‘Kill Climate Deniers!’ More on public funding of the arts

Back in 2014 I wrote a piece about accountability, which began with the news that the ACT Government had funded a theatre project with the title as given above. I knew nothing about the play, but its title led me to ask what redress any of us sceptics had, if and when it were conclusively shown that the AGC scare was just that, a baseless scare. As taxpayers we had been forced to contribute to large amounts of expenditure that was simply wasted, on the advice of people who claimed to know the truth. Then Andrew Bolt took up the question of public funding of plays with titles like this one, and attention passed to him and his take on it.

Well, the play is soon to be performed, and I will almost certainly go to see it. It turns out that the plot centres on a group of eco-terrorists who take over Parliament House, and the title is their cry to the world. In short, the Climate Botherers are the baddies, not the goodies. Why did the playwright, whom I know, like, and have worked with in another area, choose such a title, you ask? Well, it gets attention at once, doesn’t it. And in this PR-fevered world, your first goal is to gain attention.

One other outcome was a public discussion in Canberra over the weekend about the public funding of art, with the title, ‘Bite The Hand That Feeds You: Taxpayer-Funded Political Art’, and it was intended to look at the question of accountability in taxpayer-funded art, questions of censorship and the ‘right to offend’. At the invitation of the playwright, I went to it, and enjoyed myself. If you think about it for a moment, how would you defend a publicly funded work of art of some kind that challenged the fundamental standpoint of the government that had provided the funding?

I have had to deal with questions like that for thirty years. Either the project is thought to be politically tainted, or to be pointless, or to be something that is not relevant to Australia. There are always cries to get rid of the Minister or  of those making the recommendation, and I’ve been one such. It doesn’t really matter which party is in power. As was said at the public discussion, there seem to be lots of people who don’t like publicly-funded art at all, or only like it if it serves some purpose dear to the person. Socialist art, or ‘social realism’, the rule in the Soviet Union, had to be understandable by workers, to show scenes of everyday life, to be representational and to support the aims of the Party. We might abhor all that as a funding principle, but there’s a lot of comparable sentiment in our own society, if you take out the word ‘Party’.

The context for the discussion is a shift in the political economy of the Western world that has become increasingly obvious in the last two hundred or so years. Adam Smith argued that every person’s needs had equal validity, and the notion of economic equality quickly fastened itself on to that of political equality. Indeed, Smith’s The Wealth of Nations was published just a few months before the American Revolution, and the French counterpart came only 13 years later. The next, 19th, century was one of rapid economic growth in the Western world, and in the 20th the rate of growth was even greater.

Out of those two and a half centuries has come quite a different society to the one that Adam Smith and his colleagues knew. The prevailing model in the West is the social welfare state, where famines are a thing of the past, and the great question is ‘redistribution’. In Adam Smith’s day the funding of art was a matter for aristocrats, the wealthy bourgeoisie and the Church. Today art of all kinds is a commodity, and artists are essentially self-employed artisans. Some do very well out of it. Most don’t, but enjoy what they do and would rather do that at a modest income level than do something else at a higher salary.

The great patrons of the arts now still include wealthy collectors and philanthropists, but also the State, through its establishment of art galleries, libraries, opera and ballet companies, arts funding schemes, symphony orchestras and the funding of festivals of all kinds. To that we should add the education system, where children are taught to respect art and music, and given some training that might develop appreciation, and help the really talented find a career later. There are conservatories, art schools, design schools and the like to complement this endeavour.The Church is no longer a patron in any serious way: too few people attend its services or contribute to its coffers.

I think it fair to say that publicly funded art galleries, symphony orchestras and their counterparts are as much a part of our contemporary society as are publicly funded hospitals and universities. The issue is not whether to fund these activities, but how much. And neither side of Australian politics ever has arts funding as a top priority, no matter how much noise they might make at election time. So what criteria should arts organisations observe in choosing what to play, what to show and whom to encourage through funding? That is the hard question.

