might have dreamed of being, but really, how likely was that any way? At least this way you’ll be comfortably numb, and the rest of us can get on with the Australian dream.

Photo by rob! (http://www.flickr.com/photos/xerostomia/)

...and stay down!

Seriously though, having mainstream economists put it so bluntly, that capitalism does require a certain degree of poverty and suffering in order to function, is interesting.

On a less theoretical note, though, since we’re doing it for the country, then, and shouldn’t be hoping for jobs, can we have a bit more money, please?


About Austin G. Mackell

I am a freelance journalist who has worked for a variety of corporate and community outlets from my hometown of Sydney and from the Middle East, including from Lebanon during Israels 2006 invasion and from Iran during the tumultuous presidential elections there in 2009. I have recently moved to Cairo to watch the revolutions in Arab world unfold.
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2 Responses to Heroin for Dole-Bludgers

  1. Lange Lee says:

    Awesomely witty… If I must do my part for society and the great Australian dream… where do i sign up for free crack!?!?!

  2. Joe McIvor says:

    For those who want a slightly technical explanation:

    The statement is based in a theory known as the “Non-Accellerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment” (NAIRU), but is more commonly (and tellingly) known as the “Natural Rate of Unemployment”. The theory is that having unemployment below a certain degree will cause inflation because, get this, people will be too prosperous and spend too much.

    There are a few things wrong with this.

    One: The guy who invented this theory (Nobel laureate Milton Friedman) also said that inflation was “always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon” and tried to blame all inflation on the government printing too much money. There are things wrong with this in and of itself which I won’t go into here, but for consistency’s sake if inflation is “always and everywhere a monetary phenonenon” then it is NOT caused by low unemployment.

    Two: It assumes a value judgement prioritising the rate of inflation over employment. Even if low unemployment does cause inflation, there is a distributive issue: a ‘high’ rate of inflation is considered to be around 4% or more, but I would say that the difference in income for many people from being unemployed to being employed would be considerably more than 4% (or more pertinently, greater than the difference between ‘normal’ inflation at 2-3% and high inflation at prices over that). So, while people who are employed may lose some utility (utility is a term economists use for ‘goodness’) with slightly higher prices, the gain to unemployed people would be higher than that loss.

    Three: Unemployment was something like 2% in Australia for much of the post WWII period until the 1970’s economic crisis, yet inflation remained low. Empirically there really isn’t much evidence that low unemployment can actually cause inflation.

    Four: The way that unemployment is currently counted distorts economists’ perception about unemployment. Anyone employed on a weekly basis – even if only for three hours – is ’employed’. This means that people with a shitty part time casual job who need more work to live are not counted among the unemployed statistics. They also don’t count workers who have given up looking for work (meaning many homeless people are not technically counted as ‘unemployed’). To give an example of the difference this can make, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics actually measures this ‘underemployment’ phenomenon in something called the U6 measure, and this can be substantially higher than the official unemployment rate. So while the official US unemployment rate is 9.6%, the U6 sits at 16.7%. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t15.htm

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