This is a personal rant motivated by the continuing sight of politicians pontificating about stuff that does not matter and either ignoring much of the stuff that does, or presenting as facts, suppositions and bullshit that is supposed to make their case and cover their culpability for inaction and stupidity.
Not a bad start.
However, much as it is good to blame someone else for the things frustrating the hell out of us, it is not entirely their fault.
We live, for those who have not noticed, well into the 21st century. Our institutions were designed and evolved in the 19th and 20th centuries. Most would accept the notion that change has never been faster or more all-encompassing as in the last 20 years, so why are we surprised that the institutions have failed to keep up?
So, let me just have a look at an area I am at least partially familiar with after 40 years of operating in it, the current state of small business, and the relationship they have to the economic well being of the communities they serve. Nothing about the stupid non binding vote on same sex marriage, nothing about the nonsense of setting out to build submarines of a hybrid and bodgied design over which we have no control, and cannot crew anyway in the name of saving a few government seats, nothing about the hysteria and confusion about what is means to be an Australian citizen, …. Need I go on?
There is a general recognition that small business is the backbone of the economy, employing 5 million (the data is 2 years old, which tells you something about our institutions) people and contributing billions in tax, in other words, they carry the weight of the economy, but the statistics do not tell us all we need to understand, as they, like everything else, were designed to give information on the 20th century economy, not the 21st.
A few examples.
- Micro entrepreneurs are everywhere. There are hundreds of thousands of Australians making a bit on the side via eBay, Etsy, and Amazon, buying and selling stuff that never gets counted. This is a new breed of entrepreneur, and they are operating almost under the radar. The tools that enable this sort of activity did not exist 20 years ago.
- The net is ubiquitous. The enabler of the previous point, the net, has also enabled thousands to start new businesses, often on the side, simply because the cost of failure is now so low, as the cost of entry has shrunk to a fraction of what it was 20 years ago. Many of these businesses fail, perhaps even most, but that no longer means penury for the entrepreneur, he/she simply picks up and has another go. Few of my children’s friends and colleagues expect to work for a corporation all their lives, then retire, as my generation did, although many of us are radically rethinking that at the moment. They expect to get some experience, at somebody else’s expense, then leverage that into their own business.
- The tax base is hiding. The goldmine of PAYE tax is rapidly disappearing, as individuals go into business for themselves, rather than working for corporations, and often, as well as working for corporations. This gives access to all sorts of reasonable deductions of expenses not available to a PAYE employee. While we have a spending problem in this country, pollies spending to get themselves re-elected, or massively overspending to correct the failures of the past (look at the Sydney road and rail systems for any evidence you need of this) we also have a revenue problem. The GST was a sensible step, compromised as it was, and is, by politics, but the whole tax and welfare system needs a radical rethink, which simply will not happen until we are faced with a true crisis. On top of all that is the simple reality that paying tax has become optional for the large multinationals around the globe who have the reach and resources to structure their affairs towards minimisation. it may not be illegal, but it sure as hell is immoral, and the price we ‘ordinary taxpayers’ are all paying, and will continue to pay unless we, and other international tax institutions figure out that we need to collaborate to stop it. Perhaps we should summon the ghost of Kerry Packer to deliver another broadside.
- Baby Boomers are not ‘retiring’. The so called baby boomers, of which I am one, are not retiring, they may be cutting back, but often they are starting businesses, setting out to use their experience and lifetime wisdom in some useful way. The retirement age is a function of a world where we worked physically much harder than we do now, and the body gave out just before we kicked the bucket. Now the body is not giving out, and when it does we go in for renovations to keep on going. The only bucket we are interested in is the list of stuff we still want to do.
- Manufacturing is not dead, it has just changed shape. The 20th century manufacturing model is dead, but is being replaced by a highly technical, globally connected combination of technologies from electronics to additive and 3D manufacturing, which employs just a few highly qualified and motivated people. Yet, our industrial institutions still believe we have big factories full of people doing repetitive tasks. Worse still, our education systems are still geared to mass production of kids who can recite rather than think, and this is despite the disastrous rebalancing of education towards university at the expense of trade skills. While we need less people digging holes, we need more who can design, fabricate, and operate a complex piece of machinery or electronics, and we are not training them in sufficient numbers, or giving them the self belief that valuable and rewarding work does not necessarily equate to sitting in an air conditioned office driving a mouse.
All of this simply means that opportunity multiplies, as the institutions that supposedly govern us sit idly by at best, but get in the way most of the time, more often than not by accident. The status quo for which they were designed has been chucked out, trashed, and is significantly irrelevant now, rapidly becoming utterly irrelevant and a wet blanket on progress without real and immediate change.