Young Liberals Are Idiots

Okay, so that headline may have been written just to garner hits, and isn’t quite true, but there is actually a serious point behind it. And my point is that the Young Liberals, as much as I may personally love them, are not an intellectual body – and for good reason.

Rather annoyingly taking the wind out of my sails somewhat, Dan Nolan wrote a few days ago on the fact that “those of us in the ‘intellectual right’ … have no social holes in which to crawl”. Whilst I may disagree with some of the matters he has raised, he does have something of a point. Because in Australia, if you wish to get involved in politics at a relatively young age, and are centre-right leaning, you have no real avenue to turn to outside of the Liberal Students or the Young Liberals. And, to put it rather bluntly, intellectual growth is not exactly promoted in these bodies.

The problem is one of incentives.

Allow me to explain. When you join a partisan political organisation, you join an organisation whose sole point is to win elections. Sure, there are principles at stake, and you need to vaguely identify with them, but, for the most part, your time becomes dedicated to internal party politics, to election campaigns, and the actually achieving tangible outcomes.

This is all well and good – and certainly very important – however, intellectual growth doesn’t really fit into the picture. I mean, every minute you spend educating yourself on political theory, or trying to develop a deeper understanding of ideology, is a minute you do not spend out campaigning for freedom. Intellectualism becomes a liability, for it has no real tangential benefits for a party (after all, winning an election requires little more than a few slogans, and good people management). So it is a waste of time resources to actually read; being well-read doesn’t win you any votes.  Indeed, if anything, being interested in developing ideas is becomes a negative – reading a book is, from a partisan perspective, a waste of time, and, quite literally, costs you votes. As a result, people who are more policy oriented either force themselves to change, or drop out of political debate whatsoever (at great loss to the battle of ideas).

With this in mind, one of the things that surprised me the most about my time in the US is how well read centre-right persons were. This is not because Americans are any more literate than Australians (believe me, they most defiantly are not). Rather, it is because alternative incentive structures were in place. Because organisations existed which promoted this kind of behaviour, and provided an avenue for more policy/ideology minded young people to excel. As such, in Australia, we have a situation whereby if you have even a passing knowledge of Hayek of Friedman you are considered ‘intellectual’. In contrast, in the US, You could have read them, but also Kirk, Buckley, Sowell, Hazlitt.. the list goes on…and still be considered ignorant, thereby driving you on to learn even further. What’s more, as all your friends would be well-read, you are able to use each other to drive yourselves even further.

The reason behind this difference is not one of culture. Rather, to go back to my initial point, it is one of incentives. In the US, there are  a plethora  of centre-right organisations to join. Organisations that are dedicated to, not partisan politics, but rather engaging in the battle of ideas. As such, there is an incentive structure in place to educate yourself to be properly equipped in such a battle. Where ideological knowledge is encouraged and promoted.

In Australia, we have nothing of the sort. Which is why people interested in policy, as opposed to politics, tend to disengage. Which is a shame, because, in order to properly develop people intellectually, this must be done in concert with a sense of community, of belonging. No, I havn’t suddenly become a socialist, I just recognise that reading a book at night by yourself, with no-one to discuss it with, cannot compare to being in an intellectual environment and amongst peers where this is the norm.

None of this is to cast dispersions upon the Liberal Party. After all, it is a political party; it does what it needs to do. And, if I was a party boss, I too would find little use for an abstract academic. Yet we still need such people in the political discourse. As such, what  we need more in Australia is an organisation dedicated to nonpartisan centre-right advocacy, where such people can find their niche,  expand their knowledge, and go on to influence the public debate. I genuinely feel this is critical for us on the right to win the battle of ideas in the long term – the left have done it so successfully in Australia, and it’s about time we take our turn.

Fortunately, I’ve spent the last 2 years in the US studying how to set such a thing up successfully, and am glad to say we will have such an organisation in Australia sometime soon. J

(Originally posted on


8 Responses to “Young Liberals Are Idiots”

  1. Amy Says:

    Hi Tim,

    Interesting post (and yes, the title did bring me over!). I have a qibble with you though:
    I have been subscribed to Menzies House since before you even launched the site (eager, I know) and I have been consistently disappointed by how the content is overwhelmingly pro-Liberal party policy.
    In my opinion, the vast majority of articles on there are various attempts at justifying Abbott announcements – which is fine, if that is what the site is for, it just doesn’t seem to fit very well with the high-minded rhetoric it was launched with and is contained in this post!

  2. B. P. M. Says:

    Amy makes a good point – this is part of the reason I won’t write articles for you because the site is not as independent as you’d like to think. Often it resembles nothing more than a party mouthpiece.

  3. Tim Andrews Says:

    I and the other editors have been begging people more critical of the Liberal Party to contribute. We have not rejected a single contribution on these grounds.
    So please – if you wish to be critical of the Libs – we implore you, send us something.
    We can only publish that which we receive!

  4. Jake the Muss Says:

    Amy did not read my shit.

    Once again stupid reality has come crashing down upon my ego.

  5. Justin Says:

    YLs are like a brothel; advancement is entirely predicated upon your ability to suck cock.

  6. Ben Says:

    Great headline. Sucked me right in.

  7. Jacques Chester Says:

    Just sayin’.

  8. Tim Andrews Says:

    CIS & IPA are great think tanks, but they are think tanks. They aren’t organisations.

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