Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Cardinal condemns liberalism

The leader of New Zealand's 480,000 Catholics, Cardinal Thomas Williams, has published an essay titled "The Spiritual Bankruptcy of Liberalism".

In the essay, Cardinal Williams compares modern politicians to barbarians, writing that "The perennial work of the barbarian is to tear down existing standards, and to debase ideals that have come to characterise a society built on sound moral principle."

He writes also that "Relativism and permissiveness have been deliberately promoted, and morality reduced to purely subjective preference. Our failure to protect basic values and rudimentary citizenship is fast converting our country into a moral wasteland."

Monday, June 28, 2004

Male poverty

The Saturday Age had the following statistics in its "Numbercrunch" column:

Proportion of separated fathers in Australia who had a taxable income of less than $15,000: 40 per cent; less than $32,000: 68 per cent.

These are remarkable figures. They show that divorce is heavily concentrated among the poorest of men, who are earning well below the average wage of $49,000. More than two thirds of divorces in Australia are suffered by men who aren't earning a "living wage" sufficient to maintain a family.

In some ways, this should be of some comfort to those men who have stubbornly kept to their "provider instinct" and who are toiling away to earn a decent wage. Such men are much less vulnerable to divorce than those who lack a good job.

The statistics also show one way to dramatically lower the rate of family breakdown. If there were a focus on encouraging low-earning men into a higher income bracket, then it's reasonably likely that the rate of separation and divorce would fall.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Attachment theory

I found the relationships column in yesterday's Herald Sun quite interesting. Written by Tim O'Leary, a counsellor with Relationships Australia, it included the following:

More than 40 years ago, UK psychotherapist Dr John Bowlby developed his attachment theory, which explained that if small children have a constant and secure attachment to a caregiver, their mental health will have been well-anchored as children face the challenges of growing up.

Without a constant positive figure in their lives who is consistent in responding to a little child's needs, the child will get by as best they can, but without the anchor of secure attachment. Children with insecure attachment carry doubts about relationships ...

While kids who grow up securely attached still have their good and bad days, they are sure of themselves in a way a kid who grows up without this ability is not.

What Tim O'Leary writes here of attachment theory seems true within my own experience. I was lucky enough to enjoy a very healthy dose of love and care from my mother as a young child, and I've always felt that it gave me a strong, protective sense of self-esteem and self-identity.

It's one reason why I'm sceptical about the benefits of putting young children into long-term institutional care. Even if children are well-treated in institutions, it's unlikely they'll receive the same kind of personalised love and care from a single adult they have a consistent relationship with.

Although some children will be resilient and still grow up OK, and others may even learn to be assertive and successful within a group setting, many children are likely to miss out on more subtle feelings of "settled inner security, identity and worth" which come from secure attachment within a family.

More extremist liberals

Andre Haermeyer has decided to stop attending his local Labor Party branch. He reckons it's too violent a group. In his own words: "We've unfortunately got some very heavy characters around there."

Why is this so extraordinary? Andre Haermeyer is currently the Police Minister in the Victorian Labor Government! That's right, the local Deer Park branch of the Labor Party is too intimidating for even the Police Minister to dare to have dealings with.

(Examples of recent left-liberal activism at the Deer Park branch: local party members being beaten up with iron bars, bullets being sent in the mail, and threats to blow up houses.)

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Optional Mums?

A Current Affair tonight featured the story of a Lebanese Australian man who decided to bypass women in starting his own family. The man couldn't find "the woman of his dreams" and so bought the necessary eggs and the services of a surrogate mother. He is now raising triplets by himself. There is simply no mother to the children.

What is disconcerting is that A Current Affair ran the item as a simple good news story. There was no hint at all in the report that the children might be better off with a mother.

I suppose that for some liberals a man choosing to raise children without a mother is evidence of his freedom to act unimpeded in pursuit of his own happiness. But like so many other liberal freedoms, it only works if you're willing to shut your eyes to the consequences.

There are few things more important to children than the relationship they have with their mother. It radically changes and diminishes a child's life to remove the mother's presence.

