Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand’s novel about a dystopian future, is widely regarded by many supporters of the free market as prophesy. Since publication much of the world described in it has come to pass, especially in such areas as market intervention, social engineering and the intrusion of the state into most areas of human existence.
In the Australian government’s new ‘jobs plan’, which is meant to create lots of high paying blue collar jobs in part by giving the manufacturing sector a ‘fair share’ of major contracts, one of the more improbable themes of the novel has been created in what passes for reality these days.
Ironically, in section two of Shrugged the government passes the ‘Fair Share Law’ with one of the consequences being the government appointment to Reardon Steel of a bureaucrat, ‘the Wet Nurse’ as ‘Deputy Director of Distribution’ to ensure each customer is given a ‘proper’ proportion of production as determined by the authorities. Gillard has adopted this as policy:
A recurring theme of this government's policy approach is that obligations can be imposed on businesses and they should somehow be grateful for the (compulsory) guidance. We also see this approach being rolled out in the Plan for Australian Jobs, this time overseen by Uncle Greg [Combet], who is the Industry and Innovation Minister.
Here are some of his supposedly innovative ideas. Projects worth more than $500 million will require an Australian industry participation plan. I guess these plans will be judged by bureaucrats sitting in offices in Canberra.
For projects worth more than $2 billion, Australian industry opportunity officers will be embedded - bureaucrats moving from Canberra to sit in the offices of private businesses - to monitor purchasing. An agency called the Australian Industry Participation Authority will be created.
There will also be innovation precincts; an investment fund; an enterprise solutions program so Canberra bureaucrats can help businesses bid for public sector work; an anti-dumping commission to protect local businesses ... and the list goes on.
The net result of this frenetic and pointless government interference in business, according to Uncle Greg, is $6.4bn in extra activity for Australian companies. This is according to modelling undertaken by bureaucrats in the federal capital.
While most of this policy is simple a compilation of old forgotten promises dragged out of the back of the shed, cleaned up a bit, given the old ‘Dulux overhaul’ and presented as new, the idea of embedded bureaucrats is definitely a new one. Well, outside Rand’s novel that is.