The coming realignment?

Under John Howard, the Liberal Party embraced a form of big-spending conservative social democracy, says Andrew Norton. The most formidable opponents of limited government are conservatives. In a comment on Andrew’s blog, Winton Bates wonders whether this might lead to a realignment in Australian politics.

Andrew says that the answer is no. However bad the Liberals have been under Howard, Labor is likely to be worse. Because "the basic instinct of Labor’s constituency is to favour spending" the party is unlikely to champion the cause of small government.

But maybe Bates’ question about realignment isn’t about whether classical liberals will start voting Labor, maybe it’s about whether classical liberals will maintain their alliance with conservatives. If so, what’s at stake is the intellectual alliances that form around think tanks and political magazines rather the electoral strategies of political parties.

If classical liberals are the only ideological group interested in significant cuts in spending, they have two options. They can decide that tax and spending cuts are so central to their belief system that it’s better to face the world as a small, ideologically pure fringe group than to compromise. Or they can decide to form alliances based on other issues.

Listening to some people you’d think that liberalism was all about cutting tax, slashing welfare, abolishing minimum wages and giving consumers a greater range of choice in the marketplace. But philosophically it’s supposed to be about something more basic — individual liberty. As Friedrich Hayek put it:

Whether [a person] is free or not does not depend on the range of choice but on whether he can expect to shape his course of action in accordance with his present intentions, or whether somebody else has power so to manipulate the conditions as to make him act according to that person’s will rather than his own (p 13).

If it turns out that liberty really is more important than giving rich people back their money, tormenting welfare recipients and smashing unions, then perhaps classical liberals might consider breaking their alliance with conservatives and forming an alliance with other liberals — the kind of people Andrew sometimes calls ‘social liberals.’

In the United States the Cato Institute’s Brink Lindsey has suggested an alliance between libertarians and progressives. He argues that while these groups have their differences, they also have a lot in common:

Both generally support a more open immigration policy. Both reject the religious right’s homophobia and blastocystophilia. Both are open to rethinking the country’s draconian drug policies. Both seek to protect the United States from terrorism without gratuitous encroachments on civil liberties or extensions of executive power. And underlying all these policy positions is a shared philosophical commitment to individual autonomy as a core political value.

Australia came close to Lindsey’s vision of ‘progressive fusionism’ during the Hawke and Keating governments. The economic pressures of the 1980s forced thinkers on the left to rethink their economic views. Intellectually, they struggled to combine their commitment to social justice with ‘dry’ economics. But nothing similar has happened on the right. Even those who identify as classical liberals tend to see the market as source of discipline and an engine of meritocracy rather than a place people can exercise autonomy. Few of Australia’s classical liberals are genuinely liberal. Most are market-friendly conservatives.

As Hayek observed, conservatives tend to be elitist. In the end, "the conservative position rests on the belief that in any society there are recognizably superior persons whose inherited standards and values and position ought to be protected and who should have a greater influence on public affairs than others." The major difference between liberals and conservatives is:

… the characteristic complacency of the conservative toward the action of established authority and his prime concern that this authority be not weakened rather than that its power be kept within bounds. This is difficult to reconcile with the preservation of liberty. In general, it can probably be said that the conservative does not object to coercion or arbitrary power so long as it is used for what he regards as the right purposes.

The last few decades have seen the influence of ‘recognisably superior people’ threatened by the cultural liberalisation of the 60s, non-European immigration, multiculturalism, and increasingly free access to information via the internet. Where liberals see increasing tolerance of difference, conservatives see a crisis of authority. And with the war on terror, a whole new rationale for authoritarian policies has emerged.

What stops a realignment from happening in the short term is social networks and personal loyalties. Most of Australia’s classical liberals are woven into organisations and social groups that bind them to conservatives. And as Andrew says, the fusion of liberal and conservative can take place within the one individual — individuals internalise the alliance. As a result, realignment probably won’t happen until this generation of middle-aged classical liberals shuffles off the public stage and makes room for the next generation.

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106 Responses to The coming realignment?

  1. Jc says:

    I think it was the Daily Kos dudes that tried to attract libertarians to the Dems at the mid terms in an attempt to make it a more permanent alliance. That attraction lasted about 3 seconds. Libertarians quickly realized they were going to bed with cross dressers and ran out of the bedroom.

    As a result, realignment probably wont happen until this generation of middle-aged classical liberals shuffles off the public stage and makes room for the next generation

    .

    People will continue to live in hope that one day the conservative parties will actually read their manifesto and possibly adhere to some of their beliefs.

    And yes there was a Hawke government, but I would argue that grouping was a special/accidental event that is unlikely to be repeated. There was a lot of raw talent in the front ranks.

  2. Great post Don.

    I reckon at a psychological level it’s all about authority. If classical liberals were true to their own professed values it is – as I think you’re suggesting, a real mystery as to why they willingly went along for the ride with Howard. After all they had Hawke and Keating. Not perfect for sure, but liberal, focused on efficiency and growth, social cohesion with a relatively strong commitment to the safety net.

    OK, so they got conned by Howard. But they knew that by the early 2000s and what did they do? Noth’n, nix. Indeed the biggest internal objectors to the Howard Govt were not the classical liberals but the moderates who were probably wetter than many.

    So how come no ‘classical liberals’ were amongst the objectors? A big question I think. My own answer is that they are really concerned about authority. They fancy the authority of the market, it creates a unitary system of practical value. They’re not too concerned about liberty. This is something that Paul Samuelson observed about the classical liberals of his own day. As he said ‘with a few noble exceptions’ they didn’t care that much for political liberty.

  3. Graham Bell says:

    Don Arthur:

    I like your quote from Hayek

    “….there are recognizably superior persons whose inherited standards and values and position ought to be protected and who should have a greater influence on public affairs than others.”

    It sums up the reason why Australia can NEVER become a world power.

    I also like

    “What stops a realignment from happening in the short term is social networks and personal loyalties. Most of Australias classical liberals are woven into organisations and social groups that bind them to conservatives”.

    Another name for it is the mongrel-dog pack. It sums up how this could NEVER have been remedied from within.

    The one unmistakeable signal that came from the collapse the Howard shambles was that the old order in Australia is a dead as a dodo but the corpse is still laying around annoying everyone with the stink.

    All this talk of liberals and conservatives – or any similar combinations – having a meeting of minds might have been appropriate and useful way back in the ‘eighties and ‘nineties. This is 2008. It’s far too late for that sort of idle chat now. The wogs, the chinks, the happy-clappers, the koons, the new nomenklatura, the uneducated and the nocturnal entrepreneurs will now tell you exactly how this country and this society will be organized and run …. so just sit down, shut up, listen and do as you are told – and learn to survive as best you can in the new circumstances.

  4. Yobbo says:

    If it turns out that liberty really is more important than giving rich people back their money, tormenting welfare recipients and smashing unions, then perhaps classical liberals might consider breaking their alliance with conservatives and forming an alliance with other liberals the kind of people Andrew sometimes calls social liberals.

    The problem is that this term is a misnomer.

    “Social Liberals” might be in favour of relaxing restrictions to do with illicit drugs, sexual behaviour and immigration, but they are firmly in favor of restricting liberty in many other ways.

    “social liberals” support anti-discrimination legalisation, campaigns to restrict smoking (of tobacco only of course, they want to relax restrictions on Marijuana), alcohol consumption, gambling (Blow Up The Pokies?), the ability to speak freely about religion (catch the fire) etc, etc.

    The only “liberals” in Australia are the LDP.

  5. Yobbo says:

    The “progressive” Greens, for example, have this as one of their policy measures.

    Ban donations from the tobacco, alcohol and pharmaceutical industries to political parties.

    Presumably industries that sell things they like, such as organic foods and Che Guevara T-Shirts, will still be allowed to donate to political parties.

    What is liberal about that in any way?

