Is the heart of conservatism based in libertarianism?

Tim-Andrews

Maybe conservatives and libertarians have more in common than first thought, writes Tim Andrews.

I have always balked at calling myself a libertarian. In Australia, I would eschew the title completely, generally calling myself a conservative, or, if pressed, a ‘classical liberal’. Here, where the political nomenclature is somewhat different, I describe myself a conservative libertarian, or libertarian conservative (as my mood may take me).

This might come as somewhat of a surprise to those of you who do not know me that well. After all, my political views are what would be considered fairly doctrinaire libertarian (albeit tempered somewhat by pragmatism). To those of you who know me a bit better, however, I am sure that this is not that much of a surprise, for the image of the stereotypical libertarian (irrespective of how far from reality this may be) seems to conjure up tattooed and overly-pierced radical quasi-anarchists toasting “f**k authority” and “smash the state”, or as persons wishing to overthrow the established social order with their own libertine utopia of sex, drugs, and rock & roll. Neither of these images suit me, to put it rather mildly.

Instead, my libertarianism is rooted in deep conservative principles, and a deep-seated belief that if social conservatism is to flourish and prosper, then it is only by libertarian means that this can be achieved. I take very much to heart the words of Ronald Reagan that I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism…The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is”, and indeed go even further in my belief that a return to a society based on socially conservative principles can only occur through what is now deemed libertarianism.

As such, it is not simply, as John Humphreys writes in Menzies House, a case of separating personal views, and political ones. Rather, it is because these views are so interconnected, that the only way I can envisage a true conservative society emerging is where we rid ourselves of government interference, and allow institutions of civil society to once again take the rightful place in shaping cultural mores.

For in every area where we have witnessed what social conservatives term moral degeneration, it can be directly attributed to the corrosive actions of the state. Whether it be the decline in marriage caused by the 1974 Marriage Act, a welfare system that rewards and indeed promotes single-parenting, or the government-run education system abolishing the stigma and shame immorality causes under the relativist banner of ‘everything goes’ and ‘accept everyone for who they are’ – all are results of government action.

Indeed, it is because I am both a libertarian and a conservative that nothing disturbs me more than how traditions that have stood for centuries are being dismantled. How codes of conduct that have stood the test for time are deemed illegal by the state. And how the enforcers of sound behaviour and a strong society in the past are piece-by-piece being dismantled by the state. 

Because I find that generally, if a tradition or institution has existed for a few thousand years, then it probably had a good reason behind it, and we should think twice before rushing to change. This is by no means to defend all practices simply because they are handed down from the past (slavery springs to mind). Rather, it is a recognition that we need to accept the fact that we do not know everything, and change ought be undertaken with temperance and restraint, and radical innovations treated with suspicion. As such, conservative libertarianism for me, is as much a mindset, as an ideology. It recognizes tradition, and defers to institutions of the past, whilst simultaneously recognising that these institutions stem from voluntary interaction, and not the state. Despite my disagreements with Prime Minister Howard on many policies (guns, middle class welfare etc), his success in ultimately ending the culture wars cannot be denied. Just look at early 90’s Australian television, and see the seeping cultural cringe that permeates, the black-armband view of history that engages in little more than destructive self-flagellation, seeking to destroy all that has gone before us, and replace it with little more than relativism and nihilism. Now, at least, this mindset is banished to the dustbin of history where it belongs, and we are beginning once again to embrace some of the lessons of the past.

For it was always the left that sought to ‘reshape’ man, and build him up in their own personal vision. The dreams of the high-modernists, as expressed in their greatest triumph, the attempt to create a communist Heaven on Earth, however can never be realised, for man can never be perfected; their unconstrained vision of humanity shattered upon the rocks of the Gulag archipelago.

But this left-wing viewpoint also fails to recognise the key aspect of society that conservatives and libertarian grasp intuitively: the power of invisible forces to shape our lives. Just think how many times a day we follow codes of conduct that spring not from the government, but from society. How to stand in an elevator, how to walk down the street. There are a myriad of social interactions that take place every instant that can never be governed by the state. A rules-based system of governance that attempts to micromanage our lives is invariable doomed to failure (just think of how a work-to-rule strike can paralyse a business)

The failure of many people who erroneously term themselves conservatives in current times, is that they see the problems that the state has wrecked, and then, curiously, seek to use the state to cure them, a sure-fire recipe for disaster. Such social authoritarianism (as distinct from conservatism), is a radical departure from traditional conservative thought, and, like an alcoholic seeking the hair of the dog as a cure for his symptoms, by emboldening the state, we simply fuel our further destruction.

In order for conservatism to truly triumph, we must avoid the easy road of legislating morality.  Rather, we must remove the government from the personal sphere, and return our attention to engaging with society. The churches must once again have the courage to lead, social groups must have the authority to guide, and we must return to a culture where societal shaming is a more powerful guide of behaviour, than the authority of the state. In doing so, we must never forget that the absence of government coercion will not lead to an absolutist freedom, but rather a freedom restrained by the forces of society.

