Whose freedom?


Many years ago, I think during the Reagan years, the US was on one of its regular attacks on China’s human rights record and the lack of freedom for its citizens, and I recall someone from the Chinese side replying to the effect that Chinese citizens could walk their city streets at night without fear. That response raises important questions about how we view freedom.

What is this nebulous thing that is freedom? (Note that ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty’ are generally interchangeable, partly because some languages, such as German and French, have only the one word for the concept while English uses both.)

The philosophers argue that there is a logical difference between freedom and matters such as justice, equality and morality but generally concede that these play a part in our perception of freedom.

A basic definition of freedom, that is still used, is that of John Stuart Mill who wrote in On Liberty in 1859:

The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to attain it.

There have been two basic approaches to freedom:

  • One, that freedom comes from being rational and making one’s own choices on that basis, which includes the rational decision not to harm others by one’s actions. The ultimate (utopian) outcome is a society that does not require rules because everyone behaves in a rational manner — the perfect form of anarchy, not that any of the mainstream philosophers actually recommended anarchy.
  • The other, that freedom occurs when one is free from coercion and interference, that one is not forced to undertake activities or make choices over which one does not have some control.
In 1958 Isaiah Berlin called these ‘positive’ (meaning ‘freedom for’) and ‘negative’ (meaning ‘freedom from’) concepts of freedom. The ‘positive’ concept comes from a long tradition going back to the ascetics and was popular after the Enlightenment, arguing that a rational approach gave an individual the ability to determine which desires are ‘true’ (should be pursued) and which ‘false’ (should be ignored), which was seen as essential to genuine freedom.

The problem, even for those early proponents of the rationalist view, was that not everyone may have achieved the level of rational thought necessary to achieve that degree of freedom. For Isaiah Berlin, that gave rise to the totalitarianism of both the Right and Left (remembering he was writing only a decade after WWII and during the Cold War) because someone other than the individual could decide what was required to achieve freedom and impose on others their view of freedom and of what was necessary to achieve that higher level of rational thought.

Another criticism is that, like religious ascetics, one can achieve this personal freedom by reducing or eliminating desires and wants. In this situation, the person no longer desires to take any action that may run up against constraints, so it can be said that all actions they do desire to take are ‘free’. This can, however, lead to the acceptance of situations that are inherently not free — for example, a well-treated slave being content with their lot.

The slave analogy was also used to criticise the ‘negative’ concept because it is possible that a slave may be allowed to live a normal day-to-day existence without coercion or interference but still remain a slave. Under the definition, that is ‘freedom’ but it ignores that the slave is still liable to renewed demands (interference) from their master.

That has led to many attempts at refinement of the definition of freedom. This has meant such approaches as identifying those areas where we should expect to be free to make our own decisions: this is our emphasis on so-called ‘inherent’ human rights, such as freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom from arbitrary arrest, freedom in our personal/private lives and so on. To make it easier, we often break it down into those component parts, so, rather than talking about freedom as a whole, we argue about the specifics of each of those freedoms. There has been, and is, much debate about what should be included.

In January 1941, Franklin D Roosevelt spoke of four freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. He spoke in the context of the war that was then raging in Europe, and in terms of a new world order following the war, but the underlying aspects of those freedoms remain relevant, particularly the latter two which are not commonly picked up in the current liberal views of freedom.

Attempts to define freedom also led to consideration of the nature of the constraints that are imposed. At different times, words like ‘intentional’, or ‘offensively’ have been added to the definition of what limits one’s freedom: that is, the act that limits your freedom must be intentional and not merely an accident, or in some manner be offensive rather than defensive, to count as a genuine constraint. An element of ‘domination’ has also been considered: that covers the slave ‘problem’ in the sense that even if a slave is allowed to act in a free manner by their master the slave is still subject to ‘domination’. This, however, can also be answered by the earlier approaches to freedom, on the basis that a rational human being would not choose to be a slave and therefore runs counter to Mill’s condition that freedom includes not impinging on the freedom of choice of others.

The difficulty is matching the philosophic logic to the reality of society. Even the philosophers recognised that some rules were required, that we could not each be left to pursue our own ends without some constraints that protected the rights and freedom of others. This is the ‘social contract’ that became necessary when humans began living in societies rather than small or extended-family groups of hunter-gatherers. In the larger groups we gave up some of our freedom for the benefits, including the security, that society conferred. And when our societies became democracies, we were said to be free because people gained an active role in their own government or, in other words, became involved in determining the authority that was exercised over them, rather than being subject to the arbitrary will of a monarch.

The two shapes of freedom actually overlap to a considerable extent (as you may have guessed from what has already been said) but also give rise to the different political approaches of the Right and Left.

The Left emphasises the ‘positive’ freedom in its approach, considering that an individual cannot achieve freedom, or the higher level of their rational being, if they are poor, uneducated, condemned to no choice but physical labour, are part of a persecuted minority, and so on. Or, as some have said, freedom is meaningless to someone who is starving or has no home, although by the technical definition they may well be ‘free’. That gives rise to the Left and progressive view that physical and social conditions are also determinants of freedom and need to be addressed. In this view, removing constraints to freedom includes improving the individual’s capacity to exercise his or her freedom.

