Australia Censored Episode 4: Do Liberty And Political Rights Still Have A Role In The Digital Age?

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27 March 2024
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In this episode of Australia Censored, host John Storey, Director of Law and Policy at the Institute of Public Affairs, talks to a tireless defender of freedom, IPA Executive Director Scott Hargreaves.

John and Scott discuss the threats to free speech at home and abroad and poses the question: do classical enlightenment principles of liberty and political rights still have a role in the digital age? Scott explains how they are more valid than ever and provides a deep and provocative defence of the principles of Western Civilisation.

Below is a transcript of the show.


John Storey:

Hello and welcome to another episode of Australia Censored. I’m your host, John Storey, director of law and policy at the Institute of Public Affairs. Today our guest is my friend and colleague, Scott Hargreaves, who is the executive director of the Institute of Public Affairs. Welcome to the show, Scott.

Scott Hargreaves:

Thanks for having me, John.

John Storey:

Scott, it seems like every week there’s a new threat to freedom of speech. So just in the last couple of weeks, I’ll just run through a couple of developments that have occurred around the world. In the United States, the Supreme Court has heard the oral arguments in the Murthy v. Missouri case. Now this is the case where it will effectively determine whether the Biden administration can coerce really social media companies to take down certain content or whether that is a breach of the US first Amendment to their Constitution. So a pretty important case-

Scott Hargreaves:

It is.

John Storey:

… in the context of freedom of speech. In a week or so, April Fool’s Day, as it were, the Scottish Hate Crimes and Public Order Act will come into effect. Now, this is one of the most aggressive hate speech laws that have been introduced across the West in recent years. It will extend the crime of stirring up hatred to include… to targeting people of different genders and gender identity. And one prosecutor has specifically said that J.K. Rowling, who lives in Edinburgh, so she lives in this jurisdiction, she will be forced to take down her posts from social media. Where she’s a women’s rights activist and says such things as, “Men are men and women are women, and you can’t change them.” It’s seen as a new advance in the area of hate speech.

And of course in Australia, here in Australia, we’ve had reports that the government are proposing to introduce truth in political advertising laws. Which will essentially extend their concept of misinformation into the political sphere. Where there’ll be a government agency, in this case, the Australian Electoral Commission, will have the power to say that political advertising is false and needs to be taken down. And this is just in the past two weeks. But I want to give the devil his due. There are problems with the internet, serious problems. Jonathan Haidt, he’s about to release his latest book called The Anxious Generation, which talks about the incredible harm that social media, access to technology and the internet is causing young people. In Australia, there has been pushes to clamp down on underage access to gambling and underage access to pornography. And I think even conservatives would understand that those are problems.

And also there’s this growing risk of artificial intelligence and the role it plays. How do we deal with deep fakes? And we’ve seen the absurdity in recent weeks of Google’s artificial intelligence, Gemini AI. Which has effectively been wired to be bigoted against white men in particular and to not depict them even when it’s absurd things like pictures of Nazi soldiers, they won’t depict them as white men. So there are serious problems with the internet and an understandable clamour for action by the government.

Now, I was recently in a research tour in the United States and I spoke to someone from the Brownstone Institution, which is a free market, free thinking policy institute.

Scott Hargreaves:

Great Jeffrey Tucker. Yep.

John Storey:

Yep. Great Jeffrey Tucker in Texas. Emily Burns, one of their people have written extensively about COVID and the COVID lockdowns. I asked her the question, “Is the First Amendment fit for purpose in the digital age?” And she said, “Not only is it fit for purpose, it’s more essential than ever.” Which I found a really great, great answer. Now, we don’t have a First Amendment, but we do have hundreds of years of Enlightenment thinking on these topics. Are the classical theories about free speech, the rights of citizens vis-a-vis their government, are they still valid in the digital age?

