My name is Stephanie Forrest, and I joined the IPA three weeks ago as a Research Scholar with the Foundations of Western Civilisation Program. John Roskam told you a little bit about me in the latest member’s update. I wrote this month’s Horizons.
I hope you enjoy it. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me – my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Pope and free markets
I recommend that you read this excellent analysis by Dr Samuel Gregg, research director at the Acton Institute.
As Gregg notes:
“I myself take no offense from Evangelii Gaudium‘s observations about poverty and the economy… His words are also a powerful reminder that Christ’s commandment to love the poor is truly non-negotiable for any serious Christian.
Nevertheless, as Francis himself writes, “Ideas disconnected from realities give rise to ineffectual forms of idealism” (232). And attention to particular realities about economic life is precisely what’s missing from parts of Evangelii Gaudium‘s analysis of wealth and poverty. If we want “the dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good” to be more than what the pope calls a “mere addendum” to the pursuit of “true and integral development” (203), then engaging more seriously the economic part of the truth that sets us free would be a good start.”
Samuel Gregg is the author of a new book Tea Party Catholic: The Catholic Case for Limited Government, a Free Economy, and Human Flourishing. Here’s an interview with him from last week with the National Review.
Paul Keating gives his own partial version of History
In Horizons last month we told you about the embarrassing and disrespectful attempt to remove the words “Known unto God” from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and replace them with the words of Paul Keating.
Keating’s speech, given at the Remembrance Day address two weeks ago, has demonstrated how right we were to be concerned.
Paul Keating believes the First World War was “devoid of any virtue … arose from the quagmire of European tribalism,” and Australian soldiers were naïve and helpless “cannon fodder” who were fed “into [the] deadly crevice” by the Allied generals.
As Miranda Devine wrote in her excellent column the following day,
“It is simplistic and insulting to rewrite history to portray these soldiers of the past as somehow fools and ignorant bumpkins enslaved by the British Empire, especially as Australians in those days did feel an affinity to Britain.
Dismissing them as mere “cannon fodder” dehumanises and objectifies them, which is the opposite of what we try to do on Remembrance Day.”
But if you need to be reassured that Australian soldiers in the First World War were not mere “cannon fodder”, here’s Geoffrey Blainey’s brilliant article in the Australian in April 2010, and Gerard Henderson’s response to Paul Keating’s address in the Sydney Morning Herald.
The prominence given to Keating’s ahistorical musings demonstrate why we shouldn’t be leaving our history in the hands of professional politicians. In the Australian Financial Review earlier this month John Roskam wrote that Keating offered nothing more than:
“… the classic leftist interpretation of Australia’s history, which is of our past as the march towards an inevitable social democracy. This interpretation of our history is what the national curriculum now requires to be taught to every school student.
… Significantly, not in his speech in 1993 nor on Monday did Keating once refer to the freedoms at stake in our country’s conflicts. In contrast in 1997 Howard spoke of those who fought to ensure our “freedom to think, to move, to speak, to worship, to have a say in the election of governments … [and] to raise a family and to educate our children”.
The words of neither John Howard nor Paul Keating should appear at the War Memorial.”
How we understand history shapes how we understand the present. Politicians know this. That’s why they should be kept as far away from the curriculum as possible.
Reading, watching, listening
Two brilliant, must-read intellectual takedowns were both published on 21 November.
The first is this magnificent critique of the popular writer Malcolm Gladwell by the British intellectual historian John Gray. Writing in the New Republic, Gray compares Gladwell’s immensely successful series of books to Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People.
The second is this critique in the London Review of Books by James C. Scott of a new book The World until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?
Here’s another strong critique of The World until Yesterday from Ron Bailey in Reason Magazine, asking if savages really were noble.
James C. Scott is the author of one of the most important books in political and economic philosophy in recent decades: Seeing Like A State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition have Failed. Scott details his arguments in this piece at the Cato Institute. And here’s a review of Seeing Like a State from Reason Magazine.
