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Politics matters because of the ideas that animate it. And when you remove those ideas from politics, what you have is barbaric. Even if some ideas are barbaric…

Waleed Aly, I must say is one of my favourite commentators, along with Annabel Crabb. Co-incidentally, both had spoke in a group panel discussion on whether good ideas make bad politics during the Festival of Dangerous Ideas (from whence this quote comes).

This was a very interesting session and one of those awkward panels where I can somehow fully agree with each one of these dissentient and disagreeing voices.

I must say I disagree about the complete merger of both Labor and Liberal parties. The Liberal Party has never been a purely liberal party, but a fusion of the conservative and liberal philosophies. To say that Australia has been robbed of all the philosophical ideas which animate politics is to draw a bow too far. It is now the ALP, animated by classical liberal ideas of individual rights and by modern liberal ideas of human rights, which is the liberal party. It is the Liberal Party, with its broad church of churches which seeks to be the collectivist party, enforcing its own set of social values upon the nation.

And yes, he’s right to say that politics has become more about managerialism. But to focus on that is to the exclusion of those ideas, those philosophical ideas animating each of these debates. Take the mining tax for instance. Onthe one side, we have Wayne Swan proudly declaring that the mining tax will consolidate a thousand inefficient state taxes and be used to stabilise the economy. Though such ideas might have originated in classical liberal philosophy, they now have their roots in utilitarianism. Is that not a form of managerial collectivism? Just because the mechanism of collectivism is no longer the trade union, nor the focus of collectivism the worker, does not mean that the ALP does not believe in ‘a society’. Contrary to that, we have Tony Abbott defending the rights of companies to make a profit – pure individualist philosophy. As Margaret Thatcher declared, there is no society there is only a rich tapestry of individuals voluntarily caring for and loving other individuals.


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