Weakened Australian Liberal Party drifting into a philosophical wilderness

Weakened Australian Liberal Party drifting into a philosophical wilderness, by Chris Kenny.

In a post-Cold War age history didn’t end, as Francis Fukuyama suggested, but instead took unexpected twists. Identity politics has become ascendant, reactions to the global financial crisis seem to have unlearned many of the economic lessons of the postwar era and major political parties are flummoxed. This dynamic unfolds differently in various Western liberal democracies but commonalities include a drift away from traditional parties, resurgence of lunar-left ideology and emergence of breakaway anti-immigration or anti-Muslim parties on the right — the groups Daniel Pipes referred to last week as the “civilisationalist” parties whose raison d’etre, despite their faults, is the defence of Western civilisation. …

The time is ripe for the Liberals to consider, rediscover or redefine their organising principles.

As is perhaps fitting, the party is not overly prescriptive about its philosophy. Its touchstone “We believe” statement can be condensed into a simple edict in favour of “individual freedom and free enterprise”. …

Liberal Party office bearer and freelance writer William Dawes … offered evidence of liberalism’s inadequacy by pointing to the popularity of Canadian psychology professor and author Jordan Peterson. “He is obsessed with finding meaning in tradition,” Dawes explained. “This is completely and utterly conser­vative. It’s also an unideological phenomenon. It’s about finding meaning and extolling virtue in your life. His inexplicable popular­ity may signify a paradigm shift.”

Could this be the future of the Liberal Party? A reversion to pragmatic conservative instincts, a retreat from the fashions and ideology of liberalism and an appeal to traditions that make sense?

Writing in The Times Literary Supplement this month, British philosopher John Gray rails against what he calls the “hyper-liberalism” of university campuses and the political class. “When students from China study in Western countries one of the lessons they learn is that the enforcement of intellectual orthodoxy does not require an authoritarian government,” Gray writes.

hat-tip Stephen Neil