Game of Mates steal the gifts of nature

"Game of Mates : How favours bleed the nation"  - by Professor Paul Frijters and Dr Cameron Murray is a must-read book. The nation is Australia, and the topic is "Grey Corruption", which is the trading of  favours that involve "Grey Gifts". The multiple games played in all economic sectors steal from the pockets and well-being of ordinary people, and in Australia this has reached rampant proportions, taking up more than half our national wealth, while doing great damage to our future. From published evidence, the book details the sectors, the games, and the names.

The authors web-site is worth exploring.

Grey Gifts are any kind of wealth that gets allowed to be shared and bestowed by favouritism, or transferred between one group of people to another. In Australia, that pretty much covers anything that can be monetised. Australia's mining boom, its government, corporate and all sorts of institutional set-ups have allowed just about everything to be up for grabs.  Because cooperative social favours are wired into our primate brains, as GOM shows, just about anybody, given the opportunity, will want to play the game in order take advantage of others by reciprocal favors.

In comparison to the fictional and filmed series called the "Game of Thrones", the risks in the GOM to the players are few, most of the game moves are shady, craven, and secretive,  but not illegal, and the rewards are many, ultimately derived from the monetary values of the extractive Australian economy, which leaves many grey gifts to be exploited by players.

The favours of GOM come from all levels, from politicians to local council development approvals. The pay-backs of favours can be delayed till after the consultant or politician ends their term of office. It is now a condoned part of our systems, that rotation in and out of positions of public trust to positions of private gain, for top favour players is allowed. GOM gives the example of Tony Abbott saying, about the retiring Minister for Resources, Ian McFarlane, "I hope that the sector will acknowledge and demonstrate their gratitude to him in his years of retirement from this place.".

The GOM describes the how the "extractive" favours game, has captured around half of the wealth and income generated in Australia. Most of the benefits of several decades of growth of the Australian Economy has largely been captured by these groups of "Mates".  To give the lucky mates a personification, GOM calls them the "James".  The Australian everyday losers are called the "Bruces".  There are in fact many different locations and economic sectors where the GOM is played. It is treated as a game, because the moral implications of collective harm are wantonly ignored. GOM points out that the winners on any particular game sector get potential harm by the collective effect of losing benefits take by the game players of all the other sectors. Their additional wealth may make them immune to the extra monetary costs that we all have to pay up to the players, but everybody pays and suffers environmental costs, with their losses in health, mental health, opportunity, and the additional ecosystem degradation that is being done to support the wealth acquisition of the players in the GOM. As greenhouse gasses continue to accumulate, and global warming accelerates, and so many players of GOM block actions that will harm the personal investments arising from their own favours, such as renewable energy targets, there are major global costs to catering for the whims and control of the GOM over the gifts of nature.

Swarms of Flies over boom-time gifts

The problem of GOM is universal and timeless in human society and its relationship to nature. In Australia, the GOM describes how the game is out of control, and needs to be suppressed, for the good of all.  The best partial remedy lies in taking away the control of bestowal of "Grey Gifts" from potential players, or taxing the real value of gift benefits on behalf of national benefit. GOM says that many potential remedies do not work in practice, such as "transparency" and "regulations",  as these are easily manipulated by the players, who get to know their way around regulations and their limits much better than governments.

GOM covers the Real Estate development game, the Transport game, the Education, Banking, Taxation, Superannuation, Mining, Health, Media, every sector has its group of players who have "cornered" the market, to the detriment of the Bruces.  It discusses good practices and policies that can minimise the damage, that have been used in various nations, even in Australia, at times. The effectiveness of good practices can be measured by how strongly they are resisted by the James, who will always combine to protect their vested interests. Their most insidious propaganda is to the effect that their vested interests are essential to our national well-being, when system considerations tell us otherwise.

Serious Addiction Issues

On the ABC radio a program with discussion of the mechanisms of our brains that lead to addiction and cravings, it was said that our dopamine driven reward systems of feeling pleasure go back to the survival mechanisms of remembering where we found food and any important necessities of life. The bestowal of favour, especially when the resources are not directly our own, is equivalent to the expectation of future rewards from the receiver. Giving is said to be good for the soul.  The size of the gift and size of resources of the receiver, is proportional to the personal sense of anticipation of investment in future reward and pleasure. Donations to political parties are investments in future gifts. Favour trading is similar to the direct electrical zapping of the participant pleasure and reward systems, whereby the experimental rats like to press the bar for pleasure at the exclusion of the considerations of reality. The examples of so many former government participants already receiving rich after-political-life rewards must be a sure confirmation that the system will work for the current players.

