I recall Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, as he groaned towards an election defeat in 1983, bewailing the alleged incompetence of the forthcoming Labor government in matters fiscal. "You'd be better off putting all your money under the bed," he famously quipped. (And don't think for a moment, Malcolm, in your newly-minted, revisionist Statesman for the Oppressed personage, that I am ever going to forget the calumny of November 11, 1975.)
Well, those chickens really came home to roost, didn't they? Here we are, folks, at the end of one of the great cycles of human endeavour: the Age of Friedman. Who would have guessed that flat-out economic rationalism, liberating markets from the fusty chains of regulation, and ensconcing the notion that doubled, tripled and quadrupled debt farming was a damn fine idea in the scones of the rapacious, would eventually lead to a world-wide financial system that resembled nothing so much as the Pyramid of Cheops resting on its pointy end, waiting for a puff of wind?
Er...well, I, for one.
The puff of wind - that hitherto invisible fact of sub-prime lunacy - has blown a cold breeze through the world. And, as a gentle nor-easter will clear away a Sydney haze on a Saturday afternoon, the zephyr of realisation has finally clarified an idea whose time has come: Friedman was a cunt.
Now, I don't want to be too hard, myself, on the Masters of the Universe. After all, you can't really blame someone with the mind (and greed) of a reptile for not understanding the nuances of economics. I know they all crawled up the walls of the Twin Towers clutching their MBAs in their claws, but a degree is only worthwhile if you can read what it says.
And the MOTUs were nothing if not inventive, if only in the fashion of an iguana. Like other members of their species, they were adept at burying their nest-eggs under layers and layers of doublespeak. Their grand-dad, Milton Friedman, had devised an intricate philosophy which did nothing but inter a very simple message beneath mounds of economic mumbo-jumbo: Tell everyone they're doin' good while you relieve them of their wealth. In other words, Friedman's great insight was that the "Wealth of Nations", that fat of the land, was best utilised by being stealthily reducted into the claws of the corporate goannas. Privatisation, the taxation myth, user pays, the credit generation; these sleights of hand fattened the brokers, traders and merchant bankers, while schools, hospitals, transport systems, public housing and universities crumbled and died in a twenty year orgy that made the Thirty Years' War look like an ice-cream melting on the pavement.
And now, in a bout of revelatory epiphany that would make Uncle Karl himself take up prayer, these self-same slugs realise what the rest of us had an inkling of all along: socialism is a wonderful thing when you begin to die of starvation. Not that the fiscal slum-lords will ever go without the Beluga and Bolly; but it must hurt, terribly, to shelve the plans for the new yacht.
Meanwhile, "trickle-down" has proven to be nothing more than the tears of merchant bankers, falling, like rain, on the homeless.