Politics is one of my favourite topics to write about. Below, you will find links to my various musings on the topic.
Dear Prime Minister, you know that silent majority who you credited with your last election? Well, guess what? Quite a few of them are out on that lawn at Parliament House not being silent…
In this 21st Century, I am a conservative, not a progressive. Perhaps if I had been alive in the time of William Wilberforce, I would have taken a different label, but I find today that those who wish to conserve are seeking to conserve those things that are objectively good and proven through time – family, freedom of speech, presumption of innocence and many other values that were difficult gains of hard-working and hard-thinking forebears.
I’m also a political centrist. The left value equality, libertarians value autonomy and the right value hierarchy but me… I consider all of these to be useful, and none of them to be fundamental. Furthermore, they are a trade-off. If any of these is taken to an extreme, it will increasingly come at the expense of the others, and will necessarily begin to cause harm rather than good. So what is fundamental in politics? The only value that can safely be taken to the extreme is “love your neighbour as yourself” (no surprise that the bible had it right all along).
However, all this banner-waving is to overly simplify things. Ideology is abstract. Abstraction is dangerous; it provides room for errors which then trump reason when the abstract returns to the realm of the concrete. Our leaders must commit themselves to the simplicity of the task of governance – to provide justice, security, liberty and common good. In all things the first obligation is to morality, and then to wisdom. In abstract politics, dogmatism shines brightest, but in the realm of real politics, knowledge, intelligence, creativity and courage are needed.
Unfortunately, Australian politics is not healthy. When one in ten people work for the government, but only one in a thousand are members of a major party, there is far more top-down power being exerted than bottom-up. Internal party politics is not transparent. Political disengagement is encouraged by a political class that lack convictions beyond their own desire for a secure job and a good reputation. The system encourages careerism, short-term thinking, and an unchecked bureaucracy.
Still, we live in a time of change. Waters that have been rising for years are finally reaching the spillways. The divide between the mainstream media, the political class, and the majority of public opinion has been growing and now stands exposed like an unclothed emperor. Both sides of politics have a word for political awakening: the left are ‘woke’ and the right are ‘red-pilled’. Political upsets are the norm – Brexit, Trump, the 2019 election of Scot Morison. And now Covid-19 collided into society creating chasms and rifts where none were previously known to exist.
What will come next?
Several attempts have been made to plot the political landscape. The classic left-right spectrum, the popular “political compass”, the libertarian’s favourite Nolan Chart, and Brian Patrick Mitchell’s less well-known arche/kratos plot. But they all lacked something. Math.
It’s easy to assume that if the majority of the public wants something, then our leaders ought to do it. That’s the point of democracy, right? Actually, no. Majority rule would be a disaster!
From the 2014 Ukrainian revolution, Hunter Biden’s appointment to an oil company board, to the 2016 election, hacking of the DNC’s file server, and new gas pipelines from Russia, the paltry pretext of the Trump impeachment sat at the nexus of a web of corruption that teaches one powerful lesson: the danger of bureaucracy.
For a framework to think about politics, I strongly recommend A conflict of visions by Thomas Sowell. For a Christian framework, a book that I initially under-appreciated, but have come to value, is Christ and the kingdoms of men by David Innes. It’s not an easy read and doesn’t start where I wanted it to start, but it is worth reading.
Following everyday politics is more challenging; I recommend following a variety of sources. For Australian and UK politics, there are always unique perspectives available from the Spectator magazine where the writing is usually superb. Get the paper mag, don’t just read it online, because us online contributors are a bit inferior. Just being honest. I have no particular commentators who I would recommend – the media landscape here is a bit bland.
US politics, on the other hand, is so much more dramatic that I obsess over it a bit. For US politics, I enjoy listening out for the perspectives of Newt Gingrich (I also get his newsletter) and Steve Hilton (he has a podcast), and I like watching Fox News’ Tucker Carlson – his maniacal laugh is life affirming, his monologues are the bomb, and he taught me to stop using adverbs. Needlessly. I also listen to Louder with Crowder because it’s hilariously funny. I’m not really a proper American-type conservative, so I disagree with plenty, but I do love their style and, oh, the drama!