    They also want to force employers and employees into collective bargaining

    Require employers to enter into collective agreements with their workforce unless a majority are demonstrably opposed to collective bargaining, with the Industrial Relations Commission to have the power to arbitrate if no agreement can be reached.

    Again, what is “liberal” about making it illegal for 2 parties to come to an agreement without interference?

  6. NPOV says:

    Only a big-L Libertarian could claim that anti-discrimination legalisation is about restricting liberty. You presumably believe that the liberty of say, a business owner to not provide disabled access to his building is more important than the liberty of those in wheelchairs to live a near-normal life.

    And most campaigns to restrict harmful activities are primarily motivated by the intention of protecting the liberty of those who are being harmed against their will. A parent’s liberty to waste away all their money on pokies ends where the liberty of their family to live normal lives beings.

    FWIW, I agree that the Greens’ platform is littered with unnecessarily illiberal policies. But they’re still more liberal in general than either of the major parties.

  7. Patrick says:

    I admit that I often think the best chance for substantial gains in liberty lie with a Hawkean Labor. I have always thought, or perhaps only assumed, that it is mainly because it is easier to stab your own, and at the same time significantly harder for eg unions to say: ‘look, the bastard son of a union is raping the unions!’. Also the convert always carries some extra weight: ‘I thought like you too once, but I saw the light.’

    Insert Howard, and the unions don’t have to make a case to a good third of the population who simply believe them, whilst in the Hawke case, they have no such leg-up and have to make an argument to something other than tribal loyalties and prejudice. Not something unions are good at, imho.

    Further, you lose lots of points for timing – there is precious little evidence in either Australia or America that libertarians would have anything to gain from the present Labor/Democratic parties. Howard II is every bit as socially conservative as his political father, whilst his party is full of apparently reasonable people like Conroy who are turning out to be borderline communists, and people like Kim Il-Carr who were never appeared reasonable.

  8. Patrick says:

    But theyre still more liberal in general than either of the major parties.

    Except most of put a premium on economic liberty, because (imho) social liberty is pretty worthless without it. And then the Greens go to the bottom of the table.

    A parents liberty to waste away all their money on pokies ends where the liberty of their family to live normal lives beings.

    This is fair enough, and I agree.

    You presumably believe that the liberty of say, a business owner to not provide disabled access to his building is more important than the liberty of those in wheelchairs to live a near-normal life.

    This is not that hard to believe. Whilst I appreciate rather well the difficulty often faced by the disabled, I also appreciate the difficulty often faced by eg the small business owner. This kind of restriction on liberty should be very sensitive to its costs.

  9. NPOV says:

    Ah, but I agree that the business owner shouldn’t be responsible for paying for providing such access out of his own pocket. There’s an obvious case for taxpayer subsidization there.

    I personally rank social liberty equally with economic liberty. But even if the Greens were to implement every one of their policies, Australia would still be one of the most economically liberal countries in the world. However it would now combine that with being one of the most socially liberal too.

  10. swio says:

    Are there enough classical liberals aligned with the conservatives that all this really matters? It wasn’t just in economic issues and the size of government that Howard turned on classical liberals. The anti-terrorism legislation, the treatment of illegal immigrants and especially the apparent abuse of the judicial process that Howard supported in the case of Hicks and conducted in the case of Haneef should have been absolute anathema to a genuine classical liberal. Yet Howard was able to do all this without creating overwhelming internal stress within his party. My interpretation of this is that there are not nearly as many genuine liberals around as people might think. If alot of these “liberals” are just another variety of less “socially conservative” conservatives then they probably won’t have that much trouble remaining with the Liberal Party.

  11. Jason Soon (Bring back Homer Paxton) says:

    swio has hit the nail on the head. There actually aren’t that many classical liberals in the Liberal party. Most libertarians/classical liberals I know are non aligned swinging voters.

    And classical liberal groups like the CIS published a swag of articles criticising aspects of the Howard government’s pork barreling all through his government. They focused on policy areas where they had special expertise given their limited funds. Other liberals not aligned with think tanks tend to do the same and there is not much that anyone can say about the ‘fashionable’ social causes that apparently are supposed to be a distinguishing mark of ‘sincerity’ other than ‘it is wrong’ and only so many times one can say it.

    Yet here we have Nick engaging in his usual conspicuous moral consumption by smearing all classical liberals as authoritarians because they didn’t walk into Liberal party HQ with dynamite strapped to their bodies demanding the release of David Hicks.

  12. swio says:

    A question that I have wondered about for a while Is there any way for genuine liberals to swing both ways? They could hook up with the Greens/Left on social issues and the, umm, well there must be at least some small government conservatives left in the Liberal party for economic ones. Is it feasible to be shoulder to shoulder with Bob Brown one day and then completely 100% against him, but respectfully so, the next? Is this totally unrealistic?

  13. Jc says:

    Swio

    Can you understand that most classic liberals/ libertarian types would rather swallow castor oil for a week (change that, for a year) than see this happen:

    They could hook up with the Greens/Left on social issues

    The green left has never been socially liberal as it is understood. There are a few things they would allow simply because these things are aligned with their personal peferences. They are socailly liberal in in the context of what the state would allow.

    Is it feasible to be shoulder to shoulder with Bob Brown one day and then completely 100% against him, but respectfully so, the next? Is this totally unrealistic?

    Yes it is totally unrealistic as Brown is further to the left than the ALP left and almost all his policies limit freedom or would root the economy bigtime.

  14. Jc says:

    How about asking the labor right to make a few changes and hold hands as they’re the ones who are more closely aligned.

  15. Jacques Chester says:

    A question that I have wondered about for a while Is there any way for genuine liberals to swing both ways?

    Voting LDP is about as good as it gets at the moment.

  16. Jason Soon (Bring back Homer Paxton) says:

    The Greens?
    I’d rather hold hands with the Eros Foundation (after they’ve washed them first)

  17. Patrick says:

    I think we can conclude that anyone who even wonders whether libertarians could hold hand with the Greens doesn’t understand libertarians!!!

  18. NPOV says:

    Well certainly not the sort of libertarians that hang around here or on the ALS blog. But there are plenty of moderate small-l libertarians who aren’t very far apart from most Greens supporters. And plenty of people have wondered before about the possibility of a “Green Libertarian” movement.

    Jc – show me one Greens policy that would “root” the economy. Most of the Green’s economic policies are no different to that of some of the most successful economics in the world today. Which is not to suggest that such policies necessarily make sense in Australia, or that I think they are generally good policies, but while I generally prefer economically liberal policies, the LDP’s economic policies are far more likely to “root” our economy than the Green’s, given how fundamentally different they are to, oh, just about every other country on the planet.

    Also – “The green left has never been socially liberal as it is understood”. Understood by whom exactly? It is very much a position of most Greens members/supporters that the government should stay out of the consensual private actions of adults.

  19. John Greenfield says:

    I never stop shaking my head at those who distinguish between economic liberals and “social” liberals. Hullo? What could be more “social” than markets? Show me a society with little market activity and I will show you a society that is committing social suicide. The economy is the apotheosis of the social.

  20. John Greenfield says:

    The hope that liberals would find a comfy seat at the table of the US Democrats is laughable. Remember Leftism emerged as a reaction AGAINST liberalism. Liberals are the Left’s bete noir. Both Stalin and Hitler fought for the same anti-liberal market. The reality of the dreaded Anglo Saxons and their liberalism winning WW2 sticks in the craw of continental Leftists till this day.

  21. melaleuca says:

    It’s hard not to notice the volume of anger and rage and on libertarian/classical liberal bogs pertaining to muted bans on plastic bags compared to fundamental social rights issues, like torture, rendition etc that have been a feature of the Bush administration. I’d say the ratio of rage is running at about 100 to 1 in favour of the plastic bags.

    PS- Could someone turn the inane JG comment-bot off?

