Imperialism 3.0

Earlier this month there was what might seem like a trivial news story here in Australia.  The federal government denied a request by Qatar Airways to increase the number of flights it makes to Australia. We were told this wasn’t in the “national interest” even though it would lower airfare prices for Australian consumers and would, according to the tourism industry, significantly increase the number of tourists coming to the country.

There are a couple of ironies in this story. Firstly, Qantas began life as a private company, was nationalised in 1947 and then privatised again in the big “free market” push of the early 90s. You might think the whole point of privatisation and the “free market” was to, I dunno, increase competition and stuff. Why wouldn’t the Australian government welcome the Qatar Airways bid? Could it have anything to do with the fact that, at almost the same time, the CEO of Qantas did a big publicity stunt with the Prime Minister about an upcoming referendum here in Australia.

The two events gave a clear you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours vibe. Of course, it’s not just Qantas, but seemingly every large Australian corporate that is pushing the government’s line on the referendum. Why is corporate Australia unanimously on the government’s side in a referendum that it looks like most of the public does not support? How can that happen in a “privatised” economy where companies are supposed to be on the side of the customers?

The second irony is that the challenge in this case comes from Qatar Airways, which was founded by the government of Qatar about the same time that Qantas was privatised (1993). Qatar is an ex-British protectorate and, in a roundabout way, so is Australia. So we now have two ex-British protectorates arguing over what was always the core imperialist question: who should be able to do business where. The nominally private company of Qantas receiving a helping hand from the nominally impartial Australian government is a pattern seen countless times since the age of imperialism began in the 19th century.

So, all this looks a lot like imperialism. I’m going to give it the name Imperialism 3.0. It’s the form of imperialism that began with the neoliberal reforms of the 1980s and 1990s.

Imperialism 1.0 was mostly driven by private companies. Government was involved to the extent that many of these private companies were owned and controlled by men who were either in the government themselves or had close personal or financial ties with people who were in government.

In Imperialism 2.0, the government was in the driver’s seat. This was the post-Great Depression economy where governments had to step in to stabilise markets.

In Imperialism 3.0, it’s not clear who is running things. The line between private enterprise and state is increasingly blurred, as the recent Qantas decision showed.

A classic account of the transition from Imperialism 1.0 to 2.0 and the various shenanigans that went on at that time is Timothy Mitchell’s book Carbon Democracy. We might say that Imperialism 1.0 was the age of coal, Imperialism 2.0 the age of oil. Mitchell’s book maps the change between the two and how this affected politics. Continuing the pattern, Imperialism 3.0 would map to “renewable energy”. It’s a sobering thought to consider that if the political manifestation of Imperialism 1.0 was robber baron capitalism, and 2.0 was social democracy, 3.0 may very well be totalitarianism.

The correspondence between energy source and politics is not arbitrary. Mitchell’s book goes into detail about how the transition from coal to oil changed politics not just in western nations but in the middle east.

One of the more poignant stories from Mitchell’s book is from 1910 when the company that is now called BP discovered the enormous oil fields of Iran. The problem they had at that time was that there was no market for the product. Kerosene was still the main use of oil in those days, but the sulphur-heavy Iranian oil was not suitable for kerosene.

The company floated on the London stock exchange anyway. In their prospectus they said that the Iranian oil would be sold to the British Navy to use in new oil-powered ships. This was a lie. The navy had already knocked back the company’s entreaties and so the prospectus had to be updated to say that there were no real customers for the oil.

Nevertheless, the company continued lobbying government and, about three years later, it was none other than Winston Churchill who signed a deal for the Iranian oil with BP and then got it through parliament in, shall we say, less-than-honest fashion. You might call this an early example of the military-industrial complex but it’s also a prime example of the kind of imperialism that began in the 19th century: the union of private enterprise and government in foreign business/political dealings.

Imperialism 1.0 was mostly run by the European colonial powers Britain, France and Germany. It was highly disruptive. It relied on secret deals involving a complex web of domestic politics, private corporate and banking interests and international diplomacy. Eventually, this all led to WW1. The Treaty of Versailles included clauses like the one that said Deutsche Bank would have to relinquish its ownership of the Berlin-Baghdad railway.

