3 Apr. 2008

What's The Big Idea, Mate?

A great Op-Ed in Fairfax papers today. David Hetherington says Australia's marketplace for ideas is broken. He identifies four main blockages in the national ideas pipeline, starting (hallellujah!) with media ownership. If you have a nice cold beer or Chardonnay on hand, take a sip while you enjoy this lovely little para:
Firstly, concentration of media ownership means that our public debate is dominated by a small clique of commentators who have held sway for decades. Big cities have at most three newspaper opinion pages, and TV discussion of ideas is restricted to late nights or Sunday mornings. The result is a tired, recycled exchange that resembles a school debate. "Proposition: that there is systemic left-wing bias among teachers/universities/the ABC." For the affirmative, Gerard Henderson, Piers Akerman, Miranda Devine. For the negative, Phillip Adams, Mike Carlton, Robert Manne. Sound familiar? You bet. But because of the closed circle of participants, there's little room in this debate for new ideas to flourish.
Damn straight, mate!

The second problem is "a generation of leaders who excelled at machine politics, but struggled to infuse new thinking into their political message". Tick that one off too!
Thirdly, we lack a culture of investment in ideas. Other developed countries have long traditions of philanthropic investment in ideas dating back to the Industrial Revolution. The Barrow Cadbury Trust, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Carnegie Endowment contribute to economic and social research with a public return on investment as their only expectation. Their dividend is social, not financial. In Australia we give generously to volunteer associations, charities and disaster relief - all worthy causes - but investing in a marketplace for ideas is foreign to us.
Anyone wealthy altruists wanna support this blog? Anyone? No. OK, what about Mark Bahnisch's Larvatus Prodeo blog? Not good enough either? Exactly.

The last blockage identified by Hetherington, who heads a "progressive" thinktank called Per Capita, is our sunny climate. Who wants to think when there's beer in the fridge, cricket on tele, and the surf is pumping? Burp!

Maybe I should be hitting up Hetherington and his mates at Per Capita for some sponsorship money? They just got a million dollar kickoff from private and corporate donors. At last, some serious opposition to the rightwing thinktanks which give us imbeciles like Gerard Henderson and Co.! More here and here.