By and large, those making the choices are expected to attract audiences, visitors, and to select  grantees who later do well. We have a market society, so commercial success is an important criterion. Who uses the criteria? Nearly all the time the answer is some sort of peer review system, and the committees spawned by it. Yes the Minister is responsible — he or she is responsible for everything that happens in the areas for which the Minister reports to Parliament. But the real decisions are made at arm’s length from the Minister. In my experience Ministers rarely even want to know what the recommendations are, unless one of them is plainly going to be contentious in some way.

There is a good reason. Most arts recommendations, like most academic research recommendations, come as a group. There may be hundreds of them. Some of them may be hard even to comprehend. And Ministers are very busy people. In the arts domain the Minister will likely be junior in status, or if senior have more important things to worry about, with the arts being a small part of the portfolio.

So if you want to know how something gets to be funded, it’s important to know who sat on the relevant committee. I have no idea which people came to recommend that the ACT Minister fund ‘Kill Climate Deniers!’. I doubt that there was anything partisan in the decision. It seemed like an interesting play, and the playwright was someone you would call a ‘an emerging young talent’. I do know that most of the people involved in choosing are much younger than me, and the young are naturally critical of the status quo, since they occupy no special place in it unless they are an Olympic gold medallist. Those opposed to the status quo will always be looking for new approaches to what we already have. There is nothing criminal or reprehensible in their doing so. The histories of painting and of music  are continuing stories about eternal dissatisfaction with the status quo.

The wonderful paradox is that the striking title of the new play is about the standpoint of eco-terrorists, the baddies — not, as was first widely thought, a statement about the evils of those who did not agree with the climate change orthodoxy.

Ah, it’s a wonderful world.


Later:  If you want to read a little more about the play and its first performance, read here.

Join the discussion 34 Comments

  • Doug Hurst says:

    The large majority of Australians don’t read the books that win the literary prizes, don’t understand or like the art that wins the art prizes and don’t know anything about classical music except for a few popular opera arias and the well known bits and pieces used as themes, piped music, and as the the basis of popular tunes.

    But their taxes pay for all these things – assumedly because our politicians buy the argument that this particular writing, art and music is intrinsically superior to the rubbish the great unwashed read, hang on their walls and listen to, and so should be supported. I buy only the first half of the argument. I don’t have the background to say why some literature, art and music is superior to the rest, although I think it is, but I don’t see that as a reason to subsidise it. I like classical music and paid for all my CDs, unsubsidised, and see no reason why the tiny few who go to live performances should be subsidised by the huge majority who don’t.

    The only argument in favour of subsidies is, as Don points out, in previous times art was funded by the rich and the churches – mostly by the churches as a stroll around Europe’s best galleries will quickly show. Almost all of it is about some famous Christian event, often very nasty and bloody, and I quickly tired of it – the the painting itself was undoubtedly brilliant, but the subject matter did not appeal. I had the same reaction to Paradise Lost in senior high school – great writing about something I had already rejected and lost interest in, much preferring Shakespeare’s real-life human dramas and amazing way with words. But in Milton’s defence, I acknowledge that, like Shakespeare, he was unsubsidised.

    But that said, I support the argument that if something is intrinsically better in the art world, it should pay. If it doesn’t, then the judgement of what is intrinsically better needs review. People who write books, paint pictures and compose music for small numbers of other people with similar tastes and ideas are, of course, free to do so, but not at my expence.

    • Alan Gould says:

