Hamilton for Higgins?

It’s not often that Pollytics, Andrew Bolt and Catallaxy blogs all reach the same conclusion: that Clive Hamilton is not a good candidate for Higgins.

I’ve written a couple of long critiques of Hamilton’s books (here and here). Essentially what Hamilton has been doing over a series of books and papers is to try to give his mystical worldview (he wrote a book in 1994 called The Mystical Economist), which rejects the materialism of the modern world, a respectable basis in both natural and social science. The natural science aspect argues that the environment cannot sustain this way of life, while the social science aspect argues that it is not good for our emotional or spiritual well-being.

While in my two articles on his social science I argued that he was unsuccessful, I do have a kind of admiration for the intellectual ambition behind it. Very few intellectuals try to cover so many fields in advocacy of their one core idea.

What I don’t admire is Hamilton’s politics. Though mostly he has been fairly vague on the specifics of what he thinks should be done, I think there is at least an authoritarian sub-text to his work. This is not only because he wants to ban lots of things, but because it is not at all clear how his goals would be achieved within normal liberal democratic politics, especially in the timeframe he thinks climate change imposes on us.

In the absence of a Labor candidate, Hamilton may well get a high vote in Higgins. But how many Higgins voters would really sign up to this policy agenda (from my review of Hamilton’s book Growth Fetish):

… a more progressive income tax, plus luxury taxes, speculative taxes and inheritance taxes (p.222). Limitation on working hours would be imposed (p.218), reducing what people could earn. Most advertising would be banned, reducing our demand for goods we don’t need (pp.91, 219). ..a reduction in TV broadcast hours (p.220). The supply of goods would also be restricted. The use of fossil fuels would be reduced ‘until fossil fuels are largely phased out’ (p.181). Ecological taxes would be imposed, and ‘ecodesign’ principles would aim to eliminate pollution (p.222).

A vote for Hamilton would be ‘aspirational’ voting of the most hypocritical kind.

(Disclosure: I have known the Liberal candidate Kelly O’Dwyer for many years – though I would recommend a vote for almost anyone over Hamilton.)

20 thoughts on “Hamilton for Higgins?

  1. Higgins seems to be a similar sort of seat to Wentworth – full of doctors’ wives and young renting profesionals – so I think O’Dwyer will have a real fight on her hands.


  2. In racing parlance, O’Dwyer will win with a leg in the air. She will get at least 55 per cent of the primary vote. This will be because the voters are turned off Clive Hamilton (incidentally I thought he was a resident of the ACT. Does this not matter?) which they might or might not be but because Higgins is a blue ribbon Liberal electorate populated by private school educated doctors, lawyers and bankers and their wives whose deepest thought is deciding on what colour hat to wear to the spring Carnival races.

    Higgins and Kelly O’Dwyer are made for each other. May it be a long and happy relationship.


  3. Rajat – I don’t think O’Dwyer will have a fight on her hands. At the last federal election Costello won the seat with 57% of the two party preferred vote. You can knock 2-3% off for Costello’s personal following, which still leaves O’Dwyer with a healthy buffer. An unknown is whether the Liberal Party is so badly on the nose with the voters that this buffer isn’t enough to get her through. I don’t believe so.
    The other issue is Hamilton. There is plenty on the public record to show he is a nutter and threat to a civilised society. O’Dwyer and the Liberal Party are spoiled for choice in how to attack him. The ALP and Greens received 42% of the vote at the last election. This is the baseline that Hamilton’s vote should be measured against.
    With Hamilton’s hard line stance against any questioning of the validity of the human induced catastrophic global warming theory, this by-election could provide an interesting indication of whether the electorate is really in the mood to support policies to slash Australia’s CO2 emission to combat a warming that stopped 10 years ago, that will have no effect on total global emission and will immiserate future generations.


  4. Son of the Ratpack, let’ see if the Liberals conduct a pointed enough campaign that wives of Higgins understand that Hamilton wants to take away any hope of hats of many colours.

    There is enough ammunition in Hamilton’s published work;he is a is a deep green candidate,and I believe, unacceptable to mainstream Australians, in any electorate, once his views are known.


