Libertarian and Conservative Controversies: Revisiting the Traditionalist v Individualist Debates

Will-Church

Conservatives and libertarians can learn from revisiting past debates, writes Will Church.

Much can be learned from revisiting past debates. This being most pertinent when parallels can be drawn with current debate. In my time as a member of the youth wing of the Australian Liberal Party I’ve been both spectator and participant in many debates taking place at the fault line of the party’s conservative/classical-liberal divide.

I approached the editors with my intention to cover the debates from the Post World-War II American intellectual right for three reasons. Firstly, I believe it’s demonstrative of how conservatism is in a constant state of internal debate. These debates should be expected because conservatives are thinkers by nature, and these debates revolve around the nature of conservatism and its philosophical coherence. Secondly, it was largely from the debate between the individualists and traditionalists that modern American conservatism took its form. A fact that tends to inspire confidence that conflict can yield intellectual synthesis – though perhaps not along the lines of Hegelian dialectics for that implies a “progression.” Thirdly, I believe there are obvious parallels with ongoing debates within our party – particularly within its youth wings.

The dispute between traditionalists and individualists may not have happened were it not for the liberal humanist hegemony of the 30s. In the words of the great historian of conservatism George H. Nash:

“The intellectual roots of anti-conservatism, like so much else in the intellectual traditions of the American Right since 1945, lie in responses to the 1930s. To the classical liberal wing of this heterogeneous movement, the 1930s were a time of collectivism and Big Government. To traditionalists the era was one of philosophical nihilism, totalitarianism, and the disturbing emergence of mass culture.”[i]

In terms of a modern parallel the individualists were closest to what are now called “libertarians.” Before philosophers such as Robert Nozick[ii] and John Hospers enunciated a lucid and compelling libertarian philosophy there was the individualists – some of whom preferred to be called “classical-liberal.” Their idols were the Austrian economists F.A. Hayek and Ludwig Von Mises and the polemicist and author Albert Jay Nock. They opposed the New Deal, Keynesianism and government interference in both personal and economic spheres of human affairs. They tended to rail against foreign entanglement and US military involvement abroad, on this point they continued the isolationist legacy of the “Old Right.” Their ideological mercenaries were an eclectic bunch who tended to be journalists rather than academics but were often émigrés and ex-radicals. Their anti-statism and extreme individualism often bordered on anarchism. Prominent figures within the individualist camp were Frank Chodorov, Henry Hazlitt and Frank Meyer. Meyer was an ex-communist radical turned Libertarian; he had an association with William F. Buckley Jnr with whom he co-founded the National Review. Meyer was somewhat more moderate than his fellow-travellers, and was to be the creator of “fusionism.” “Fusionism” was the philosophy that sought to unify the individualist and traditionalist philosophies, laying down the principles now broadly accepted as those principles embodying American conservatism.

The traditionalists were united in their conviction that American society was facing a moral and intellectual abyss, though they often differed as to the culprit. Professor of English literature and avowed Southern-Agrarian Richard M. Weaver traced the decline of modern civilization to medieval Europe and the philosophy of William of Ockham.[iii] Weaver blamed nominalism for the gradual decline of civilization manifested by a denial of transcendental universal values for relativism and materialism.[iv] For Leo Strauss the wreckers of civilization were to be found in the 16th and 17th centuries. His genealogical account started with Machiavelli reaching a critical point with Thomas Hobbes’s The Leviathan.[v] The Moderns from Hobbes through to Locke through to Rousseau and Burke had abandoned reason – the source of contemporary nihilism and relativism. (Strauss was to be a key influence on predominantly Jewish thinkers like Irving Kristol who later became the intellectual architects of the so-called “neo-conservative” movement.) The Germanic émigrés Erik Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn and Peter Viereck blamed moral decadence on the rise of democracy, egalitarianism and the triumph of humanism at the expense of Christianity. Despite their apparent intellectual diversity the traditionalist right were all in concordance that modern society had revolted against its cultural heritage. Their intellectual leader was without doubt Russell Kirk. Kirk’s conservatism was the prudential politics of Edmund Burke and the realisation of “Jeffersonian principles.” In 1953 he published his cri de Coeur for a “new conservatism” The Conservative Mind..”[vi]

Meyer took issue with Kirk's The Conservative Mind. The debate that ensued was perhaps the most important debate in the intellectual development of Post World-War II American Right. Meyer argued that traditionalism lacked any clear or distinct principles and carried with it, “no built in defence against the acceptance, grudging though it may be, of institutions which reason and prudence would otherwise reject, if only those institutions are sufficiently and firmly established.”[vii] In other words traditionalism stands to protect institutions and customs merely because they are established, thus it fails to be a real antidote to the liberal collectivist hegemony.