The approach of the Lebanese Australian father was wrong. He ought to have shown his concern for and commitment to his children by choosing a loving woman to be their mother. This would have been one of the most important gifts he could ever have made to his children.

The path to fatherhood should continue to be through marriage.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Extremist liberals

Until recently, Ireland granted citizenship to anyone born on its soil. This led to heavily pregnant women from outside Europe "holidaying" in Ireland in order to give birth there and get their children into the EU.

Not surprisingly in a recent referendum 80% of the Irish voted against this policy. The new policy is still very liberal, as it's possible to claim citizenship after only three years residency in Ireland.

Nonetheless, the Irish have been harshly criticised in an Age newspaper article for their supposed racism and xenophobia in voting for the changes. The whole article is an exercise in guilt-mongering and hand-wringing. The author even quotes the Catholic Archbishop asking "Has Ireland lost its soul?"

Now, if you're not a liberal, this response will seem very extreme. The Irish were merely upholding a minimum level of control over the granting of citizenship. And yet from the vast distance of Melbourne they are scrutinised and vilified.

What can explain this? Simply, that for liberals what makes us human is our ability to fashion who we are and what we do from our own will and reason. Once you accept this idea, then it becomes seriously wrong to form your identity from something you inherit, rather than fashion for yourself, such as a traditional ethnic national identity.

So liberals get panicky when ordinary people show a (natural) preference for maintaining a traditional nationalism based on ethnic ties, such as has existed in Ireland for many centuries. Hence the extreme reaction to what is effectively a very small restriction on foreign immigration into Ireland.

Which is all to say that the ordinary Irish shouldn't take the name calling too much to heart. Liberals can hardly help their extreme reactions on such issues, as they are simply following through, in a logical way, with their first principles.

New Swedish Party

Trevor Stanley has some interesting information about the election results in Sweden for the European Parliament.

Sweden is the country left liberals love the most, since it's long been dominated by left liberal parties which have pushed the modern welfare state further than elsewhere.

The election results show how strong the left liberal stranglehold is. Of the eight parties to win seats, four are very obviously left liberal and they won 11 out of 19 seats. This is not including the centre party and the small-l liberals (wets), who won an extra three seats. To put this another way, the mainstream right liberals and the Christian Democrats only won 5 out of 19 seats.

The good news is that a small new party was successfully registered for the elections, which Trevor Stanley believes to be of a truly conservative type. He translates the party's name as "Right Conservative" which differentiates it nicely from "Right Liberal".

I don't read Swedish well enough to understand the website of the Right Conservative Party, but I do hope it grows into a genuine traditionalist conservative alternative to the established liberal parties.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Research confirms father role

Fathers' groups have argued for some time now that the presence of fathers within intact families discourages teenage pregnancy.

Confirmation of this claim has come in a Victorian study by Professor Julie Quinlivan of the University of Melbourne. Her research shows that more than half of teenage mothers lost a father to divorce before the age of five. This compares to just 8% of older mothers losing a father to divorce before the age of five.

This is a huge statistical gap. Professor Quinlivan thinks it is caused by the desire of some teenage girls to create their own families as quickly as possible to compensate for the insecurity of their own family background (Professor Quinlivan found that at least a third of teenage pregnancies are deliberately planned - they aren't just the result of "accidents" or lack of knowledge of contraception).

Which means that fathers can play an important stabilising role in the lives of their daughters and help prevent their 15 or 16 year old daughters from deliberately choosing to become teenage mums.

Leave the seat up

An excellent letter was featured today in the Age newspaper. It's from a young woman, Kim James, whose boyfriends have been of the domesticated metrosexual type. Having lived with these men, and become somewhat exasperated with their domestic over-achievement, she proposes a new list of what modern women really want:

We want an immaculate house, yet never again to see an apron or rubber gloves on our men.

We (women) want a fair share of the cooking and a superior knowledge of which detergent is best for the environment, pets and fertility.

We want out beauty products to greatly outnumber those of our partner's, but at the same time he must smell nice, be mainly soft to the touch and have good oral hygiene.

