||Issue No. 256||18 March 2005|
Planet Common Cents
Workplace: Dirt Cheap
Industrial: Daddy Doesn’t Live With Us Anymore
Economics: Who's Afraid of the BCA?
International: From the Wreckage
Politics: Infrastructure Blues
History: Meat and Three Veg
Savings: Super Seduction
Politics: Popping the 'E-Word'
Poetry: To Know Somebody
Review: Off the Rails
The Locker Room
Fabulous Fan Mail
Nelson ‘Solves’ Skills Crisis
Planet Common Cents
It also represents the mainstreaming a new way of thinking that is hostile to both social democratic and conservative principles - that is the active promotion of an individual's 'right' to opt out of the structures of their society.
The mistake is to look at this issue as simply a partisan ideological obsession - although for that generation of Liberals who cut their teeth of campuses in the 1970s it undoubtedly is.
The real drive behind VSU is linked to the rise in free market fundamentalism - a mind set that sees a person as an individual consumer rather than as a participant in and product of their society.
The arguments advanced in support of VSU by Brendan Nelson have been all about pitching students as consumers of a degree - the institutions of universities are purely suppliers of this product.
The end product is a degree divorced from the rich varsity experience - long regarded as playing as much a part in educating our young people; whether their interests be in sport, culture or even politics.
The justification? Because some students choose not to use the services offered to everyone, no one should be compelled to contribute to any of them.
The fractured logic on this type of 'free choice' argument reminds me of the lines trotted out by the Tories whenever unions raise the point that non-members should be asked to contribute to the costs of bargaining a pay rise.
In countless focus groups you hear the line repeated - why would I join if I get the benefits anyway? This is the logic of the rational consumer, but one who has no comprehension of their place in the broader society.
But when the institution - be it a university or a trade union - makes the point that everyone benefits from their service offer, they are howled down with charges of coercion and compulsion.
Similar logic is at play across the society - with the rampant evasion of taxes identified by Malcolm Turnbull this week - the end point of a population that is so self-focused it ignores the bigger picture.
The separation of the self from the social structures frees us from a sense of mutual obligation, until, of course, the structures themselves begin to collapse.
Until we won't have university communities to nurture our young, we won't have trade unions to improve working conditions and we won't have public schools or hospitals either - because we will have become such canny consumers that the institutions that have supported our individual life stories will lie in ruin.
As they say in the economics textbooks 'caveat emptor' - the buyer beware.
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