The Right, the neo-liberals (libertarians) and the economic rationalists, are more concerned about ‘negative’ freedom, the reduction of constraints, particularly by government, to individual decisions. They place a high priority on property rights, both physical and intellectual, (which was included by some early philosophers) as a way to maintain freedom, and include in that the capacity of labourers to ‘own’ and trade their labour. But this ignores the history of how many property rights were acquired: the landless peasants of South America, for example, had their land stolen and, if freedom means defending property rights, whose rights should prevail, those of the peasants or the current landholders? That is not an issue the Right likes to address.

G A Cohen, a Marxist political philosopher, also argued that lack of money is a constraint to freedom and attacked the logic of the Right’s view, describing it in this way:

Freedom is compromised by interference, but not by lack of means.
To lack money is not to suffer interference, but lack of means.
So poverty does not carry with it lack of freedom.
The primary task of government is to protect freedom.
So, relief of poverty is not part of the primary task of government.

C B Macpherson, a trained economist and also a political philosopher, developed an argument in the 1960s that early philosophers on freedom, like Hobbes and Locke, were bound by the values of their time and so developed their concept of freedom around the market, contractual obligations and property: the concept that an individual is the sole proprietor of his or her skills and owes nothing to society for them — what Macpherson called ‘possessive individualism’. Macpherson was criticised by both Right and Left. He also engaged in a debate with Milton Friedman. While Friedman claimed that history showed ‘that capitalism is a necessary condition for political freedom’, Macpherson countered that Friedman’s own examples showed ‘that political freedom actually came first and that those who gained that freedom, the property-owning elites, used it in their own best interests’, opening the doors to unrestrained capitalism.

Marx’s view of alienation relates to the disconnect between labour and its product. In Britain, it arose following the enclosures, whereby the peasants lost their access to the commons. Despite a considerable lack of freedom in feudal times, the serfs had access to land to provide for themselves and it has been estimated that they were able to retain anything from 50% to 70% of the product of their own labour. The loss of access to land meant that they had only their labour to sell, even to obtain the basic necessities of life. In essence, one form of a lack of freedom was exchanged for another. If I have no choice other than to sell my labour to survive, is that freedom?

In Nazi Germany, an Aryan German citizen could be quite happy and free as long as he or she was willing to accept the pogroms against the Jews, the attacks on the communists, and the denigration and persecution of other minorities, including non-Germanic foreigners. Was that a rational decision? Was it just acceptance of the views of the majority? Or was it manipulated by propaganda? They are questions vital to our sense of freedom.

It also brings us to a very murky area regarding our own society: the role of advertising, government manipulation of popular opinion, and even, as we saw in the lead up to the 2013 election, manipulation by the media. Brainwashing is definitely recognised by the philosophers as being counter to freedom even though the brainwashed person apparently ‘freely’ makes his or her own decision. Advertising and other manipulations may not be brainwashing per se but, to my mind, they are sailing very close, particularly as psychologists provide the manipulators with more and more knowledge about how we, as humans, make our decisions and choices. (I read recently that there are more psychologists employed in advertising in the US than are employed by hospitals.)

Kovie Biakolo, a young American woman who has her own blog, made some perceptive comments about freedom (or lack of it) in this modern context:

I believe that our society enslaves us in many ways. In the first place, consider how we work and why we work and how we are taught to work. … The premise is to pay bills and to buy things, many of which we are convinced to want in the first place. We become enslaved to our organizational practices and to our careers and, of course, to the almighty dollar. … Beyond our financial enslavement, think of the messages we consume everyday. We are told what is beautiful, what is politically popular to ascribe to, and the type of person we ought to want to be.

That raises an issue related to personal freedom and also to the concept of the rational being: that is our view of ourselves, our identity (or identities), and our autonomy in relation to that. It is accepted that many of our identities are socially constructed but we exercise our autonomy by deciding whether or not we accept a particular identity and exercise our freedom in deciding how we authenticate that identity socially. Thus I am a brother, a husband, a grandfather, identities over which I had (and have) no, or little, choice and which have social expectations attached to them but I do, or should, have some freedom to decide how I fulfil those identities. Other identities I may choose, including things like my political character and again I should be free to choose how I express that (writing for TPS for example). Freedom, then, can also be reduced if the choices to express identity are limited, whether by government or social constraints (majority values) — this is one place where issues like gay rights fit into the debate on freedom.

In my pieces earlier this year, ‘Whither the Left’, I raised the issue of the new working class, the university educated whose knowledge and intellect has now also become a commodity, just as labour did, to be sold in the market. Does this change the nature of the debate about the rational person being free? Once education was seen as a means to improve freedom by enhancing understanding and rational thought but if education now merely creates another commodity to be sold, where does freedom lie?

