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Pyne, Trump and Turnbull walk into a bar...

By Mark Christensen - posted Thursday, 7 April 2016

It was refreshing to hear Christopher Pyne, in a recent interview on Channel Seven's The Morning Show, offer some frank commentary on American politics.

The emergence of Donald Trump, he said, was "kind of weird". The cabinet minister stated the Republican Party would find itself in "the wilderness for a very long time" should it choose the billionaire, former reality TV personality as its presidential candidate.

On the other hand, it was equally disturbing how readily Pyne presumed his Liberal party – the equivalent of the Republicans here in Australia – immune to the same undercurrents (perhaps Leigh Sale's interview with Cory Bernadi caused him to reflect).


Western democracies are under pressure from polarising elements, with the centre struggling to hold up in the face of ideological forces unwilling to compromise. Political discourse has become nasty and highly personalised, divorced from the real concerns of real people.

So much so, the concept of the middle ground itself goes unexamined.

Balance is a core function of democracy. Economic prosperity is indispensable, but it's not what is most important to human beings. We need both. It's OK for a centralised bureaucracy to provide some of the basics, though final responsibility for happiness and a sense of community rests with the individual. Similarly, an effective leader connects with both head and heart.

While one might casually claim to favour such a balanced approach, we rarely ponder what this actually means.

It's often thought, for instance, that government efforts to strengthen civil society by, amongst other things, redistributing income, supporting minorities and enforcing appropriate rules and regulations, are opposed to our self-interests.

They're not. Most of us see taxation and some form of governance as crucial to building a platform of shared existence.


The conflict arises when government goes beyond its natural limits.

Just as money and material possessions only partial satisfy. Just as reason is not equivalent to wisdom. Any system or institution, regardless of its sophistication or noble intentions, will always fall short of realizing our highest ideals.

Like the United States, Australia has long viewed the middle ground as halfway between competing interests. Left versus right. Social order versus personal liberty. Materialism versus a free-spiritedness.

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About the Author

Mark is a social and political commentator, with a background in economics. He also has an abiding interest in philosophy and theology, and is trying to write a book on the nature of reality. He blogs here.

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