As part of an economic recovery package worth $42 billion, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is going to give handouts of cash to Australians to the value of $12.7 billion. This has been derided by sceptics as ‘the next blind throw of the dice‘.
It could perhaps be more helpfully seen as another example of fatalist activism – a throw of the dice, but not necessarily blind. Faced with a seemingly intractable and capricious situation which Australia has little control over (the global economic downturn), government policy in the Fatalist mode seeks to introduce yet more capriciousness – ‘contrived randomness’ is the phrase coined by Oxford Professor of Government, Christopher Hood. Perhaps it is some good luck meant to balance out the prevailing bad luck.
Certainly, to this recipient of the ‘bonus’, the world seems a little more capricious than it did yesterday. The effect of the handout is similar to the feeling of winning a very small lottery prize. As an unexpected windfall it devalues just a little the idea of budgeting. Should I expect another handout later in the year – or not?
Is this a good use of public money? One newspaper article claimed that after the last such ‘economic stimulus package’, spending on gambling rose by $40 million. I find it almost impossible to see how it can contribute effectively to improving the economy. But then, I’m not persuaded by the Fatalist worldview, so the logic of this move seems incomprehensible to me.
In Australia, the original Fatal Nation, this kind of thing happens all the time.