It is only be gradually dismantling the Leviathan of government, and replacing it with tradition, and a truly functioning society, that we shall begin to reverse the unfortunate course of history.

And conservatives and libertarians both should be happy with that. 

Tim Andrews is an Editor of Menzies House.

What is “reform”?

John_humphreys Australia needs more liberal reform, argues John Humphreys.

Apparently, “reform” is a good thing. Commentators tell us that Australia went through some important economic reforms in the 1980s & 90s which helped Australia achieve stable and high economic growth. And sometimes we are told that we need another “round of reform”. The government insists that they want to give us more reform. And lots of lobby groups insist that they want to see a "third wave of reform".

So it looks like we all agree.

Not quite.

The problem is that the word "reform" is neither good nor bad, and really tells us nothing about a policy change. Just because Mugabe’s policies were called "land reform" that doesn’t make them good. What matters is the direction of the reform.

The successful reforms of the 80s & 90s were “liberal reforms” that improved market flexibility and reduced government distortions. Unfortunately, the main elements of those reforms (tariff cuts, privatisation, greater bank freedom, relaxed labour markets, inflation targeting, more foreign investment) have never been politically popular. Politicians don’t get elected if they say they will reduce bank regulations and allow more imports… but they know it needs to be done (or at least they did 20 years ago).

So the chatterati use a new word for this agenda — "reform" – which is meaningless and so it is harmless. And the good outcomes caused by “those-policies-that-dare-not-speak-their-names” are attributed to this magical and abstract word. The consequence is that punters are able to say something like

“oh, I support reform because it has worked so well… but I don’t want any of that nasty privatisation, labour market flexibility, reduced subsidies, or lower bank regulations.”

In other words, people don’t give credit to the policies that work, and instead they give credit to a generic buzz-word. That buzz-word can then be attached to any old government policy to make it look like it will produce a good outcome. Or better yet… saying the word “reform” can be used as a substitute for actually having a policy.

For example, the current government has said they want to pursue another round of reforms. This has included "biggest reform to business innovation in over a decade", which turns out to be changing the R&D tax deduction into an R&D tax credit. Wow. There is reform to improve productivity, which amounts to spend, spend, centralise & spend. They are keen for some health reform. Over two years later and still no details yet… just the word "reform". And their much-hyped education reform was basically just another bucket of money.

There has been precious little suggestion of any more of the "liberal reform" that actually produced the good outcomes that we seek… and indeed the Rudd government has wound back some of the labour market reforms, given mixed signals on foreign investment and loudly decried the evils of “neo-liberalism” (which presumably means "liberal reform").

Australia does need more liberal reform. Our tax and spending rates are too high, the federal government has centralised too much power, businesses are still over-regulated, we need competition for basic health services and universities, the labour market needs to be more flexible, there’s too much middle-class welfare, and barriers remain on foreign trade & investment.

Instead, we are being offered ever-bigger government and a buzz-word.

John Humphreys is an editor of Menzies House and the President of the Human Capital Project (a non-profit operating in Cambodia). His personal blog is at www.johnhumphreys.wordpress.com

Cross roads

Jess-Finlay To remain true to their core beliefs, Liberals should reserve their right to cross the floor, writes Jess Finlay.
 
With Malcolm Turnbull’s very public decision to vote in favour of the CPRS legislation there have been many comments at Menzies House about whether or not parliamentarians should have the right to cross the floor. I think enough has been written about Turnbull’s specific circumstances so back to fundamental principles – should MPs and Senators have the right to cross the floor at all? Well, it seems MH readers have a kaleidoscope of views so here’s my two cents worth…

For me this is one of the fundamental differences between the Liberal and Labor Party. Labor, the Party of compulsion, big government and interference in our lives versus the Party of freedom, small government and individual liberty and enterprise. A basic tenant of a Party which values amongst its core beliefs freedom of thought, speech and association, should be the right for parliamentarians elected for that Party to decide how to vote on each bill or motion before the parliament. After the issues are thrashed out in the party room and a consensus is reached currently any Liberal Member of Senator is given the choice to cross the floor. The final decision on how to vote is theirs and theirs alone. It is an important distinction between us and Labor where caucus decisions are binding and a pledge to toe the party line is required. In fact, the last two Labor MPs to cross the floor (Senator George Georges and Graeme Campbell MP) were both suspended from the party for their actions.
 