Kirk responded by dismissing the “social atomism” of "individualism." For Kirk conservatism was not an “ideology” with principles that could be expounded in the abstract. Instead it is tried and tested institutions, prescription and established custom that provide the pillars of a successful society. Furthermore, freedom cannot exist outside an ordered society where human conduct is governed by authority and respected prescription; “without just authority and respected prescription, the pillars of any tolerable civil order, true freedom is not possible.”[viii] Kirk’s writings are very reminiscent of Burke. He revered Edmund Burke and sought to claim the statesman for conservatism. Kirk attacked the idea that by rejecting political theories based on “abstractions” Burke had rejected theorizing – thereby rendering Burke of little relevance to those interested in crystallizing a conservative theoretical framework.  Burke rejected “‘bad theory’ – that is doctrinaire, speculative, abstract, and without adequate reference and relevance to political practice.”[ix]

Meyer was predictably less than complimentary about Kirk’s revival of Burke. He excoriated Kirk’s tendency to treat Burke’s suspicion of rationality as if it were an essential ingredient of conservative philosophy:

It is absurd, therefore, because one conservative voice in one period showed an underlying hostility to reason, to maintain, as is today so often done, that Edmund Burke’s attitude to reason is an essential element of any definition of conservatism. True no conservatism can accept utopian reliance upon the limited reason of one generation (or one school of thought within that generation), which ignores the tradition and builds upon arrogant confidence in its own experience ratiocination. But conservatism is not antirational. It demands only that reason operate upon the foundation of the tradition of civilization, that is, upon the basis of accumulated reason, experience and wisdom of past generations.[x]

F. A. Hayek entered the debate with his essay “Why I am Not a Conservative” which was published in his summa The Constitution of Liberty and in an anthology of essays edited by Meyer What is Conservatism. Hayek agreed with Meyer and the individualists that conservatism lacks principles and fails to inspire confidence as a bulwark against the rising collectivist tide. Hayek held that conservatism fears or at least distrusts change given its “fondness of authority and its lack of understanding of economic forces.”[xi] Connected to this fondness of established authority is the sentiment that arbitrary power is tolerable so long as it is for those ends or purposes the conservative approves of.[xii] Flowing from this he adds that conservatives tend to: (i) defend privilege and hierarchy without reason; (ii) blame democracy for the ills of society; and (iii) exhibit hostility towards new ideas. Of the latter Hayek finds that conservatism is anti-intellectual because it rejects, “well-substantiated new knowledge because of some of the consequences which seem to follow.”[xiii] This he believed is part of the reason for the tendency of conservatism to embrace nationalism; “strident nationalism” provides the bridge from conservatism to collectivism.[xiv] Readers of Hayek’s numerous works might find his rejection of conservatism difficult to reconcile with the obvious parallels between his theory of “spontaneous order” and his rejection of rational design and the political writings of Burke. (Not to mention the critique of rationalism offered by conservatives like Michael Oakeshott.[xv]) Whilst Hayek’s protestations against conservatism were strong we do well to note in that same essay his reservations and criticisms regarding ‘liberalism” and even its applicability to his own (Old Whig) philosophical creed, “however reactionary in politics such figures as Coleridge, Bonald, De Maistre, Justus Moser, or Donso Cortes may have been, they did show an understanding of the meaning of spontaneously grown institutions such as language, laws, morals and conventions.”[xvi]

Naturally, not everyone agreed with Hayek’s analysis. However, there was a strong sentiment from many in the Right that conservatism was lacking at a theoretical level. Meyer shared this sentiment but increasingly started to distance himself from a doctrinaire individualist position. In What is Conservatism Meyer compiled an anthology of essays from various antagonists across the individualist/traditionalist spectrum in which he made his case for a fusionist philosophy.  He felt that the clash between the two comes from a failure to delineate between the moral and political realm. The individualist penchant for libertinism and the traditionalist preference for legislating morality both stem from forgetting that, “in the moral realm freedom is only a means whereby men can pursue their proper end, which is virtue…in the political realm freedom is the primary end.”[xvii] Flowing from this failure to dichotomise the individualist falls into the trap of libertinism and denies the inherited moral capital of Christendom.[xviii] Whereas, the traditionalist deprives himself of the classical-liberals empirically grounded economic theories, “in his reaction against its unsound metaphysics.”[xix] He also tends to conflate a respect for tradition with a mindless and arid repetition of what others have done before him. Having distilled the errors of each Meyer called for a dialectical synthesis to bring into fruition a reconstructed conservatism. His vision was somewhat realized in the political doctrines of politicians like Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. It’s fair to say that modern conservatism has taken a course of fused liberal and conservative principles; however, a blue print for a new philosophy along the lines Meyer describes has yet to emerge. The ingenuity and creativity of Meyer is to be admired but we must face the actuality of the dynamics within the intellectual right:

“Conservatives often say their movement is a fusion of libertarianism and traditionalist conservatism. That was in theory. In practice it worked something like this: libertarians quoted Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman while taking care of economic issues like tax cuts, privatisation, and free trade. Traditionalist conservatives quoted Edmund Burke and T.S. Eliot, and handled more abstract ideas like God, authority, and tradition.”[xx]

Kirk’s essay “A Dispassionate Assessment of Libertarians” published in Freedom and Virtue provides a very powerful case against both the possibility of an individualist/traditionalist fusion and “libertarianism” as a creed. For the sake of avoiding repetition I will not review all the arguments but I find a few of them quite compelling.

