Some sad news has been received that the political theorist, Kenneth Minogue, had passed away following a meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society in the South Pacific.
Born in New Zealand, and raised and educated in Australia, he taught and resided in the United Kingdom since the mid‑1950s. He received a Centenary Medal from the Australian government in 2003. Minogue was organisationally involved in numerous think tanks, and served as President of the Mont Pelerin Society with distinction from 2010 to 2012 (an interesting reflection by Minogue on the role of the MPS in the evolution of liberal ideas is provided in this piece).
Minogue’s greatest intellectual achievements were forged in the northern hemisphere, but nonetheless he maintained a connection, at the very least through the dissemination of ideas, with the region of his birth and childhood. He was a long‑serving member of the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) Council of Academic Advisors, as well as the CIS Policy magazine’s Editorial Advisory Council. Minogue wrote numerous pieces for the CIS, and for the Institute of Public Affairs.
I only met Minogue once, in Prague, Czech Republic, in 2012. Nonetheless, anybody who appreciates classical liberal and conservative theories would very well be aware of his unique and important insights and eloquent writing style, as I had over a number of years. For example, compare and contrast two favourite Minogue quotes of mine, drawn from his first book, The Liberal Mind, and his last, The Servile Mind:
For if we are seeking the conditions of freedom, we must look not to those circumstances which happen to accompany it, but to the manner in which it has been attained. And we will find that it has always been attained because of a spontaneous growth of interest in truth, science, or inventiveness; a spontaneous growth of moral principles appropriate to freedom; a spontaneous construction of the political arrangements which permit of free constitutional government. Spontaneity indicates that free behaviour has arisen directly out of the character of the people concerned, and that it is neither a mechanical process, nor a ‘natural’ reaction to an environment, nor a means to the attainment of some end. Free behaviour, in other words, is its own end. (Source: The Liberal Mind, Liberty Fund Edition, p. 158).
The essence of the servile mind is the readiness to accept external direction in exchange for being relieved of the burden of a set of virtues such as thrift, self‑control, prudence, and indeed civility itself. A national health service trades off thrift and the freedom to spend one’s own money in exchange for a guarantee that medical help will always be ‘costlessly’ available. Accepting this trade‑off, then, comes to be understood as a virtue in itself, to be contrasted with those selfish people prepared to spend their own wealth on better treatment. Obedience here as in other places is wrongly identified with the rule of law. One measure of the moral decline involved in this advance of servility is that corrupt people, ranging from businessmen to legislators, justify a greedy lack of integrity by claiming that they did not break any rules. A casuistical use of the idea that morality is nothing more than abiding by rules comes to be a license for a self‑serving misuse of office and responsibility. (Source: The Servile Mind, p. 337).
Thoughts and impressions of the life and times of Kenneth Minogue are welcome in the comments feed.