Home > Politics (general) > Where are the new ideas ?

Where are the new ideas ?

May 16th, 2006

Andrew Norton at Catallaxy has an interesting piece responding to a claim by Dennis Glover that rightwing thinktanks are much better funded than their leftwing counterparts. He makes the contrary argument that the universities represent a left equivalent, a claim which I don’t think stands up to the close examination it gets at Larvatus Prodeo.

More interesting, though is Norton’s characterisation of the state of the debate

Since most of the institutions of the social democratic state are still in place, social democratic ideas are perhaps going to seem less exciting than those of their opponents on the right or the left. They are about adaptation and fine-tuning more than throwing it all out and starting again. …. The right doesn’t have ideas because it has think-tanks, it has think-tanks because it has ideas that need promoting

This was a pretty accurate description of the situation in the 1980s and early 1990s, but it has ceased to be so. The right hasn’t had any new ideas for some time, and the policy debate between social democrats and neoliberals has been a stalemate for most of the last decade.

In economics, the big theoretical ideas underlying the resurgence of the right – public choice theory, property rights analysis, rational expectations macro and so on- were developed in the late 1960s and 1970s. The big theoretical ideas since 1980, such as the renewal of game theory, endogenous growth theory, behavioral economics have not been particularly leftwing, but they have undermined the certitudes about the optimality of market outcomes that underlie neoliberalism.

On the policy front, the neoclassical counter-revolution turned into policy programs in the 1980s. These ideas were set out in broad terms by Kasper et al in Australia at the Crossroads in 1980, and a more detailed version emerged in the UK, NZ and Australia in the 1980s, incorporating privatisation, competitive tendering, tax reform, free trade, anti-union industrial reform and so on. There have been no really new ideas along these lines since National Competition Policy in the early 1990s.

The Howard government illustrates the point. Whenever it wants to be seen as a radical reforming government it reaches into the 1980s bag for a policy that, the Hawke-Keating government wanted to adopt but couldn’t manage for one reason or another – Telstra privatisation, the GST, IR reform and so on. In its populist mode, policy initiatives have been more redolent of the 1950s.

Most of the rest of the time, though, the Howard government is dealing with the fact that the radical reforms advocated by neoliberals haven’t worked exactly as advertised. Just like the social democrats, they spend most of their time adjusting and fine tuning.

So we’ve seen steady readjustments. For example, it’s become clear that there’s no workable alternative to Medicare, and that keeping the private insurance system going at all will require massive subsidies making the whole notion of a market untenable. Similarly, in Norton’s own area of higher education, the government has repeatedly found that the predictable outcomes of increased exposure to market forces (proliferation of MBAs, declining diversity, capuccino courses and so on) are not what they expected, and have reacted with a reassertion of centralised control, yielding, in many ways, the worst of all worlds.

The only real attempt at a systematic set of new ideas since the early 1990s has come from advocates of the Third Way, and they have delivered a lot less than promised. There are, I think, some interesting new ideas in the air, and I’ll try to post about them.

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  1. May 16th, 2006 at 21:58 | #1

    The only real attempt at a systematic set of new ideas since the early 1990s has come from advocates of the Third Way, and they have delivered a lot less than promised. There are, I think, some interesting new ideas in the air, and I’ll try to post about them.

    The nineties and naughties demonstrated the demise, rather than rise, of Big Idea politics in both Left and Right – particularly those relating to the scope and function of the nation state in a borderless and corporate world.

    The Left’s multicultural project has disappeared up in the smoke arising from the 911 and 7/7 attacks. Obviously all cultures are not equally valid and the Northern cultures are superior to Southern ones. Hence the populist reaction to political correctness and clan identity politics.

    The Right’s corporatisation project also showed inherent limitations with the implosion of the dot.com and Enron bubbles. Obviously there are limits to the accountability of corporate power in a free market. Hence the reaction to economic rationalism and class warfare.

    But there are two Big Idea areas that still have alot of political mileage left in them but lack the traditional class or clan basis for most politics: Ecology and Technology.

    The Left can make a good running with ecological conservatism. This policy where it has a sound scientific basis. And rational self-interest, not to mention benevolence, dictates care for the environment in an age of global warming.

    The Right has a chance to make a good running with technological constructivism. This fits in with its go-go mojo. And rational self-interest and benevolenvce dictate that we empower our moral ideals with technical reality.

    This is no longer the pipe dream it once was since we are now entering an age where we can make men more like machines (stem cell engineering, cyber implants) whilst making machine more like men (AI, quantum computing).