Scott Hargreaves:

They are absolutely valid. And that’s a wonderful survey of all the things going on in the world. And as I’m listening to you, I can see connections between all of them. And I think that that is part of our challenge here at the IPA, where you get the opportunity to comment on particular legislation. You’ve written some wonderful submissions on the Misinformation Legislation or proposed Misinformation Legislation as we do on various free speech related matters. But this is opportunity, and I commend you for starting the podcast to take a step back and actually look at the broader issues. And that’s sort of what I’ve been doing, and I’d like to touch on some of these themes. And there’s many jumping off points, but to take just one, you mentioned the Scottish so-called hate speech laws.

And there’s a wonderful piece out at the moment on the, I think it’s the new Sceptic website, which was an obituary for the Scottish Enlightenment.

John Storey:

Yeah.

Scott Hargreaves:

1698 to 2024, because that was the year in which the last ever execution for the crime of blasphemy took place from those stiff neck Presbyterians who dragged a guy out of a pub because he’d been mouthing off about the church. And he was hung by the neck until he was dead. Not good for that young man, but it created such revulsion amongst the increasingly literate and educated men and women of Scotland. That they really started to think hard about, well, what sort of a society do we need to have? What is the role of free speech? And we owe so much to the Scottish Enlightenment, so not just of Adam Smith and David Hume, but the British Enlightenment more generally. But we have jettisoned those principles, some of the principles of free speech that I want to weave into today’s discussion.

The principles are as relevant as ever. Certainly, the internet age brings up new challenges and we do have to respond. So for instance, something like content that is harmful to children on the internet is obviously a legitimate public policy issue and of deep, deep concern. But on the other hand, I also think there are bad actors out there that are using that as a vehicle to further different agendas. So there is an old legal maxim, which I quoted to The Cook Society of Victoria the other day when they raised this exact issue. And I said, “The legal maxim is it doesn’t matter who was aimed at, the question is who was hit?”

John Storey:

Mm.

Scott Hargreaves:

And I think there’s a lot of that going around in the legislation that we have. I’ll give you another example, simply because it was raised that the internet is currently being exploited by bad state actors. The Russian disinformation is real, and I think the idea that it installed Trump is completely fatuous and ridiculous. But here we are in 2024, Russia obviously with a very live invasion of Ukraine, is running a disinformation campaign all over the world to suck the will out of the West to support the Ukraine. Now whatever decision we come to in the West should be our business.

So someone pointed this out to me and said, “Well, surely you want to do something about that. The Russians are paying trolls in Africa to just set up fake accounts and post rubbish all over the internet.” And I said, “Well, the trouble is someone from a Russian troll farm in Nigeria, they can be ordered to have their post down.” Meanwhile, I’ve put up a post where I’ve expressed an opinion. My post is ordered to be taken down. Maybe it got fact-checked, and the platform faced with the prospect of massive fines of government intervention took my post down. I, as an Australian citizen have no more rights than that troll in Nigeria to object to what has just happened.

So the first and most fundamental principle that we’ve inherited from Western civilization, which I believe has been completely jettisoned in the wave of legislation around the management of the social media that we are seeing is the notion of the individual and an individual’s rights. And specifically, an individual’s right to free speech. So the Misinformation Bill that is being proposed for Australia, which reflects some international models, people like you and me are in no way present. This is a transaction between government, between social media platforms and the Australian Communications and Media Authority. So we could give the examples of posts, but the fact is we have no rights whatsoever. We are going backwards even with where we were in a case like Andrew Bolt who was persecuted as members of the IPA will know, as all right-thinking Australians will know, under Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. That at least was a prosecution, and Andrew Bolt had the opportunity to invoke defences under 18D of the Act.

So it was the state versus an individual in what we at least had the trappings of a court. But now there is nothing like that, there will be nothing like that under the misinformation laws. So we are at a discontinuity in Western civilization where we’re not just jettisoning some of the legal principles we’ve developed around free speech, we have completely ignored it and we’ve taken out citizens’ rights altogether. And that’s why I’m going to bore you in a moment with the notion of rights as they applied in Greece and Rome, but we are at an historical juncture, which is a very, very dangerous situation.

