The Principles Of Freedom – Some Bedtime Reading

I’m still drowning in work down here, and will be doing so for at least another three weeks. The thread on children looks likely to happen probably around the second week of November. Sorry about the delay, but I know you’ll understand that feeding the family takes priority, and as a freelancer I have to accept contracts whenever they appear.

It’s a pity, because I would have liked to say a few things regarding today’s news that Australia has been successful in its bid against Finland and Luxembourg for one of the non-permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council. It’s a rather ironic and somewhat embarrassing victory for the very provincial Gillard, as the bid was the brainchild of her predecessor, Kevin Rudd, and lobbied for strongly and ably by Rudd’s successor as Foreign Minister, Bob Carr. Both deserve this blog’s congratulations for their efforts; my country so often sends its troops into harm’s way as part of UN so-called “peacekeeping” missions, and frequently sees them return home in flag-draped coffins, that it’s entirely appropriate that we have a voice at the table of the body that makes the decision to employ violent solutions to intractable problems.

So in the meantime, I thought I’d give you all a small reading exercise, and get your feedback. David Flint is an Emeritus Professor of Law and one of Australia’s best-known conservative academics. He is also the head of the anti-republican group Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, which successfully advocated for a “no” vote in the Republican referendum in 1999. He has published extensively in the areas of law and the monarchy, and currently runs Crowned Republic, an education program in civics and history for high schools. Having spotted him back in April in the audience of James Delingpole’s Sydney lecture, I bookmarked his website for some future reading. Some people hearing him speak live have difficulty taking him seriously; his almost comically prissy demeanour leaves him open to a fair bit of homophobic vitriol. Yet behind the façade lies an undeniably astute mind.

One essay of his from the latter website is a very thought-provoking piece entitled Ten Principles of Freedom. I invite you all to have a read when you get a chance, and let me know whether you agree with his thesis: that the Glorious Revolution of 1688 was the sine qua non of the development of the institutions of constitutional liberalism in the Anglosphere.

I do want to address the individual points in this remarkable essay myself, and will be referring back to it in a few months’ time (touch wood) in a thread I have in the pipeline on the advisability of a Bill of Rights which is not directly incorporated into a Constitution (as it is in the United States).  But that’s all the time I have to spare at the moment: duty calls.

Over to you.

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21 Responses to The Principles Of Freedom – Some Bedtime Reading

  1. Luton Ian says:

    Yay, I’ve beaten Kitler to the first comment

  2. farmerbraun says:

    Flint is being disingenuous when he writes :-
    “New Zealanders were astounded when their politicians ignored the result of a referendum, when a massive 88 per cent of voters indicated their support for the repeal of legislation making it an offence to smack children.[25] The new National Party government under John Key could not have more disillusioned many of its supporters.

    Now the ACT New Zealand Party (successor to the Association of Consumers and Taxpayers) is campaigning to make the referendum process mandatory, as in Switzerland. Now the author Amy Brooke has launched the “100 Days, Claiming Back New Zealand” movement.”

    1) It is well known and accepted in Godzone that such referenda are non-binding.
    2) the legislation did not make it an offence to smack children; rather it removed the defence of “justifiable force” when a child is beaten to death, or near it, by a parent.
    3) The “anti-smacking” legislation, as its opponents labelled it, which was introduced by the Green Party may, in the fullness of time, be seen as the one useful and lasting achievement of that party.

    I don’t recall any such move by the ACT party ( the nearest thing to a conservative party in Godzone, or it was) to make the referendum process binding on the government and I’ve never heard of Amy Brooke. Wishful thinking, at best, to impose the tyranny of the “majority”, which would never have been an ACT policy. And in any event ACT is now dead having been taken over by a Christian nut-case with fascist tendencies , amongst other undesirable traits.

    I guess Flint moves in rarefied circles 😉

    How would you feel about citizen referenda (i.e., binding) introduced in NZ? Oz

  3. farmerbraun says:

    I do like this line :-
    ”The electors [of the English-speaking world] can of course be misled, but they are less inclined than others to render heroic status to their leaders or to be swayed by adventurism.”

