Classical liberals and political parties

Commenter Ute Man asks

At what point would Andrew Norton abandon the Liberal party …. Surely the Abbott inspired lunacy that encouraged Barnaby Joyce to publically voice his CEC conspiracies was a breaking point for anybody who even pretended to be rational. … Surely, at this point, it is impossible for the “last classical liberal” to deny the four-square conservatism (or idiocy, I can’t decide) of Abbott and his unannounced, unfunded policies to continue to support this party. Or are you just another prisoner to tribalism?

I’ve had many questions like this over the years. After all, in the thirty or so years that I have been a Liberal supporter the party has stood for the Australian Settlement minus the White Australia policy (Fraser), vacuous soft-right progressivism (Peacock), suburban conservatism (Howard), free-market liberalism (Hewson), upper-class conservatism with bad jokes (Downer), everything-depending-on-what-day-of-the week-it was (Nelson), market-leaning social liberalism (Turnbull) and now Tony Abbott’s big government conservatism. At the state level, the party often seems to stand for nothing at all, or at least there is no theme I can extract from their ad hoc point scoring against Labor.

Clearly for those – like much of the Australian Left – who see politics as self-expression, as part of showing what kind of person they are, this ideological variety would be intolerable. Indeed, with this view on politics involvement with any major party would be impossible, since both major parties are ‘broad church’ institutions incorporating a wide range of interests and beliefs. Which group is most dominant, or at least most obvious, will change over time with their numbers in the party, their skill, the political cycle, and luck. Continue reading “Classical liberals and political parties”