John Storey:

The irony is that the government defends this legislation and claims it isn’t a breach of freedom of speech. Specifically, by saying, “No, no, this is targeted at the social media companies. No individual will be fined under these legislations. It will be social media companies that will be able to hit over the head if they’re not doing it right.” And that’s certainly, it might be a cute talking point, but you’re right, it absolutely removes the individual from the equation whatsoever. At least in Scotland, someone under their hate speech laws, the police… It’s literally the weaponization of speech, the police are being briefed on how to apply this law. So it’ll be the police that knocks on your door and says, “Well, you’ve said this online or you-“

Scott Hargreaves:

Did you just say that women are adult human females?

John Storey:

Absolutely. But at least there’s the traditional defences, you’ll get your day in court or whatever. But under our misinformation laws, you’re absolutely right, individuals will be cut out entirely. And that’s seen as a way, so they say, “We’re not targeting individuals.” Where it actually robs people. Not only will you be robbed of your freedom of speech, but robbed of your day in court to defend yourself.

Scott Hargreaves:

Exactly. So this is the interesting thing. So this is what it’s like to live in the administrative state that Hayek amongst others warned against because to people… Well, you can speak for yourself, but I think to people like us generally. If you come from a natural law tradition, your rights are prior to the formation of the state. So if a bunch of bureaucrats at ACMA or a bunch of jerks at a social media platform, take down something I have said in what is the modern equivalent of the public square, as far as I’m concerned, my rights have been abrogated. My rights as a citizen, which are fundamental, my rights as a human being essentially, because the right to freedom of expression is fundamental to our humanity. If you can’t speak a thought, then you can’t assert any other rights. And of course you need to speak to be able to know what you think as well.

So in a natural rights tradition, it’s immediately obvious that your rights have been abrogated, even if they’re not specified in the Bill. And certainly the Bill does not, there is no notion of the citizen. But then we come to the other justifications for free speech, which have been developed over two and a half thousand years. And so the classic utilitarian model of free speech that John Stuart Mill expressed most clearly was that we need the contest of ideas. No one has a monopoly on truth. If you want to find your way to the truth, the best way to do it is allow people to argue it out, to ideally with facts and evidence, but with all the tools of persuasion at their command. And personally, I’m not sure one ever gets to a fixed and final truth outside the realm of particle physics and even then.

But that’s an excellent justification for why we collectively as a society, why the state should respect these rights, even if you don’t accept the natural law tradition. These are traditional arguments which have also, mind you been captured in the UN Declaration of Human Rights. And interestingly enough, in that Supreme Court case that you mentioned, where the signals that were sent by the Supreme Court justices during the period of oral presentations were quite concerning. One of the things they noted was in this case, which has been essentially bought by the state district attorneys, as I understand it.

John Storey:

Yeah.

Scott Hargreaves:

I think that’s where Missouri comes in.

John Storey:

Yes. Missouri, Louisiana and [inaudible 00:15:35].

Scott Hargreaves:

One of the questions is, are you even a party to this? Are you actually a plaintiff? But that to me is the exact point of issue. That is the public interest in this legislation which is being lost. So I would never ever accept that argument which you just captured so neatly, which is, “Oh, you don’t have to worry about this, this is just between government and the social media platforms.” And these social media platforms, terrible as they are, and we’ve seen that with the Google Gemini. These are not actually autonomously paragons of free speech. The only one who gets close to that is Elon Musk with X. So I’m not going into bat for the social media platforms, but that is the public square that we have. So when Milton argued for freedom of the press in the late 17th century, the exact same arguments map across to social media. So whatever we do to address the sort of harms and the genuine issues out there, we must apply the same principles that were on the mind of Milton, of Locke, of Mill and many others when it comes to free speech.

