James Allan

First instincts

First instincts can tell you a lot about someone. Often we judge people, in part at least, by their first instincts.

Let’s say you’re a voter who prefers small government to big and who thinks best consequences generally flow from leaving people to arrange their own affairs. Sure, you may agree that in unusual circumstances the government may have to step in and force people to do things, but this sort of social engineering, in your opinion, will always have unintended consequences no one can anticipate and it will usually have more costs than benefits.

If you’re that sort of posited voter it’s overwhelmingly likely that you’re going to be a Coalition voter most of the time. It’s slightly less clear where you’d fit in that political party, but let’s assume you consider yourself to be on the liberal or whiggish wing, rather than the socially conservative wing.

Now put yourself in the shoes of that sort of voter and ask yourself how you’d respond to a Coalition politician frontbencher whose first instincts are to favour quotas for women for corporate boards and the like. And let’s ignore for our purposes all issues related to the raising of this quota-favouring strategy in a way that shows and accentuates disunity in the Party, and at a time when it’s doing well in the polls. Instead let’s jsut assume our mooted politician is voicing his support for quotas in the Party room or in some other appropriate forum.

Just on the principle of the matter, what would you as a Coalition voter on the liberal wing of the Party think of this politician’s instincts? Would this be the sort of politician to whom you are immediately attracted? Just to make that a bit tougher question, assume as well that this frontbencher is affable, friendly, and genuinely a very likeable and nice guy.

Wouldn’t you still find his first instincts, his desire to go down the path of social engineering and his seeming insouciance about unintended consequences and about the deadweight costs of the bureaucracy that would have to administer this off-putting? (And as an aside, anyone who wants to experience the massive and awful deadweight costs of bureaucracies totally out of control and ones that impose the worst one-size-fits-all diktats on everyone under their authority can just drive over to his or her nearest Australian university.)

Well, I figure all such small-L liberal Coalition voters would be greatly put off by the instincts of this sort of frontbench politician. Put bluntly, those sort of instincts are much more at home in the Labor Party, or the Greens, or even in the odd rural socialist independent MP.

Sure, social conservatives in the Coalition sometimes have these social engineering instincts too, though not on this particular issue. But if that’s not your home in the Party, if that’s not your core constituency, then you might like to ask yourself ‘What the heck am I doing?’.

Frankly, it baffles me.

Subscribe to Quadrant magazine here…

Post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.