See, there are people who believe… I’m sorry, you’ll laugh. There are people who believe that the money that tobacco companies used in advertising, promotion, sponsorship, to make their brand logos well-known, in order to make huge profits (including of course recovering as costs or tax deductions the money spent on promotion), is much more important to society than the vastly bigger amounts of money the public have to spend to deal with the costs of tobacco addiction.
Want to believe two impossible things before breakfast? Well, try this one. There are people who believe that the money made by energy companies digging and drilling fossil fuels out of ground, the enormous profits to be made from a substance which costs little to extract per unit but which can be sold at a price manipulated by the sellers, must never be impeded in any way by regulation, must pay as little in the way of tax to the countries in which the fuels by prehistoric chance are found, and the companies must never be encouraged to switch to renewable energy development, and that all of these aims must be strenuously lobbied for in the most dishonest ways, because of their libertarian beliefs, even though the continued use of the fossil fuels is destroying the very planet on which the people doing the lobbying (and indeed the employees of the energy companies) live, the pure application of free market economics is the most important thing on the world.
Phew, bit of a mouthful, eh? Still, we haven’t finished yet, want to try for three impossible things before lunch? You sure? Might spoil your appetite? Oh, ok then. There are people who purport to be acting in matters such as tobacco and fossil fuels, out of pure disinterested, bright-eyed belief in libertarian neoconservative free market drown-the-government-in-the-bathtub principles – “we are from a right-wing think tank and we are here to help” – who, wait for it, wait for it, are actually funded by tobacco and energy companies to push the line that such companies must be left unhindered by the invisible hand of public interest.
I know, I know, toughest one yet, eh? I mean, you see the problem, don’t you? Coincidence is one thing, but this is unbelievable coincidence. Here is this little band of zealots, happy spreading the Gospel according to Freddy, the Sayings of Ayn, so devoted to the cause, the well-being of human-kind that they would happily give up all worldly possessions, dress in sackcloth, live in a cave in the mountains, eat only locusts (perhaps with the luxury of an occasional skinny desert mouse roasted on a spit), sacrifice all worldly ambitions just to preach on the road to Damascus in the hope of making the occasional convert. And yet, by pure chance, here are tobacco and energy companies, willing to make an occasional small donation so that these prophets can be supported in a little comfort in, say, a modest Melbourne suburban house, eating takeaway meals, and wearing cheap suits and blue ties.
Where is the coincidence, you ask? Well, you’ll hardly credit it, but do you know, it just so happened that immediately after the energy and tobacco companies donate a pittance to help the Rand fanbois, those same fanbois, in a move of course planned years earlier, began to push issues such as the demand that cigarette plain-packaging laws be removed, and that a price on carbon, together with the development of wind and solar power, be abandoned. I know, there would have been a lot of chuckling among both fanbois and corporations about what an astonishingly favourable coincidence it was. What? You are questioning the coincidence? You cynic – just as a million monkeys on a million typewriters wrote “Atlas Shrugged” in 24 hours, so the infinite size of the universe can easily allow libertarian zealots to stop action on climate change totally independently of the irrelevant funding by energy companies. So there.
And now, want to try believing in a fourth impossible thing before dinner? Of course you do. I bet you were thinking to yourself, as you read the preceding, oh, those poor Blue-tied Hayek-clones, laughing stocks of the community, why, they’d have to go out wearing Maynard Keynes Masks for disguise, to avoid people pointing and sneering and small boys throwing rotten eggs and tomatoes, couldn’t do anything except huddle in their office bunker like a fringe fundamentalist group about to flee to Guyana as soon as the black helicopters stopped circling overhead.
Fooled you twice I’m afraid, shame on me. These Fundamentalist Friedmanites, far from being laughing stocks (or indeed in stocks) are treated as serious economic, social, cultural, environmental commentators by the Australian media – appear on all tv and radio networks, write columns for major newspapers, have regular slots on all ABC current affairs programs; and by the Liberal Party of Australia whose leader makes speeches to them and happily adopts their lunatic policies to save time developing his own when he could be dressed in fluoro vest and hard hat performing stunts for tv cameras.
Sorry, pushed my luck there, that was just one too many impossible things to believe, right?