[Marxism] Liberalism, conservatism and Australia

Philip Ferguson plf13 at student.canterbury.ac.nz
Thu Jun 24 15:34:52 MDT 2004

"The US is actually probably the *only* imperialist country where
neo-liberal economics is accompanied by neo-conservative social ideas."

"I'm tempted to say I agree 'but I don't go as far' :-) because
Australia is a partial exception. The Howard government does combine
social conservatism with as neo-liberal a set of economic views as Bush.
I know Phil considers Howard something of an anomaly, but if so he's an
anomaly who's won three elections and may well win another one."

Yeh, I thought of Australia not long afterwards, but decided it mainly
*is not* an exception.  In the 80s and 90s there was over a decade of
Labour in power pursuing generally neo-liberal economics (though not as
extreme as we got under Labour in NZ) *and* social liberalism.

Also, I would argue there is a difference between Howard's social
conservative rhetoric and what the Australian state actually does.  I
suspect, for instance, the state apparatus in Oz is managed by a greater
number of social liberals than social conservatives.

Under the last National government in NZ - 1990-99 - we had a lot of
rhetoric against political correctness, but we had an increase in the
actual amount of political correctness made into social policy.

Also, while we currently have the National Party engaging in a bit of
Maori-bashing rhetoric, when National was in power they actually wrote
the Treaty of Waitangi into *more social legislation* than the previous
Labour government.

So I'd take Howard's conservative social utterances with a pinch of
salt, and look at the actual trends in social policy, which *in general*
- ie there are exceptions within social policy in Oz - are *liberal*.

The old simplistic left view that economic attacks on the working class
are *inevitably* accompanied by right-wing social policy across the
board has been shown to be woefully inadequate when it comes to the
events of the past 20 years in most of the imperialist world.  The
groups which continue to adhere to this view have ended up being
increasingly marginalised politically because they can't explain
material reality and their views just don't make sense to workers.



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