In earlier essays I have written about the virtues of optimism versus pessimism,  on multi-ethnicity rather than multi-culturalism (for example, here), and on the nation-state versus internationalism (for example, here). I remain firm in my preferences there, but in this essay I retreat a little from a related past position. I have come to see some further virtues in ‘diversity’, or perhaps some further justifications for it, which had previously passed me by. ‘Diversity’ today is mostly code for people of different ethnic origins, religions and gender. But it can and should apply to cultural styles as well.

I start with some personal history. From an early age I have been fascinated by what we call ‘classical music’, or Western art music. There is a whole radio station devoted to it inside the ABC, Classic FM, and I turn it on in our house when we wake up, and turn it off when it is time to go to sleep. For more than fifty years I was a subscriber to the Canberra Symphony Orchestra’s annual seasons, and for shorter periods a subscriber to the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Musica Viva, the Australian Opera and the Australian Ballet. I saw these arts as the highpoint, or one of the highpoints, of Western culture, as I did Shakespeare’s plays and the best literature, philosophy and history of Western societies. I enjoyed going to concerts and performances, but I also felt that I ought to go to them, and I supported these organisations financially as well, when I could afford to do so.

Of course, I had done an arts degree, and these highpoints were not only what I studied but what all my teachers seemed to see as highpoints as well. If you had asked me, I could have given you a decent account of why all this ‘high culture’ was important to humanity. As I grew older I realised that not everyone shared my virtuous views. For some years I was in a position to argue strongly for the building of a large theatre for the national capital, one in which opera and ballet could be staged properly. If theatres are too small you cannot stage major productions as they ought to be staged, and you will need several nights of performance to satisfy your likely audience. But putting on an opera for several nights will increase your costs too, and besides, the large companies don’t have much spare time. So, in general, no big theatre = no big productions.

I had puzzled over why contemporary governments were prepared to spend billions on sports stadia, which reminded me forcibly of the way in which Roman emperors appeased the masses, along with keeping bread prices low. At length I was able to argue my case to the relevant Minister, a good man and an excellent politician. He heard me at length. And when it was his turn, he asked some questions about ballet. I pointed out that the last time I had seen Swan Lake in our theatre, one of the little swans had disappeared behind the drapes, which caused the audience to laugh. Tchaikovsky would not have approved.

He stroked his chin. ‘Ballet,’ he said. ‘It does nothing for me at all. I’ve seen a bit of it. Now Rugby League, on the other hand…’ and his face broke into a smile. This was not the time to talk about high culture and its civilising effect on the masses, partly because I knew that the masses were not interested in opera or ballet. In fact, Classic FM gets a tiny share of the radio audience, and classical music, combined with screen and games music, gets only about five per cent of the market. The masses like pop, rock, country and western, rap and other forms. I’ve thought about why this is so. It’s not simply the short time space of such music, because most classical music relies on repetition to get its message across. I’ve read or heard that Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony has around 180 repetitions of the dit-dit-dit-daah figure in the first movement. People remember that figure. No, pop and related styles are popular also because they have memorable rhythms, harmonies or lyrics, and their appeal is direct and immediate. Art music takes longer to appreciate.

In any case, carrying on about the higher values of your own personal taste doesn’t really cut it. People like what they like. If you give them an opportunity to hear or see other possible cultural forms, they will make a choice. You mightn’t like their choice, or wish they had chosen your favourite form, but they have chosen. Maybe they’ll pick up your preferred form later. As the Romans liked to say, de gustibus non est disputandum — there’s no arguing about tastes. My mother banned comics in our house when I was young, and then relaxed the ban if the comic was one of Classics Illustrated. It didn’t matter. We boys read the banned comics at our friends’ places, and in any case we were into books much more than comics, which were a short phase in my life.

Maybe in all societies there are people who want to tell others what they should do, read, listen to, dance, paint. There seem to be a lot of them today. Some of their effort is sensible. What we teach in schools needs finally to produce adults who can read, write, count and think. It would be nice if the adults also had some history and geography. But that kind of teaching is best reserved, I think, for children. I’m not at all sure about whether others besides parents should teach about ‘good behaviour’, since my feeling is that we learn best about that through experience. We all try to instill modes of good behaviour into our children, who in any case will model their behaviour (including their driving) on what they see us do. Treating others as you would wish to be treated yourself is a good rule, but it comes through experience. What is best to eat, how much exercise you should have, how much grog — these are matters that you will learn about through experience. Maybe you will never learn. That does happen for some.

If we are an aspiring democracy in which each adult has much the same capacity to decide what to do and how to do it, always with the proviso that what one wants to do should not prevent others from doing what they want to do, why should we try to instruct others in what we think is best for them? My position here is that of J. S. Mill in On Liberty (for a summary, try here), and for Mill liberty or freedom is the condition that allows a person the opportunity to learn what is best for them. Telling adults what they should do, when that is not the adult’s preference, is to tell them that you know better than they do. We have a lot of that about today. Perhaps we always have had a lot about. Ironically, the instructions are more diverse that they once were, and the instructors now rely on ‘science’, not religion. The supposed ‘findings of science’ are employed in matters of food, smoking, health, climate, road safety, mining, transport, you name it. Unfortunately, science is a dynamic form of knowledge-generation, and what is true today may not be true tomorrow. Science once proclaimed that butter was bad for us, and we shifted to margarine. Now, apparently, that is no longer the case. Over the years I’ve come to the view that adults should be left to make their own decisions about all of these things, always remembering Mill’s warning that such freedom is constrained by our need to respect the equal freedom of others. Provide advice, yes. Make it clear that such advice is contingent on the advance of knowledge. ‘At the moment…’ you might begin. But leave it at that.