Jeff Sparrow recently addressed some aspects of freedom in a piece regarding comments by the Human Rights Commissioner, Tim Wilson. He concluded with a major issue for the Left and progressives:

… the Left does need to think about freedom. It’s symptomatic of our marginalisation that [the term is] increasingly deployed by conservatives rather than progressives. There’s an urgent need to reclaim freedom, to rearticulate the concept as a synonym for liberation rather than exchange.

What can progressives do to give ‘positive’ freedom a positive image?

What can progressives do to show that freedom is about more than free markets?

How can we put freedom back on the political agenda in a country that already thinks it is free?

What do you think?



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TPS Team

24/08/2014A piece from Ken Wolff today to get the neurons humming. We'd love to hear your comments on freedom and how the concept could be better owned by the progressive side of the political spectrum.

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24/08/2014Ken Congratulations on having the courage to tackle the perennial subject of ‘freedom’. We have seen such different interpretations of this concept recently: George Brandis insisting that freedom includes the right to be a bigot, and much of the population rejecting that concept vehemently. We see Andrew Bolt lamenting that freedom of speech died with his conviction and is now not resuscitatable since proposed changes to s 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act are not to be proceeded with. ISIS militia belief they have the ‘freedom’ to kill those who refuse to convert to Islam, or behead an innocent American journalist. There must be a degree of freedom that does not unfairly restrict yet at the same time does not imperil the freedom of others, that does not cause unreasonable distress to others. ‘Distress’ has many forms. Defining what is unreasonable distress is difficult. The question of ‘innocence’ arises in defining what is ‘unreasonable distress’. To what extent are we entitled to inflict distress on innocents, if at all? Philosophers have struggled with the concept of freedom for eons. The Oxford Dictionary offers some definitions: “[i]The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants. Absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government. The power of self-determination attributed to the will; the quality of being independent of fate or necessity. The state of not being imprisoned or enslaved. The state of being unrestricted and able to move easily. Unrestricted use of something. The state of not being subject to or affected by (something undesirable).”[/i] [b]I wonder how we will handle the subject here on this piece?[/b]

Ken

24/08/2014Pappinbarra fox I see you are taking the rationalist view, that freedom comes from freeing our own minds. But perhaps one still needs to be 'free' to take the actions and make the choices arising from freedom of the mind. So do constraints also come in to it? Catching up Responsibility is another but closely related issue (I am pondering a sister piece, 'Whose responsibility?'). But the basic issue you raise is actually the second part of Mill's definition of freedom. The right wing economists and the Howards and Abbotts of this world like to use Mill's argument that we should be free to pursue our own ends but tend to ignore the proviso that in exercising freedom, we shouldn't impede the freedom of others. That is the area where I think there is a clear disagreement between Right and Left, about what constitutes an impediment. Even the argument on 18c can be seen in that way - Brandis and his ilk saying that there should be freedom to say anything but the other saying that such hurt and humiliation actually impedes the ability of those attacked to exercise their freedom. Ad I will get back to your comments in the morning. But I think there could be another two or three pieces arising from this. 'Whose responsibility?' as I mentioned but also freedom in the economic realm and how it is used and misused in the political realm.