    A grand synthesis is indicated.

  2. May 16th, 2006 at 22:25 | #2

    In Australia other than privatisation and a little bit of tax reform at the top end I don’t think the right has won a lot of ground. The state is bigger than it was in the time of Whitlam. The state is more invasive than ever. The number of people receiving state welfare is higher. We now have a government run health industry. In many areas we have more red tape than before.

    Globally the right has won on two fronts. One was the collapse or transformation of the major communist nations. The other was the GATT agreements to rein in the extremes of the US smoot-hawley tariff act. However international tariffs are nothing compared with the domestic inter-household tariffs we still endure.

    As far as I am concerned the left mostly just carries on wearing the clothing and faces of the right. If anything the right has only just put a few minor dents in the armour.

  3. May 16th, 2006 at 22:30 | #3

    And in any case we don’t really need much in the way of new ideas in the political arena. All the good work on liberty was done years ago. What we need is sales people and some good marketing. Or as the critics like to call them “spin doctors”. What we need is honest spin doctors with character and backbone.

  4. May 16th, 2006 at 23:02 | #4

    I agree that most of the 1980s and 1990s microeconomic reform agenda is now in the ‘adjustment’ phase. But I think there is plenty of intellectual life left in reforming education and welfare (there is probably scope for it in health, but no significant work has been done).

    I disagree with the analysis of higher education. There has been no re-regulation of the MBA market. In fact, this is market is operating just as markets should, adjusting to a decline in demand with re-structuring of institutions and real price cuts in some universities. Contrast this with the centrally controlled section of the system, where chronic over-supply of places in some disciplines co-exists with chronic shortages in others.

    Nor is there any evidence of declining diversity. Instead, the extension of FEE-HELP to private higher education providers is seeing rapid growth in that sector while some public universities cannot fill all their places. The University of Melbourne is massively changing the structure of its courses to create a unique form of university education in Australia.

    The ‘capuccino courses’ are as much the product of subsidy as markets – I doubt we would see so many cultural studies etc courses if people had to pay their full cost. But if people are spending their own money on these things I can’t see there is a problem. Indeed, the Commonwealth never said that they would end them, merely that they would not subsidise them – though in practice they haven’t cut any courses.

    We’ve never had any real explanation of the increased central control of Commonwealth-supported places, except that they wanted to protect regional universities (with the disregard of the interests of consumers so characteristic of centrally controlled systems) . But they could have done that with far less regulation than in fact has been imposed. Indeed, so ridiculous has been the level of bureaucratic interference that people with no basic ideological sympathy for markets now suggest liberalisation. Even members of the Socialist Left such as Senator Kim Carr and Jenny Macklin agree that there is too much government interference.

  5. May 17th, 2006 at 00:45 | #5

    What we need is honest spin doctors with character and backbone.

    Bloggers? Citizen commenteriat? Sites with large audiences like this one?

    Seems like we have it already. The question is, why aren’t the politicians and media listening to us?

    A good start would be becoming the news cycle rather than following it.

  6. May 17th, 2006 at 01:28 | #6

    I was trying to send a trackback, but it doesn’t seem to have arrived. So here it is:

    http://larvatusprodeo.net/2006/05/17/o-brave-new-world-that-has-such-people-int/

  7. Dogz
    May 17th, 2006 at 08:11 | #7

    The left won the welfare and government intervention battle in Australia. They lost (or are in the process of losing) the political correctness battle.

    Since political correctness is (and always has been) the brain-child of the latte-left, a group not particularly in need of social welfare themselves (although desperately reliant on middle-class welfare in the form of a large public service to provide them with jobs), you can probably conclude that the left won where it matters.

    I don’t see where the right has won much at all, outside of beating back muddle-headed political correctness. The various governments tax and regulate nearly every move we make. They spend much of the money on a bloated and inefficient public service. They seem almost completely unaccountable for their waste. Not much to crow about there.

  8. jquiggin
    May 17th, 2006 at 08:44 | #8

    Dogz, the whole political correctness business is shadow-boxing imported from the US. I’d be impressed if you could find even one example of an Australian leftist seriously defending a policy as “politically correct”. The corresponding term here, invariably used ironically within the left. was “ideologically sound”.

    The general idea being satirised, that if you get the terminology right you’ve achieved something of substance. is just as prominent on the right as on the left. As an example, look at the way they get their knickers in a twist over what to call insurgents/terrorists etc. And as has been pointed out here many times, the right has embraced postmodernism enthusiastically when the results of science don’t go the way they want.