And what has all that got to do with opera and ballet? There was a time when opera houses, libraries, art galleries and large theatres were built, in all our big cities. That was the 1960s. Time has moved on. Governments make decisions about how to spend public money guided by their sense of public sentiment. In the 1960s there was some sense that we were uncultured, and we needed to show that we weren’t. Premier Joe Cahill, whose determination enabled the building of Sydney’s Opera House, was convinced that until Sydney had one, no one outside our shores would take the city seriously. He was persuasive, partly because his view was widely shared. Those days have passed.

Contemporary governments plainly prefer building sport stadia to opera houses. Quite reasonable people prefer to go camping or fishing, play computer games, attend football matches, or go to movies, the club or the pub, rather than go to museums, concerts or art galleries. And there are lots and lots of those reasonable people. Those of us, a very much smaller group, who have the desire to see properly staged large operas and ballets, will be at the end of a long queue, unless we campaign hard, widely and over time, and perhaps even then. The irony is that those who value what is sometimes called ‘the high culture’ are now mostly university-educated (Joe Cahill wasn’t), but even in that group the opera-lovers are not at all a majority. Nonetheless, the university-educated elite are happy to tell the more benighted what they should do in all other aspects of life.

I would have thought Shakespeare, Bach, da Vinci and Jane Austen were more valuable to the human spirit, all things considered, than food-miles, plastic-bag avoidance, wind turbines and the paleo diet, but perhaps that is because I am an old (white, male) fogey. In any case, I think there is a case for those who want to make others good people remembering the diversity cuts both ways: we don’t in fact have, for example, an ‘obesity crisis’, though the news presenter talked about it the other day. What we have are people who like to eat a lot. They can afford to. Let them. There are many, many other examples.



























Join the discussion 63 Comments

  • Bryan Roberts says:

    I think over-eating, smoking, drinking, and a tendency to attend the NY Met to hear Renee Fleming, rather than being blown up in Manchester watching Ariana Grande, are not ‘diversity’ at all – rather, what would have been called, in pre-modern times, freedom of choice. I am not defending any positions, simply noting that they exist. Diversity is a point on the normal curve. More authoritative commentators have pointed out that a lack of balance has consequences, mostly unintended, because, as the power of minorities increases, diversity decreases. Example: you can hardly find a smoker having a fag outside a building in mid-town. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it is certainly an irrefutable example of a loss of ‘diversity’. There is equally irrefutable evidence that, as Muslims have reached a majority population in some suburbs of London, ethnic ‘diversity’ has decreased. Be careful what you wish for.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      I think ‘freedom of choice’ is what I was getting at. When I was younger I thought that people ought to be encouraged (pushed, dragooned) to search out ‘the better things in life’, rather than settle for easy stuff (fish and chips, pop music, video games). Now I see human occupations and interests as very wide indeed, and provided that what others want to do doesn’t make it difficult for me to do what I want to do, I should leave others to do their own thing(s).

      I do think that diversity is increasing,compared to fifty years ago, in part because we have more disposable income, and in part because of the sheer inventiveness of humanity.

  • PeterE says:

    When it comes to music, it is not a question of either/or. It is quite possible to be able to enjoy a symphony or opera and a brass band or any of a variety of popular forms from jazz, to country and western, to hymn singing, to rock and roll – well, maybe not rock and roll. It is in part about the artist and her art and being able to judge that with discernment. I was listening to some Billie Holliday and at first I was thinking ‘well, she can barely hold a tune’ but then I noticed how she really had inhabited the persona of the woman singing about covering the waterfront, watching the sea, ‘will the one I love come back to me?’ She was also backed by a group of superb musicians. There was nothing left to do but to applaud. So diversity in the arts is good. Of course, when it comes to public subsidies that is another question.
    Beethoven’s favourite fruit? Ba-na-na-naa.

  • Gary Luke says:

    Your personal path towards something you call diversity sounds a little like a gradual loss of faith in your own judgement. Those other modes of the arts which appeal to various finesse of taste have always had a legitimate place. Your “diversity” is not the same meaning of “diversity” that’s current on twitter and twittering academia.

  • Chris Warren says:

    In general diversity (that does not impact negatively on others) is a solid foundation for modern society. However it is hard to carry this principle into areas where selling commodities like margarine and “grog” may impact negatively on consumers and bystanders. Asbestos, chlorofluorocarbons, nicotine and industrial GHGs are all aspects of diversity we are better off reducing to the point where negative impacts are residual and do no significant harm to users or remote bystanders.