Firstly, libertarians are located on the same spectrum as Marxists by reason of their inherent materialism. The libertarian political ontology erroneously divides the world into totalitarians and individualists. Instead the schism is between those who believe in a transcendent order and those that, “mistake our ephemeral existence as individuals for the be-all and end-all.”[xxi] Irrespective of whether one believes in a universal moral order there is a truth to this statement. The Marxist denies God and substitutes a universal moral order[xxii] with so-called “scientism” grounded in the material dialectic. Likewise the libertarian slides towards crude utilitarianism denying transcendent morality for maximal individual freedom. 

Secondly, flowing from different concept of the individual is a fundamental disagreement about the state and civil society. The libertarian sides with the Marxist in calling for the withering of state – though they each have a very different ends in mind. For Burke the state and civil society are conjoined in a partnership that’s beyond the ephemeral individual:

“the state ought not be considered as nothing better than a partnership in trade…………..It is a partnership in every virtue, and in all perfection. As the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.”[xxiii]

It’s clear that there’s a fundamental impasse at the conception of the state, the individual and civil society – and the libertarian is inclined to paint a rather superficial picture.

Thirdly, Kirk presents the case for why the libertarian is utopian. He believes that the libertarian sees human nature as fundamentally benevolent; corruptible only by institutions and the state. Thus, the libertarian is inclined to believe that if people are left to their devices the market will take care of the unfortunate and society will naturally self-order.  Of course conservatives with their pessimistic view of human nature consider this naive. 

I believe libertarian folly is more often than not rooted in a belief that we are essentially by nature rational decision makers.  However, thinkers such as Hayek possibly provide an isthmus between conservatism and classical liberalism here. Hayek’s defence of the market is tied in with a “spontaneously ordering” account of human nature – and not inherent rationality. Hayek does not deprive us of Burke’s ‘little platoons,’ nor does he deny us the state or those traditional institutions essential to conservatism. Perhaps we can have the market and conservatism?  This issue deserves far less superficial treatment than it has been given here but alas there is not space here to elaborate.

I think there are many lessons to be learned for our party from these debates of bygone decades. Particularly as much debate with our party concerns the keeping of conservative and liberal elements within the same tent. I think there are a few points for reflection:

We do well to strike down where ever it rises the totally fallacious conflation of nomenclature with principle – that it’s being the “Liberal Party” therefore precludes us from being a inclusive of conservatives. Just as no one holds that a Magnum Ice Cream belongs in the class of things that possess “greatness,” neither do our American counterparts hold their Republican Party hostage to the philosophies of Jean Jacques Rousseau or James Harrington.

We do well to step back from the ubiquitous trumpeting of “freedom” without locating the term in a context.

We do well to note that there is a tension between liberalism and conservatism, but that does not mean aspects of them cannot cohere.

We do well to remain suspicious of rational design. For it’s here that conservatives and classical-liberals sing from the same page.

William Church is a qualified lawyer and is currently undertaking postgraduate studies at the University of Queensland. He resides in Brisbane and is Vice-Chair of Brisbane Central Branch of the Young Liberal National Party and a member of ACM QLD Committee. He has strong personal interests in politics, philosophy, history and constitutional issues.

———-

[i] George H. Nash, The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945, Basic Books Inc., 1976; p86.

[ii] See Robert Nozick, Anarchy State and Utopia, Blackwell Publishing, 1974.

[iii] See i; p 40.

[iv] Ibid;

[v] For a thorough overview and analysis of Strauss’s criticism of Hobbes see Michael Oakeshott, “Dr Leo Strauss on Hobbes” in Hobbes on Civil Association, Basil Blackwell/Oxford, 1975; p132 -149.

[vi] See i. Ibid; p73.

[vii] Frank S. Meyer, “Collectivism Rebaptized,” The Freeman Vol 5, July 1955; p560.

[viii] Russell Kirk, “ Prescription, Authority, and Ordered Freedom,” Chapter 2, What Is Conservatism, ed. Frank Meyer, University of Chicago, 1960; p23.

[ix] See vi. P 165.

[x] Frank Meyer, “Conservatism” in Left, Right, Center: Essays on Liberalism and Conservatism in the United States, ed Robert A. Goldwin, The University of Chicago, 1965; p 2-3

[xi] F.A. Hayek, “Why I am not a Conservative” in What Is Conservatism, ed. Frank Meyer, University of Chicago, 1960; p94.

[xii] Ibid; p93

[xiii] Ibid; p96

[xiv] Ibid;

[xv] See Michael Oakeshott “Rationalism in Politics” in Rationalism in Politics and other Essays, Liberty Fund Inc, 1991.

[xvi] See xiv. Ibid; p91

[xvii] Frank S. Meyer, “Freedom, Tradition, Conservatism” in What is Conservatism?, ed. Frank S. Meyer, University of Chicago, 1960; p15.

