The cover story of the first issue of The Australian’s new coloured magazine was of five people who had made a million dollars in their twenties. These young people’s achievements were presented for us to admire and to envy. Nowhere in the interviews with them was it suggested that people might be motivated by different values from the ones that drive these lives.
The growing cultural legitimation of selfishness and greed poses problems for the left which has traditionally appealed to the values of justice and equality and argued for the need for cooperative solutions to social problems. This shift to a more individualist and materialist political culture, combined with changes in the international environment, has created new constraints for Labor governments. The Hawke government has responded to these constraints by breaking with many of the traditional Labor verities, in particular the commitment to increasing equality through government intervention. Instead, like their opponents, they are now committed to economic growth as the solution to the problems of inequality; it is only if the cake gets bigger that there will be more to go round, Treasurer Paul Keating tells us. They have also embraced many of the traditional Liberal arguments about the need to allow more play to market forces in achieving this growth.