  5. The ruckus over at Pollytics is amusing. You can see how Crikey has swung to the left.

    To be contrary, perhaps running Hamilton is a good move.

    The Greens may be thinking that they will lose regardless of who they run in Higgins. Instead they may be running Hamilton to raise his profile. He has little chance in Higgins but the 5-10% or so of the population might get to know him better and vote him into the Senate somewhere at the next election.

    That’d be a surprisingly astute bit of poltical play from the Greens. Personal folllowing means a lot for minor parties.


  6. Look, of course they should vote for Clive. For heaven’s sake he’s not going to form a government if elected.
    Clive is like a severe, Old Testament prophet. He lectures, and we all feel chastened and determined to do better. You have to have the prophets. In a boring parliament where everyone seeks to pander to the insecurities and self-interest of we backsliding sinners, we need to Clive, to keep truth alive!


  7. Hamilton is quite possibly the least liked public figures in Australia.

    I recall a post he ran in Crikey supporting internet censorship and even lefties were getting stuck into him.

    I could well imagine even traditional labor supporters supporting the Liberal candidate.


  8. Russell – I can assure you I don’t feel chastened when I hear a Hamilton lecture. Nausea is more likely the feeling I get. As for doing better, I believe Hamilton’s prescriptions are for the worse, not the better.


  9. O’Dywer is likely to get a great TPP vs the Greens in the by-election than Costello got at the last election vs Labor because the Labor vote is not going to swing 100% behind the Greens. This would have been true without Hamilton but with Hamilton there will be many ALP voters who aren’t likely to take well to being preached to.
    Any micro Party that runs is likely to get a good showing, in particular if they target Hamilton’s social conservative views. A big chunk of the ALP vote is going to be looking for a home.


  10. My thoughts of a pointed pointed Liberal campaign based on Hamilton’s thinking and writing over the years have come to nought. The Greens have a cunning plan of their own.

    Anything Hamilton has previously thought or written has been sold for 30 pieces of silver. All those years of work ,according to Greens spokesperson Wilbur-Ham, is distilled into what is available on line at:http://greens.org.au/election/policy.php

    See conversation at previous link


  11. That’s not necessarily true Lorenzo. Higgins is a very different electorate to Melbourne, and bye-elections are very different from general elections. Anyway, barring some major scandal, O’Dwyer will win easily. I happened to be in High Street Armadale, the heart of the electorate, recently and observed the locals, in an anthropological field study sort of way. There is as much chance of these people not voting Liberal as there is of Taliban converting to Judaism, I’ll give you the bloody tip.


  12. Hamilton doesn`t believe that a reasonable person can disagree with him. He thinks his opponents are either morally suspect or suffer from some sort of mental disorder. His candidacy is not at all to be welcomed and I hope that he gets the whipping he deserves.


  13. Why are people automatically assuming that the Greens base is supportive of his candidacy despite what Brown’s endorsement? I’m not altogether certain Hamilton’s views on civil rights etc. squares that well with most of the Greens voters.


  14. There are many Greens bases. There are the ferals and would-be ferals who chain themselves to trees; the upper middle class doctors’ wives and their children; the Faculty of Arts academics; the inner-city living, farmers’ markets shopping middle or lower ranking local government employees; and people who work in the creative industries. There are crypto communists and anarcho capitalists, and not so anarcho capitalists.

    They have little in common. It is Bob Brown’s political genius that he has managed to get them all to support his party.


  15. Once again to my intense annoyance I find myself agreeing with JC. Running Hamilton as a candidate anywhere is a dumb move for the Greens, and running him in this time and place especially dumb. They’ve blown a good chance to score well and damage the tories; the ALP tacticians who decided not to run a candidate must be furious.

    The last thing people there would want is someone way to the left of them on economic matters and way to the right of them on social matters. And it’s not as though he has Bob Brown’s charm to let him cover the substance with syle – charisma ain’t the word that comes to mind.

    BTW, Son of the Ratpack is right – Greens supporters are a diverse bunch, contrary to the image. F’rinstance I intend to vote Green at the next election solely on climate change issues, with not a lot of sympathy for most of the groups he lists.


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