Having said all of this, I understand the role party discipline plays in politics. Disunity is death and the ability to unite a party is a great strength to any Leader. It inspires confidence and can lead to electoral success. However, the right to cross the floor and vote with your own conscience or for your constituents is a fundamental exercise of any Liberal’s free will. Compulsion is not the way to enhance our Party’s standing, strength or ability to lead and certainly doesn’t adhere to our core beliefs. Disunity might be death but compulsion is the dark road to narrow-mindedness, group-think and robotic hollowmen toeing the party line created by pollsters, factional heads and focus groups.
 
The decision to cross the floor is not one that should be taken lightly but to compel MPs and Senators to vote a certain way would seriously dilute the principles we stand for. Don’t get me wrong, Members and Senators should be held accountable for their voting record in the parliament and a decision to repeatedly cross the floor or cross the floor on basic principles (which some have argued Turnbull has done) should lead parliamentarians, their volunteers, supporters and pre-selectors to question whether they fit within the broad church at all and whether they are deserving of support. In my view the time for accountability to their electors is on polling day and to their Party at pre-selection.
 
Some might argue as it says in Team America that “freedom isn’t free” and parliament, corporations and community organisations impose limitations on members’ freedoms every day through their constitution, rules and regulations which compel certain standards of behaviour. Whilst this is certainly true, forcing Senators and Members to toe the party line in the Chamber takes this a step further from prescribing the rules governing involvement in the Party to prescribing how someone should think which is incongruous with our basic beliefs.
 
In reality, ‘crossers’ are rare (only 3% of divisions between 1950 and 2004) and seldom affect the final decision (only 12% of those divisions during the same period). The last decade has seen the practice of crossing the floor become even more exceptional, with the days of former Senators Reg Wright from Tasmania and Ian Wood from Queensland who both crossed the floor more than one hundred times in their careers, well and truly behind us. Despite this the principle remains, being true to our core beliefs necessitates the freedom for Members and Senators to decide how to vote in the Chamber.
 
Jess Finlay is an Editor of Menzies House.

Statistics taken from ‘Crossing the floor in the Federal Parliament 1950-August 2004’, Deirdre McKeown, Rob Lundie and Greg Baker (Research Note No 11 2005-2006)
 

Red Lessons For Junior

Ben-Peter-Terpstra

Ben-Peter Terpstra questions why schoolchildren are being taught that Stalinist communism wasn't all bad.

In Reds
Under The Bed: American Anti-Communism In The 1950s
, by Ross Smith
(History Teachers’ Association of Victoria), students are informed that (page 7):

The USSR, under its leader Stalin, began to set up ‘friendly’
or ‘puppet’ governments (depending on your point of view) throughout Eastern
Europe in Poland, East Germany…Some governments had popular support
(Yugoslavia) but others had very little. The Soviet armies, which had liberated
those countries from the Nazis, did not leave, but stayed to help establish Russian
political control of the country.

And this:

The Russians went on to create their own friendly state,
the German Democratic Republic (East Germany).

So first up comrades, some questions: What does “depending
on your point of view” mean, in light of the fact that communism killed
millions, according to primary sources? Given that Stalin signed a pact with
Hitler, did the “Soviet armies” simply liberate countries from the National
Socialists? And, if support for the USSR was so widespread in Yugoslavia, then
why did the state use the iron fist?

It is one thing to hold leftwing convictions. It is
unprofessional to make up facts.

My favourite line is the one about the supposed red
liberators helping “to establish control of the country.” This is just one
example of many Stalin-friendly narratives passing as history though. Why?
Because once you downplay communist atrocities you have a green light to sniff
at America’s so-called conservative paranoia. (See title.)

If you don’t understand why Ross Smith’s propaganda needs to
be offset, then read The
Black Book of Communism
, a French classic. Or try Koba the
Dread
by Martin Amis of England. The critically acclaimed Stasiland:
Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall
by Australia’s Anna Funder states too (p.57):

At the end, the Stasi had 97,000 employees – more than
enough to oversee a country of seventeen million people. But it also had over
173,000 informers among the population. In Hitler’s Third Reich it is estimated
that there was one Gestapo agent for every 2000 citizens, and in Stalin’s USSR
there was one KGB agent for every 5830 people. In the GDR, there was one Stasi
officer or informant for every sixty-three people. If part-time informers are
included, some estimates have the ratio as high as one informer for every 6.5
citizens.

“Liberated”? “Friendly”? No wonder the History Teachers’
Association of Victoria refuses to answer my questions, dear comrade.

Ben-Peter Terpstra is an Australian satirist and cartoon lover. His works are posted on numerous sites from American Thinker (California) to Quadrant Online (Sydney, Australia). You can find him at his blogs Pizza Trays and Beer Bottles and Quote Digger

What Australian women really want

The Australian feminist lobby speaks on behalf of very few Australian women, writes Nona Florat.

It is a matter for grave concern that politicians of an Emily's List mindset presume to speak for Australian women. As an Australian woman, I take strong exception. It was pointed out by Sen. George Brandis that the Deputy Prime Minister is not a parent. Neither am I. But I warmly congratulate Tony Abbott for having the courage to speak up for the dignity of the human person, and for family values that have been recognised throughout human history.