    In the light of the ongoing ” Presidential Election Spectacle” FB is moved to observe that it is a funny sort of English that they speak in the USA, isn’t it? 🙂

    When you see how a lot of lefties down here idolize the memory of Gough Whitlam (and David Lange, for that matter) I’m not so sure – Oz

  4. farmerbraun says:

    Binding referenda? Mob rule ? Yeah right!
    And Lange is widely regarded as a buffoon and a total flake who tried in vain to halt some very necessary reforms that were ultimately enacted , and which restored a degree of self-reliance into public attitudes.
    Even former PM , Robert Muldoon, who did achieve a sort of iconic status for a while, is now seen for the twisted bullying drunkard that he was.

    “Two wolves and a sheep discussing what to have for dinner”. That’s how democracy can work, unless there are strict constitutional limits to what a legislature can do; regardless of whether it is voted on directly, or by proxy – Oz

  5. farmerbraun says:

    In Godzone, the last place that heroes are sought is among the political class.
    Sir Edmund Hilary is more the type that we admire.

  6. farmerbraun says:

    Talking of political “heroes”, both Australia and Godzone owe thanks for their present lack of financial crisis to Paul Keating for his regulation of the Aussie banks.

    Yep, that’s now acknowledged by all sides of politics. Trouble is, Labor today is spending money we don’t have. They are dining out on our children’s credit card – Oz

  7. farmerbraun says:

    FB agrees with you that “dining out” i.e pissing it up against a wall, is not a core function of government. Investing in the future , even by way of debt -funding, makes good sense at certain times in the economic cycles. With interest rates at historic lows , now would be a good time.
    It would be better though if the Government bonds were being taken up by the citizenry , rather than by off-shore investors, with consequent undesirable effects on the exchange rate.

  8. meltemian says:

    I’m obviously a poncey Pom, I don’t find David Flint prissy at all! You should see our Brian Sewell!!!!! I’m sure it sounds different in our Antipodean ears, Mel. And that, in certain quarters, he would sound perfectly normal – Oz

  9. Ozboy says:

    Meanwhile down here, local elections were held yesterday in the Peoples’ Republic of Canberra (occasionally known as the Australian Capital Territory). It’s the small region surrounding our national capital, corresponding roughly to America’s District of Columbia. It’s a weird society, with only one industry – federal government – and its inhabitants, with a vested interest in permanently increasing the size of that industry, have always been the most left-leaning electorate in the country.

    That’s why it’s instructive that yesterday, the Liberal Party came within one seat of gaining an absolute majority in the 17-seat Territorial parliament, with their highest-ever primary vote of 38%, up 6.4% from the last election. The libertarian party also got 1.1% of the vote. Gillard’s royal court now has one more reason to be getting very nervous…

  10. Amanda says:

    Oz: First of all I’d like to say: Congratulations, Australia. You’re one of the few torch-holders of freedom in the world these days. And besides, not long ago you took in one from my home county of Sussex as a citizen (Leo Sayer, in 2009).

    Second of all, of course we understand that you have to ‘put food on your family’, in the immortal words of one of my favourite presidents, George W. Bush. (We all misspeak at times: that one gives me an affectionate chuckle.) Actually Amanda, if you could see Ozgirl’s face after dinner time, you’d know you’ve spoken the truth – Oz 🙂

  11. izen says:

    On a first read of the David Flint essay I am not impressed.
    There seem to be a lot of, at best internal contradictions, at worst hypocrisy. There are also some very partial and partisan readings of history which are contentious to say the least and many would regard as just wrong.

    Overall he seems to be advocating and extolling the virtues of a mythic golden age and unrealisable combination of the Westminster and US systems which he claims exhibit a perfect balance of executive, a bicameral legislative parliament/congress of representatives and an independent judiciary. I don’t think it is accidental that he cannot point to a specific time or example of when this political balance actually existed or when democratic representative government with full suffrage worked in reality in the way he describes.

    It is a classic tory version of political stability, promoting the ongoing kludge of English politics in the time of Edmund Burke to a paradigm of finely balanced governance. Its a self-justifying fantasy of course.

    His emphasis on the significance of the Glorious Revolution is a case in point. Certainly it curtailed the power of autocratic monarchy and replaced it with a constitution and representative bodies that imposed tax. But that constitution ushered in over a century of extreme religious discrimination. England political though accepted the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness… – unless you were catholic or indeed anything other than C of E.

    The Glorious Revolution can also be seen as the final capture of government from a monarch by the new capitalists and a hostile takeover by the Dutch with the collusion of the new capitalists in Britain. It was the triumph of corporate cronyism over royal patronage. To save English pride it is conveniently forgotten that the Dutch had destroyed much of the English naval fleet in its London docks shortly before, and William III landed with a significant army which was required to put down opposition in Scotland and Ireland.