Why would a peace treaty include a clause about a nominally private business issue? Well, the intrigue, deception and sabotage that went on around the railway was a big reason why the war began in the first place. The geopolitics was that Britain did not want to allow Germany access to the oil of the region. There were similar issues at play in most of the middle east and Africa at the time. It was impossible to say where private enterprise ended and politics began since Imperialism 1.0 was a tag team effort between enterprise and government.

In one sense, WW1 ended Imperialism 1.0, although the Great Depression was the final nail in the coffin. After that, governments took a much larger role in markets to ensure stability and, presumably, to simplify the politics. I’m calling that Imperialism 2.0. One of the things it involved was the nationalisation agenda.

I have mentioned that, here in Australia, Qantas was nationalised in 1947. An identical pattern occurred in the electricity sector as I outlined in detail in a post earlier this year. The electricity sector in Australia began with private enterprise, was then nationalised and finally privatised again in the early 90s. We’ll look at that in more detail in a minute.

Imperialism 2.0 was driven by the transition from coal to oil. It created our modern concept of the “economy”. It did so on the back of the exponential growth that oil facilitated. “The economy” could not just run by itself, however. That’s what the Great Depression had shown. It needed technocrats to ensure a balance of supply and demand. Imperialism 1.0 was about ensuring the supply of oil. Imperialism 2.0 was about creating demand for its use. The post-war consumer economy was one of the mechanisms to control the demand side of the equation. The marketing, advertising and flashing neon signs were all there to get people to buy the things that oil produced.

The oil shock of the 70s was the first big red flashing light that the consumer economy was malfunctioning. It was propped up by new oil discoveries in the 70s and 80s. This brings us to the neoliberal agenda of the early 90s and the beginning of Imperialism 3.0. The nationalisation agenda of Imperialism 2.0 had to be undone. We needed a “free market” again, we were told. This was clearly a lie and the Australian electricity market provides the perfect example to show why it was a lie.

In classical economics, free markets are neither good nor bad. It depends on the context. The trick is to match the market to the context. Where you have a natural monopoly, the most efficient market is a monopoly. A monopoly will give you the lowest prices in those circumstances.

The Australian energy markets are natural monopolies. Here in Victoria, about 200kms east of Melbourne, are enormous coal reserves sitting in a geologically and meteorologically stable region. The Victorian government in the post-war years made the eminently sensible decision to build coal-fired power plants right next to the mine. The whole thing was government-owned and run. It was a monopoly market matched to a natural monopoly; exactly what classical economics says you should do.

This set up was so efficient that it delivered some of the cheapest electricity in the world to Victoria all the way until the early 90s at which point we were told by our politicians that we needed a “free market”. A free market would reduce prices, they said. This never made any sense. As anybody that’s done first year economics knows, you don’t build a free market on top of a natural monopoly. It was wrong in theory and it’s turned out to be wrong in practice. Australia has gone from having some of the cheapest electricity in the world to some of the more expensive.

The privatisation agenda of the 90s was the beginning of Imperialism 3.0. Australia was obviously no longer free to pursue its national economic interest. Whose interest was it serving? The same interest that drove Imperialism 1.0 and 2.0: the “liberal world order”.

Imperialism 3.0 is much like 1.0 in that it involves collusion between nominally private corporations and nominally independent governments. The recent clandestine censorship of social media by western governments is a prime case in point. But that censorship was done against citizens of western nations and here we see the big difference that Imperialism 3.0 has ushered in.  

In the first two versions of imperialism, the main goal was to grow demand to match the supply of fossil fuels. That demand was grown among the populations of western nations. In Imperialism 3.0, the task is now to reduce demand. Since that demand was originally created in western populations, it is among western populations that it needs to be reduced.

How do you convince those populations to reduce demand after telling them for decades that “growth” was everything? You do it with censorship and lies. That worked for a couple of decades until Trump and Brexit showed up. These days we are well beyond the lying phase and into the outright gaslighting phase.

It’s a psychological fact that people resent the loss of what they had more than if they never got it in the first place. The citizens of western nations have become used to a certain standard of living and are going to resist that standard of living being taken away from them. In addition, they have at their disposal a nominally democratic system that should allow them to elect somebody who won’t take away their standard of living.

