It has been a casual and common happening in world history that previously weak economies emerged to rule. There is nothing exceptional that waning powers attracted fierce assaults from rising, fresh leaders. When
As they passed a plateau of development due to exhausting expansion and self-inflicted wars and mayhem, another power stepped onto the centre stage to replace old European powers, in the shape and form of the
With their past achievements and current wealth, developed countries in general see no viable alternatives to their own paths, as long as a Western entity dominates the world economy and the ranking of wealth holding. This has become an ideology, taking the path to development as a wholesale deal, all or nothing. Development of certain poor countries have strings attached, either they fit the prescriptions and are granted generous treatments, or they fail the test and are discriminated against. This uniformity request comes from a hidden fear of open competition from those non-adhering but growing countries. Restrictions on those entities become a necessity in justifying the certified right direction of development. It is likely that the issue of development today is ideologically driven and politicised. Taking away the smoke screen of the debates, a development under reasonable conditions is plausible, and market forces allow demand and growth to occur, thus spur development of a particular economy. There should be emphasis on removing restraints, barriers, and discriminations. Development is not a particularly difficult issue; only when development forms a challenge to the status quo and power balance that it becomes serious and even threatening to the leader of the pack. How this development fits in the existing rules and cause unease and even countering measures from developed countries comes to be the centre of controversy. The more difficult tasks of the WTO in recent years openly illustrate the conflicts and changes in the world economy. The issue of development, along with a catch up, thus becomes more complicated than routine economic growth.
Taking a longer view, there is no guarantee that a leading power sustains its rule and dominance for an indefinite long time without a down phase or fall. It is also feasible that development outside the power bloc will move forward as a common phenomenon, gradually re-arranging the existing order of matters.
The other judgement is the real meaning in all these development. Development signals achievement, but tradeoffs remain, between material gains and quality of life. Suppose one economy is not completely efficient or advanced, and maintains its own lifestyles, a common perception is that this is bad for people there, and they should pursue wealth in a more extreme fashion, so that their demands for a good life could be met. This view does not prove to be true, in development or in life. There should be a point of balance that economic gains match standards of living and welfare. The question of quality of life is so far primarily an issue for developed countries. The varied European and American experiences attest to a divergence in choice.
The world is indeed moving and changing face fast, swiftly churning out numerous new attractions and easily breaking old norms. With all of these shocks and distractions, the question that really matters remains whether life is getting better, or just more complicated, annoying, and stressful? Fast pace unavoidably generates heightened stress, accompanied by temptation and hypes. More to the point, these induce people to confusion and disillusion of their wellbeing. No matter what happens in economic development and how many long historical periods fly past, people’s desire since the dawn of civilisation are for peaceful and tranquil life, and that will not disappear or fade in the face of certain contemporary dramatic or exciting changes.
This lasting pursuit has been carried on by generations of people who held firm beliefs of a continued betterment of human societies. Without doubt, the mixed reality of early modern time, supposed to be a new dawn in human history and breakthrough in liberation of man from shackles and restraints, proved less satisfactory and led to earnest searches of new balances in the society. Worthy trials were seriously undertaken, as shown in the establishment of
From this trying process, it should be clear to all that there is no base or excuse laughing at or ridicule idealist European experiments and legacies in the 18th and 19th centuries, such as Owen’s, making dismissive judgement by criteria of a rational and pragmatic world these days. Those people searched hard for reaching a fair and progressive society, which should also be the primary purpose of work and administration of societies today. The important point is that, despite dazzling happenings and occurrences of this new century, they should not shake the fundamental goal of human existence, the improvement, not worsening, of quality of life and basic decency and rights, rather than temporary success or gains.
In this context, the issue of development is to be put in perspective, up against people’s real needs and desires. A development priority could easily breed killer instinct in market competition, which increases stress and disrupt essential components of life, such as work routines. The relative smoothness of Australian experience is perhaps out of their customary views of work and life, similar to western Europeans’, stopping well short of ultra competitive and lean rationales persistently in fashion in the
In contemporary history so far, the disappointment over the
In this disheartening environment, the fair minded, non-fundamentalist, non-radical Australian mentality shows its worth and value, precious and rare in this age of extremists. It is basically not shockingly strong armed, unlike some ideologies which come out to prove them worthy of everything and prevailing over all the rest. This model is not radical either, as opposed to the revolutionary Marxism or resolute ultra conservatism. It has grown out of well developed market economies, gaining a sound economic foundation, rather than of poor and developing countries where a radical thought could provoke positive responses and cause mass social movements, in the meantime may also be quite destructive. The underdevelopment status is a crucial reason for those economies to turn to authoritarianism, because that approach solves contemporary problems and achieves certain marked development. The real hope, however, will lie in a social democratic model in examples like Australia’s, since there is a much more desirable balance of clashing social forces and ways of democratic participation while maintaining higher living standards. This model undoubtedly excludes the strict socialist doctrines of the 20th century, but it also differs sharply from the ultra right tendencies currently prevailing in the
The social democratic nature of
Other peoples are attracted to the Australian life not merely by accumulated wealth, high standard living, relaxed lifestyle, or welfare benefits, but also by their appreciation that this country offers a fair chance to all citizens, an emphasis on social equality, and fair dealing with issues and problems in the society, considerations more important than being granted the right to bomb, attack, humiliate, or pressure other peoples at will. This Australian way gives people a peace of mind that this society is just, seriously guards people’s rights, and opposes unrestrained state power or extreme ideologies. The origin of this freedom and security is a lasting social democratic tradition, rather than power and influence grown out of enviable wealth. It includes specific rights to be free of fear and threat, such as fear of the authority and of destitution after retirement. Providing pension and social security is unquestionably the government’s job, never a job completely for private organisations or individuals.
Recent debates on social trends have got so much one-sided and right wing market fanatics got so excited that they would rather forget market failures and desperate situations of free exploitation of labour in the past. This deviation comes from Americanised globalisation and ballooning power of capital markets. The flexibility in choosing approaches and adjusting is seriously lacking under fashionable worshipping of economic rationalism and drive to success, and alternative academic thinking are not taken into account in government policies and mainstream media advocacy. It seems that there is a paucity of indigenous creative thinking, and the most productive way of formulating policy is simply imitating the fashionable celebrity models or agendas from the
What is fairly worrying is that the right wing conservatives under the Coalition government are losing
This Australian experience has come to a full circle, in many respects in the course of a century. In regard to political parties, for example, they have evolved from many competing minor parties of the early times to two major parties of national governing mandates, and there have been more recent calls for giving small parties a chance in politics and administration, seemingly a rendezvous or a backtrack, but in effect a sign of renewed efforts to better respond to public demands and requests. In guiding principles, there were wide swings to the left and the right, from social welfare doctrines to more economics-oriented practices, such as deregulation, argument for figure-based productivity improvement, and welfare cuts in the name of efficiency. These recent tides are now accepted wisdoms in the Anglo-Saxon bloc including