Islamists are not on the “far right” and they are not “extremists”

There are no two people in politics I agree with more consistently than Andrew Bolt and Peter Costello, so if I bring up one of Andrew Bolt’s posts in which both feature, it must be understood that I don’t disagree with a single point they make, only with the terms they use. Andrew’s post is titled, The Left now sounds just like the Islamist Right, in which Peter is quoted as saying:

Australia is one of the most successful, open, prosperous, accepting societies that the world has ever known. Being born here is one of the best things that could ever happen in a person’s life. That is worth explaining as part of immunising the young against the false political claims of extremists.

Andrew began the post with this where I will begin myself:

One of the most disturbing developments in public debates has been the Left giving cover to Islamists of the far Right.

There is, I must insist, no such thing as “Islamists of the far Right”. The right-left divide in politics is between those who value individual rights above collective rights and those who do not. The only person who ever correctly thought of Hitler as to his right politically was Joseph Stalin who introduced this notion into our political direction finder. To think of racists and extreme nationalists as part of the right is merely to defame those of us who see ourselves on the right, far or otherwise. It is we members of the right properly understood who almost alone have been willing to take the fight up to Nazis, fascists, communists and Islamists and have been able to do so without missing an ideological beat. To describe Islamists as “far right” wrongly aligns people such as ourselves with people such as themselves, and introduces a confusion of terms since the right-left divide then becomes less clear cut than it ought to be. No one on the right is ever described by those on the left as anything other than “far” right. To be on the right should be seen as a badge of honour.

Same with the word “conservative” who are people, again like ourselves, who find the open and tolerant society in which we live one we would like to see preserved, and therefore are very careful about the nature of change, and are never in any great hurry to see things radically altered. I am at one with Edmund Burke in believing in “the general bank and capital of nations and of ages”* as the great repository of common sense and social morality. It is being worn away as the left has continued its march through the institutions, but it has a powerful hold even still.

And then there is the quote from Peter, where he wrote, “the false political claims of extremists”. The word “extremists” is commonly used about Islamists. But calling Islamists “extremists” makes it seem that these views are well beyond some kind of norm, a thousand miles from the political centre. And so they are, if we restrict the moral compass we use to judge other people’s political morality to our own view of things as found in our own culture, whose traditions travel back in time through to the British Isles and the values that have developed as part of our Judeo-Christian heritage. These are the great bequest of our cultural traditions and we must do everything we can to defend this history from the ignorance of the fanatics in our midst. To call our enemies “extreme” is to misread how they think of themselves. They are perhaps on the more aggressive side of their own value set, but they seem to be far from “extreme” within the communities in which they live. The extremists in such communities are more likely to be the people who agree with us, the ones who would like to share in our own cultural tradition and make common cause with us. Even living here in a Western nation, it is still not easy for them, as the life of Ayaan Hirsi Ali has shown. The proper word to describe Islamists is “barbarians”. If the left chooses to side with them, that is what they are as well.


*”You see, Sir, that in this enlightened age I am bold enough to confess, that we are generally men of untaught feelings; that instead of casting away all our old prejudices, we cherish them to a very considerable degree, and, to take more shame to ourselves, we cherish them because they are prejudices; and the longer they have lasted, and the more generally they have prevailed, the more we cherish them. We are afraid to put men to live and trade each on his own private stock of reason; because we suspect that this stock in each man is small, and that the individuals would do better to avail themselves of the general bank and capital of nations and of ages.” From Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, p 145.

Stop wondering and get back to work

Is this really true?

Bishop said: “I won’t die wondering like Peter Costello.”

That is, she won’t die wondering whether she could have knocked over Tony Abbott and become PM, the way that Peter Costello might now be wondering whether he ought to have tried to take on John Howard before the 2007 election.

If she really did say this, she is even more deluded and destructive than I might ever have thought possible.

Peter did not challenge because it would have split the party and turned a probable defeat into a certainty. It was the action of someone who put principle over personal ambition. But this was also after having become the greatest Treasurer in Australian history, leading us not just to years of strong growth where not only did Australia, year after year, record the only surplus economy in the world but was the only economy I can think of ever that had absolutely zero debt.

Meanwhile, Julie Bishop remains a person thus far of limited political accomplishment so far as I can see. On what she personally stands for, I remain at a loss. You should google, “Julie Bishop Islamic State” and then do the same for Tony Abbott. If she stands for anything, I haven’t worked out what it is.

The mainstream Australian view

This is the mainstream Australian view provided by Peter Costello, the best almost-Prime Minister this country will unfortunately never have:

This idea that Australia’s treatment of Muslims is to blame for terrorism is so fanciful you would wonder how anyone could believe it. But it is standard-issue opinion among university academics, ABC journalists and Greens senators. They act on the principle that “My enemy’s enemy is my friend”. Since they don’t like open liberal Western capitalist society, they feel natural support for those who regard themselves as at war with Western civilisation. The brutality of Islamic State does not seem to worry them nearly so much as the imagined “brutality” of the Australian Government.

