Malcolm what kind of conservative are you not?

Fritz Hayek explained why he was not a conservative.
What is your explanation?

In the appendix to The Constitution of Liberty Hayek described a triangle of political forces with conservatives and radicals pulling against each other at the base of the triangle. Except that the conservatives are not really pulling, they just don’t want to move and they try to keep things the way they are, like the tariff protection for manufacturers before the Hawke/Keating reforms.

Hayek located himself at the third point of the triangle, not a midpoint between the other two sides but a different direction. Some things need to change and some need to be preserved. The trick is to work out which is which.

After reading that paper I could never describe myself as rightwing and I think we give the opposition a free kick every time we identify as right wing.

Off topic but fun. Living among the economists.

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22 Responses to Malcolm what kind of conservative are you not?

  1. Arky

    He’s the kind of not conservative who wouldn’t give you a reach around.

  2. mareeS

    He is the person you would push off the back of the boat in the middle of the night, before he does it to you.

  3. Robbo

    Malcolm is whatever you want him to be. He could have been a member of the Labor Party but they wouldn’t let him take over as leader so he then went in the reverse direction and became a member of the Liberal Party. Once settled in he whiteanted the leader of that Party until he got the numbers to take over the leadership. Then he started his campaign to drag the Liberals to the left so that they have now become a sort of centre of the road Labor Party. Good old Malcolm is all things to all people. What does he actually believe in? Simple, he believes in himself. End of story. This political chameleon will be anything you want him to be provided that it means he is the leader. If you take the leadership away then you can all go and get well and truly effed because Malcolm will be gone so fast you will wonder whether he was ever there.

  4. DaveR

    Great description of the Sydney silvertail Robbo. Based on that, its likely the conservatives that Malcolm isnt will now increasingly move away from the Liberal party into various groups. With Turnbull only having a 1 seat majority in the House of Reps, I think its inevitable.

  5. Mother Lode

    Maolcolm is not a conservative as conservatives are not so much given to deifying their leaders, like the left does with Gough, Chifley, Keating, Obama, FDR…

  6. Tim Neilson

    Today, “conservative v radical” makes no sense.

    These days there are conservatives, libertarians and “progressives”.

    Anyone with an ounce of sense realises that in real life it’s not always possible to have an ideologically pure utopia, so many of us have in practice a mixture of conservative and libertarian views. [The ones without sense usually become “progressives”, though there’s the occasional libertarian loon who insists that if you believe in freedom of speech you must also be totally opposed to any restriction whatsoever on human behaviour, or otherwise you’re “inconsistent”.]

    But as a general caricature, the libertarian take has some descriptive merit:
    (a) “progressives” want government to be your doting mother;
    (b) conservatives want government to be your stern father;
    (c ) libertarians want government to treat you as an adult.

    In the case of (b) it needs to be understood that a good father wants his children to become self-reliant, but won’t stand for irresponsible self-indulgence. I’m not sure that’s quite what the libertarians mean, of course.

    But the general concept of three, not two, basic worldviews makes sense to me.

  7. stevem

    I think many of us end up categorising ourselves as right wing not because we are, but because we oppose everything the left stands for. We are unable to use the term centrist because many of those on the left oppose the far left and have claimed the centrist title as their own, much as they call themselves progressive.
    In todays world flattering terms are grabbed by those who value form over function. The rest of us just try to do the best we can.

  8. Boambee John

    Turdbull’s “sensible centre” seems to be somewhere between Labor and the Greens.

    The Liars must be thanking their lucky stars they didn’t accept him, else they would now be facing electoral oblivion.

  9. Roger

    After reading that paper I could never describe myself as rightwing and I think we give the opposition a free kick every time we identify as right wing.

    The term “right wing” smacks of ideology – the opposite of “left wing”. Conservatism is not an ideology, it is an attitude. Conservatism actually occupies the “sensible centre” in that it respects proven tradition and opposes needless change.

    I’m not sure the tariff protection illustration is apt since conservatives generally support a free market as the most efficient way to produce and distribute goods.

  10. Malcolm Turnbull=Hillary Clinton

  11. Eddystone

    Oppose gay marriage?

    Think “climate change” is a scam?

    Want secure borders?

    Then you are a “far right wing ultra conservative”, and definitely the type that Trumble is not.

    Although, in an encouraging sign, The Australian labelled the Pyne faction as “so called” moderates.

  12. John constantine

    Which sort?.

    Toss him in the ducking pond and see if he floats.

  13. egg_

    Antony Green’s computer said “no…” Conservative?

  14. egg_

    “Teh sensible centre” – Malcolm in the muddle?

  15. Rafe Champion

    I’m not sure the tariff protection illustration is apt since conservatives generally support a free market as the most efficient way to produce and distribute goods.