      The trouble is , that is NOT the argument, is it. Your argument is that “if something is intrinsically better in the art world” it should pay NOW! Bestsellers do that, and one could reconceive one’s values regarding good books on last year’s titles. My guess would be that a great deal of very incompetent writing – by which I mean shallow, phoney, crude, vain, cowardly, charlatan – would be deemed successful because the money and shrewdness put into its advertising succeeded in persuading the masses they were buying genuine glitter rather than tawdry.
      One aspect of great art is that it wears well. The picture presented of the world – whatever it is – continues, not only to represent truth, but to FIND truth in succeeding generaitions, succeeding eras. ‘The Thorn Birds’ and much of Bryce Courtenay does not wear well. Shakespeare, as you say, (well-patronised by The Earl Of Southampton), and Milton, (who enjoyed Cromwell’s favour) have worn well, in the latter’s case, irrespective of the popularity of Deism because things like pride, perversity, mischief, innocence, fall from innocence, and the concept of epic viewpoint, continue to hold fascination for curious Mind.
      Might one turn your last sentence around? I’ll be the first to accept that the first duty of government is defence of the realm, and for this, one’s weaponry should be adequate. But think of the billions from your taxes that have gone into weapons development that was never actually needed beyond the ‘just-in-case’ scenario, and became superceded for a new generation of the same. Do we have a case for “not at my expense”?

      • Doug Hurst says:

        It’s my argument Alan. If you don’t like it, counter it – but you can’t declare it invalid because you don’t like me talking that way.

        Of course there are huge numbers of dreadful books written and read each year – the Chick-lit scene is immensely popular – and most modern painting and music is dreadful stuff, but I don’t care because no one is asking me to pay for it. Most of it is rubbish and little will endure, but every now and then something special will emerge from this unsubsidised rubbish tip every bit as good as the subsidised stuff – and sometimes better.

        As for turning my last sentence around, so what. You are not comparing like with like. Defence and art funding are very different things. There is waste in both areas, but defence is the sole province of government and most art isn’t, being created largely within the wider community. There would be no defence without government, but art would endure, as it always has, with no government help at all.

        • Alan Gould says:

          While not claiming the province of art and the province of defence to be identical, I do claim fairly that they share common ground to the extent they receive government funding and some of this funding is useful, some wastage, and the inevitability of that has similarity in both cases because one cannot predict sufficiently in either case where the subsidised product will be useful/popular.
          Of course I KNOW it is your argument, and surely I have countered it, whether in my direct reply to you, or my defence of arts-funding below. You want to see art matched with market dynamics, an artist face the same conditions as an orange-grower or furniture maker. My counter to that is the recognition that finely composed books or music, finely executed paintings or ceramic-ware, do not, cannot, have the same immediate éclat on a market because their claim on taste is too volatile, and the market forces prone to hype fakery, the trite, the crude, too prevalent in a market economy to trust them to discern the well-made, the truthful, the fair, the authentically vibrant. An artist’s power to earn a livelihood overlaps his/her lifetime. If you doubt that, assess Shakespeare’s income today if he were being paid his due royalty for each new production, each new edition of The Collected Works. Patronage of the arts recognises that much art is slow-release because the new penetration of the human condition inevitably is not as immediate to the intelligence as the perception a particular orange is juicier than others, or a particular table is more elegant than others.

    • David says:

      Doug that classical music that you say you have “paid” for will be out of copyright. You will not have paid the full economic cost. So if you really want to stand on you “user-pay” high horse you should re-reimburse the tax payers of Florence or wherever who subsidized the musical careers of the classical composers you listen to. Otherwise, you will come across as a hypocrite.

      • Bryan Roberts says:

        David, you evidently know nothing, or less than nothing about the history of music. The nobility employed musicians in their courts. Later, composers such as Telemann, Handel, etc, sold their music, in exactly the same way as musicians do now. Feel free to display your ignorance about climate science, but please don’t talk rubbish about classical music.

        • David says:

          And the nobility “earned” their income by taxing the peasants. I understand all too well Bryan.

          • David says:

            and regardless of who paid for the development of these past musicians Doug enjoys the music without paying copyright.

          • colin davidson says:

            And You David, enjoyed the novels of Robert louis Stevenson without paying royalties.
            Is your point that we should all pay a levee to read, experience or enjoy those things which remain from our past?
            Things which may or may not have been funded by the Government (in the case of artistic products, mostly not).

            I am an artist. I have a project which urgently needs public funding, as it will bring great joy to many of the public (namely my Grandsons). I think I should be lavishly remunerated for my efforts so far, and well into the future.