We want our cars and gardens to be tended to, yet do not want to smell grass clippings or see grease in the bathroom sink/carport.

We want to believe our men are DIY geniuses - and if they're not, they need to fake it.

Most of all, we want our sensitive new age guys to be in touch with our needs without us having to say a word.

And we want all this without (anyone) accusing us of being unrealistic. Impossible to achieve? Then please, I beg you, just leave the toilet seat up.

What's impressive about this list is that Kim James recognises first of all that she wants a combination of masculine and feminine qualities in her ideal boyfriend; second, she realises that this combination is not likely to occur; and third, that when forced to choose she would much prefer the masculine qualities to the feminine.

The moral of the story? It's still going to pay off for men to learn how to change tyres and mow lawns rather than to master the art of the manicure. Women may want a certain amount of grooming and emotional sensitivity in their men, but too much is going to seem effeminate and unappealing to a heterosexual woman.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Fidelity rules

A survey undertaken by Professor Simmons of the University of Western Australia has found that 22% of women and 28% of men had been unfaithful to a partner.

This means, at least, that a large majority remained faithful, and it casts doubt on the claims of 60% or 70% infidelity that you sometimes come across in the media.

Liberalism & queer theory

Homosexuality has been a kind of last frontier for liberalism. It wasn't really until the 1970s that liberal principles began to be applied to homosexuality; today we are witnessing these principles being applied in full.

You get a sense of this from an article written by Marjorie King for the American City Journal (29/5/03). Called "Queering the Schools" it describes the success of gay activists in promoting homosexuality in American high schools.

Marjorie King points out that in the 1980s gay activists still sought legitimacy by claiming that homosexuality was genetic in origin and therefore unchangeable. However, in the 1990s a radical new academic theory emerged called "queer theory" which claimed the opposite: that gender identity and sexual orientation are a product of society, not nature, and can be changed as we wish.

There is a remarkably close connection between queer theory and liberalism. Liberals have for centuries now followed the principle that we should be self-defining, autonomous individuals, subject only to our own will and reason, and free to create ourselves in any direction.

Compare this to Marjorie King's description of queer theory that,

queer theory takes to its extreme limit the idea that all sexual difference and behavior is a product of social conditioning, not nature. It is, in their jargon, "socially constructed." For the queer theorist, all unambiguous and permanent notions of a natural sexual or gender identity are coercive impositions on our individual autonomy - our freedom to reinvent our sexual selves whenever we like. Sexuality is androgynous, fluid, polymorphous ...

This is a very logical application of liberalism: a fixed and natural sexual identity is judged to be oppressive because it means that we are defined by something we did not choose for ourselves.

One organisation pushing queer theory is GLSEN (pronounced "glisten"), which is short for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Educational Network. GLSEN has managed so far to form some 1700 gay support clubs in American high schools.

GLSEN effectively promotes to children a radical version of liberalism in which it is considered liberating to make up your own sex identity and sexual orientation. For instance, a panelist at one gay advocacy session explained to participants that "Gender is just a bunch of stereotypes from society, but I am completely personal, and my gender is fluid."

Similarly, a book recommended by GLSEN called Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology has a 16 year old contributor who declares that "My sexuality is as fluid, indefinable and ever-changing as the north flowing river."

Given the close correspondence between these kind of views and the liberalism on which modern Western societies are based, you would have to say that the queer theorists are likely to enjoy considerable success.

Conservatives, however, will remain in opposition to queer theory. This is because conservatives don't share the liberal belief in the self-defining individual. This allows conservatives to accept, and celebrate, that being born a man leads naturally to a masculine self-identity and a heterosexual attraction to women. Conservatives don't consider it a "coercive imposition on our individual autonomy" that we don't consciously choose this process.

(First published at Conservative Central 07/06/03)

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Science versus liberalism

Conservatives often have to endure being politically incorrect, but it's encouraging to know that we are often scientifically correct instead.