Sensational and hackneyed phraseology of so-called "angry Australian women", is typical of an aggressive minority, which is a remnant of the 1960s version of feminism. The agenda of such a group is out-of-touch with women of the 21st century.

Women are not a minority. We constitute half the population, and are capable of taking our rightful place in the public square, as well as in academic and professional life, without relying on patronising "spoon-feeding", such as affirmative action.

In the political sphere, a discerning voter does not cast his or her vote based on gender, ethnic background, religious affiliation, or other such characteristics of a candidate. The only authentic criteria are policy and competency. Membership of a party is taken into account, but the determining factor is appraisal of an individual politician as our representative.

Highly vocal militant lobbies do not speak for those groups whom they are supposed to represent. Radical feminists do not speak for women, aggressive homosexual activists do not speak for persons who experience same-sex attraction, and terrorists do not speak for the Muslim community. The list can go on. Recognition of the intrinsic dignity of every human person is the focus of civilised society. If that line is crossed, any faction forfeits its own dignity and credibility.

It is astounding that many seem unaware that an obsession with an imposed sexualisation of youth, and promotion of adolescent promiscuity, is responsible for the proliferation of teen pregnancy and STDs. That is far from being healthy or normal.

For instance there is a huge problem with teen pregnancy in Britain, among other countries. 
To combat this, taxpayers' money has been poured into "comprehensive" sex education. In spite of this, or rather because of this, the problem has been aggravated. That is no surprise to those who are guided by common sense, rather than by political correctness.

In discussion concerning a proposed Bill of "Rights", parental rights have been conspicuous by their absence. It is common knowledge that motherhood is an anathema to an aggressive feminist lobby, and fatherhood is even more disparaged.  This runs counter to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights

  • The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State. (Article 16,3)
  • Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection (Article 25,2)
  • Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children (Article 26,3)

Marriage is a public recognition of the responsibility of parents for the children whom their union brings into the world, and of concomitant parental rights.

Irresponsible promotion of "recreational sex", "recreational drugs", "recreational violence", "recreational smoking", or whatever, indisputably produces harm for society, and especially for victims who fall prey to such misleading messages. A suggested solution of "harm reduction", is, if possible, is even more deleterious. The only valid solution is to address the source of the problem. Imagine doctors daring to tell patients what to do with their bodies!

Imposition of beliefs on society, wrongly attributed to religious influence, can, in most cases, be easily traced to an agenda of militant lobbyists, who seem incapable of distinguishing between freedom and licence.

Tony Abbott was exercising a right to speak as a parent, and was not proposing legislation. It is not a role of government to legislate for moral principle, but it is a duty of government to protect parental rights.

Nona Florat is a retired academic librarian. Her website can be found at http://www.humanvaluesaust.iinet.net.au/ 

Misery Loves Company

Michael-Ronaldson Kevin Rudd can learn a lot from Barack Obama's experience, writes Senator the Hon Michael Ronaldson.

Battered by the ‘blizzard of the century’, beset by poor opinion poll results, plagued by a stalled legislative agenda and suffering a series of election defeats, it’s little wonder that Barack Obama needs a vacation. And what better place to recharge his political batteries than the land down under, where an ideological ally named Kevin Rudd can offer a supportive shoulder upon which the beleaguered American president can shed a proverbial tear or two.

Of course, this visit will be attended by all the usual presidential pomp-and-circumstance. Mr.Obama will fly in on Air Force One, he’ll ride around in one of the matching pair of black armoured limousines and he’ll be surrounded by a phalanx of Ray-Ban-wearing Secret Service agents talking into their shirt cuff microphones. But none of this should obscure the fact that Barack Obama is in dire political straits.

The election of Republican Senator Scott Brown in the rusted-on-Democrat state of Massachusetts was an obvious embarrassment to the President. Yet the consequences for Barack Obama of losing Teddy Kennedy’s former seat go far beyond mere political humiliation. Pundits also see the Brown victory as a portent of things to come at the mid-term elections in November, where polling shows least 4 additional Democrat Senate seats in jeopardy.

But the GOP’s Massachusetts win will have an immediate impact, as well. In the US Senate, all business is conducted by unanimous consent, meaning that each of the 100 Senators can gum up the legislative works simply by registering an objection to a bill.

Senators are very aware that any act of obstructionism on their part can be returned-in-kind by any one of their colleagues. This principle of mutual-assured-legislative-destruction ensures that most bills move smoothly through the process of committee hearings, debate and an ultimate floor vote.

Yet on issues of particular contention, a single Senator can negate this procedural consensus with a filibuster talk-fest that can only be overridden with a super-majority of 60 votes. And the extremely ambitious legislative agenda of the Obama administration is chock-a-block with controversy.