            On the other hand, who decides if a work of art is really art or just “art”? Who decides which of all of the creative people (and all of us are) should get funding for the stuff we churn out? And how do we determine how to ensure that this funding is not diverted to some odious political cause involving vegetables or rotting fish?

            Where is the quality control in the arts?

          • David says:

            “Is your point that we should all pay a levee to read, experience or enjoy those things which remain from our past?” No

            My point is that before people like Doug (or Bryan) grandstand about paying for their all their classical music they should recognize that this music only exists because historically the “State” has funded the arts in the past. Art is a shared social experience and therefore it makes sense that it is funded by the State. There is not a single society, ever, that has not made some sort of a communal investment in the arts. To leave the production of art totally to the free market would be make us poorer.

          • colin davidson says:

            My point is that my art is just as worthy as anybody else’s art.
            Who decides whether my art or your art should receive funding?
            Who appoints these “experts”?
            What quality control measures are applied to their decisions?
            Obviously some state-funded free-for-all is inane – the funds will end up being squandered on fourth-rate sludge and fifth-rate, self-important, public-purse-sucking sludge-maestros.
            If the criterion for selection is that the piece is deemed worthy by a majority of the payers, then how is that selection assured?
            In several cases in Canberra at present a majority of payers would be asking for their money back. Why has the Liebar Government not done so?

          • Bryan Roberts says:

            Many classical composers tried to obtain patronage (which equated to paid employment), but few were successful. Some wrote for the Church, some sold their work (often successfully). Telemann comes to mind. Handel wrote operas and oratorios for the public (also successfully). I doubt any of them would have regarded themselves as subsidised by the taxpayer.

            As for copyright, well I don’t think Jane Austen is getting any royalties. Nor, for that matter, are Franz or Ludwig. Or Hildegard of Bingen. Or Shakespeare. So it is the height of absurdity to suggest that it is ‘wrong’ of Doug to enjoy music that is in the public domain. If you don’t think it should be, you can make a case for that if you wish, but facile accusations about copyright are infantile.

          • David says:

            I don’t say it is “wrong” for Doug to enjoy classical music, but it is hypocritical to enjoy music (or Art more generally) that was developed through State largess in the past and then try an argue that there should be no State subsidy of the Arts.

          • David says:


            I think Alan Gould has written a really nice piece on the complexities of public funding for the Arts. I find Alan’s contribution more insightful than Doug’s, and you should too.

  • Alan Gould says:

    At the National level, I am not sure knowing who was on the Committee would be a help to the artist applicant. I speak as one who served on the Literature Board of the Australia Council for four years and can declare the protocols to have been so searchingly fair in their exercise as to make individual prejudice meaningless.
    The procedure was this. Board members were chosen to represent the viewpoints of the different states, the genres within literature, the genders, and were replaced after 3 or 4 years. Before each grants session, dossiers containing all the applications were sent to each member plus an equal number of ‘peer assessors’ who were appointed for single meetings – totalling a board of some dozen. One made one’s choices IN PRIVATE on the basis of reading the applications and knowing the selection criteria. These choices were then sent in to the admin staff who arranged them in orders of merit from those who had attracted most favour down to those who had attracted least. So no chooser knew what this list would look like in advance of the meeting. At the meeting, one was able to see the list, know the total amount of money being applied for, know the total amount of money available, make a cut-off line on the list at where this latter total occurred, which was usually around 16% of applicants could be successful. Then the process became one whereby each member and peer assessor argued to ‘get up’ someone who was below the line, or ‘put down someone who was above it. This was the substance of the weeklong discussions with abundant ‘support material’. Not once did I witness any attempt to subvert this process. This did not mean that some non-recipients were docile about their lack of fortune; I recall a memorable day of phonecalls and emails from one disaffected poet on the day Prime Minister Howard had scrambled the RAAF for George Bush’s visit, and the growl of these warplanes was background to the bitter poetic warfare below.
    Retrospect is easy. I know some of our money went to talent that turned out meagre, some to talent that was good but short-lived, some to dedicated literary artists whose work graces our Literature. I am in accord with the principle of arts-funding – in literature at least- that a good artist creates work that continues to earn a return beyond the lifetime of the artist, so the state, like the grandees of old, provide enabling livelihood. I’m also aware that those who aspire to write poems and novels outnumber those who read them. Presently it is a severe time for Australia Council Lit Board funding, and this is felt most, I reckon, among the poetry publishers whose market is small, and yet whose willingness to look at work that extends or overlaps fashion tends to have more good nerve. I cannot see how money spent on the arts will not have a portion of inevitable waste in it. I can see many parts of government spending where that portion of waste is larger and even more inevitable. I praise all my fellow Board Members, and particularly our admin staff, for their dispassion and hard work.

