Bert Kelly, 10 June 1981. Economics Made Easy (Adelaide: Brolga Books, 1982), pp. 191-93.
The Bulletin on May 27th1 wrote than an Association of Modest Members was being formed and that I was to be its patron. The idea is to gather together members and ex-members of Federal and State Parliaments who believe that the market is better than government at arranging commercial affairs.
The reaction of “my family” to this news was interesting. Mavis had her usual knee-jerk reaction that she has if she gets excited; she started to iron my striped trousers! She bought those years ago when she thought I might be made a minister. We now keep them in case I get a state funeral; she thinks they would be much more suitable than pyjamas for such a grand occasion.
Fred didn’t say much except to warn me not to get a swelled head. He has been grimly determined to keep me in my proper place for the last 25 years. Eccles seemed pleased enough though he muttered that we didn’t have time to sit around preening ourselves because the forces of evil were gathering and we had to go forth and smite them hip and high.
You would have at least thought that Eccles would have given me the afternoon off so that I could look back over the last 25 years and see how far we had come since then when there were only one or two of us fighting the good fight. We really were clobbered in those days. Some of the onlookers used to help a little. I remember once when John McEwen was belting me, I received a note from Adam Smith which I suppose was to bring me comfort. It read:
The member of Parliament who supports every proposal for strengthening tariff protection is sure to acquire not only the reputation for understanding trade, but also great popularity and influence with an order of men whose number and wealth render them of great importance. If he opposes them, on the contrary, and still more, if he has authority enough to be able to thwart them, neither the most acknowledged probity, nor the highest rank, nor the greatest public services, can protect him from the most infamous abuse and detraction arising from the insolent outrage of furious and disappointed monopolists.
These fine thoughts didn’t really help much.
But it was Eccles who made my cup of misery run over. He proudly proclaimed that economists were supposed to be unpopular, and to prove it he quoted the great economist, Alfred Marshall.
Students of social science must fear popular approval: evil is with them when all men speak well of them … It is almost impossible for a student to be a true patriot and to have the reputation of being one in his own time.
From then on Mavis regarded Eccles with deep suspicion.
Some comments were more cheering. I remember once when I was poking fun at the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (C.E.D.A.) which proudly proclaims its dedication to the cause of free enterprise but whose members seem to be lined up at the tariff trough as often as the others. Having said this I waited for the heavens to fall but instead I received a little card saying, “E’en the ranks of Tuscany could scare forbear a cheer!” Then followed the chap’s signature then, in brackets, “CEDA director”. That really helped.
I admit that it often seemed as if the vested interests who gained from tariff protection would be powerful enough to prevent the voice of economic logic being heard. I know that some of my younger supporters used to become desolated when we got rolled in a tariff battle, but I have always been hopeful about winning the war, remembering the famous words of Lord Keynes:
The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.
I wonder if that ringing warning has yet reached lobbyists like Mr Aitchison, the spokesman for the clothing and footwear industries, as he, with others of his ilk, beaver away white-anting the resolution of our chicken-hearted politicians. The fight to make the logic and the ideals of ideas supreme over vested interests will not be easy but nothing worthwhile has ever been easy. My mob are increasing in numbers and influence all the time. I am proud to be a patron for such a group and I have splendid visions of me in the van of my troops, splendidly arrayed in freshly ironed striped trousers.
I will try to get them to adopt as their anthem two verses by Arthur Clough:
Say not, the struggle nought availeth,
The labour and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not, nor faileth,
And as things have been, they remain.
For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main.
- Bert Kelly on Journalism
- Move for a body of Modest Members
- Modest Members Association
- Bert Kelly's Maiden Parliamentary Speech
- Government Intervention
- 1976 Monday Conference transcript featuring Bert Kelly
- Petrol for Farmers
- Some Sacred Cows
- Experiences in Parliament
- Spending your Money
- Who needs literary licence?
- A touch of Fred's anarchy
- Supply and Demand
- Bert Kelly on Disaster Relief
- Bert Kelly Wants to Secede
- Under Labor, is working hard foolish?
- An Idiot's Guide to Interventionism
- Bert Kelly Destroys the Side Benefits Argument for Government
- Bert Kelly gets his head around big-headed bird-brained politics
- First Modest Member (Bert Kelly) AFR Column
- Second Modest Member (Bert Kelly) AFR Column
- Third Modest Member (Bert Kelly) AFR Column
- Fourth Modest Member (Bert Kelly) AFR Column
- Fifth Modest Member (Bert Kelly) AFR Column
- Sixth Modest Member (Bert Kelly) AFR Column
- Bert Kelly on the 2011 Budget and Australia's Pathetic Journalists and Politicians
- Bert Kelly, Bastard or Simple Sod?
- Liberal Backbencher Hits Govt. Over Import Restrictions
- Bert Kelly feels a dam coming on at each election
- Bert Kelly Enters Parliament
- Why take in one another's washing?
- Bert Kelly breaks the law, disrespects government and enjoys it
- Gillard's galley-powered waterskiing
- Can price control really work?
- Should we put up with socialism?