In July this year Horizons featured the great liberal philosopher Isaiah Berlin. For another take on Berlin by the great conservative philosopher Roger Scruton, this piece in the New Criterion from 2009 is very much worth reading.
Roger Scruton is visiting Australia as a guest of the IPA’s Foundations of Western Civilisation Program in May 2014. For more great pieces, or for an introduction to this fascinating thinker, we profiled Roger Scruton in Horizons last month. Further details about the Scruton national tour will be available to IPA members and supporters shortly.
Doris Lessing, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2007, died earlier this month. Here’s a very interesting piece from Real Clear Politics on how highly critical she was of the left-wing cultural establishment.
Also of interest may be this excellent address by Daniel Hannan on his fantastic new book on How we Invented Freedom & Why It Matters. This book explores how freedom is a uniquely British invention and the debt which we owe to it in the modern world. Here’s another extract of the book from The Spectator, a review by Charles Moore and another review by Adrian Hilton.
Roger Scruton in Australia
Roger Scruton is the world’s leading conservative philosopher. And in May next year he will be visiting Australia as a guest of the IPA and Campion College.
Roger will be the keynote speaker at our 2014 Foundations of Western Civilisation Symposium to be held in Melbourne on 9 May. The full day symposium will feature Australia’s leading intellectuals, authors and commentators to discuss the future of Western Civilisation in Australia. (For videos of the 2011 symposium, click here.)
Roger Scruton is the author of more than 30 books, including the seminal The Meaning of Conservatism published in 1980. (Here’s an interesting interview with Roger celebrating the book’s 25th anniversary.) His 2006 book, A Political Philosophy: Arguments for Conservatism was written principally to defend the institutions and culture of Western Civilisation against its critics.
To get a taste of Roger’s work, watch this long video of his speech to the Common Sense Society in Budapest in 2012, on the dangers of moral relativism.
You might also enjoy watching his appearance at an Intelligence Squared debate at the Royal Institution in London last September with the left-wing literary critic Terry Eagleton.
Roger Scruton also writes a regular column for The American Spectator, and his article on the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible in the April 2011 issue is fascinating.
One of his most powerful recent essays is this piece in Prospect Magazine from earlier this year, excoriating the British Conservative Party for its philosophical aimlessness. If you need one essay to show why Roger Scruton’s visit to Australia is so important and so worthwhile, this is it.
Further details about Roger Scruton’s visit, and the 2014 Foundations of Western Civilisation Symposium, will be sent to IPA members soon.
Don’t miss Matt Ridley
Don’t miss the opportunity to hear the British scientist and author Matt Ridley deliver the 2013 C.D. Kemp Lecture and Dinner in Melbourne on 14 November 2013.
Matt is one of the most provocative writers in the world. In his most famous book, The Rational Optimist, Matt argues the case for optimism about the progress of civilisation, and how social and economic freedom are the most liberating forces known to mankind.
If you haven’t watched it yet, this is a fascinating six minute interview Matt did with the Hoover Institution on climate change, and his Hayek lecture at the New York Manhattan Institute is also very interesting.
Less than two dozen places are still available – to book click here.
Stripping “Known unto God” from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
In September 1915 Rudyard Kipling’s son, Jack, went missing at the Battle of Loos in north-east France. The Battle of Loos was Jack’s first action.
Jack had originally been rejected by the British Army and Navy due to his bad short-sightedness. But Rudyard used his influence as a world-renowned author to ensure Jack could receive an officers’ commission and have the opportunity to defend his country on the Western Front.
Jack’s body was never recovered. Rudyard spent years looking for his son’s remains.
The story of Rudyard’s grief is essential to understanding the delicacy and respectfulness of the inscription, chosen by Kipling as a member of the Imperial War Graves Commission, on the gravestones of many unknown soldiers – “Known unto God”.
The historian Les Carlyon describes this as “three perfect words“.
You can read Kipling’s description of the work of the Commission in this short work, The Graves of the Fallen, published online by the National Library.
Kipling’s poem ‘The Children’, written two years after Jack’s death displays his grief:
These were our children who died for our lands: they were dear in our sight.