[xviii] Ibid;

[xix] Ibid; p14

[xx] Don Arthur, “Defusing The American Right” in Policy Magazine Vol. 24 No.4, Centre for Independent Studies, Summer 2008-2009; p19.

[xxi] Russell Kirk, “ A Dispassionate Assessment of Libertarians” in Freedom and Virtue: The Conservative/Libertarian Debate ed. George W. Carey, Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 1998; p182-183

[xxii] Ibid;

[xxiii] Edmund Burke, Reflections on The Revolution in France, Oxford University Press, 1993.

Abbott’s “Social Democratic” Conservative Vision?

Writing in today's Unleashed, Chris Berg, a Research Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs and Editor of the IPA review, had this to say:

Abbott, as "keeper of the conservative conscience" within the parliamentary party, sees government's job to protect society from the bleakness of the market economy.

And instead of letting society flourish independently, as free marketeers would argue, Abbott believes government should actively build society in its preferred image. 

As he told The Australian in March:

"You can't run a decent society without a strong economic base… while I think it is important that the national government promote and develop a strong economy, it's by no means the only or even, at every point, the main task of government." 

Abbott's distinctly conservative approach is at odds with the other philosophical objective of the many in theLiberal Party – the primacy of the individual and importance of individual liberty.Launching Battlelines last year, Abbott made this explicit: "Individuals are only realised in a social context". So an Abbott government is not likely to be a small government. 

If Tony Abbott personifies the conservative social-democrat side of John Howard's legacy, then Nick Minchin personifies the radical free market side. Certainly, Minchin is big on "family values", but for free marketeers, family values complement dry economic policies like low taxes and small government. For Abbott, family values trump those policies.

You can read the whole article here

Comments away! 

Human Achievement Hour

CBSenator Cory Bernardi writes on his support of Human Achievement Hour.

Last week I committed a mortal sin. Or at least I think I did judging by the vitriol and hate that was directed my way.

So what was my crime? 

Well, I dared to mock that most sacred of green cows, beloved by the enviro-police, Earth Hour.

More specifically, I supported Human Achievement Hour which runs concurrently with the earth Hour campaign. 

Human Achievement Hour simply asks people to go about their daily lives, enjoying the benefits of generations of progress rather than sitting in the dark like Earth Hour campaigners. 

This allows one to enjoy those little things that make life so much easier. Things like electricity, technology, medicine, refrigeration and hot food. 

It also recognises that solutions to environmental problems are unlikely to arise from winding back the clock to a pre-industrial age, but are more likely to be found through man's innovation and enterprise.

Few people know about Human Achievment Hour and it is hardly a threat to the multi-billion dollar environmental industry, yet it certainly generated a lot of outrage amongst the green lobby.

Thanks to a small newspaper article that mentioned my support for Human Achievement Hour, hundreds of environmental zealots unleashed their fury via every possible human technology – fax, email, newspaper, voicemail and internet. 

I can only presume that the irony of the campaign of hate being reliant on man's technologcal advances (that all require electricity to function) didn't register with these modern day crusaders.

Similarly, the fact that the  Human Achievement Hour campaign was run by conservative University Students poking fun at communist regimes and celebrating freedom seemed to be lost on the on the indignant and outraged.

Despite the vile nature of the abuse I had a good chuckle at the grammatical and spelling errors most of the written correspondence and abusive emails contained. Unsuprisingly, most of the authors were too ashamed to attach their name and address so I could show them the courtesy of responding.

Among those who did provide contact details was a man who took me to task for daring to draw a link between the conformity required in repressive communist regimes (like North Korea) and by the zealots who seek to impose green orthodoxy. 

He wrote: 

"As a communist I would like to say I am disgusted and outraged you attempted to link me with those idiot Enviromentalists and I would like you to know that not only did I (unknowingly) participate in your Human Achievement Hour…but the only people I know who didn't (Knowingly or otherwise) were my capitalism loving friends…HAH is a wonderful initiative which I hope will catch on and stem the rising tide of consumerist 'Green' products entering the homes (and minds) of Australians."

Well there you have it, a real live Communist and I are in agreement. 

In the words of one of my staff, perhaps global cooling is a reality and hell has finally frozen over. 

Senator Cory Bernardi

(Editor's Note: Last year, the Competitive Enterprise Institute put together this montage celebrating Human Achievement Hour. We thought it was worth sharing):

Greens that are too Yellow to admit they’re really Reds!

Andy-SempleAndy Semple profiles a few historical leaders in a contemporary context.

Below are just a few. I’m sure you can name others.

Kevin Rudd - who wants to introduce Cap & Trade aka CPRS and is willing to push the progressive agenda farther than Whitlam’s.

Malcolm Turnbull - any “Liberal” willing to support Kevin Rudd’s Cap & Trade scheme.

Al Gore - who stands to profit the most from worldwide Cap & Trade schemes.

Barack Obama - a president who seems to be willing to push the progressive agenda farther than former presidents, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson & the Father of “Progressivism” Theodore Roosevelt.