  9. Dogz
    May 17th, 2006 at 11:15 | #9

    Don’t confuse the economic right with the religious right. Questioning science is entirely the preserve of the latter.

    “Political Correctness” is not a label used to justify policy. It’s a mode of language control. Until recently, concepts such as “maybe the destitute Aboriginal communities need to do something to help themselves” and “food stamps might be a better idea than cash handouts” were things of which we could not even speak for fear of being branded some kind of right-wing neo-fascist nut. It is a sign of some progress against the PC crowd that we’re now at least starting to have these debates.

  10. StephenL
    May 17th, 2006 at 11:46 | #10

    Andrew, I’m interested in why you think (by your own admission) little intellectual work has been done on reforming health.

    From my lefty viewpoint I’m inclined to think it is because you actually can’t come up with a liberalised health system that doesn’t involve letting large numbers of people die because they can’t afford the treatment, and while Americans are willing to do that the Australian right either isn’t, or realises it politically won’t fly.

    However, I’m genuinely interested in hearing an alternative explanation.

  11. Katz
    May 17th, 2006 at 12:11 | #11

    Dogz, the neoliberal right would regard as heresy the paternalism embodied in those nostrums with regard to Aborigines.

    The various Rights haven’t got used to being in the driving seat in Australia, so they hang together out of a sense of insecurity, even though the regard each other with mutual abhorrence.

    This attitude reminds me of the various Christian denominations who used to be openly contemptuous of each other until they came to the recognition that they were killing the goos that laid the golden egg of credulity. Hence ecumenism.

    When the various Rights stop being ecumenical, the various Lefts will know that they have begun to lose.

  12. Katz
    May 17th, 2006 at 12:12 | #12

    Dogz, the neoliberal right would regard as heresy the paternalism embodied in those nostrums with regard to Aborigines.

    The various Rights haven’t got used to being in the driving seat in Australia, so they hang together out of a sense of insecurity, even though the regard each other with mutual abhorrence.

    This attitude reminds me of the various Christian denominations who used to be openly contemptuous of each other until they came to the recognition that they were killing the goose that laid the golden egg of credulity. Hence ecumenism.

    When the various Rights stop being ecumenical, the various Lefts will know that they have begun to lose.

  13. jquiggin
    May 17th, 2006 at 12:17 | #13

    “Don’t confuse the economic right with the religious right. Questioning science is entirely the preserve of the latter.”

    On the contrary, the economic right has led the charge against science, starting with the tobacco lobby, whose advocates (Milloy, Singer, Seitz and so on) then migrated into ozone layer and global warming denialism.

  14. Dogz
    May 17th, 2006 at 12:38 | #14

    The tobacco lobby is hardly the “economic right”. They’re a bunch of (pretty immoral) companies protecting their turf. The overwhelming majority of anti-science commentary comes from the religious nutters.

    Needless to say I disagree with you on global warming – most of the substantial objections are aimed at poor science, not at science itself. But do you really want to start that debate yet again? (I don’t).

  15. Warbo
    May 17th, 2006 at 13:52 | #15

    “Until recently, concepts such as “maybe the destitute Aboriginal communities need to do something to help themselvesâ€? and “food stamps might be a better idea than cash handoutsâ€? were things of which we could not even speak for fear of being branded some kind of right-wing neo-fascist nut.”

    Obviously a terrifying prospect. Strange, then, that it did not actually prevent people saying such things, long, loud and frequently.

    The idea that a bunch of panty-waisted limp-wristed do-gooder latte sippers could silence the fearless warriors of the right simply by calling them rude names is absurd.

  16. Dogz
    May 17th, 2006 at 14:29 | #16

    Obviously a terrifying prospect. Strange, then, that it did not actually prevent people saying such things, long, loud and frequently.

    Sure it did. I am old enough to remember the Keating and Hawke years. Late 80s and early 90s. As minor a transgression as calling someone an “actress” (instead of the supposedly gender-neutral “actor”) was enough to get you ostracized by the “people that (thought they) mattered”. Suggesting that affirmative action was actually largely counter-productive in respect of women in non-traditional disciplines would result in one being labeled a male-chauvinist-pig.

    Of course, some of us were uncowed (I’d rather be a male-chauvinist-pig than a fool); but we were few and far between in comparison to today.

    They were the halcyon days of Political Correctness. The jack-boots of the thought-police could be heard echoing loudly down the hallowed corridors of academe and the public service.