    It is not possible to place one set of needs over another across society. Only some individuals can do this ranking and then only based essentially on their private subjective instincts. Plenty of people may view “than food-miles, plastic-bag avoidance, wind turbines and the paleo diet,” as having higher value than “Shakespeare, Bach, da Vinci and Jane Austen”. There is no basis for ranking these examples.

    It is important to ensure that calls for diversity do not inject harm into the community at large.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      Agree with this general point. Smokers pay a large amount to indulge their habit, and if they live to 60 or more will have paid off the medical help they will need. I don’t know asbestos comes into this discussion, or chlorofluorcarbons, for the matter. Public health is a government responsibility. I am talking about persona tastes and their outcome. Yes, tobacco can cause harm to others, but that is relatively easily dealt with.

  • margaret says:

    Live and let live.
    Every town I visit I note the memorials to the warmongers who took so many of the young men from each town and then attempt to repair that irreparable damage with words like ‘the glorious dead’. Then we gravitate towards the local museums. Recently Corowa’s Federation museum, housed in one of that towns old buildings. As usual the museums, like libraries give me some sort of satisfaction just on entering them. I also like art galleries. The fact that these are free or nominally charged is fantastic for society.
    Opera and ballet – I appreciate that they exist but have no interest in attending although I’ve been to a couple. Shakespeare I haven’t read sufficiently but know the tales and enjoy. Plays can be rewarding. The trouble with high culture is that it requires a level of background education in the forms and a level of income to attend the performances. I have eclectic music tastes and like a little classical but tastes build and alter over time.
    Sport. It can be good to watch a sport played at its highest level but as one of three daughters, we played our netball and tennis, somehow learned to swim and the “passion” for football and cricket completely passed us by. Very occasionally I regret that I can’t get more excited about it but I just go and read a book 🙂
    So live and let live is a motto for diversity but also … a good public education system broadens horizons for ordinary people.

    • margaret says:

      That first sentence is not right of course. I don’t mean memorials to the warmongers. I mean memorials to WWI and II. WWI being the war Australians, (who unfortunately were British subjects) were encouraged by the warmonger Billy Hughes to enlist to fight and die ‘gloriously’.

      • Peter B says:

        Your last comment …’a good public education system broadens horizons for ordinary people’, certainly might have been the case decades ago, but not anymore. Apart from a system that indoctrinates our young and restricts free thought, the academic results are appalling.

      • spangled drongo says:

        Marg, do you have any idea of the politics involved in WW1?

        If Britain had lost to Germany, Australia would have changed forever.

        And Billy Hughes awa many other Australians [mostly women?] thought that the totally voluntary force needed the support of conscripts and it was high time the free-loaders pulled their weight.

        Nevertheless the army remained totally voluntary.

        And guess what, marg? People die in wars. And when you are a volunteer doing it out of love for your country, it is a truly glorious sacrifice.

        How many would do it today?

        • margaret says:

          You’re right Bo J.

        • margaret says:

          “On 31 July 1914, the day after the Governor-General received official advice that war was imminent, both Andrew Fisher and Joseph Cook pledged support to the Empire in their election campaigns. Fisher delivered his famous phrase, repeated in many speeches: ‘Australians will stand beside our own to help and defend her to our last man and our last shilling’. Four days later, Britain declared war on Germany. For Australians, this meant their nation too was at war.
          A month later, Labor was elected to govern once more and Andrew Fisher became Prime Minister for the third time.“

        • margaret says:

          I’ve gone off topic but Andrew Fisher sounds like a good PM.
          “Of course, Fisher’s notion of socialism was not the socialism of Marx or Lenin. How could it be? Australia was not the land of Russian serfs or even the land of unenfranchised British workers. It was a land where white people had enjoyed the franchise for half a century and where they mostly enjoyed the economic bounties that the continent had to offer. As a result, Fisher’s socialism was one of incremental improvement rather than revolutionary overthrow. It was about the State making capitalism fairer and providing a safety net for those who had fallen on hard times.
          As Fisher explained, the aim of the Labor Party was ‘to see that every child born into the world should have a fair start in life; if a wife lost her husband, to see that she was not overburdened in bringing up her children …’ As for socialism, it was about providing ‘social justice to every person who acted justly’, which would include employers, and ensuring that ‘every man should have his just due, and every woman also’.”

      • Boambee John says:

        Actually margaret, it was Andrew Fisher who pledged Australia’s support “to the last man and the last shilling”.

    • dlb says:

      I don’t think it was just the ruling elites who had war fever in 1914, from what I can see it was through all levels of Australian society. Perhaps the Irish Catholics weren’t too keen? Speaking for my own family, my grandfather wasn’t interested, but peer and family pressure finally made him enlist. He subsequently lost a limb and nearly his life.

      • margaret says:

        Live and let live (World War I).
        “This behaviour was found at the small-unit level, sections, platoons or companies, usually observed by the “other ranks”, e.g., privates and non-commissioned officers. Examples were found from the lone soldier standing sentry duty, refusing to fire on exposed enemy soldiers, up to snipers, machine-guns teams and even field-artillery batteries.
        The Higher Commands, Division, Corps and Army Commanders and their staffs, were aware of this tendency towards non-aggression, and would sometimes analyse casualty statistics to detect it. Raids or patrols were often ordered to foster the correct “offensive spirit” in the troops.”

