Calls for more “evidence-based policy” in Australia are routine. For former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, under whose watch very little reform occurred, it was “at the heart of being a reformist government”.
But more “ideology-based policy” is what this country needs. Evidence is useless without underlying principles to guide what to do with it. Statistics are often crafted from poor data and reported tendentiously.
As the government mulls over a successor to Gary Banks, the outgoing chairman of the Productivity Commission, it would be wise to select a man or woman with a hardnosed attachment to a few key economic and political principles.
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I can see why the new atheist commentators Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins want to take on the Pope. Here is someone who fears what Gareth Evans called “relevance deprivation”. He fears it for himself as Pope, he fears it for the Church. To bolster the declining authority of the Church, he has set up the straw man of “aggressive secularism” and sets his adherents against it.
Religion, the Pope told Britons in his trip this month, is being “marginalised”, relegated to the “purely private sphere”. Believers holding public roles are being asked to act against their conscience, he claims. Secularism, Britains were warned, no longer values or tolerates their traditional values such as honesty, respect and fair-mindedness.
Your Holiness, this is rubbish – ideologically motivated rubbish.
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Christopher Hitchens is dying. That the 61-year-old’s body has finally given out after four decades of heavy smoking and drinking enough “to kill or stun the average mule” on a daily basis comes as little surprise to anyone, least of all the man himself. In an archly elegant and coolly analytical column for Vanity Fair, Hitchens has described how advanced his oesophageal cancer is and how he “can’t see myself smiting my brow with shock or hear myself whining about how it’s all so unfair; I have been taunting the Reaper for into taking a free scythe in my direction and have now succumbed to something so predictable and banal that it bores even me.”
No doubt, the now near-mandatory beatification of deceased public figures that saw Princess Di transformed from (in Hitchens’ own clear-eyed description) “a disco-loving airhead” to the People’s Princess, Steve Irwin from a cringe-inducing national embarrassment to a beloved folk hero and Kerry Packer from a ruthless business titan to kind-hearted philanthropist in mystical communion with the common man will all too soon befall Hitchens.
It will be interesting to see what kind of obituaries will be written by those on the progressive side of politics and, in particular, how they deal with Hitchens’ refusal to toe the party line in recent years. For decades, the brilliant, acid-tongued Brit was one of the Left’s fiercest and most effective ideological warriors and that rarest of all beasts — a radical intellectual capable of engaging and entertaining a mainstream audience.
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Do any of you really care less about what the media thinks about itself? To all the philosophers out there, yes, I get there’s an infinite regress being set up here. I am, after all, in the media talking about the media talking about itself. But forget that for a moment and answer the question. I bet for most of you it’s no. But gauging from the readers’ commentariat of many online publications, for a small, but significant minority of media audiences, it’s a big yes.
What I want to know is: how did such a tedious trend take off? When did the media become obsessed with itself? And, more importantly, when did readers start to mirror this obsession?
Admittedly, I didn’t spend too much time researching the historical roots of this phenomenon. But I have a feeling that although it’s always been around, the media’s obsession with itself, and your obsession with this obsession, really took off during what the media likes to call the ‘Culture Wars’. I’m pretty sure I heard someone at a dinner party crammed with smug lefties say quite authoritatively that the phenomenon had something to do with the rise of a political movement called ‘neo-conservatism’ and the neo-cons’ need for an enemy against which they could define themselves.
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The first draft of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders was released last month by the American Psychiatric Association, adding a range of controversial new disorders.
If you hoard too much you may have hoarding disorder, moody teens may have a psychosis disorder, if your maths is rotten you may have a maths disorder and frisky people may have hypersexuality disorder.
However, one disorder surprisingly didn’t make the manual but has a depressing effect on the political discourse: ideology disorder.
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Note: This piece was prompted by a column by David Hetherington, the executive director of progressive think tank Per Capita, in The Australian last week.
What exactly is a ‘Progressive’? It’s a term that’s been used against Tony Abbott – he is not one, apparently – and against anyone who does not support an ETS.
Progressives’ have three things in common (a consistent political philosophy, I argue below, is not one of them).
The first characteristic is hubris. Progressives are confident that any human or earthly problem can be solved – by them. Their hubris is firmly rooted in what psychologists have described as the ‘overconfidence effect’ - a person’s unjustified confidence in the objectivity and accuracy of his judgement.
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This first piece should inspire the question about the political basics.
What is it that differentiates the political parties? Or is philosophy now no more than a bib handed out to be worn before the political chamber game, a contrived or acquired vocal tribalism?
A tribalism based on the coincidence of the party a person joined, rather than what they believe - as what they believe has either no genuine differentiation, or does not exist.
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