    There are other problems, his admiration for the role of the USA in promulgating democracy around the world seems unfettered by the fact that there is a significant overlap between tyrannical authoritarian dictators that oppressed any move to liberal democracy, and despots supported or installed by the US. The long list of South American dictators from Pinochet back to Papa Doc and the fact that Saddam was originally a CIA/US choice seems to show a dissonance between the ethical rhetoric and the morality of its actions. Hardly a surprise for knowledgable observers of governments that they tend to pursue their interests rather than principles.

    There is a specific problem with his complaint against the judiciary ‘legislating from the bench’. He cites the US supreme court, correctly stating that its role is to restrain the legislative excesses of the legislative branches of government. But the examples he gives are all of the court restraining legislation. The judges did not pass a law allowing free speech, they judged that free speech was already inherent in the constitution and blocked laws that would have curtailed it. Constitutionally correct even if it does allow ‘obscene’ speech as he rather prissily denotes it.

    Then there is the final advocacy for scepticism. Specifically in regard to AGW.
    By all means apply scepticism to the policy choices made by government, but the dispute over the science is part of the same methodology, strategy and often the same people who manufactured spurious doubt on tobacco, lead, asbestos, acid rain, CFCs ….
    Given the past history of powerful economic interests blocking the recognition of the external costs of their commercial activities perhaps scepticism should be applied to such opposition to the science agreed by all but the fringe of the scientific community.

    Science is never completely settled, but some bits are.
    The heliocentric solar system was settled by the time of Galileo, but the precise mechanism that defined those heliocentric orbits had to wait until the 1920s for details like the perihelion of mercury to be understood.

    Just one point I’ll pick up on here, Izen; your observation that Flint’s attitude towards the USA for attempting to export democratic institutions is one of “admiration”. I don’t think that’s correct. In fact, in the essay he regards it (the imposition of democracy onto other peoples, particularly where the societal and cultural preconditions for it to work do not exist) as quite radical, at odds with the intentions of the Founding Fathers, and indeed gives a detailed explanation of why he believes it will not work:

    Unfortunately, neither President Wilson nor President Bush was successful in advancing his mission. Freedom cannot be achieved merely by importing a few institutions and decreeing ballot-box democracy. True democracy requires more than just the ballot-box and universal suffrage. These insignia of democracy have to be planted in a fertile field.

    In the debate over the Bush Administration’s policy to impose democracy across the world, Fareed Zakaria advanced the argument that democracy works best in societies when it is preceded by “constitutional liberalism”. This is the sort of fertile ground in which democracy can succeed. Constitutional liberalism is a prerequisite essential to democracy and thus to freedom.

    Flint definitely falls into the category of “conservative”, as I defined way back here, insofar as he extols the virtue of allowing institutions to change in a way that is evolutionary, not revolutionary- Oz

  12. farmerbraun says:

    Izen wrote-
    “Then there is the final advocacy for scepticism. Specifically in regard to AGW.
    Science is never completely settled, but some bits are.”

    I feel sure that you will want to elaborate just a little . . .

  13. izen says:

    @- farmerbraun
    “Investing in the future , even by way of debt -funding, makes good sense at certain times in the economic cycles. With interest rates at historic lows , now would be a good time.”

    Do I detect someone who may doubt the word of politicians and economists that austerity is the path to wealth….

    “It would be better though if the Government bonds were being taken up by the citizenry , rather than by off-shore investors, with consequent undesirable effects on the exchange rate.”

    But it is the offshore investors who created and incurred the debt, if they don’t buy the bonds and get the QE and bailouts how else is the commercial debt going to be converted into national, sovereign debt that it is the ‘duty’ of the citizen to repay…

    But you asked if I wanted to expand on the settled science comment, well try this –

  14. izen says:

    @- Ozboy
    “your observation that Flint’s attitude towards the USA for attempting to export democratic institutions is one of “admiration”. I don’t think that’s correct. In fact, in the essay he regards it (the imposition of democracy onto other peoples, particularly where the societal and cultural preconditions for it to work do not exist) as quite radical, at odds with the intentions of the Founding Fathers, and indeed gives a detailed explanation of why he believes it will not work:”

