Syme won over a young journalist and future PM, Alfred Deakin, to the cause of the left.
The shift from the market to the state was put in reasonable terms by Syme:
Self-interest and individualism have their place, but need to be balanced by the interests of society as a whole, for which the state is the appropriate agent.
However, Melbournians will be aware that the left-liberalism advocated by the Age has had a disastrous effect. So the question, then, is what went wrong with Syme's intention to use the state to "balance the interests of society as a whole"? Why did Syme's left-liberalism end up having a dissolving effect on society rather than a balancing one?
A reader made the following observation in the comments:
The conceptualizing of liberals tends to go in a straight line from the individual to the universal or universal state. Ignored or rejected is the importance of family, church, ethnic heritage, local and national sense of place, even professional and sporting organizations.
That does seem to fit in with some of Deakin's ideas from the 1870s. Deakin, in drawing out the differences between conservatism and liberalism, said of liberal policies that:
All such provisions point to larger and more effective Unions within the realm and then beyond it. (p.64)
Judith Brett, the writer of the biography of Deakin I am reading, comments that Deakin saw "liberalism as the agent of humanity's evolution toward higher unities".
So, on the one hand, Deakin did not just see the individual - he also saw "more effective Unions" and an evolution toward higher unities.
On the other hand, Deakin saw these unions as existing "within the realm and then beyond it" - the push seems to be, as my reader comments, towards the universal or universal state. (And note that Deakin was encouraging people in the 1870s to be "actuated by proudly loyal devotion to the State", p.68.)
So in Deakin's case there appears to have been a shift from the highly individualistic world view of the right-liberals, toward a higher unity involving individuals subject to a universal state.
Why the universalism? One possible answer is that it is another expression of the humanistic tradition. Deakin in the 1870s was not an orthodox Christian but a spiritualist. Humanism tends to arise when the focus of life shifts from a worship of God, and an acceptance of God's will in human affairs, toward the placing of hope and meaning in the progress of humanity toward some ideal end. The cause becomes "humanity" conceived in abstract terms, and allegiance therefore shifts away from "parochial" loyalties towards family, region, nation etc.
The other possibility is that it is an expression of the liberal belief in a progress toward equality. Lawrence Auster explained this once in a thread at View from the Right.
On the right, traditional conservatives believe in “larger wholes”—the realities of nature, society, and God—of race, culture, and religion—that make us what we are. They believe in natural and spiritual hierarchies that are implied in these larger wholes. Inequality is built into existence. Of course there are various kinds of traditional conservatism, each of them placing particular emphasis on certain aspects of the natural, social, and transcendent orders, while downplaying or ignoring others.
In the middle, traditional liberals (right-liberals) believe in individualism: all individuals have equal rights, the individual is free to create himself, he is not determined by the larger wholes into which he was born. We should just see people, all members of the human race, as individuals deserving of equal dignity.
On the left, socialists and Communists, like traditional conservatives, believe in larger wholes, but the wholes they believe in are seen in terms of equality: the whole of society—equal; the whole of the human race—equal. They believe that man has the ability to engineer this larger, equal whole into existence, wiping out the unequal, inherited orders of class, sex, nation, race, religion, morality, and thus creating a New Humanity. Only the largest whole—humankind—is good, because only at the level of all humanity can there be true equality and fraternity uniting all people.
So, both the traditionalist conservatives on one side and the leftists on the other believe in larger wholes and reject the pure individualism of liberalism. But beyond that, the right and the left are radically at odds, since the left seeks to destroy the natural and traditional wholes that the right believes in.