Saturday, January 14, 2006

The neo-liberal hijack

As I head off for a week out of town my eye caught this piece in The Age by Prof. Allan Patience. It rings the warning bells loud and clear for those of you who still don't get it that our current government is governing for itself and a very narrow consitutency of vested interests.

An excerpt follows:

"Right-Wing forays into the intellectual arena of Australian politics are becoming particularly strident and nasty these days. There is little joy or generosity in the triumphalism that increasingly marks the approach of the radical right in the infamous culture wars. Their style is censorious, vindictive, and sour. They take no prisoners.

It seems that all critics of the Government, whatever their stripe, are now branded "Howard-haters" despite legitimate concerns about Government policies on Iraq, the US alliance, Asia, asylum seekers, Aborigines, industrial relations, voluntary student unionism, welfare, education, infrastructure decay and taxation. Meanwhile, the policy analyses from the pens of some senior commentators remain transfixed by a strangely stagnant realism and old-fashioned positivism. They are often intellectually out of date.

Is this because the media protagonists on the right are realising that the only roles they will ever be allowed to play will be as handmaidens to a power elite that is contemptuous of all men and women of ideas, no matter where they sit on the political spectrum? Can they ever be really satisfied to play the role of intellectual eunuchs in the neo-liberal harem that now runs the Liberal Party? They don't have much choice because the party long ago abandoned any pretence at real conservatism.

Indeed, one of the most egregious and frequent errors that the radical right now makes is to bestow the title of conservative on John Howard, on his Government, and upon themselves. Columnist after columnist of late has been crowing about the "conservative" successes of the Howard decade. Yet few of the alleged achievements, and even fewer of the columnists, appear to be in the slightest bit conservative. Overwhelmingly, they are neo-liberal.

Within English political history, conservatism is a philosophical tradition stretching back at least to 18th-century Irish Catholic philosopher and MP Edmund Burke. Other savants in this honourable line include poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge and, more recently, late political theorist Michael Oakeshott. Malcolm Fraser is an Australian heir to this British tradition.

Real conservatives know where they come from. They are deeply respectful of history. They admire the authenticity of different cultures. They are unruffled by human differences and eccentricities. They know the intrinsic value of learning and scholarship.

They may be affluent but they don't flaunt their affluence to the world. They much prefer restraint to extravagance, tolerance to bigotry, dignified subtlety to showing off. They know that affluence brings obligations, to others and to the community. Some of the greatest philanthropists are (or were) genuine conservatives."

No comments: