Posts Tagged ‘Liberal Party’

Conservatism, Libertarianism and the Liberal Party

June 15, 2009

I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism”.

Thus spoke President Ronald Reagan, without doubt one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century. He continued “I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals–if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.”

True conservatism, at its heart, is libertarian. It is for this reason that conservatives throughout the 20th century stood up to big government. It is for this reason that the Liberal Party was formed. It is for this reason so many of us became interested in politics.

Thus it pains me greatly to see some self-proclaimed conservatives these days spitting on the legacy of great men like President Reagan and attacking libertarianism. Instead of true conservative beliefs – those of small government, individual freedom, and free markets, they preach social authoritarianism and government control. Casting aside the ideology of the ‘founding fathers’ of what is now considered conservative thought –  great thinkers from John Locke and Thomas Jefferson to Milton Friedman and FA Von Hayek, they instead replace it with a statist regime little different to that of the socialists. Rather than trying to minimise the size and scope of government, they instead seek to use it to their own ends.

Seeking to use government to achieve your desired aims is certainly not without intellectual underpinnings. It is something many philosophers have argued in favour of for centuries. It certainly is not without some intellectual merit, although I vociferously disagree. One thing you can NOT call it, however, is conservative.

This new brand of statist social authoritarians style themselves as conservatives and attack libertarians for believing in the very things that conservative have argued in favour of for generations. Sure, there have been differences between conservatives and libertarians, drug prohibition being probably the greatest of the last two decades, but, at the core, both ideologies shared the same desire for freedom, and this is what made fusionism work.

Indeed, while conservatives and libertarians certainly can disagree on some issues, these are at the periphery. It is our shared view on the size and scope of government that unites us. Thus it is especially distressing that this new mould of faux-conservatives, who wish to impose their extreme and radical personal world-view upon society, seem so hostile to libertarian thought. I do not need to start listing examples of anti-freedom things such people propose, although adopting Obama’s ‘compulsory volunteerism’ conscription plan and supporting internet censorship come to mind. Nor do I need to remind people on how these people have shown no interest in free markets or supporting private enterprise. All I need to say is that conservatives previously – even social conservatives – accepted the notion of small government.

It was, after all, never laissez-faire government that led to the social outcomes that these people now so decry. It was not an absence of government regulation that led to the attack on the family unity, and social breakdown. Rather, it was – consistently and without exception – government intervention that caused such things. It always was, is, and will be, the actions of the government that have led to the outcomes that social conservatives now decry. Even on matters as divisive as abortion, many libertarians have supported the socially conservative position . Traditional social conservatives recognised this, and recognised that they, like libertarians, would have their outcomes achieved by a reduction of the power of the state. Alas no longer.

It is for this reason that rise of the Christian Left in the Liberal Party disturbs me greatly (and I use the term “Christian” loosely, and only as is the self-styled moniker of those who preach this mantra – their actions, let alone their theology, I find little Christian about). I joined the Liberal Party because, like Menzies, like Howard I believed in individual freedom – and I’ll be damned if some extremist social democrats hijack the party I love, and turn it into no more than a socially authoritarian labor whilst trumpeting their self-proclaimed conservative values.

The fact that there are now these faux-conservatives who argue for greater government regulation, greater responsibilities for the State and greater control over peoples lives, is nothing more than an insult to the memories of the true conservative heroes. It is not conservatism, but socialism in drag, and it is a disgrace.

If you want to be a social authoritarian statist, that’s fine. We live in a free country, and you have the right to be wrong. But please, please, don’t you dare call yourself a conservative.

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Net Censorship: Liberal Ineptness Example #8163

March 28, 2009

There is little that annoys me more than the chronic ineptness of those on our side of politics. Yet the Liberal Party response to the Great Firewall of Australia must surely rank as a prime candidate for ineptness in its chronic failure to capitalise on a salient political issue, engage in the battle of ideas, and ultimately win votes.

To their credit, and particularly due to the conservative wing of the party staring down the “moderates”, the Federal Parliamentary Wing of the Liberal Party has eventually come out as staunchly against Labor’s internet censorship plans. This is obviously a good thing – not only is it unworkable, not only will it slow down the internet and impose additional costs on consumers and business, but it is a direct attack on free speech and on family values by denigrating the ability of parents to control what their children view.

Having said that, the Liberal’s public response to this has been nothing short of pathetic. Here we have a prime opportunity to engage with the key youth demographic, to begin using web 2.0 strategies to generate true constituent conversation, and to win votes with people who wouldn’t normally associate with us, and what have we done? Nothing.

In fact, I remember discussing this over 6 months ago – just as this was becoming an issue – with a key adviser to a Shadow Minister with interests in this area. Their response? It wasn’t “newsworthy”.

This statement – more than any other – highlights to me how out of touch the Liberal Party remains with new media. More and more people no longer rely on traditional mainstream media for their news. Rather, they rely on online filters made up of their friends – who they friend on facebook, follow on twitter, whose blogs they read. Yet it would seem the Liberals can not understand this.

Stuck in a 1990’s mindset, the Liberal Party has made no effort whatsoever to engage with the online community. None. Yet this is a perfect opportunity to do so. In fact, I can think of no better opportunity. Yet it is one that has been wasted. To use an analogy, if the LP was a corporation, this would surely count as a breach of the management’s fiduciary obligations. It is certainly abysmally poor campaigning.

When will the Liberal Party realise it needs to engage in with issues like this? To start interacting more with younger voters? To actually move to the 21st century?

Sigh. I worry about the future. I really do.

Update: Why on earth did the Libs put Greg Hunt on Q&A against Conroy? The guy is a joke.

Update 2: Sorry. I meant disgrace. Not joke.

Bishop v Hockey v Robb?

February 14, 2009

It would seem the commentariat have the knives out for Australian Shadow-Treasurer Julie Bishop:

JULIE BISHOP’S colleagues are about to pressure her to either step down voluntarily as shadow treasurer and take another senior role or face removal as the Liberal Party’s deputy leader.

Multiple Coalition sources have told the Herald that there is a near-unanimous view within the Opposition that Ms Bishop must go before the budget on May 12, and preferably sooner.

The Australian had similar words yesterday – a co-ordinated campaign no doubt.

To be honest, such a view is somewhat unsurprising. The Liberals have failed to sell a compelling emotional narrative on opposing Rudd’s stimulus, despite rationality being on their side. With the possible exception of Senator Mitch Fifield, I have seen little attempt to frame the issue outside of the doomed-to-fail ‘it’s to expensive’ line. The emotional connection to the electorate – so desperately needed by the Libs at this time, has been sadly lacking. While I personally have a lot of respect for Julie Bishop, to some degree she must shoulder the blame.

What I can not – for the life of me – understand is the following:

The common view within is that Joe Hockey, the finance spokesman, would replace Ms Bishop

The media seem constantly to be bending over backwards to promote Joe Hockey, whether it be Federally or as leader of the NSW Opposition. And I honestly can’t see it. I really can’t. Can someone please explain to me what he has done to deserve such adulation? What am I missing?

I mean we’re talking about someone who was an utter laughing stock as Finance Minister – so much so he was demoted, failed miserably at tourism, and, while I hardly blame him for the Industrial Relations debacle (most of the fault for that lies at someone else’s door), his performance there was hardly steller. Other than appearing on Morning Television, what has he ever done successfully?

Joe Hockey is a nice enough fellow. He’s likable, he comes across as affable in the media, and, of course, he makes a lovable Shrek, but can someone please name me a single achievement of his? Anything he’s done that hasn’t ended in failure? Anything at all? I mean if I’m mistaken, please do tell me. I just really can’t see it.

Andrew Robb is also mentioned in the article as a contender. Whilst I don’t know that much about him, he was the successful mastermind of the 1996 Liberal Election campaign – one of the best campaigns in recent decades. I would have assumed this would have placed him in some higher standing at least.

The Parliamentary wing of the Liberal Party is brimming with talent. Surely we can do better than a man who brought failure to every portfolio he has touched.

The Way Forward – A sad lesson from Australia

January 20, 2009

Amidst the aftermath of Obamamessiah’s Coronation Inauguration, with the specter of “change” looming over the United States, the Republican Party has been dominated by much introspective navel-gazing. Politicians and pundits cry out for the party to ‘broaden its base’, modernize, appeal to younger voters. The brand needs to be changed, they cry, not by reverting to traditional conservative beliefs, but rather by a refashioning into something ‘modern’, something ‘appealing’.

In determining the future course of the party, it is instructive to not only view the course that we as a movement have taken in the past, but also how other contemporary political parties have dealt with this challenge. Does this desire to ‘trendify’ equate to political success? I would urge as a cautionary tale that we view with sadness the state of the right in Australia, so we may avoid the pit that they have fallen into.

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Why I love Senator Minchin

January 15, 2009

“I have always considered the Liberal Party a centrist party, and that it exhibited those traits during the last period of federal government (“Liberals must move to the centre or die – Pyne”, January 13). It would seem that Christopher Pyne is advocating a significant move to the left, rather than to the centre.

Mr Pyne appears to want the Liberal Party to become a greens party, which is not consistent with its history and philosophy, nor with its support base, and is not a particularly sensible recipe for returning to government.

The path proposed by Mr Pyne is the one taken by some state Liberal oppositions over the past decade, with disappointing results.

I commend Mr Pyne on his contribution to the debate, but there are many of us who respectfully disagree with his conclusions.

Senator Nick Minchin Kent Town (SA)”