‘Neoliberalism’ as an all-purpose trend explainer

Professor Campbell said he agreed with commentators such as the academic Michael Pusey who have argued that the rise of neo-liberalism has contributed to undermining confidence in public institutions.

The middle classes now felt a need to insure themselves against failing government health and education systems.

From a SMH article on the My School website.

Within academia – with occasional spillovers into the Lodge – ‘neoliberalism’ has become an all-purpose trend explainer, some generally accepted broad change that is used to explain other changes. The evidence for all-purpose trend explainers is rarely better than circumstantial. Whenever I see an all-purpose trend explainer I turn my bull**** detector up several notches.

In this case, which is more likely: that people make greater use of private services because they have been influenced by an academic philosophy most people had never heard of until Kevin Rudd’s Monthly essay controversy, or that they make greater use of private services because government services are less appropriate or of lower quality than affluent people want? It takes ideological blindness to think that the former possibility is more likely than the latter.

‘High-minded’ excuses for partisan self-interest

From the Sunday Age this morning:

A Labor source said the reforms to boost the taxpayer-funded contribution were needed because political parties around the country ”are broke”.

”It’s being put in high-minded terms, but Labor federally is $8 million in debt, and Rudd refuses to fund-raise. State branches are also in a parlous state.”

Indeed. I fear that academic supporters of electoral law reform are being taken for a ride, providing ‘high-minded’ justifications for electoral law reforms that are, as they almost always are, grubby exercises in partisan self-interest.
Also in the Sunday Age, Chris Berg emphasises that big government is the root cause of the political donations issue.