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Viv ForbesStuck on Red & Other Essays (first published by Business Queensland and Common Sense in 1991), pp. 132-34.About the Author»

We are living at a turning point of history. Every day another mouldy Marxist monument collapses, exposing its starving tenants and scattering its fat feudal over-lords. All over the world, fearful and fleet-footed politicians are discovering the evils of central planning. Even Bob Hawke, who has spent his life defending the closed shop and apeing the comrade societies, now regularly denounces the command economy.

Sudden conversions of convenience always arouse suspicion. We must watch what they do, not what they say.

The fundamental difference between a command society and a free society is seldom recognised. Because of this ignorance, politicians in all parties have lumbered us with an unstable and incompatible concoction of freedom and controls called “The Mixed Economy”. This hybrid is stronger than the Communist donkey which fathered it, but slower than the Capitalist mare which fed it. And, like all mules, it is stupid and sterile.

A mixture of food and poison is still poison, and a mixture of freedom and controls is not free. We need to seize this climate of change to get the poison out of our economic system before we are overtaken by the vigour of those now escaping from the crumbling communist empires.

The essence of the command economy is government control and central direction enforced by edict. Its priests are econometricians, its managers are bureaucrats, its lifeblood is statistics and its rationing system is the queue. In such a society, if you don’t obey you don’t eat. The ultimate sanction of the command economy is the hangman.

Such systems are enormously inefficient because they discourage individual responsibility and enterprise and utilise only that small fraction of knowledge possessed by the planners. As the failures of the central plans become obvious, there is a demand for more power, more statistics, more experts and more industry committees. This merely makes the problem worse.

The essence of the free economy is private property and the freedom to contract. It could be called “The Contract Society”. It operates by way of voluntary co-operation in a decentralised fashion using a myriad of private buying and selling promises and contracts, written and verbal, long term and short term. Price is its rationing system and the consumer is king. In such a society, if you don’t work you don’t eat and the ultimate sanction is the bailiff.

The contract society operates horizontally in free exchange between free men. The command society operates vertically in coerced exchanges between master and slave.

The extent to which our Contract Society Thoroughbred has been repeatedly violated by the Command Society Donkey can be judged by the extent to which government has produced muleish laws restricting freedom of contract.

The list is endless. Every government marketing and business monopoly is a complete negation of the freedom to contract as are all wage and price tribunals.

In a contract society there is no room or need for trade regulations and quotas, statutory business licences, government subsidies, industry councils, local content rules, investment controls, training taxes or government business ventures. And the morality of retrospective legislation is so offensive that not even a self respecting communist donkey would thrust it on us.

If Bob Hawke and his comrades have really experienced a miraculous conversion, they should get off the world stage and start the overdue reforms at home.

Two small examples highlight the way in which our contract society is undermined by the command mentality. They illustrate the fact that our freedom to contract is being killed, not by the knockout punch, but by the torture of a thousand cuts.

The first example concerns born-again Bob in 1985.

Some Australian cricket players decided to sign a tour contract with the South African Cricket Union. This upset mightily the great cricket commandeer in Canberra. He urged the players to break their contracts and, in a total denial of the sanctity of contracts, promised that “The government will be ready to assist should there be any suggestion of legal action against those who break their contract.”

The second example comes from Queensland last year. Mr S, a Victorian house painter, quoted a fixed price of $350 to paint a roof for a West End woman. She accepted the contract. He did the job that afternoon and was paid the next day. A dispute then arose whether or not he should have painted the gutter. Instead of providing arbitration, the bureaucracy told the painter his contract was unenforceable because, under Queensland’s Fair Trading Act, all door-to-door contracts are subject to a cooling off period of 10 days. For them, retrospective legislation is OK; for us, contracts may only be prospective.

This and many other restrictions on the freedom to contract were introduced with the aim of preventing people from suffering the consequences of foolish decisions. This is the usual excuse for all interventions. Once this line is crossed there is nowhere to draw a new line until all decisions are taken out of the hands of the foolish people and given to the all-knowing bureaucrats.

The ultimate result of protecting people from their own foolishness is to fill the world with fools.

That is no favour to any society.

What then is left for our army of politicians and bureaucrats? Most should resign and take an honest job.

The rest must be told they are not managers, investors, entrepreneurs, tycoons or business social workers — they are policemen, arbiters and referees.