We have only the memory left of their hometreasured sayings and laughter.
The price of our loss shall be paid to our hands, not another’s hereafter.
Neither the Alien nor Priest shall decide on it. That is our right.
But who shall return us the children?
(The whole poem is available here.)
With this poignant history, it was astounding to see yesterday the National War Memorial considered removing the phrase “Known unto God” from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and replacing it with a phrase from Paul Keating’s 1993 eulogy, “He is one of them, and he is all of us.”
Nick Cater covered the story yesterday. As he wrote,
“To replace an inscription chosen by men and women who lived and fought in the Great War with the words of a living political figure, however, and a controversial one at that, is a frightening act of hubris that politicises our most sacred memorial.”
And another example of how easily history, culture and tradition, if not defended, can be casually swept away.
Such shallow historical memory is in part why the Institute of Public Affairs founded the Foundations of Western Civilisation Program in the first place.
The IPA launched Nick Cater’s excellent new book The Lucky Culture, in Melbourne in May this year. John Roskam reviewed it for the IPA Review.
2013 C.D. Kemp Lecture and Dinner with Matt Ridley
In November the Institute of Public Affairs is delighted to host the best-selling British author and scientist Matt Ridley to deliver the 2013 C.D. Kemp Lecture in Melbourne.
In his most famous book, The Rational Optimist, Matt makes the case for optimism about the human condition, arguing compellingly that social and economic freedom builds trust and enhances prosperity. Read this excellent review of the book by former IPA Review editor Andrew McIntyre in the November 2010 edition. Matt is a columnist for both The Times and the Wall Street Journal, and his most recent article for the WSJ this month on the IPCC is a must-read.
Watch Matt discuss his book and climate change in this fascinating six minute interview with the Hoover Institution. In 2011, Matt delivered the Annual Hayek Lecture to the Manhattan Institute in New York City, which you can watch in full here.
In 2006 the C.D. Kemp Lecture was delivered by Mark Steyn, on the topic of Does Western Civilisation Have a Future? You can read the full lecture here.
To book your place for the 2013 lecture and dinner with Matt Ridley, click here.
Is America special?
This is a compelling piece by Robert J Samuelson from the Washington Post earlier this month which lays out the argument for American exceptionalism:
“What also made America special was its core beliefs, starting with ‘all men are created equal.’ In other countries, rigid economic hierarchies reigned. Birth was often fate. Citizenship depended on ethnicity, heritage, religion. In the United States, success and citizenship were open-ended.”
(Samuelson is drawing on a recent short book by the legendary economist Charles Murray, American Exceptionalism: An Experiment in History, available from Amazon.com here.)
The greatest thinker on American exceptionalism was Alexis de Tocqueville, who wrote Democracy in America, published in two parts in 1835 and 1840.
Tocqueville, a French national, travelled from France to tour America, ostensibly to produce a report for the French government on American prisons, but used the journey to produce an extended and profound study of American society and democracy.
His great insight was that America demonstrated how a culture of individual liberty could be a deeply democratic culture.
The American genius was to foster both philosophies – liberty and democracy – into a coherent whole. The United States was practical and individualistic, yet at the same time had a rich tradition of civic responsibility and community.
Tocqueville’s masterpiece was featured in the IPA’s 100 Great Books of Liberty, available here.
The Online Library of Liberty has Tocqueville’s complete works available – and the full Democracy in America here. If you’re interested in Tocqueville’s thoughts more generally, two short works worth reading are his 1848 speech against socialism, and this passage about the love of liberty from his less well known 1856 book The Old Regime and the Revolution.
This is an interesting essay from the latest Claremont Review of Books on how American exceptionalism manifests itself in the American attitude to immigration and citizenship.
Reading, watching, listening
Last month’s Horizons talked about how one of the architects of the Gillard government’s National Curriculum, Tony Taylor, attacked the IPA over our critique of his work. Taylor has now responded in the ABC’s the Drum – read his piece to find out why students shouldn’t be taught how markets work because of the (government-caused) Global Financial Crisis!
