Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Is the UK a country or a company?

David Cameron has shown his hand early. The British "Conservative" PM has declared that he wants to be at the forefront of international efforts to get Turkey into the European Union.

That's a radical policy. There are 72 million Turks, nearly all Muslim, who will end up with the right to move to the UK if Turkey is allowed to join. Turkey is not historically a part of the West, so it will mean establishing a precedent of Western countries dissolving themselves in a federation with non-Western ones.

Why would Cameron want to do this? Liberals like Cameron see society as being made up of millions of autonomous wills. But how can a society of competing wills be harmoniously regulated? The answer of right-liberals is that the hidden hand of the free market can regulate our self-directed purposes for the overall good of society.

So there is a focus on Economic Man and his activities in the free market - as this is what is thought to successfully harmonise individual "freedom" (i.e. autonomy).

What becomes authoritative, as a principle of social administration, are market outcomes. Countries are governed as if they were companies.

So back to the right-liberal Cameron. His first reason for wanting Turkey to join the EU? He thinks it will be good for the economy:

I ask myself this: which European country grew at 11% at the start of this year? Which European country will be the second fastest growing economy in the world by 2017? Which country in Europe has more young people than any of the 27 countries of the European Union? Which country in Europe is our number one manufacturer of televisions and second only to China in the world in construction and in contracting?...

That is the first reason I am here today and it is why I have chosen to come to TOBB, right in the heart of the Turkish business community.

And who does Cameron think opposes Turkish membership? Again, he sees things along economic lines. He imagines that the opposition comes from "protectionists" who fear free trade:

Every generation has to make the argument for free trade all over again and this generation will be no different. As we build our economic relationship there are some who fear the growth of a country like Turkey, who want to retreat and cut themselves off from the rest of the world. They just don’t get it...

So let me tell you what we are going to do to beat the protectionists. We are going to work harder than ever before to break down those barriers to trade that still exist, to cut the global red tape, like by streamlining customs bureaucracy and to work towards completing the trade round that could add $170 billion to the world economy...

We are welcoming new business to Britain. And we are delighted that so many Turkish people are visiting, studying, and doing business so successfully in the United Kingdom.

Today the value of our trade is over $9 billion a year. I want us to double this over the next five years. We cannot let the protectionists win the argument.

He is blind to the idea that the UK might exist for purposes other than trade. Questions of culture, of religion, of tradition, of distinct nations of people - all these are reduced to possible impediments to free trade that must not be allowed to interfere with running society along "rational" market lines.

And so we get to see the passionate side of Cameron, the Cameron who is angered by the idea that pesky issues of culture and civilisation might get in the way of economic objectives:

it makes me angry that your progress towards EU membership can be frustrated in the way that it has been...

I will remain your strongest possible advocate for EU membership and for greater influence at the top table of European diplomacy. This is something I feel very strongly and very passionately about. Together I want us to pave the road from Ankara to Brussels.

At least Cameron has shown decisively, early in his Prime Ministership, that he is a radical right-liberal rather than a genuine conservative. This must surely make it clear to the base of the Conservative Party that they must either rebel against the party leadership or else leave and build up another party or another political movement.

I don't want to always be presenting the views of those who betray. So I'll finish by linking to someone I don't know much about, except that he is a Conservative Party MEP who has written a good reply to Cameron: If Turkey joins the EU, we should leave. Roger Helmer is proof that it's possible to have a background in business and still put national sovereignty first.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tim Colebatch: why can't we keep the public out of it?

Tim Colebatch has written a strikingly awful column for today's Age.

He's upset that public opinion has forced a debate on immigration during the election campaign. He wants the two major parties to return to a bipartisan policy of ignoring what Australians think about the issue.

He looks back nostalgically to Menzies (a Liberal PM in the 1950s and 60s):

Last week, pollster Gary Morgan pulled out some old polls - like, really old. In 1952, when the postwar immigration program was starting to transform Australia from an Anglo-Irish nation into a diverse one, his dad, Roy Morgan, found 52 per cent of Australians wanted the immigration intake reduced - while only 43 per cent wanted to maintain or increase it.

Did prime minister Robert Menzies change the policy to satisfy its opponents? No, he kept immigration rolling, and gradually Australians got used to it...

Why didn't Menzies buckle? Because the Labor opposition supported the policy, which it had initiated in 1947. ''My father used to send the results to both Menzies and Arthur Calwell (then Labor's deputy leader),'' Gary Morgan recalls. ''They were at one on this, so there was no political issue.''

According to Colebatch, the role of the Australian public is to "get used to" what politicians decide amongst themselves.

And there's more. Colebatch thinks John Howard got things right as Liberal PM:

The Howard government was the author of the high-immigration policy that Howard's heirs are now campaigning against. It saw that Australia would need a lot more skilled workers, and that it was cheaper to attract migrants with the skills than to train Australians in the numbers needed.

First, after an initial cut to the official migration program, it steadily lifted it from 67,100 to 158,630 in a decade. Second, in 2001 it made a momentous change by allowing foreign students with skills to stay here permanently if they could line up a job after graduating. Third, it introduced section 457 visas to allow businesses to bring in overseas workers in areas of skills shortages.

These were sensible moves...

The right-liberal mind at work again. If it's cheaper to bring in overseas workers than to train Australians then it's considered "sensible" to do so.

Colebatch ends with this plea:

Immigration is one of Australia's great success stories. It's a bipartisan success story. Why can't we keep it that way?

Colebatch is telling several hundred thousand readers that their opinion on something as basic as immigration policy should simply not matter - that the Liberal and Labor Parties should keep the policy out of public reach.