Thus the election of Scott Brown as the 41st Republican Senator signals the end to any Democrat hopes of a filibuster-proof super-majority. Conventional Washington wisdom holds that this puts a stake through the heart of Waxman-Markey, the emissions trading bill that is one of Barack Obama’s signature issues. 

So with Labor’s ETS headed for a certain second-round defeat in the Australian Senate, it would seem that Kevin Rudd and Barack Obama have much cause for mutual commiseration. Mr. ‘Kevin 07’ and Mr. ‘Change-We-Can-Believe-In’ 08 will also be able compare notes on their problems in matching pre-election rhetoric with post-election performance.

Kevin Rudd’s 2007 vow to “turn the boats back” has been rendered hollow by the wave of illegal immigration vessels that transformed Labor’s border protection policy into a laughingstock. And Mr. Rudd’s election promise for a federal takeover of our broken public hospitals by mid-2009 has similarly been shown to be so much empty rhetoric.

But Barack Obama can relate. After all, he too abandoned many a campaign pledge, including the doubling of funds for after-school programs, and the cancellation of income taxes for senior citizens earning less than $50,000.

Barack Obama is a gifted public speaker whose words are far more compelling than the plodding, stilted ‘programmatic specificities’ of Kevin Rudd. But the current tribulations of the American president demonstrate the limits of political rhetoric. Even the most sublime oratory will ultimately ring flat if the speechmaker fails to deliver policies that better the lives of the average voter.

Kevin Rudd would be wise to see Barack Obama’s political predicament as a cautionary tale of the dangers that arise from much talk and little action. But looking for wisdom in places where, at this stage it appears there is none to be found, is an exercise in futility.

Senator the Hon Michael Ronaldson is the Shadow Special Minister of State and a Liberal Senator for Victoria.

Terry Sweetman – Reporter – wants to live in a Republic?

James-DarbyJames Darby doesn't want to live in a republic, here's why.

"Just which national endeavour would need to be shunted to a siding while we asked ourselves a simple question of whether we want a republic and, therefore, an Australian head of state? It's a plain question of national will, the one that was promised, but never asked, during John Howard's dodgy referendum back in 1999."

The above is not my statement. Terry Sweetman, a reporter, who I classify as a socialist with a dodgy agenda and a desire for Australia to become like Haiti – a Republic, claims he wrote it.

When Bernard Shaw, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Annie Besant, Edward Pease  H.G. Wells and Graham Wallas with eight others set out in 1883  to "reconstruct society" by the cultivated use and application of the Roman General Fabius Cunctator's "elusive tactics in avoiding pitched battles" in order to gain victory over stronger foes, the sweet-sounding aim of "in accordance with the highest moral possibilities" was from inception evenly punctured with the unpalatable methods of Fabius himself, whose name was used by the new Socialist Movement called the Fabian Society …Literature, Entertainment and the Journalistic trade, soon swooned to its overtures… Protraction and evasion; of reaching the intended end by protracted, Machiavellian, lateral means; an end that would straddle the support of both left overtly and right covertly in politics through the might of the PEN.

A supposedly literate journalist like Terry Sweetman should be aware that the Governor General performs all the functions expected of a Head of State, including being nominal commander of the Armed Forces. Her Majesty's only constitutional function is to appoint the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister. The Australian colonies enjoyed sovereignty even before Federation. The Crown is the last line of defence for Australians against the abuse of governmental power. So I am free to question; why would Terry Sweetman wish to attempt to pass as credible the words of Turnbull?

The  people who are bleating falsely that Australia is somehow controlled by Britain because of constitutional monarchy are rushing to hand over Australia's sovereignty to the United Nations or any Climate Change Don Quixote.

Terry Sweetman takes the time to remind Australians "Malcolm Turnbull famously said Howard broke Australia's heart in 1999, so why can't we mend it? It seems fair to ask: If not now, just when would be a good time to pop the question?".

Australians may thank Kerry Jones for conducting the Campaign that stopped Turnbull turning this Country into a Republic. Malcolm Turnbull, a Republican and a OWG Climate Policeman offering a view in 1999 about John Howard is a poor reflection on Australians. The heart of Australia was saved then by the Australian people who did not want a Republic voting in a majority to maintain our Constitution and our Parliamentary accountability. Australia's heart again is being threatened with the current Prime Minister supported by Malcolm Turnbull endeavouring to hand Australian sovereignty to the United Nations so we can be taxed from abroad so our money can be given away abroad.

A reason that Socialists welcome refugees is they will vote for a Republic. A Chairman, a Speaker, in the Senate a President can never be satisfactorily be chosen (elected) except by their peers. Unless the Chair has the confidence of his committee there can be no confidence.

A Mayor who is elected by the ratepayers instead of by the other Councillors must always be a disaster. The people have elected The Mayor and are stuck with the Mayor.

