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

on modern politics « Previous | |Next »
May 25, 2011

Karl Bitar is everything that is wrong with modern politics. Whilst in charge of the NSW Labor machine ( he was General Secretary for the NSW branch from December 2007 to October 2008,) then the federal secretary his right wing politics was one of focus groups, identifying the electorate with western Sydney, opposition to climate change, and sacking leaders to restore Labor's credibility. It was all politics no policy for Bitar.

His legacy was one of defeat, division and despondency.

LeakALP deserted.jpg

After resigning from the job of National Secretary of federal Labor machine because of running a disastrous campaign in 2010, he becomes a hired gun for James Packer's casino gambling industry with an explicit brief to sabotage Labor's forthcoming reforms of the Australian gaming industry.

Bitar will be able to use his network of Labor contacts, and his intimate knowledge of how this particular government responds to pressure from third-party interests, to lobby on behalf of Crown to block pokies reform.

Jonathan Green outlines what this says about Australian politics:

the Karl Bitars of this world - and they are legion - would presumably be unimpeded anything so professionally debilitating as personal belief.And there lies a sobering truth of modern politics: it's simply a professional game played by people with no allegiance other than to the outcome required by the moment. It is a game of influence, opinion control and issue management, a sophisticated lark for the dispassionate professional. It is certainly no place for deeply held conviction...Could it be that this is a product of the increasing professionalism of the political operative, people with broad skills that can be applied to any side of what is essentially a communications problem? They don't need to believe a thing. Better in fact if they don't. Government? Casino? Whichever.

The answer is easy. Politics is a game that is played by professionals motivated by self-interest. It has little to do with public policy. Or political philosophy.

Bitar's actions is an example of what Republican political philosophy calls corruption. It's a trashing of the public good, civic virtue and freedom from domination by big business.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 2:05 PM | | Comments (10)


So Bitar spent 2010 trying to get Labor elected and he will spend 2011 trying to undo pokies reform that is critical to its ongoing survival in minority government. Wonderful. He's just a gun for hire.

I had a look at the linked article on Republicanism. Seems like a mish-mash to me, and I subscribe to the view of one critic discussed in the article: "David Wootton, for instance, argues that throughout history the meanings of the term republicanism have been so diverse, and at times contradictory, that the term is all but meaningless and any attempt to build a cogent ideology based on it will fail".

My suspicions are increased by the support of Sunstein for republicanism. I haven't forgotten this guy's support for covert manipulation of public opinion:

it wasn't a good link---a potted history of a tradition. You could say that some contemporary republican theorists view republicanism as an alternative to liberalism. Republican liberty is seen as a basis for criticizing market liberty and market society--ie., the negative liberty or market society.

The keys are a positive emphasis on liberty, a negative rejection of corruption, tying liberty to citizenship and civic virtue.

Positive liberty to do what? Follow the Fuhrer?

freedom to develop your capabilities in a liberal society.

If republicanism is an alternative to liberalism (ie. not the same thing), why do I need it in order to "develop my capabilities in a liberal society"?

market liberalism or neo-liberalism operates only with a negative concept of liberty ie., freedom from (regulation) not freedom to.

I'll stick with the negative concept, thanks. I prefer that to some republican offering me liberty with limits. And I especially prefer it to Sunstein offering me liberty with lies.

positive freedom is what underpins public education --freedom to develop one's knowledge, skills, capacities so that one can live a better life. Public education also enables me to play an active role in shaping society through my participation in democratic institutions.

Theories of negative freedom, in contrast, spell out the acceptable limits of interference by the state usually (or other people) in individuals’ lives. This basically says that state interference in individual lives is best kept to a minimum and it regards the welfare state as a stepping stone to socialism ie., according to Hayek's argument in The Road to Serfdom it is a soft form of collectivism that has a tendency of evolving into totalitarianism.

many of the proponents of market or negative liberty in Australia (eg., the Australian newspaper, the Centre for Independent Studies, the Federal Liberal Party, and the Business Council of Australia) are (very) critical of the liberal welfare state.

A common theme in their writings appears to be a concern to introduce a more restrictive and paternalistic system that will impose further controls and obligations on welfare recipients, and make it harder for them to access income security payments.

These recommendations, however, seem to philosophically conflict with their more general concern to promote what they consider to be a more liberal and freer society based on individual choice, responsibility and empowerment.

The welfare state is an infringement on personal liberties for these market (classical) liberals, condemned as an enabler of indolence.