Economists don't have to follow an orthodox right-liberalism as Colebatch does. Terry McCrann, for instance, has written a column questioning the economic need for large-scale migration. He is concerned that if the Chinese boom (on which our mining exports depend) falters that the Australian economy doesn't have a fall back with which to provide employment for the many hundreds of thousands of immigrants entering the country:

What if we run a 250,000-plus annual immigration intake and the China boom ends? We pour people into an ever bigger Australia, and we don't get even the indirect jobs from a resources boom because we don't get the resources boom jobs in the first place?

He also points out the flaw in the idea that such high levels of immigration will pay for the welfare costs of an ageing population:

At core the new "populate or our future fortunes will perish" cry is the ultimate national pyramid scheme. We need to get to 36 -- or 50? -- million, to have the taxpaying workforce to support the now ageing baby-boomers. Beware of a Japanese-style population implosion!

Oh yeah? And when all those younger new arrivals start to age, we will presumably then need to move to 72 -- or 100 -- million, to have a sufficiently large taxpaying workforce to support them. Just as every boom busts, even our China one will; the laws of arithmetic always topple even the most elegant pyramid scheme.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Getting it wrong on the family

The Liberal Party does seem better at the moment than Labor on issues of immigration and population policy. That might be enough of a reason to give them our preferences.

But there is still much to dislike about the Libs. Take, for instance, their family policy. Tony Abbott wants to introduce a much more ambitious paid maternity scheme than the Labor Party. It would give mothers six months maternity leave funded by the Government at full replacement pay of up to $150,000.

Now I know that many of my own readers will benefit financially from this. What I'm about to write might not be a popular thing to point out.

But the purpose of such paid maternity leave schemes is not really to help out families. It is to integrate women into the paid workforce and to make women more independent of men.

In the Liberal Party's own policy document it is stated that,

The Coalition’s scheme will signal to the community that taking time out of the workforce to care for children is a normal part of the work-life cycle of parents.

It would also help promote increased female workforce participation because it creates a financial incentive for women to be engaged in paid work prior to childbirth and to return to the workforce after their period of leave. Greater female workforce participation will have positive impacts on the individual, families and society at large.

An effective paid parental leave scheme tackles head on the need to improve population, participation, and productivity – three key ingredients for stronger economic growth.

Australia should not go down the path of some Western countries where birth rates have fallen well below replacement levels. Today’s children are tomorrow’s workforce ...

Female participation in the workforce is important for our economic future as well as a robust birth rate. A study by Goldman Sachs published in November last year forecasts that Australia’s income would rise by up to 11 per cent if women’s workforce participation matched that of men. There is plenty of scope for improvement. According to the Productivity Commission, workforce participation by Australian women falls by a greater amount than for women in other OECD countries during child bearing years. Australia languishes 23rd out of 29 OECD countries in workforce participation rates of women aged 22-44 years of age.

The Coalition’s Paid Parental Leave policy could significantly ease re-entry to the workforce and encourage women to enter the job market in the first place. The Productivity Commission finds that longer parental leave (of six months or more) is likely to stimulate greater lifetime female workforce attachment. ("Paid Parental Leave: A New Approach" p.5)

It's that right-liberal obsession with Economic Man again. Women are to be measured by their labour force productivity. Our lives are to be organised not around families but around workforce participation. Women are to have time off to create future units of labour.

And what about the place of men within family life? Up to now, a woman did at least still need the support of a stable male provider during the period of her life when she was pregnant and looking after babies. Now it is the state which is to take over that role. The state is to guarantee a woman's income during this period of her life.

What effect is this likely to have? No doubt there will still be some women who will look to men to provide the "dual income" effect. But there will be other women who will feel less need to partner with men who are the stable provider types. And there will be more women who will think it viable to go it alone.

And will men have the same motivation to work if their efforts are less necessary for the financial security of their families?

Another effect: once family life is organised through the state, the state can then dictate patterns of parenting. The state can, for instance, decree that child care must be carried out on a unisex basis, with no distinction between the role of mothers and fathers, with each having to take the same amount of leave to perform the same duties.

It is not wise for the state to (artificially) make the male role within the family an optional rather than a necessary one. This might in the short term seem appealing to women as a promise of independence. But the longer term effect will be to undermine stable male commitments to both family and work.

There are better ways for governments to support families, such as tax breaks for families with children.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A breakthrough in Liberal policy?

Just what does the Liberal Party stand for when it comes to immigration?

The answers are to be found in a directions paper put out by the party in April ("Towards a Productive and Sustainable Population Growth Path for Australia"). The policy is a long way from being traditionalist, but I thought there were some real positives in it as well. It may even make the Liberal Party worth voting for this election.

Same old, same old

I'll start with the negatives, so I can finish on a more cheerful note. The Liberal Party continues to believe (along with the right-liberal journalists at The Australian newspaper) that the purpose of immigration is to serve the economy:

The Coalition believes that addressing the skills needs of businesses to sustainably grow our economy is the primary reason for a migration programme. Consequently, economic considerations must be paramount in how our programme is framed and composed. (p.4)

The primary purpose of a nation’s migration programme is economic, namely to supplement natural increase to create critical market mass in the domestic economy and service the skills needs of a growing economy. (p.8)

So preserving distinct national traditions counts for nothing, it's all about the economy. This demonstrates just how far distant the Liberal Party is from being anything like a traditionalist party.

Furthermore, once you accept the premise that the aim of a migration programme is "to create critical mass in the domestic economy" then you are likely to remain committed to ongoing population growth via migration.

