Getting the Big Picture

An important book appeared in 1946 by Henry Hazlitt entitled Economics In One Easy Lesson. The central thesis of his volume is summed up in this sentence: “The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.”

Wise words indeed. And they apply equally to any government, and to any political, social, cultural, legal or economic policy being considered. But the problem is, very few politicians want to look at the big picture. Many are only concerned about how their decisions will impact on their own electorate.

Indeed, most politicians tend to make policy decisions merely on the basis of whether it will get them more votes. As long as they can stay in office and continue to enjoy the perks of office, they are satisfied. There are sadly very few politicians who are men and women of principle, who look at the big picture and not just the immediate short-term gain.

No society will last long if our leaders are mainly focused on protecting their own skin, catering to special interest groups, and putting popularity contests ahead of principle. Sure, there are exceptions here, but they tend to be few and far between.

Thus it was refreshing to see a national newspaper printing an article which reminds us of the importance of seeing the big picture and acting for the public good. English commentator Melanie Phillips has a terrific piece in today’s Australian comparing British and Australian politics. Her piece is well worth reading, but let me pull a few key snippets from it.

Phillips focuses on Australia’s new opposition leader Tony Abbott and urges him to stay true to the conservative vision. She refers to “the truly astounding fact that a conservative will most likely win power by remaining unambiguously true to conservative principles.”

She contrasts Abbott with the English conservative opposition leader, David Cameron. She speaks of “his inner circle of liberal modernisers”. “Their strategy of ‘hope and change’ is based on their unshakeable belief that the Tories were denied power for the past 13 years because they were not progressive enough. Accordingly, they rebranded themselves by taking left-wing, socially liberal positions and, in particular, a wholesale embrace of the environmental agenda.”

She continues, “Alas for the new green Tories, man-made global warming theory has gone spectacularly belly-up. More fundamentally still, Cameron has made a strategic error. He wants to tell the country it’s ‘time for a change’, but the change he has implanted in people’s minds is that the Conservatives are more similar to Labour.”

Phillips rightly notes that Cameron is on a suicidal path. He wants to placate those on the right in his own party, yet he wants to embrace many of the latest trendy (and leftwing) causes. The “British Cameroons appear to be opportunists slavishly following whatever the latest focus group tells them. People need to know where they are with their leaders, even if they don’t agree with everything they say. But there is no courage or consistency in going with the flow.”

Contrast Cameron with his Australian counterpart: “Abbott is scoring so well for two main reasons. First, he is expressing views that are in tune with what so many think but are too intimidated to express. He is a champion of the voiceless mainstream. Perhaps even more crucially, everyone can see he speaks from principle, and it is no accident that these are securely rooted in his Catholic faith. He is therefore clearly a leader.”

Phillips then gets to the heart of the matter: “Conservatism is not an ideology but a cast of mind that seeks to defend what is valuable. That means in the West defending liberal democratic ideas and the Judeo-Christian precepts on which these depend. With the defeat of communism, many conservatives really believed this was the ‘end of history’. Since everyone embraced the free market, they thought there was no longer anything to defend.

“They couldn’t have been more wrong. The battleground had simply moved from economics to culture, with an onslaught against normative moral values, national identity and Western civilisation itself. But British Conservatives don’t grasp that a culture war is being waged for the soul and future of the West.

“As a result, they have put themselves to a large extent on the wrong side of that war by jumping on to the progressive bandwagon. Thus they support gay adoption and all-female political short lists, are nervous about discussing mass immigration or egalitarianism, and are all but silent about Islamism and the Orwellian moral inversion that tries to criminalise as ‘Islamophobia’ the legitimate concerns about radical Islam.

“The great battles today are not between left and right. They are between morality and nihilism, truth and lies, justice and injustice, freedom and totalitarianism, and Judeo-Christian values and the would-be destroyers of the West both within and without.

“If conservatives are not on the right side of all these touchstone issues, then what is the point of conservatives at all? Why should anyone vote for them if they are merely left-wing wannabes? If people want utopia and the repression that inevitably follows its pursuit, the party to vote for is Labour: it does it so much better. Moreover, one of the dirty little secrets of the Left is that, far from being the voice of the downtrodden, its agenda has tremendous appeal to the rich.

