Sunday, August 03, 2003


My post yesterday about a great conservative -- Australian Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies -- has stirred one of my readers to point out how influential on the world stage he was up until his retirement in 1966. See here.

I am myself a great fan of Menzies and something I always find amusing is the way commentators recognize his greatness but are puzzled that they can never think of anything much he that actually achieved. But that is of course the whole point. Menzies was such a strong figure that he did what very few politicians can do -- he successfully resisted the pressures from almost all special-interest groups to legislate in favour of them at the expense of the community as a whole. Doing nothing was his great achievement. The torrent of legislation to which all governments subject us was a comparative trickle under Menzies. He generally resisted the urge to meddle. And under him Australia was peaceful, calm and secure -- with unemployment negligible and living standards steadily rising. Contracts were enforced, criminals were punished and taxation was a fraction of what it is now. There was welfare for those who really needed it and there were scholarships that enabled children from working-class backgrounds to go to university if they had the ability. I myself was a recipient of one such scholarship. My father was a lumberjack who thought that even secondary education was a waste of time. So Australian conservatives only have to remember the world of Menzies in the 1950s and 1960s to realize that their ideal of a much smaller and fairer government is far from an impossible dream.


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