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Heaven forbid that the endless chatter of elite opinion should get its way

By David Flint - posted Friday, 5 September 2003

In his book, The Revolt of the Elites, US author Christopher Lasch describes as elite the opinions of the typical upper-middle-class small-l liberal left wing on social and cultural issues.

In Australia, the media, the university humanities faculties and the arts are replete with elite opinion.

The so-called elites are the modern equivalent of the guardians in Plato's Republic who, because of their self-assumed superior knowledge, intelligence and morality are entitled, indeed destined, to guide the ship of state.


Meanwhile, the mainstream, while accepting gradual change, remains attached to our traditional beliefs and institutions. Along with Edmund Burke, they believe that society is a parnership, a partnership between those who are alive today, those who have gone before us and those yet to be born.

That there should be such a divergence of views is not in itself a matter of concern. Rather, it is that so much of the elite agenda was achieved during the past three decades without the consent of the people and even against their wishes.

One technique was to remove difficult items from political debate. Hence the attraction of judicial activism, where the judges make laws parliaments would not dare enact. The agitation for a bill of rights has little to do with rights and everything to do with an elite agenda. Another method has been to transfer power to international institutions, sometimes even without a vote in parliament.

The party machines, especially at the state level, have also been targeted. The Labor Party was first, so much so that Kim Beazley Sr lamented that while once the branches consisted of the cream of the working class, they now consist of the dregs of the middle class. Another target was public discourse itself.

So those who dare present the traditional views of most Australians are inevitably branded as conservative, or worse. But members of the elite commentariat are presented to the public as if they are mainstream - which of course they are not. If you believe in cultural relativism, or that crime should not be followed by punishment, or that our borders should be thrown open - in sum if you oppose traditional institutions and values - you are hardly in the mainstream.

When we celebrated the centenary of Federation in May 2001 - one of the world's most successful experiments in peaceful and democratic nation-building - the floor seemed to be mainly given to the sort of people who write to newspapers expressing their shame in being Australian. One even argued in an official Federation lecture that Australia's "big picture ideas" were not only racist - they were no different from those of Nazi Germany! Why weren't those who are unashamedly proud to be Australians given at least equal billing? Hardly any were invited.


The elites have been spectacularly successful in their campaign against the concept of individual responsibility that is so central to our culture. The argument goes like this: It's better if decisions about matters such as education and health are taken out of our hands to be determined by the guardians - even if we have to pay more for the privilege.

So, too, in the area of law and order. The problem of the violence and depravity of a growing underclass in Western countries is, as British writer Theodore Dalrymple argues, not so much because of welfare dependency, it is rather the result of the ideas that have filtered down from our elites.

Simply put, crime and antisocial activity are explained as the result of disadvantage, and again, only the elites can cure that - at of course a cost.

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This article was first published in The Australian Financial Review on 25 August 2003.

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About the Author

David Flint is a former chairman of the Australian Press Council and the Australian Broadcasting Authority, is author of The Twilight of the Elites, and Malice in Media Land, published by Freedom Publishing. His latest monograph is Her Majesty at 80: Impeccable Service in an Indispensable Office, Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, Sydney, 2006

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