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Wednesday / May 22.
HomemitwocentsAre We Living in a False Economy?

Are We Living in a False Economy?

Putting off today what you can get done tomorrow may seem to create savings in time and money. Yet more often than not, those savings can prove to be a false economy, writes Geoff Lawson.

What is a falseeconomy? Is it when you save AUD$300 when the car is due for a service and then seize the engine up when driving away on holidays, costing a new motor, lost accommodation, the family’s angst and a few thousand bucks?

Is it when you save on toothpaste for several years and then have to buy the full set of dentures or when you get the smallest dog at the pet shop and it chews up all the expensive shoes? Is it Greece?

The other day a family member remarked that she couldn’t quite read the instructions on the package she bought at the pharmacy. That was probably OK she said, because she’d just take the same dose as last time… She was wearing a pair of specs at the time so I wasn’t really expecting that response; though I guess holding the package at arms-length under a spotlight should have been a giveaway.

Putting off today what you can get done tomorrow may seem to create savings in time and money.

“Why can’t you read it?” I inquired in my best clinical tone.

“Writing is too small, in poor light,” she replied. (Any closer to the light source and third degree burns were possible).

“When was the last time you had an examination?”

“Oh a few years ago but I couldn’t afford new glasses anyway.”

I’m sure many practitioners have heard similar murmurings in this uncertain economic time but I couldn’t help thinking what the real or eventual cost would be for any person, let alone a relative who I could consult, were to take the wrong medicine, buy the wrong product off the supermarket shelf, or drive their vehicles without adequate vision, and the major if not only cause was the perceived cost of the correction.

A classic case of false economy I almost said then thought better of it. (Instead I saved the advice for my kin who is known for saving coat hangers, paper clips and recycling staples just in case of a global shortage.)

On deeper examination, I discovered money was not the only issue. My relative didn’t want to take the trouble to go and have an examination just to get a stronger lens in case the need appeared to be trivial. I advised to make an immediate appointment before there were serious repercussions from the false saving and assured that the optometrist would be very helpful with any ‘trivial’ issues presented.

“Why don’t you get a glaucoma test while you’re there… fundus photo… get the whole lot done… thinking laterally… it might save you a lot of money in the future!”

It’s Not Just in Optics

Current economic data in Australia suggests a new conservatism in consumer spending, higher savingslevels and a definite retail drought. While the vision/optical industry is not immune to consumers stickingtheir hard earned under the mattress, what are our glorious leaders doing about the important issues?

Australian politicians keep telling us how well managed the country is and how financially fortunate we are in comparison with the rest of the nations. We even have the man voted as the ‘best treasurer in the world’. Quite a title to gain: a significantly tougher task to maintain.

We live in a nation blessed by freedom, space, tolerance, an all year outdoor climate and a representative democracy. Nice things to have but all too often taken for granted in the great south-land.

The other night I was watching a re-run of Stephen Fry’s show, where he drives across America in a London cab, and the thought of living in Minnesota with frozen waterways, icy snow bound streets and indoor living three months a year, looked terrifying. There was no-one on the streets of downtown Minneapoplis-St Paul at midday. The joint looked like a ghost town. Imagine being locked indoors for fear of frost bite and hypothermia if you wander down to the corner shop for a loaf of bread!! Give me Lahore or Dhaka any day on that score.

Like reef location maps on Mediterranean cruise liners, the ease of living in warm climates should not be underestimated.

The climate provides us with physical freedom and choice, which can reflect strongly on our ability to think and move.

Australia’s bigger cities are not crowded by world standards; suburban claustrophobia is minimal on the notional quarter acre block. Even in the centre of the cities, where apartment style living is growing; there is space around to breathe. The country, the bush or the outback are an hour or so away from any city centre, you can get away from the race with modest effort and cost. And there is a lot of it to get away to.

We Get What We Deserve

The politicians we elect with our freedom and all their uncluttered thoughts results in ‘representative’ parliament. We get who we deserve, as the only coercions are advertising space and self-interest. A quick scan of the globe at the moment indicates that many people are not represented with such fairness. Coercion is often forceful and violent. The so-called “Arab Spring” has been carried, by many degrees of protest, from sit-ins to full-scale civil war. Violence is the riposte of ruling juntas and the victims are not discriminated against. Women and children in the firing line have not been spared for the self-interest of the ruling elites. The protests have been borne of the same representation that we enjoy, that we see as our birthright, our national right, and our human right. The political machinations of our parties and their people are boring by world benchmarks. About the worst conflict we see is the primary school taunting across the floor of the house. There is occasionally a raised voice and a few sin-binnings for rudeness. They argue about national broad bands and where to put refugees, which is a good thing because that indicates that they aren’t discussing power shortages or poor water quality or basic food supply, which many Asian and African states would be.

Of course our system allows for independents to be cast into power. In the days of Don Chipp and the Democatic Labor Party (DLP), the tenet was “keeping the bastards honest”. The greens and the coined Independents (capital ‘I’ when they refer to themselves) have strayed away from this to become truly one-issue parties (in the Greens Case) and individuals. They commandeer a system that begs them to keep a weather eye on the big boys and hold the sword of Damocles over both major parties.

In my electorate at the moment the sitting member has been distributing newsletters condemning poker machine use. The problem is that his successful election campaigns have been funded and supported by the clubs that contain these machines, and will affect how the clubs then fund local community activities – activities that would otherwise have to be funded by the three levels of government and thus become a further burden on the public purse.

Make no mistake, problem gambling is just that and those suffering need care and consideration. But here we have a politician, elected to represent his few hundred thousand people on a track record and pocketful of promises (such as ‘no carbon tax’ among others). And, for the expediency of politics and his party remaining as the high authority, he’s happy to denigrate his own community and those who have ensured his election.

His act is probably just another false economy – and just like my relative with her eye tests, he’s likely to come unstuck at some point in the future.

Geoff Lawson OAM is a qualified optometrist and an ambassador for Optometry Giving Sight. He is a former Australian cricketer and the former coach of the Pakistan cricket team. In 1990 he received an OAM for services to cricket and in 2002 was given the Australian Sports Medal.