And the belief that a primary aim of immigration is to "service the skills needs of a growing economy" means that the Liberals are also committed to making it easier for businesses to bring in overseas workers via the 457 visa system:

liberalisation of arrangements for temporary business visas (457s) subject to clear standards, to make them more accessible to business, especially small businesses, and business in regional areas, with proven skills shortage needs (p.8)

It's worth noting too that it was the Liberal Party under John Howard which began the massive rise in immigration which Kevin Rudd then further accelerated (see figure 3 on page 4: Howard governed from 1996 to 2007. He held immigration steady until 2000 but then increased it every year till his defeat.)

Something better

So what are the more promising parts of the Liberal policy? Part of it is that the Liberals are now taking seriously the idea that there are some legitimate restraints on immigration numbers, such as the need to provide adequate infrastructure and to maintain environmental sustainability.

There is even a very clear statement in the policy paper that until infrastructure and sustainability can be factored into an immigration policy, that numbers should be kept below 180,000 per annum:

Until such time as a growth band can be established for future population growth that takes into account future infrastructure, services and environmental demands, the Coalition does not endorse the growth path projected in the third intergenerational report for a population of 36 million by 2050 that requires an average rate of net overseas migration of 180,000 per annum. (p.7)

180,000 is still an historically high level, but it's a lot lower than the current 300,000 average and at least it's a firmer commitment than anything made by the Labor Party.

And there's something else to be welcomed in the Liberal Party policy paper. The paper acknowledges that immigration does not necessarily raise real GDP per capita. This is a significant admission given that the Liberals place so much emphasis on the economic basis for migration.

The following quote is arguably the most important in the whole paper:

The economic focus of the Coalition’s approach to population policy is on productivity. In pursuing a commitment to improving productivity, we cannot allow population growth to become a surrogate.

The intergenerational reports conducted by Treasury have consistently highlighted the 3Ps when it comes to economic growth, namely productivity, participation and population.

In their most recent IGR, Treasury concluded that growth in productivity is the primary determinant of growth in real GDP per person ...

Our wealth as a nation is far more complex than simply taking more people in. It is possible to grow our economy without rates of population growth that diminish liveability and sustainability. (p.4, my emphasis)

And some important data is provided to back up this point. There is an attachment (A, p.9) which lists the productivity growth and population growth of the OECD countries. It is clear from this attachment that you can have productivity growth without major population growth.

Australia has one of the highest rates of population growth of the countries listed (15%) but one of the lowest rates of productivity growth per labour unit (1.1%). Compare this to the Slovak Republic which had a population growth of only 0.3% but a productivity growth of 5.0%.

So immigration cannot be the primary focus of economic development. Perhaps it is recognising this that allows the writers of the policy paper to make the following criticisms of recent immigration trends:

Australians are already feeling growing pains from current population pressures. Congestion in our cities, limitations on our energy supply, threats to food security, erosion of service standards in our hospitals and marginalisation of water resources are all evidence of the challenges created by population growth.

In October last year the Prime Minister dismissed these challenges and recklessly committed Australia to his idea of a Big Australia and later endorsed the 36 million population projections contained in the third intergenerational report.

The majority of Australians are uncomfortable with Kevin Rudd’s notion of a Big Australia of 36 million people as evidenced by recent surveys conducted by the Lowy Institute (69% opposed), Morgan poll (90% opposed), Ninemsn poll (82% opposed) and ANU (69% opposed).

As proposed in this policy directions statement, the Coalition does not endorse Kevin Rudd’s vision for a Big Australia of 36 million people by 2050. (p.1)

Is it enough?

So it's a mixed report. The Libs are blind to the need to maintain their own distinct national tradition. What matters for them is the economy. But they have recognised that there's more to economic development than immigration and that immigration numbers need to be linked to infrastructure and sustainability. They have committed themselves to numbers of fewer than 180,000 per annum and a population level of less than 36,000,000 by 2050.

These are still very high figures. However, it's better than any commitments made by Labor and could therefore be a positive reason for giving preferences to the Liberals at the election.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A welcome shift in Australian politics?

There has been a welcome shift in the political situation here in Australia.

In September last year there seemed to be no real opposition to Prime Minister Rudd's plans for a "Big Australia". There had been a staggering 876,222 arrivals in Australia in 2008 and the Immigration Minister was happy for this to continue:

Senator Evans said immigration should be the nation's labour agency, meaning a continued high intake of migrants ... Decisions about who came to Australia would increasingly be left to employers.

Tony Abbott, the Leader of the Opposition, had also declared himself to be in favour of a Big Australia:

My instinct is to extend to as many people as possible the freedom and benefits of life in Australia. A larger population will bring that about provided that it’s also a more productive one.

But the policy wasn't going down well amongst the working-class voters of western Sydney. As the election approached, it was one of the issues which was dooming the ALP to electoral defeat. And so Kevin Rudd was dramatically axed by his own party as PM, and Julia Gillard installed in his place. And her first policy initiative was to declare herself opposed to Rudd's Big Australia policy:

Australia should not hurtle down the track towards a big population. I don't support the idea of a big Australia... We need to stop, take a breath and develop policies for a sustainable Australia.

Gillard also announced as PM that it was OK to have a debate on issues of border security:

"People should feel free to say what they feel," she said.

"For people to say they're anxious about border security doesn't make them intolerant. It certainly doesn't make them a racist. It means that they're expressing a genuine view that they're anxious about border security ...

"So I'd like to sweep away any sense that people should close down any debate, including this debate, through a sense of self-censorship or political correctness."

Nor is Tony Abbott talking anymore about "as many as possible". The Liberal Party has now put forward a "contract" which sets limits to immigration in terms of the need to provide adequate infrastructure:

Contract 6: Link population growth to the provision of better infrastructure. The Coalition will set immigration numbers on the basis of economic and environmental sustainability.

Of course, politicians will say anything to win elections. Neither party has committed to an exact migration level, although the Liberal Party has nominated a figure under 180,000 per year until a review has taken place.