“Green politics in particular provides painless radicalism; it lets people believe they are acting out of high-minded conscience without causing themselves any more pain than cycling to work and recycling their rubbish. By contrast, the decent working class and lower middle class who have no moneyed leisure for such self-indulgent frivolities are naturally conservative. And the most successful Australian politicians have understood this key fact.”

Hear, hear. Now that is getting the big picture. But sadly most politicians, even those on the right, no longer think in terms of the big picture or in terms of worldview. They can only think as far as tomorrow’s press conference or next week’s members’ meeting.

What we desperately need today are politicians of backbone and politicians who stand on principle, aware of the bigger picture. Interestingly, just minutes ago someone emailed me, asking if I would stand as a political candidate. I declined for various reasons, but there certainly is a crying need for men and women who care deeply about the greater good to take a stand in the political arena.

Presumably Phillips has also been asked to enter the world of politics. But some of us have callings that take us elsewhere. But many more people need to ask whether they should consider running for office. If you feel unqualified, my reply is this: simply look at who we have now – surely you couldn’t do any worse.

[1154 words]

19 Replies to “Getting the Big Picture”

  1. Of course Australian Liberals faced a similar predicament to the UK Conservatives with the two Malcolms: Fraser and Turnbull. Neither seem to have had a faith conviction that shone through any speeches they made or their actions, and it showed in their humanist world view.
    Stephen White

  2. Thanks Bill.
    Agree 100%. We need only witness the massive impact of the Tea-party movement in the US to see a resurgent conservatism, along with the growing impact of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin and others. Supremely, however, we see conservative principles espoused in the increasing profile of Sarah Palin. Here is a woman who is unabashed in her stand for conservative principles (“common sense conservatism” she calls it), and seems impervious to the unrelenting flak and personal attacks she receives and endures. I note that according to the Sydney Morning Herald over the weekend Fred Nile has invited her to come to Australia under the auspices of the CDP. I certainly hope she accepts.
    I trust that Tony Abbot will look to the Sarah Palins of this world for his inspiration, and NOT to the likes of David Cameron, or the “small ‘l’ Liberals”.
    Murray Adamthwaite

  3. Thanks guys

    Yes the proof is in the pudding here. Under Abbott the Coalition has caught up to Labor. Abbott is polling far better than Nelson or Turnbull. And yes the two Malcolms really should be put out of their misery – they need to join their true party, Labor, and leave the Liberals alone.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  4. Actually Murray I think it should be Sarah Palin looking to the Tony Abbotts of this world and not the other way around. Firstly we have a leader who has been a Cabinet minister at national level. Secondly he is unphased by the media and his attack dog action in getting the minister for the environment demoted shows that persistence in the face of media scrutiny pays off. Thirdly he is not afraid of showing his principles. Fourthly, like Palin, he is a community based person – being a surf livesafer, as well as being a volunteer firefighter. Fifthly he has a worldview that Palin should learn from, and perhaps maturity that has developed from the bear pit of the Australian parliament, that is not the politeness that occurs in the US Congress.
    Wayne Pelling

  5. Thanks Wayne.
    However, you appear to have swallowed too much of the “inexperienced airheaded dumbo” image of Palin peddled by the American leftist MSM for their own purposes.
    She has served two terms as mayor of a growing town, as CEO of the Alaska Oil and Gas Commission, and as Governor of her state. As the latter her major achievement was the construction of the oil and gas pipeline to the bottom end of the state, and then concluding an historic agreement with Canada for its continuation across there to the Lower 48. This was something that her predecessors had only ever talked about, and then put it into the too-hard basket. She got it done – and in short order by comparison!
    As for the bear pit: she endured unprecedented attacks from her political opponents last year, not to mention those while on the campaign trail in 2008. The Alaska legislature likewise in no picnic. She knows all about bear pits!
    Sorry, but I have to say – with the greatest respect – that your comments are gratuitous nonsense.
    Murray Adamthwaite

  6. Phillips was likewise impressed the last time she was in Australia and interviewed several Liberal ministers (Downer and Ruddock I think) and was impressed with their forthright words in favour of freedom in the context of the intimidating tactics of Islamic extremists.