To really understand where Australia is headed under Rudd, you need to look no further than where the US is headed under Obama. There’s an old saying that America leads the Western world and countries like Australia follow and while I’d like to think we as a country can make our own journey, I can see the Rudd captained journey being inspired by the actions of Obama. So who has been inspiring Obama? None other than the three former US presidents from the “progressive era”.  Here’s a brief look at them. As you read their thoughts and visions, you might recognise some stark parallels to today’s Australian politicians – from both sides of the aisle.
 
Father of “Progressivism” Theodore Roosevelt (26th US President)

Roosevelt, like other progressives, did not trust businesses or wealthy individuals because he didn’t believe that any of them were ultimately capable of doing what was best for the collective (unlike the Borg from Star Trek). Only government is capable of that.
 
In 1910, Roosevelt gave a landmark speech called “the New Nationalism” that clearly laid out his vision for America. “It has become entirely clear,” Roosevelt said, “that we must have government supervision of the capitalisation, not only of public-service corporations, including particularly, railways, but of all corporations doing an interstate business.”
 
It’s called Stewardship Theory – the Government must be the steward of the people’s, the steward of their needs. Roosevelt wanted to take it further. He suggested the National Government must be able to sit in judgement of the earning of private wealth and The National Government must be able to sit in Judgement of how private wealth is used.
 
You see, to progressives, government supervision is the answer to any problem supposedly caused by the “free market”. Just look at your history. It happened after the 1907 banking crisis, the Great Depression and of course, after the GFC, when PM Rudd proposed changes to the financial regulatory and industrial relations systems. Sure, Rudd did have a mandate for Fair Work, but like any politician, Rudd went too far and has given too much power to the unions.  40% of retailers expect wage bill rises under Fair Work - ARA says.
 
Woodrow Wilson (28th US President)

For whatever reason, history rates Wilson as one of the top 10 US Presidents of all time which for the life of me I can’t explain why given his complete distain for the First Amendment (better known as the right to freedom of speech). Wilson’s assault on the First Amendment was like nothing American citizens had seen before or since from anyone who’s taken the oath to protect and defend the US Constitution. It’s not because he lead the US into WWI it’s what he did after that. Wilson felt it was a priority to make sure that anything interfering with the war effort was stopped, including those who disagreed with it. That’s why he pushed through the Espionage Act of 1917, an attack on free speech that made it a crime.
 
“To convey false reports or false statements with intent to interfere with the operation or success of the military or naval forces of the United States or to promote the success of its enemies and whoever when the United States is at war, to cause or attempt to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, refusal of duty, in the military or naval forces of the United States, or to willfully obstruct the recruiting or enlistment service of the United States. This was punishable by a maximum $USD 10,000 fine (almost $170,000 in today's dollars) and 20 years in prison.”

But Wilson didn’t think that Act was restrictive enough, so he pushed through an amendment to it called the Sedition Act of 1918.
 
Wilson wasn’t just concerned with the media, he was worried about private citizens ‘uttering’ things in private conversations! I guess those of us who think that’s an assault on free speech are just closed-minded idiots. Just look at Rudd, who denies his opponents the right to hold a different view on Climate Change. We are truly living in a strange world when the word sceptic, as in the term Climate sceptic has come to be used as an insult.

I wonder how those modern day progressives who are so keen to look back to the likes of Wilson with nostalgia, would feel if he was President today – he’d probably would have them all thrown in prison.
 
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) (32nd US President)

FDR is another president who is inexplicably ranked near the top of many “best presidents ever” polls. The fact that he is the only president to ever to be elected four times is often cited as proof of his popularity, and popularity, as we all know, always equals competence. Kevin Rudd is popular, but is he really competent?

Anyway, back to FDR. Now the fact that FDR stayed in office for so long isn’t proof of his massive popularity, it’s proof of his massive ego (now who does that remind you of?). Worse, instead of using all if that time to change the country for the better, he used it to do more damage to the framework of America than any other president in history.

So if this president was so popular, then explain to me why the US public ratified the Twenty Second Amendment, which limited future presidents to two four-year terms, so soon after finally getting rid of him? Had the people of America come away from FDR’s presidency thinking, “man, that really worked out well for us!” then you’d think America would’ve been in no mood for strict term limits.

You see, FDR was the first president to realise that you should “never let a crisis go to waste.” He used the economic turmoil and WW II to make the case for a massive expansion of government and he used the Great Depression to make people believe that he was the only one who could solve America’s problems (sound familiar, Kevin?) when, in reality, he was only making them worse.

On March 4, 1933, FDR won the election in a landslide (like Rudd in 2007). He took office with a lot of political capital (like Rudd) and an American public supportive of immediate action (like Australia). So FDR delivered, no promised a “New Deal” (Labor's 2007 campaign slogan - New Leadership) for Americans who couldn’t stand another “four more years of the same failed Republican policies” that Harding and Hoover had delivered for the last decade. Again, doesn’t this sound familiar here in Australia?
 