This is true, at least, in the field of sex differences. Liberals asserted for many decades that there were no significant differences between men and women. Any differences that did exist they dismissed as being a product of socialisation. Their aim was to remove "discrimination" so that men and women would become the same. They wanted to do this because they want people to be created through individual choice, not by their inherited sex.

But science has undermined the liberal position. It has shown that conservatives were right all along: that there are natural differences between men and women which can't simply be erased by social engineering.

Here is a quote from a new bestseller book by Dr James Dobson, summarising what has happened:

The unisex movement prevailed until the late 1980s when it fell victim to medical technology. The development of magnetic resonance imaging and PET (positron emission tomography) scans allowed physicians and physiologists to examine the functioning of the human brain in much greater detail.

What they found totally destroyed the assertions of the feminists. Men's and women's brains looked very distinct when examined in a laboratory. Under proper stimulation they "lit up" different areas, revealing unique neurological processes. It turns out that male and female brains were "hardwired" differently, which along with hormonal factors accounts for behavioural and attitudinal characteristics associated traditionally with masculinity and femininity.

How have liberals reacted to this news? Mostly they have continued to push for gender role reversal, which is logical enough given their first principles. But they have had to do this knowing that they are going against nature. There are a few liberals, though, who have rethought things and decided that gender difference is OK. Michael Moore in his latest book, for instance, urges his fellow liberals to now accept that it's normal for men and women to behave differently.

If you're interested I've also covered this issue in a Conservative Central article, When science is a friend.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Something rotten in the state of Denmark

The countries most admired by left liberals are the Scandinavian countries like Sweden, Denmark and Norway. This is because left liberals generally like the idea of large, interventionist welfare states of the kind you find in Scandinavia.

We should think twice though before accepting these countries as role models. I doubt, for instance, if too many Australians would really want to suffer the kind of taxation levels existing in these countries.

Per Hansen, an economics teacher at the Copenhagen Business School, has briefly summarised the Danish taxation levels as follows:

Denmark has therefore for many years had a very high and continuously increasing tax level.

In 2002, the lowest marginal income tax level is 44.31 percent, then it increases to 49.77 percent and 63.33 percent. Forty percent of the working people pay the top marginal tax rate of 63.33 percent, which applies to all income over $33,000.

There are very few tax deductions available, and the tax value of the tax deductions is continuously being reduced.

A sales tax of 25 percent hits just about everything.

The capital gains tax is 59.7 percent for a private person in the high income tax bracket, unless you hold your investment for more than 3 years. It then falls to 44.8 percent.

There are additional taxes on "sinful" and "luxury" products likes cigarettes, alcohol, candy, soft drinks, electronic goods, and other luxuries.

For cars, there is a 180 percent special tax on top of the sales tax of 25 percent. Then there is a registration fee and a weight fee to be paid twice per year for the privilege of using the roads. The price of gasoline is nearly three times as high as it is in the US.

Denmark imposes many new green taxes. These are the taxes that have increased most substantially during the 1990s. These taxes hit heating, electricity, water, and gasoline.

Real estate, which is already heavily taxed, has been the target of new taxes throughout the 1990s. In addition, the tax value of deductions have been continuously reduced.

Forty percent of the population are paying a 63% income tax and are then slugged by a 25% sales tax! Mr Hansen has, in fact, calculated that Danes pay on average nearly 70% of their wages on tax!

And what about the car tax. You not only pay the 25% sales tax, you're then hit with an additional 180% special tax!

This is where advanced left liberalism has brought Denmark. Liberalism is supposed to leave our individual wills unimpeded, but in reality it has left most Danes spending much of their lives working to pay state taxes.

With such high taxes the choice for women to stay home to look after their children has largely been lost, as it's too hard to survive on the 30% of a wage that the state allows the breadwinner to keep.

And with such high taxes on cars and petrol, even the modern freedom of transport is much reduced in Denmark.

Liberals promise us individual freedom and autonomy, but in Denmark the reality is something less glamorous: left liberals have delivered to ordinary Danes a massive burden of high taxation.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Surprise conservative

Looking through a copy of University Review, a magazine I published at Melbourne University in the late 1990s, I came across an item about the Icelandic pop singer, Bjork.

