ADDICTED TO MONEY

David McWilliams
David McWilliams

The first episode of David McWilliams’ “Addicted to Money” on ABC1 last night was compelling viewing. Making reference to the cargo cult culture increasingly evident over recent years in our own long-running soapie Neighbours made the wordwide financial collapse a little more poignant for Australian viewers who have been largely insulated from the GFC to date.

Trinity College Dublin-educated McWilliams worked as an economist in the banking industry before turning his undoubted talents to journalism and documentaries.

Comparisons can be made between the engaging techniques of McWilliams and Michael Hudson, the latter who has just completed a successful tour of Australia. Both have the insider’s knowledge of the financial system and share an ability to expose and lambast its shortcomings.

No doubt, future episodes of “Addicted to Money” will determine whether McWilliams is as solid as Hudson in his conclusions, but I was seized with the thought of how illuminating and entertaining it might be to get the two men in a room together to have a decent conversation about the cause and cure of the GFC.  

Although he didn’t speak to it, McWilliams made it easier for me to understand that, in terms of the world’s financial systems still running amok, there’s a certain sort of logic in Prime Minister Rudd appointing Peter Costello as a governor of Australia’s Future Fund. Costello fashioned the fund from taxes derived off the back of the world’s greatest real estate bubble over which he presided as Treasurer, so why not tie him to some responsibility for where we are heading with it?

Of course, I speak with a forked tongue: I’m not at all happy to see individuals connected with creating the bubble in the first place, whether it be Ben Bernanke or Timothy Geithner in the US or Peter Costello in Australia, having clearly demonstrated their inadequacy, being employed for their services by new governments that have, amongst other things, been given the electorate’s OK for financial reform.

Unlike McWilliams and Hudson, however, it seems that none of the major political parties has yet fathomed how cheap credit and property-directed tax systems have built real estate bubbles, then leveraged financial derivatives off them. That’s worrying!  Does this mean that Australia, too, will have to endure the obscenity of bank bailouts when our real estate bubble finally bursts?

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ps.  Thursday 19 November 2009 (Episode 3)

Yikes, David!  You came so VERY close! Yes – the problem is THE ECONOMY and the ENVIRONMENT! And we can reconcile them both by collecting the RENT for using land.  Then, and only then, can we achieve the conservation of our planetary resources and environments; no more leveraging debt off real estate bubbles; no more recessions; no more depressions; in truth, a synthesis!

Somewhere, sometime, humanity will be struck by the realisation that a sane ECONOMICS utilises RENT (not taxes) as the means to reconcile PEOPLE with the PLANET.