Which Way For The West?

10 May 2024
Which Way For The West? - Featured image

One of the best things about being editor of the IPA Review—and there are many—is talking with the authors while they are developing their articles and asking them to pursue or elaborate on themes that are on my mind. And on yours.

For example, I went to the inaugural Alliance for Responsible Citizenship (ARC) Conference in London in October/November 2023 (see my description pp 32-35) and found it tremendously stimulating. Just seeing the great Dennis Prager leading an engrossing panel discussion at one of the evening sessions (pictured right), would have made it worthwhile. But I was also a little unsatisfied because speakers sometimes proffered great ideas without also spelling out the means to bring them into effect.

For example, Baroness Stroud, Katy Faust, Erica Komisar, and many others called for society to place a greater value on the nuclear family and having children. But on stage only when John Howard spoke about the Australian ‘baby bonus’ did I hear much in the way of specific policy measures. Enter IPA Research Fellows Lana Starkey and Brianna McKee, who on page 16 outline the case for pro-natalist policies with a focus on measures taken by Hungary. Lana interned over the European winter at the Danube Institute in Budapest and so was able to provide local insights, and the article’s main photograph.

As she and Brianna point out, Australia’s fertility rate is now 1.58 and below replacement levels for decades. Our reliance on higher-than-normal levels of immigration to keep up the numbers brings its own problems. They provide a terrific analysis of issues and possible solutions that deserves to be read far and wide.

Similarly, I was heartened by the opening address of ARC sponsor Paul Marshall when he correctly identified crony capitalism as a problem in itself and the ultimate source of declining faith in free enterprise in the West. But I was unsatisfied during the conference as few speakers rose to Marshall’s challenge to work out what to do about it.

Public Choice theory explains a lot.

Enter Dr Andrew Russell, who was introduced to the IPA by Lana (literally, over a beer at Friday night drinks when he was down in Melbourne from Brisbane). His analysis of the hopes and challenges of Javier Milei’s Presidency in Argentina on page 8 outlines the essential tenets of Public Choice theory, which provide a coherent explanation of crony capitalism and the fusion of the interests of rent-seeking capitalists and empire-building bureaucrats. This provides an analytical framework from which ARC could have benefitted, while also outlining the measures taken by Milei and how they compare to those of the other guy with interesting hair, Donald Trump. How we harness libertarian and conservative populist activist impulses is the challenge of our age.

The editorial exchanges with Dr Russell then also informed my own musings on the fate of liberalism, which was also prompted by ARC. Thus, I was finally able to gather my thoughts and (I hope coherently) on page 30 describe the thrust of ARC alongside consideration of two recent works relevant to liberalism by Christopher Clark and John Gray.

ARC Energy and Environment Dinner: Dennis Prager, Michael Shellenberger, Magatte Wade, Alex Epstein, and Jordan Peterson. Photo: Scott Hargreaves

In January 2023 I had a number of discussions with IPA Senior Fellow Dr Jennifer Marohasy on the obdurate refusal of the Bureau of Meteorology to explore using Artificial Intelligence techniques for better weather forecasting, given it can be a matter of life and death. This prompted me to write an article for The Spectator Australia in February this year, and then Dr Marohasy in turn quoted me in her article on page 22. Productive conversations enhanced both articles.

Public Choice theory can also explain a lot about the behaviour of the Bureau, and other climate institutions. This is the general approach adopted by Professor Aynsley Kellow, who on page 40 has a trenchant take on the (not always positive) incentives of global organisations such as the United Nations when it comes to making climate policy. The starry-eyed quotation of the UN Secretary-General that you see in mainstream media—as if he is some kind of disinterested, all-knowing demigod—is a nauseating sign. Professor Kellow provides a vital remedy.

To mix things up we have the great Australian literary critic Peter Craven on page 46, reflecting on Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet. Winton as an activist might infuriate many, but we can and should appreciate his gifts, which are far beyond those of many of the ‘approved’ woke writers mandated in the current English curriculum (see Lana Starkey’s research, referenced page 61). The egalitarianism of his characters noted by Craven is the Australian distillation and cultural form of a key tenet of liberalism (see p 32).

Lana on page 54 reviews Against Decolonisation by Doug Stokes, which picks up many of the themes of ARC. As you can probably surmise from this edition, I am a huge fan of Senegalese freedom activist and entrepreneur Magatte Wade, who lit up the stage at ARC. As well as in my article she appears in Lana’s review and in the wonderful book review and exploration of the history of Malawi, written by our resident master of the King’s English, Michael Barrett. You will also see Michael in full flight in Strange Times (pp 74-75), linking keffiyehs and Alan Joyce in the one article (strange times, indeed).

And I am so proud of Claire Peter-Budge, who provides wonderful support to the entire IPA team, greets our members on the phone with an engaging and interested manner, and has also been known to round up a few beers on Friday night social club as we chat to each other and such interesting guests as Dr Andrew Russell (per above). On page 70 she provides a very thoughtful reflection on Captain Cook and a new book which celebrates the great man. How we as a society remember Captain Cook is a yardstick of our historical memory and our belief in the West.

This is the editorial from the Autumn 2024 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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