Bjork is probably better known these days for her eccentric fashion sense. Back in 1998 she made the following comment, surprising for an "out there" pop star:

I think I am a conservative bastard and lucky because I was brought up in a society that has been the same for 1200 years ... When we get drunk we scream in each other's faces poems that were written 1000 years ago.

Bjork is not right in a literal sense: Iceland has not been the same for 1200 years, and conservatives wouldn't want it to be. However, it has preserved its ethnic tradition better than other European countries. So it's understandable for Bjork to feel lucky that she belongs to an unbroken national tradition, in which people still feel a close connection to their own past and their own culture.

A gender gap

An SBS poll on attitudes to homosexual marriage has come up with some interesting results. Overall, 38% of Australians were in favour and 44% were against. What is really striking though is the gender gap. 49% of women surveyed were in favour of homosexual marriage, but only 29% of men.

What can explain the different attitudes of men and women? I can think of two possible reasons for the difference. One simple explanation is that men have been portrayed by politically correct liberals as a privileged oppressor group for some decades now, and so men may be more alienated from politically correct causes than women.

The second explanation is a bit speculative, but I think it's likely to be right. Women are often more forgiving and accepting than men. It's a nice characteristic, but often formless. Men, on the other hand, can be more critical and more concerned with upholding formal standards needed to keep things going.

I expect that this mostly accounts for the more accepting attitude of women and the more critical rejection by men of homosexual marriage.

Man not included

Women in Bergen in Norway can now have sperm delivered to their door courtesy of a British company called "Man not included".

I hope that the Norwegian Ministry of Health does choose to act against this particular business. It's always unfortunate when a child grows up without a father, and no business should be trying to make money by deliberately creating fatherless children.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Out of Africa

Was Stuart MacGill right to boycott Zimbabwe? Decide for yourself after reading this article on the latest attacks on white farmers in the troubled country.

Here is one of the incidents described in the report,

Arthur and Ansy Swales, who grow maize in the Banket district, 60 miles north of Harare, said they had first been approached in 2002 by nuns from the Little Children of the Blessed Lady order, led by Sister Helen Maminimini and Sister Notvurgo, about using some land to help grow vegetables. The couple donated around 90 acres and helped the sisters prepare it, but said the nuns grew increasingly aggressive, demanding expensive equipment and more and more land.

Then last month the nuns gave the Swales 24 hours to leave the farm. The couple refused. Eleven days later a group of youths from President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party arrived at midnight. "They went and woke up all the workers, and made them run and sing government songs," said Mrs Swales. "They forced the guards to open the barn gates so they could get to the equipment."

The farm is still being occupied, despite a condemnation of the sisters' actions by the local archbishop.

Another incident involved a 62 year old grandmother:

The latest victim of the renewed violence is a British grandmother, Pat Campbell, 62, who was beaten by a "security guard" wielding a stick and an AK47 rifle last week when she attempted to feed her cattle on her farm, 90 miles north of Harare. The farm has been allocated by the government to Lieutenant General Phillip Sibanda, commander of the Zimbabwe National Army and a former UN peacekeeper.

In the past four years 80% of white farmers in Zimbabwe have been driven from their land and it's thought that the latest attacks are part of a campaign by Robert Mugabe "to drive all whites out of Zimbabwe by the end of the year".

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Garrett for MP?

Does Mark Latham know what he's doing? The Labor Party leader wants to install Peter Garrett into a safe Sydney seat. Yes, Peter Garrett, the former rock singer, who used Australia Day in 1997 to declare that Australians risked remaining,

what we have always been: a people without a soul, not a nation but a community of thieves.

Great, we're going to have a parliamentarian with an absurdly negative view of his own country. And, to make matters worse, we have a Labor Party leader who is willing to call such a man "an inspiring person".

Monday, June 07, 2004

An EU rollback?

At last some good news from Europe, and from Holland of all places. It seems that the campaign against the European Union might be having an effect, with the Dutch Government arguing for a return of powers from the EU to to its member countries.