Of course, as many people are starting to realise, there is no political party offering what they want. There is now only a uni-party that represents the interests of Imperialism 3.0. Imperialism 3.0 is about demand destruction. The main purpose of the “climate change” agenda is to convince people to reduce demand. Viruses and lockdowns are the new tool in the toolbox in case demand needs to be destroyed in a hurry.

Is any of this actually necessary or is it a devious agenda by depraved elites who hate us? To some extent, the fact that this is even a question to be asked reveals the problem with Imperialism in general. Imperialism was always run by the elites. Those elites always claimed that they were acting in the public interest but much of that was just self-serving BS. One way to figure out what is in the public interest is to, you know, let the public decide for themselves by telling them what is going on. For a brief window of history, that’s what happened. But it didn’t happen by accident.

With Imperialism 3.0, we have reverted to clandestine forms of executive power. Governments increasingly don’t bother to give answers to basic questions. Why is it in the “national interest” that Qatar Airways not have more flights to Australia? What is the definition of “national interest” in this case and why does it seem to oppose the common sense interests of consumers and tourism businesses?  

There was a brief window between the transition from Imperialism 1.0 to 2.0 where the clandestine nature of imperialism was opened to scrutiny and it seemed that the workers and the public really could get their hands on executive power. The battle for that executive power is also a part of the story that Timothy Mitchell recounts in his book. A big part of the reason why we got a modern democracy in the first place is because of the political power that the workers utilised with the advent of fossil fuels.

Imperialism 1.0 maps to the era of coal while 2.0 is the age of oil. One of the main properties that differentiated the two was that the era of coal gave far greater power to the workers. Coal was a local, or at best a national, resource. It required a large labour force to extract it and put it to use. Most importantly, its transportation was able to be easily throttled. All these properties handed organised labour the ability to stop the supply of coal with industrial action and thereby bring entire economies to a halt.

Coal was not just power in the physics sense of the word, it was political power in the hands of organised labour who promptly put it to use to extract higher pay and better conditions from its capitalist owners. That power was then extended into the political sphere with universal suffrage being one of the results.

One of the reasons the elites wanted to transition to oil was that it was produced in foreign countries and would allow governments to bypass national unions. Winston Churchill was well aware of this problem since in 1912 there had been the first national strike of coal miners in Britain. With the outbreak of WW1, many unionists were against the war and there was strike action that threatened the war effort. Following a strike in November 1916, the government of Lloyd George decided to nationalise the coal industry since fighting the war was reliant on the supply of coal.

But there is another part of this story which is highly relevant to our current situation. The workers at that time used their political power to force politicians to be honest about the war aims. In early 1918, under pressure from the unions who were increasingly demanding peace, Lloyd George addressed a union meeting and outlined the conditions under which peace could be obtained. The workers had forced to government to actually state why the war was being fought and under what conditions it could end.

This sounds kind of obvious and yet we all live in a time where a war is being fought in Ukraine, where enormous sums of money are being spent and where, unless I missed the memo, our government has not stated why the war is being fought or how it can be made to end. All we get is the usual war propaganda about how the enemy is “evil” and we are all perfect little angels. Of course, there was all this war propaganda in WW1 too. It was only the significant political power that the coal miners of the early 20th century in Britain wielded that forced their government to tell the truth.

Another great example of this power came in 1920. Britain had an enormous number of soldiers in what is now Iraq trying to get control of the oil fields. The labour parties in Britain forced Winston Churchill to declare the cost of keeping the soldiers in Iraq. It was huge. Under pressure again from the labour movement, the government had to make plans to withdraw the soldiers and bring them home.

Again, the same question can be asked in our time: how much money has the United States and its allies spent in Ukraine, and before that in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in whose interest is that money spent? The reason that question does not get asked is because nobody who doesn’t have their snout in the trough has the political power to ask it. We live in Imperialism 3.0. The workers/public no longer have the power force the government to tell the truth. And so a seemingly pointless war continues to rage and nobody has even begun to explain why it is happening. That is the real world effect of the loss of political power that has happened between Imperialism 1.0 and where we are now in 3.0.

The loss of that political power is a long story. Timothy Mitchell argues that one of the main reasons for it is the transition to oil. As far as most of Europe was concerned, oil had to be imported. The labour and infrastructure to refine and transport it was outsourced to places where unions did not exist. This subsequently reduced the political power of unions at home since they could not so easily disrupt the supply of oil as they could with coal.