John Storey:

I think the utilitarian argument, that’s certainly the one I find myself falling back into. And I think particularly I think COVID showed the danger of trying to establish in advance an official truth and silencing, where we saw so many things that, “This is the truth and that’s a lie.” And then they turn out to be completely false. And that’s an argument for free exchange of ideas, the free… the cut and thrust of debate is more likely to lead you to the truth. But I do think we sometimes forget that sort of natural law, human rights, however you want to say. It’s not actually that relevant whether the people were right or wrong, they’ve just got the right to say what they want to say and that is fundamental.

And the danger of a utilitarian approach is that the more concerns people have about what’s happening on the internet and whatever, and these are concerns that can come from left and right, the more the utilitarian side will say, “Well, yes, yes, we need to sacrifice some rights here, but it’s worth it to protect children or to protect this minority group or to protect the country from some foreign influence or something like that.” Where a grounding in core principles I think is essential through that process, so these rights don’t just get sacrificed. COVID showed that people sadly, when they’re scared, are willing to sacrifice their freedom, their own freedoms.

Scott Hargreaves:

It’s the worst possible circumstance for decision-making when we are scared. And when by the way, the government is actually paying for advertising to make sure that if you’re not already scared, you’ll be even more scared, paying fake actors to impersonate people suffering from COVID. So I’ll say two things, one very minor, a utilitarian argument, and then I think you’ve captured it very well about the principles. So the classic example of course, and maybe you’ve already covered this in the podcast, was Anthony Fauci and the issue of masks.

John Storey:

Yeah.

Scott Hargreaves:

So at the start he said, “Oh, well, there’s no evidence that masks actually do any good.” And he was not even, what would you might call an honest broker at the time because he was apparently saying that because they were worried that they would be swamped by the masses trying to buy masks when they were clearly needed in hospitals. But that was his public line, and that was the WHO, the WHO was saying that. And then of course, as we know, roll forward two or three months, “Oh no, masks are absolutely vital. We must all be wearing masks all the time.”

And same guy saying exactly the same thing. So if you had have said that, “No, no, we must have masks.” Then that would’ve been misinformation because misinformation is ultimately determined by whatever the government says it is. And that of course is the flaw in this Bill. The model of misinformation that they have assumes that the government is a trusted, honest broker with no stake in this. As we know, as anyone with a [inaudible 00:20:23] of common sense knows, as anyone who comes out of the public choice tradition of economics knows, governments and government agencies have their own incentives, and we must always be cognizant of what they are. So there are the examples.

But as you said, if you keep trying to fix every individual problem, Russian troll farms, children accessing pornography, vaccine hesitancy, which was one of the specific things raised in the Supreme Court decision. The sort of thing, considerations that led in Australia, not just in America, of course we know thanks to Senator Alex Antic’s FOIs, that one of the posts that was ordered to be taken down in Australia was “Dan Andrews is a dick, and he’s about as useful as this mask.” That was ordered to be taken down because it promoted vaccine… not vaccine hesitancy, but-

John Storey:

Scepticism. Yeah. Yeah.

Scott Hargreaves:

So this is what Hayek called the… This is why he said the road to hell is paved with good intentions. So we are reasoning creatures, and a temptation in our hubris is to say that I can identify any problem and I can come up with a solution to that problem. And then I’ll move on to the next problem and I’ll fix that. And I’ll fix child pornography, I’ll fix the Russian troll farms, I’ll fix people who are deliberately… Incitement. As we know, a lot of the discussions at the moment, community division are often referring to things that aren’t actually hate crimes, they’re actually incitement. Doxing of individuals in an environment like the one we are in looks to me like prima facie, prosecute them for incitement to violence. You’re basically saying, “These people live here, you can go and beat them up.”

John Storey:

Yeah.