It was reported in Saturday's Age newspaper that,

The Dutch Government has called for a significant return of powers from Brussels to European Union member countries, saying that European integration has gone too far and lacks popular consent ...

"There is a widespread sense of unease about Europe, about loss of national identity, and about an EU that increasingly intrudes into their everyday lives ...

"Is Europe really the best level at which to regulate landscape gardening?"

Argument not straight

Sally Morrell decided to write an article on gay parenting for today's Herald Sun and came up with one of the most incoherent pieces of writing I have ever come across.

For instance, she writes that,

"I'll own up to the now politically incorrect view that I think a child should grow up with both their biological parents ...

But that doesn't rule out lesbian mums and gay dads. Not if they're both making an effort to play a part in their child's life.

There's plenty of research out there that says kids of both sexes need plenty of contact with both mum and dad.

Whether they are gay or not doesn't matter to me.

How are you meant to make sense of this? It only begins to make sense if she is assuming that the gay man who donates sperm to a lesbian mother is going to play an important role in the family as a father to the child.

But this is generally not the case. The child will be brought up by the biological mother and the mother's lesbian partner. So if Sally Morrell really believes that a child should be brought up by both the biological mum and dad, then she cannot logically support gay parenting.

I can only presume that Sally Morrell desperately wants to have it both ways. She truly believes in the importance of both mothers and fathers for children, but she also wants to be accepting of gays as parents. The problem is that the two beliefs are logically incompatible, so that ultimately you have to choose between the two.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Nationalism & the double standard

If you're a liberal and you believe that the great good is for everyone to follow their unimpeded individual will, you are left with a considerable problem. If everyone follows individual desire won't there be a chaos of conflicting wills?

Not so, said the classical (right) liberals. The free market regulates things so that the pursuit of individual desire is balanced to create prosperity for all.

This is why right liberals focus on people in terms of their economic activity: they see individual free enterprise as achieving not just economic goals, but as solving the larger philosophical aim of human freedom and progress.

Left liberals reject this approach to the basic problem of liberalism. They see the free market as creating an entrenched inequality which itself forms a kind of impediment to individual will. Left liberals prefer a higher level of state involvement in the economy to overcome this, and they are unimpressed with the right liberal conception of "economic man."

You can see this opposition at play in the debate about local content on Australian television. At the moment, there are free trade discussions between Australia and the US. Some left liberal commentators are worried that the Australian local content laws for television will be abolished as part of a free trade agreement.

For instance, Thomas Keneally, the well-known Australian author, has complained in an article for the Age (27/5/03) that,

There are commentators in Australia who think any defence of Australian content, say, or any government intervention on Australia's cultural behalf, is a fatuous, jingoistic, old-fashioned interference with global economic forces ...

The impulse to maximise the market is obviously better served if there were just one popular culture on earth ...Our concern that globalisation might lead to a single and not a diverse world culture is well founded. This concern might mean little to the prophets of the market, who often pride themselves on not being sentimental about things like regional culture, and who deride as artificial attempts to preserve traditional language from Scotland to New Guinea.

So is the left-liberal Thomas Keneally a fine defender of the Australian national culture? Unfortunately not. Left-liberals these days are nearly always internationalists. They seek to deconstruct their own national culture because they want to be self-defined by their own reason, rather than by an inherited, established national tradition.

So Keneally's defence of Australian culture is very limited: it only applies when he is opposing right-liberal economic globalisation. Usually he takes the line of a left-wing internationalist deriding those who wish to preserve their own national culture. For instance, in an interview for the Age a few years ago he spoke darkly of those proposing immigration restrictions, claiming that,

The arse-end of a sense of identity is the fear that someone is going to penetrate that organism and change it from within ... There is a constant theme in all xenophobia ... there is a strange, perverse comfort in the feeling that you are an embattled garrison ... We live in a world of constant flux, everything constantly changes, but what we want to do so that we feel secure is say, this is what an Australian is or this is what an American or Japanese or German is ...