There were other reasons too that we don’t need to go into. The result was that Imperialism 2.0 was built on an implicit agreement that the unions and workers would forego demands for direct executive decision making power in favour of the implementation of the welfare state. The result was a massive increase in the size of government. With the exponential growth afforded by oil, this system was stable and political issues easily dealt with by buying off whoever complained. Government power might have increased in this time, but beneath the covers it was still the same old tag team of private enterprise and government sharing executive power at the expense of the workers and the public.

In a sense, with Imperialism 3.0, we have rolled all the way back to the robber baron days of 1.0. The unions are now a hollow shell of what they once were. They have become nothing more than bag men for corporate interests. Our democracy is also a hollow shell of what it once was. For most of the last hundred and fifty years, there was a real political battle based on the genuine interests of different social classes. That went away with Imperialism 3.0.

If Imperialism 3.0 had a catch phrase, it would be “we’re all in this together”. Orderly demand destruction is the name of the game. China has figured out how to do this by a form of techno-dystopian authoritarianism. In the West, the battle is being fought in the psychological realm. And we’re reverting back to some of the old familiar tricks of western culture.

After centuries of being told by priests that we were sinners, we now receive the same treatment from “the experts”. It is actually quite amusing that people who would call themselves atheists have taken on the exact job that protestant priests once carried out. They are the moral policeman to the masses. And just like the protestant priests, they are hypocrites of the first order. Of course, many people believe it too. It’s the old Christian need for contrition in secular guise.

But there’s the rub. It is the nation states of the West that are now being targeted not just with familiar old tactics of social control but with many that were once used by western politicians and business interests against foreign countries. Imperialism 3.0 has proletarianised us all. Western governments and their citizens are being divided and conquered in exactly the same way that governments and citizens of the middle east or Africa once were.

There is, of course, one wildcard in all this. The labour movement of the 19th and 20th centuries was an internationalist movement. When the workers pushed back against the imperialists they did so because they saw workers in another country as having the same interests as themselves.

The labour movement might be all but dead, but this time around we have another internationalist technology and that’s the internet. Can the internet provide a check on imperialist power? In some sense, it already has since it was instrumental in the Trump and Brexit votes. Of course, TPTB are already at work to try and make sure something like that doesn’t happen again. History does not repeat, but it sure does rhyme.

30 thoughts on “Imperialism 3.0”

  1. Some anti colonial writers during WW1 reasoned that the huge violence was the violence committed against other places coming home to roost in Europe. As you say, history rhymes.

    This referendum in Aus really is fascinating. I can’t remember another time where the general public, outside of an inner urban bubble and the laptop class, has been this opposed to the entire government/corporate nexus. It has all the feelings of a Brexit/Trump moment, in an utterly Australian passive, lazy and barely interested way. As you have mentioned here, if you create a society where the greatest good is material well being and home ownership, these are the consequences. No one cares about social justice/ climate justice, ideas, or basically anything enough here to sacrifice their material well being.

    Even the Weekly Times which is the nominal ‘farmers paper’ in Vic and Riverina NSW has completely lost touch with its readership base by pushing ideology which no one is buying. It’s hilarious that around half of the letters to the editor each week nowadays are from places like Northcote, South Yarra or Kew.

    In a strange way, it might be harder to in Australia to do a lot of the policies the elites currently want because no one cares enough. This is the big difference I have seen between home and somewhere like California or Europe, where people seemed to me much more passionate about ideas and politics.

    We always lament this but it is rooted in a useful metaphysic of resigned fatalism and distrust of ideology that has been present in this country for a long time but has withered on the vine under relentless imperial assault since ww2, of which the Voice is the latest battleground. The British always left behind simmering ethnic conflicts in their former colonies, and I can’t believe the elites are still trying to foster them but hey nothing changes.

  2. Skip – agree. It’s like our “elites” watched Brexit and Trump and said “how can we get one of those?” Seems to me that The Voice is a weird mashup of globalist and local politics. It’s very similar to covid in that sense since you have these globalist institutions that the Australian government has signed up to and can’t ignore and those institutions also have ties with bureaucrats who also have formal legal power. So, there is a formal legal structure to Imperialism 3.0 and I think national government are actually hamstrung. They do have to do something about these things or they at least are pressured into giving the illusion that they are doing something.