Former Labor Party leader Mark Latham is sceptical that Gillard will deliver cuts to migration:

Former Labor leader Mark Latham has labelled Labor's position on population growth "a fraud of the worst order", saying immigration numbers must be slashed.

Speaking on Sky News on Wednesday night, Mr Latham said it was not good enough for Prime Minister Julia Gillard to simply call for a debate on population, and she had to put forward a concrete plan on the issue.

Ms Gillard's "sustainable" population call was not backed with any substance and was a "fraud" designed to appeal to western Sydney voters sensitive to the asylum seeker issue, Mr Latham said.

"It's clever politics but it's a fraud. It's a fraud of the worst order," he said.

The former Labor leader said Australia needed to "take off the population pressure".

His comments followed statements by Ms Gillard on Sunday that she did not want to specify a population target but did not support the idea of "a big Australia".

It has to be remembered as well that immigration numbers began to skyrocket at the end of John Howard's Liberal Government, so it's not only Labor that we have to be careful about on this issue.

Even so, there are reasons to welcome the breaking up of the "Big Australia" consensus. It means, first of all, that there's more room for an open airing of views on the immigration issue. There have even been immigration sceptical columns appearing in the Melbourne Age newspaper (who would have thought?).

It demonstrates too why traditionalists shouldn't succumb to defeatism. You never know when the political situation is going to change, and the more we manage to build up some influence, the more we'll be able to intervene when opportunities arise to push things along in the right direction.

Finally, there's some evidence that the Liberal Party really has changed for the better on this issue. I'd prefer to present the evidence in my next column. It's not a complete break with past policy, nor is it really what traditionalists would want in the longer term, but I think it might be good enough to vote for. But it deserves a column of its own.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

France as the new liberal utopia? Maybe not.

My left-wing work colleagues seem to have dropped Sweden as their model country. They are now comparing Australia unfavourably to France. France is the country that can do no wrong.

So it's just as well for them that the Australian media has barely reported the recent riots in France. First, there was a violent demonstration by Chinese in Paris against ethnic crime in the multicultural suburbs there. And now we have rioting by hundreds of Muslim youths in Grenoble (picture below).

Grenoble is an ancient city at the foot of the French Alps, first mentioned in 43 BC. The town was visited by the Roman Emperor Gratian in the fourth century and was renamed in his honour. The most famous of French knights, Bayard ("the knight without fear and beyond reproach"), came from the region.

How did the recent riot there start? It appears that two North African men robbed a nearby casino. The police gave chase, the robbers fired on the police wounding one officer and one of the fugitives was killed in the ensuing shoot out.

That then led to rioting by hundreds of Muslim youths. Dozens of cars and shops were burnt, buses and trams were held up by gangs of youths brandishing baseball bats and bars and a service station was looted. Shots were fired at the police.

Not exactly what you'd expect in a utopia. As it happens, even the EU recognises that there is a problem in Grenoble. In a document looking at causes of Islamic radicalism in Europe, we are told,

Grenoble is presently (2007-08) the scene of a high-level and bloody mafia war involving second-generation North Africans: the field of potential violence is taken by non-political forms of radicalisation. (p.23)

And if readers are at all inclined to think of the North Africans in Grenoble as a hard done by minority, then they might like to look at this video (I'm not sure how to embed it, has some NSFW ads). It shows a street scene in Grenoble in which it is clearly the North Africans picking on the locals rather than vice versa.

Anyway, if I were a left-winger I don't think I'd be so confident about picking France as my model country. It's still the land of burning cars and no go areas. There must be a better example of social democracy in action somewhere in Europe.


On the left: a statue in Grenoble of the famous knight Bayard:

As a soldier, Bayard was considered the epitome of chivalry and one of the most skillful commanders of the age ... to his contemporaries and his successors, he was, with his romantic heroism, piety, and magnanimity, the fearless and faultless knight (le chevalier sans peur et sans reproche).

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Why would they say masculinity is bad for us?

There was some advice for men in the Melbourne Age this week. We were told that bad things would happen to us if we were masculine and that we should learn to be more emotional and to be more touchy-feely with each other:

IF MEN could just learn to show some affection, share emotions and hug each other more they could literally save themselves a lot of heartache, researchers say.

The tough, fearless and self-reliant self-image of Western men is holding them back from showing love, leaving them more vulnerable to addiction and disease such as heart problems, according to a study presented yesterday at the International Congress on Applied Psychology.

Dr Ryan McKelley from the University of Wisconsin said men needed to become more emotional, open up and not be afraid to be vulnerable with each other, and that they would reap the benefits in better health...

Closer male-to-male relationships could be the key to changing the manly image that stops men from feeling like they can reach out for help, the study showed.

But men's health expert Kerry Cronan said that most men in our culture are afraid of being emotionally close - or platonically intimate - with other men.

"In many cultures, touch does not signify the same taboo attitudes as it does in Western societies," Mr Cronan said. "Outside of the sporting field or a drunken night out, men in our culture are generally afraid of any form of affection or closeness with each other."

I'm sceptical of such advice. It seems to me that men need more than ever to be emotionally strong in order to succeed at work and at home.

So I decided to do a little internet digging on Dr Ryan McKelley and Kerry Cronan. Is there something about these men that might lead them to be biased against masculinity?

I decided to begin with Kerry Cronan. When someone tells you to overcome the taboo against touching other men, then it's right to have suspicions about their motivations. In short, I suspected that Kerry Cronan might be a gay activist of some sort.