  • spangled drongo says:

    Diversity in our daily lifestyles is something that grows with any increase in our standard of living, education and modern technology but our more crucial diversity of culture is being affected by our desire with big migrational growth c/w progressive brain bubbles to become multicultural rather than assimilated.

    I remember when migrants were proud to call themselves “New Australians”.

    We have moved from a tightly knit community to one that doesn’t trust its neighbours [with good reason].

    That sort of diversity we don’t need.

  • spangled drongo says:

    Diversity is more important than quality.

    Marg will love YouTube’s idea of diversity:

    YouTube ‘excludes white and Asian males from jobs over diversity’

    “Last spring, YouTube recruiters were allegedly instructed to cancel interviews with applicants who weren’t female, black or Hispanic, and to “purge entirely” the applications of people who didn’t fit those categories, the lawsuit claims.”

  • Boambee John says:

    My only comment on smoking, drugs, booze, etc is that as long as the taxpayer foots much of the health bill, the taxpayer has a deep and abiding interest in their behaviour.
    Now, if people presenting at doctors or hospitals with problems caused by such behaviour had to pay their full costs, I could soften that view.

    • Bryan Roberts says:

      Which you might, if society could find any behaviour for which you could be blamed. Not as simple as you might think. Do you want to end up in Emergency ticking a box that says ‘never eaten a McDonalds hamburger’?

    • Don Aitkin says:

      See above. Smokers pay a great deal in a tax designed to wean them off the narcotic. And of course they are taxpayers too.

  • spangled drongo says:

    The bleedin’ obvious that has been stated many times but still the Progs don’t get:

    “An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class.

    That class had insisted that socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.

    The professor then said, “OK, we will have an experiment in this class”. All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an A…. (substituting grades for dollars – something closer to home and more readily understood by all).

    After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little

    had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.

    The second test average was a D! No one was happy. When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F.

    As the tests proceeded, the scores never increased as bickering, blame and

    name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.

    To their great surprise, ALL FAILED and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed.

    1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.

    2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.

    3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

    4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!

    5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.”

    • dlb says:

      Except in todays class (society) there are too many students and not enough books (jobs) to go around.

      If this was Australia in the 1950s or 60s your analogy might be relevant.

      • spangled drongo says:

        So, dlb, therefore the principle doesn’t apply?

        And entitlement takes over?

        • dlb says:

          In a wealthy country such as Australia I think people should be entitled to at least a modestly paying job. Unfortunately I suggest we have a bad case of market failure where trickle down economics is not working, as labour is being outsourced to cheap foreign workers either in other countries or on 457 visas here. Not to mention company profits being spent on machines rather than human employment.

          You may be concerned to know that many intelligent people on the Left are considering the idea of a living wage for those being cut out of employment by the current economic system. I find this quite frightening, as people need something to do. Automation is great for soul or body destroying jobs, but instead it is being used to maximise company profits.

          With many young people unable to take out a house mortgage, competing with foreigners on dodgy visas, forced to study till their mid twenties and still not get a decent job, I think Australia no longer the lucky country.

          • spangled drongo says:

            I think people are also approaching it from the wrong side.

            Look at the way kids are brought up today. No idea of work. Very high expectations and entitlement. Suppositories of wisdom, etc.

            Parents who are not well off often bring their kids up in a fool’s world.

            In the bush it is more realistic but in the suburbs it is so often crazy.

          • Don Aitkin says:

            Agree about the living wage idea. Jobs also provide a social context, a range of associates some of whom will become friends, and a pattern to life which has some meaning. The living wage alone does not do any of that.

      • PeterD says:

        Hullo spangled drongo

        You wrote: “When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.”

        This statement would be supported by many people, particularly in the US but certainly Australia as well. It also touches upon contemporary political issues such as income inequality, gated communities, donations to charitable funds, the level of welfare payments etc.

        I know CentreLink staff who sometimes deal with third generation welfare recipients; I personally know three young people who are capable of working but much prefer what they see as the comfort of living on welfare payments. There are groups of young people who surf along the central coast towns and come in for morning tea and they used to be called ‘John’s army’ or ‘Julia’s army’ but are now ‘Malcolm’s army’. Personally I have strong reservations about benefits that accrue to the tax exemption status around religions etc: many of the problems religions experience stem from a culture of ‘money-changers’ in the temple and the conflation of religion with money is bizarre. The culture of television evangelists, huge wealth of some religions, Scientology etc come close, in many instances, to perversion of religion.

        What is sometimes lacking, however, in your statement above is a lack of will and equality to dismantle the privileges of the well-off. Why should someone such as Trump who has been bankrupt at least three times, and has disguised tax losses etc be rewarded? Why should family tax trusts and negative gearing in Australia be retained when these structures clearly support the well-off and in fact inhibit young people from earlier access to the market place? Why do Tasmanians elect a government that draws considerable finance from supporters of gambling and reduced shooting constraints that want policies that oppress the rights of many?