Scott Hargreaves:

What the hell does that have to do with social media? Our laws can actually deal with that. Hayek’s point was always use your reason, but what you need to reason your way through is the system as a whole. What are the principles by which we need to live? Not how do you fix this issue and that issue? Because then you just have endlessly multiplying legislation. You’ve given more and more powers to the administrative state. You’ve taken away all of your rights, a completely constrained society, and we’re on the, as he famously put it, the road to serfdom. So that is why, to come back to your original question, that is why the principles matter because we don’t apply the principles that we’ve developed over two and a half thousand years to govern what has been the most successful society in the history of humanity.

Western civilization, and I say that with no disrespect of any other civilization, all of which have merit and worth, but by any objective measure, we’ve created the most free, the most prosperous, the longest lived people in the history of humanity by applying these principles. If we throw them out the window now, then we are on the road to serfdom.

John Storey:

Yeah. That’s sort of a powerful defence of the West, Scott. To me, one of the problems… You said, what’s the target and who gets hit? One of the problems is the nebulousness of the principles that are being applied, misinformation, harm, these are grey areas without a fixed… And that greyness, that lack of specificity means that they can be manipulated to target the wrong person. And that’s why I think that a good principle, look, I’m not sure this will solve the problem, but a good principle when looking at rules intended to stop some harm caused on the internet is can it be objectively identified so that someone, regardless of their politics could be trusted to say, “Yes, that’s wrong or right.”? I think something like gambling ads, they’re pretty clear what they are. And therefore, it can objectively be targeted. I know pornography is notoriously difficult to define, but as a classic saying, we know it when we see it. And it doesn’t really depend too much on the political persuasions.

But what we see is something like misinformation. Well, something that I find true or false, I guarantee someone who’s working for the Greens or something could think the complete opposite. And we find that it is almost as night follows day used to, it’s weaponized against someone purely because they disagree with them.

Scott Hargreaves:

Absolutely. And we could digress into the whole realm of the philosophy of empiricism and epistemology and how can you actually know the truth? But certainly there’s just an assumption that there is something called the truth, that there are experts who can tell you what it is. You live in this world of fact-checkers, you’ve been subject to it, we’ve been subject to it. That, “Oh, the IPA said X, but we rang some experts and they all said the IPA is wrong, case closed.” So this is already happening, but this would institutionalise it. This would absolutely institutionalise it. It’s the very notions of definitions of misinformation and disinformation. And you’ve got much more knowledge of the framing of the Bill than I do. But of course these are not, as I’ve been explaining to people, the communal garden everyday meanings of these terms. They have embedded within them the notion of harm and then the notions of harm extend to the environment, public health, the economy, I believe.

I’ve seen governments in parliament many times over the years refer to people, “Oh, you’re talking down the economy.”

John Storey:

Yeah.

Scott Hargreaves:

And in Russia they used to take people out and shoot them because they would announce that the economy had grown by 5%. And Ivan would look at his last potato and say, “Well, I don’t think so.” That could get you arrested now. I’m not saying we are going straight there, but the idea that you could have your expression shut down in the public square because you are talking down the economy. This is abhorrent stuff. So whereas again, under 18C, which I’m by no means defending, but this thing that the IPA has been criticising for a very long time. Which was actually opposed by the Liberal Party when it was introduced, but they were not minded to repeal it when in government. That at least has a notion of a plaintiff. You may recall the late great Bill Leak, just wonderful man. Everything you want in a cartoonist, speaking truth to power, just taking the piss in the great Australian tradition.

And when the Australian Human Rights Commission went after Bill Leak, they had this problem, which was they needed a plaintiff, they needed a complaint, and they didn’t actually have any. And if I recall the story correctly, after Tim Soutphommasane basically called publicly for someone to complain, they still didn’t have one.

John Storey:

That’s unbelievable.