What did I find? It turns out that Kerry Cronan is both a psychologist and a priest (though he doesn't seem to be attached to any parish). In 2002 he was investigated by the Health Practitioners Tribunal in Queensland for touching the genital area of one of his male patients:

in Queensland, a priest working as a registered psychologist is facing disciplinary action after massaging a patient - a fellow priest - behind his genitals. Kerry Richard Cronan applied the pressure point technique in the Maryborough presbytery as part of "body work" therapy on a priest who sought his professional help as a counsellor...

Fr Cronan provided the Health Practitioners Tribunal of Queensland with literature stating that massaging the perineum region was good for menstrual and genital conditions, constipation and insanity.

But the tribunal said there was no scientific data to support this - a fact Fr Cronan failed to tell the complainant. 

The Age told its readers that Kerry Cronan was a "men's health expert". It didn't tell them that he had been investigated for the inappropriate touching of male patients. That would have cast a different light on Kerry Cronan's advice to men about getting touchy-feely with other men.

And what of Dr Ryan McKelley? His story is different. He seems to be a regular family guy who publishes his academic research in psychology journals. But I think there is a case for bias in his advice as well on four grounds.

a) Touting for business

What is one of Dr McKelley's key research areas? It's the thesis that traditional masculinity makes men less likely to engage the services of psychologists like himself.

Therefore, he has a possible motivation of self-interest in attacking traditional masculinity, as he anticipates that this would increase the number of clients for the psychology profession.

b) Academic influence

Psychology, just like other academic disciplines, is heavily influenced by the liberal orthodoxy on campus. When you browse through the kind of research being published, you get the usual liberal themes, including an assumption that masculinity is a restrictive social construct to be overcome.

Dr McKelley himself uses terms such as "traditional masculinity ideology" and "restrictive gender role norms" when referring to traditional masculinity.

If you assume that masculinity is "restrictive" (because it is not self-determined) and an "ideology" (because it is assumed to be a social construct) you're unlikely to write positively about it.

c) Defining masculinity

And how do researchers like Dr McKelley define masculinity? I discovered they use something called the Conformity to Masculine Norms Inventory (CMNI). But this is a crude measure of masculinity, one that makes being ultra macho the measure of masculinity.

The twelve norms of masculinity are taken to be: Winning, Emotional Control, Risk-Taking, Violence, Dominance, Playboy, Self-Reliance, Primacy of Work, Power Over Women, Disdain for Homosexuals, Physical Toughness, and Pursuit of Status.

It's not that these aren't related to masculinity. But the way you get to be rated as "more masculine" is dubious. For instance, when it comes to violence you are considered the most traditionally masculine if you agree with the statement "I am always the first to start a fight". Similarly, you get rated as more masculine on the playboy scale if you agree with the statement that "Emotional involvement should be avoided when having sex."

And how did being a playboy get to be on the inventory of masculine norms? That in itself is an interesting story. The academic who established the inventory (James Mahalik) justified it on the grounds of research presented in one book. But when one sceptic checked out the book he discovered that its author had actually presented four roles that expressed masculine ways of loving: breadwinner, faithful husband, nurturer and playboy. Only 1% of men had described their dominant role as that of playboy. And yet it was the playboy role that made it onto the list of masculine norms.

The categories chosen were then refined by focus groups chosen by James Mahalik. But another odd thing happened with the focus groups. According to Mahalik the masculine norms dominating all men in the US were those of upper- and middle-class white men. But who was in the focus groups? Of nine participants only three were white males! The majority of participants were young female graduate students - and those who have been at uni will know that such women are the most heavily indoctrinated into feminist theories about men.

So it was not even the views of middle- and upper-class white men which were used to refine ideas about the gender norms of such men. It was mostly young graduate women.

So, again, the definition of masculinity being used by Dr McKelley isn't to be taken as the scientific last word on the subject.

Research results

Finally, if you read the most recent research of Dr McKelley the results are not as straightforward as presented in the Age article. Dr McKelley expected to find that those rated as most traditionally masculine would be less likely to seek help when confronted with a problem - but that wasn't borne out by his research. He did find partial support for the view that those rated as most traditionally masculine attached more stigma to going to counselling than other men.

In other words, even when using a crude measure of masculinity based on extreme A-type personality traits, Dr McKelley's research didn't find any strong differences between men rated as "traditionally masculine" and those rated as less traditionally masculine.

Furthermore McKelley stressed in his paper how new and uncertain the research is and how much it is still lacking in a conceptual framework.

And yet you'd think there were no doubts at all about the research when reading the article in The Age.

There's an increasing amount of academic research now on the topic of masculinity. A lot of it is going to present masculinity as something negative, restrictive and artificial that men must cast aside for the sake of themselves, women and society.

What men need to be aware of is the bias behind such research, especially the political bias. The research will be presented to the public in a straightforward way as the neutral scientific findings of experts. But it only takes a little research to discover just how sceptical we should be of such claims.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Identity lite

Liberals believe that they are creating a pluralistic society. If there is a multiplicity of social forms, then individuals can autonomously choose from these to self-determine their own lives.

But there's a catch. In practice, it's difficult to have significant and conflicting forms of social life and identity sharing the same space. And so liberals have to find ways to overcome this problem.

One way is to "privatise" serious forms of belief and identity. For instance, religion can be held to be a personal matter only, and not something that is to inform public life. But this then begins the process of making such belief matter less, of confining it to a more limited sphere and role.

The process is ongoing. For instance, a French High Commissioner declared recently that,

True integration will be when Catholics name their child Mohammed.

So it's not thought good enough for Catholics to accept that the public square will be secular. Now the test of a successful pluralism is that they identify with another religion closely enough to name their children after its prophet.

A serious religious identity has to weaken further, so that it is "fluid" and can mix with other religions.