The US System of having a Non-Replaceable President is a sham as was shown by Clinton with his Monica Affair. 

The Fabian pen which is mightier than any modern sword will continue to tattoo its vile and evil ink into the "soft brains" of our youth unless we scratch back an answer.

James Darby is a former farmer, sales trainer and PR Consultant. He is currently a mortgage locator based in NSW.

Conservatives, moderates, libertarians & populists

John Humphreys looks at the different groups that make up the Liberal Party.

John_humphreys John Humphreys looks at the different groups that make up the Liberal Party.

While the Liberal Party doesn’t have formal factions, that doesn’t mean that everybody in the party thinks the same. Indeed, internal philosophical debates are a big part of party politics, providing some of the colour and excitement of democracy.

For the casual observer, the most obvious two groups are the “conservatives” and the “moderates”. However, I would suggest that a more complete taxonomy of Liberal Party philosophy included four groups. Of course, any taxonomy of views is going to be imperfect due to some degree of over-simplification, but I think the four philosophies outlined below give a fair overview of the competing views of Party members and supporters.

Conservative

The Liberals are often described as a “conservative” party and there is no shortage of leftist commentators out there who will lament the strength of the “right-wing” elements inside the party. But the word “conservative” can mean different things. In metaphysics, “conservative” means simply to not like change. (This is what Hayek meant when he wrote “why I’m not a conservative”.) In moral philosophy “conservative” means to be relatively risk averse and follow traditional moral teachings.

But in politics I think the word is more often used to describe somebody who is an economic liberal and a social interventionist. On the economic front they would support free-market capitalism, meaning tax cuts, free trade, competition & choice, flexible labour markets, non-Keynesian macro-economics, and want to shrink the welfare state. On social issues they want the government to intervene to ensure a safe, stable and “proper” social order — perhaps including laws regarding drugs, alcohol, gambling, smoking, IVF, gay marriage & adoption, women in the military, voluntary euthanasia, abortion, R and X-rated material, personal risk-taking, internet censorship, marriage & children, religion, immigration, and multiculturalism.

Of course, most people will have one or two exceptions… but I think the above overview provides a broad overview of the standard “right wing” position. Popular names that come to mind are Reagan, Thatcher and perhaps John Howard (though his economic record was mixed).

Moderate

Within the Liberals, the opposite of the conservatives has traditionally been the “moderates” who are more economically interventionist and socially liberal. On economic issues they would be less convinced about the virtues of tax cuts, free trade and labour market flexibility. They would have some sympathy with Keynesian policies (like the stimulus package) and maintaining a strong welfare state, including government supply of health and education.

On social issues the moderates would tend to take a less interventionist approach to the above-mentioned issues, perhaps supporting marijuana decriminalisation, legalisation of R-rated computer games, legalisation of voluntary euthanasia, immigration and multiculturalism, separation of church and state, and opposition to internet censorship. For some reason, the social liberalism of moderates doesn’t always extend to smoking and private risk-taking.

Internal battles in the Liberal party are often seen as a conflict between the “conservatives” and the “moderates”, but I think that dichotomy misses two other important groups that exist in the party.

Libertarian

The libertarian (or classical liberal) position is effectively a cross between the conservatives and the moderates. The libertarians agree with the economic liberalism of the conservatives and agree with the social liberalism of the moderates.

The more radical libertarians would go further than the conservatives on economic issues (eg the privatisation of universities and hospitals, abolishing the minimum wage) and go further than the moderates on social issues (eg the legalisation of drugs, defending smokers & risk-takers). However, even the radical libertarians tend to argue for moderate libertarian positions due to political pragmatism.

Populist

I apologise for the seemingly pejorative name, but I couldn’t think of what else to call this position. Like the libertarians, the populists are effectively a cross between the conservatives and the moderates — but in the other direction. A populist would agree with the economic interventionism of the moderates and with the social interventionism of the conservatives. This puts them at the opposite end to the libertarians in most debates.

Populists aren’t always interested in the details of the philosophical debates and see themselves as more “practical” people, opposing ideology and using “common sense”. While they will often agree with the libertarians, conservatives and moderates about failures of the government, their instinctive solution is generally more government intervention.

The broad church

The Liberal Party has always been a broad church, including a range of diverse opinions. The broadness of the church does not extend to communism, socialism or fascism… but it is big enough to cover moderates, populists, conservatives and libertarians. These groups don’t always sit comfortably together and the consequent compromises are unlikely to please anybody 100%… but that is the nature of politics.

If you want to look at where you are placed on some political quizes, you can try the World’s Smallest Political Quiz, the Australian Political Quiz or the Political Compass (which I personally think is flawed and clearly written by somebody who doesn’t understand liberalism). Feel free to post your results in the comments below.