Scott Hargreaves:

And they went around an Indigenous community, I believe in far North West Australia, but I’ll stand corrected, showing the cartoon and asking people whether they were offended by it and would they be interested in making a complaint. So at least there there is the notion of a plaintiff, that someone has to get up in court and explain how they were harmed. Who is going to judge whether the environment was harmed or public health or the economy? Do we get the governor of the Reserve Bank to testify? But of course I jest because none of this will ever be contested because what are the incentives? What are the fines, John?

John Storey:

Oh, the fines include a percentage of global turnover of these multinational companies.

Scott Hargreaves:

Yes.

John Storey:

It’s a small percentage, but when you’re talking turnover, so this isn’t profit, turnover on a global basis. It’s like the orders that have been imposed on Donald Trump, they can wipe you out.

Scott Hargreaves:

That’s a terrific example.

John Storey:

They can wipe you out.

Scott Hargreaves:

So I’m talking about how would this ever be litigated, but why would it be litigated? If the government rings up and says, “Take that down.” What are the social media companies going to do? They’re just going to take it down.

John Storey:

Their lawyers and risk managers will say, “Why are you even hesitating?”

Scott Hargreaves:

And if I could digress, I said, if I can break into conspiracy theory mode just between the two of us, the urgency of this wave of legislation that’s taken place all over the world is almost undoubtedly to do with Elon Musk and Twitter stroke X.

John Storey:

Yeah.

Scott Hargreaves:

Because it was every single social media company based in California have this culture. And we’ve seen it with Google Gemini that’s just so revealing of the culture. We know through election data how heavily they skew to the Democrats in the US. It’s not just about a political party, of course, it’s the Progressive Left ideology.

John Storey:

Ideology. Yeah.

Scott Hargreaves:

Yeah. So Elon Musk broke that open, destroyed it, and through the Twitter files revealed so much of what we now know. Through the excellent journalists of your interviewee, Andrew Lowenthal, Matt Taibbi, Michael Shellenberger, we now know exactly what was going on. Through Alex Antic’s FOIs, we know exactly what was going on. The sort of emails that were coming from The White House to say, “Can you take this down? Can you take that down?” And here they’re in the Supreme Court saying, “Well, that’s not coercion, it’s only persuasion. It’s only a gentle request.”

John Storey:

And in Australia they’ll be able to bankrupt them.

Scott Hargreaves:

Yes, exactly. So here I’m talking about the flaws in how you might ever litigate it, but it’ll never be litigated because the answer whenever the question’s asked, “Can you take that down?” The answer will be yes.

John Storey:

Scott, I want to finish shortly, but I will just say something. This week the news feed was filled with Donald Trump apparently saying that the election will result in a bloodbath. And that was what all the mainstream media was saying. If you wanted to get the full context in which it was a rally in which he was talking about there’ll be a bloodbath within the automotive industry, you had to go to X to get that content. So just a defensive or some praise or gratitude for what-

Scott Hargreaves:

Absolutely. And look, I don’t think any of the arguments for regulating misinformation and disinformation in the way they’re proposing are stack up. But certainly if we lived in a world where there was some objectivity in play, then you’d probably be less fired up about it. You probably wouldn’t be doing a podcast about it. The IPA wouldn’t have identified this as the number one issue for 2024, because we do not live in that world. Fact-checkers skew Progressive Left, the social media platform skew Progressive Left, the mainstream media is overwhelmingly Progressive Left.

John Storey:

And the Progressive Left are the ones that think that truth is relative. It’s a constructive society and power dynamics and whatnot. Yet they’re going to-

Scott Hargreaves:

And yet they’re the ones who do it. So I did want to mention, by the way, because we haven’t actually digressed very much onto the classical tradition, maybe I need to write this up. But in the Supreme Court, one of the things you’re talking about is the First Amendment. The First Amendment didn’t come out of the blue.

John Storey:

No.

