The Australian Way: Australia’s road to serfdom?

9 September 2021

By: Daniel Wild

Over 12,000 Australians have now listened to Australia’s Heartland with Tony Abbott.

And it continues to grow with each episode.

The popularity of the podcast is because Tony is striking a chord with mainstream Australians.

This weeks episode was my favourite so far, and the highlight was the discussion Tony and I had about the role of religion in public life. You won’t want to miss what Tony had to say.

You can listen to the episode on your web browser here, on Spotify, YouTube, or Apple podcasts. And make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss an episode.

And remember, you can leave your questions at the Australian Heartland Hotline on 03 9946 4307.

In The Discussion this week I analyse Australia’s neo-feudal future with a declining middle-class, and the rise of the new oligarchy.

And The Must Read is an essay from a left-leaning publication, The Atlantic, about why Australians gave up too much freedom during the pandemic.

Thank you for your support of the Australian way of life.

Tony Abbott opened up about his thoughts on the role of religion in public life, and what his three years in training to be a priest taught him about life.

Tony told me that there is a crisis of meaning in Australia today, particularly amongst the young, which is revealed through their belief in “The Science”, climate cults, and social justice movements.

Tony also provided a very strategic assessment of how Big Tech is asserting its influence over our lives, and argues that the Big Tech companies should be regulated as publishers rather than platforms.

You can listen to the episode on your web browser here, on Spotify, YouTube, or Apple podcasts. And make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss an episode.

Joel Kotkin is one of the most important intellectuals analysing and theorising about the future of Western culture and society, private enterprise, small business, and the global middle-class.

Kotkin is also a self-described blue-collar Democrat, saying in a recent interview that “virtually all my adult life, I have been a registered Democrat, but as the party has abandoned critical commitments to colour-blind racial equality, upward mobility, and economic growth I have moved on to become a registered independent.”

Kotkin is also the author of one of the most astute and significant books of the post-World War Two Era: The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A warning to the global middle class.

The book argues that Australia and the western world more generally is regressing to a form of feudalism reminiscent to that which prevailed in medieval Europe, only with better technology and material living standards.

“At the top of this new feudal order sits a class of wealthy oligarchs.”

Instead of open societies with abundant upward economic opportunity for all citizens regardless of their economic, racial, or familial backgrounds, Western nations are becoming highly rigid and stratified.

All of the major barometers of a healthy middle-class society are in terminal decline.

Rates of small business creation, self-employment, youth employment, and home-ownership are plummeting, while social pathologies and idleness are on the rise. And for the first time since World War Two, parents believe their children will have worse lives than themselves.

At home, rather than being vigorously engaged in their local community through religious, sporting, or volunteering initiatives, the minds and thoughts of your average mainstream Australian are being influenced by what foreign-owned tech giants like Google, YouTube, Netflix, and Amazon want and allow them to watch and listen to.

The lockdowns have accelerated this behaviour, as millions of Australians under virtual house arrest get their food delivered to their door-step by Uber, stream Netflix, suage their anxieties through endless scrolling on social media, as an endless procession of delivery drivers drop off the latest Apple product ordered from Amazon while their home-schooled children learn nothing while pretending to attend Zoom classes.

Kotkin argues this is all a part of a broader structural change whereby western liberal democracies are shifting from essentially containing a small elite, big middle, and small underclass to resembling the old “estates of the realm” in pre-revolutionary France.

At the top of this new feudal order sits a class of wealthy oligarchs concentrated in the technology, entertainment, and finance sectors who resembled the old aristocratic nobles (but without the constraining and humanising influence of noblesse oblige).

They control the vast majority of global wealth, and the social media and traditional media platforms that information flows through.

Beneath the oligarchy is a new middle class which is split in two.

There is the traditional middle-class (“Aussie battlers”), which is comprised of small business owners, the self-employed, small agriculturalists, artisans, salaried workers, and those deeply embedded in the private economy.

“Kotkin’s analysis focusses on the traditional middle-class, which he argues is getting squeezed. Big time. “

The other middle class, which is now in cultural and economic ascendancy, is the opinion-forming expert-class who dwell in the upper echelons of big business and public sector bureaucracies, universities, the media, and the government subsidised non-profit world.

This class “fulfills the role played by the Catholic clergy in the Middle Ages.” They are responsible for spreading and enforcing the politically correct doctrines of the ruling elite through the corporate diversity, inclusion, and equity policies they enforce on their staff, the editorials they write for newspapers, and the shareholder activism they finance.

The fact that the clerical class’ pronouncements on everything from climate change to lockdowns are either grossly exaggerated or just plain wrong is not relevant.

The effect and intent is to redistribute economic resources and cultural power away from the traditional middle-class comprised of small businesses, self-employed, salaried workers, and agriculturalists to the new oligarchic elite.

At the bottom rung sits a growing class of property-less serfs, who are mostly below the age of 35, are unlikely to own a home or a car, or even their own music, movies, or other form of entertainment which they stream rather than buy.

They are also likely to be in precarious employment working as contractors in the ‘gig’ economy. Their prospects of upward movement to the traditional middle class are dismal.

Kotkin’s analysis focusses on the traditional middle-class, which he argues is getting squeezed. Big time.

As making an honest day’s living through small business or self-employment becomes increasingly untenable, more Australians are trying to escape either by climbing into the safety of a big business or public sector job, or slumping into the swelling ranks of the serf-class.

The destructive and brutal lockdowns, devised and championed by the oligarchy and clerical class, have accelerated this restructuring of Australian society.

Well-heeled bureaucrats in big business and the public sector have been able to more readily adapt to working from home (data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that 75% of big businesses can accommodate their employees working from home, compared with barely one-third of small businesses).

Their jobs have been protected and in many cases their wages have increased. For example, research by the Institute of Public Affairs demonstrated that in the first 12 months of the pandemic, lockdowns caused total wages paid to private sector workers to decline by $24 billion, while total public sector wages rose by $8 billion.

This means that for every extra dollar in wages that public sector workers received, their private sector counterparts lost three dollars.

It wasn’t always this way. Australia used to be a country where everyone was truly all in this together.

Big business and cultural elites once respected the central role of small business and a stable middle-class in maintaining and extending an economic, political, and cultural system that enabled them to flourish.

The Institute of Public Affairs was founded by a group of prominent businessmen in 1943. Many of the names will be familiar to you: Sir George James Coles who served as inaugural Chairman of the IPA (founder of what was to become Coles Group), Harold Gordon Darling who was Chairman of Directors of Broken Hill Proprietary Company (now BHP), and Sir Keith Murdoch (Chairman of Directors of The Herald and Weekly Times).

All, naturally, wanted their businesses to succeed and to be profitable. But they also felt a strong sense of duty to defend and promote an Australia that was free, liberal, and democratic against the socialist alternative in the post-World War Two era.

The IPA’s marquee policy document published in 1943, Looking Forward: A Post-war Policy argued that Australia’s economic and social system “should avoid the excessive concentration of economic power and ownership in a few hands, and provide for the broader diffusion of such power and ownership through the community.”

Kemp went onto argue that “a policy concerned with the encouragement of individual enterprise must give full consideration to the future of the smaller business unit” which would be “vital” to Australia in the post World War Two era.

Now big businesses and their public sector counterparts are the loudest voices for lockdowns and regulations which destroy small business, shatter local communities, and are turning Australia into a neo-feudal nation.