Friday, 16 May 2014

The Disease of More: How the NBA Explains Australia's Economic Culture

I'm a big fan of NBA Basketball. Three years ago I began re-watching the game, and in particular the playoffs, just like I did in the NBA's 1990s heyday. But perhaps more than watching games, basketball is my favourite sport to read about, mainly through the writing of Bill Simmons and his website Grantland. Simmons and his writing made me fall in love with the game of basketball again like I had when I was a kid.

I began my re-entry into NBA Basketball by reading Simmons's encyclopaedic tome The Book of Basketball. In the first chapter Simmons begins by paraphrasing six- time championship coach Pat Riley, and more specifically Riley's concept known as 'The Disease of More'
I read Pat Riley's book Show Time and he talks about 'The Disease of More'. A team wins it (the NBA Championship) one year, and the next year every player wants more minutes (on the court), more money, more shots. And it kills them. 
The Book of Basketball is 752 pages long, and that's the paragraph I took away, memorised and applied to my life, henceforth.

These past couple of days as the Federal Budget has been handed down and as its reverberations have been felt, 'The Disease of More' has been ringing in my ears, because every institution, every policy, and every program that looks after the collective has been cut by the Abbott Government. And it is not the Prime Minister's fault. It is ours.

We must take responsibility for our democracy.

A decade ago we gleefully accepted John Howard's tax cuts in 2003-04. when we didn't need them, all in the name of 'fiscal discipline'. And because that worked out so well for him, he kept on handing them out. Rudd won the economic battle during the 2007 election by handing out $31 million dollars of tax cuts, while claiming Howard was irresponsible for planning to hand out $32 million. Then when Rudd secured office he handed out more money to generate stimulus so Australia could stave off the Global Economic Crisis. After more than two election cycles of tax cuts, the voting public expected them as a given, rather than treating them as a nice bonus. 'The Disease of More' had set in.

Such economic decisions have a pretty straightforward cause and effect. If the government chooses to give money to individuals in the form of tax cuts, then logically less money is going to be put toward government operated services, such as schools, hospitals and welfare programs. This is 'The Disease of More' on a macroeconomic level. When Australian society won the 'Championship' of economic policy (by generating an unprecedented 16 years of continued economic growth) its people expected more money as a reward, even though the formula for economic (i.e: Championship) success had not changed from the years or even the decades past.

Conservatism preaches 'The Disease of More'. The poor, the disadvantaged and the socially isolated, otherwise known as 'the lower class' are the bench players of the Australian economy. So while the starters, (or the 'middle and upper classes') are fighting for more points, (cash) and more minutes, (ways to climb further up the economic ladder to earn even more cash), the bench players don't even get court time, because the starters are hogging the ball and there is no team work. The economy is no longer of championship calibre.

Voters know that Tony Abbott is the beacon of modern Australian ConservatismBy choosing to vote for Abbott and his government at the 2013 election, we as a nation have endorsed their attempt to pursue 'The Disease of More'. Because of this we are punishing the most vulnerable in society with our silence. Abbott can now cut essential programs and services with a clear conscience because we have chosen to let Abbott phase out the role players in our society.

Australia was once the 1969-1970 New York Knicks of economic performance and now the nation has become the 2005-2006 New York Knicks.

We only have ourselves to blame.


  1. Hey, so I really want to read your blog, but damn, I can not read blue links on a red background. Worst contrast combination ever. Fact. Please change to something like yellow so I can happily read what you write. Many thanks :)

  2. On my computer the links came up as Yellow, however I've changed the layout regardless, thanks for your feedback.