- We're quick to get sick of socialism
- Time the protection racket ended
- Can't pull the wool over Farmer Fred
- People not Politics
- Bert Kelly admits he should have had less faith in politicians
- Labor: a girl who couldn't say no
- Why leading businessmen carry black briefcases
- Ludwig von Mises on page 3 of AFR
- Mavis wants the Modest Member to dedicate his book to her
- Time to Butcher "Aussie Beef"
- Bert Kelly reviews The War Diaries of Weary Dunlop
- Bert Kelly reviews We Were There
- Tariffs get the fork-tongue treatment
- Bert Kelly reduces government to its absurdities
- Politician sacrifices his ... honesty
- It's all a matter of principle
- Bert Kelly Destroys the Infant Industry Argument
- Bert Kelly Untangles Tariff Torment
- Bert Kelly resorts to prayer
- Eccles keeps our nose hard down on the tariff grindstone
- "Don't you believe in protecting us against imports from cheap labour countries?"
- Even if lucky, we needn't be stupid
- Great "freedom of choice" mystery
- Small government's growth problem
- Tariffs Introduced
- More About Tariffs
- Sacred cow kicker into print
- Modest Member must not give up
- Traditional Wheat Farming is Our Birthright and Heritage and Must be Protected!
- Bert Kelly brilliantly defends "theoretical academics"
- The Society of Modest Members
- John Hyde's illogical, soft, complicated, unfocussed and unsuccessful attempt to communicate why he defends markets
- Modesty ablaze
- Case for ministers staying home
- The unusual self-evident simplicity of the Modest Members Society
- Animal lib the new scourge of the bush
- The Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Krill
- Repeal economic laws, force people to buy new cars and enforce tariffs against overseas tennis players
- Thoughts on how to kill dinosaurs
- Let's try the chill winds
- Taking the Right's road
- Bert Kelly: "I did not try often or hard enough"
- Bert Kelly "lacked ... guts and wisdom"
- A look at life without tariffs
- The Gospel according to Bert
- Tiny note on Bert Kelly's column in The Bulletin in 1985
- Why costs can't be guaranteed
- Hitting out with a halo
- Paying farmers not to grow crops will save on subsidies, revenge tariffs, etc
- "The Modest Farmer joins us" | "How The Modest Farmer came to be"
- Bert Kelly Destroys the Freeloading Justifies Government Argument
- Government Intervention
- Bigger Cake = Bigger Slices
- Bert Kelly on the Political Process
- Charabanc: Part 1
- Charabanc: Part 2
- Charabanc: Part 3
- Relationships with the Liberal Party
- Tariffs = High Prices + World War
- Bert Kelly's Family History
- Bert Kelly's Pre-Parliament Life
- Why Bert Kelly was not even more publicly outspoken
- WEATHER IS USUALLY UNUSUAL
- How to stand aside when it's time to be counted
- How the Modest Member went back to being a Modest Farmer
- My pearls of wisdom were dull beyond belief
- Bert Kelly on Political Football
- Ross Gittins Wins Bert Kelly Award
- Interesting 1964 Bert Kelly speech: he says he is not a free trader and that he supports protection!
- This is the wall the Right built
- Has Santa socked it to car makers?
- Is the Budget a cargo cult?
- Will we end up subsidising one another?
- Do we want our money to fly?
- Can a bear be sure of a feed?
- How to impress your MP -
- The time for being nice to our MPs has gone ...
- Don't feel sorry for him -
hang on to his ear
- Trade wars can easily end up on a battlefield
- Tariffs Create Unemployment
- Bert Kelly recommends Ayn Rand
- Bert Kelly's Satirical Prophecy: Minister for Meteorology (tick) and High Protectionist Policies to Result in War Yet Again (?)
- Bert Kelly in 1972 on Foreign Ownership of Australian Farmland and Warren Truss, Barnaby Joyce and Bill Heffernan in 2012
- Parliament a place for pragmatists
- Of Sugar Wells and Think-Tanks
- Bert Kelly: "I must take some of the blame"
- A Modest Farmer looks at the Problems of Structural Change
- Government Fails Spectacularly
- Know your proper place if you want the quiet life
- Bert Kelly on political speech writers
- Perish the thawed!
- Modest Farmer sees his ideas take hold
- Max Newton: Maverick in Exile
- Why no-one nails the Big Green Lie
- A case for ministerial inertia
- Why politicians don't like the truth
- Ominous dark clouds are gathering
- Better to be popular than right
- Crying in the wilderness
- Ivory tower needs thumping
- Bert Kelly asks, "How can you believe in free enterprise and government intervention at the same time?"
- Rural Problems
- Unholy state of taxation
- Boring economics worth a smile
- The Libido for the Miserable
- Agricultural Development and Tariffs
- Fred's too poor to have principles
- The Playford charade is out of date
- Bert Kelly: the odd man out who's now in
- Dries must resist giving up struggle as going gets tough
- Sir Roderick Carnegie's foreword to Bert Kelly's Economics Made Easy
- The Vale of Popularity and the Protection Procession
- Politics 101: Pay Lip Service to Capitalism and Shoot the Messenger