Rights and Freedoms

Time To Learn The Lessons

Written by
20 December 2022
Australia Day celebration

Knowing more about historical events helps up make a better tomorrow, but lots of forces in our society seem determined to bury, malign, or misrepresent the past. Establishing the correct perspective from history and from values is essential to understanding and addressing very current issues such as inflation, social cohesion, democratic dysfunction, and the rising levels of anxiety and depression among young people.

The Ancient Greeks had slaves, did not give votes to women, and considered all other nations barbarians (βάρβαροι), but the same or worse could be said of every other society of the age (and many of our own), and in a remarkable exception they invented the idea of democracy. If we want to make the best of that precious institution in modern Australia we need to understand and celebrate that achievement, as Dr Paul Monk does on page 58.

Professor Bradley Bowden on page 34 only had to reach back to the early 2000s to provide the historical perspective on the growth of big government over the last two decades. One of the reasons why historical truths are buried is so activists can claim ‘neoliberalism’ has run rampant and government has been starved of resources. Professor Bowden’s research shows nothing could be further from the truth.

When the Australian and global economies are today facing ‘unprecedented’ inflation and stagnation (thus, ‘stagflation’), the easiest thing in the world for politicians and central banks to do is blame this all on Russia, COVID, and unexpected problems with the supply of lettuce, because it lets them off the hook. So it takes Professors Emeriti Wolfgang Kasper and Jeff Bennett, who are old enough and wise enough to know, to tell on page 16 that we have been here before, and that stagflation of the 1970s had similar causes and the necessary remedies are also very similar.

We must not forget the 100 million souls sacrificed in the communist cause.

Adrian Nguyen on page 68 reviews a book which shows how conservatism in the USA has changed in recent years in response to changing social challenges, while maintaining essential continuities. He draws lessons for Australian conservatives.

The IPA’s Dr Kevin You on page 54 looks at the incredible collapse of Sri Lanka. That has been covered in the media recently as a political crisis that had come out of the blue—rather than something that was the direct result of terrible policies, including ‘green’ policies that destroyed the agricultural sector. Digging deeper—and looking further back—Kevin reveals that in its determination to ‘overcome’ its colonial legacy, Sri Lanka has jettisoned precisely those institutions that could have ensured peace, democracy, and prosperity.

On page 48 Nigel Greenwood marks the passing of her late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, not only by noting her personal virtues and contributions to the governance of the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Commonwealth as a whole, but also the perennial qualities of the constitutional monarchy that has served Australia so well.

 

Perhaps most importantly, David Cragg on page 8 calls upon us not to forget the Victims of Communism. This article arose from a discussion between us after we had both read that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had not only mandated that his State mark Victims of Communism Day, but that it be a mandatory part of the school curriculum. At a time when the world’s largest-ever communist party is wielding unprecedented influence, and Western intellectuals are rehabilitating Marxism, it is vital we do not forget the 100 million souls sacrificed in the communist cause.

The illustration (above) for the article was specially commissioned from legendary illustrator, artist, and cartoonist, John Spooner. He depicts in general terms what a memorial in Australia to the Victims of Communism might look like. Such a memorial would give an opportunity to those who escaped communist repression, and to their descendants, to honour all those who were not so fortunate. Other countries have managed to erect similar memorials: it is time Australia did the same, and there are sites in Canberra where it could be done.

Dr Sherry Sufi on page 40 continues his series of thoughtful articles on the challenges we have in the West of ensuring our culture still supports the liberal democratic framework of our constitution. He rejects the notion that it is racist to encourage nationalism, and sees a shared belief in the value of our nation-state as an essential element in maintaining and building social cohesion.

To take up their responsibilities as citizens, young Australians need to overcome the crisis of meaning that has overwhelmed our society and which has led to unprecedented levels of anxiety and depression. It is somewhat ironic that it takes a practising psychiatrist, Dr Tanveer Ahmed, to point out the limits to the pharmacological approach to supporting mental health among young people. Ultimately they must be enabled to build the virtues, character, and self-reliance necessary to take on the responsibilities of adult life, and as part of an IPA research project he illustrates on page 26 how this can be done.

Similarly, IPA Adjunct Fellow, Cian Hussey, in a review on page 64 of a book by John Marsden, reflects on the importance of encouraging adolescents to take on risks and challenges, in order to build confidence and character (as should adults!).

Finally, Gideon Rozner in his inimitable style in Strange Times reflects on NZ PM Jacinda Ardern’s call to the UN for action on ‘misinformation’ and hate speech, which if enacted would probably mean the censor’s black line through about half of this magazine. Let us make sure that never happens.

This is the editorial from the Spring 2022 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 Director at the Institute of Public Affairs

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