On a Queensland House of Review


Rsz_1197515_108482069234461_1417439_n (1)March 24, 2012 was a historic day in Queensland's history, writes Michael Smyth

Not only due to the utter devastation for the ALP, but also due to its ushering in of "conservative" rule in this state; a sign that the Right in Queensland has shaken off the spectre of Joh.

Before the apologists of Joh get outraged by such a statement, I want to clarify what I mean.

Joh did some good things for Queensland, but his government was ultimately undone by the shortcomings of some of its members.

Whether you love or hate the memory of Joh is irrelevant. The reason that I cite this is that Joh would not have been able to do so much had there been an upper house.

In 1922, the ALP won a landslide victory and decided to abolish the Legislative Council, a move that was questionable from a constitutional point of view.

This led to the ALP holding government for decades, until the 1950s, when the Coalition parties finally won back the Legislative Assembly. This ultimately led to the Joh era, and the expansion of Queensland, but the issue here is the means by which it was expanded.

Due to the fact there is no Upper House, Joh was able to implement his reforms without any opposition from the parliament.

This sounds good in theory, except when you fast forward to the Beattie and Bligh years (1998-2012), where bad laws were made and such an appalling lack of transparency became so apparent that even Tony Fitzgerald complained about it.

Tony Fitzgerald, for those that don't remember is the guy who ran the Fitzgerald inquiry that exposed corruption in Joh's ministry.

So when the proverbial horses mouth comes out and says something along the lines of Labor makes Joh look vaguely translucent, you know you've got a problem.

Freedom of Information requests were frequently ignored by the Beattie government.

So how do you fix this problem? How do you prevent abuses of power – by either side – in the face of only having a unicameral parliament?

You can't really prevent it, once you've cleared the Legislative Assembly, it goes to Government House for Royal Assent, and under our conventions, it is signed into law.

To prevent Joh happening again, and to prevent Beattie from happening again, an Upper House should be restored as a check and balance of our Westminster system.

It is good for constitutional democracy to have the powerful kept in check by a proportional representation of the people.

QUESTION: Won't this mean that reforms don't get pushed through as quickly if they are obstructed by a recalcitrant Upper House?

ANSWER: Yes, but the payoff is that bad policy gets filtered out, or turned into good policy, by consultation with the other parties. It is not healthy to have one party controlling the political and policy agendas.

QUESTION: Why should we allow the Greens (or any other minor party) representation in the parliament if they don't have enough votes to gain a seat in the Assembly?

ANSWER: Because the way our system works in Australia, as a clone of the old Westminster system, is that the state (or country) is broken up into electorates with a roughly equal number of voters, and then to protect the rights of all citizens there is proportional representation for each State (at federal level), and each group of people who feel a certain way at State level.

QUESTION: Won't this cost us more money?

ANSWER: Everything costs money these days, but realistically speaking, we have not increased the number of State electorates for more than two decades. Surely, when we have the money again, we could easily facilitate a restoration of the Upper House, so that no group of voters can make the claim that the government does not represent them.

However, if money is a concern, and at this time it is, it would be feasible to reduce the number of MPs – even if only for a short time – in order to facilitate the restoration of accountability.

QUESTION: What about the Parliamentary Committee system that has been set up?

ANSWER: The Parliamentary Committee system that was set up merely serves to rubber stamp the government’s decisions. There is also the remuneration aspect of each Parliamentary Committee, and each MP sitting on each Committee. Finally, in regards to committees, it detracts from the representative work that each MP does for their constituents.

The 14 years of Labor government serve as a cautionary tale, to those of us who love liberty.

It is our civic duty as citizens, to ask for accountability from our politicians, instead of waiting every three years to undo any policy that could be put through in the night.

There are people with similar complaints about the incumbent LNP government. We need accountability from our politicians, and accountability that does not come just once every three years.