        Even though I am very critical of what I see as false religion, I am struck by the gospel observation….’the poor will be always with you’. Almsgiving, care for the marginalised, looking after widows in Old Testament societies, support for the single mother in ours etc, respect and support for refugees. In the context of a forum discussion in ‘The Australian’ your statement would be regarded as prescient whereas in ‘The Guardian’ it would be condemned as heartless and devoid of any compassion. It is far from a simple issue. The story of the Good Samaritan is often presented as an ideal of generosity of spirit towards someone who has been mistreated.

        So while I recognise some truth in your statement, there is a disturbing element to it and it is one that has perplexed political parties. Even now in the US the contrast between Republicans and Democrats in the way Obamacare has been dismantled illustrates this. It often gets down to the view that “it’s each one for themself said the elephant, as it danced among the chickens.” When one looks, too, at countries such as Syria where the poor and vulnerable are bombed out of existence, or when there is an outpouring of money and good will after humanitarian disasters, there is much to be said for human compassion and a concern for the marginalised, the vulnerable, the downtrodden.

        • spangled drongo says:

          “…there is much to be said for human compassion and a concern for the marginalised, the vulnerable, the downtrodden.”

          Yes Indeed, PeterD, but some of these issues are very multi-faceted.

          People voluntarily donate to all charities but should we be forcibly instructed to be compassionate and precisely instructed where our charities must lie?

    • Chris Warren says:

      This is an absolute lie.

      No economics professor said this.

      No economic professor failed a whole class for such a stupid reason.

      Please post your lies elsewhere.

      • spangled drongo says:

        And you just know this, hey blith?

        By using the same cognitive [dis]function as you do for all the rest of your hysterical proggy catastrophics?

      • Chris Warren says:

        Normal practice for drongos.

        • spangled drongo says:

          Some normal practice for drongos is to be diverse enough to observe local phenomena incl sea levels going nowhere over long periods.

          “This is an absolute lie.”

          As determined by some blitherers who love to deny the real world.

          What’s new?

          But if people who live where land is subsiding are more concerned and have more tide gauges than people who live where land is rising, guess what that will prove?

      • PeterD says:

        Hullo spangled drongo

        You write that “People voluntarily donate to all charities.” That may be generally true but my view is that the tax-exempt status of many charities should be removed. There are relentless telephone intrusive calls in the name of charities; there are many homeless people nowadays who seek money from passers-by; there are many religions and cults that almost ‘conscript’ their adherents; and many evangelists etc talk of ‘tithing’ 10% of one’s income as if it was some sort of religious doctrine. So to me the essence is that it’s done voluntarily: you don’t extract forcibly what’s not freely given. And in Australian society there is a generosity of spirit that surfaces in times of disaster and human misery. And I believe the charities that would survive the removal of tax-exemption status are the more genuine ones.

        You pose the question: “should we be forcibly instructed to be compassionate and precisely instructed where our charities must lie?” I struggle to understand how you could litigate, legislate or proscribe a compassionate heart. I understand that there is considerable pressure, as I imply above, to attract the charity dollar and it is, in fact, a very competitive sector but the notion of being ‘forcibly instructed’ is odious and should be resisted at all times.

        • spangled drongo says:

          PeterD, I’d much rather have charities ringing me up asking than have a socialist govt mandating.

          Because that’s what we have in spades at present.

          In the first case you are in charge.

          In the second, you’re not only not in charge, you have no idea of the extent to which you are being ripped off.

    • David says:


      And then along comes a constraint on your theory of endless growth, like AGW, and your parable gets blasted out of the water.

  • IRFM says:

    Your comments on cultural wars v sporing edifices is quite interesting. Away from the crowded cities, the country areas enjoy a more balanced approach. In fact if you consider the large facility at Tamworth for the two forms of country music along with recent significant art house additions in Ballarat and Bendigo as examples you will get some sense of rising diverse cultural consumption in the countryside. Central Victoria enjoys a constant uptick of visitors coming into the regions to enjoy the improving art’s scene. Not that sporting facilities are ignored it is just that there seems to be more of a balance between that and the arts.

    • PeterD says:

      Hullo spangled drongo,

      I would be most interested in, say two examples, of where you believe you are being mandated by a socialist government, being ripped off in the process and feeling powerless as well.

      • spangled drongo says:

        Peter, even right wing govts are ripping us off with mindless handouts in every direction. It isn’t necessarily the receiver being unworthy, it is the unaffordable amounts involved.

        Since the Howard/Costello days we have gone from a balanced budget [zero debt] to a trillion in debt.

        That’s a debt of $40,000 each.

        But effectively much more for the lifters.

        Here’s some good insight from Steven Kates:

        Steven Kates

        RMIT University

        Date Written: October 19, 2016


        Since the publication of The General Theory, pre-Keynesian economics has been labelled “classical,” but what that classical economics actually consisted of is now virtually an unknown. There is, instead, a straw-man caricature most economists absorb through a form of academic osmosis but which is never specifically taught, not even as part of a course in the history of economics. The paper outlines the crucial features that differentiate modern macroeconomics from classical theory, with the emphasis on what an economist would have understood as The General Theory was being published. Based on the differences outlined, a model of classical economic theory is presented which explains how pre-Keynesian economists understood the operation of the economy, the causes of recession and why a public-spending stimulus was universally rejected by mainstream economists before 1936. The classical model presented is an amalgam of the final edition of John Stuart Mill’s 1848 Principles of Political Economy published in his lifetime and Henry Clay’s influential 1916 Economics: an Introduction for the General Reader, a text which was itself built from the economics of Mill.