FDR (& Rudd) ran his campaign on a familiar theme: hope, change, and blame. FDR blamed Hoover for the high unemployment rate, (Rudd constantly blamed Howard for a variety of woes), for fostering the growth of greedy, out-of-control corporations (Rudd sees the death of neo-liberalism) and for problems with a lack of regulation and oversight. So FDR then made the case that the only solution to those problems was through a massive New Deal that would be implemented by the federal government.
FDR’s mandate resulted in the establishment of 34 new federal agencies, administrations, authorities and acts. Is any of this sounding familiar?
 
You see, Rudd resorts to the usual interventionist myths to justify his position. The greatest of these, of course, is the myth that FDR’s New Deal policies saved the US from the Depression.

Historian Burton Folsom Jr points out that while unemployment fluctuated throughout the '30s, average unemployment in 1939 was higher than in 1931, the year before FDR became president.

He also produces a revealing extract from testimony by Henry Morgenthau Jr, Roosevelt's treasury secretary, on May 9, 1939 to the House Ways and Means committee: "We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. And I have just one interest, and if I'm wrong … somebody else can have my job. I want to see this country prosperous. I want to see people get a job. I want to see people get enough to eat. We have never made good on our promises … I say after eight years of this administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started … And an enormous debt to boot."
 
Morgenthau was a fervent believer in the merits of government intervention and his view is an important warning to all policy makers about the dangers of "neo-interventionism". So take heed, everyone.

Rudd likes to call it "social capitalism" or "social democratic capitalism". No, it’s called "neo-interventionism", the 21st century name for good old socialism which by the way, Vladimir Lenin, drawing on Karl Marx's ideas of "lower" and "upper" stages of socialism, defines socialism as a transitional stage between capitalism and communism. Great!
 
In Rudd's view, social democrats must use a resurrected state power to regulate markets, strike a better balance between public and private interests, embrace Keynesian economics and correct for market failure from the financial system to climate change.

Progressives often want things at the expense of others. Sound familiar?
 
The progressive goal is always the same – Benefit the collective at the expense of the individual. So is the pursuit of happiness now a collective thing rather than an individual thing?
 
Take FDR’s 1944 State of the Union address where he said, “In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all – regardless of station, race, or creed. Among these are,”
 
“The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation.”
“The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.”
“The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living.”
“The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad.”
“The right of every family to a decent home.”
“The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.”
“The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment.”
“The right to a good education.”

The stuff FDR proposed sounded more like entries from Karl Marx’s diary. It’s typical socialist rhetoric that sounds good for the two seconds it takes before your brain starts to engage (or explode).
 
Rudd is rewriting Australia’s future and he’s doing it with blinding speed (don’t be fooled by his committee after committee deliberation). Like Teddy Roosevelt, he seems to believe that wealth must be spread around (Rudd will compensate low-income earners to the value of 120 per cent of the impact of the CPRS on their living costs), and like FDR, he seems to believe in the right to health care, a good job, education and a decent home. In other words, Rudd is a Progressive Frankenstein – a PM who’s created out of the most grotesquely destructive policies of his political idols. Malcolm Turnbull, in supporting Rudd’s CPRS legislation, is no better.

Andy is the founder and Managing Director of Stockbroking firm ANDIKA and the co-founder and Managing Director of boutique Funds Manager Xcelerator Capital Limited. He blogs regularly at www.andylsemple.com

Grog shops make me slap academics

Ben-Peter-Terpstra Blaming bottle shops on violence is ridiculous, writes Ben-Peter Terpstra.

The only problem I have with beer is that it turns me into a peace-loving libertarian. Recently, however, the APP’s Jeff Turnbull “reported” that (19/03/10):

"THE growth of bottle shops in suburban Australia is resulting in an increase in violence, according to research undertaken by an alcohol and drug centre."

Of course, I’m not sure if Turnbull was reporting or campaigning for a nanny state, hence the inverted commas above. 

Nevertheless, Turnbull also “reported” that:

"Research fellow Michael Livingston… of Eastern Health's Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre says his study shows that, in some cases, domestic violence can be traced back to alcohol purchases at the local bottle shop."

But stop and think. If, say, my bottle shop is guilty of promoting domestic violence, then how come there are so many bruised women in dry zones across our continent?

Unbalanced

On a darker note, louts with anger issues now have a new abuse excuse to use in court. Or as the loser boyfriend in my crystal ball is telling me, “The grog shop made me crack my girlfriend’s skull.”

Jeff Turnbull also failed to present his readers with the other side of the story, although, to be fair, he didn’t blame the Thirsty Camel’s workers for his unprofessionalism, incoherent arguments, and disdain for balance.

In what looks like a fat Orwellian lie, Turnbull only relied upon one man to make his case. Mr Livingston said: 

"Their effect on public violence was unexpected – I didn't imagine that putting a bottle shop in a suburb would have any affects on assaults but it seems to."

And yet, for some peculiar reason, the I-had-no-idea researcher found the resources and time to explore this “unexpected” problem before making contact with the media.