A very cruddy fable – Vale, Budgie! (part 3)

David-Russell

David Russell's third installment of A very cruddy fable.

The Monsignor got his knickers in a twist this week when he failed to recognise that he was not a breast man and suggested, inadvertently of course, that only sheilas really know how to get the creases right while ironing. Having burned his thumb on the hot iron of gender balance, the Monsignor executed a strategic withdrawal back to the safety of the benches in the Steel Cage allocated to Her Majesty’s Loyal Curmudgeons. From there, his close-quarters knife and nunchakus assaults on Our Kevvie appeared, finally, to get up the Great Leader’s ribs. In reply and opting for attack as the best form of attention-diversion, Our Kevvie made it clear he would no longer play to The Monsignor’s strengths and budgie smugglers will forthwith no longer be mentioned across the Despatch Boxes. A minute’s silence was upheld to commemorate a fading vision of Australian manhood. Vale, budgie!

Playing to his strengths (yeah, right) Our Kevvie launched into the heartland of his policy platform. “I welcome the start of the health and hospitals’ debate”, he harrumphed. Suddenly all the Curmudgeons could hear mental replays of ‘Let’s do the time warp again’. Just a shame really that he was supposed to have resolved that issue last year. And to think a Grand Coalition of Labor state administrations and a resurgent federal government was supposed to presage the solving of every problem known to Australiankind. Talk about talking about talking about talking about! Hop to it, Mr Ditherer. We’re all waiting, mate.

Meantime, Robin Hood (the post-socialist wealth redistributionist) touched our lives with a Grand Gesture this week. He stopped subsidising the banks! Now, you might wonder why a post-socialist is looking after the biggest end of town instead of consigning them to the everlasting fires of hell to repent at leisure on their sins? Just a Faustian pact to enable post-socialists to steal power in a capitalist system. Go figure! Be that as it may, Robin told those dirty, filthy banks he was no longer going to subsidise their borrowings. ‘Toughen up and compete on global markets on your own’, he shouted at them from the safety and comparative isolation of his Steel Cage office. Having admitted he had called upon the Council of Financial Regulators (known to the gremlins of Canberra as the faceless bastards you can call upon when needing to make apparently tough decisions to look good), he then thundered: ‘Don’t you bastards dare raise your interest rates inappropriately when that Motherdollar Bank next does its thing. You’ve sucked on the teat of our generosity way long enough and we are starting to feel a little uncomfortable in the arrangement’ (there was more – a lot more – in this vein but it is inappropriate in a family-oriented blog to go further down that path. Suffice to say that suckling and teating and legitimacy and who’s up who and who’s paying the rent and lots of associated issues were all too incestuous to reprint here). But just as Robin felt the first stirrings of his manhood as he stood tall against the monopolistic capitalist bastards that are the banks, he shuddered as Queensland’s enfant terrible – Treasurer Andrew Fraser – argued that this relaxation of boundless generosity would force the Shady State to sell-off more public assets. Robin Hood was last seen in the Steel Cage garden banging his head against the flagstones in front of where the Great Leader talks to the assembled media hacks. Startled onlookers could have sworn he was saying: ‘I’ll kill the little bastard’ but the reports were unconfirmed.

This was also the week in which those ‘privileged’ enough to have time to watch vacuous television shows could have stumbled across one of the more disturbing sights since Hieronymus Bosch had some bad dreams. It was none other than – and the name appears likely to stick! – Tinkerbell. Having appeared to have misplaced his copy of the last Budget Estimates, Tinkerbell flaunted his all on national television. Well, his all was covered by trousers and a tutu but you have to agree that raises more questions than it answers. The wand and the crown were simpatico accessories but still one feels queasy about what it might all have meant. Whether Tinkerbell was contemplating life after the Steel Cage, a disastrous and failed recovery from one helluva night before, or a complete mental breakdown that made Gordon Grech look cool, calm and collected, is not known. Perhaps the best that could be said for the performance was that it no doubt continues to create miraculous mirth across all factions of the Australian Loyalists’ Party. To have achieved such unity is a rare thing but one wonders whether Tinkerbell actually deserves praise for it.

Perhaps demonstrating that the neo-Libs and naughty Nats weren’t just a one-trick sideshow the Curmudgeons’ other star trouper, Barndoor Joke, gave a tour de force, too. Whisking the wheat stalk from his teeth for the day, Barndoor set off for the National Press Club dressed so smartly that he looked for all the world as though he had as much money as Patrician the Turncoat. Not bad for a rural accountant. And not bad for the stylists who clearly don’t think a bunch of rabble-rousing hicks can’t be made to look a million dollars with the right make-over. But there had to be disappointment. Why? Because you can’t address the Press Club without opening your mouth. And when Barndoor did that he reinforced every nervous curmudgeon who ever fretted about fiscal policy. There are those who think the Monsignor made a ghastly mistake in trusting Barndoor with such a challenging portfolio. A few secretive members of the Machiavelli Society, though, reckon the Mons set Barndoor up to fail. Which seems even at this early stage to have an air of inevitability about it, you have to confess. That is, lest Hand Me The Spanner keeps kicking own goals by indulging in nastiness such as labelling Barndoor a Freak Show. He should remember that the Mums and Dads don’t mind smart-arses getting their comeuppance and it’s a national characteristic to give a sucker an even break (just ask Pauline Pantsdown). Beware Mr Spanner. Cold showers are such a valuable commodity, even in the hot-house that is Canberra.