One of the most important Australian philosophers, Kenneth Minogue, passed away in June. The latest New Criterion features one of his last articles, on self-interest and the free society. This is also an interesting piece by Minogue in the New Criterion from March 2013 tackling a new edition of Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan. In Quadrant in 2010, Claudio Veliz reviewed his last book, the Servile Mind.
This is a fascinating story in the September edition of Standpoint about what happened when the Office of Strategic Services – the predecessor organisation of the CIA – asked a group of German Marxist intellectuals to analyse the character of Nazism. Needless to say, their brand of critical theory was not particularly insightful.
Here is an interesting special event held by the podcast EconTalk on capitalism, government, and the good society.
And finally, a review of a new biography of Norman Rockwell in the Smithsonian Magazine, the illustrator-artist who helped define the American national character. (A small part of Rockwell’s famous Freedom of Speech is in the Horizons banner this month – you can see the full image here.)
Apparently, it is “knowledgeably ignorant” to believe the English Civil War and the influence of Christianity on Australian history ought to be taught in schools.
That’s what Tony Taylor says in his attack on the Institute of Public Affairs in this article in the latest edition of History Australia. (Which you can download and read.)
Taylor, an academic at Monash University, is one of the key architects of the Gillard government’s National Curriculum. The IPA has criticised the National Curriculum for being ideologically hostile to the foundations of Western Civilisation.
The IPA has said that Taylor’s comments that dismiss the importance of the English Civil War demonstrates all that’s wrong with the National Curriculum.
In 2011 this is what Taylor said about the English Civil War on Crikey, a left-wing website:
“… [t]he latter is arguably just a series of confused and confusing localised squabbles that may have a special significance for UK history, but not for anybody else (unless they like dressing up in period costume).”
In his History Australia article he tries to explain away what he wrote.
“…I deliberately dropped in a sentence about the English Civil War that contained the comment that ‘the latter is arguably just a series of confused and confusing localised squabbles’. I had written the sentence in that precise way because I was exasperated by these IPA and Pyne advances into territory that was clearly quite beyond their ken, and I felt it was important to flush out their unfamiliarity with real history.”
Spot the problem? Taylor doesn’t even quote himself accurately. The emphasis of his original comment was that the English Civil War had no special significance for anybody else (other than those in the UK.) This key part of what he said was not quoted in Taylor’s History Australia article.
Taylor’s article was supposedly peer-reviewed!
The English Civil War brought us the requirement that parliament approve the spending of the executive – the very issue at stake in the Whitlam Dismissal, for example. It was in the English Civil War and its aftermath that the ideals of liberalism were forged.
Read the whole paper to learn why Taylor believes that Christopher Pyne, John Howard and the IPA “have a … firmly ideologised neoconservative approach that sees school history as an agent of nationalist cultural engineering”.
It is good that yesterday the Coalition has reiterated its promise to review the content of the National Curriculum, which Christopher Pyne first made to the Institute of Public Affairs in 2011.
Reading, watching, listening
A fascinating read in the latest Weekly Standard on an intellectual biography of Saint Augustine of Hippo.
And an interesting review in the Claremont Review of Books on a new history of the destruction of slavery in the United States. (The January edition of Horizons talked about how Christianity and free market thinkers fought the battle against slavery in England, and in the latest IPA Review Chris Berg expands on this important historical event. Chris also wrote a piece in the Sunday Age in February on the ambiguous civil liberty legacy of Abraham Lincoln.)
This is a good interview at New Books in History with an author of a new book on religious toleration and the Glorious Revolution.
An excellent new project by Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok, the two economics bloggers at Marginal Revolution, is MR University, a free series of video courses on economics subjects. Of particular interest to Horizons’ readers is this course using Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations to explore the history of classical economics.
Smith is a useful pivot on which to teach economics because he was no single-minded economist: he was just as interested in the moral foundations of free exchange as he was in its economic benefits. (This particular lecture on Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments is a useful introduction to a book that is less well-understood than it should be.)
And to round off, an interview with the political scientist Barry Weingast at EconTalk on how Smith’s ideas still resonate today.