    Check out the unwillingness of the Coalition to do anything about tariffs. It took Hawke and Keating to pick up the policies of the Backbench Dries in the Coalition. Even the IPA was divided on tariffs. And Menzies refused to do anything about the exploitive trade practices which companies in Australia used to fix prices. Tony Thomas had a story about that in Quadrant or Quadrant on line recently.

    See the history of tariff protection in Australia.

  16. Rafe Champion

    You may find that historically the Conservatives (Torys in the UK) were opposed to free trade and unsupportive of commerce and industry generally. Hence the separate dressing rooms for amateur and professional cricketers.

    See Arthur Koestler’s commentary on the way the trade unions and the toffs of England combined to make Britain the sick man of Europe after WW2.

    The purpose of this appendix is to explain that the ideological battles of the last two centuries have involved at least three quite different clusters of ideas. The conventional notions of left vs right or capitalism vs socialism or labour vs capital are confusing rather than illuminating because they do not describe all the options that are available. In economic policy the free traders or economic rationalists represent a third party, quite distinct from socialists and conservatives who support very similar kinds of interference with markets, for much the same reasons, based on misreading of the lessons of the industrial revolution. Free traders have had to fight on two fronts and this accounts for much of the bad press and the seriously distorted picture of the free trade agenda that emanates from both the left and from many conservatives.

    Koestler reported that in the period 1950-55 British exports increased by 6 per cent while those of the Common Market grew by 76 per cent. The comparative figures for the following five years were 13 per cent and 63 per cent. Through the 1950s no industrial nation had a lower growth of per capita output than Britain and the growth of the national income of the Common Market countries doubled that of Britain.

    The British decline was the result of a long process and it has been suggested that England was the wrong place to lead the industrial revolution because the upper classes were hopelessly biased against manual work (indeed against paid work of any kind – recall the segregation of the professional cricketers), against wealth (unless acquired by inheritance) and against trade, industry and enterprise generally. Many of the new magnates bought country estates and blended into the old aristocracy, hoping that their past would be forgotten, quite unlike the US where self-made men were proud of their achievements and were happy to celebrate them in public.

  17. Roger

    I was thinking in Burkean terms, as all true conservatives do ;-).

  18. Rafe Champion

    Yes but there were never enough Burkeans in Australia.

  19. stu

    The kind of liberal I wouldn’t want to live next door to…….

  20. duncanm

    I like to wear the ‘right wing’ badge like the gays adopted the ‘poof’ tag.

    If it is a term of abuse from the left – so be it. Whether libertarian or right, the left is definitely the enemy.

  21. Dr Faustus

    Conservatism is not an ideology, it is an attitude. Conservatism actually occupies the “sensible centre” in that it respects proven tradition and opposes needless change.

    This is a pretty accurate statement. To avoid the charge that ‘conservatism’ = ‘reactionary’, I extend the “needless change” filter to include innovations that are inefficient, wasteful and socially divisive.

    That is the ‘sensible centre’ where Turnbull is firmly placed.

  22. Harald

    In the 1950’s and 60’s, conservatism was understood as clinging to the status quo – defending the status quo from the onslaught of progressive, social liberalism. Conservatism at that time manifested itself as an unwillingness to change in any direction because it was content right where society was.

    Today’s situation is radically different, of course. The status quo is defended by the lefties and Cory Bernardi even wrote “The Conservative Revolution”, advocating for just that.

    Clearly conservatism is not just “stepping on the brakes”. Especially in the US context conservatism has an ideological grounding: it derives that grounding from the US constitution, the Bill of Rights and the King James Bible. Those are well-defined texts. Surely their interpretation is changing slightly over the course of time, but of course the texts do not; those texts provide for a fixed ideological rooting, rather than just stepping on the brakes in any direction.

    Hayek’s essay was written in 1960. It is very possible that the clear Christian, economically Classically Liberal, free market, individual liberty roots of the US conservatism we see today, in 1960 were not yet recognised. The modern day conservative movement in the US was still defining itself throughout around that time. The National Review, for example, had only been started in 1955 by Buckley Jr. Conservatism was at that time a mere intellectual spark that was yet to grow into something.

    It takes conservatism actually winning elections to assert itself and show in practice what conservatism means and define itself. The definition of conservatism we use today probably was shaped by the Reagan era of the 80’s, 20 years after Hayek wrote this.

    I don’t think Hayek would have written that essay today, not in those words.

    And regarding conservatism today in the Liberal Party:
    The cause of the problems in the Liberal Party is not that conservatism is no longer welcome. That is just the symptom.

    The cause of the problems in the Liberal Party is that the classic liberal strand of the Liberal Party has collapsed. It has morphed into the same progressive, socially liberal muck that we already have in Labor and Greens. It is the new progressive, socially liberal half in the party and cannot peacefully coexist with the conservative half that was already present.

    So, ironically, instead of the conservatives not having any sense of political direction as Hayek writes, it is the today’s version of liberals that have lost their direction.

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