Thank heavens, real people don’t fall for such rubbish. They know our society, for all its faults, is worth protecting. They are not taken in by the claims of the extremists or their odd bedfellows on the Australian political Left.

The people on the front line in the effort against terrorism are not the problem, they are a crucial part of the solution.

A tale of two airports

Government spending absorbs national saving. Unless those resources are used in a value-adding way, the economy becomes worse off rather than better off. Spending of itself is not the road to growth. Only spending that creates more value than is used up during production leaves you ahead. We in the supposedly capitalist economies of the West are systematically ruining our economies because our governments waste our resources at prodigious rates rather than creating value or leaving those resources to be used by those who can. The United States is in the midst of turning itself into the Argentina of the twenty-first century. And as Exhibit A, let me take you to these passages from a recent column by Peter Costello, a great Treasurer because he understood these issues intuitively and with great clarity. Here he is discussing what was unmistakeable on a fight from New York to Hong Kong:

The real thing that was troubling me on that long flight to Hong Kong was why countries like the United States do infrastructure so badly when places like Hong Kong do it so well. When I flew out of New York’s Kennedy Airport, the Airtrain wasn’t working. Passengers had to bus from one Terminal to another. People were squeezed in excess of safety limits, more like battery hens than human beings. The security staff were surly and difficult. The planes were late and the terminal was rundown.

Flying into Hong Kong was like returning to the developed world. The terminal is connected to the city centre by a fast rain. Massive purpose-built suspension bridges and tunnels link it by road. Hong Kong reclaimed the land to build the airport from the sea — just as it has for other major developments.

Both these airports are owned by government authorities. Before someone tells you that we need higher taxes to pay for more infrastructure just remember that Hong Kong, with its airport and its first-class Mass Transportation System, has one of the world’s lowest tax rates, with a top income tax rate of 17 per cent and no GST.

I suspect that Hong Kong airport may be like the Moscow subway, a much more ornate facility than would be justified by the return alone and heavily subsidised as a showpiece to the world. Whether other less visible infrastructure spending in Hong Kong is equally substantial I would have my doubts. But the airport in New York is falling to bits because the capital required for mere maintenance is unavailable because so much of it is already being wasted by governments. There is an immense amount of capital in the US to get through, but Obama and the Democrats, ably assisted by the Republicans, are wasting their inheritance. Ten more years of this and it will be a poor country, as much of the country already is. There are huge lessons for us if we have the wit to understand them. I only say again that modern textbook economic theory will explain almost none of this.

Picked up at Andrew Bolt.

A reminder to lovers of reason

I don’t know why this is news to anyone – Bolt Report back – and bigger – but it has not gone unremarked amongst those who somehow find this displeasing. From Andrew Bolt:

The Twitterverse has exploded in rage, but I trust lovers of reason won’t be displeased:

NEWS Corp Australia columnist Andrew Bolt is being given more airtime with his Network Ten show to double in length to one hour when it returns on March 2.

The new-look The Bolt Report will include a new segment, called News Watch, which promises “to put the media under genuine scrutiny”.

The fun starts at 10am and 4pm on Sunday, March 2.

I believe this is meant to be a complaint, but I shall treat it as a request:

gerard mcdermott on bolt

Among the guests for the first show: Peter Costello, Michael Costa and Gerard Henderson. We have invited Bill Shorten to come on the show on the very near future, of course, and hope the old Labor ban is lifted. I did think it counter-productive.

“Cheap money is not the sustainable path to prosperity”

How fortunate this country is to have Glenn Stevens running the RBA. From todays Australian:

THE government should focus on productivity-boosting reforms rather than rushing to bring the budget to surplus, Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens said yesterday.

At the second of his twice-yearly appearances before the House of Representatives economics committee, Mr Stevens suggested further interest rate cuts were unlikely to help lift economic growth.

Mr Stevens said monetary policy was stimulating activity outside the mining industry but weak confidence, the lacklustre pace of reform and a high currency were retarding the growth rate.

‘There are few serious claims that the cost of borrowing per se is holding back growth … monetary policy can’t force spending to occur,” he said in Canberra.

‘Cheap money is not the sustainable path to prosperity.’

Not only is it not the path to prosperity, it is the road to ruin. But like so much else with economic policy, unless one understands how and why these policies work, others won’t be able to repeat them. Just the same with Peter Costello and his near-immaculate management of the Australian economy, 1996-2007, years that coincide with sustained prosperity, rising real incomes and an almost continuous fall in unemployment.

And funny enough, this self same Peter Costello was in the news today as he is about to take on the Chairmanship of the Future Fund, at the moment on a temporary basis. Of course, a great appointment, but this in particular caught my eye:

But Mr Costello . . . said the fund should only pursue investments that deliver a return, playing down suggestions it could be used for nation-building projects.

“Nation-building” projects apparently mean “loss-making” projects, and that’s by definition! You know, the kinds of things Labor specialises in. That is, projects that lose money, make us poorer but give themselves a warm inner glow as they spend our money even faster than we can earn it.

It’s a great pleasure to see a return to sanity, and if it really turns out that both the Paid Parental Scheme and renewable energy targets are to be wound back, things might really start to look up.