Chris Kenny has a rather unusual op-ed in the Australian this morning.
The online headline seems to have changed from what I remember reading at about 8am but the gist the story remains the same.
Howard has talked about the “broad church” and how the party is best when it “balances” two strands: “the two traditions of classical liberalism and conservatism”. In fact the party has been most successful, at least federally, when it has been led by conservatives implementing a conservative agenda and the small-L liberals have been indulged or tolerated.
Apparently there is too much liberalism in the Liberal Party. In fact, too much libertarianism in the Liberal Party.
“I would add that the attempt at a fusion of the two [Burke and JS Mill] has been disproportionately to the detriment of conservatives,” Dawes said. “This is because libertarianism and the classical liberal school of thought from which it comes are fundamentally ideological, whereas conservatism cannot be so.”
He argued the true ally of liberalism was not conservatism but the progressive left; and sure enough, we see them arrive at similar positions on same-sex marriage, climate change and euthanasia, to name a few.
Really? I suppose JS Mill did describe conservatives as being stupid (I might be paraphrasing there) and that is a particularly dumb comment maybe liberalism (defined here as a combo of classical liberalism and libertarianism) isn’t compatible with conservatism.
Libertarianism is a theory of the role of government. Less government is preferable to more government. In a traditional left-right continuum that implies that libertarians are on the right of economic issues and on the left on social issues. Many (but not all) libertarians support same-sex marriage and euthanasia; libertarian opinion is more divided on issues relating the climate change. Libertarians, however, are not divided on issues relating to lower taxes and less government debt. Given that the progressive left tends to be authoritarian in its mode of operation and wedded to state violence it seems strange that it would be the “true ally of liberalism”.
Here then is the rather strange argument that Kenny makes:
Could this be the future of the Liberal Party? A reversion to pragmatic conservative instincts, a retreat from the fashions and ideology of liberalism and an appeal to traditions that make sense?
As if the Liberals are all suddenly libertarian and need to find their way back to common sense. And the evidence for this piece of silliness?
This is worth pondering because now we have a moderate or liberal as Prime Minister and the moderates exert factional power in state branches including NSW and federally.
This is far too simplistic – you are either a real man, like our poor Tony struck down in his prime, or some sort of commie. Now I suspect the PM has libertarian tendencies, but he is still a Liberal – he has his power base in the left faction (sorry, I know, there are no factions in the Liberal Party) of the Liberal Party. The previous leader had his power base in the right faction of the very same party. The so-called moderates in the Liberal Party are just that – they are not libertarians.
I’m sure that Chris Kenny wants to argue that Liberals should not be libertarians (why not, how is all that hairy chested conservativism working for you?) but to suggest that they are in fact libertarians is simply wrong.
I wish there were more people in the Liberal Party who did support smaller and less intrusive government.