  22. Jason Soon (Bring back Homer Paxton) says:

    NPOV you have high hopes. The Greens aren’t even social liberals. They may be for dope but anti-smoking, anti-gambling and anti-‘excessive’ consumption of alcohol. And their support for causes like gay marriage strikes me as based on social egalitaranism (let’s give gays all these State ‘privileges’ the rest of us get) rather than social liberalism (i.e. leave people alone).

  23. Jason Soon (Bring back Homer Paxton) says:

    Mel, there has been no anger or rage about plastic bags – it just happens to be a topic that economics wonks can debate about given all the reports released, etc. Blogs are primarily for wonks, not social workers.

    As I’ve mentioned before, there is not much more people can say about torture and rendition except ‘it is bad’.

    And people with grandiose hopes that grandstanding about these things on some blog can make a difference should get a life.

  24. Jason Soon (Bring back Homer Paxton) says:

    “truth to power” – Australian blogger brings down Bush administration with searing Zola-esque indictment of torture.

    HA!

  25. Jc says:

    show me one Greens policy that would root the economy.

    Only one? You’re making this real hard.LOL

    Their entire economic bag of tricks would kill the economy. It wouldn’t just flat line it. It would destroy it.

    I particularly liked their policy to ban battery hen farming in favour of free range. They hadn’t calculated that we would the entire farm land in Victoria to maintain the same chicken population. Not sure if that policy is still up on the site as they keep removing stuff when they get too much heat.

    They would turn melbourne would turn into those dusty south american towns we see in movies. You see an old bus coming into town and all these chickens go flying around the place.

  26. melaleuca says:

    Rubbish, Soon. An intellectual case for torture has been made- mainly by various conservatives- and therefore an intellectual case must be made against it. Better minds than yours have put forward eloquent and articulated cases both for and against.

    You say: “And people with grandiose hopes that grandstanding about these things on some blog can make a difference should get a life.” Yet have a blog post entitled “Boycott Earth Hour!”, you old activist you. Surely you have enough of a life to realise you were never gonna roll Earth Hour?

  27. Jacques Chester says:

    melaleuca;

    I know you enjoy stoushing with libertarians, but hereabouts we’re civility conservatives. Please keep it calm and on topic.

    Cheers,

    your friendly local oppressor.

    ps. this goes for everyone else too.

  28. Jason Soon (Bring back Homer Paxton) says:

    OK Mel

    How many goddamned posts on torture and that fat fool David Hicks does the average classical liberal have to write to satisfy the grand inquisitors Mel and Gruen of the sincerity of their beliefs? How many did you write? Really, these sorts of comments lead nowhere. it’s the equivalent of the Larva prodeo crowd demanding 15 pro-feminist posts for every 1 Ayaan Hirsi Ali post.

  29. Jacques Chester says:

    You too, Jason.

  30. Jc says:

    Jacques

    You left me out. Please don’t do that again.

  31. Jason Soon (Bring back Homer Paxton) says:

    Oui, Frere Jacques

  32. melaleuca says:

    Thanks Jacques.

    Can we at least agree not to torture plastic bags?

  33. Jc says:

    The coming realignment?

    That reminds me, where’s Homer seeing someone brought up Keating earlier. Homes adores keating.

  34. swio says:

    You wouldn’t even stand with the Greens when they’re fighting against excessive anti-terrorism legislation? Don’t you understand that if the Greens accept your support it automatically implies they also accept your views on other issues are legitimate (even if they disagree with them) ? Why wouldn’t you jump at the chance to let the conservatives know that you can’t be taken for granted (which would increase your leverage over them) while working towards something worthwhile. If you’re going to let personal distaste rule your political decision making then you’ll never get anywhere. Every political co-alition in the world is full of people who hate each others guts but get past that to acheive something. Why can’t Libertarians do the same?

  35. Jc says:

    Swio:

    Granted most political parties are basically coalitions. You’ll find that libertarians would have common ground with lots of labor right people. Graig Emmerson is one example.

    There is very little common ground with the greens. Greens poltical underpinnings is basically statism. The fact they don’t like anti-terror laws is neither here or there in the whole scheme of things.

    You’re asking libertarians to do a doctors wives shift. Remember these gals? They moved straight from the inner circle of the Liberal party to the greens without flinching a muscle. Please! We do have some standards even if they’re pretty low. :-)

    Asking libertarians to do a doctors wives shift is taking things too far.

  36. NPOV says:

    “Greens poltical underpinnings is basically statism”

    It is? The whole basis of the Green’s existence is that governments in general have done a crap job of protecting the environment, social/civil liberties, the disadvantaged etc. etc.

    Of course, like every other political party, they somehow think that if they got into power they would be different. But a big part of their platform involves the reduction of the role government in important areas: corporate and middle-class welfare, intrusion into private lives, authoritarian decision-making (vs plebsicites/referendums on key issues). And by international standards, they are highly unlikely to move Australia from being a relatively small government state to a large one.

    As for your particular objection to a ban against battery hen farming: please show me the maths that doing so would somehow make chicken farming impossible in Australia. It’s not exactly like we lack space. And of course “open pasture free range” isn’t the only alternative anyway – chickens seem to cope fine with being in quite crowded barns, as long as they move freely around. At any rate we already have quite stringent regulations on the conditions that domesticated animals can be kept under, and none have yet to kill any particular industry. In fact, every time someone brings up the old “this piece of regulation will kill the XYZ industry” line, they show remarkably little faith the enterpreneurship and problem-solving skills of industry players.

    OTOH, it’s basically a line-drawing exercise. I don’t believe even the staunchest libertarian would object to regulations that prevented farmers from, say, deliberately administrating drugs that were known to cause extreme pain to their livestock because it had the side-effect of reducing growing time. But the way some battery hens are raised is not a great deal better. Unfortunately as consumers when purchasing eggs and poultry, there generally isn’t sufficient information available to determine whether a particular product comes from a farm with particularly harsh conditions. I generally stick to the “RSCPA-approved” eggs, but I’ve never seen such labelling on chicken meat.

  37. NPOV says:

    Oh, and the EU already has in place legislation to phase out battery chicken farming by 2012. If the EU, where land is at a real premium, can do it, then any argument that Australia can’t is laughable.

  38. Jc says:

    N

    I don’t have any objection to people growing free range chickens and others buying such produce. It’s up to them.

    I do have a problem with banning battery farming as the result would be enmormous in terms of food costs and the land required to support hippie farming.

    ——————-

    Greens political underpinnings is basically statism
    It is? The whole basis of the Greens existence is that governments in general have done a crap job of protecting the environment, social/civil liberties, the disadvantaged etc. etc.

    Yea it is statist. We would be substituting milder forms of statism for the real hardcore variety. The greens solution is not to get out of people lives, its to interfere even more. They just think their brand of hardcore socialism is superior, thats all.

    Of course, like every other political party, they somehow think that if they got into power they would be different. But a big part of their platform involves the reduction of the role government in important areas: corporate and middle-class welfare,

    Bullshit. They would remove one set of rules and substitute them with other more draconian and sinister ones. Let’s not confuse the ALP which is interventionist with the socialist greens. There’s a huge difference.

    A

    nd by international standards, they are highly unlikely to move Australia from being a relatively small government state to a large one

    Here are some that would:
    http://www.greenswatch.com/economy.aspx

    As for your particular objection to a ban against battery hen farming: please show me the maths that doing so would somehow make chicken farming impossible in Australia.

    Never said that. It would simply raise the cost of producing food.

    Here are more of their hippie agricultural policies:
    http://www.greenswatch.com/agricultural_policy.aspx

    In fact, every time someone brings up the old this piece of regulation will kill the XYZ industry line, they show remarkably little faith the enterpreneurship and problem-solving skills of industry players.

    Yea, well we can keep breaking windows and replace them, but it hardly increases living stadards in doing so. And don’t be so optimistic that innovation will get us through all the time. If the UK had say banned the use of coal at the time of the industrial revolution it would have stopped the IR dead in it’s tracks as there was no other substitute around seeing wood was too expensive. it would have stopped it dead. You’re aslo interfering with the capital allocation process and causing inffeciencies and when you do that you had better be bloody careful with what you’re up to.