The sharing of food, critical as it is for brain pleasure centres, makes for many scenarios of gift exchange.  Restaurants are definitely the places of exchange of many real and many symbolic gifts. The sharing of bread is a symbolic and sacramental part of catholic church service. A NSW politician involved in ICAC investigated corruption scandals was known as "Sir Lunch - a - lot". Food sharing is a basis of family and sociability, and like anything else so deeply ingrained in our existential nature, can be used in ways which lead to bad government administration and improper relations. We are always personally challenged to separate personal interest from behaviour which has bad implications for national, global,  other species and our own species interest.

Our civilization's many institutions have not yet taken proper accounting of future "externalities", and the economist brigade never will. The basic system sustainability precepts are simple and obvious.  Don't over-consume the renewable resources of nature. Nature is where all the elite gifts of wealth come from.

Criminal Code Implications

There seems to be difficulty in catching all but the very worst of GOM behaviour in our Criminal Codes. The bigger the sizes of the gifts, the higher the level of government, the more complex the regulations and processes, the more "official" the process seems to become. Our very legislation gets written with the idea of the gifts of nature in mind, and who shall reap the benefits. There are sections of Criminal Code in Chapter 7, which is entitled "Proper Administration of Government" that seem to have the smaller infractions of minor players in mind.

Theft - Section 7.2 : The value of the "grey gifts" that enrich the GOM, that would otherwise provide for a better Australia.

Deception - Section 7.4 : To justify "theft", lies and misleading information, myths, must be propagated by the monopoly media, to ensure that current practise of GOM is seen as being in Australia's best interests.

Bribery - Section 7.6 : The core exchange of favours or benefits, from any government person or public servant, with any other person, for secretive non-approved purposes, is illegal. So why is it happening so often?

Implications for Good Government

Great harm is done in the long term, to government and the nation, if the people making the choices, and populating the offices of decision makes, are doing so on the basis of the best exchange of extra - large portions of rewards among themselves, way above and beyond what they are entitled to on the basis of their responsibility. As they decide on the basis of maximising gift largesse instead of carefully weighed national benefits, such decisions naturally tend to sideline those people who are inconveniently the technical experts on the relevant subject matters, such as engineers, scientists, social behaviour theorists, many kinds of academics, the expertise and memory of public service institutions, and also the common-sense of ordinary people.  This is exactly the peoples experience of Australian Government, which has been growing with intensity and disdain over the last 2 decades, while wasting years of surplus from a mining boom, which now has culminated in a crisis of incapacity in politics and public service. We are now between the teeth of real challenges, and our parliamentary politics are a shambles of incompetence and bullshit.

We are too comfortable with our existential challenges

Cliques of mates with more interests in working with each other, start to see the normal public as ill-informed nuisances, to be literally misled by all means to keep national interest from interfering in private profit. And pledges from leaders and parties to do otherwise?  It is not from the heart and and not properly understood with appropriate existential fear.

For the existential challenges of climate change, and loss of global species diversity by growing rates of species extinction, there isn't any sign yet that the human nature of global elites can put aside self-interest, or harder still, provide good personal examples for the publics to want to do the same.

This article by Robert Hunziker, notes that "voluntary" targets of the Paris climate accord of 2015 are likely to fail. Lack of international cooperation is the normal general condition, and this now brings closer the year of extinction of the once marvellous Blue Fin Tuna.

Voluntarism will not save any species. The economic model of the world, neoliberal capitalism, is too focused on profits, the invisible hand of free markets, deregulation of governments, and significantly, converting public assets to private ownership, to adhere to undependable anemic voluntarism. - Robert Hunziker - Counterpunch Aug-2017  

Converting public assets to private ownership is a natural for the Game of Mates.

In Australia , Paris 2015 is incompatible with Australian Government and its mates pushing for more coal power stations, even of the most extremely efficient low emissions kind (not really near zero emissions), compared to progress near zero emissions technology.

It’s a fraud really, a fake, It’s just bullshit for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned. - James Hansen , reported in Guardian Dec-2015

Despite reports that global carbon emissions are becoming stable, atmosphere CO2 is still rising at alarming rates, meaning that global CO2 emissions actually need to fall a long way down. In Australia, total emissions have been rising for the last 2 quarters.

Adam Bandt, Greens MP for Port of Melbourne, stated that "The push to frack and export gas is blowing our carbon budget, with LNG and coal-seam gas emissions pushing pollution up above last year's levels".

LNG and coal-seam gas are natural resources given as gifts to mates. The stated rise in emissions doesn't include the carbon emissions from our exports, and the embedded carbon emissions of our imports, and the transport emissions each way. Our national course won't change its fatal trajectory, with the Game of Mates in control, driving with their eyes on rear view mirror, taking navigation instructions from their remote economists and mates.

author: Michael Rynn
description: Human instincts of reciprocal favours rules in the ultimate control of the gifts of nature, in the must-read book of the "Game of Mates".
keywords: Game of Mates, Reciprocal Corruption, Grey Gifts