  17. May 17th, 2006 at 14:33 | #17

    It is arguable that Bob Hawke actully empowerd the HR Nicholls Society by refering to them in rude terms. The following is from the website of the HR Nicholls Society:-

    When, on the 28th August 1986, the Prime Minister, Mr. R.J.L. Hawke, accused the Society of being a group of “political troglodytes and economic lunatics”, the Society shot to national prominence and its success was assured!

  18. Spiros
    May 17th, 2006 at 16:30 | #18

    The right certainly learnt from the left that it pays to claim to be oppressed, hence the ridiculous mid 90s campaign against political correctness, as if the critics of Mabo decision were being dragged off in the middle of the night to an Aussie gulag in the Simpson Desert.

    Of course, it is now impossible to play the political correctness card, since it is John Howard and his followers who have been setting the political agenda for a decade.

  19. Andrew Norton
    May 17th, 2006 at 16:32 | #19

    “Andrew, I’m interested in why you think (by your own admission) little intellectual work has been done on reforming health. ”

    I would class health as a lower priority issue than education. There is already an effective voucher system for consultations with medical practitioners – a much better system than the British NHS for example. A large section of the population has access to private alternatives. And once you get into the public hospitals, the standard of treatment is good by world standards. In the public’s mind, the long delays for admission are the problem.

    From the CIS’s perspective, we haven’t been able to recruit a suitable economist to work on the issue on the money we have available.

  20. StephenL
    May 17th, 2006 at 16:44 | #20

    “Of course, it is now impossible to play the political correctness card, since it is John Howard and his followers who have been setting the political agenda for a decade.”

    Impossible? No. Ridiculous? Yes. If one counted the number of right-wingers who explicitly or implicitly claimed that the or their friends were being bullied into silence by the forces of left wing political correctness then, well actually it might not be a long list. But if you added the number of times they said it you’ld have a very impressive tally.

    And Andrew, what your answer says to me is that a basically left-wing solution, ie Medicare, is working well. The major fault is long waiting times, which are primarily a result of verticle fiscal imbalance and the capacity for the states and commonwealth to blame each other rather than the system as it is. of course the right has tinkered with Medicare, particularly in regard to the private insurance rebate, but it’s hard to see how that is a significant contributor to it’s success. Quite the opposite.

  21. May 17th, 2006 at 16:45 | #21

    Terje wrote:

    “And in any case we don’t really need much in the way of new ideas in the political arena. All the good work on liberty was done years ago. What we need is sales people and some good marketing. Or as the critics like to call them “spin doctorsâ€?. What we need is honest spin doctors with character and backbone”.

    I’m assuming here that you’re not taking the pee-eye-double-s, Terje. If so, it behoves me to commend the work of my generation in Al-Qaeda, et al. If Xer intellectuals are as unwelcome, or at least superfluous, as Terje suggests, then I completely understand why educated, Xer Saudi (for starters) men consider that destroying humanity is a viable, and reasonably sane option.

  22. Ernestine Gross
    May 17th, 2006 at 18:00 | #22

    “The big theoretical ideas since 1980, such as the renewal of game theory, endogenous growth theory, behavioral economics have not been particularly leftwing, but they have undermined the certitudes about the optimality of market outcomes that underlie neoliberalism.”

    I’d like to add that a big blow to the policy framework, identified here as ‘neoliberalism’, came from their core theoretical framework, namely general equilibrium models of ‘competititve private ownership economies’ with alternative assumptions about the institutional environment.

    20th century general equilibrium models take individuals preferences as axiomatically given but not the institutional environment. Hence the notion of ‘liberalism’, as it pertains to individuals, is preserved. This research program shows up that the ‘neoliberals’ have taken the institutional enviornment as axiomatically given (eg ‘the market’). Where does this leave ‘liberalism’??

    Awkward? Yes.

  23. May 17th, 2006 at 20:29 | #23

    G’day all,

    I have a question for Andrew: One of the disappointing things to my mind about Australian right wing think tanks is that when arguing for liberty, they never mention anything outside of the economic sphere.

    A cynic might suggest that free markets advantage the establishment types who like the CIS (after all, less aid, lower taxes, labour market deregulation and university deregulation etc are pretty attractive ideas for the CEOs and directors who attend the CIS forums and sit on the board, all of whom stand to benefit or at least not to lose from these policies).