    OTOH, its basically a line-drawing exercise. I dont believe even the staunchest libertarian would object to regulations that prevented farmers from, say, deliberately administrating drugs that were known to cause extreme pain to their livestock because it had the side-effect of reducing growing time.

    The market can sort that out. There are lots of places that openly advertise organic food products and seem to be always full, so I dont have a large problem with the market supplying food the way you suggest. Silly Fair Trade coffee is another example. Thats easy.

    Unfortunately as consumers when purchasing eggs and poultry, there generally isnt sufficient information available to determine whether a particular product comes from a farm with particularly harsh conditions. I generally stick to the RSCPA-approved eggs, but Ive never seen such labelling on chicken meat.

    You just made the point that there is adequate information for you to buy RSCPA approved eggs. Isnt that the market doing its work by segmenting products to supply what you demand?

  39. Jc says:

    N

    What exactly is the EU regulating towards? Is it free range like the Greens or some other form of intense farming methods?

    By the way, noticed what’s been happening to grain prices recently. A stupid decision by the US administration to subsidize ethanol production, a couple of bad crops in places due to droughts/ bad weather conditions and we’re staring at the bottom of a cliff in terms of global grain reserves with prices heading to the outer rim of space.

    And please explain why the EU is your gold standard in terms of paragon of economic virtue. EU economic growth has barely moved in the past 20 years.

  40. Niall says:

    Jason Soon and ‘Sincere’. The grand contradiction in terms

  41. NPOV says:

    “I do have a problem with banning battery farming as the result would be enmormous in terms of food costs and the land required to support hippie farming.”

    Prove it. Switzerland has already banned battery farming, and as I said, the EU is intending to do so by 2012. The estimated cost increase is neglible.
    And the alternative is not “hippie farming”. Battery farming is quite specifically the case of using cages just big enough to fit a single chicken in, that can basically never move. The Greens have not officially objected to high-density barn-farming, as far as I’m aware.

    And why on earth should it be up to the market to determine what is inhumane treatment of animals? Presumably you don’t take that line when the animals in question are Homo Sapiens. And no, I don’t believe that it makes sense to treat all animals like human beings, but nor does it make sense to treat non-human animals like inanimate objects.

    I never said the EU is any sort of gold standard. But it still boasts the highest standard of living of any part of the world – of course there’s a certain amount of subjectivity in a judgement like that, though there’s plenty of hard facts to back it up. Personally I can see why anyone might complain particularly about the possibility of Australia’s style of government become more like, say, Switzerland’s (which is at least 1.5 times the size government as Australia).

    BTW, that GreensWatch site is truly awful. I could happily write a 10-page essay criticising various policies of the Greens. However I’d write it in such a way that its purpose was to encourage the Greens party to rethink its policies, as opposed to being an exercise in fear-mongering and derision.

  42. NPOV says:

    I notice there was some buzz in the blogosphere a while back about who exactly was behind greenswatch. The name Allan James (or James Allan) cropped up, as did the Exclusive Brethren, but nobody seemed to mention this: http://www.myspace.com/greenswatch which is surely the biggest clue.
    Not that anyone seems interested anymore…

  43. Jc says:

    Dunno who set it up, N. I heard it was some labor guys belive it or not. Don’t think it was EB as they’re not allowed to use computers or TV (funny, hey).

    Prove it. Switzerland has already banned battery farming, and as I said, the EU is intending to do so by 2012. The estimated cost increase is

    neglible.

    Look<I agree with you on personal level, so there! J I think batter farming is brutal. But low intensity hippie farming isnt the answer as the cost of chicken would be pretty high. You havent come back and explained what the EU is going to do. I very much doubt they will be pursuing hippie-farming practices though.

    The Greens have not officially objected to high-density barn-farming, as far as Im aware

    They suggesting free range. You’d need all of victorian farmaland to do that.

    And why on earth should it be up to the market to determine what is inhumane treatment of animals?

    Why, We dont buy battery chicken for that very reason. Thats easy.

    Presumably you dont take that line when the animals in question are Homo Sapiens. And no, I dont believe that it makes sense to treat all animals like human beings, but nor does it make sense to treat non-human animals like inanimate objects.

    Look I agree with you . They way we treat animals is pretty deplorable. However I dont wish to impose my beliefs on others who may have other ideas. And not everyone can afford to be so careful, N.

    Personally I can see why anyone might complain particularly about the possibility of Australias style of government become more like, say, Switzerlands (which is at least 1.5 times the size government as Australia).

    Please do so. Most libertarians would prefer a weak central government anyways.

    BTW, that GreensWatch site is truly awful. I could happily write a 10-page essay criticising various policies of the Greens. However Id write it in such a way that its purpose was to encourage the Greens party to rethink its policies, as opposed to being an exercise in fear-mongering and derision

    Why treat them with kid gloves? 900,000 people voted for them. They arent babies and if they deserve a good thrashing why not point the howitzer their way as other major parties have to cop it.

  44. NPOV says:

    Where is it official Greens policy that all chickens should be raised free range?
    I still highly doubt that it would require all of Victorian farmland to do it – most farms have plenty of under-utilised space, and chickens can use any sort of area: they certainly don’t need valuable fertile pasture or grazing land.

    “I dont wish to impose my beliefs on others who may have other ideas”

    All political parties want to impose their beliefs on others – you could even argue that’s the purpose of government. You want minimal regulation of business activites, maximal privatisation etc. etc. Most people see significant dangers in such a prospect. The LDP’s policies would surely result in far greater social and economic change to Australia than those of the Green’s.

    At any rate, the only we reason farmers get away with cruel treat of animals is because customers don’t experience it first hand. If we had to walk through chicken farms before buying the products they produced, battery farms would go out of business very quickly. That would, in some ways, be the ideal “let the market decide” solution, but it’s pretty clearly completely impracticable.

    And I’m proudly one of the 900,000 people who voted [1] Greens. I would have put the LDP second, but they weren’t running a candidate in my seat.

  45. Patrick says:

    The EU has a good record of legislating first and thinking later. I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t even consider land availability.

  46. NPOV says:

    Pretty much all governments have some sort of record of legislating first and thinking later. But in this particular case it’s very hard to see how banning battery chicken farming could possibily result in any sort of nasty unintended consequences. Switzerland has had the ban in place since 1992, and I’m not aware of any data indicating that chickens have since become unaffordable, or that local chicken farmers have been driven out of business by importers.

    If that’s the best example someone can come up with of a Greens policy likely to “root the economy”, then I’m not particularly impressed. A far better example is the plan to phase out coal and uranium exports, which I agree would be foolish (indeed the Greens’ entrenched opposition to nuclear power is by far my biggest gripe with them). But even if they were to miraculously sweep to power in the next election, they’d have Buckley’s chance of actually getting such legislation to pass any time soon.

  47. NPOV says:

    BTW, for any genuinely interested in the Battery Hen situtation in Switzerland: http://upc-online.org/battery_hens/SwissHens.pdf
    It notes in particular that the subsequent price rise in eggs was nothing compared to the price rise in most food products, and, at any rate, incomes grew even faster. I’m more than willing to bet that Australia will have similar legislation in place within the next 10 years, no matter which parties are in power.

  48. Jason Soon (Bring back Homer Paxton) says:

    guys can we come up with a better example than chickens please? animal rights and Green causes aren’t even necessarily correlated as Mel will tell you and can in times be in conflict.

  49. Jc says:

    Nonsense jase, we gotta sort out the chicken problem.

    I would have put the LDP second, but they werent running a candidate in my seat.

    Then you shoulda voted informal.

  50. Tim Lambert says:

    Joe Cambria says: “I particularly liked their policy to ban battery hen farming in favour of free range. They hadnt calculated that we would the entire farm land in Victoria to maintain the same chicken population.”

    That’s not true. Maybe you should not believe everything you read on nutty websites?

