Xenophon paragraphs to ponder

Australia’s government needs to scrap its “free trade Taliban mentality”, buy more local products and properly scrutinise foreign investment, says Nick Xenophon, the leader of one of the minor parties that holds considerable sway following last month’s election.

Most of all, it hurts that he is called Xenophon; some of you will know that Xenophon from ancient Greece was the first (surviving) author to point out the phenomenon of division of labor.

Apparently there is a “Great Xenophon stagnation” or even retrogression.  This passage notwithstanding, the Taliban, by the way, did not favor free trade.

Here is the full FT piece by Jamie Smythe.


I would have killed for unlimited sausages!

You would have chosen that over lifetime free beer?

I am a teetotaller. So were my father, his father, my maternal grandmother and her father.
Drinking is antithetical to Brazilian character.

Xenophon is a nanny statist having been elected on a single issue: gambling. He was (and is)against having pokies (slot machines) in pubs (taverns) on the grounds that it introduces untenable temptation to those with or susceptible to the lure of gambling . He has little to no understanding of trade and commerce having been a labour lawyer during his practicing yeas..

His sole socially redeeming feature is his objection to wind farms and the government subsidies thereto.

Actually, his sole redeeming feature is that he isn't a member of the intergalactically stupid Liberal Party, nor the irredeemably corrupt Labour Party.


Is he wrong about gambling? Hey, I'm Libertarianish and got no problem with legalized gambling, but I have a healthy respect for the damage gambling can do.

Alcohol and fast food and guns wreak devastation untold. Let's ban the lot of them.

There is a difference. Gambling exists solely as a means for government to collect revenue. Government is evil enough as it is without becoming an organized crime group.

You seem to think "gambling" = state lottery.

More generally, gambling is smart people selling something to stupid people. The same as a good portion of the rest of the economy. The entire insurance industry operates as a casino, and with a higher house edge.

Mr. Nick Xenophon has a lot of interesting things to say. He is much closer to Sanders than Trump. From

"End free trade mentality, says Australia’s populist politician" (FT)

"Australia’s government needs to scrap its “free trade Taliban mentality”, buy more local products and properly scrutinise foreign investment, says Nick Xenophon, the leader of one of the minor parties that holds considerable sway following last month’s election."

"This week’s move to block the Chinese acquisition of a controlling stake in the country’s biggest electricity network followed Mr Xenophon’s concerns about national security — forcing Scott Morrison, Australia’s treasurer, to denounce as “complete crap” the belief that he did so to curry favour with Mr Xenophon and other cross bench senators opposed to the deal."

“We need to be very, very cautious,” he said. “It’s a very fine line that we need to straddle. Our involvement in Iraq and Vietnam were unmitigated disasters. We must not have a default position where we do everything the US does.”

“We have this free trade Taliban mentality where we take a fundamentalist free trade view that no other country in the world does,” he says. “It is not in our national interest and I don’t think other countries respect us for that.”

"He is lobbying for tougher anti-dumping measures, changes to procurement rules to ensure public contracts are sourced locally and a roll back on free trade. He walks as he talks, literally: he attends the interview in work boots made by local firm Rossi Boots, which recently lost a defence contract to Indonesia."

At a basic level, how could Nick Xenophon be wrong? His basic point is that Australasia's trade negotiators are so obsessed with "free trade" that they refuse to negotiate in Australasia's national interest.

That should be a very familiar argument to Americans. Also from the FT

"Voter disillusion stalks prosperous Australia"

"Other analysts point to the disparity in performances between regions, noting that states with big resource and manufacturing industries, such as South Australia and Queensland, returned big votes for minor parties.

“Australia is in a better position than the UK in terms of the type of deindustrialisation it has experienced,” says Clement Macintyre, professor at Adelaide University. “But in South Australia we have seen similar trends with the car industry closing, high unemployment and rising inequality. People are looking for alternatives.”"

Why is it that I want to scream every time a politician mentions government and free trade or government and job creation?

This guy sounds like a clown, but the elder Xenophon deserves to be much better read. It's startling how even experts of the era who can quote Herodotus and Thucydides extensively often barely know Xenophon's work.

For example, you'll find plenty of maps of classical northeast Anatolia based on Herodotus, who thought Cappadocia was in the area and that Saspiria (around Ispir) bordered Media. For whatever reason nobody thinks to use Xenophon who actually walked an army through the area and wrote down his encounters in considerable detail.

Xenophon *was* a single issue senator elected on a no slot machine policy, but that's no longer the case. He's a close substitute for the Greens, another anti free trade Bernie Sanders clone.