Highlight of the week: watching Death’s Head wrap his skull in aluminium foil and plug it into an electric socket to demonstrate how safe his home insulation scheme really is.  The startled gasps of media hacks as they watched blue sparks erupt from Death’s Head’s head signified something was dreadfully awry. But Death said he had lost only four brain cells so, clearly, everything was just fine.  His repeated mutterings of ‘Only four, just fine’ continuously as he re-entered the Steel Cage for Prod and Poke Time made others wonder, but not our mate. Spare a thought for the poor four.

David M. Russell is a professional communicator with a passion for good governance. His personal blog can be found at davidmrussell.wordpress.com.

Is the Nanny Nation killing our kids?

Peter Whelan Peter Whelan argues that by over-protecting our kids, we may in fact be harming them.

The headlines in the paper were of a teenager on “P” plates who killed himself and some of his mates when “the car in which they were travelling went out of control and hit a tree”.

So I contemplated the circumstances of how a car could be “out of control”. Isn’t the driver supposed to be “in control”?

How can an inanimate object take over and run into a tree?

Many times I have heard of young people on “P” plates being killed and the descriptions contained such explanations as “car veered onto the wrong side of the road”, or “the high-powered car slid out of control on the wet road”.

Such descriptions led me to consider various events over the past 10 or 15 years, where people are conditioned to be no longer responsible for their own actions; they (and a willing media) are all too quick to blame others or the unpredictability of inanimate objects, for their problems.

I cast my mind back to the time when my Son and his mates were banned from playing marbles in the school-ground, “because marbles caused arguments and fights”! At the time I brushed it off, as I encouraged my Son and his mates to compete in marbles comps in their back yards. Those same mates also enjoyed setting up fireworks displays, even though the powers that be had banned them.  But then we had to wear bicycle helmets when riding on the specially constructed local bike path! After some research I found that only a couple of countries have made such helmets compulsory. Those countries where cycling is very popular, such as Holland, China and Denmark have not made the wearing of helmets compulsory. Wearing a helmet restricts the riders peripheral awareness, affects their balance and may lead to a false sense of security.  

Children are protected from their early years by being deodorised, pasteurised, sterilised and kept safely out of harm’s way. Kids no longer get to play in the dirt, or eat whatever rouses their curiosity, so the rate of asthma in Australia is way above that of other Countries. Some young children have died after suffering anaphylactic shock from eating food with traces of peanut, when peanut allergy is unknown in most other countries.

In general, young people are too sheltered from the realities of life.

They don’t learn that if you fall you may hurt yourself, or if you make a mistake there is nobody to blame but yourself.

But it gets worse!

When a firearm was used to commit mass murder the Prime Minister of this Nanny Nation, John Howard, chose to blame the object, so introduced “tough gun laws”.  

When criminals don’t have a gun, they murder with a knife, so next we saw the government introduce “tough knife laws”, and the sad story continues.

Our kids aren’t allowed to have firecrackers; councils have closed the “dangerous” swings and monkey bars; kids can’t have their pocket knives at school and they aren’t even allowed to have  BB guns to get rid of Indian myna birds in the local parks.

But, I thought back over the past 10 or 15 years and about my Son and his mates. I taught them to safely use rifles and shotguns. I took them bush to hunt pigs, goats, rabbits and foxes. They learnt that carrying a knife was important and that they had to be responsible for their own actions. It was survival and one couldn’t get away with blaming someone else or an inanimate object, if things went wrong.

However, many children don’t get the opportunity to learn how to use a rifle or knife at an early age and that they might hurt themselves, or others, if they act irresponsibly. They don’t learn to be responsible for their own actions, because they have been conditioned by the “nanny nation” to blame something else if there is a problem.

Is it any wonder that when a teenager gets behind the wheel of a high-powered motorcar it is just too easy, when a tragedy occurs to claim”the car went out of control”.

Apparently it is far better to blame inanimate objects than to force young people to accept responsibility for their actions.Could it be that the Nanny Nation is actually killing our kids?

Peter has been the National President of the Liberal Democratic Party since 2008. He also the President of the Coalition of Law Abiding Sporting Shooters Inc (CLASS Action) and author of the publication Gun Prohibition in Australia: an expensive mistake.