  51. melaleuca says:

    Here’s what Prof John Quiggin, undoubtedly one of Australia’s best economic minds, had to say about Greens economic policy in 2004:

    “It turns out that trepidation is unnecessary. The Greens economic policy is one of the most coherent and intellectually-defensible documents of its kind ever put forward by an Australian political party (at the opposite end of the political spectrum, the 1992 Fightback! program was similarly coherent and substantially more detailed). At the level of broad principles, it begins with the recognition that economic policy must be financially, as well as environmentally and socially, sustainable.

    Far from seeking cheap popularity by arguing for both tax cuts and increased public expenditure, the Greens have insisted that new public expenditure must be financed by higher taxes. In addition, they observe that public sector debt should be matched by adequate capacity to service debt, and that dubious financial expedients like the use of privatisation to reduce measured debt should be avoided. There is even a commitment to a consistent application of accrual accounting, something that the major parties have promised, but not delivered.”
    http://johnquiggin.com/index.php/archives/2004/07/29/greens-economic-policy-part-2/

    When the Greens ran the Yarra City council here in Victoria, they reduced council debt at a faster rate than any other local council during the same period. The architect of this policy was Greg Barber, who now sits in the Victorian upper house.

    On the other hand, staunch libertarian policies would cripple the state, impoverish and disempower much of the working class and give rise to a new red menace. Libertarianism is one of the few cards Marxists have left up their sleeves.

  52. Patrick says:

    Prof John Quiggin, undoubtedly one of Australias best leftest economic minds

    /silly snark

  53. NPOV says:

    I’m not sure I buy the line that “staunch libertarian policies would cripple the state, impoverish and disempower much of the working class”. The main problem I see with them is that they would put Australia at odds with the rest of the developed world. But ultimately they’re politically infeasible in a modern democracy, because the moment any problem came up, the opposing parties would promise to do something about them, while a ruling libertarian party would, were it to stick to its principles, be forced to promise to do nothing about it. Nobody votes a government promising to do nothing about what they perceive as a problem.

  54. JC says:

    Tim

    Sorry Tim, you’re wrong again. It is true.
    Greens watch is a great resource. Some labor dudes have provided us with a terrific website.

  55. Tim Lambert says:

    Sorry Joe, but there is a really obvious mistake in their calculations. You really are most gullible.

  56. JC says:

    So,

    what are the calcs,Tim?

  57. Tim Lambert says:

    Joe, your greenswatch site says:

    Australia’s Chicken flock consists of 400 Million meat chickens and 13 Million egg laying hens.

    According to the Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals a maximum of 1500 birds per hectare is required for free-range chickens.

    413,000,000 Chickens / 1500 Chickens = 275,333.33 Hectares

    Try to think and figure out what is wrong with their calculation.

  58. melaleuca says:

    “Try to think …”

    Libertarians almost always come unstuck on that point. It isn’t their fault: I blame it on inappropriate potty training.

    Merkel has done the calcs- http://benambra.org/benambra/?q=node/855

  59. Yobbo says:

    Im not sure I buy the line that staunch libertarian policies would cripple the state, impoverish and disempower much of the working class. The main problem I see with them is that they would put Australia at odds with the rest of the developed world.

    That’s really not true. Our policies are not much different to policies in place in various other developed countries like Hong Kong, Ireland and few others.

    Not every developed country has 50% income tax and an expansive federal government.

    Our primary goal is a flat tax (like Hong Kong). Nothing there that hasn’t been tried successfully before.

  60. Jc says:

    4

    13,000,000 Chickens / 1500 Chickens = 275,333.33 Hectares.
    Try to think and figure out what is wrong with their calculation.

    Not much, because:

    there’s only one problem with with Rob’s calcs (and yours Tim). If you’re not force feeding the little bastards and they’re moving around a lot and “excercising” as they don’t do in battery “factories” it actually does take almost a year to reach maturity.

    You ought to know that, you’re part time hippie chicken farmer aren’t you? :-)

    So the 57,000 acres morphs into 275,000 odd.

    Could even be more…. They dose them with anti-biotics in the factories so losses are minimized.

  61. Jacques Chester says:

    melaleuca;

    Please remember the policy. I am quite happy to edit your posts from here on.

  62. Jc says:

    Tim

    Think of it like this. It’s calories in and calories out. If you were a little more active during the day and went to that subsidized gym you would be a lot trimmer even if you ate the same quanitity of food including those chocolate bars you may get stuck into.

    Same with chickens. If they weren’t forced fed all those chicken chocolate bars and the “fatty” food the growing season stretches out.

    Try it as an experiment in reverse. Stay with the same food calories you suck down, go to the gym, spend 45 minutes in cardio work along with 15 mins weights training and then come back and tell us what you look like in 3 months.

  63. Sinclair Davidson says:

    #51 – Thanks Mel for bringing up the 2004 Greens economic platform. On August 4, 2004 I published a piece in the AFR responding to John Quiggin’s earlier article. I’m reproducing it below.
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    John Quiggin has performed a valuable public service (“Don’t fear a Greens Senate”, AFR Opinion, July 29). He has highlighted the Greens.
    This party, as Quiggin indicates, is very likely to hold the balance of power in the Senate in coming years. A preliminary investigation of its economic policy contains the usual suspects – policies should be sustainable and responsible, blah blah blah.
    Quiggin tells us this policy document is “coherent and intellectually defensible”. Quiggin, clearly, is relying on his reputation as one of Australia’s leading theoretical economists and is hoping that nobody will actually read the Greens’ economic policy. I had a look at their tax policy. A vote for the Greens will not be “choosing a party with a policy that is economically as well as socially responsible”.
    The policy contains some broad comments and then some very detailed proposals, designated as short-term targets. This extensive list includes: making the tax system more progressive; reducing tax breaks through fringe benefits tax and salary sacrifice; phasing out the GST; scrapping the capital gains discount; introducing inheritance tax (including on the family home) and a supplementary gift tax; an increase in the Medicare levy and restructuring that levy to be progressive; the removal of the private health rebate; the application of progressive rates to superannuation taxation; the removal of superannuation concessions; an increase in company tax; the reintroduction of double taxation on dividends; a reduction in negative gearing; and the introduction of environment levies.
    At an international level, a Tobin tax is proposed (transactions tax on foreign exchange). As Quiggin says, minor party policies contain “large elements of wishful thinking, small-group hobby horses and plain irrationality”.
    The Greens’ policy is fanciful. They argue, for example, that low and middle-income earners pay more tax in proportion to their income than do high-income earners. An analysis of Australian Taxation Office data shows this claim to be false. High-income earners pay the bulk of personal income tax. As statistician and environmental sceptic Bjorn Lomborg has amply demonstrated, greens have a tardy attitude to inconvenient facts. But why would our green friends want to ramp up taxes? Some of the answers to that question are in their policy.
    First, they are opposed to an unequal distribution of wealth and income in Australia. Furthermore, they wish to participate in the “positive redistribution of wealth internationally”.
    The Greens have a huge spending agenda. The obvious solution to reducing the level of foreign involvement and increasing the size and scope of the public sector is wholesale nationalisation of foreign-owned business.
    The complete nationalisation of Telstra is already part of the policy, as are all “natural monopolies”. By raising taxes, the Greens hope to get the money to finance their social engineering policies.
    This also explains why, when the federal government has a surplus and low borrowings, the Greens’ policy speaks of managing deficits and debt. The Greens have been able to advance in the parliament with little scrutiny. What do we know about them? Looking at the 2001 candidate survey, it becomes clear that the Greens is an extreme left-wing party.
    The Greens’ candidates believe government is run by “a few big interests”. Clearly, they have an agenda to change that. Eighty-five per cent of Greens candidates at the last federal election supported increased spending, not one supported reducing taxes.
    Looking at green voters from the last election (the 2001 Australian Election Study), 32.7 per cent did not think high taxes made people less willing to work.
    Greens voters tend to think of themselves as being left. What is particularly interesting is that Greens voters place the party further to the left than do the voters of any other party. In short, the Greens are further to the left than is generally thought.
    The Greens have performed well in the past few years and in the years to come may well hold the balance of power in the Senate. To date, they have escaped widespread, serious scrutiny. Many voters may have the view that they are “mostly harmless”. An analysis, however, of who they are, and what they stand for is long overdue.
    Unlike Quiggin, I am not sanguine about their economic policies. The Greens are not just a bunch of warm and cuddly tree-huggers. They have a vast agenda spelt out in their policies – we should believe they mean business.
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Unfortunately, their 2007 platform was vague and the level of detail we saw in the 2004 platform was not repeated.