    Why is there such a crashing silence from the CIS and IPA on things like personal liberty outside of not being taxed or having your business regulated? Drug policy? Marriage rights? I know some of the US think tanks are insane, but some of their free market think tanks are at least consistent: state out of the economy and out of the bedroom and kitchen. I don’t recall ever hearing the CIS (and this may just be my ignorance) taking on drug criminalisation or same sex marriage, both of which are personal liberty issues. For that matter, I haven’t heard much from the CIS on business welfare either (again, apologies if this is as a result of my ignorance). Is this a deliberate choice in the positioning of the CIS (ie. small government economic-wise but large government everything else) or is it just a reflection of where the funding is available?

    Cheers,

    Martin

  24. Terje
    May 17th, 2006 at 20:31 | #24

    There is already an effective voucher system for consultations with medical practitioners – a much better system than the British NHS for example.

    People do forget that a large amount of the services funded by Medicare are supplied by private operators (ie GPs). However two meaningful reforms that could be made to Medicare without doing away with government funding would be:-

    a) Abolish the Medicare levy. It just creates false illusions about the cost of publicly funded health care.
    b) Privatise the state run hospitals.

    However I would agree that it is probably better to get on with reform in the education arena.

  25. May 17th, 2006 at 23:56 | #25
  26. Ernestine Gross
    May 18th, 2006 at 01:13 | #26

    “There has been no re-regulation of the MBA market. In fact, this is market is operating just as markets should, adjusting to a decline in demand with re-structuring of institutions and real price cuts in some universities. Contrast this with the centrally controlled section of the system, where chronic over-supply of places in some disciplines co-exists with chronic shortages in others. ”

    Interesting. Two Woolworths stores where I shop regularly, are, according to the foregoing argument, centrally controlled non-market institutions because I have observed chronic over-supply of Coca Cola bottles on the shelfs co-existing with chronic shortages of mineral water bottles. My time-series of observations consists of weekly data for the past 3 years.

  27. May 18th, 2006 at 07:09 | #27

    EG – With computerised supply management in supermarkets that’s surprising, and I can’t remember any time in 20 years or so of drinking mineral water myself any outlet being out of stock. Not even the badly run Monash student union! But of course the argument for markets is not that every institution gets it right 100% of the time. It is that there are incentives (ie profits) to get it right and no legal barriers to doing so. Institutions that fail to follow incentives or are incompetent will lose out to other institutions, which is why mineral water is easily available at 10s of thousands of outlets.

  28. observa
    May 18th, 2006 at 11:10 | #28

    Political correctness might be aptly described as the yo-yos and hula hoops crazes of elites, similar to their schoolyard days. As such, political correctness fads find their strongest expression in big kids schoolyards. The Stolen Generation was a classic example of a paradigm being all the rage for elites, whilst any resident of Alice Springs or the like would be quietly shaking their heads through it all as the elites squandered hot air and valuable resources on ATSIC, the Dreamtime and flogging Rabbit Proof Fences to kiddies. Incredible how such a fad could blind so many to the factual objections of the odd Windschuttle or Bolt. With the collapse of ATSIC and finally horrors that no Alice Springs magistrate can stay mum about any longer, the Stolen Generation myth must now be consigned to the dustbin of intellectual faddism. I don’t expect the rabbits will pull down their fences very quickly though and as for the rapid change to school texts and curricula, I’m not holding my breath, that a vicious, monstrous lie against my parent’s generation, will be apologised for any time soon.

  29. Katz
    May 18th, 2006 at 13:01 | #29

    Here is some political correctness, 1937 vintage.

    A 1937 Federal Government conference on Native Welfare concluded in its final report that “…the destiny of the natives of aboriginal origin, but not of the full blood, lies in their ultimate absorption by the people of the Commonwealth, and it therefore recommends that all efforts be directed to that end.”

    Note the distinction between full bloods and all others.

    This policy virtually nothing to do with the actual welfare of children. The chief criterion for removal was the perception that the child to be removed had some white blood. Full bloods, regardless of how badly they were being mistreated, were to be left to their fate.

    The children removed from their parents may or may not have been mistreated. That was immaterial. Preserving clear racial lines, however, was paramount.

    This policy was not only legal, but entirely consistent with Australia’s racist constitution. Under Section 51 (xxvi) the Federal Government had the power to make laws with respect to “the people of any race, other than the Aboriginal race in any State, for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws.”

    The big problem the Federal Government had was “what is an Aborigine”? Perceived Full Bloods, were beyond the purview of Federal Austhorities under Section 51 (xxvi) of the Constitution. But persons with a bit of white blood may have to be treated differently. But what might happen if 3/4 or 7/8 bloods start turning up? This could be administraitvely difficult.