    Actually, Howard seems to have a bit of a fan base amongst conservatives in the US. Here is an interesting interview with him. Notice he is strong on conviction and principles unlike the hollow, chameleon Rudd:

    Damien Spillane

  7. I have to agree with Murray re Sarah Palin. She seems to have stronger conservative Christian convictions than Abbott and to my knowledge she doesn’t swear in public. (And she’s better looking of course!) Abbott would do well to model himself on her rather than the other way around.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria

  8. I accept your comments Murray and I was not being gratuitous, just an Australian Nationalist and Liberal National party voter, who gets annoyed that we should always be looking to the USA when it seems it is never reciprocated at the political level.
    However it shows how much our media do control things, as i did not know that Palin was a CEO of a statutory authority. I knew she was a mayor and of course Governor, but i think she could still learn from Abbott. I believe that as he was a federal minister in the government which ensured that we, so far, have a stable economic basis to meet the GFC, would be able to give a perspective from both that vantage point and as a friend and ally of the USA, as I believe he was a memner national security committee of Federal Cabinet. Also being a Catholic and having what seems to have a large bullseye over him in the eyes of the media would be able to compare notes with Palin. One just needs to look at the hysteria around his comments about his daughters virginity.
    I would hope that Abbott keeps the pressure on Rudd, and perhaps tell Senator Joyce to pull his head in when required.
    Murray have a nice day, and if you are battling lefties, as Ollie Cromwelll said at the Battle of Marston Moor(?), “Trust God and keep your powder dry”.
    Wayne Pelling

  9. Cameron and the conservative party have been presented with an open goal for the last two years and even though, metaphorically speaking, there has been only a corpse lying across the goal mouth, he has neither been unable to summon up the strength to kick or the accuracy to kick straight. Whilst trying to outdo the labour party in practising hegelian ideology and cultural marxism, and by chasing the gay vote in particular, he has failed to see that that there is a huge niche in the market, especially amongst the rank and file conservative. They now no longer have anyone to represent them. For all the three political parties are concerned, the silent majority does not exist. Many predict that the forthcoming election will, unless God intervenes, be God’s judgment on Britain.

    David Skinner, UK

  10. Responding to David’s article posted this morning – in light of what you have observed David, one might wonder whether this situation is one that is entirely of the silent majority’s own making. What I mean is that by being “silent” they have basically let this situation creep up on them? How often do you hear people say among themselves “That guy (insert the name of the politician of your choice here) is saying just what we think!” But herein lies the problem – all they do is “think” which will get them nowhere very fast. While I must admit that I am a member of the silent majority, the least I try do is to get familiar with the trends and read blogs like this one so at least when voting time comes around I can make an informed choice. I have often thought of running for some sort of government myself but I wonder whether I would be any good at it – I have a very specific view of what I believe would be needed but that does not necessarily make me an ideal candidate. In fact once I got there I might absolutely suck at it and create a bigger mess.
    Steve Davis

  11. Wayne and Murray are both correct in saying that the integrity of Palin and Abbott is a breath of fresh air.

    As to comparing them, or who should look up to whom, I have to disagree that Abbott should model himself on her or vice versa. Not because it is possible to find ‘dirt’ or human frailties in both their backgrounds, but because their integrity and appeal comes from the extent to which they each follow their Christian faith and heritage.

    It would be a mistake for the one to emulate the other, instead they ought to follow Christ.

    We can only admire and emulate them in as much as they can echo the words of Paul, “follow me as I follow Christ.”