  64. Jc says:

    the reintroduction of double taxation on dividends; a reduction in negative gearing;

    That’s a 80% drop in the stock market and real estate markets right there. Add a Tobin tax to international capital movements and you wouldn’t want to own the Aussie Dollar even if it fell to 20 cents.

    I forgot: the bond market would collapse and mortgage rates would be close to 15%.

    They sure are conservative economics policies, Sinc.

    Let me make a humble suggestion, introducing these polices (or even having a government that threatened such polices) would cause the economic collapse of this country. It wouldn’t be a recession. It would make the great depression look like a boom.

    You could make decent money shorting stocks though if you were quick seeing it would resemble a herd of elephants trying to get through key hole at the same time. LOL

  65. Patrick says:

    The difference between a libertarian and, eg, Don Arthur is that a libertarian doesn’t need to read the Greens’ policies to know that they are crap ;)

  66. Tim Lambert says:

    So your theory, Joe, is that if you exercise it will take six times as long to reach maturity? You should get a job writing opinion pieces for the Australian.

  67. Jc says:

    Nice try Tim.

    So your theory, Joe, is that if you exercise it will take six times as long to reach maturity?

    And weight?

    1.Take a chook out if its cage,

    2 let it fend for itself in terms of food

    3 don’t feed it growth hormones

    4 Don’t feed it get fat quick food

    5 let it run round free

    6 dont feed it anti biotics.

    Will take you about a year to fully-grown chook, which would equal 275,000 H

    Shouldnt you acknowledge incorrectly using the growth stats for battery hens to arrive at your assertion about the land area required?

    For your experiment
    I wouldn’t advise you to take growth hormone, Tim, but you could try the gym routine and tell us what happens to your weight.

  68. Tim Lambert says:

    Joe, it really shouldn’t be necessary to spell this out for you, but under your theory, free range chickens would cost six times as much as battery chickens. Actually, they are about 20% more expensive.

    Nor did I “incorrectly using the growth stats for battery hens”. The Domestic Poultry Code, which your silly greenswatch site even linked to, gives a ten week cycle for free range chickens. Or do you think that a year is only ten weeks long?

  69. Jc says:

    Joe, it really shouldnt be necessary to spell this out for you, but under your theory, free range chickens would cost six times as much as battery chickens. Actually, they are about 20% more expensive.

    You actually think that if all chickens were grown this way the “20% more expensive” would hold. You think it would actually be linear?

    Is that like windpower is advatnageous because wind is free, Tim?

    Nor did I incorrectly using the growth stats for battery hens. The Domestic Poultry Code, which your silly greenswatch site even linked to, gives a ten week cycle for free range chickens.

    I read it takes a year to raise a fully grown chicken out on the range.

  70. Ken Parish says:

    Face it Joe. On the chooks you’ve laid an egg (Homer, where are you?).

    OTO Sinclair has saved your bacon on the Greens’ tax policies. They really would have us out of the frying pan and into the fire. And that’s no yolk.

  71. Jc says:

    Just checked safeway’s Ken.

    Free range figures out to 40% more. tim’s just underestimating the cost.

    From Safeway website

    maryland 2* 400g maryland chook is $5.96
    maryland free range $10.50

    1k regular chook is 5.96/8=.745* 10 =($7.45-10.50)=3.05/7.45= 40%

    Lambert’s 1/2ed the premium of a free range chook and never told us.

    (Homer, where are you?).

    Leave him alone. he’s told us he’s gone into hibernation for a few months and now you wanna wake him up? Why? Why do that to your site?

  72. Jc says:

    maryland free range $10.50 IK

  73. Tim Lambert says:

    I think we should consider JQ’s reply to Davidson:

    In todays Fin (subscription required) Sinclair Davidson has a response to my earlier article on the Greens economic policy. A couple of points in response. First, although hes kind enough to describe me as one of Australias leading theoretical economists[1], hes happy to dismiss proposals for a Tobin tax as coming from the lunatic fringe, without noting that the late James Tobin was considerably more eminent than either of us as both a theoretical and a policy economist (at least thats what the Nobel Prize committee thought). Similar ideas have been put forward by a more recent Nobel Prizewinner, Joseph Stiglitz. Of course, there are plenty of equally prominent economists who oppose the idea, but its certainly not outside the range of legitimate debate.

    The second is a fallacy Ive pointed out previously in Davidsons work for the CIS. The Greens assert that middle-income earners pay more of their income in tax than high-income earners. Davidson denies this. His evidence? Australian Taxation Office data on the ratio of tax paid to taxable income. But the primary method of avoiding (and for that matter, evading) tax is the use of legal, semilegal and illegal devices for reducing your declared taxable income. Davidsons ATO data proves nothing more than that the income tax scale is progressive. The Greens, and many others, assert that tax avoidance is sufficient to offset this progressivity. This is hard to prove either way[2], but Davidson has not even addressed the issue.

  74. Tim Lambert says:

    The 20% premium came from Choice. Coles on-line has free-range at $6.99/kg and battery chicken at $5.59/kg, a 24% premium.

    And none of this helps you. If free range chickens take 6 times as long to mature as you claim, then they would cost six times as much to produce.

    Face it Joe, the Greens are way better at economics than you.

  75. David Rubie says:

    Inglewood chicken farms give the days to maturity of a turned off free-range chicken (non-organic) as 70 days vs. 38 days of an industrially produced chicken Here I come Colonel Sanders

    (“Turned off” in farmers parlance is when the animal is removed from food or forage and transported to slaughter).

    Chickens aren’t seasonal. Given a very generous 90 day turnaround for each batch of turned off chickens, you have to divide the “Greenswatch” figures by 4, realistically.

    That gives 275,000 / 4 = 68,750 hectares IF you want to put the 1500/hectare figure to use. I can’t find an easy reference for that but I’d assume that’s for “organic” chicken, which is a different category to “free range” chicken.

    As stated above, there are over 1 million hectares in Victoria alone that have wheat (or maybe wheat/sheep) mixed businesses. Are the free-range chickens more expensive given that they take twice as long to get to market as free-range chickens? I can’t find any cost of production figures of free-range vs. industrial chickens as they may have very different requirements with respect to parasite control, feed and infection levels (i.e. the free-range chickens may get lice, the industrial chickens get more infections etc).

    It should be noted that while the chickens might be termed free-range, they are probably fed grain and/or corn which are expensive. Calculations on cost/kg of meat are usually very dependent on the costs of bought vs. grown grain/graze products. Industrial chickens must be fed harvested grain while free-range chickens can graze – so the 38 days vs. 70 days figure might lead you to believe that feeding a 70 day chicken would be more expensive, but it might not be if the chickens are allowed to seasonally graze.

    Conclusion: JC – it’s honourable to have a crack at some of the greens policies, but the facts are a little inconvenient in this case.

  76. Jc says:

    Face it Joe, the Greens are way better at economics than you.

    Why are you trying to paint me with the price relationship. I never discussed the price relationship until you raised it seeing I thought it took 12 months to raise a free range chook. You ought to stop trying those tricks.

    ——————–
    But let’s head off to the Tobin tax. Which is one of my favorites of all time.