See the problem here? Pluralism comes at the cost of a trivialisation of identity. Instead of the chance to participate fully in a significant tradition of your own, you get the "identity lite" option of participating at a level that doesn't draw too much of a line between different traditions.

There's a similar problem when it comes to an ethnic identity. There are plenty of liberal politicians who allow themselves to have an ethnic identity. But this is assumed to be a personal matter, not relevant to public policy.

If I remember correctly, Sir Robert Menzies, the long-serving Liberal Party PM, declared himself to be "British to the bootstraps". But he regarded this as merely a personal sentiment.

Former Liberal Party PM, John Howard, put it this way:

It's perfectly possible for an Anglo-Celtic Australian who sort of has a lot of reverence to the traditional institutions of the country, and the traditional characteristics of Australia, and to want to hang on to those, to be completely tolerant and colour-blind and so on.

This is the more "conservative" interpretation of pluralism and non-discrimination. It's hopelessly ideological. It requires limiting your identity to the personal realm, so that you can't make the defence of the mainstream tradition a part of public policy. And it requires a commitment to creating ethnic "pluralism" (mass immigration) and dampening or eroding the existing mainstream identity to fit in with such pluralism.

So this "conservative" approach is contradictory: you can't "hang onto" an existing identity and at the same time be ideologically committed to liberal pluralism.

And what are the more radical options? Consider what the leading politicians of liberal Sweden have to say on the matter:

Our prime minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, said the following soon after he was elected in 2006:

The core Swedish is only barbarism. The rest of the development has come from outside.

Mona Sahlin, now the party leader of the Social Democrats, which is the largest party in Sweden with about 35% of the votes, said in 2002:

“I think that what makes so many Swedes envious of immigrant groups is, you have a culture, an identity, a history, something that binds you. And what do we have? Mid-summers’ eve and such ridiculous things.”

The party leader of the Center Party, who is in the current government coalition, said the following:

“It is really not the Swedes that built Sweden. It was people that came from abroad.”

This is an ideological attack on the mainstream Swedish identity. It's obviously untrue that others and not the Swedes developed Sweden. It is obviously a lie that the Swedish have no culture of their own. So why say such things?

One reason is that it weakens Swedish identity to the point of allowing pluralism. If the Swedes have no culture and did not develop their own society, then there is no common achievement that they might take pride in and sustain a positive sense of identity with.

So note what pluralism has led to in Sweden. Leading politicians there openly adopt a "we are nothing" attitude. It is not even an "identity lite" but a non-identity. The mainstream identity has been trivialised out of existence.

This is what an ideological commitment to pluralism leads toward. Without it, the mainstream might not be so accepting of being reduced to the status of one amongst many or the loss of their long-term viability, and there might be issues of successfully integrating the newly arrived "other".

I'm not suggesting that pluralism is wrong in all instances. But I think it's clear that the liberal approach to pluralism is misconceived. The end result is not to give individuals a multiplicity of significant beliefs and identities to fashion a life from, but to increasingly trivialise and undermine such aspects of life.

And what tends to replace them is a single, uniform commitment to liberalism itself. The pluralistic society becomes the politically correct one.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Which three countries take 90% of refugees?

I had an argument with a work colleague earlier this year. She was adamant that Australia did not take its fair share of refugees unlike countries like France.

Well, according to the UN there are 747,000 refugees requiring resettlement "in third countries". Last year, 112,400 were resettled. From the UN's website we learn that:

Currently, 90 per cent of all refugees resettled every year are accepted by the United States, Canada and Australia, while only 6 per cent go to Europe.

So just three Anglosphere countries are taking 90% of the refugees.

The refugee system is in need of radical reform. I'd like to propose three measures to create a better system:

a) Asylum seekers should only be offered places in countries with a similar standard of living. This would immediately screen out those who are merely economic migrants seeking a higher standard of living elsewhere and clogging up the system.

b) Asylum seekers should be placed in countries which are closest ethnically to their own. This would allow for easier assimilation. For example, would it make sense for white South African asylum seekers to be placed in a suburb of Beijing? No, because the South Africans would feel like strangers there and have trouble assimilating.

c) The costs of resettlement could primarily be borne by the wealthier, developed countries. But this should be done equitably. It should not just be the Western countries taking responsibility, but also wealthy countries elsewhere in Asia and the Middle-East.

I understand that my proposals aren't likely to be accepted by the Western elites. These elites seem to have a different agenda. For instance, a senior judge in the UK has decided that homosexuals claiming persecution in their home countries should be allowed to stay in the UK as they have a right to be "free to enjoy themselves going to Kylie concerts and drinking exotically coloured cocktails".

It's true that homosexuals are persecuted in some countries. But the judge's decision means that anyone from these countries can migrate to the UK by claiming to be homosexual. The motivation could just as easily be to access the generous welfare payments in the UK or the higher standard of living.

The judge's decision is yet another step on the path to open borders. Under my proposals, there would still be an opportunity for resettlement, but without the inducements to large-scale economic migration.

Hat tip: NZ Conservative

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Why think of fathers as optional?

It's always a pleasure to discover a writer who has a principled opposition to the modernist orthodoxy.

Michael Liccione has written an article about fatherhood. He notes that it's trendy these days to consider fathers to be "fungible," meaning that they aren't necessary within families but can be substituted or replaced.

But why is this view that fathers are fungible so fashionable? Michael Liccione rejects the idea that it's part of a grand conspiracy to destroy the family. Instead, he views it as being part of a larger trend, a "cultural force" within society. And this trend exists because,

... the core of modernity's ideology is the goal of radical autonomy.

On this view, human freedom is so absolute, so precious, that anything which limits our freedom to define ourselves is either a political or a cosmic injustice. It's almost as if we're bigots if we believe that there is such a thing as human nature and that it admits of only so much self-definition by individuals.