  • BB says:

    I like classical music quite a lot of in particular Beethoven. My favourite Opera is Beethoven’s Fidelio and I have been prepared to pay $256 a seat to see a performance of it at the Sydney Opera House. I have also been a subscriber to the CSO and a member of the National Gallery of Art. So it is not that I think art is no good but I have great problems with the modern idiom of art. Our society has become affluent and sees its way clear to fund it. But this has produced a problem of marketing. The artist does not any longer have to be concerned about the client.

    Seems to me the problem is the funders had no idea and as you say Don don’t want to know. So the artists determine themselves what is art and what we should get for our money. The art that I enjoy had to satisfy the market. In my living room I have large prints of Rembrandt and Heysen. I recently greatly enjoyed an exhibition of Tom Roberts works. All of these were done to make a living by appealing directly for payment from those that were going to look at them. In other words, there were market forces involved. The situation now is that the art is thrust on those that end up looking at it. A case in point is “the works of art” delivered to us by our local government. Near me in Belconnen we have a monstrosity that is supposed to be an owl. Eyes were painted on because it looked so much like a penis. On the GDE there is an accident site it looks like where a truck has spilled its load of I beams. I could go on and I would like to get rid of a lot of them. At the airport there are several artworks which were paid for by the airport the person paying for them had input and it seems decreed something that is worthy of the airport. It is a recipe for rubbish that the artist should not have to be concerned about the client.

    There is a lot of stuff in the National Gallery of Art which I describe as crap worse than that people have been paid to produce that crap.

    So I agree with Doug largely the client for many that are doing art is the taxpayer. The taxpayer has no say in what is produced the artist produces whatever takes their mind and gets paid. Maybe they don’t get a lot but I think they should get less it might discourage the eyesores that many produce.

    Yes, there are things that government pays for and consequently they are not of use but in the case of defence there is a great deal of planning and risk assessment. They may not get it right and that’s the way it goes but to compare it to the crap that is being produced is ridiculous. The show of military strength is an end in itself which discourages incursions into our sovereign territory. The fact that it didn’t happen does not mean the money was wasted. I think art is about entertainment if not what is it? We pay for ne’er-do-wells to produce what they think we should like.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      BB, thank you for a thoughtful and thought-provoking comment. That the artist does not need to be concerned any more with the client is an important point. Since music is my principal field of artistic enjoyment also, I’ll think further about its implications for that domain.

    • Alan Gould says:

      I find this a little too broadly severe across all makers of art, and a little too sensitive on the taxpayer’s behalf. Has the silly Belconen owl caused you suffering?