TalkTurkey

25/08/2014Greetings Comrades Ken: You've really gone into notions of freedom. Thanks for your précis and explanations of a subject which is really at the base of any society. I learnt of JS Mill at Uni, and notwithstanding the grey areas which he acknowledges must always exist, the clarity and circumspection of his work has provided me with a far more realistic guide to living than the 10 Commandments ever could. And I have truly tried to live within the constraints of Mill's notions, and to defend with my every breath and fibre my own freedoms, which are, after all, also only those of my every neighbour. So in defending my own, I am trying to defend everybody's. This has not always been to my advantage btw. I'm not going into that here and now. But I am content within myself that I have never knowingly wronged anyone, deliberately, irresponsibly, nor maliciously; I would claim to be more 'christian' than most "Christians" from what I see, if by that uncapped adjective is meant having a [i]humanist[/i] or 'Good Samaritan' outlook; nontheist I, yet with a keen sense of fairness. And the reason I write here - and delight in the company - is that I know that Comrades who write here have, by their own route, come to a similar outlook. I have repeatedly referred to *US* as Goodwillians, and I wouldn't want the company of those that wouldn't also think of themselves and *US* in the same terms. (I guess that is tautological, or is it tortological I can never remember.) But it's true that in a society in turmoil, as modern societies including our own tend to be, not all people perceive freedom in the same light as one does oneself. That's why there are terms like fraudulent, unscrupulous, or just crooked. And just what constitutes fraud, or scruples, is very much a function of one's own internal morality. Ay, there's the rub. But there is a vast area of agreement nevertheless,which is why like Channel 7 is able to screen popular programs where their journalists are hounding alleged fraudsters who have not been charged. The audience can be so incensed they would just about lynch many of the targets ... which brings the relative rights of target and targetters into question, and there's another rub. I owe Ad a response from last post. Oui Mon Capitaine I did indeed read Act V, with Christopher 'POO~POO, The Mincing Poodle' Pyne in the starring role. Gee I'd hate to be on the receiving end of a serve by you! What a splendid purple patch you paint about this priggish pink pansy! But what an indictment of a human, to deserve every word that you have said of him! A braying fool, capering around in demented delight, given power whose use he is prepared to use without care for the general welfare of this nation nor this planet. Yet for all the unpleasant-but-true things you said about him, I think you might have missed the point of Pyne, in this, that being so benign yourself, you have never quite come to grips with the fact of what a [i]nasty[/i] piece of work is he. He [i]delights[/i] in farting in the general direction of us Proles. He is a jumped up little prig, and yes *J*U*L*I*A* got him right forever with the Mincing Poodle tag.(Which must rankle!) What he is all about is the maintenance and extension of Privilege. He is a lickspittle to the rich. But most of all he is just deliberately nasty. He is exactly the reverse of the people whose company I treasure: an illwillian. Religious of course, Catholic, what hypocrisy. And he has no intention of doing good for people generally, just for the Goodies. Deliberately extending the divide between rich and poor, but more, the divide between progressiveness and retrogressiveness: the entrenchment of privilege. There is no better word to describe him than that he used to describe the lovely Tony Burke, a word I would never use here, let alone in the Federal Parliament. Obscene little 'grub'! Now, [i]what's to be done about him?[/i] - Ah, there's another rub! Well, you see, I know his part of town well, I used to live there. His oriffice is a few bus stops away from Adelaide Uni, and the students there are in feisty mood ... I know that EVERY Goodwillian, students most especially, despise the little grub, and there is a lot of grub spray to be used against him in flyers which I think the Student Union will have the belly-fire to produce ... Photos of him running from the Parliament when Craig Thomson was about to vote... Of Pyne tongue-poking Speaker Anna Burke ...and of Pyne calling Tony Burke That Word. Students once motivated are great workers, in short bursts, and a fired-up student body could leaflet a lot of windscreens in the seat of Sturt one Saturday morning. Many students would swell with pride if we roll Pyne, and the electoral interest in the campaign would spill over into other electorates as well. I know that many local grassroots Labor Party members would love to be apart of ridding the Parliament of this most obnoxious of all MHRs in living (or dead) memory. [i]"The stockhorse snuffs the battle with delight."[/i]

Bacchus

25/08/2014TT, Like Ad and Ken, you're on fire this morning! I love it when you've got that fire in the belly. Only thing missing was a [b]VENCEREMOS![/b] ;-) If you can engender some of that fire into the Sturt members and students, Whiney won't stand a chance!

Ken

25/08/2014Ad One of the main problems for the LNP when it comes to freedom is that they only apply it to economics. Even Howard said of himself that he was economically liberal but socially conservative (and I vaguely recall Abbott saying something similar). That leads to their concept of freedom not applying to gay rights or issues like abortion, even the role of women in society. On the social issues they take the conservative line, that we should not change institutions that have served society well (as they see it) ignoring that many of those traditional institutions restrict freedom. We also see that in the Right in America and in the Tea Party. While they demand individual liberties they do so only for the conservatives, and maintain a hard line on social issues denying freedom to minorities. So Howard, Abbott, Brandis and the rest of them, are selective in how they apply 'freedom'.

Crowey

25/08/2014It's good to see that you are still on the go,and fighting for a better Australia.

Ken

25/08/2014TT You are right. Defending one's own freedom necessarily includes defending the freedom of others. In doing that we are meeting the, oft ignored, provisos included in Mill's definition.

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25/08/2014Crowey It's good to see you back again. We continue to fight the enemies of fairness.

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25/08/2014Ken You make a good point. Conservatives want the freedom for themselves to invest, make money, increase profit, and become more powerful. They also want the freedom to keep the wages of their employees down, to limit worker entitlements, and sack those who are 'surplus to requirements'. By and large they are unconcerned with increasing inequality; for them, that is the natural order. Gina Rinehart, Australia's richest person, bemoans the fact that she can't hire workers for $2 per day, as is the case in India. Making more money is her prime, perhaps her only concern.

DMW

25/08/2014[i]Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose, Nothing don't mean nothing honey if it ain't free, [/i] Janis Joplin, "Me & Bobby McGee" There many obvious and hidden truths in that soulful refrain from Janis. There is maybe an outside chance that 'positive' freedom could gain a positive image in this country by linking freedom and fairness. As we have seen there has been a big reaction to the perceived 'unfairness' of many changes recently proposed in the budget. I suspect many Aussies would understand that fairness cannot 'happen' without freedom from want and freedom from fear. A government that thrives by 'selling' fear is an obvious barrier but with some deft work it could be that those that sell fear can be shown up to be the frauds that they are. All we need is a 'coalition of the willing' to get their marching boots on.

