The most amusing outcome of the 2020 summit has undoubtedly been the spectacle of Alexander Downer, grandson of Sir John Downer, son of Sir Alexander Downer, old boy of Geelong Grammar, former Director of the Australian Chamber of Commerce, former Foreign minister, now enjoying retirement on full salary at the expense of the Australian taxpayer, denouncing the participants as “elites”.

Of course, Downer has been backed up by his leading rival in the “anti-elitist” toffee-nosed snob stakes, Professor David Flint.

The full phrase was “Keating loving elites” which is indication of how thoroughly culture warriors like Downer are stuck in refighting the battles of the past*. A substantial proportion of those attending the Summit were too young to have any significant recollection of Keating, and a substantial portion of the rest were not Keating-lovers by any stretch of the imagination. The only time I heard Keating’s name mentioned was in the context of a recommendation to see Keating! The Musical which came from a friend and colleague with impeccable conservative credentials.

* Of course, Downer has done his best to traduce the memory of every Labor leader in history, most notably John Curtin.

108 thoughts on “Elites

  1. Wiz – “then when we believe there is good evidence that business-as-usual is producing a harmful outcome, government action/policy is required to avert that outcome”

    Precisely. That’s my point in a nutshell. ‘left’ solutions to issues often involve government intervention to ‘impose’ a solution – even if there is not consensus on the solution or that an issue even exists. The ‘right’ usually prefers an individual response. Hence the pushback against the thought leaders of the centre-left who want to impose their worldview on everyone else. They get called ‘elite’ as a perjorative term.

    Your point about big government under the Howard years is spot on – appalling amount of wastage and government spending creep. It’s one of the reasons I voted for the other mob last time – time for a change and for a new crowd to clean up some mess.

    By the way – I’d probably describe Rudd as a centre-right politician. I think his natural inclination is to treat the population as grown-up and able to sort things out for themselves. He doesn’t strike me as a ‘nanny-stater’.

  2. Except I (as a lefty) *usually* prefer an “individual response” too. Unfortunately individual/voluntary responses aren’t always enough. Further, the reality is that our behaviour is very much shaped by government policies and actions of the present and the past.
    I actually don’t see any need for *more* regulation on top of what we already have – just better regulation that is based on sound scientific and economic principles.

    And yes, I’d agree that Rudd is basically a right-winger – indeed he’s both economically and socially conservative, just somewhat more moderately than Howard was.

  3. Steve, to me it’s:

    left: individual acheivements depend on us being part of a society, therefore it’s fair that the rewards be spread around

    right: individuals should always have the right to collect the rewards of their acheivements

  4. The issue with Rudd is the rest of his party and it’s very core isn’t . . . so how long will the gloss last?

    But anyway, I think it’s probably important to contrast between libertarianism and anarchism. Milton Friedman consistently supported an important role for government, but that the current role of government overreached it’s usefulness. His justification was along the lines of the Reagan quote that I used above. Friedman’s son however, is an anarchist who supports the abolition of government altogether with such crazy gems as privtaising the money supply, abolishing the legal system and privatising the defence force. Most reasonable right-wingers wouldn’t advocate such a radical position.

    There’s a role for the government, but I’d suggest that government has it’s hand in the pot far too often. But again, I suppose this thread isn’t about the classic left vs. right battle, but is about the ‘elite’ tag, so we should probably get back on topic.

    As for the ‘elites’, I agree with Andrew in that the definition of ‘elites’ as used by Downer et al. is one where a few try to impose their views and beliefs onto the “common plebs”, which is somewhat consistent with the idea of the collective championed by the left (a concentrated government used to coordinate the rest of society).

    The right philosophy is in contrast to the idea of ‘elitism’, in that we would suggest that individuals should be largely free to do as they please; that is free from such control. Whether Downer or Howard are consistent with such a philosophy is obviously debatable, as is being attested to here.


  5. Interesting discussion of what constitutes the left. My take on it:

    Left: everyone should have a job, so here’s some shovels to lean on, wake me when smoko’s on.
    Right: Here’s some shovels, get digging, the chains come off when you finish the pit. Wake me when you’re all done.

    Left: cooperation more than competition.
    Right: competition more than cooperation.

    Left: economics matters, but not before other more important issues.
    Right: *everything important* is an economic issue.

    Left: if you are not a “worker”, you are an elite.
    Right: if you are an “academic”, you are an elite.

    Left: believe in social ideals and that people can attain them, yet want regulation to stop corruption.
    Right: believe in unrestricted self-interest as the principle force for progress, yet are blind-sided by Pyramid, Estate Mortgage, Westpoint, OPES Prime, Lift Capital, Adsteam, Povey Group, Qintex, Bond, Bank of South Australia, Westpac in 1990’s, that mob in Geelong, etc etc.

    Or something like that…

  6. I’m sure that Alexander Downer has confirmed what we had long suspected: Cirque du Soleil now faces a serious challenge from our own federal parliament in Canberra as the world’s only clown training academy. It’s the cardinal imperative of our own Canberra-trained clowns to entertain by being amusing, irreverent, provocative and above all else lachrymose. An analysis of Mr Downer’s utterance – sans fishnet stockings – would indicate that he has managed to roll all those ‘qualities’ into his attack on elites.

    Father Mercy

  7. My version

    Left: it’s better to judge people on their character, not skin colour.
    Right: Racial discrimination is actually a good thing at times, and anyway is all part of life’s rich tapestry.

    Left: Alexander Downer is a pompous goose.
    Right: Downer is a spendid, handsome fellow. And so is Flint!

    Left: It is better not to kill and torture people
    Right: As long as they’re not like us, it’s a good idea.

    Left: John Howard is a little fellow and not much of a human being.
    Right: John Howard is tall, handsome and wonderful. His distaste for people of different colour to him is simply a personal choice that real Australians share.

    Left: People’s upbringing and experience has an influence on how they turn out.
    Right: No it doesn’t, everyone arrives on this earth with the same choices.

    Left: 2 + 2 = 4
    Right: 2 + 2 = 2. Janet Albrechtsen told me so.

    dislike of foreigners is simp

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