With very few exceptions, they have no business whatsoever in dictating what should or should not be in a contract. Their only role in the economy is to catch and punish thieves and con-men, and to ensure that contracting parties fulfil their promises.

(in order of appearance on Economics.org.au)
  1. Lang Hancock's Five Point Plan to Cripple Australia
  2. Put Windmills in National Parks
  3. Magnifying National Disasters
  4. Please Don't Feed the Animals
  5. Buy Birdsville Made?
  6. The Economics of Flood Risk
  7. Touring Bureaucrats
  8. Our slip-shod laws to blame
  9. Why Wind Won't Work
  10. A Profusion of "Prices"
  11. R.I.P. Ron Kitching - pioneer, explorer, author, family man, entrepreneur, scholar
  12. The Carbon Pollution Lie
  13. Closing Down Australia
  14. The Anti-Industry
  15. The Pyramid Builders
  16. Carbon Tax Bribery
  17. Crown Monopolies
  18. Carbon Tax Job Losses
  19. What Next, a Tax on Water?
  20. Carbon Health Warnings Coming Soon
  21. Growth Mythology
  22. The Tax Collection Industry
  23. Propaganda Puts Paid to Proof
  24. The Milk of the Welfare Teat is Watered Down
  25. "Crops for Cars" as Bad as Everlasting Drought
  26. Poll speech sets record
  27. The Emissions Trading Casino
  28. The Contract Society
  29. A Model Ministry
  30. The Five Point Plan to kill the economy with High Cost Electricity
  31. Put a Sunset Clause in the Carbon Tax
  32. Stuck on Red
  33. Time to Butcher "Aussie Beef"
  34. Carbon Tax Lies and Bribes
  35. The Middle of the Road
  36. United against taxes
  37. Call for Govt administrator
  38. Property & Prosperity
  39. "The Science is Settled" BUT Durban Climate Summit Not Cancelled
  40. No End to Fuelish Policies?
  41. The Right to Discriminate
  42. Sell the CES
  43. Free Water Costs Too Dam Much
  44. Creating Unemployment
  45. Viv Forbes Wins 1986 Adam Smith Award
  46. 1985 news item on Tax Payers United, Centre 2000 and the Australian Adam Smith Club
  47. Having the numbers is not the same as having the truth
  48. Who's Who in the Workers Party
  49. David Russell Leads 1975 Workers Party Queensland Senate Team
  50. Caught in a welfare whirlpool
  51. Global Warming Season
  52. Mining in Queensland, Past, Present and Future
  53. WEATHER IS USUALLY UNUSUAL
  54. Political branch formed
  55. Ron Manners on the Workers Party
  56. Viv Forbes on Libertarian Strategy and the Constant Resources Myth
  57. The New Brisbane Line?
  58. Carbon Lies
  59. We Mine to Live
  60. Save the taxpayer
  61. Solving Three Canberra Problems
  62. Vested Interests in the Climate Debate
  63. Carbon Tax Retrospective?
  64. Carbon Price Propaganda Taxes the Truth
  65. Don't Burn Food for Motor Spirit - Feed People not Cars
  66. Two Big Climate Taxes
  67. Greens Rediscover Hydrogen Car
  68. Atlas of Australia
  69. Shutting Out The Sun
  70. Safety Mania
  71. Coal - Sinking in the Swamps
  72. Hobbling the Competition
  73. Cubic Currency Coming
  74. "Dear Government"
  75. Viv Forbes mocks Flannery in 1988
  76. What we have is not a drug problem but a drug law problem
  77. Smoking, Health and Freedom
  78. Privatise Now! while they are still worth something
  79. The Electoral Act should allow voters to choose "none of the above"
  80. The New Federalism
  81. Sunset for Solar Subsidies
  82. The mouse will roar
  83. The Road to Homelessness
  84. Planning & Prosperity
  85. Viv Forbes and Jim Fryar vs Malcolm Fraser in 1979
  86. Quip, Quote, Rant and Rave: four of Viv Forbes' letters to the editor in The Australian in 1979
  87. Australia's First Official Political Party Poet Laureate: The Progress Party's Ken Hood in 1979
  88. Our homeless regulation refugees
  89. Progress Party and Workers Party lead The Australian
  90. Viv Forbes in 1978 on loss-making government, the Berlin Wall and misdirected blasts of hot-air
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Forbes has long been active in politics, economic education, business and the global warming debate, and was winner of the Australian Adam Smith Award “For outstanding services to the Free Society” in 1986.Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5