Australian Way of Life

Remembering A Free Australia

Written by
21 January 2022
Bondi Beach

In free societies men and women can—under the rule of law—pursue their own self-interest through “truck, barter and exchange” (to use Adam Smith’s words). The stunning increase in prosperity since about 1800 is entirely due to the evolution of society in the direction of freedom and the institutions and values that support a free and commercial society; or what economist Deirdre McCloskey has labelled ‘Bourgeois Morality’.

Professor Bradley Bowden is an articulate exponent of the view, and on page 26 shows the incredible growth in the size of the State in the last hundred years and debunks the idea that this trend has been halted or reversed in recent years. Do not believe the ABC presenters when they tell you that scrooge-like Coalition Governments have somehow delivered smaller Government. The IPA’s research in support of smaller government, against taxes, and for less red tape, is needed more than ever.

Leftists proceed by disparaging freedom and markets as enablers of ‘greed’, of licensed selfishness. That the global push for drastic ‘action on climate action’ is inextricably part of the leftist project is evidenced by its preference for this kind of language. The nirvana of Net Zero can be met if only the ‘greedy’ are eliminated—the purveyors of fossil fuels, the politicians supposedly in thrall to oil companies, blah blah blah … you have heard the story. But hurling accusations of self-interest is a game that everybody can play. On page 16, Emeritus Professor Aynsley Kellow makes clear the self-interest behind so many of the high-minded moral claims made at Glasgow: for commercial advantage but also for national advantage, and for the aggrandisement of organisations (including the United Nations itself). How could you explain the actions of billionaire Michael Bloomberg, as ‘Special Envoy’ for the UN, other than as self-interest? And so on.

The future of our cultural inheritance is in the hands of the people.

I have elsewhere written that the key difference between economists of the Public Choice school—who analyse those within governments and institutions as being driven by their own self-interest rather than their notional mission—as opposed to the cynical left, is that only the former is consistent in attributing motives to self-interest. The moral language of the left and wilful blindness to the real motives of global actors is in fact deeply immoral.

Legitimate considerations of national interest provide Dr Paul Monk, on page 50, with the geopolitical framework to examine Australia-China relations, but he also considers the options in light of the commitment to freedom and willingness to trade for mutual gain that characterise the West. The key event was Xi-led China’s turn back to the mercantilist school of State control of trade that Adam Smith did so much to demolish.

As I write, the ALP has just increased the target for emission reductions by 2030. Just as Professor Kellow humorously noted that “the ‘last chance’ at Glasgow was the first last chance since the last last chance was not taken”, it seems we are about to have the first ‘climate election’ since the last ‘climate election’. (That in 2019 the voters rejected the party demanding more drastic action has been shoved down the memory hole by the mainstream media).

Because history matters

Kellow and Monk both display a keen historical sense. In our cover story, Because History Matters, Dr Sherry Sufi explains that this is what is missing in Australia. We are suffering Cultural Amnesia, particularly when it comes to understanding our historical place within the Anglosphere. Dr Sufi, who is a Senior Fellow at the IPA’s Centre for the Australian Way of Life, prescribes a course of action to get Australians once again informed and excited—rather than guilty—about our past and our society.

Also in this edition, Emeritus Professor Ian Plimer on page 62 addresses green activists directly. He rightly holds them accountable in deeply moral terms—backed with evidence—for the destructive and inequitable effect of the policies they back. We are deeply grateful to Professor Plimer for providing this pointer to a key argument in his wonderful new book, Green Murder.

Fred Pawle, author of Die Laughing, has on page 36 shared a wonderful reflection on what has changed in Australia, based on what he learnt and thought about as he wrote his riveting life of the great Bill Leak. Trigger warning: these changes have not been for the better! But the love for Australia and its people that Fred displays in his writing should be enough to inspire anyone to fight even harder to preserve and build on what is great about this country of ours.

On page 8 the renowned literary critic, Peter Craven, has responded to the launch of the IPA’s new project The Genius of Australia by offering his reflections on our Australian Canon (published in the previous edition of the IPA Review).

I am grateful also to the many IPA members who responded so warmly to the IPA’s determination to (re-)establish an Australia Canon. It confirmed for me that there is a depth of knowledge and feeling in the Australian community that cannot be underestimated, and the future of our cultural inheritance is in the hands of the people, now that the elite institutions have vacated the field.

Speaking of which, on page 56 I examine the never-more important question of how the closed shop of universities can be broken. Incapable of reform, real competition is more vital than ever. (This was written before Alan Tudge recently stepped aside as Education Minister, an event that has sadly further reduced the chances of seeing more reforms along the lines described in the article.)

I do hope you enjoy this edition of the IPA Review, and—notwithstanding the difficulties and restrictions of the past two years, and under which so many of us still stuffer—that you are able to enjoy a relaxing Christmas period with family and friends.

This is the editorial from the Summer 2021 edition of the IPA Review by Editor of the IPA Review, Scott Hargreaves. Articles once loaded online are listed 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.

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Scott Hargreaves

Scott Hargreaves is the Executive General Manager at the Institute of Public Affairs

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