The Pope on free markets, and Paul Keating on history

by Institute of Public Affairs on November 29, 2013

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 [email protected].

The Pope and free markets

Yesterday in Hey… What did I miss we told you about Pope Francis’ controversial apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, which includes a critique on the “absolute autonomy of 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 Spectatora review by Charles Moore and another review by Adrian Hilton.

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