Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Having it both ways

Lindsay Tanner, the Labor MP for Melbourne, has an article in today's Herald Sun on immigration.

It's an odd piece. He begins by reporting that a Sydneysider emailed him complaining about immigration. Tanner's response was to tell this man that he was a lone voice and that "very few people" had complaints about immigration.

Yet, if Tanner had turned back a page in today's Herald Sun, he would have seen the results of a readers' survey asking whether Victoria should try to lure more migrants. Out of 1500 respondents, only 47 answered yes. The vast majority, 1453, answered no to more migration.

But Tanner changes tack anyway. When talking about asylum seekers, Tanner suddenly reverses his earlier view and talks of the "manipulation" of "a lot of deep-seated anti-immigration opinion." He writes that the detention of asylum seekers is "continuing testimony to the strength of that [anti-immigration] sentiment."

So Tanner is willing to use any argument to justify his support for high immigration. If it suits his purposes he will claim that no one has complaints about immigration, so that anyone raising objections should be ignored. But, when it suits his argument better, he warns of a strong anti-immigration sentiment amongst the general public that might be cynically manipulated by politicians.

I think what this shows is that you have to distinguish between primary and secondary arguments. Primary arguments are what really convince someone to take a particular stance on an issue. Secondary arguments are then brought in as persuasive tools to try to convince others to support you.

It's little use trying to understand or persuade someone like Lindsay Tanner on the basis of secondary arguments. As we've seen, it doesn't matter to Tanner if immigration has mass support or mass opposition - he will try to use either circumstance in support of his underlying position.

So what actually does make someone like Tanner support high immigration? What are the primary arguments that have led him to adopt this position?

The answer, I think, is that Tanner is a liberal in his political principles. Liberals believe, as a first principle, that we should be self-created by our own will and reason.

Adopting this principle makes it difficult to legitimately defend our own ethnic identity and ethnic tradition. After all, we don't get to choose such a tradition through our own will and reason, we simply inherit it.

That's why there's such a gulf between the liberal political class and the rank and file. For the rank and file, who don't hold to liberal political principles, it's natural and normal to identify with and to want to preserve your own ethnic tradition.

But for a member of the liberal political class, such traditions violate first principles, and must be overcome through the creation of "diversity".

There's a couple of important conclusions to be drawn from this. First, our aim has to be to persuade a section of the political class to break from liberalism. We can do this by pointing out how arbitrary liberal first principles are, and what negative consequences they have.

Second, we have to be patient and persevering in doing this. At the moment, liberalism is a well-entrenched orthodoxy in the political class, shared by the Liberal Party, the Labor Party, by business and union leaders and by most academics.

So we can't look to any official institutions of society to do the job for us. It's up to us to keep building an opposition to the pervasive liberalism which makes possible the radical transformation of Western societies.

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