The double standard being applied here is even clearer in the case of Australia's preeminent left-liberal, Phillip Adams. Adams was a signatory to Project True Blue, which sought to keep "Australian faces and Australian stories on our screens" as "part of our power as a nation to define and express our culture." In fulminating against global corporations Adams has even complained that,

While information, data and money are instantaneously transferred, so are allegiances. Nationalities can be changed like surnames. And soon the notion of citizenship will start to disintegrate under the battering of globalism. (Australian 4/7/98)

When economic globalisation isn't the issue, though, Adams reverts back to being a left-wing internationalist, having stated plainly that "national borders ... are fairly silly and should be laughed at"; that "I love Australia, but don't like it"; that Australians are a "little people" with the "racism of nice people who live in nice houses; and that the "bulk of the population" of Australia have succumbed to the "malignancies of fear and bigotry spreading through the body politic".

In a sense, Adams and Keneally want it both ways: when it suits their politics they want to be defenders of a distinctive national identity, but mostly they want to attack nationalism with the usual accusations of racism, xenophobia, fear and so on.

Conservatives have no need to apply this double standard. Like left liberals we have no deep philosophical commitment to free trade, and so can readily agree to regulations, such as local content laws for television, which are designed to protect distinctive national cultures.

At the same time, unlike left-liberals, we have no reason to reject inherited forms of self-identity and so can consistently support the existence of a stable, traditional national identity.

(First published at Conservative Central 31/05/03)

The problem with Belgium

There's an interesting article on Belgian nationalism in the latest Salisbury Review.

The basic argument is that Belgium is the last of Europe's artificial nations. An 1831 treaty forced a Flemish majority to coexist with a Walloon minority, despite a lack of ethnic affinity.

What this means is that ethnicity is not the source of national unity it should be in Belgium and so the expression of it has long been suppressed. It is considered especially politically incorrect in Belgium for the Flemish to identify with their own ethnicity.

The problem, though, is to find something to replace ethnicity to keep an "artificial" nation like Belgium together. According to Paul Belien, who wrote the Salisbury Review article, it's not easy to find such a replacement.

In Belgium, money has been used to maintain the support of sections of the population, but without a natural source of group loyalty, corruption is widespread.

Some Belgian intellectuals have reached the stage of seeing a lack of national feeling in their country as a virtue. For instance, in 1998 a group of intellectuals published an Open Letter in which they wrote that they cherished the Belgian flag "because the latter does not represent anything".

Of course, in writing this they are not too far ahead of the liberal intellectuals in other Western countries. Liberal intellectuals generally don't like ethnicity as a basis of national identity. This is because an ethnic tradition is something we are born into, and this contradicts the liberal belief that our self-identity should be fashioned by our own individual will and reason.

Therefore, in the West we are no longer supposed to support the traditional ethnic identity on which our nations were built. We are supposed instead to support incoherent concepts like "unity in diversity".

But such concepts will only take us closer to the Belgian situation, in which the basis for shared loyalties and a willingness to sacrifice for the community has declined and a real sense of nationhood has given way to a post-nationalist "identity of non-identity" or a desire to attach to a superstate like the EU.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Do anti-vilification laws work?

Talk about a change of heart! Amir Butler is a Muslim community leader in Australia. He strongly supported the establishment here in Victoria of anti-vilification legislation.

Having secured the legislation, Amir Butler then filed a complaint against a Christian church which had criticised Islam for its treatment of non-believers.

Now Butler has changed his mind, and opposes the anti-vilification legislation. Why? Because the legislation is being used to scrutinise the public comments of Muslim leaders, and not just Christians.

Furthermore, Butler now admits that anyone who takes religion seriously is likely to hold the beliefs of other churches to be in error. He therefore thinks it reasonable for one church to make criticisms of other churches. He thinks it better to have such debate about religion openly, rather than for churches to set their lawyers on to each other.

Friday, June 04, 2004

What women want

The AustraliaSCAN survey on what men and women find most attractive about each other has just been released.