    Tim is asserting that potential noble prizewinners (Tobin) cannot offer up kooky ideas? The Tobin Tax wasnt just a kooky idea it was positively horrendous. Actually change that it was quite possibly the worst idea in international finance for the last 30 odd years.

    Tobin originally suggested it as a tax against foreign exchange speculation with the proceeds to be collected by the United Nations. We know were heading to the deep end of the pool when Tobin described the tax as a way of preventing foreign exchange trafficking.

    Sure enough the anti-globalization groups caught onto it as a way of stopping the global movement of capital (and therefore goods indirectly) as a surplus or deficit in the capital account mirrors a deficit or surplus in the trade account. From memory the original suggestion was .1% tax on all capital related transactions.

    Later on even Tobin himself seemed to have became a little embarrassed about who had begun to support the tax… LOL.

    Tobin:

    I have absolutely nothing in common with those anti-globalization rebels. Of course I am pleased; but the loudest applause is coming from the wrong side. Look, I am an economist and, like most economists, I support free trade.

    And who could possibly blame him.

    Never to look at a bad economic idea and walk away South American countries have at times embraced the concept of a Tobin tax. Such illustrious economic luminaries such as Hugo Chavez support the tax….

    As a group south Americans have possibly tried out every bad economic idea that ever been conceived. In fact they seem excited at the prospect of putting bad ideas to practice so they can prove they are bad ideas. Extending that further the rest of the world ought to use Sth Am as a bad idea lab. :-)

    The defense that because Tobin proposed it therefore must not be a kooky idea is amusing as it is so weak….its like saying how could someone the likes of Tobin suggest a kooky idea?

    Its a kooky all right. Unilateral implementation would cause our asset markets to be literally destroyed in one fell swoop. You would have to implement exchange controls to stop capital outflows, as everyone would be rushing to the exit doors.

  77. Jc says:

    Dave R

    Fair enough: I got that one wrong. Free range cost about 20-40 % more then battery hens. So there’s a difference between free range and organic? That’s why I love Troppo. You always learn something new.

  78. Jc says:

    I know , it’s pretty frightening I’m using The Guardian as a reference supporting my argument. On the other hand when the Guardian cracks a bad idea it must be a shocker.

    The “City Notebook” column in the British broadsheet The Guardian, August 30, 2001, put the case against such a tax in straightforward terms. It said that currency speculators are “an exceptionally useful lot, working day-in, day-out, risking their own wealth to supply a thing called liquidity. Without liquidity, markets dry up, prices become volatile and goods become difficult to shift.” If a Tobin tax were in place, the editorial continued, that useful work would not be as well accomplished. “The net result is that everyone involved producer, trader, buyer becomes poorer, not richer”, wrote The Guardian

  79. Stephen Lloyd says:

    I consider myself classical liberal, but I reject the characterisation in the post that we are all about giving rich people back their money (or that tax reduction is motivated by that at all) am more concerned with protection in the economy than I am about personal income tax.

    The Productivity Commission released a report this week saying tariffs cost Australians 9.4 billion clams whilst providing only 1.4 billion in benefits.

    I can stomach a little more tax if the government stops insisting on penalising me for wanting to buy a Corolla instead of a Commodore. Progressives are nowhere near us in most regards, its just rubbish. They support tariffs in the car industry, where as I think its just a rort and only deprives consumers of the right to buy the cars they want at the lowest possible price.

    I am far more concerned with this than “giving rich people back their money”.

  80. NPOV says:

    Yobbo, neither Ireland or Hong Kong could reasonably be considered libertarian states. According to heritage.org, Ireland rates a mere 64.5% on ‘freedom from government’ and 71.5% for fiscal freedom. Hong Kong may have a notably free economy, and I would be perfectly happy to see Australia look towards Hong Kong as model for future economic liberalisation, especially in the way it maintains a well developed and efficient public health-care and public transport systems. But note Hong Kong has a distinct of advantage of not having to maintain a military force.
    Also, see http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2005/07/hong_kong_stati.html

    On the non-economic liberal front, it doesn’t score particularly well, with laws that actively discriminate against homosexuals, a lack of any real democracy. It also has strict gun laws, and a very tough stance on personal recreational drug usage.

  81. Don Arthur says:

    Stephen – I didn’t mean to imply that classical liberals are “all about giving rich people back their money”. What I wanted to say was that some people who call themselves classical liberals are more interested in reducing taxes for high income earners than they are in liberty.

    I’m glad you brought up tariff policy. There is absolutely no way ‘progressive fusionism’ can work unless progressives stop supporting illiberal an inefficient economic policies like tariff protection.

  82. Patrick says:

    There is absolutely no way progressive fusionism can work unless progressives stop supporting illiberal an inefficient economic policies like tariff protection.

    They won’t be progressive if they start being that sensible!

  83. NPOV says:

    I don’t think too many serious progressives think protectionism makes good long term economic sense these days. They might argue that there is a political case for it in particular circumstances. But protectionism has always been more of a political (and foreign relations) issue than an economic one.

  84. NPOV says:

    The other thing I meant to mention is that while the LDP’s economic policies as they stand right now might not be so totally radical different to that of, say, Hong Kong or Singapore, I’m fully aware that many of the LDP’s core members consider the current set of policies as just a waypoint towards “truly” libertarian policy, where everything (all business, all land) is privately owned and operated, no wealth or income is automatically redistributed, and the government’s sole job is to enforce the absolutely minimal set of laws required to protect “life, liberty and property”. In other words, the LDP’s current policy platform doesn’t really classify as genuinely “staunch libertarian policies”.

  85. Pingback: Great Andrew Norton post - esp for thinking lefties « Balneus

  86. Don Arthur says:

    NPOV – I’m curious about protectionism as a foreign relations issue.

    It seems to me that a nation benefits even if it unilaterally reduces protection.

    Do you think there’s a foreign relations case for tariffs?

  87. NPOV says:

    It might seem that way to you, but if it were that simple, why it is that nations seem endlessly locked in battles over free trade agreements?
    In an ideal world, no country would ever impose trade barriers. But once one country does, then others that had previously depended on that export market could understandably see themselves in a position where the only retribution is to introduce their own trade barriers.
    How often this happens in practice I couldn’t say.

  88. Patrick says:

    I don’t believe trade barriers are often retributionary, although they may be provoked by another country’s barriers the impetus generally comes from domestic interests pleading (perversely) for a level playing field.

    Those interests are just as interested without the provocation of another country’s barriers, their arguments are however better received by politicians in that context.

    Once they are in place the issue is one of machistic zero-sum bargaining – everyone wants to win and perceives every advantage derived by another as a loss.

  89. Yobbo says:

    Actually NPOV, very few LDP members are anarchists. Most would be fairly happy with lowering tax rates and privatising a few more government departments.

    Our most “extreme” policy is the flat tax, and as has already been discussed, it is in fact less extreme than Hong Kong’s (their flat tax is 17% vs our proposed 30%)

  90. Jacques Chester says:

    It might seem that way to you, but if it were that simple, why it is that nations seem endlessly locked in battles over free trade agreements?

    Internal politics synching across borders, essentially. Agriculture in particular.

  91. melaleuca says:

    Jacques says:

    “Please remember the policy. I am quite happy to edit your posts from here on.”

    Sorry. I thought lame jokes were civil.

    As to Sinclair Davidson’s AFR article, it is but one ill-considered prejudice and half-truth followed by another. Take this for instance:

    “As statistician and environmental sceptic Bjorn Lomborg has amply demonstrated, greens have a tardy attitude to inconvenient facts.”

    No he didn’t. The book that launched Lomborg into the public eye- “The Skeptical Environmentalist”- contains at last count 319 errors- see here http://www.lomborg-errors.dk/errornumber.php The bloke is thoroughly incompetent and those who cite his work without doing their own fact checking are just plain lazy.

    KP- shame on you for endorsing such a lemon ;)

  92. Jacques Chester says:

    Sorry. I thought lame jokes were civil.

    It can be hard to tell what’s what. When in doubt, add a smiley.