Maybe – and this is just a guess – alcohol and drug centres are hungry for more money and scrutiny-free publicity. Or: so-called experts want to turn our heads away from real law-and-order issues. Or: overpaid researchers are demonising bottle shops, in order to promote Labor’s tax-and-spend agenda. Or:  groovy educators are trying to impress teetotallers in the Muslim community.  Still, we can all agree that Rudd’s neo-temperance movement will never thank the Thirsty Camel for the health benefits linked to red wine sales.

Another deeply profound insight:

"You sell more booze, you get more violence, it could be as… simple as that," Mr Livingston said.

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.

Voluntary voting

Michael-Crosby

Michael Crosby addresses the concerns of those opposed to voluntary voting.

In a recent blog post, Senator Cory Bernardi posed the question of whether voting should be voluntary.

While it isn’t Liberal Party policy, frankly I am constantly amazed at the fear Liberal Party members have of the concept. Among many members, there is a rationale of “we couldn’t possibly do that.”

I tend to ask, “Why not?” and a common response is: “Voters wouldn’t show up.”
To press the issue further generally sees concerns about voluntary voting fit into four general categories. I have listed them below and include some thoughts in response.

Without enforced voter turnout, voting booths will be stampeded with buses driven by union officials, filled to the brim with left wing voters, unleashing an avalanche of red that conservatives simply couldn’t counter

This of course neglects three important facts:

  1. Whereas union officials vote Labor, not all union members vote Labor. Most people in the shoppies or hospitality unions wouldn’t care what their union officials say.
  2. The Labor Party’s tendency to preselect union officials means candidates have but one source for canvassing voter turn out; the Liberal Party’s tendency to preselect anyone on merit across any profession or trade means candidates have many.
  3. Ordinary people (and I don’t include academics, unionists or Greens voters) who take time out of their own day to go and vote – even if they don’t have to – already demonstrate initiative and self reliance. Where would they be more likely to place the “1”?

The idea that the Labor Party has a head start in this the race must be rejected.

Is the Liberal Party in such a dire position that it feels it could not inspire people to rock up and vote without a legislated threat to be there? Are Liberals not normally aiming to win votes on merit? Why not simply admit defeat before the race has begun?

After all, in an increasing nanny state, what impact do we think that forcing people to vote has on the psyche that the government then owes them something?

A mandate to implement policy cannot be obtained by a government if 100% voter turnout is not enforced

A mandate can easily be claimed by a government in a voluntary voting system. Other democracies manage to do so. They operate on the simple premise that if you want to criticise the government, make sure you do it at the ballot box as well as every other day.

As anyone would know who has watched vox pops on the news, or handed out how-to-vote cards on a polling booth, many voters make their decision through one or several of the following methods:

a) eeny meeny miny mo

b) a donkey vote

c) whoever has the prettiest posters on the school fence

d) whoever had more ads on TV

e) whoever handed them the first HTV card

So I ask: is that helpful to a government’s claim to a mandate?

Is it not better to have only those who feel compelled of their own volition voting in elections? Only those who are lodging an informed vote? Only those who care enough about the state of the nation?

I do not say that voters who use the above method(s) should not vote. I merely pose the question: if they feel no reason to, why make them?

A mandate is, if anything, much stronger in the voluntary framework.

Elections are only held once every three/four years, so suck it up and turn up; you can just lodge blank ballots and be gone in five minutes – it’s not such a bad deal for being a citizen of Australia.

This argument would be stronger if it was only compulsory to attend the polling place for name check off and there was the option of refusing ballot papers.

However, the guidelines are very clear: you have to vote. Accordingly a ballot paper that is quite clearly a vote for no one candidate is not classified as such; it is called “informal”.

Of course most voters take their civic obligation at face value and the ballot box quickly becomes filled with what could best be described as “half-hearted” votes.

How does that counteract any feelings of political apathy in the community?

People would be disenfranchised if the threat of a fine showing up in the mail was not present

Let’s make this clear: registering to vote should be compulsory as it is now; the act of voting should be voluntary.

Australia’s system of electoral rolls is something to be proud of. One of the biggest problems with the US system is that voters must register at each and every election in order to vote. The Australian Electoral Commission and its state equivalents provide reasonable framework to ensure that voters are always able to lodge their vote.

With a system which provided voters the ability to lodge a vote if they so choose, Australia would have a system which disenfranchised no one but extended something more – the right not to vote.

It is simply not accurate to say anyone would be disenfranchised from voting if there is a universal right to show up and cast a vote.

It merely means that slimy spin campaigns which suck in voters who don’t have the time or the inclination to ascertain their underlying claims won’t have as much sway on the final outcome.

**

Ultimately, I suggest that what would settle the debate for many people is reliable research data figures which highlight how the major parties would fare in elections in the voluntary voting environment.

Without the data being present, at least I stand on the side of liberty. Where do you?

Michael Crosby is the VIce-President of the South Australian Young Liberals.

Best Of The Web

Tim-AndrewsTim Andrews once again brings you the weird, the wacky, and the wonderful stories from the last week.

Drinking three cups of coffee a day is good for your brain.

You’ve Been Left Behind, LLC, will, for a fee, email your family and friends left behind whatever documents you like after you've ascended following The Rapture.

