Sunday, August 07, 2005

The conservative opposition?

In Australia the Liberal Party is supposed to be the conservative party. For quite some time now, I've argued that it's mostly a right-liberal party rather than a genuinely conservative one.

For proof positive, consider the following. Last week, the Young Liberals in my state of Victoria passed a resolution calling for an end to "mandatory gender equality" in the state Liberal Party.

It seems that for 60 years now, it's been compulsory in the Liberal Party that state branches, electorate councils and state councils have an equal number of male and female delegates.

The Young Liberals called instead for appointments to be based on merit rather than on affirmative action.

Senior Liberals were outraged by the motion. One senior frontbencher told The Age that "Party members are angry that the leadership of the Young Liberal Movement, and the party, have not been able to rein in the zealots" and the leader of the party, Robert Doyle, observed that "There is always a group within the young Liberals who are too radical for the party's own good."

Amazing. In the Liberal Party if you oppose advanced feminism you are called a radical and a zealot. And this is supposed to be our "conservative" party.

A genuinely conservative party would not try to enforce equal numbers of men and women in politics. Conservatives are relaxed about the idea that men and women have different natures and will therefore tend to differ in their social roles.

It's only liberals who believe that gender should not be allowed to affect who we are or what we do, and who therefore get upset when there are differences in the numbers of men and women in some sphere of life.

Why do liberals get upset in this way? Because in the liberal philosophy there is an assumption that we should be able to choose, according to our own individual will and reason, what we do and who we are. We don't get to choose whether we are male or female, so for liberals our sex isn't supposed to affect our life choices.

That's why liberals think that "something is wrong" if there are uneven numbers of men and women in politics. Usually, right-liberals want to increase the numbers of women in politics by talking about equal opportunity and by using non-coercive measures to encourage women to participate. Left-liberals are more likely to coercively use quotas.

So the situtation in the state Liberal Party is that the youngsters are advocating a more typically right-liberal approach (equal opportunity), whereas the old guard are defending a more typically left-liberal policy (quotas).

What we need, though, is a party which doesn't make the liberal assumption in the first place. A party which accepts that individuals are "gendered" in their natures and that this will naturally be expressed in the differing social roles adopted by men and women.

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