    Okay, I agree that his viewpoint is more nuanced than admiration.
    But I think he is still falling for the ‘freedom and democracy’ rhetoric that the US sometimes employs. He is buying the spin rather than looking at what the US has actually done. i am not disputing that democracy may be difficult to establish without a social tradition of liberal enlightenment. But that is not the main problem the US has had when installing its compliant favourite rulers.
    The times that America has tried to replace despotism with democracy are rather offset by the times it has replace democracy {of a sort at least} with despotism.
    {Shah of Iran, Pinochet, Mushariff….}

    Yes, the United States has failed in this manner numerous times over the past century, as you enumerate. I do believe, however, that with the greater scrutiny it is under in the internet age, the State Department and the Pentagon are nowadays paying much closer attention to the nature of the company they keep. This was evident during yesterday’s Presidential debate, which centred principally around foreign policy, and during which both candidates expressed concern that in the hopeful events of the so-called “Arab Spring”, the United States did not, in its zeal to overthrow the despotic regimes of the Middle East, afford material support to its potential future enemies, particularly in Syria – Oz

  15. farmerbraun says:

    “It would be better though if the Government bonds were being taken up by the citizenry , rather than by off-shore investors, with consequent undesirable effects on the exchange rate.”

    This was specifically in reference to the NZ/AUS situation where the governments were running surpluses prior to the continuing GFC.
    The NZ government chose to reduce the size of government , anticipating a reduced tax take , and at the same time initiated a borrowing program to maintain economic activity through the downturn, a program which continues unabated as tax take shows no signs of increasing. The government borrowing program, which is budgeted to end 2014/2015 with a return to surplus, has been funded from off-shore, with the result that we have a higher exchange rate than if the government had borrowed domestically. The effects of the higher exchange rate on a country such as NZ , where exports, rather than domestic economic activity, are the main economic driver, are quite harsh, and cause a further reduction in domestic economic activity, particularly in the agricultural services industries, but ultimately flowing right through the economy.

    Of course the government could not borrow domestically , because NZ has no savings ; which was my point. While a symbiotic relationship between the public and private sectors is desirable, it is only possible if there are no disincentives to saving, e.g. there must be little or no inflation( no QE), and there may need to be some positive incentive to encourage domestic saving, because in situations like the present the stated benefits of the domestic savings would benefit all. i.e. we could have a little austerity in the bloated public service; a little stimulus to the private sector through government borrowing and spending; and we would have a lower exchange rate which results in increased tax take from profits (to eventually repay the government borrowings), and increased economic activity throughout the economy.

    Then we would only have to deal with the global economic warfare consisting of competitive devaluations through never-ending QE ; a breakneck race to the bottom in the medium term. Sure is interesting.

  16. farmerbraun says:

    Izen , no problems with the methodology and conclusions in your link i.e. a CO2 -temperature link is not disproven.
    My view is still that there is not enough good data to form a conclusion either way i.e. neither proof nor disproof are possible at this time: we need another 30 years at least, and preferably a couple more completed 60 year PDO cycles.
    It would be interesting to see the same methodology used for the period 1946 up to the present(if reliable data was available) ; that way we would capture the 1946-1999 complete PDO (1946-1975 cool; 1976-1999 warm) , and half of the next cool PDO phase fromm 1999 to the present.(2030?)
    The link also indirectly makes the point that no rapid temperature rise is expected, and that global catastrophe projections depend greatly on the existence of posited positive feedback loops and tipping points.
    Time will tell 🙂

  17. Ozboy says:

    Oh, and regarding an earlier story on this site, NSW police this morning executed a search warrant on behalf of their Victorian counterparts,at the home of Labor MHR Craig Thomson, as part of Strike Force Carnarvon. Thomson, you will recall, stands accused of embezzlement of over half a million dollars of his former union’s funds, spent principally on airfares, prostitutes and sundry high living. Michael Smith has the lowdown here.

    The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly small.

    I’ll keep the Parliament On A Knife Edge series going but, realistically, by the time Thomson is convicted and locked up, it will be too close to a general election to bother with a by-election in Dobell anyway. Short of Gillard herself being charged with something, the numbers in the House of Representatives won’t change again between now and the next election, due sometime between August and November next year.

  18. Kitler says:

    Well since I’ve been kinda busy at work, all I have to say is freedom is an illusion we are allowed to pretend exists….
    Quickie post…..

  19. Kitler says:

    Musical post for those of you who can count past three and enjoy culture….

  20. Kitler says:

    Lefty faked disinformation….

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