    Michael Hutton, Ariah Park

  12. Ron Paul has a record of principled consistency as a US senator which should make others blush. He has never wavered from free market advocacy and upholding his country’s constitution when all about him are for compromise and political opportunism.
    But he is ignored by the MSM and is an embarrassment to the GOP who have long ago abandoned their principles. But a growing wave (tsunami) of young voters is getting behind him much to the consternation of his critics.
    John Nelson

  13. Hello Bill,
    Personality had always played a great part in my voting choices. Although I used to be a swinging voter, I have for many years voted Labor. This was for two reasons. 1. I found the Labor leaders more dynamic and progressive in the reform agenda particularly when the country seemed to be in a lull. 2. Personality plays a big part, so frankly I never voted Liberal whilst John Howard was leader because that smirk and self assured smile drove me nuts! In fact, after so many years of his face on the news I would have voted Labor even if Rex the dog was their leader.

    But the last few years have been a political revelation for me. As the left has taken control of the Labor party, so the main thrust of their agenda has become social engineering, thought control and interference in the family and our personal lives. I am much displeased at what Labor has been doing both in Victoria and federally and I’ve commented about racial vilification laws, human rights and others on occasion here on your site.

    I also lamented in these last few years as the Liberals kept putting forward leaders with no moral backbone and who made a note to mention their religion to garner votes. Actually, all I saw was more of the Labor stance just clothed in different words.

    Things are different now. Finally we have Abbott, a real leader who is honest and direct, has a moral code and is unafraid to put it forward. Abbott is getting my vote at the election, and also the vote of everyone I can convince. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that when Abbott wins the next election he will be only the second Catholic Prime Minister of Australia (after Paul Keating).

    Frank Norros

  14. Frank, I beleive the Catholic Prime ministers of Australia were:

    James Scullin
    Joe Lyons
    John Curtin – but he was a Salvo for a while, and was rescued from the demon drink by Moral Rearmanent and reportedly was received back into the RCC just before he died in June 1945. He knew the Salvation band leader Arthur Gullidge.
    Ben Chifley
    Paul Keating

    Wayne Pelling

  15. It is heart warming to have a person such as Abbott come to the fore in politics. He does engender the feel of a leader with no hidden agenda other then the further good of the nation unlike Rudd who appears headed for bigger and assumed greener pastures at some unnamed world body.
    Gerry Van Hees

  16. The total abandonment, by all political parties, of ordinary British people – some while ago – is a reality that might one day just dawn on a political leader, and, as Phillips says, here is a huge niche market waiting to be exploited. In the past, Britain did indeed have people of principle, but, yes, that might be over now. So what should we do? Above all not vote for any of the unprincipled people/parties on offer.
    John Thomas, UK

  17. Thank you Wayne, I hoped someone would correct me if I was misinformed.

    Rudd made a special effort to get the Christian vote prior to the election but Bill, on this site, and other commentators raised doubts about how genuine his assertion was. When he appointed Julia Gillard as his deputy I was certain that he would not be guided by any Christian principles given the extreme left wing feminist agenda Gillard represents. I got what I voted for even though I should have seen the signs earlier. But in any case I doubt I still would have voted for Howard given how tired I was of him. I am a great supporter of the US system – two terms as President and you’re out! It means a new person has to come in even if the same party wins the election. Any one person as leader for too long begins to distort the dynamic nature that a democracy should be.

    All that aside, I trust that in Abbott what we see is what we’ll get.

    Frank Norros

  18. Tony Abbot has allways been a person who when away from the overiding influence of the party machine and John Howard in particular would often emit pearls of wisdom that made us think that beneath the politician was a man of conviction and common sense. However like most people in high office they can become nested within a cacoon of advisers that hide the real problems/issues behind their own spin (defacto government) and opinions.
    Every now and then there comes along a person who’s ideals and vision are those of the silent majority. Unfortunately these leaders are often under continued but subtle attack in the name of consensus (a word that defines lost ideals) and political correctness.
    Question: Do we really think that God will rule by concensus? I don’t think so. A heaven run by consensus would accommodate all the vile practices of the world so how can it ever be heaven. He will rule with a rod of Iron that will never be used if we just obey a simple set of commandments.
    However I digress
    If Tony Abbot can stay true to himself and not the minders and be prepared to admit that he is fallable instead of the continual lies that spew from most. Then the majority will support him. Those who want the freedom to molest children, have single gender sex, lie, cheat, murder babies and deny there is a creator will not.
    Dennis Newland

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