Ken

25/08/2014DMW Thank you of reminding me of the 'Me & Bobby McGee' lyric. If I had thought of it earlier I may have worked it in somehow. The 'freedom from fear' that Roosevelt spoke about is, I think, an important one that doesn't get much recognition. It is obviously what the Chinese had in mind when they responded to the Yanks. It is a very basic freedom that should apply, even in our cities. And, as you say, fear is used politically to marked effect to diminish our freedom. Australia at least has the concept of the 'fair go' to supplement our approach to freedom and while that concept is under threat, people do return to it when they feel threatened - as with the budget. But Abbott, Hockey and now even Joyce are spreading fear that taxes will rise, that the country will go bankrupt (closing hospitals and no ABC) according to Barnaby. That's no way to run policy - whatever happened to actually debating a policy. All elements of fear diminish our freedom or, at the very least, the freedom of some who become the scapegoats to explain our fear.

2353

25/08/2014The statements by the LNP today fly in the face of what both Abbott and Hockey have said outside this country - at least they are 'on message' I suppose. While there may be a structural issue in the Australian budget at some stage in the future if the Government does not reduce spending (although Modern Money Theory proponents would disagree with that), the Government is doing itself no credit by proclaiming one message for domestic consumption and one message for international consumption. There is something called the internet - reasonably cheap overseas phone calls and overseas travel so those that look can find out obvious deceptions such as this Government seems to be practicing. FUD (fear, uncertainty and deception) campaigns tend to eventually catch out those that use them; unlike those who demonstrate the need for change and take the population on the journey with them.

DMW

25/08/2014Hi Ken thanks for this excellent post it has caused much percolation in my brain cells.

Catching up

25/08/2014Yes, freedom is about much more, than doing what one likes. It is also freedom from persecution, hunger, the list is endless.

TalkTurkey

26/08/2014I have never seen any act so amazing. Truly. It is also pretty uplifting I reckon. Hope this fires up. http://www.youtube.com/v/BOjOGKu3jTc%26autoplay%3d1%26rel%3d0

Casablanca

27/08/2014[b]The time to fight the battle of ideas is now[/b] Polo Guilbert-Wright 26 August 2014 Under the Abbott Government, we’ve seen a tectonic shift to the right in response to gains made by the social movements in the 1970s that delivered universal healthcare and public education. Polo Guilbert-Wright urges progressive forces to take up the cudgel and fight back...Collectively, the progressive movement needs to be militant in our fight for a just society that champions equality, community values and internationalism. Not one that is a mean spirited and individualist as the current Abbott government is proving to be...Currently, we are facing a tipping point in Australian politics http://www.independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/the-time-to-fight-the-battle-of-ideas-is-now,6810 [b]The myth of the 'sensible middle' in politics[/b] Tim Dunlop. 17 Jul 2014 In an environment filled with partisan hectoring, the wish to retreat to a "sensible middle" is very tempting. The only problem is, no such "middle" exists.. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-07-17/dunlop-the-myth-of-the-uncontested-middle/5603876

Casablanca

27/08/2014[b]Looking back in horror is not working for Abbott[/b] Jack Waterford. August 26, 2014 The average real wealth of Australians doubled over the past 25 years, but it is unlikely that it will improve greatly over the next 10. Better put, unlikely to increase greatly unless there is a massive reinvestment by the nation in some of the social and capital infrastructure capable of sustaining and further developing the national economy. That is not only investment in new and better roads, rail, air and communications infrastructure, in ports and terminals, bridges and public transport, but also in schools, vocational and trades education, higher education, science and research, in creating essentially healthy Australians and maintaining good general health, but also in re-equipping our hospitals and health facilities with the capacity to deal with new problems of ageing and challenges of disease. That's quite apart from the investment required to maintain a stable and generally good humoured community, easily integrating new folk, and to defend ourselves against foreign enemies and those who would disturb our peace. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/looking-back-in-horror-is-not-working-for-abbott-20140826-108rku.html#ixzz3BYC1qu8S

Casablanca

27/08/2014Tony on the Taxpayer's Teat. Kaye Lee published this account of Tony's life of entitlement three days before today's reported slip of the tongue when Tony personally confirmed his sense of absolute entitlement. [b]Nothing is free? Depends who you are.[/b] Kaye Lee. August 24, 2014 So when Tony shows no understanding of how real people live, when he wastes money on war toys while cutting pensions, it isn’t really his fault that he has no idea how to prioritise spending. [b]Other people have always paid for Tony.[/b] No HECS debt for him, no applying for jobs, no making sacrifices to save for retirement, no wondering how to pay phone and electricity bills, no waiting for a flight or ringing a cab...That self-satisfied smirk from Tony is not because he doesn’t care, it’s because he doesn’t have to. http://theaimn.com/nothing-free-depends/ [b]Tony Abbott's visit to cancer hospital used to 'justify' fund-raising visit[/b] Latika Bourke, James Massola. August 27, 2014 Prime Minister Tony Abbott told government MPs he had to schedule an early morning visit to a cancer research centre in Melbourne on Tuesday so that he could justify billing taxpayers to be in the city for a "private function" the night before. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/tony-abbotts-visit-to-cancer-hospital-used-to-justify-fundraising-visit-20140826-108nxo.html [b]Tony Abbott's office denies Prime Minister misused travel entitlements in relation to Melbourne trip[/b] The ABC has been told that Prime Minister Tony Abbott yesterday told colleagues that he visited a Melbourne cancer clinic so he could charge taxpayers for the trip to the city. His Office has said '"Whenever the Prime Minister travels, he maximises his visits by ensuring he participates in community events, business visits and local media," the statement said. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-27/abbotts-office-denies-pm-misused-travel-entitlements/5699262