      Some art (I include the visual, literary and musical) gets made, and it is pretentious. Some gets made and, while honest, it is a failed experiment. Some, more critically, finds its way to make new, by which I mean, reconceive a view of the human condition, re-match a manner of seeing or uttering with how life is actually lived rather than with a bygone sensibility, and its newness does not attract an immediate intelligibility because those who receive it do not have the willing, or the leisure, to apply intelligence to what is going on, whether on canvas, page, or score. Sure, artists can fail. So can audiences. An ‘artist’ can try on with fakery. It is a more serious problem when an audience or readership dismiss what is offered as art through intellectual sloth.
      I agree entirely. Art cannot escape its responsibility as entertainment.; my own preference is that its should charm, because charm is an indication that it has won trust. But our human arts undertake very much more than the diversion of an hour in a gallery or a week with a book. My own rough rule of definition is that they form our conversation with the experience of our species. I read Homer’s Iliad and have exquisitely presented to me the hetero-homosexual rivalries of Agamemnon and Achilles in the turbulent conditions of Troy 10,000 years ago, and I touch sensibility and innermost sensitivities under the jab and poke of spears at human flesh, and i recognise this has a conversation with the ABC news I had heard that night. I read Joyce’s Ulysses, and I have discovered for me within the limits of English Language the veritable flow of human consciousness for a group of folk in Dublin on a particular day. I cannot commend these experiences from literature to to folk looking for value from their tax dollar unless I can trust they are interested in how humans have thought, do think, and might think, across the wholeness of human experience. For that, bedrock, is hat the arts are about, and why they tally such a high rate of failure. The Arts record where the human imagination has been. Nothing else does this. The kangaroo, moose and lobster lack such a record.
      Defence Expenditure? I always think of Britain’s TSR2. This was a 1960’s jet-wonder, that attracted government investment, was built, tested, hyped, then scrapped. The sterling spent on it might have paid for UK Arts for half a century. O golly, just think. Shakespeare, Blake, Yeats might have had livelihoods from that wastage. The people who sit on those committees of Defence risk assessement have the same mental mechanisms as those who sit round a table trying to assess the scope of an individual talent. I would contend, having seen photos of dead TSR2 fuselages, and registered how minor are the minorities that appreciate certain peculiarities of art, that I can pick where the crap lies. It’s metal.

      • BB says:

        The fibreglass penis at the end of Benjamin way is very large the eyes I’m told cost $400,000 Lord knows what the original cost was. It is a product of a government that says let’s do art and doesn’t care what is produced as long as they can tick it off. The NGA has paid people for rubbish for instance the black painting. This person has moved on they now have the orange painting and the white painting. These are canvases that are just that black, orange, white sort of like large paint samples. I didn’t realise it but I grew up in an art gallery being that there were many galvanised corrugated iron buildings and these had left bits which had become rusty on the edges. Now at the Art Gallery someone has taken bits like that and put them in a frame there you go art. There is also the fan in the wall, and in the UK the light bulb in the room. My experience is those things that have been produced because others wanted them have worth.

        I’m only talking about the visual arts that is painting sculpture and movies but I must also include music.

        When David and Margaret review an Australian movie it doesn’t matter what it is, it is excellent always. When I watched the ABC I would note down the recommended Australian movie and make sure I didn’t see it. When I see things like Steve Irwin the Opera I shudder surely these things don’t pay they are only produced because some fool in government provides the money. As for literature I cannot really offer an opinion but one thing I’ve noted though is that literary prizes seem to be more for who wrote it rather than its content. So if you are an aboriginal female who also has a disability you are in the money.

    • NameGlenM says:

      Or Leonore – the preorder for Fidelio with all those great overtures.For me though it has to be Egmont; arguably the most concise and potent music ever composed.

  • PeterE says:

    I spent some time dealing with arts policy. As Alan pointed out, life is short and art is long. Where the government acts as patron but stays aloof from the product, the theory is that at least some of what is produced will stand the test of time and become a national treasure. To be sure, taxpayer funds will be wasted in this field, as Doug points out, but the same applies in other fields, most notoriously in recent times in the travesty of treasure allocated to the ‘science’ of a non-existent problem. At the end of the sixties, arts funding permitted only a very few exceptional artists to practice their art. Since then, starting with Gough, the funds doubled and doubled again. Today there is too much money chasing too little talent. I would cut and cut again until only the very best in each field was able to benefit. Overall, I would say that the lavish funding of the arts since 1970 has indeed produced much that Australians of future generations will appreciate. At the same time, much funding has fallen on stony ground. There is a good case for the funding of such expensive fields as orchestral music and opera sufficient to keep the companies in existence with the user paying (through he nose) the balance. Incidentally, if you want to see a case of the beneficiary biting the hand that fed it, look no further than the National Museum, which represented everything that was anathema to the good Mr. John Howard.