Michael Smyth is the Queensland Branch Treasurer of the Australian Monarchist League

Anzac Day hijacked by Poilitical Correctness


A. EsseryAllan has hit the nail on the head with this article. It is our ever controlling leaders and bureaucrats that seek ways to cause complaint. Nearly all immigrants couldn't care less what Australians celebrate. Why do they hate Australians so?
GC.Ed.

According to a report by the Department of Veterans Affairs, ANZAC Day commemorations are a risk to multiculturalism and a source of “unexpected negative complications.”  The report that says of the ANZAC commemorations, “Commemorating our military history in a multicultural society is something of a double-edged sword.  While the 100th anniversary commemorations are thought to provide some opportunity for creating a greater sense of unity, it is also recognized as a potential area of divisiveness.”

How very true, and the division it is creating is between an arrogant interfering bureaucracy and the Veterans who march in remembrance of all Australians who didn’t come home and for those Australians who would like to commemorate ANZAC Day on the former battlefields of WWI.

The Government squandered $370,000 so that Veteran’s Affairs Bureaucrats could finance a number of ‘Focus Groups’ to develop still more political correctness and tell us that ANZAC Day commemorations were “unpopular with younger people” and offend recent Islamic immigrants.   Someone forgot to tell the focus groups about the increasing numbers of young people that are attending dawn services and other ANZAC Day commemorations around Australia, at Gallipoli and other memorial sites on the battlefields of WWI and recent immigrants are offended by everything Australian.

The Government then spent another $105,000 to measure the impact of ANZAC Day on recently arrived Islamic migrants and to tone down the commemorations by not mentioning the current and recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq as Muslims may be offended.  What consideration was give to the offence that will cause the survivors and/or families of those Australian servicemen killed or maimed in those conflicts?

Each year we have Allies and former enemies gathering side-by-side to commemorate those battles that stole so many young lives around the globe.  Polish, German, Turkish, Japanese, British, Vietnamese, South African, Canadian and others gather to show respect and remember those that didn’t make it back home.  There doesn’t seem to be any problem there, but it does appear that there are some immigrants who take offence at ANZAC Day as they do with Christmas and Easter and must therefore be placated to preserve the illusion that is the failed concept of multiculturalism.

From one Veteran’s group came the following comment, “We seem to be able to acknowledge war is not a nice thing and that people on both sides lose out – and we have never had to spend $300,000 combined, let alone in one year.”  It is in fact almost $500,000.

In past years battlefields tour companies have catered adequately for those Australian and New Zealanders who wished to attend the dawn service at Gallipoli and other WWI memorials throughout the various former battlefields.  Tour operators of long standing say that the Gallipoli site could easily manage up to 20,000 visitors, but experience also tells them that there is an average of only 8,000 ever attend because of the inconvenience in terms of travel and accommodation and also because many visitors are choosing to go to the other WWI sites where more comfortable transport and accommodation arrangements exist.

Tour operators had been offering places for the 2015 Centenary Dawn Service at Gallipoli for some time until the Minister for Veteran’s Affairs, Warren Snowden, decided that the Australian government should lead the way and convince the New Zealand and Turkish governments that there needed to be strict government management (interference).

They have decided to overlook the tour operators and limit the number that can attend to 6,000 Australians and 2,000 New Zealanders and deciding just who will be allowed to attend by ballot.  Paul Murphy, chief executive of Military History Tours, who has been leading visits to Gallipoli since 1989, said he believed the beach could safely accommodate 20,000 visitors.

Too bad if you were planning on going to Gallipoli to remember and honour a family member who didn’t make it back, because if your name doesn’t come out in the ballot then you won’t be welcome.

However, there is one thing that you can be assured of and that is that there will be a small army of meddling bureaucratic ‘organisers’ and politicians spouting their insincere platitudes while smiling for the cameras.  They will be milking this little ‘jolly’ for everything it is worth at taxpayers expense and taking up places that should rightly go to ordinary Australians and New Zealanders.