DMW

27/08/2014Hmm not quite about freedom but topical and possibly related I have just come across this title: [b]Reclaiming Patriotism [/b] Tim Soutphommasane http://goo.gl/UIQ7S6 Does anyubody know of it or has anyone out there read it? The Amazon blurb goes like this: [i]Affronted by the xenophobic nationalists who stalked the land during the Howard years, many progressive Australians have rejected a love of country, forgetting that there is a patriotism of the liberal left that at different times has advanced liberty, egalitarianism, and democratic citizenship. Tim Soutphommasane, a first-generation Australian and political philosopher who has journeyed from Sydney's western suburbs to Oxford University, re-imagines patriotism as a generous sentiment of democratic renewal and national belonging. In accessible prose, he explains why our political leaders will need to draw upon the better angels of patriotism if they hope to inspire citizens for nation-building, and indeed persuade them to make sacrifices in the hard times ahead. As we debate the twenty-first century challenges of reconciliation and a republic, citizenship and climate change, Reclaiming Patriotism proposes a narrative we have to have.[/i]

Ken

27/08/2014DMW Haven't seen that book but it sounds interesting. There are many things the Left and progressives need to reclaim. Since the 1980s freedom, the economy, national security and patriotism have been defined in the political debate by the Right. The Left needs to get on the front foot and start redefining these terms in the public debate so that people can see there are alternative approaches.

Ken

27/08/2014A few songs to brighten the day (and days ahead). First from Irish tenor, Tommy Fleming. 'Don't give up till it's over' - just to keep our spirits up. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqVxqbxh7ZA Secondly, a song about the repression of freedom, written by Jack Warshaw (I think) and this version by Irish band The Moving Hearts (which included Christy Moore at the time - about 1987). [The lyrics end at about the 5 minute mark followed by a long instrumental ending] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hJWGPDr5yI Lastly, for the real rebels among us, a song about the seven IRA volunteers killed by the British SAS at Loughgall in Country Armagh in 1987. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_c13M51EwE Hope you find one you like, and enjoy the sentiment of each. All relevant, I think, to the fight(s) ahead for progressives in OZ (and other parts of the world).

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28/08/2014Casablanca Thank you for your interesting links. Tim Dunlop's contention that there is no 'sensible middle' in Australian politics, aligns with George Lakoff's view that there are no middle of the road politicians; conservatives and progressives have starkly different world views based on their political morality, and practise them in their extreme forms. Jack Waterford is always good reading. Polo Guilbert-Wright's article is outstanding. I have bookmarked it. I did enjoy the Shaun McAuliffe skit on the Abbott speech disorder.

Casablanca

28/08/2014[b]The paradox of political dysfunction[/b] Jonathan Green. 28 August, 2014. This is a discussion for our times, and fascinating that a man like Paul Kelly - an observer whose watch spans generations of political machination - is now bringing it into the mainstream political dialogue. There's a breaking of the destructive and mutually reassuring circle of collusion between press and politics here, of the insider blindness of a media that dwells so closely on the purely political exchange of momentary advantage, often to the exclusion of the broader picture that might reveal, as Kelly now does to his credit, a system in dangerous decline. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-28/green-the-paradox-of-political-dysfunction/5702048

Casablanca

28/08/2014[b]Julia Gillard to appear before royal commission into unions[/b] Australian Associated Press. 28 August 2014 Former prime minister to be questioned in September about slush fund operated by her ex-boyfriend in the 1990s...The Australian newspaper has reported that the judge Bernard Murphy, who was Gillard’s boss at Slater and Gordon, will also be called to give evidence. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/28/julia-gillard-to-appear-before-royal-commission-into-unions?CMP=ema_632 [b]Paul Keating gives blistering critique of Bob Hawke[/b] Michael Gordon. August 27, 2014 The occasion was the launch of Gareth Evans' A Cabinet Diary of two of those years, from 1984 until 1986, and Mr Keating used passages of the book to flesh out his own critique of Mr Hawke's failings. www.canberratimes.com.au/.../...140827-1093n7.html