    Did the British leave behind conflicts or did they actively promote those conflicts in order to divide and conquer the local population? Mitchell argues for the latter in his book on the basis that it’s far easier to do business with warlords than with unions or workers. And the made up conflict of The Voice is a very useful diversion from the fact that the “economy” ain’t working anymore. On a far more sinister level, implying that the majority of the population are not sovereign also works if what you’re really doing behind the scenes is undermining that sovereignty.

  3. Yeah that’s what I was trying to say that the British deliberately left behind divided scabs that could be picked at; Pakistan/India, Hong Kong/China, Colonial/Indigenous etc.

    The problem for the elites here is that not much of their new regulations, laws and undermining of sovereignty is really that enforceable. See WA quickly repealed a trial balloon piece of legislation to regarding cultural heritage on private land because of both the pushback the underlying physical realities of the landscape and its uses make a lot of it very hard to enforce. I just can’t see federal and state government having the resources or will to enforce a lot of it outside of the inner urban areas where control is easier. The Covid restrictions in the country only worked on those who bought into it, no one could really enforce them if they didn’t.

    On a similar note Police stations in small country towns in Vic are being stripped of their officers for larger towns which is a sign to me of the accelerating government abandonment of the hinterlands for the armouring of the centre. This is furthest along in Vic I think because of its far less resources per capita and city state structure compared to the other states. The NSW state government seems to have way more money and resources to spend in the regions if the speed of repairs, donations and new builds on either side of the border is anything to go by.

    Now of course Australia is heavily urbanised but the flood of Melbournians moving up here shows no signs of abating. This trend again probably goes against what the elites want the public to do, which is to all live in massive easily controlled feedlots.

  4. Skip – yeah, that WA legislation was unbelievable. Anybody with two functioning brain cells to rub together could see the problems it would cause. Clearly our entire government and its bureaucracy do not have two functioning brain cells to rub together.

    I don’t think it’s an explicit conspiracy but it’s very clear the powers that be feel the need to divide and conquer which I think reveals how weak their hand must be.

    I’ve been pondering an escape from Melbourne too. Only thing holding me back is the time and energy I’ve spent building up my garden here. My macadamia tree produced its first nuts this year. I was surprised how much better they are fresh off the tree.

    By the way, how are the roads in your area? Been hearing stories of country roads falling into disrepair.

  5. Hi Simon,

    Thanks for the history, I’d been unaware of some of those stories, such as the presence in Iraq. Not cheap to do.

    Demand destruction will occur whether the PTB hustle it along, or not, due to supply decline, although I agree that there is a certain amount of pushing towards demand destruction going on. One of the lock downs which went on for four months was unexplained, and if I recall the events correctly, nobody owned up to demanding it. That was really weird, but then a lot of things these days are like that.

    There are also economic dimensions to the story. As you correctly point out, a lot of coal was extracted by hand, but there are natural limits to that activity, and today we use oil to do the same work. I tend to see the increased costs of that energy as one part of the explanation of the fall of the British Empire.

    We’re kind of facing the exact same issue nowadays, but with oil rather than coal. Certainly the decline in available energy will affect the reach of the PTB.



  6. Chris – my understanding is that Britain hit peak coal production in 1912. In 1913, the decision was made to transition the navy’s ships to oil but the US had the most oil so Britain, and Europe more generally, were always going to be outgunned. Fast forward to today and there’s nothing on the horizon that will take over from oil. So, the game is pretty much over. It is still hard to believe the madness we are seeing but I guess facing the facts is never an easy thing to do even as individuals let alone as whole societies.

  7. Yeah it’s hard because Melbourne and the general Port Phillip area is probably among the most long term habitable land in Australia. Mild climate, great soil, unbelievably clean urban water supply, sheltered bay with shipping access and ease of access to surrounding agricultural areas and fisheries. It and Adelaide in the long term probably have the best prospects of remaining relatively large cities, but in the short to medium term it’s going to suck. Vic probably should never have spectated from NSW but the unbelievable wealth generated from the gold rush masked long term viability issues.