Allan is retired from active RAAF duty. In civilian life he was a
pilot and flight instructor.  He was also the commander of an Royeal
Volunteer Coastal Patrol maritime rescue unit on the South Coast of NSW
and senior officer for the Far South Coast.  He fights for a fair go for
ex-servicemen and women and is a harsh critic of the government's
treatment of serving and ex-service personnel.
   

 

Weekend homework

We all need a hero.

Re Menzies House post yesterday under:  “Barbecue time—test your Aussieness.” It was about an innovative burger launched in Sydney called, “Kangemu” a mixture of kangaroo and emu. Lively comment, however, turned to matters of flags, Cronulla riots, police, and Ned Kelly. Nothing really about our Coat of Arms emblem served up on a bun.

Coincidentally, on the same day, distant kin of Ned Kelly gathered to bury what are thought by the family to be Ned’s remains, or some of them at least. This was picked up by Australian and international media. Most of it less than complimentary of Kelly, as a British police profiler decided after analysing Ned’s “Jerilderie Letter” dictated by him to Joe Byrne in 1879. The profiler determined Kelly as “psychotic and Dangerous.”

Perhaps the profiler was swayed after reading that Ned’s dislike for a neighbour was such that he sent the bloke’s wife a set of Bull’s testicles to highlight her husband’s lack of “manhood”.

The Jerilderie letter is lengthy. It does reveal much about rural life in the mid eighteen hundreds and how various hatreds, especially how one of law and order flourished. Read the letter and offer your analysis as comment. No comments about “kangemu” burgers please! GC.Ed.

It begins, including errors:

Dear Sir,

I wish to acquaint you with some of the occurrences of the present past and future. In or about the spring of 1870 the ground was very soft a hawker named Mr Gould got his waggon bogged between Greta and my mother's house on the eleven mile creek, the ground was that rotten it would bog a duck in places so Mr. Gould had abandon his waggon for fear of loosing his horses in the spewy ground.

Entire letter: http://www.ironoutlaw.com/html/jerilderie_01.html

A Lesson from History

Cory-BernardiThe perception of being obstructionist can critically damage a political party, writes Senator Cory Bernardi.

It is expected that this week’s United States mid-term elections will see a massive swing to the Republican Party.

Some pundits predict the Democrats will lose 55 seats which would hand control of the House of Representatives (and likely the Senate) to the Republican Party.

This would mirror the result of the 1946 elections when President Truman was written off as a spent force by many in the Democratic Party. History records that despite the initial political damage, Truman went on to win the Presidential election just two years later and actually reclaimed a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Truman's successful campaign platform was to highlight the republican domination as the 'Do Nothing Congress' – despite a significant list of achievements. Having the numbers against him also saved Truman from his own propensity for bigger government, higher taxes and stronger union influence. The third plank of his successful campaign saw him pick populist but strategic battles that he knew he could never win. This developed his reputation as a 'fighter for the people' held back by a hostile Congress.

Sixty-four years later and one could see a similar platform developing for the Obama administration which currently battles record low popularity and widespread disenchantment.

There is also a prescient lesson for Australian politics. We have an unpopular government with a predilection for higher taxes, huge spending and centralisation of power. It is also a government that rules as a minority with the support of the independent Members of Parliament.

While this makes the process of government difficult, it also presents opportunities and dangers for both the government and the opposition.

Every government Bill that is rejected or modified becomes an excuse for the government to lay its own failings at the feet of its opponents. The spin doctors will enthusiastically maintain 'if only we could have implemented our agenda' things would be so much better.

This would characterise the opposition (and independents) as the cause of bad government rather than the solution, and would allow Labor to have a platform similar to Truman's for the next election.

The danger for the opposition is to be seen as a road block rather than a genuine alternative.

Fortunately, the counter to this is remarkably simple. From the opposition perspective, any proposed legislation needs to be considered on its consistency with the Liberal Party's philosophical roots.

These are the principles of limited government, lower taxes, stronger families, competition, traditional values, free enterprise and freedom.

If the government’s proposed agenda isn't broadly consistent with one or more aspects of these core beliefs, the opposition needs to make the case, clearly and succinctly, why it is not in the national interest.