Nominalism has become not only respectable but morally obligatory. If that's how one sees human dignity, then anything that's important for who we are, but is nonetheless out of our control, is going to be either questioned, resisted, or changed...

 That's very well put. Michael Liccione goes on to observe,

The authority of the father in the family is now equated with the "domination" and "oppression" of "patriarchy." I've never thought of 'patriarchy' as a dirty word, but Hell's Philological Arm has succeeded in making it so. As women slowly but steadily achieve economic parity with men, the very usefulness of husbands and fathers as such, as distinct from that of the interchangeable "spouse" and "parent," now seems obscure to the educated classes. A great many people still feel otherwise, but most cannot articulate why they should. And so the erosion of fatherhood proceeds apace because of a faulty conception of freedom that now dominates thought.

If we believe that fathers matter, then there is a limit to our "freedom" to live any which way, particularly as fathers are thought to wield authority within a family. The radical option is then to get rid of fathers from family life; the more moderate option is to hold them to be optional rather than necessary; and a third option is to quietly redefine fatherhood out of existence - to pretend that there is only a motherhood role which "involved" family men can now contribute to.

That's what happens when autonomy is made the core aim. An example of the radical option was put forward by feminist Sara Ruddick back in 1990. She thought that one option for the new family was to have the state support children so that women could raise their children largely by themselves, without needing the assistance of fathers:

Most mothers ... cannot afford to raise children alone. But in a state that provided for its children's basic needs, women could raise children together ...

Exceptional men who proved particularly responsible and responsive might be invited to contribute to maternal projects ...

... Secure in near-exclusively female enclaves that are governed by ideals of gender justice, women could undertake a politico-spiritual journey in which they ... overcame their dependence on fathers and fears of fatherlessness, and claimed for themselves personal autonomy.

The aim for Ruddick is for women to become independent of fathers in order to claim for themselves autonomy. She envisaged that this would be made possible if the state were to provide the financial support that children needed, allowing women to live separately from men.

Ruddick recognised, though, that most women still held to the "fantasy" of raising a child with a man. So she also put forward the option of keeping men around, but defining a distinct fatherhood role out of existence. There was to be only a motherhood role, which men might participate in:

Rather than attempting to free mothers from men, they (we) work to transform the institutions of fatherhood. Their (our) reasons are naive and familiar: many men ... prove themselves fully capable of responsible, responsive mothering ... Feminists cannot afford to distance themselves from the many heterosexually active women for whom heterosexual and birthing fantasies are intertwined and who want to share mothering with a sexual partner ... For all these familiar reasons, many feminists, and I among them, envision a world where many more men are more capable of participating fully in the responsibilities and pleasures of mothering.

To provide a contrast, I'll quote Stephanie Dowrick on fatherhood. She believes that fathers do matter and that there is a distinctly valuable paternal role:

...fathers matter. And, good or bad, the effects of their parenting will go on reverberating throughout their children's lifetime ...

....[parents] will also have roles that are specific and distinct. When two adults become parents for the first time, the new father may best support both the baby and his unfolding sense of himself as a father by giving most of his support to the new mother: meeting her needs so that she can meet the inexhaustible needs of her new baby.

This requires considerable selflessness. Yet it is being able to step up and play this essential role that will set the tone for fatherhood ahead and for his individual strength and confidence.

As children grow older, the role that fathers play changes fast. Even with both parents in the workforce, fathers still often "represent" the outside world and its values more powerfully than mothers do. How fathers interpret the outside world and bring it home to their children through discussions and especially through example sharply impacts on the way children see themselves in the social universe.

What Dad values and believes, where Dad gives his time, how Dad offers or withdraws his encouragement or interest, how Dad deals with disappointment or conflict, whether Dad is able to be consistent and reliable, when and how Dad "takes charge", the willingness with which Dad takes responsibility, and how loving Dad is to Mum: these are all factors that will have a huge impact on the psychological development of children.

But perhaps nothing matters more than for a man to recognise while he is in the thick of it just how important family life is to him, and he to it.

So there is a clear cut division here between the modernist view as set out by Ruddick (ditching a necessary fatherhood to enhance personal autonomy) and a traditionalist view as expressed by Dowrick (fatherhood matters and is not fungible).

Monday, July 05, 2010

Gen X women dropping out

An Australian study tracking women who left school in 1991 has found that only 38% of tertiary qualified Generation X women are still working full-time compared to 90% of men.

It's almost like there are two ages of women. There's a strongly careerist period in their 20s, which is often followed by a dissatisfaction with their lot and a desire to start a family and scale back paid work commitments.

I do get this. After about ten years in a career, when you've successfully met the challenges of work over and over again, some of the early excitement wears off and it becomes a bit of a slog. Men have a reason to keep slogging away, particularly if they're the main providers for their families. And women have a reason to take a break, to devote at least a part of their life to motherhood.

But it must be confusing for younger men. They have to adapt to the idea of the highly ambitious career woman when they're in their 20s, but then return to the more traditional masculine provider ethos when in their 30s.

My advice to young men would be to remain committed to their own careers no matter how much the women they know appear to be high-flying careerists. There's a strong chance that these women will change their priorities later on. And when women have had children there's often a real appreciation for men who are stable breadwinners - it can help to make for a happy marriage.

Why won't police release the CCTV footage?

Last week four men bashed a young man outside a Melbourne nightclub. Two of the suspects have been charged, but two are still at large. Police have CCTV footage which could help identify these men but refuse to release it. Why?

The Herald Sun revealed today not only that the perpetrators were Africans but that police are avoiding publicising crimes involving ethnic minorities:

Police would not release CCTV footage of the attack or details of where it occurred despite some of the perpetrators still being at large late last week.

