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Economic Groupthink: a dangerous trend.

November 28th, 2008 · Greg Atkinson · No Comments

One of the worrying trends that has emerged in Australia during 2008 is the way the government has created an atmosphere that is conducive to groupthink (group think) behaviour. Views that are not aligned with “Rudd’s World” are attacked as reckless or irresponsible by the government, and the mainstream media appear willing to slap down any dissenting opinions.

Let’s take the discussion surrounding climate change for example. As I have mentioned before in: Global warming:do your own research there is more than one side to the climate change debate. The scientific evidence supporting the view that the planet is warming due to CO2 emissions created by human activities is not beyond question.

There are well qualified scientists who do not agree that humans are responsible for global warming and some that even suggest the temperatures are not on a long term rising trend at all. Just because they do not get the same airtime of the pro global warming lobby does not mean they are wrong.

As a result we find ourselves in a classic groupthink situation. We have MP’s who would struggle with primary school science suddenly becoming climate experts and economists who are able to put a cost on the impact of global warming. Anyone who disagrees is called a “denier” or has their intelligence questioned.

The Australian public seems to be just nodding in agreement and as a result we have not seriously considered what will happen if the “accepted” theory behind global warming is wrong.

Maybe we should consider if we are focusing on the wrong global issue? Perhaps we would be better off trying to improve the living conditions of millions of people around the world than worrying about CO2 emissions? Or perhaps the planet is even cooling and our actions may in fact just make things worse?

I am not saying we should not tackle global warming if it is a problem, what I am saying if we need to debate all alternatives and question rigorously the path the government is taking us down.

Another example of economic groupthinking is how our economy is being managed (or mismanaged). There seems little discussion about why the Reserve Bank raised rates too far or why the government focused on inflation for far too long.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I am not a great fan of how the Reserve Bank has been performing for quite some time (see The Reserve Bank, Rudd, Swan and a Hobbit) and I feel it is crucial that the RBA is subjected to scrutiny.

This scrutiny should also be directed towards the Treasury Department, but if there is any hint of this the government responds with the notion that to question the public service is unreasonable and is insulting since it questions the integrity of the public service.

What rubbish! If there are public servants that feel they are above being questioned regarding their actions then I suggest they are public servants we are better off without.

We always need to be on a guard against apathy and groupthink mentality. We need to see the media step up to the challenge and deliver some quality journalism that results in the hard questions being asked, theories being questioned and the public getting the whole story….not just the storyline.

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