This is the editorial from the Winter 2020 edition of the IPA Review by Editor of the IPA Review, Scott Hargreaves. A Table of Contents can viewed here. IPA Members receive a print edition and online versions of articles are progressively released in the months following publication. To join/subscribe see here.
Right from the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the IPA made the point that the cure must not be worse than the disease. The costs of lockdown in economic devastation, mental health and lost opportunities for our young people should not be greater than the health impacts avoided. All these months later, as the prospect of more-or-less permanent lockdown has emerged in Victoria, it seems that finally there is some understanding of the nature of the trade-offs faced.
Looking over the articles assembled for this IPA Review, I feel this principle stretches further to the raft of problems that have come to the forefront in the chaos of 2020: the cure cannot be worse than the disease. Unfortunately there are many crank solutions and recycled ideas being promoted as solutions to the real problems we face, but in key articles our authors have done a terrific job exposing the flaws and contradictions in these proposals.
The mercantilist approach of an increasingly aggressive and despotic Chinese State has unbalanced the world trading system, but the response should not be a return to protectionism as this would do nothing except make life worse for Australians by snuffing out the dynamic aspects of our economy.
Wolfgang Kasper makes this point, while also paying careful attention to national security arguments when it comes to our response to China and how we manage our burgeoning defence expenditures. Similarly, racism and discrimination against people on the basis of the colour of their skin is repugnant. But rather than working to achieve equality, ‘anti-racist’ activists are actually entrenching racial distinctions.
Morgan Begg clearly establishes this in his analysis of this year’s historic High Court decision which was presented as advancing justice for indigenous Australians. As Morgan says, the decision is so bad we must now review the processes for making High Court appointments.
The solutions either fail to address the problems, or add fuel to the fire.
In the wake of the virtual mass hysteria that accompanied our tragic 2019-20 bushfire season, many IPA Members requested the IPA Review cover the relevant issues to supplement the commentary provided by the IPA’s Jennifer Marohasy. I am pleased Dr Christine Finlay—whose PhD covered this precise topic—has been able to provide such a thoughtful contribution. I learnt a lot from reading Christine’s commentary on bushfires, climate change, and the worrying direction of fire prevention and management in Australia over the last few decades. Like many readers of this magazine I have long been concerned at the reduction in hazard reduction through controlled burning, and the sidelining of the local knowledge provided by foresters and volunteer fire brigades, and have been educated by those with deep experience and knowledge like David Packham OAM. Christine additionally provides an understanding of the big government institutions and practices now dominating bushfire management, and the problems resulting from bureaucracies driving the agenda. Once again the solutions either fail to address the problems, or add fuel to the fire (so to speak).
Meanwhile, justifiable anger at the manner in which George Floyd died in police custody led to only a fleeting discussion of reasonable measures to improve policing before activists framed everything in terms of systemic racism and a nihilist critique of virtually everything about the liberal democratic foundations of the USA and the West. IPA Campus Coordinator Luca Rossi (he of our “What I Wasn’t Told About…” videos, viewed more than 400,000 times) reaches back to a classic work by Dostoevsky to pull apart nihilism and the pointless destruction to which it leads.
I have also been concerned by the concerted push by the Chinese Communist Party and its friends around the world to promote its pathway for economic development as superior to that offered by the West, offering a State-directed ‘solution’ to the so-called problem of chaos and waste seen in our democracies. I was pleased to commission a review essay by Paul Monk ably rebutting this proposition, drawing on an important new work by Acemoglu and Robinson, famous for Why Nations Fail.
Most importantly, Daniel Wild looks at the challenges post-COVID and explains why in this atmosphere of recession and lost confidence, Australia should not look to corporatist solutions. Instead we must draw once again on the mainstream values and wealth-producing ethic of the ‘forgotten people’ of Australia, who have repeatedly demonstrated the resilience and entrepreneurial spirit we need in challenging times. Until our political leaders understand this they will continue to look for big state solutions, more red tape and more taxpayer money to ‘generate’ economic activity.
Only with trade and exchange, savings and investment, and a stable society providing opportunities to get ahead, will we be able to recover the freedoms and prosperity that have taken such a hit during this period of great restrictions and massive spending by Government.
Having grown up on a farm, I was especially pleased to feature the Hendersons of Victoria’s Wimmera district on the cover, as emblematic of independent and hard-working Australian wealth producers embedded in their community—in this case down to the seventh generation.
I trust you enjoy and find informative both these and the other articles in this edition of the IPA Review.