    My challenge is to stop things getting out of hand without having a chilling effect on discussion. Poor suffering superusers.

  93. Stephen Lloyd says:

    NPOV – Im curious about protectionism as a foreign relations issue.

    Its a foreign relations issue in that wherever we have tariffs other countries don’t like, they jack up their tariffs in areas we don’t like as revenge.

    The only way to stop that cycle isn’t to insist they drop theirs first, as the US, India, Japan and France are doing with their agricultural tariffs right now, it is to drop them, show you are serious, show you are the good guy, and encourage them to do the same. Meanwhile your citizens benefit from the cheapest possible consumer goods.

    In “Free to Choose”, Milton Friedman describes not lowering your tariffs because another country wont as hurting yourself twice, not just once, because the other country often jacks up their tariffs further in response.

    Also free trade has been shown to prevent war, anyone who really thinks the US and China will ever go to war is kidding themself.

    There’s also implications for helping developing nations, at the moment most African nations can’t sell their agricultural products to the worlds largest developed nations because of protection in the developed country.

  94. Patrick says:

    Don, here is why fusion is not on the radar.

    Look at this list of ideas that the ACT summit will put forward to the national summit (via Andrew Leigh):

    1. Create more tax incentives for venture capital investment.
    2. Build a high speed Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne rail line.
    3. Sign a treaty between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
    4. Employ an arts practitioner in every workplace.
    5. Define creative arts funding as a share of GDP.
    6. Mandate superannuation to invest in venture capital.
    7. Develop the concept of a wellness footprint and associated metrics through a central body.
    8. Promote wellness through all stages of life.
    9. Housing construction in Canberra to be the most sustainable in Australia.
    10. Raise public transport participation rates from 7% to 50%.
    11. Greater support for parents and families.
    12. Create super regions (pop about 1 million).
    13. Equitable education and training.
    14. Recognise the importance of teachers.
    15. Redesign and reconceptualise schooling in the ACT.
    16. Canberra as a global city.

    As Andrew says,

    I have to hand it to those creative folks: theyre very creative in the ways they ask for government money.

    As Andrew Norton says,

    Oh dear. If this is a sign of what is going to happen at the real 2020 the idea is as bad as many people say it is.

    How can anyone intelligent enough to spell ‘liberal’ sign up to such a collection of incredibly crap, vague, pointless and egocentric ideas? I’m disappointed that I let myself be sceptically optimistic about this impending farce.

  95. NPOV says:

    Here’s an article I hadn’t seen before:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_liberalism

    Having read that, I think I’d happy classify myself as a “social liberal”.
    But how many that call themselves classical liberals these days really believe that the State has no role to play in enabling positive liberties?

  96. Molesworth says:

    Don, sorry to be a bit late with this comment but I reckon youre right on the money to identify something odd about the way most classical liberals lined up with the Howard Government.

    I think you, and Nicholas in his comment, are looking for the solution to this puzzle in the right sort of place. Theres got to be something deep and primal in the way people the world over and throughout history have so often divided into identifiably conservative and progressive camps, regardless of the contemporary intellectual landscape.

    Some people say that the first recorded use of the word freedom, depicted in cuneiform as a slave being returned to his mother, was in an inscription recounting the reforms of Urukagina (ruler of a Mesopotamian city state some 4,500 years ago):

    He freed the inhabitants of Lagash from usury, burdensome controls, hunger, theft, murder, and seizure [of their property and persons]. He established freedom. The widow and orphan were no longer at the mercy of the powerful: it was for them that Urukagina made his covenant with [the god] Ningirsu.

    If you consider the political debate implied by the inscription (see here for longer extracts, starting page 6), what is striking is how modern it all seems: a leader taking on the powerful in the interests of the punter, with some deregulation and some political symbolism thrown in. If that Tower of Babel thingo hadnt happened, you could have dropped Urukagina straight into the Hawke Cabinet and youd hardly have noticed.

    Similarly, I wouldnt mind betting that if you studied a neolithic community in the New Guinea Highlands today, youd soon work out who the rightwing nutjobs were and who had a bleeding heart. I have a sneaking suspicion that you could do the same with chimps, if they talked proper. Not making racist comparisons here just suggesting that the impulses that drive our political alignments are, literally, older than the hills.

    I suppose all this makes me a little sceptical about a coming realignment of self-described classical liberals, even over time. Some people are just made to be Tories, for whatever reason, and no amount of intellectual argument from first principles is going to peal them away from the conservative camp.

  97. Molesworth says:

    Oops, please omit [,starting page 6].

  98. Jacques Chester says:

    I reckon youre right on the money to identify something odd about the way most classical liberals lined up with the Howard Government.

    And until the last election, the alternative was …?

  99. jc says:

    4. Employ an arts practitioner in every workplace

    Who is going to try that on at a building site or the wharfs?

    Define creative arts funding as a share of GDP

    We do if you look hard enough.

  100. Molesworth says:

    Jacques, “odd” wasn’t the right word probably. The point I was trying to suggest is that (generalising here) people who describe themselves as classical liberals are unlikely to realign away from the conservative camp on the basis of logical argument about the nature of liberalism because, ultimately, it wasn’t logical argument about the nature of liberalism that put them in that camp to begin with. It was something older and deeper. I would say the same thing in reverse, applied to myself for example. Even though, intellectually, I find the concept of increasing personal autonomy very attractive, all my barriers start going up when people try to take that concept and say that, because I support it, I should logically vote for the Liberal Party.

  101. Jacques Chester says:

    Molesworth;

    Regardless of the brain architecture which leads in part us to our respective views of the world, until the 2007 election there was no party, not one, where a classical liberal could give their [1] vote and feel they were even vaguely ‘at home’. In that case it just comes down to voting the stereotype that Labor is more of a big-government party than the Liberals.

    Still, it’s a fascinating question. I recall that there was research that conservatives and liberals (in the US sense) have different personality types. But causation is harder to establish. Do we hold certain worldviews due to neurochemistry? Or does the political company we keep make the difference?

  102. NPOV says:

    Molesworth, it only makes sense to suggest you should logically vote for the Liberal party if they actually had a track record of policy that encouraged increasing personal autonomy. If the Liberal party were actually a party that followed the principles of liberalism in their policies, I’d vote for them happily (and have done so once or twice when my own representative was clearly a small-l liberal). Further, Jacques, the stereotype that Labor is more of a big-government party than the Liberals doesn’t seem to be backed up by the facts.
    As far as I can tell, the only time when tax as a percentage of GDP decreased in recent years was from about 1986-1996 (reducing from about ~28% to ~24%). Since then, under Howard, it has increased to over 30%.

  103. Molesworth says:

    Jacques, I wasn’t necessarily saying it all comes down to brain architecture (except insofar as everything we do originates in our brains, and I accept your point that if we just focus on neurochemistry the whole debate becomes a bit circular and silly). It’s probably a range of things and, to be fair, logical argument is likely one of them. But I don’t think it’s the biggest determinant of voting or political alliance patterns, even for people who think long and hard about these sort of things as, I’m sure, a lot of classical liberals do. I thought the sort of factors that Don and Nicholas were suggesting (things like social networks and psychological tendencies) were plausible, as are the standard stereotypes that you refer to.

    NPOV, couldn’t agree more as far as I’m concerned. I personally don’t see the logic that if you value personal autonomy you should vote conservative. But many classical liberals do and I suspect that they, and their intellectual heirs, will stay on the conservative side for the forseeable future because they are, for whatever reason, conservatives at heart. I hope I’m wrong by the way and I do accept that argument can sway some of them (probably those that were having doubts anyway).

  104. NPOV says:

    Well I’ve never seen the ALP as anything other than pretty conservative either.
    Even the Greens are hardly radical progressives – most of the policies are barely distinguishable from that of many European centrist parties.
    In fact, the LDP are about the only party with any truly radically progressive policies. One of many things that makes them completely unelectable, of course.

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