  • Bryan Roberts says:

    “‘Diversity’ today is mostly code for people of different ethnic origins, religions and gender. But it can and should apply to cultural styles as well.”

    Really? Well, let’s see what’s on offer.

    Art? There must be hundreds of thousands of images of Jesus in public spaces. Mohammad? One is inclined to wonder why it is a killable offence to portray someone so universally loved by billions of adherents. I have seen the beauty of the interior of hundreds of cathedrals, and the aridity of dozens of mosques. They are all exactly the same, exemplars of the tiler’s art, but bare spaces, possibly with a few carpets that you can’t walk on. Not much joy there.

    Music? Not only the ABC, independent (publicly-funded) stations in most states broadcast classical music. Asian, Indian music has an audience, but Arab/Islam has almost no tradition, let alone a following. Not much joy there, either.
    It seems irrefutable that Western civilisation has lost confidence in itself. Perhaps Don’s next essay could address why ‘diversity’ can and should apply to cultural styles as well, and explain why none are better than any other.

    It is certainly possible that aliens might find the didgeridoo one of the highest attainments of our civilisation, but I doubt it.

    • PeterD says:

      Hullo spangled drongo,

      You draw attention to the trend, since the Howard/Costello days, from a balanced budget to one of a trillion debt, with an average debt of $40,000 each. Living beyond our means – both as a nation and as individuals: this momentum is ghastly. I couldn’t agree more.

      One insight from Kates [2016] that struck me: “Modern economic analysis is conducted almost entirely in money terms, with the structure of the economy generally ignored…….. The fact is, however, that money has become the observable reality while the underlying resource base has become near invisible. The preoccupation with money has made economic theory more shallow and less coherent.” The subtext of what is occurring, the values that drive such runaway consumption/spending, living for the moment, failure to save, the lack of discipline, the failure of leaders to address the basic facts etc are of interest to me.

      You did not, however, provide an example where there is a conjunction of the three elements that you mentioned in your other posting:

      *mandated by a socialist government,
      *being ripped off in the process and
      *feeling powerless as well.

      In your posting the $40,000 debt/person is a concern but even in these situations one is not powerless. There are enormous drivers of personal debt in Australia around advertising, costs of living, daily pressures on one’s money (e.g., toll roads in Sydney!). But even in this situation – and I hope I am not being smug about – one can make choices such as catching the bus or train, living within one’s means and not adding to the national debt. So even in this context one is not powerless. In fact, this discussion is about diversity and ‘dare to be different’ is part of that agenda.

      So, spangled drongo, I am still interested in an example where those three elements co-exist.

      • spangled drongo says:

        PeterD, re your 3 points:

        1/ What do you feel about any govt that increasingly installs these multiple, unaffordable socialist policies actually being a socialist govt?

        2/…. about contributors to that govt [net taxpayers], being lifters, not being impressed with having the increased debt thrust upon them?

        3/…. about when entitlement reaches it present proportion of more than 50% of the population [leaners exceed lifters] that not only do lifters feel powerless, they ARE powerless.

        I thought that was explained above.

      • spangled drongo says:

        PeterD, I agree that the shrinking of the resource base is a serious concern and therefore we should be talking about reducing the population. The more obvious that becomes the less popular the subject.

        • PeterD says:

          Hullo spangled drongo,

          1/ What do you feel about any govt that increasingly installs these multiple, unaffordable socialist policies actually being a socialist govt?

          The key word is ‘unaffordable’ or even ‘unsustainable’ and I agree that it is a most undesirable trend. I prefer to simply use the word ‘government’ and say it’s very poor public economic policy. Republicans in the US resisted Obama’s attempts to blow out the budget and Liberals under Abbott wanted to rein in spending in Australia but fiscal restraint lost the battle in blow-outs to government spending.

          2/…. about contributors to that govt [net taxpayers], being lifters, not being impressed with having the increased debt thrust upon them?

          It’s true that ‘lifters’ aren not impressed with increased debt but as one who neither wants to be called a ‘lifter’ or a ‘leaner’ I would like to see the budget reined in by removing some of the costly financial tax benefits that ‘lifters’ enjoy, such as family trusts, negative gearing, tax havens and other tax exemptions.

          3/…. about when entitlement reaches it present proportion of more than 50% of the population [leaners exceed lifters] that not only do lifters feel powerless, they ARE powerless.