Men want women to be:

1. Caring
2. Loving
3. Friendly
4. Fun-loving
5. Feminine
6. Humourous
7. Gentle
8. Polite
9. Sexy
10. Intelligent

Women want men to be:

1. Caring
2. Loving
3. Friendly
4. Humourous
5. Fun-loving
6. Self confident
7. Intelligent
8. Polite
9. Gentle
10. Sensitive

There are several things conservatives can take heart from in these survey results. First, notice that men rate women being feminine very highly, even more highly than sexiness. This shouldn't really be a surprise since it's basic to heterosexuality for men to feel this way. But because liberals want to overthrow the influence of inherited gender on our self-identity, this fact isn't very often represented in mainstream culture. Women on TV are usually presented as being independent and sexy, and this is what men are supposed to go for. The reality remains, though, that men stubbornly find the femininity of women highly appealing.

Second, notice that both men and women very much want each other to be polite. Again, you probably wouldn't guess this from much popular culture, but deep down we still find manners attractive.

Finally, although gentleness and sensitivity just make it into the top 10 qualities that women like in men, they were beaten by qualities like self-confidence and intelligence. In other words, women most want men to be caring and strong, and only after that do snaggier qualities get a look in.

(Nor are Australian men very interested in being "metrosexual". The same survey found that only 15% of Australian men are fashion conscious, and the use of beauty products by Australian men has hardly risen over the last 5 years.)

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Reaping what you sow

Left liberal Phillip Adams has written a column deploring the decline in moral standards on TV. He writes that "You don't need me to remind you of the continuing downward spiral that, passing through the sewers, has long since broken through the bottom of the barrel." He describes TV as a "charnel house", criticises Jerry Springer as a "bottom feeder" and suggests that network executives need a reminder of sins being punished and virtues rewarded.

The problem with this complaint about low moral standards on TV? Phillip Adams is Australia's most famous campaigner against censorship in film and TV. And he has declared his belief that "almost everything we like doing ... is naughty"; that "I'm unconcerned by what people do to themselves or others sexually"; that "morals are simply expedients"; and that his lack of moral or religious belief gives him a pleasant "sense of recklessness."

But, if a society can't defend itself either by asserting a positive moral culture, or else by protecting a community standard through censorship, then how did Phillip Adams believe that TV standards would be maintained? It's as if he can't make the obvious connection that by undermining the concept of morality itself, and by making any kind of moral censorship illegitimate, you are going to have a gradual decline in moral standards.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Should we follow Sweden?

Ross Gittins has a rather hysterical piece in today's Age newspaper, titled "How men stuff up women's lives". It's yet another attempt to convince us that the only way to improve fertility rates is to have children raised in professional childcare while Mum is at work.

As you might expect, Gittins points to the Scandinavian countries as role models. He claims that by the early 80s the fertility of European countries had fallen and that only those countries which adopted the childcare/mother at work model, like Sweden, Norway, Denmark and France, experienced no further decline in fertility.

But this is a strange argument. Sweden has poured huge resources into a statist model of raising children and its number of births has fallen from 123,938 in 1990 to only 99,157 in 2003. In fact, both 2000 and 2001 were disaster years for Swedish fertility, when deaths actually outnumbered births. Sweden's total fertility rate is an abysmal 9.71 births per 1000 compared to Australia's 12.55.

Even in Norway, the Scandinavian country with the healthiest fertility situation, the fertility rate has fallen from 1.98 in 1990 to 1.79 in 2003 (a fall from 60,939 live births to 56,458).

Furthermore, Gittins neglects to mention other undesirable consequences of the Scandinavian model, such as high divorce rates (well over 50% in Sweden), low marriage rates, high taxation, and authoritarian child welfare agencies.

In fact, the only way that Gittins can make the Scandinavian model seem attractive is by comparing it to the worst performing of European countries, such as Spain and Italy. If instead he compared it to the best performing of Western nations such as Ireland with 14.63 lives births per 1000, or the US with 14.14 or New Zealand with 14.14 the Scandinavian situation would seem more a failure than a success.

(For more information on this subject see "Is Sweden No.1?")