Sources have told the Herald Sun senior police do not want publicity regarding crimes involving minority (ethnic) groups because it could inflame race debate.

Victoria Police denied this.

If the information is correct it is disturbing as it means that the police are so intent on diverting attention away from crimes committed by African refugees that they're willing to compromise criminal investigations to do so.

The Herald Sun seems to have decided not to cooperate with the cover up. It has revealed that Africans are the suspected perpetrators not only in the bashing mentioned above, but in the one that occurred at Noble Park station on Saturday night (leaving one commuter with a fractured skull and another with a broken jaw) as well as a bashing at Sunshine station last year.

Doesn't the public have a right to know?

Sunday, July 04, 2010

What happened to the male wage in 1987?

The above chart comes from the U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1997. It shows the turning point for men's wages in the United States (you can click on the chart to enlarge it).

If you were a man aged 25 to 34 in 1967, things might have seemed pretty good in terms of wages. The median wage was nearly twice as high compared to your father's generation.

If you were a man aged 25 to 34 in 1977 things were still OK. The median wage for men had barely grown for ten years, but you were still doing appreciably better than your father had done at your age.

But for men aged 25 to 34 in 1987 things weren't so good. The median wage for men had fallen by this time and was actually lower than what the father's generation had earned.

And by 1997 the gap had continued to open up. Now young men were doing appreciably worse than their father's generation.

So if you're an American man and you think that your father may have had it a bit better than you when it came to supporting a family, you might well be right. The days of each generation of men being better off appear to have finished back in 1987.

(Source: here p.29 of PDF, p.19 of document)

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Why assume it was us?

Last year an Indian student in Melbourne, Kanan Kharbanda, was bashed and left partially blinded. It set off a furious reaction in India against "racist whites".

To give you an idea of the response in India, here are the seven comments following a report on the bashing in an Indian media outlet (Press TV):

Sutapas: It was not only convicts that the Brits shipped to Australia. They also transported shiploads of prostitutes. The Aussies are descendants of criminals and whores. My brother was punched quite unprovoked by an Aussie when he was on holiday in Tokyo years ago.

holocaust: The real war is not between neighboring states like palestine-israel, nor the real threat about nuclear N Korea or Iran or Palestine or china support taliban, but the real threat is rascism that has been conferred by the white people


Shirin: Superior cultures of the ancient world such as that of Persian peoples affected the conquerors. Mongols & other savages failed to cause depravity of Iranian peoples` cultures instead the conquerors were gradually affected by the highly refined cultures of Iranians they came in contact with. However, this was not the case with the feeble Anglo-Saxon people as they were lacking any significant moral refinement to persevere the onslaught of degeneracy.

Shirin: The root causes of Anglo-Saxon corruption of moral values goes back to 1100 years ago. Anglo-Saxon culture & dispositions have long manifested the degeneracy of Viking culture of savagery, sadism, looting, colonizing & enslaving with which they came in contact with & which they succumbed to.

shirin: No more than about 12,000 convicts were shipped to Australia. There are many good and wonderful people in Australia, but there are too many racist bigots there specially in less multicultural areas such as the Queensland state. This is more a case of Anglo-Saxon degeneracy.

Anarchy: Australia is a former penal colony. So, all Australians are descendants of former British convicts. What else do you expect from such a country? Australia is bloody racist.

Our own media weren't that much better. Here is a transcript of an ABC report on the bashing of Kanan Kharbander (the reporter being Guy Stayner):

KANAN KHARBANDA, VICTIM: It was a Sunshine taxi rank, and some of the hooligans approached me. They asked for a dollar. And I said, “I don't have any dollar with me.” I showed the pockets of my trousers, and they start beating me ...

GUY STAYNER: Little wonder these victims support the student protests that blocked Flinders Street and battered Melbourne's reputation around the world.

INDIAN REPORTER: It seems that there has been another racist attack, or at least a hate crime, perpetrated against another Indian ...

GUY STAYNER: With the spotlight on Australia, and the country's massive international education industry at risk, politicians are finding their voice.

KEVIN RUDD, PRIME MINISTER: I speak on behalf of all Australians when I say that we deplore and condemn these attacks. These are senseless acts of violence.

JOHN BRUMBY, PREMIER: There is no doubt that some of the assaults which have been committed against members of the Indian community have been racially based ...

GUY STAYNER: This week the State Government fast-tracked its hate crime legislation.

ROB HULLS, ATTORNEY-GENERAL: What we're gonna do is amend the Sentencing Act to give guidance to our judges in relation to sentencing practices for crimes that are specifically based on hate, prejudice, against people based on their race, their religion, their ethnic origin or their sexual orientation.

GUY STAYNER: How important was it to be seen to be doing something about this issue?

ROB HULLS: Well I think it's very important to send a message to the community, whenever and wherever we can, that we are a friendly, open, caring, multicultural community, and hate based crimes will not be tolerated.

I love the last bit. The implication is that white Australians are violent and aggressive and that it's multiculturalism which creates a friendly, open, caring community. Problem is that the facts just don't fit the fantasy. Kanan Kharbanda was attacked in Sunshine, one of Melbourne's most multicultural suburbs. And it seems he was attacked by a Sudanese gang.

Four men were charged with the attack. Three were too young to have their names released. But the eldest one has just been sentenced for the crime. His name is Majang Ngor, he is a Sudanese refugee, and far from being sentenced heavily for committing a hate crime, he's walked out of court with a suspended sentence:

The judge suspended the jail term for 15 months and ordered Ngor to do 40 hours of community work, saying the greatest public benefit would come from his rehabilitation.