    Interestingly, at precisely the same time the Nazi Regime was grappling with an identical problem:

    “Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour
    (September 15, 1935)

    “Entirely convinced that the purity of German blood is essential to the further existence of the German people, and inspired by the uncompromising determination to safeguard the future of the German nation, the Reichstag has unanimously resolved upon the following law, which is promulgated herewith…”

    The Nazis eventually came up with different solutions to Australian authorities. However, by the mid 1930s both countries were merely at the exclusionary stage in the treatment of their pariah groups.

    The same was happening to the Blacks in the US South, to Gypsies all over Europe and to Letts in Norway and Sweden.

    Blood-based racism was thus enormously politically correct in the mid-1930s.

  30. observa
    May 18th, 2006 at 13:58 | #30

    In 1935 my old man was 15 and by the time he was old enough to be concerned about these matters he was busy saving your antecedents and those of every black man in this country from a crash program in Japanese assimilation policy, Katz dear boy.

  31. Katz
    May 18th, 2006 at 14:54 | #31

    Some family histories are more interesting than others.

    But I fail to see how even an interesting family history is relevant to a discussion of the ideological underpinnings of a policy of institutionalised racism.

  32. sdfc
    May 18th, 2006 at 15:01 | #32

    rubbish

  33. sdfc
    May 18th, 2006 at 15:04 | #33

    Sorry Katz aimed one comment up.

  34. observa
    May 18th, 2006 at 15:28 | #34

    We need to return to my parent’s generation’s policy of assimilation and integration of aboriginals. You cannot live a hunter gatherer lifestyle today without serious tradeoffs. A boomer generation recognised the limitations of weaving hessian bag clothes and throwing clay pots decades ago. Those tradeoffs are intolerable in modern societies and consequently the answer to that has been Welfare Dreaming for aboriginals. Where has that led them? More of this http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,19171733-421,00.html?from=rss Notice the facile call for more self-determination by the aboriginal elder who pissed off to Adelaide. Why do we continue to listen to this drivel? The answer to aboriginal problems lies in the countless ‘Saved Generation’ we witness today. We need to stop funding uneconomic remote aboriginal communities and integrate them into mainstream society.

  35. jquiggin
    May 18th, 2006 at 15:43 | #35

    i’m calling a halt to this one, which seems to have gone way off-topic and rather rancorous.

  36. May 18th, 2006 at 15:46 | #36

    I don’t know if it should be called PC, or if it should be called a problem… but when I lived in canberra & spent most of my time with public servants, I often felt as though there were certain things that couldn’t be said in polite company, and I thought this unwritten social restriction was too strict, cutting off some useful areas of meaningful discussion.

    Personally, after 5 years in canberra I changed (without noticing the change). When I went back home (to hicksville, rural Qld) I found myself unconciously cringing at the comments of my friends and family — instinctively thinking “you can’t say that!” It is perfectly clear to me that such people would be socially rejected & mocked in canberra.

    So I think that PC (or something similar) is a real issue… but I don’t suggest that it’s an entirely bad thing. Different groups have different sacred cows and all groups have some group-think.

  37. Katz
    May 18th, 2006 at 15:54 | #37

    “We need to return to my parent’s generation’s policy of assimilation and integration of aboriginals.”

    Which generation is this? I take it from your snippets of family history that your parents came of age during the 1950s. The problem with the policy changes towards integration in the 1950s was that they never acknowledged the institutionalised racism that was prevalent until then.

    Moreover, and more important, integration wasn’t noticeably more successful than any other policy.

    And there were good historical parallels available for anyone integrationist of good will to study. Russia’s serfs took forever to cope with freedom and US Blacks still bear the marks of slavery in their culture. It’s never enough to say to a subjugated group “You’re free now. Off you go and prosper.” The marks of bondage and subjugation persist for a long time.

    But the truth is that integrationists weren’t always of good will. After having been sullied by their associations with insitutionalised racism, integrationism was simply a rationalisation for doing nothing.

    The true integrationist would have lead the campaign for the repeal of Section 51 (xxvi) of the Consititution. The true integrationist would have taken a forward role in the freedom rides to challenge petty apartheid in pubs and swimming pools the length and breadth of rural Australia.

    But they didn’t. They left the work for radicals who had their own agenda.

    Integrationists were mostly Whited Sepulchres.

  38. jquiggin
    May 18th, 2006 at 16:39 | #38

    OK, comments really closed now. I will probably open some of these topics up later.

Comments are closed.