Scott Hargreaves:

It came out of the British Enlightenment, the Scottish Enlightenment actually in particular in America. And I was looking up the other day, and I was very pleased to see on the IPA bookcase behind us, Cato’s Letters here. So here we are in America, 1720s, a mercantile community, an agricultural community, and their understanding of rights, of what it meant to be an individual, what it meant to be a citizen, they were looking back to the ancient Greeks, in the Assembly where the notion of parrhesia was central. To be in the Citizen’s Assembly, you had to be able to speak, otherwise you weren’t properly a citizen.

The Romans and the concepts of Libertas, that having established this great Roman Republic, you as a citizen need to have some protections against that. And again, you needed your freedom, all these things had been articulated. So nearly a century before the First Amendment was actually invoked, Trenchard and Gordon in Cato’s Letters were saying, “Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom, and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech, which is the right of every man as far as by it, he does not hurt and control the right of another. And this is the only check which it ought to suffer, the only bounds which it ought to know.”

Nothing in there about offences against God or the state or the experts. It is only about a real actual harm against an identifiable individual that is the only possible grounds for infringements on free speech. And that’s how the First Amendment came about. And if the agents of the FBI and The White House telling people, sorry, suggesting things be done, if that doesn’t invoke the First Amendment, then I honestly don’t know what does. And [inaudible 00:35:34] better get his act together, but anyway, that’s why we put him there, John. That’s why we put him there.

John Storey:

Scott, I’m at risk of asking a question that could lead to another hour’s conversation.

Scott Hargreaves:

It means you know me too well, sir.

John Storey:

Is the Liberal Enlightenment Project like that commentator you mentioned, is it over? Or will the tied ebb and these classical principles reassert themselves? Or to put it more succinctly, are you pessimistic or positive about where we’re going?

Scott Hargreaves:

In the long term I’m always positive and optimistic. So I’ve just been in the next edition of the IPA Review, which I’ll give a plug to now. I review a book called After Liberalism by John Grey, the British philosopher, who’s a philosopher of pessimism, and it’s called After Liberalism. And it basically says the Liberal Project seems to have exhausted its persuasive power at the moment, and bad state actors are taking over and woke culture is taking over. And he is by no means a thundering conservative, and he is actually a liberal. He actually suggests we go right back to Thomas Hobbes and some pretty basic notions that we need to save in liberalism. He said, “Mill has no persuasive power.” I don’t necessarily agree, but this is his thesis. The more sophisticated elaborations of classical liberal principles appear to be exhausted and to not have sway.

Certainly you and I are finding, if we go to Canberra now and deploy classical liberal principles, very little sway outside a very small number of people. We simply live in an administrative state. Gray’s argument though is we come back to the fundamental thing is the Hobbes first laid out the Contractarian Theory, which is if we don’t want to be in a perpetual state of a war of all against all, where life is poor, nasty, brutish, and short, we must come together in a social contract, establish a state which then protects us from each other, preserves our fundamental right to life, our liberties. And what makes me positive and optimistic in the long run is in the West, ordinary people are still very individualistic. Ordinary people, mainstream Australians, survey after survey show that they want to be able to live their lives according to their own lights, to express themselves.

And it is only that we have an elite project to shut all that down. So in the short term, I’m extremely pessimistic. But in the long term, what else do we have? And certainly people can find their way back to an assertion of our worth as human beings through faith. And that’s what we heard say at the ARC Conference in London last year. And that is certainly one of the paths back to face, but I think there is also just ordinary people saying, “I’m an individual with rights. I have a right to a life. I have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” One might say. And freedom of speech, freedom of expression is absolutely fundamental to that. So that’s why I’m optimistic in the long term, but we just need a bit of a revolution in the medium term.

John Storey:

Scott, keeping Australia and the West free for another day is a full-time job. One that you work hard at every day as executive director of the Institute of Public Affairs.

Scott Hargreaves:

And I’m grateful for your work, John.

John Storey:

Thank you. Thank you so much for your time today and your deep insights in this area. Yeah, thanks for being on the show.

Scott Hargreaves:

Okay. Thanks.

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