Tuesday, April 28, 2009

On Andrew Bolt

I must say that until recently I have had little exposure to the writings of Andrew Bolt. A short snippet of him on telly once seemed to highlight for me that this guy was a headline grabbing voice of the extreme ‘right-wing’ (whatever that is anyway) political agenda. However in the past few days I have been reading his blog, and now finally have read his book Still not sorry. And I must say, although he can fall into the trap of making illogical assertions, just as can the left on many occasions, he writes quite a bit of commonsense that seems to raise much less publicity. His book provides snippets of his basic opinion on particular issues, so let me please take the time to highlight this commonsense on various issues.

1. Australia is divided into the ‘elites’ who get much of the air time, and whose opinions are out of step with the average Aussie. The elites believe that people need such things as racial sensitivity training, and as a group give a disproportionately loud voice to left wing agendas. The majority of us think things are pretty good and we just like to get on with enjoying life.

I must say that the more exposure I’m having to many academic and intellectual types trying to make a difference to policy, the more I am beginning to see the total disconnection with reality of many of these said ‘intellectuals’.

2. Australia is a great country, and we shouldn’t sacrifice our fundamental freedoms and opportunities for fringe issues of minority interest groups.

Many of the problems we face in Australia today are, in comparison to the rest of the world and to recent history, very trivial. Economic research is a good guide. These days economists can theorise about happiness coefficients, gender implications of armed conflict. If there were real issues to tackle, economists would not get sidetracked like this. Compared to historical standards we are living in a utopia. The message from Andrew Bolt is that we should get some perspective and be thankful for the opportunities provided to us in our society.

3. Racism is not the issue it is made out to be, and we could do much better if we didn’t promote policy based on race, gender or any other ‘ist’ feature.

Along these lines, there has been further frustration for me this week. The Wild Rivers Act allows the government to protect the natural flow of waters courses if they meet certain criteria for being natural environments. No problems there, it is the type of policy I think delivers tangible benefits. But Indigenous leader Noel Pearson had now started complaining that the legislation will lock up land from development, taking away opportunities for local indigenous communities. But most indigenous groups surveyed by the department found widespread support. So what is the real opinion of indigenous people in the Cape?

I think our mistake here is to segregate people by race. Can’t they just be two opinions of groups in the Cape? Why should race imply a set opinion about a policy?

In France it has been illegal for quite some time to classify people by race. The government does not even collect statistics about racial identity (since gathering that data is illegal). This, I believe, should be the target for us. If we can’t classify people by race, we can’t write racist policies.

The French elite are typical targets of Bolts critique. They say such things as, ‘Every time we want to study the divisions of society we are accused of dividing society’. That is exactly the point.

Bolt also stole my idea about irrational women in positions of power – about 7 years before I had it! I have recently attended a workshop with Australian academics and experts on environmental economic assessment, and was shocked at the illogical and often conflicting theories that underpin sociology – a discipline, that from my experience, is populated with highly ‘educated’ middle aged women who believe in astrology and alternative medicine. Are these ‘elites’ the people we want advising our decision makers?

4. Help people help themselves.

Bolt also repeatedly claims that handouts are not long term solutions to poverty. There is nothing controversial here. While we as a society have decided that in times of need people who cannot support themselves will be supported by the rest of us, no one believes that this support CAUSES, or provides incentives to, those who are provided with it to begin to look after themselves again. Economists know that such support inadvertently provides incentives to not return to work. So why should we continue to throw good money after bad in supporting communities such as Palm Island?

Where Bolt gets himself into strife is when he allows himself to effortlessly drop his evidence-based critical line of argument and get down in the gutter, spruiking pro-Howard pro-liberal rhetoric, when there are obvious flaws in both Green and LIberal sides of the argument. He lets fly with ‘facts’ without citations, which actually quite bugs me, as it is easy enough to find ‘reliable’ evidence both ways in the world of grey that is politics.

1 comment:

  1. It doesn't take much though to make a reasonable man look intolerable.

    See this Media Watch segment on him;