    Yeah the roads are bad, but as I mentioned it differs on each side of the border. NSW seemed to be able to fix their roads much quicker, but I think the reasons might be historical. The NSW side has far larger farms and far more concentrated wealth, so these families and corporations have clout that can get roads fixed quick either by the government or private contractors if it’s going to upset their grain or livestock getting to market. On the VIC side farms are smaller with closer settlement patterns, less wealth concentration so less able to call in favours. Apparently on the truck routes further inland it’s really bad.

  8. Skip – it’s sad to watch what’s happening in Melbourne. The area I moved to in the west had hobby farms immediately to the north. I used to buy manure and hay directly from the people living there. It all got force acquired by government several years ago and is right now in the process of being turned into McMansion suburbia. Absolute waste of good soil and given that these blocks have no backyards anyway it’s not really suburbia as we know it. These people would all be better off living in high density housing in the inner suburbs but, of course, nobody can afford it and none of the greens and teals voters want to change the planning regulations to allow it to happen. Looks like it’s finally gone as far as it can though. Apparently the state government is going to override planning from now on and build high density in the inner city.

  9. Yeah I drive through that area quite often, have noticed all the horrible subdivisions go up over the last few decades. It’s just so ugly and cheap, no attention to detail, no attempt to make it liveable, paving over some of the best volcanic soil in Australia without even leaving a backyard to grow food in.

    I don’t necessarily blame the inner suburb Nimbys because it’s not like we ever got a vote to limit immigration or to take a more sustainable approach to urbanisation and growth. I used to live in a medium density rental in Collingwood and it was an awesome place to live as a student, but now I’d say it’s way too expensive for most students.

  10. Skip – not to mention that as petrol prices go up the outer suburbs get hit the hardest due to lack of transport options. Old-school quarter-acre suburbia might have been livable in the decades ahead if people went back to doing what their great-grandparents did and grew a kitchen garden. These new estates won’t even have that option.

    Came across this story today –

    Talk about the putrid state of the unions. After being a-OK with mandatory vaccines and lockdowns, apparently the CFMEU is now worried that we’re becoming a nanny state because of government plans to [checks notes] ban duck hunting.

  11. Hi Simon,

    Some of the action in WWII was about maintaining access to those oil resources in order to fuel the vast war machinery and industry. Did you know that during WWII there was a secret oil well in I think Sherwood Forest, yes that same forest?

    But yeah, wars are won on the ability and willingness to win them. It’s weird what is going on over there.

    A lot of farm gates around these parts have closed up in my awareness, but there are still some which are active and the land is always there – even today. The old timers used to call that land use as being ‘fallow’.



  12. Chris – hah, is that right? And I guess the guy running it was called Friar Tuck 😛

    Actually, what’s even weirder is that modern economic theory doesn’t even include energy in its calculations. In some way, that explains the truly baffling decisions around renewables. It’s hard to believe that people believe such models but apparently the more educated you are the more likely you are to think models = reality.

  13. David Holmgren of permaculture fame actually had a go of designing a way make those new subdivisions somewhat liveable in a decline scenario by using their only advantage; enormous rainwater catching potential off all of the roof space. His idea was to use the few big parks they build in them and feed the water into dams for large scale irrigated market gardens to provide food for the surrounding neighbourhood. All the shade and housing also leads to a moderated climate which means more subtropicals are possible. Trust him to see potential where I see wasteland. He is already trying to thing of ways to use abandoned solar farms for growing shade loving crops underneath them.

    Yeah duck hunting is actually something I know a bit about because it affects us directly, with the Vic farm backing onto a creek that turns into the Somme for a few weeks every autumn. Many farmers have long been trying to stop it not necessarily out of opposition to hunting but more due to property violations and gun safety issues in what are relatively densely populated rural areas compared to most of Australia. It’s been a strange journey where supposedly progressive Vic has been so far behind the other states on this issue when the safety issues are so much worse because of the denser population. There has been some opaque and powerful lobbying behind maintaining the status quo for a long time.

  14. Skip – good on Holmgren for looking on the bright side. I guess there is always something good to incorporate as a design challenge. Suburbia also acts as a wind block and that’s useful for holding in moisture, especially against the hot summer northerlies.