          In the US and Australia, there are many well-off individuals who feel resentful about their taxes being used to support those on welfare benefits, especially when they come across instances of false claims, abuse around claims and an unwillingness to work etc. Nevertheless, inequality of incomes, like debt blow-outs, is increasing. When there is such extreme gaps between the well-off and the poor – as is the case in the US – the critical issues become break-down in society – with violence, robberies, lack of infrastructure, school funding etc, status-envy…

          Just as a general comment, the terminology we use can inhibit precision of meaning. The term ‘socialism’ could be replaced with terms such as communism, collectivism, fascism, Bolshevism, Fabianism, Leninism, Maoism, Marxism etc. All of these terms, in my view, are problematic and indeed are dated in terms of contemporary politics. Bronwyn Bishop, for instance, said: “I do know that there are socialists out there who want to attack free enterprise and anyone who sticks up for it. I know that socialists, like alcoholics, will blame anyone but themselves. Whereas alcoholics can damage their own family, socialists can destroy the whole country.” Greens, Lee Rhiannon, a contemporary of Bronwyn Bishop, was familiar with ‘communism’ in her family context but essentially these departed politicians are from a different era and we need to adopt more contemporary terminology. The spectrum of issues/politics around ‘collectivist’ to ‘laissez fare’ governments are clearly with us today in different guises but new terminology is required. Don would be an expert in this area and he adopts professional, less emotive terminology.

          Similarly with the terms ‘lifters’ and ‘leaners’. Tony Abbott often used divisive, pejorative language and some argue that our ex PM’s thinking is deeply rooted in the past. The challenge is not to deny that there are those who contribute to the nation’s wealth, and those who are recipients but to find ways to describe them accurately. It is true, for instance, that many who contribute also extract considerable financial advantages and that those who receive welfare benefits may contribute in terms of art and other ways. In my view, ‘lifters’ and ‘leaners’ are not pure and discrete categories. But the discussions around ‘contributing’ and ‘extracting’ are well worth conducting, especially about getting the balance right. Just as a throw-away final comment, Gina Rhinehart’s personal wealth is more that the current debt of WA yet much of this has been acquired from the earth in WA.

          • PeterD says:

            Hi spangled drongo

            You referred to ‘reducing the population’.

            I would agree with Tony Abbott’s view that there is timely now to review Australia’s annual immigration intake, the number of overseas workers on visas etc. the numbers of overseas students in our universities, providing our youth with more TAFE education and training etc.

            Look at Italy, Germany, Austria: countries are all like eco-systems. When people arrive in big numbers from a different religion/culture/race etc there is an optimum level of integration and assimilation. The ancient Greeks used to say virtue was the happy medium – not too much, not too little. Too many arrivals: right-wing nutters flourish; ghettoes develop; infrastructure in Sydney and Melbourne can’t cope etc but with the right level of intake, business, jobs can flourish.

          • spangled drongo says:

            PeterD, as I previously said: the main vice of capitalism is the uneven distribution of prosperity. Rinehart money was earned legally and created probably even more wealth for the country and others during the making.

            That is how the free market works but govts’ prime economic task in normal times is to be responsible enough to balance the books.

            With an excess of the entitled these days in forming controlling minorities, what is happening with unnecessary welfare and extreme deficits is unstoppable.

            The end result of becoming another Venezuela, Haiti, Zimbabwe, North Korea etc where the vast population are poor and miserable and poorly balanced by the miniscule ruling, wealthy elite, will not be to our benefit.

          • spangled drongo says:

            BTW the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain weren’t built to keep people out.

          • spangled drongo says:

            PeterD, yes, I agree. You would not think it would be too hard to work out a better [reduced] number to get a more effective level of integration and assimilation.

            Did you see this? This is what I mean by being ripped off and powerless: “More than half of Australia’s foreign aid advisers are paid tax-free rates of between $500 and $1000 a day, leaving taxpayers with a bill of $182 million for almost 2200 advisers to regional neighbours.”

            $182 mil and that’s just to get advice on how to give exponentially more away!!!


  • spangled drongo says:

    Diversity is the main corollary of capitalism.

    The main vice of capitalism is the uneven distribution of prosperity.

    The main vice of socialism is the even distribution of misery.

    • PeterD says:

      Hi spangled drongo,

      These ‘inducements’ – whether for foreign aid workers, whether for staff to move to Armidale, or for Julie Bishop’s travel companion, or for ex-PM travel etc – need to be benchmarked against benefits available in reasonable circumstances. The procedure, if you receive such an offer, is to ‘bite off as much as you can chew, and chew like buggery.’

      We live in an age when it’s only the journalistic focus that leads to short-term shame-faced experience, and many of the journalists themselves have different lenses. It’s a rare individual who personally foots the bill themself and that raises questions of ‘diversity’: why one and not another!

  • spangled drongo says:

    However, as a red hot topic at the moment, the Diversity Council of Australia are a bit like our HRC.

    They are the living, screaming reverse of what they claim themselves to be. Right into gender appropriate-ness and anti-diversity.

    Alan Joyce and Qantas with their DCA-inspired corporate thought police are busting to shed their newly-won popularity and profits.

    Sell your Qantas shares quick while they are in the black:

  • spangled drongo says:

    The marvels of modern “diversity”. The hypocrisy of the progressives:

    “‘Kill Climate Deniers’ – Now Showing at a Sydney Theatre”

  • Don Aitkin says:

    The last few days have been busy ones for me, and I have had some comments by email which I feel I should share with other readers, but without any attribution.

