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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

prudential statecraft? « Previous | |Next »
July 15, 2004

In todays Australian Financial Review there is an op-ed by Ross Cameron, the federal member for Parramatta and Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, which outlines what Leo Strauss calls prudential statecraft.

Prudential statecraft is captured by Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, which celebrates the role of the entrepreneurs in society. Instead of Kant's nation of devils Cameron's entrepreneuers make things happen; as they have vision and are willing to risk money to bring the vision into being. Prudential statecraft on this account is being a cautious regulator and in stopping the heavy-handed and excessive regulation so favoured by the ALP side of the Parliamentary Chamber. That is the pathway to tyranny peculiar to democratic regimes. Trust can, and should, replace bureaucratic regulation and black-letter law.

There is no need to replace existing institutional arrangements to achieve a perfect world since human beings are fallible. So the goal of political life is avoiding heavy handed regulation and fostering entrepreneurs in order to achieve prosperity.

I infer that Ross Cameron affords free rein to material self-interest so as to encourage the endless profusion of narrowly self-seeking entrepreneurs and interest groups. In a large and extremely diverse society such as Australia no one of these groups would constitute a majority. This profusion of interest groups would thus obviate the threat of the tyranny of the majority by simultaneously submerging "dangerous passions in the pursuit of gain," and assuring that no one interest group would be able to acquire political power.

A good society is a lumpy stew of individuals and groups, each with its own inherent "principle of motion." This stew stirs itself, and in the fullness of time, when mixed with trust out pops a creamy puree called 'the public interest'. In this way the endless maelstrom of individuals pursuing private goods produces, magically, the public good.

Alan Moir

It is real magic pudding stuff.

I for one do not stand in raptured admiration for the clockwork regularity of Cameron's marvel of a self-regulating economy. I see self-contradiction: the self-regulating economy has been able to trade upon "a dwindling legacy of cultural capital which was accumulated in sterner, more thoughtful era of Menzies Australia. The entrepreneurial system advocated by Cameron does not replenish this capital. It acts to erode it. Think Allan Bond or Christopher Skase.

Did not the light hand of market governance --going easy on business---lead to the disaster with HIH and Apra (The Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority)?

I presume that Ross Cameron does not see the malaise and nihilism afflicting our body politic that his government has contributed to. Has not the Coalition presided over the breakdown of political ethics in our political institutions? Has not it contributed to the break down of trust between government and citizens over Tampa and Iraq?

Cameron is less expressing prudential statecraft and more of an expression of the desire to abolish the political.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:26 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (2)

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