That way, the long term interests of the Australian people will be protected and the Coalition will ensure they have a positive agenda for the nation at the next election.

You can bet both the Republicans and the Democrats will be learning the lessons from their political history. I suspect there might be something in it for Australian political parties too.

Senator Cory Bernardi is the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary Assisting the Leader of the Opposition and a Senator for South Australia. This article is courtesy of his personal blog which can be found at http://www.corybernardi.com.

The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Sixties

Ben-Peter-Terpstra Ben-Peter Terpstra introduces Menzies House readers to an alternative take on the history of the 60s. 

Social upheaval? Free love? Peaceful protests? Hmmm…really? In The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Sixties, playwright Jonathan Leaf advances the position that the 1960s was a relatively conservative decade.

And his arguments deserve our time. Or as William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard writes, “Has any decade been more mythologized than the 1960s? I doubt it.”

So let us step back from Hollywood’s historians (xi):

Take just one well-known event: the Beatles’ 1964 appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. This has been depicted with astonishing regularity as a pivotal cultural moment; in fact an entire movie – I Wanna Hold Your Hand – was built around it. And that Sullivan episode was indeed a major event in popular culture. But did you know that in 1961, 26 million people watched a CBS live broadcast of the first performance of a new symphony by classical composer Aaron Copland?

In this cultural context too, we see My Fair Lady outselling sixties icons like Bob Dylan, a professional hippy.  Thanks to Columbia Records sales went through the roof.

But we also see gifted artists like Paul McCartney and George Martin (aka the fifth Beatle) borrowing from conservative geniuses, to create timeless classics, like Eleanor Rigby. I’d also nominate Jimi Hendrix, for his sharp politically-incorrect turns.  

Not willing to hold back, Leaf asks us to rethink the university-campus view of Vietnam too (p.183):

In fact, 74 percent of veterans say they “enjoyed” their service in Vietnam, 71 percent are “glad” they went, and 66 percent report that they’d serve again. Vietnam veterans are also better educated and earn higher salaries than their peers who did not serve. And what really angers them? Eighty-two percent believe the “political leaders in Washington would not let them win.” American soldiers wanted victory, and they resented political orders that restrained their activities and limited their targets.

So imagine if yuppie-scum hippy brats decided not to spit on returning soldiers? The transition period for returning soldiers would have been even smoother, to say the least.

Was Vietnam winnable? Sure. But thanks to Jane Fonda types, a thousand concentration camps blossomed, after the war. The Far Left didn’t give peace a chance – they gave totalitarians an opportunity. “The media,” writes Leaf, even “transformed the 1968 Tet Offensive from an overwhelming American victory into a devastating defeat.”

I just hope history wins the history wars.

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.

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.

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

Is Hayek a Conservative?

Will-Church Will Church considers Hayek’s true political persuasion.

I’ve often pondered this question and consider it important for those in right-wing politics for three reasons. Firstly, I believe that Hayek is a conservative thinker.  Secondly, considerable confusion persists as to the philosophical heritage of our party. Many insist it’s ‘a progressive party’ and conservatives are imposters. These people tend to locate Hayek within the liberal political tradition, perhaps not realising the obvious philosophical similarities between Hayek and conservatives like Burke and Oakeshott. Thirdly, while I accept that people can never agree, disagreement might be partially mitigated by an appreciation of how aspects of classical-liberalism and conservatism philosophically cohere.

In locating Hayek within the conservative tradition I find the following decisive:
   (I)    A scepticism about rationality and human affairs;

   (II)   A reverence toward grown or evolved social institutions;

   (III)  Flowing from (II) a preference for inherited and established traditions and institutions;

   (IV)  A view of rights or freedom as rooted in social convention, as distinct from the usual liberal insistence on inherent, universal or divine rights.

I also feel it incumbent upon me to respond to the view (even by Hayek himself) that he’s simply an “Old Whig;” liberalism untainted by the 20th Century collectivist epoch.