The Chinese Government's propaganda arm has released a "human rights" report attacking the United States.

A judge in Belgium has ruled that a victim of a crime was at fault for "flaunting his wealth"

First Thoughts is running a Tournament of Novels (literary-minded folk are encouraged to check it out and vote)

Not PC has put together a great family tree of economics

A new service where you can pay for women to play computer games with you has started up. Their website is currently down due to receiving over 10,000 hits every 5 minutes).

Christies has unveiled the most valuable collection of historic illuminated manuscripts ever to be offered at auction (expected to fetch 16 million pounds)

There's a girl out there who can balance 15 books on her head whilst simultaneously solving a Rubik's cube and reciting Pie to 100 digits

Researches have demonstrated that binge-drinking the night before an exam does not negatively impact grades

A mafia boss has been betrayed by facebook

Here are 10 awesome then/now photos

The business model of Somali Pirates has been released

And finally, this Venn diagram explains the difference between dorks, nerds and geeks.



A very cruddy fable – Up to our elbows in worms (part 8)

David-Russell David Russell present part 8 of A very cruddy fable.

The worms have turned and an absorbed nation is slithering through its collective consciousness to work out what it all means. First, with remembrances of Port Arthur fuelling their long-awaited assault on the ballot boxes, those two-headed Taswegians cast aside that poor young Labor man. Can’t remember his name: hadn’t been there long enough to become familiar. But he was brutally rent asunder in his still nascent political prime just so those sandgropers over there in Wa-Wa Land didn’t feel so alone in having a Liberal regime in charge of affairs. So, you specks in the Strait, your big brothers and sisters on the mainland salute you!

And, speaking of affairs, how about those randy churchgoers in the Promiscuous State? Weren’t they a turn-up for the books? Casting aside decades of prejudice in which they have been adjudged the most god-fearing Aussies in the nation, they rebelled and clutched to their bosom their fornicating premier (in his heart if not actually in Chantelois). A moderate number were given permission to register a mild protest but the rest voted with their dirty minds and approved the salacious appeal of their needy Number 1 ticket-holder. Randy Rann is still their man!

Then there was the debacle of a debate. Apostolic altar boys and girls burned incense and uttered hosannahs for the Monsignor but it was all in vain. Clearly the stain of mortal sin taints all us believers; why else would we be punished so? The Mons carried a fresh hankie and wore clean undies for the television event (just like his Mum told him to) but all to no avail. Who would have thought a former national journalist and ministerial press secretary would need media training? But you do, Monsignor, you do! Frankly, on that performance, old son, there is cause to believe you need to finish Lent early, indulge yourself heartily in carnal delight and then get your mind back on politics. Catholicism is all about discipline, Mons, (quite apart from those clergy who can’t keep their cassocks below their knees) so imbue yourself in the milieu and think: restraint. However bitter the Press Club pill may have been it was a timely reminder that the Krudd ain’t dead and buried just yet. All those who perceived an Abbott ascendancy (including the Fabler) now have to subdue their optimism and gird their loins for the long haul. We’re with you, Mons, but we need you to maintain a very tight focus. 

And speaking of discipline, it’s heartening that Barndoor Joke has lost his abacus (except when he goes upstairs for an early nap and he can keep playing with it). Barndoor is a fascinating breath of fresh air on the national political scene and his candour and commitment will serve him well in his new role of getting things done in the bush and adjacent areas, big projects that make life easier and the stuff you drink when thirsty but there’s no beer. In the end, Barndoor, you were the only person in the whole country who did not want to recognise that Finance was not your cup of tea. Your dogged determination is admirable but this is better for all of us who share the dream. And wasn’t it touching to see Malcolm Turncoat hovering near the cloakroom in the hope of picking-up a late cancellation ticket to the Cabinet matinee. Those who thought he had taken bat and ball home now see that there remains a field marshal’s baton in his knapsack. But will he have the patience to wait until after the next election to try his luck again for the First XV?

This week also saw a continuation of the great Chinese lay-by of Australia with another down-payment being made through a pledge to buy $60 billion of coal seam gas from Queensland over the next two decades. Such is the veritable torrent of Chinese Yuan flooding into Oz that you have to wonder if it is a money-laundering scheme on a scale never before conceived to help China disperse some of its staggeringly vast hoard of foreign reserves.

Oh, and wasn’t it great to see the budgie smugglers rivalling the people smugglers for coverage as the Monsignor got down and dirty to demonstrate his leadership credentials once more?  Frankly, it is almost impossible to imagine how the Monsignor makes time to indulge his exercise regime but the value is perhaps best summarised by that post-socialist wealth redistributionist, Swanee, who harrumphed haughtily that naughty boy ought to spend more time on policy than on his bike. What, and have him end up like Prime Minister Policy Wonk? Nah, don’t think so, we’d prefer considerable difference between our two candidates for Top Office, thank you. Perhaps it was the thought of Swanee in budgie smugglers that sent a shiver of palsy through the assembled hacks. LOL!