Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sen. Brandis on the Liberal Party


An edited extract from an essay by Sen. George Brandis in a forthcoming book appeared in last Thursday’s copy of The Australian. I reproduce the key paragraphs here, though I encourage you to read the article in full:

JOHN Howard is a bundle of contradictions. An economic liberal, he was the first important leader of the Liberal Party to describe it as a conservative party. A social conservative, he once described himself as a "discerning radical". A person who prided himself on his pragmatic approach to policy-making, he saw politics as primarily a battle of ideas. A believer in social stability, he took Australia down a path of economic deregulation that, while immensely beneficial in the long term, removed traditional protections and created uncertainty in the short term. An apostle of social cohesion, he staked his leadership of the Liberal Party, and arguably lost the prime ministership, by pioneering fundamental industrial relations reforms that, on a few occasions such as the waterfront dispute, provoked acute social conflict. The leader of a party that he held to be the custodian of the tradition of John Stuart Mill as much as that of Edmund Burke, he all too often subordinated the individual to the mainstream.

As a social conservative, he too often lost sight of a core value of Menzian liberalism: a philosophy that makes paramount the rights of the individual and demands that those rights be defended in the case of every individual, not merely weighed in the balance.

At the heart of the Howard paradox is the fact that, by attempting to blend economic liberalism with social conservatism, he was seeking to reconcile values and attitudes that are sometimes irreconcilable.

[…] Howard's attitude reflected not indifference but a conscious preference for social order above personal freedom, for the attitudes of the "mainstream" above the concerns of the marginalised. Given that the philosophy of the Liberal Party - in particular as articulated by Menzies in the 1940s - is ultimately built upon a belief in the primacy of the rights of the individual, this was a profound shift in emphasis.
This comes as a timely reminder that the Howard years were really an aberration, an attempt to wed two incompatible world-views to each other. The longevity of this aberration, though, means that most Australians would indeed think of the Liberal Party as Australia’s conservative party, when it is nothing of the sort. The founding and sustaining influence of Sir Robert Menzies K.T. (a Knight of the Thistle and, moreover, a Freemason) might seem to imply that one might indeed reasonably think of the Liberals as essentially (or at least potentially) conservative, but this would only be sustained by judging him according to the present-day characteristics of conservatism, when in fact, as Sen. Brandis points out, he was an heir to nineteenth-century classical liberalism. It is only because of the ever-worsening slide into libertarian debauchery that he appears conservative; indeed, by present-day standards the classical liberals would be Blimps.

Fortunately, Mr. Malcolm Turnbull, with his libertarian inclinations and support for so-called ‘gay marriage’, is returning the Liberals to their roots. I say ‘fortunately’ not because I approve of liberalism, but because I despise it and want Australians to see just how insidious liberalism is when stripped of its façade of conservatism.

One correspondent in the letters pages reiterated that economic libertarianism and social conservativism are incompatible, while another reiterated the tension between individual rights and the public good. The latter tension, though, only arises from society’s loss of the real meaning of terms like ‘human rights’ and the distinction between liberty and licence. Any natural right is, by definition, compatible with the common good, since its object can only ever be what is true or good. The correspondent Mr. Frank Pulsford was very insightful, though perhaps unwittingly so, when he wrote that “[i]t is pathetic that the touchstone of liberalism should be so-called “gay marriages”.” ‘Gay marriage’ is not liberty; it is licence, it is enslavement and misery.

So I, for my part, am certainly no liberal, and not a conservative either, strictly speaking, since I see very little left that is worth conserving in the Commonwealth of Australia. I am a reactionary, and my views on the foundations of the State are summed up quite well in an extract from His late Grace Msgr Lefebvre They Have Uncrowned Him which appeared in yesterday’s Sydney S.S.P.X. Parish Bulletin for the Feast of Christ the King:

…..the Redemption of Our Lord Jesus Christ must be brought about with the help of civil society, and the state must therefore become, within the limits of the temporal order, the instrument of the application of the work of Redemption.

….all has been created for Our Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore for the accomplishment of the work of the Redemption: everything including civil society, which, is itself a creature of the Good Lord. Civil society is not a pure creation of the will of men; it results above all from the social nature of man, from the fact that God has created men so that they will live in society; it is written into nature by the Creator. Therefore civil society itself, no less than individuals, must render homage to God, its author and its end, and serve the redeeming design of Jesus Christ.

….Jesus Christ is therefore the centre of all history. History has one sole law: “He must reign”, if he reigns, true progress and prosperity also reign, which are goods more spiritual than material! If He does not reign, it is decadence, decay, slavery in all its forms, the reign of the evil one. This is what Holy Scripture promises besides: “the nation and the kingdom that will not serve Thee shall perish, those nations will be entirely destroyed”.

….there is a goal of history, it is the “recapitulation of all things in Christ” it is the submission of the whole temporal order to His redemptive work, it is the mastery of the Church militant over the temporal city, which prepares the eternal reign of the Church triumphant in heaven.
Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of Ss. Simon and Jude, Apostles
Memorial of Alfred the Great, 2008 A.D.

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