The Limits of Rationality:

The litmus test for conservatism is the belief that reason plays a limited role in the coordination of society. Societies are not the products of human thinking but an unintended outcome of ‘suprarational’ factors; values, beliefs, institutions and languages are all tied up in a complex matrix of spontaneity. Further, to the conservative it is past human experience and the accumulated wisdom of established institutions that one turns to in deciding what provides a “workable” framework for civil social order. We arrive at the solution to our problems through trial and error over years, not through the genius of any one person or school. There’s an obvious logic to this. Just as it would be impossible to construct without reference to some other authority an aeroplane or computer we can’t from inside a philosophical vacuum think up the ideal society. The conservative is never surprised that radical and revolutionary political systems fail so miserably – radicalism is inspired by ideology and contempt for inherited wisdom.

Hayek was influenced by the sceptical empiricist tradition of David Hume and Adam Smith who refuted that the human mind can understand the totality of human activities. Hayek’s philosophy and economic theory stressed ‘evolved reason’ as distinct from the ‘constructivist rationalist’ mindset that derived from Descartes and Bacon. This ‘constructivist rationalist’ thinking links in with Kant and the Enlightenment idea that society can be re-organised rationally. Congruent with Hayek is the critique offered by Michael Oakeshott in Rationalism and Politics; that the rationalists with their causally mechanistic mindset fail to comprehend the value of inherited wisdom.

Hayek’s scepticism about the power of rationality in coordinating human affairs ties in directly with his theory of the “spontaneous ordering” nature of human societies.

Spontaneous Order:

Hayek’s social and economic theories build upon the problem of economic calculation as identified by Ludwig Von Mises in Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth. Mises argued that socialism fails at a systemic level because it ignores market price signals and therefore can only result in a misallocation of resources. In contrast the beauty of free enterprise is that market signals indicate where resources are to be distributed according to people’s willingness to buy something. Influenced by the abovementioned Scottish Philosophers Hayek developed his theory of ‘spontaneous order’ that the free price system is not a product of design but of human action; the market just like language, law, morals, customs and the institution of private property are all the product of undirected human activity.

The conservative emphasis on the value of society as guided by unconsciously acquired habits, intuition and inherited wisdom can be easily extended to Hayek’s account of free-enterprise as a system of tacit or dispersed knowledge that finds communication via the market price signal. There’s also congruency with Burkes warning that government ‘meddling’ always tends to a ‘subversion’ of the market.  However, it’s crucial to acknowledge that Hayek shares the conservative view of grown social phenomena, in contrast to The Enlightenment Liberal tendency to insist on abstractions and rational design.

Tradition:

Hayek’s traditionalism flows from his belief in grown or evolved social phenomena. I think two palpable examples are his defence of British common law and his reservation about democracy.

Take for example his reverence for British common law. Hayek saw the traditional common law system as another example of an organically grown institution. The system relied on cases being brought before a court with each case decided on its merit according to the doctrine of stare decisis – the judges in making their decisions are constrained by the adoption of principles applied previously to analogous cases. Common law represents gradualism where principles are developed gradually over many decisions. Like other ‘spontaneously ordered’ institutions the common law is the creation of human action and not rational design.

His preference for the conservative over the new is also reflected in his suspicion of democracy. While considering himself a democrat he deplores unconstrained democracy; tending towards a ‘tyranny of the majority’ and socialism.  In New Studies in Philosophy, Politics, Economics and the History of Ideas he postulates the ideal hypothetical democratic model as one where all men who are forty-years of age voted once every fifteen years to elect a ruling legislative assembly. His criticism that democracy has a centralizing, socialistic and collectivist nature mirrors the suspicions of conservatives like Erik Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn. Hayek’s vision for a free society was not that freedom is democracy; but rather that freedom is constitution, the instrument by which democratic power is constrained.

Perhaps a logical corollary of Hayek’s account of “spontaneously ordered” institutions is an inclination towards traditionalism – once again locating Hayek within the conservative camp.
 
