The Culture of Contentment: The Australian Economy 2016-2019

Mark EVANS, Jinjing LI

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookChapterpeer-review


Australia’s ability to evade the worst excesses of the global financial crisis (GFC) continues to stifle innovation in economic policymaking. The absence of a burning platform for change has given rise to what renowned American economist John Kenneth Galbraith termed a ‘culture of contentment’ (Galbraith 2017). Galbraith shows how a contented class – not the privileged few but the socially and economically advantaged majority – defend their comfortable status at all costs. Middle-class voting against regulation and increased taxation that would remedy pressing social and environmental problems has created a culture of immediate gratification, leading to complacency and hindering long-term progress. For Galbraith, only economic or military disaster, or the eruption of an angry underclass who have been left behind by globalization, seem capable of changing the status quo.

The purpose of this chapter is to evaluate Australia’s culture of contentment, its economic underpinnings, and the longer-term implications for the health economy. The chapter is organised into five sections. The first presents an overview of the key features of the Australian economy and examines the challenges that have shaped economic thinking over the past three years. The second sections reviews and assess the success of the government’s fiscal strategy and provides an analysis of government expenditure over the past three budgets, contextualising public expenditure in historical perspective. In the third section, we explore the narratives underpinning the 2017, 2018 and 2019 budgets and the rhetoric-reality gap therein. The next section assess emerging economic challenges. The concluding section provides an assessment of the government’s performance and examines how the Australian budget can be used to strengthen trust between government and citizen.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFrom Turnbull to Morrison: The Trust Divide
EditorsMark Evans, Michelle Grattan, Brendan McCaffrie
Place of PublicationMelbourne
PublisherMelbourne University Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9780522876130
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2019


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