Looking at my stats, the most visited post this month by a country mile is Mixed income/rental models in social housing. That's actually good to see.
Today's post is triggered by a piece Tim Dunlop on the Drum: A good political 'narrative' is no substitute for actions. Here I want to focus not on the general points made by Mr Dunlop but on one point summarised in the following quote:
For a start, it (the argument) overlooks the fact that mainstream discourse is dominated by right wing voices - a case I have made time and time again.I don't think that statement is true.
Like many of us, I struggle to make meaning of the distinction between right and left. Personally, I just don't fit in with the conventional definitions. The pop quizzes place me just to the left of center on the range of criteria used in judgement. However, on particular issues I span from far left to well on the right. It depends on the issue.
Accepting definitional ambiguities, it is hard to see that mainstream discourse is dominated by the right. The usual argument is to point to the dominance of the Murdoch press or the influence of certain talk back radio hosts. They are important in slices of the market, but they are not dominant. If you move beyond the media to include the totality of mainstream discourse, the case is a little stronger, especially in the public policy sphere.
Now here we have to come back to definitions again.What do we mean by right wing voices? There is, I think, a dominant thread that argues for a reduced role for government, for lower taxes, for deficit reduction. I think that its also true that this thread gained its dominance from right voices and intellectuals dating back many generations and from conditions at that time. But this thread, this way of thinking, is not totally dominant.
For every right wing think tank, there is an opposing one. For every newspaper such as the Australian Financial Review, by far the most important of the right wing voices on economic matters, you have an opposing one. You only have to look at the rise of the Guardian in Australia to see the size of the center left market.
Most importantly, and to the despair of elements of the right, they have actually been losing the battle for public opinion. You only have to look at the response to the 2014 Australian budget to see that.
One of the real difficulties for the right is actually trying to define what it really is. The right has always been riven by internal tensions, for there are many different rights.
There is the libertarian right, that group that focuses on individual rights and freedoms and takes pride in a long intellectual tradition. This is the right of Hayek, of Adam Smith.or David Hume, of Friedman or Thatcher. It is also the right that came to establish a now challenged dominant position in economic and public policy more broadly.
This right contrasts with the statist right. Central to the statist right is either the preservation of the existing order (the state) or, conversely, its replacement by a new order that will better promote the state. Mr Abbott arguably belongs to first, Adolf Hitler the second. Both groups overlap with other political definitions such as conservatism or populism. In Germany, conservative forces supported Adolf Hitler because they saw him (wrongly) as protecting or re-establishing an existing order threatened by Bolshevism.
In all this, the real problem for the left is that the intellectual framework that guided the left over the last two hundred years has simply collapsed. In turn, this has created a problem for the right, for over that time the right has partly defined itself in opposition to the left. Both are confused.
I first became really aware of these tensions when I was researching the Country Party, for this was a party that initially defined itself in terms of opposing the nostrums of left and right, seeking to distinguish itself from both, How do you do that when the left-right world view is just so dominant? What language do you use when you are challenging the established order, rejecting some things, accepting others?
I'm not sure that I ever came up with an answer. I could point to the Party's successes during that tension period when it was opposing both views, but in the end it got sucked in to the existing structure.
I have sometimes compared the Country Part to the Greens because they faced similar electoral challenges in a day to day sense. Unlike the Country Party, the Greens are a left party. Like the old Country Party, their challenge is to determine to what extent they will compromise their views to achieve power. . . . .