Casablanca

28/08/2014 [b]Social Inequality: is the elephant in the room strangling us all?[/b] Alessandro R Demaio. 28 August 2014 Social, economic inequality is on the rise - and represents a threat to our nation’s fabric. The notion of a fair go and the concept of social mobility are both central to the Australian psyche and culture. Growing up in the 80s as the grandson of illiterate migrants, Australia was a liberal, progressive, fertile society. A country with a strong history of community and social cohesion where rich and poor were shades of a scale and most were able to ‘make their own financial destiny’ - else they would be afforded adequate financial support to find their feet. But is this changing? And why don’t we see it? http://theconversation.com/social-inequality-is-the-elephant-in-the-room-strangling-us-all-30574 [b]Don't panic about wages, this isn't the '70s[/b] Mike Steketee. 28 August, 2014 In January, Employment Minister Eric Abetz warned of a "wages explosion" if employers and unions did not take account of the cost to the economy of the agreements they struck....The problem with Abetz's comments is that they came hard up against reality. There has been no wages explosion, nor is there any prospect of one. Another reality is that the industrial relations system is one of the least of our economic problems. Three weeks after his address, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released figures showing that wages grew by 2.6 per cent (seasonally adjusted) over 2013 - the smallest increase for the wage price index in the 17 years it has been compiled. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-28/steketee-dont-panic-about-wages-this-isnt-the-70s/5700184 [b]The Myth of America’s Golden Age[/b] Joseph E. Stiglitz. July/August 2014 What growing up in Gary, Indiana, taught me about inequality...Most disturbing is the realization that the American dream—the notion that we are living in the land of opportunity—is a myth. The life chances of a young American today are more dependent on the income and education of his parents than in many other advanced countries, including “old Europe.”...Now comes Thomas Piketty, who warns that matters are only likely to get worse. Above all, he argues that the natural state of capitalism seems to be one of great inequality. http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/06/the-myth-of-americas-golden-age-108013.html#ixzz3Bf3IeFlL

Catching up

28/08/2014I wonder what they think they have to ask Gillard. Most was discarded in earlier hearings. I cannot she her being upset at having to appear. Did not hurt Rudd, Combet or Garrett. Gives her a chance to clear herself. Why announce it today. Do we have lists of others to appear as well.

Catching up

28/08/2014"The Australian newspaper has reported that the judge Bernard Murphy, who was Gillard’s boss at Slater and Gordon, will also be called to give evidence" http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/28/julia-gillard-to-appear-before-royal-commission-into-unions?CMP=ema_632

Casablanca

28/08/2014Catching up See my list at 12.45

TalkTurkey

29/08/2014Casablanca You keep such stuff happening! But Damn the 24-hour news cycle, I'm pedestrian, and I can't keep up. I wish we could deal with issues properly, one at a time, be it fracking, or refugees, or Gaza, or conservation, or indigenous affairs or WAR or Carbon or for that matter business/government corruption. Which last is the worst problem of all. With honest Governments such as *J*U*L*I*A*s the rest can be dealt with. But Abborrrtt & Murdoch have driven Australians crazy, with SO MANY issues angering us, we are wasting our energy fighting our own battles and we NEVER take concerted ACTION. Marches are not ACTION. [Aside: In Adelaide long ago you got bus tickets with each trip. On the back there was always a little homily, all written by some disabled feller I understand. Some were quite deep. I only remember two*, the one that applies here is: [i]"Out of many ideas, no plan is devised."] [/i] I see it at every March I've been to this year (THREE! with 4th on Saturday/Sunday!)[i]And I will see it again then[/i]. There are so many issues, so much real passion by such powerful speakers about their particular issue ... but then people will just go home. What's been achieved? Far call ... Nobody will have arranged to collect lists of contacts to the passionate MILLION-PLUS people who will be there. They'll just be [i]gone[/i]. The organisers won't have passed around collection buckets for people to chuck in goldies to found a fighting fund. Nope. I tried and tried to influence organisers here to do that, but it's all too hard. Vetoed. Bet it's the same everywhere! But yell and wave all we want, it won't move Abborrrtt one [i]h[/i]. Only ACTION could. Only a [b]general strike[/b]. Dog Albitey what would it take to get Aussies to strike? A law to kill all non-blue-eyed babies at birth? No they'd probably be OK with that. But if instead the law were to order all the blue-eyed babies killed - ah, now [i]that[/i] would get 'em going! So at the moment I'm interested in targeting Pyne. So are MANY people. Noise we can make about his awfulness will resonate around the country, and it will all be good. We have some wonderful ammo - Pictures of Pyne tongue-poking Speaker Anna Burke, running from Parliament in company with Abborrrtt, saying right out loud across the Dispatch Box at Tony Burke these words, [i]"You're such a ----" [/i]- Well, he says he said GRUB but he said was nott hat, as is clearly to be [i]heard and seen [/i]on video. [i]*Seen*?[/i] -Yes! Make your mouth say 'grub', your lips must close on the 'b'. Say that other word, your mouth stays open. It's very plain on video. Pyne is the "grub"! Students in particular have plenty of reason to despise him. Hell it's their DUTY to fight this evil that stalks our nation now. One thing I KNOW they despise him for is that, while he wants to make it far tougher on less-privileged people to get a degree, he himself, privileged from birth, was able to get a law degree paid for by Gough's Government. So I reckon we can really bore it up him. Tough ask, the seat of Sturt, but if students were to maintain a campaign against him, and hopefully with a top candidate for Labor, it is winnable. But should we fail it will still be a plus, because people everywhere will have been barracking for us, and many of the students, once convinced of the value of Labor, will stay with us for good. Literally. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ *T'other was "Good ideas need landing gear as well as wings" which is actually only true if you are talking flying objects. Most things have neither! But I do get it ... :)