    Here is the first:

    ‘Your choice re obesity is an unfortunate one because it is a prime example of the various negative consequences for the individual and society viz. diabetes, hypertension, ischaemic heart disease etc. being consequences for both the individual with imposts on the health system. Smoking & alcohol similarly .. moderation is possibly ok but excess is definitely not. E.g. the NHMRC puts out its recommendations re alcohol consumption, body mass index etc.
    Many of us would consider smoking to be antisocial because of the stench & adverse health impact of second hand smoke. Smokers impose their own costs on the health system via emphysema, chronic bronchitis, vascular disease & various malignancies thus ” impacting others”.’

    The second:

    ‘A couple of queries…

    People of our era didn’t have the leisure time enjoyed by today’s youth. Even the teenagers who claim that they are stressed by the pace of modern life and study. Or the availability of instant gratification items like personal computer game units, smart phones and ear plug headphones. I suggest that we were more into activities like personal sport rather than watching other people compete in stadia or on the television. We have often heard the observation that today’s “gameboy”-obsessed kids are unable to read the expressions on the faces of people with whom they might need to interact, including their own parents. My query is whether the current generation is suffering from “diversity? – too many easily-available options, peer group conformity pressure and inadequate development of coping skills to optimise their selection of activities.

    On rugby and building stadia, there’s an example in Queensland where the premier has said she’s going to build another sports stadium in Townsville, where they are already adequately supplied with a number of quite satisfactory grounds. It might be a nice vanity gesture for her favourite building union as well as getting her name on the plaque, but does nothing for the unemployed ex-Palmer employees and their indirect dependents. And with shorten chasing urban green votes over the Adani development proposal, “diversity” of alternative options doesn’t sound like a good prospect, when the wrong people get to make the important decisions.’

    And the third:

    ‘An interesting post on high and low culture!

    My position on this is there should be room for both. Culture is dynamic as is social position. There is both upward and downward social mobility. People aspire and inspire. Taste is something that is both innate – children are seemingly spontaneously attracted to some forms of culture – and educated.

    The popular culture of one era – Shakespeare – can become the high culture of another. Rick Stein mentions this with the history of Spain’s national dish paella.

    Sport is a form of ‘physical’ education. The body can be schooled as can the mind. Ballet engages both the body and mind. Thus its practice is a form of physical and artistic education. It is associated with entertainment and often in the past with political or social comment. (I am not sure what ‘ballets’ King Louis performed.)

    Perhaps sports are more closely associated with warrior training and activities in their origin? One of my favourite sporting competitions was an historic ‘fish off’ by NT indigenous groups to determine who could continue to use the sea resources (dugong) and who would shift inland and hunt kangaroo. Much better solution to a dispute than warfare! Thus, there is also a relationship between Sport and justice.

    Interesting isn’t it?’

    I’ll shortly respond to what has been a most interesting set of comments.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      Re smoking, see above. In general, if what you want to do causes plainly adverse effects on real people, then Mill would argue, as would I, that you do not (= should not) have freedom to proceed.

  • spangled drongo says:

    Welcome to the mad world of the Diversity Police:

    “DIVERSITY consultants are charging up to $1800 an hour to warn employees about the dangers of “non-inclusive” language such as “Mum”.”

    Remember David Morrison?

    Australian of the year?

    Now the top diversity cop:

    “The DCA, headed by former Australian of the Year David Morrison, charges $2500 for members or $3600 for non-members for a two-hour program delivered by “experienced DCA staff and consultants” to educate companies about “the power of words”.”

  • margaret says:

    We don’t see the term pluralistic society anymore. I remember it was used in the eighties along with multiculturalism.
    Diversity seems a buzzword to me – one that doesn’t take into account the responsibility for diverse groups and individuals to not be completely absorbed by their own uniqueness. Everyone needs to realise that we live in society with other unique groups and to appreciate that we have such a society in Australia. Margaret Thatcher famously said, there is no such thing as society and humanity went backwards because now we all simply live in an ‘economy’.

  • margaret says:

    Regarding diversity of taste, for example, musical taste.

    “We cannot love what we do not know

    As I work to improve our music education system, I am only too well aware of forces that seemingly conspire at every turn to frustrate the creative teacher and reward narrow ‘results’.

    I was drawn to teaching because I loved reading novels, poetry and plays and loved music. I still do love all these things. I am also aware that I owe debts to people who helped me directly or indirectly.

    We cannot care about those things we do not love or know, and so we need, in this country, to let our teachers know that there are some of us out there who do care about you, who do share the concept of a love of learning for its own sake, who don’t give a damn about a NAPLAN score, and who will go to the barricades for you and fight for the right for you to teach children properly.”

    • margaret says:

      I saw a great example of diversity tonight down on the village green. A band called the Hillbilly Goats. Two women dressed in corset tops and tulle skirts with lacy stockings playing fiddle, double bass and bones. A man on drums and banjo. Politically incorrect lyrics, good music. The highlight for me was the dancing at the front of the stage. Little kids and three men with intellectual disabilities. Their lack of inhibition was hilarious and joyful. Diversity is out there and it is fun.

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