    • Don Aitkin says:


      I should have made the point that what we have in the arts is a tripartite arrangement. If I go to the Australian Opera, or the CSO, I do pay quite a lot for doing so. But if there were no corporate support (Mazda for the opera, various companies for the CSO) I would pay even more. The CSO doesn’t get much from governments of any kind, but the opera certainly does. I doubt that I could go to the Australian Opera at all — far too expensive — were it not for the multiple sources of funding.

  • David says:

    The interesting thing about Art, Don is that it is, to a large extent a public good. My ability to enjoy Beethoven’s 5th at a concert in the park would not reduce your ability to enjoy the same concert. Consumption is non-rival. As any second year economist can tell you the provision of public good is one of three types of market failure. Hence, it is economically rational for Governments to subsidize the production of art.

    Interestingly, another example of market failure is the production of externalities, such as the production of CO2 and the global warming that it causes. Again, it is rational for the Government to intervene in the market, with a tax or subsidy, when 97% of climate scientists say there is obvious evidence of a market failure.

    • spangled drongo says:

      Makes you wonder how all that extra-tropical dead coral along our coastline came about.

      Could it be that a millennia or two ago that even without SUVs the seas were warm enough to produce it?

      It seems too cold to grow there these days. Maybe more el Ninos then?

  • David says:

    The whole point of the play is to ask people to reflect on this


  • JMO says:

    Well written as always< Don. I have just a niggling point when you mention "the American Revolution. "

    This is, by and large, what the US citizens call it but I consider it inaccurate, and I did mention this a few times to guides when I visited Boston and Philadelphia in October 2014.

    I consider the accurate name for the war between the 13 colonies and England (1775-83) is the American War of Independence because the colonists merely wanted independence, their desire was not to overthrow King George III.

    A revolution's aim is to overthrow the existing governing power in a particular country, for example the French Revolution (overthrew King Louis XVI), the Russian Revolution (overthrew Tsar Nicholas II or the English Revolution which overthrew Charles I and we just have to consider the countless South American revolutions to be convinced of this fact.

    Although the ideas and principles expressed by eminent figures such as Benjamin Franklin would rightfully be considered revolutionary at the time, after all European kings were still only slowly crawling out of Middle Age thinking and seeking independence was a big ask, however the war itself was about English colonists fighting for independence and not to overthrow their king; King George III.

    One final point, before the war a delegation led by Benjamin Franklin, travelled to England to plead for representation in the English Parliament (instead of through the Colonial Office), even one lousy seat would have been sufficient. But the English arrogantly refused and the rest as they say is history

    • Don Aitkin says:


      I accept your argument, and think that you have the better position. But the use of ‘Revolution’ is widespread, not just in the US. I think I have been using it throughout my working life. I’ll see how I go next time!

  • […] At the discussion on arts funding that I mentioned the other day, one of the panel spoke well about the need for ‘a mature discussion’, in which each side really listened to the other, and thought about what they had heard. I was reminded at once of an encounter I had experienced at the University of Canberra, in my last year there. My resourceful deputy, Meredith Edwards, who knew a great deal about how you can translate good research ideas into effective policy, suggested that we meet with two union leaders under a neutral arbiter and have a ‘mature discussion’ about matters affecting our staff, most of them union members. I agreed, and a series of meetings took place. We did have a mature discussion, and both sides learned a lot. I might be wrong, but I think honours were shared, in that each side had misconceptions about the position of the other, and when they were cleared away there was plenty of room to move forward. […]

  • […] (who wrote one of the initial posts in response to Kill Climate Deniers receiving funding) wrote a reflection on the event which is well worth a […]

  • […] decried it too, sight unseen. The climate sceptic and writer Don Aitken blogged about it and the ACT shadow arts minister, Brendan Smyth, condemned the funding body for the decision. In […]

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