    What is the demographics of your average duck shooter? The unions are trying to say that it’s blue collar workers. I’ve known a lot of blue collar workers but I’ve never met one that went duck shooting.

  15. Synchronicity of the week. The prime minister of Australia appeared wearing the corporate logo of a mining company.

    Caption: Imperialism 3.0.


  16. Yeah it probably is a blue collar average demographic but there is also some more well heeled types, although there just aren’t a lot of duck shooters in general. The pro ducking shooting lobby try to make it out like the argument is one of banning hunting due to environmental reasons but that is the focus of the inner city protesters and has never been the problem for most rural people although they are no doubt valid issues.

    The problems come from what I guess you could call access to the commons. Commons only work with limited access, in that traditionally they were only used by people who lived in the area, mostly knew each other and therefore had an incentive to maintain a sustainable resource. The tragedy of the commons only arises when you have unlimited access, strangers everywhere and no incentive other than exploitation. That is what happens with duck shooting, in that people from the big towns or cities come rampaging through bucolic settings, rambling over private crown leases and blasting away close to houses.

    When you ask them to stop because your horses are so scared they have ran through a fence, you usually receive a lecture on how it’s their right to shoot here and if you don’t like it you should move. There is zero legal recourse and the police are too scared to enforce any laws so local land owners have taken to completely blocking off access that is supposed to be for fisherman and bushwalkers to use but now no one can. Local duck shooters usually ask permission and there is a better relationship.

    At heart it’s probably just another town/country divide, just a different town class to what is usually thought of in popular media. It’s not the inner city latte sippers but the outer suburb JetSki owners. The same resentment is felt towards summer holiday makers on the rivers with huge boats they erode every bank they go past.

  17. Interestingly enough, those issues are closely related to imperialism which has always been about allowing business to do business wherever it suited them irrespective of local objections or concerns. Of course, the terms of that business were always “negotiated” in one way or another and so it was a power game at its heart. That’s another big shift we’re seeing now. TPTB are moving away from “freedom” and trying to restrict access on their own terms. That’s really what’s behind the vaccine mandates and mask mandates etc. I think it’s also behind that WA “cultural” legislation. My cynical reading is that governments want to use local aboriginal corporations as a way to bypass the objections of farmers. Presumably it will be cheaper and easier to buy off the aboriginal corporations than to compensate land owners.

  18. Simon – re 3.0 mapping to renewables (a term so normalised now that few people question what it means, chanting it like an article of faith), I’ve been intrigued by how global warming barely rated a mention during the long haul of the ‘pandemic’, & now the media hammers the horrors of imminent infernos, cyclones, floods, mass migration, supply chain disruption etc. daily. Today, control of carbon instead of Covid is the meaning of life. Yet I remember, sometime before the pandemic, reading about methane & its release from melting permafrost & how its impact dwarfed that of carbon. Don’t seem to see or hear much about methane these days (except in relation to cattle – oh hey, ‘reduce demand’?), so I guess the concept of methane is harder to monetise? Yet the ocean seems to be warming exponentially faster: I’ve been a winter swimmer for decades & the water now is the warmest yet.

    The only local hunting devotees I know are my shoe repair guys, but they hunt mammals; don’t know if ducks are on their radar.

    Cynicism? That no-one non-aboriginal owns land on this continent is implicit in the acknowledgement of country chanted before all cultural events, isn’t it? Some folk say ‘traditional custodians’ but a lot of folk say ‘traditional owners’. 🙂

  19. Yeah what clued me in that the mandates had economic reasons were that they never made it a condition of welfare to get the shot although they had the power to do so because they have done it with childhood jabs. It’s like they wanted people on welfare rather than employed which is probably the case because you can control consumption.

    You’re probably right, imagine the irony if its white farmers being kicked off their family land by city based aboriginal corporations. There is a much easier way to go after farmers though and that is through financial attack. Privatising water a decade ago has ripped through the small to medium sized farms in the irrigation districts, and farmers have so much debt that the bank has huge control.

    They are the only people in Australia that possess USA levels of gun ownership though so there’s always that. It wasn’t that long ago that a farmer shot a NSW public servant when he tried to come onto his land.