Ken

29/08/2014TT I think the second 'homily' you quote at the end is relevant to everything you say. The March in August (the wings, or a dream) need some practical applications and outcomes (the landing gear). Otherwise, as you suggest, it is perhaps only the marchers themselves gaining any benefit (feeling happy with themselves that they have expressed their outrage). The key to any march/protest is to sway public and political opinion, and it is true that that does not come from a single march. We can but hope that, even if other more practical steps do not arise from the march, that repeated marches will eventually enter the mindset of the wider community.

Jason

29/08/2014 Mr Andrews said in a statement reported by The Australian: “Tolerance is a critical value in a western liberal democracy like Australia.“It was for this reason that I intended to address the World Congress of Families meeting in Melbourne tomorrow,” Mr Andrews is quoted as saying in the statement. “The calls for me not to attend demonstrate the intolerance of the Greens and the left — instead of arguing their case in the public arena they seek to shut down debate. “Equally, I cannot support intolerance from other quarters. As I have been informed today that the event is now to be hosted by Catch the Fire, I have decided not to attend.” Victorian Attorney-General Robert Clark is still scheduled to deliver a speech to the conference

Casablanca

29/08/2014Jason, There has now been a stampede for the exit by Federal and Victorian Government members including Victorian Attorney-General Robert Clark: [b]Kevin Andrews cancels plans to open World Congress of Families conference[/b] Dan Harrison, Richard Willingham. August 29, 2014 http://www.canberratimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/kevin-andrews-cancels-plans-to-open-world-congress-of-families-conference-20140829-109vxw.html

Casablanca

29/08/2014TT, Agree with your comments about the 24/7 news cycle. I thought of you when I saw this article. It won't teach you any new tricks but is probably worth a read. Exposed: The Secret To Letterbox Advertising Success 24 February 2014 by Chloe Ever noticed something, and then struggled to recall it later? With any form of advertising, this presents a challenge for any business. For a myriad of reasons not everyone will see your campaign the first time. Even if they do, there’s no guarantee they will be interested at the time or even remember to act on it. In our experience, it typically takes three letterbox drops to get the best results. http://ldn.net.au/successful-letterbox-advertising?utm_source=Outbrain&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=trial Also, I'd recommend you read Greg Combet's book The Fight's of My Life esp the Chapter on the campaign against Workchoices.

Casablanca

29/08/2014[b]Operation Budget Repair[/b] The government's budget strategy hasn't exactly worked... or has it? First Dog on the Moon reveals their nefarious plan http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cartoon/2014/aug/25/firstdog-cartoon-budgetrepair [b]The verdict on university fees is in: it's checkmate for Christopher Pyne[/b] Luke Mansillo. 26 August 2014 The born to rule Tory is having a tantrum now that the senate will not let him deregulate the universities – something the Abbott government never got a mandate for. He claims students should “get some perspective” as the government is not “asking for their left kidney.” Well, here’s some perspective...If Pyne went to university under his deregulated system, he would be paying off HECS debts until the age of 64...Fortunately, a group of mathematicians from the ANU’s Mathematical Sciences Institute built a model that could help Pyne understand why what he is asking of student is beyond the pale. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/26/the-maths-on-university-fees-are-in-its-checkmate-for-christopher-pyne

Curi-Oz

30/08/2014Highly amused ... couldn't get to the March Australia rally this afternoon in Perth, so contacted the local media to see if they had sent reporters after I got back home . Channel Nine had no-one answering the phone in the newsroom. Didn't bother leaving a message, because it would be all over before anyone got there. Channel Seven thought that the ABC were going to be getting some footage they could share ABC Perth didn't know it was on, and I had to be routed to the Perth news desk from (presumably) Sydney, but said they would send a chap out to see if they could catch someone. They wanted to know why a media person hadn't contacted them though. PerthNow were very polite and said they would make enquiries and follow up. The person I spoke to actually said that it sounded quite interesting, but that she wasn't aware that anybody was objecting to the Federal government. The West Australian were not aware that anything that was happening today, and asked if a media contact person had made the call. I told the young lady that it had been well advertised on the internet for the last few weeks, to which she replied "...in that case it may have been decided not to send anyone...". WAToday was annoyed that March Australia had not provided a media person to provide them the information about the march, and was quite brusque about my enquiry. I probably shouldn't have laughed when he grumbled about the lack of media person, because he hung up on me. Not one of them reacted well to my observation that March Australia had been planning and talking about their marches around the country on social media. I have no intention of becoming the local media person for March Australia Perth, but perhaps I can embarrass our local news media into becoming "Reporters" again?
How many oranges do I have if I have 3 oranges and take ONE away?