Oakeshott: Robert not Michael

Robert Oakeshott, MHR (Lyne, Qld.) continues to put the interests of the government ahead of his fellow citizens. His main concern is to serve parliamentary despotism. He has confidence neither in the ability of his friends to make a case for change, nor for the good sense of the electorate in whom, at least in theory, sovereignty resides.

His namesake, a historian and philosopher, reckoned somewhat differently:

Because all action is conditioned by presuppositions, Oakeshott was inclined to see any attempt to change the world as reliant upon a scale of values which themselves presuppose a context of experience. Even the conservative disposition to maintain the status quo relies upon managing inevitable change, he would later elaborate in his essay On Being Conservative.

We see here in Australia, as elsewhere, governments displaying a rearkable level of contempt for citizens. There is a deepening comparability of various occasions over the last century when stubborn governments basically threw people under a bus. The Great War was just the beginning. As someone remarked recently: “Only Poor People Should Be Allowed To Fail”. In coming years the number of poor may rise exponentially, certainly in the West and among those who have but recently emerged into some level of prosperity. In Australia, false science shrouds a common thread of statism and contempt for the individual person. Elsewhere, Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany proclaimed a few days ago: ‘It is our historic task to protect the euro. Europe without the euro is unthinkable.’ All that no matter the cost, no matter the legality of the measures concerned and regardless of public opinion.

It is astonishing that yet again governments and their mates should have fallen for such a self-evident temptation. But as Bertie Wooster once observed, “So it goes on, Jeeves, so it goes on”.* Bertie never seemed to age much, he rarely failed to make ghastly decisions but from it all he did learn. No such capacity from today’s politicians.


* P. G. Wodehouse, ‘Jeeves and the Song of Songs’ in Very Good, Jeeves, p. 95.



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