  20. Shane – whenever I hear about “owners” I always think of the classic George Carlin bit –

    “Control of carbon” is absolutely the main game. They’re not worried about it being burned, just who gets to burn it 😉 Bearing in mind that this is as much for external political purposes as internal. A lot of “aid to combat climate change” is really just bribes to keep various regimes on side. And those bribes are funded by western taxpayers.

    Skip – not to mention farmers are in a position to disintermediate the middle men by offering food and board in exchange for labour if the proverbial hits the fan. I imagine the average person would rather stay in the city on the dole than do real work. But I guess enough might choose “freedom” for it to become a problem.

  21. Simon – thanks for the Carlin link, love it. Critical thinking is relative, eh? I daresay the ‘educated’, unemployed or not, will want to live in the 15-minute cities; so comforting to know you’re close to a doctor when you need one (which, w/ boosters & what have you, is more & more often). I remember seeing a leftist essay a while back that scorned neo-peasantry (which would include Holmgren-style permaculture), part of the problem being, from what I could make out, that neo-peasants are uneducated about the actual historical reality of peasants, yet privileged because they can choose to go back to the land. Really confused stuff. 🙂

  22. Shane – i’d say many of the educated are already in the equivalent of a 15-min city. The inner suburbs of Melbourne allow you to commute to the CBD for work in about 15-mins. Ironically, most of those suburbs used to be industrial and many professionals are now living in the old workers huts that were built right near the factories so workers could walk to work. So, that was also a 15-minute city of sorts. The main class divide now, I think, is between those who live in the outer suburbs and are forced into long commutes and the inner city professionals who aren’t.

  23. Hi Simon,

    Yes, models. Hmm. One of the strangest comments I’ve ever received on the internet was about the subject of solar power.

    As often is the case in the winter months, thick clouds meant that the system recorded 15 minutes of usable sunlight for the entire day. I casually mentioned how rubbish that is (and it’s not that unusual an event) and some dude got really heated and said that there must have been something wrong with the system and he’s got this model which says that there should be at least two hours of usable sunlight. Sure. The disconnect was so weird. Crazy stuff, because when you rely on nature, she provides when she’s good and ready. I say to people that the sun doesn’t shine at night, sometimes the wind doesn’t blow, and during those times you might also be in a drought. Even Tasmania with all it’s hydro still requires extra electricity from Victoria.

    The duck shooting issue is interesting. What I’ve noticed about folks who want access to the land is that rarely if ever do they think to offer anything in return. Mostly they think in terms as to what they want, and see nothing wrong with expressing that. I’ve had some experience with the local trail riders (horse and trail bike).



  24. Chris – it’s amazing, isn’t it. Think of how much public debate nowadays goes something like this:

    Person A: I saw X with my own eyes.

    Person B: That’s wrong/misleading/irrelevant/hateful [because of some theory/model]

  25. Chris it’s like George Monbiots (and I’m guessing many others like him) dream of a settlement pattern that is just cities and public controlled ‘wilderness’ parks. They feel they are entitled to go wherever they want with little thought to the needs and wants of locals (just like the enclosure acts and imperialism as Simon mentioned).

    It’s like the fact that people live there almost disgusts them. Same with the snide remarks regarding neo peasantry. It’s a myth that you have to be privileged to go back to the land, you just have to go somewhere that isn’t a pretty tourist location and might not have many services, which is anathema for most.

  26. Skip – I always like telling people I grew up in Boggabri. It sounds like the kind of place nobody wants to go to and it is the kind of place nobody wants to go to 😀

  27. Simon – & here I was thinking there’s a class divide between homeowners & renters. The folk w/ the long commutes pay lower rents but the cost of fuel + tolls or fares negates the saving. So maybe also a class divide between those who can choose to work from home & those who don’t have the option?

    I remember a piece George Monbiot wrote, 2 years ago, about the unvaxxed of his acquaintance catching Covid & dropping like flies, & the overlap between alternative lifestyles/healing & Nazi new-age practices, the point being about the far right infiltrating the counterculture. He ends up talking about respect for others. Ha-ha-ha.

  28. Shane – How many people actually own their home as opposed to owing the bank? Commuting is getting to be more and more of a problem. Commute-flation seems even worse than monetary inflation. I’ve been astonished how much worse the traffic has become in my area recently. But, hey, let’s bring in millions more people. What could go wrong?

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