Rights & Freedom:
           
Hayek is more restrained in his concept of rights & freedom than most liberals. His defence of freedom is again tied in with his epistemology, scepticism and this theory of ‘spontaneous order.’ In Hayek’s own words “the case for individual freedom rests chiefly on the recognition of the inevitable ignorance of all of us concerning the great many of the factors on which achievement of our ends and welfare depend.”[i] Moreover, it is merely “general universalizable rules” that circumscribes state power, whilst sounding grand it’s clear from The Constitution of Liberty that what is meant is simply an impersonal rule of law. 

Importantly Hayek tended to shy from talking in terms of ‘rights’ contrary to the usual liberal dialogue of rights. Two points must be made here: Firstly, Hayek is quite critical of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Law, Legislation and Liberty Volume Three:  He points out that rights imply duties. If we speak of a right to life an implied corresponding duty not take another’s life applies. Through the imposition of duty rights in fact have the unintended consequence of limiting our freedom – something that in my experience vocal proponents of rights seem seldom aware of. It is for this reason that Hayek tends to talk in terms of “freedom” instead of “rights.” And by this he means simply “freedom” in the negative sense. Secondly, Hayek contextualizes rights within the Western political tradition. These rights have come about by adjudicatory process and take the form of conventions. This is most congruent with Burke’s preference for rights understood as prescriptions or customs. For Hayek freedom is in a context.

Without speaking of liberalism in monolithic terms there’s certainly a tendency of liberals to place strong emphasis on ‘rights.’ Liberal thinkers such as Grotius, Locke, Voltaire and Paine all speak boldly in terms of rights – be that divine, natural or civil. During The Enlightenment liberals wrote tomes advocating political and civil rights and often supported there transposition into grandiose documents and declarations.  Liberalism today is largely associated with the aims of universal human rights and with political efforts to enshrine rights at a legal or constitutional level. And yet with Hayek we find a hesitance to use the discourse of rights. Instead we have an understanding of freedom within in the Western tradition, and a belief that societies are better off free left to grow in an undirected manner.
 
An Old Whig?
 
Having covered why I think Hayek should be regarded as falling squarely within the conservative tradition I find it necessary to address charges that he’s simply an “Old Whig.” His essay “Why I Am Not a Conservative” has in my opinion been much overemphasised in most literature on the topic.  Perhaps this is because most people that define themselves as “liberals” have read his essay and have wanted to provide us with a skewed reading. He notes in that same essay that: (i) he stands in contrast to the continental liberal tradition; and (ii) during the late 19th century the Whigs moved irretrievably towards collectivism – this being profoundly so by the time of Lloyd George. In distilling his “true” brand of liberalism he finds Lord Acton and the “Old Whigs” such as Burke and Gladstone closest to this tradition.  Burke is widely accepted as the father of the Anglo-conservative tradition, and the term ‘burkean liberal’ is now somewhat arcane. While Burke’s essential philosophy has been realised and appropriated by many thinkers few of those thinkers would go by ‘liberal.’ I find much of Hayek’s criticism true, broadly speaking, of continental conservatives more often than it is true of conservatives from the Anglo-tradition.  It’s my personal conjecture that perhaps given socialist sympathies in his youth Hayek found the label still left a bad taste – so instead he’s persisted with an arcane sense and usage of liberal.

Having made the case for why I think Hayek is a conservative I wish to return to a point raised in the beginning. I noted a tendency of some members of the Liberal Party to misunderstand the political heritage of our party, and to claim Hayek as their own without realising that apparent contradiction. In my view Hayek provides a conceptual isthmus between the free-market and conservative values of ordered liberty and traditionalism. Those that appeal to Hayek in order execrate conservatives are like the emperor without clothing. When one scales away rhetoric and looks at Hayek’s actual ideas it reveals a profoundly conservative philosophy. I contend there’s no thinker who has done more intellectually to revive and develop the Anglo-conservative tradition than Hayek.

     [i] F.A. Hayek, Constitution of Liberty, University of Chicago Press, 1960; p29.

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.