Australian Left Review

Authors

Kelvin Rowley

Abstract

The main themes of Catley and McFarlane's latest book are the extent to which Australia's economic development has been shaped by the pressures of the international capitalist economy and by the role of the public sector (and thus, in turn, by political decision-making rather than "free market" forces). They trace these through three historical chapters (one on the 19th century, one on the period from 1890 to 1945, and one on the Menzies era) and focus on the present in the next three (one each on the impact of the "New International Economic Order" on Australia, the policies of the Whitlam government, and on Fraser's government). A closing chapter deals with "Options for the 1980s". Given the direction economic debates have taken in Australia over the last decade, this could be a valuable book. Under the guise of "monetarism" the old doctrines of laissez-faire have been resurrected, and it is claimed that the economic stagnation of the last few years is the result of a public sector which is "too large". The dismal failure of market forces to revive the economy despite Fraser's vandalism in the public sector has shown in practice that these dogmas are misconceived, but it is still worthwhile to be reminded that they are without historical foundation as well.

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