Xenophon is probably best understood as a canny opportunist, who has read the mood of an electorate which has enjoyed 21 years of continuous economic growth, and has forgotten the need for the policy mix which propagated that growth. In an era of relative wealth, the electorate is in a very rent seeking mood.

Yep, Aussies would be better off unemployed, buying goods by selling off all of Australia to Asians and then buying from Asians, paying rent to Asians, and sending their kids to labor in Chinese factories to send remittances home so parents can pay rents and buy imports.

Why work when you can sell off your country to foreigners who work?

That's what conservatives in the US advocate. Get rid of all labor costs in the US because workers cost too much and have zero value to the economy!

"the electorate is in a very rent seeking mood"

Ha ha, great framing.

After three decades of privatisation of predominantly well run gov't services, resulting in private sector monopolists/oligopolists gouging households, and your rent seeking baddie is the bloody Australian electorate?

That's the best you can do?

Mate, you're a nong.

I think that's a pretty pithy summary of a public sector led rent seeking argument right there. Do you get your talking points from the CFMEU, or do you supply them with those talking points?

Anyone who espouses unfettered free trade is either an ideologue or an idiot.

Which one are you?

& which one is Mr. Cowen?

Allow me to connect ALL the dots for you, Mr. Ryan Reynolds


Pithy, indeed

Such disappointment - I thought Prof. Cowen was referring to another Xenophon, whose works include a Socratic dialogue called 'The Economist.' Like this passage -

Socrates "Has got"? but he may have got enemies?

Critobulus Yes, I am afraid some people have got a great many.

Soc. Then shall we say that a man's enemies form part of his possessions?

Crit. A comic notion indeed! that some one should be good enough to add to my stock of enemies, and that in addition he should be paid for his kind services.

Soc. Because, you know, we agreed that a man's estate was identical with his possessions?

Crit. Yes, certainly! the good part of his possessions; but the evil portion! no, I thank you, that I do not call part of a man's possessions.

'Xenophon of Athens (/ˈzɛnəfən, -ˌfɒn/; Greek: Ξενοφῶν [ksenopʰɔ̂ːn], Xenophōn; c. 430–354 BC) was an Athenian historian, soldier and mercenary, and a student of Socrates. As an historian, Xenophon is known for recording the history of his contemporary time, the late-5th and early-4th centuries BC, such as the Hellenica, about the final seven years and the aftermath of the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC); as such, the Hellenica is a thematic continuation of the History of the Peloponnesian War, by Thucydides. As a mercenary soldier of the Ten Thousand, he participated in the failed campaign of Cyrus the Younger, to claim the Persian throne from his brother Artaxerxes II of Persia, produced the Anabasis (An Ascent), his most notable history.

Despite being an Athenian citizen, born to Gryllus, of the deme Erchia of Athens, Xenophon of Athens also was associated with city-state of Sparta, the traditional enemy of Athens. As such, his pro-oligarchic politics, military service under Spartan generals, in the Persian campaign and elsewhere, and his friendship with King Agesilaus II endeared Xenophon to the Spartans; thus, some of his works have an admiring pro–Spartan bias, especially the royal biography Agesilaus and the Constitution of the Spartans.

Besides the philosopher Plato (427–347 BC), Xenophon of Athens is an authority on Socrates, about whom he wrote the dialogue Apology of Socrates to the Jury, which recounts the Trial of Socrates (399 BC). The works of Xenophon are in several genres, and are written in plain-language Attic Greek, for which reason they serve as translation exercises for contemporary students of the Ancient Greek language. In the Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, Diogenes Laërtius said that, as a writer, Xenophon of Athens was known as the “Attic Muse”, for the sweetness of his diction (2.6).' https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xenophon


I'm guessing that TC is thankful that you are not counted as one of his possessions.

Plato gets the award for first, but not in an approving fashion, as noted at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Division_of_labour#Theorists

'Silvermintz notes that, "Historians of economic thought credit Plato, primarily on account of arguments advanced in his Republic, as an early proponent of the division of labour." Notwithstanding this, Silvermintz argues that, "While Plato recognizes both the economic and political benefits of the division of labour, he ultimately critiques this form of economic arrangement insofar as it hinders the individual from ordering his own soul by cultivating acquisitive motives over prudence and reason."'

As taliban translates to students in arabic, I don't think that being a student of free trade is a very big insult

“free trade Taliban mentality” - Thats a new one to me!

The other thing with Nick Xenephon not mentioned is that he's from South Australia. A state with some great natural beauty but is otherwise Australia's version of Michigan (I.e. heavy focus on industry which is dead or dying).

I think this omitted but vital detail helps explain his recent electoral success.

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