October 29, 2008

Karen De Coster’s article on “The Standard of Living Bubble” leaves open, inevitably, the question of foreign equivalents to the hoggish economic meltdown that Miss De Coster describes. Still unsolved, for instance, is the mystery of why Australia, so far, has managed (unlike, by the looks of it, France) to avoid the worst of the real estate bubble.

Why should this bizarre outcome be? It is not, after all, as if Australians possess a greater intrinsic virtue than Americans, or that they are any less addicted to spurious “€œwealth”€ via plastic cards and deficit financing. Australia’s welfare system is, by every conceivable criterion, far more Scandinavian and cocoon-like than the U.S.A.’s (as well as more centralized; the notion of different rates of welfare payment according to different states is unknown to Australia’s populace). Few with any knowledge of Australia would find it lacking in the entitlement culture. The concept of “€œowning”€ one’s own home is as deeply embedded in the Australian psyche as in the American. Always was, even before 1950s prosperity. Moreover, interest rates in the two countries are broadly comparable, and have been ever since the mid-1990s (in late-1980s Australia they went through the roof).

So why have the grotesque scenes of American foreclosure and repossession not been replicated in Australia? When the local news reports carried American stories of ousted homeowners wrecking their premises before the lenders could regain them, the response from Australians was of absolute disbelief. Such things, at present at least, are unimaginable here, except in the case of the occasional drug addict or Aboriginal layabout.

Yet facts are stubborn things. No Australian bank, whether any of the big four (ANZ, Westpac, National Australia Bank, and the Commonwealth) or any of the smaller players, has collapsed. Perhaps more tellingly still, the $700 billion American bailout excited disgust across the Australian political spectrum, to the extent that Australian politics has a spectrum.
The only explanation that comes readily to hand for the disparity between Australia’s situation and America’s is that, in spite of everything, our Third World ethnics are still somewhat less gruesome than your Third World ethnics. American Renaissance writer Thomas Jackson went so far as to say, last January, the following:

Australia has an immigration policy that is like ours stood on its head. The United States is filling up with unlettered Hispanics, who make every social problem worse, whether it is crime, school failure, illegitimacy, youth gangs, obesity, or drug-taking. Australia is importing hundreds of thousands of smart, hard-working people who are streaming into the nation’s best universities and working their way to the top.

This of course brings its own problems, notably the way in which the hard-working are almost as querulous about white “€œracism”€ as are the unlettered, and no more proficient at speaking any language identifiable as English. But it might make for less economic friction in the short term. Even “The Camp of the Saints” might be bearable if it could be marketed as The Ritz-Carlton of the Saints. Of course the unlettered have a way of turning the Ritz-Carlton into a camp anyway; and a camp, moreover, wholly unadorned by such courtesies as are famously encapsulated in a certain Ogden Nash poem.

Incidentally, if you”€™re a Takimag reader hoping to avoid the American economic Armageddon by settling in Australia, fuhgeddaboutit. Over the last decade for reasons explained here, both the current Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his predecessor John Howard have been”€“in best Brechtian style“€“eagerly abolishing the people and appointing a new people.

If, on the other hand, you are a Sudanese rapist illiterate in your native tongue, with half a dozen equally illiterate spouses all under the age of consent, then the solution to your Weltschmerz is clear. Consult your nearest Australian consulate now.


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