A Modest Member of Parliament [Bert Kelly], “Fred puts his sole into new ‘Blue Poles’,” The Australian Financial Review, December 21, 1973, p. 3.
Fred has been wearing his cunning look lately so I know he has been cooking up something.
When we meet he still grizzles about the rust in his wheat and what the Government is doing to him and so on.
But every now and again he has been asking quite off-beat questions, in an off-hand way, about the Government’s interest in cultural matters.
For a while I thought he was considering breaking into print and probing to see if the Government would be likely to give him a literary grant.
But then he started to delve into the Government’s interest in art — particularly he has been sniffing around the Blue Poles painting.
He wanted me to verify whether this great work of art had really been executed by an artist with his feet and was it true that he was a little tiddly at the time? And did the Government really pay $1.3 million for it?
I told him that I understood that the Government did indeed pay this sum but I doubted whether the method of the execution of the painting was quite accurate.
He received this information with studied indifference and I forgot the matter.
But the other morning I called at Fred’s home and his wife said that he was down at the woolshed; she didn’t know what he was doing there but she had a feeling that he was up to something.
So I went quietly to the woolshed and peered in and Fred indeed was up to something.
He had nailed a great piece of tarpaulin to the floor on which he emptied several tins of paint of various colours.
And there he was, with a bottle of whisky in one hand, morosely plodding out a picture for the nation.
He was a bit embarrassed when he saw me. He said that he had hoped it would be a surprise for Mr Whitlam.
“But now you are here, you might as well make yourself useful for once,” he growled.
“Take your shoes and socks off, roll your trousers up and get stuck into it.”
And get stuck into it indeed I did, or nearly so.
It is surprising how sticky paint is to walk on and how it squirms between your toes.
It is really hard to pick up your feet, and that’s where the whisky helps.
So round and round we went and it is certainly a satisfying feeling.
At least you can see where you’ve been, which is more than most politicians can say.
Fred masterminded the whole business and was most fussy about what he called “Working out the headlands.” There was no skimping anything.
“You’ve got to put your soul into it,” he urged. I replied I was putting both soles into it.
We put in a steady three hours plodding round and round and the picture was coming up nicely. But you had to keep going.
All the time the paint was getting stickier and it became even harder to pick the feet up and the whisky was running low.
It became clear that we had to disengage soon or we would be stuck there forever.
I certainly didn’t want to become an integral part of a work of art and be handed down to posterity.
And Fred said that he didn’t want me to either, because he thought I would spoil its value.
So with infinite care we worked ourselves clear. Fred fortunately had kerosene handy and eventually we got the paint off our legs.
Then we had some more whisky and sat down to admire our footwork.
The longer we watched it the more certain we were that we had created something really notable.
As the paint hardened the details came into sharper relief, the colours become deeper and so on.
Fred kept the flies off while I went home for more whisky.
By the time the sun was low in the sky the whole masterpiece was fairly glowing and Fred was doing sums in his head about its value.
He pointed out that it was bigger than Blue Poles so it would certainly be worth more.
“I’ll let it go for $2 million but not a cent less,” he said as we finished the last of the whisky.
“It’s your job to see that I get the money and proper recognition. It’s all my idea. You only did a bit of the foot work.
“You see Gough and tell him he could use it for his next year’s Christmas cards. That’ll fetch him.”
So we went home, treading on air.
But when we inspected it in the morning, Mavis sniffed and said that she thought it looked pretty ordinary.
But perhaps Gough will buy it.
I’m sure he’d be the first to admit that he’s a man of vision.
Appendix for Economics.org.au readers:
George Jean Nathan Mocks the Moral Arguments for Government Funding of the Arts
George Jean Nathan (1882-1958) was one of the great theatre critics. Here are some brief selections from his writings mocking the same moral arguments that are today used to justify government funding of the Arts.
George Jean Nathan, Materia Critica (New York: Knopf, 1924), p. 60.
If the combined aim and object of art lies in the stirring of the emotions, and is praiseworthy, why should the similar aim and object of the vices be regarded as meretricious? If the Madonnas of Raphael, Holbein, Murillo and Da Vinci are commendable in that they stir the imagination to the contentments of faith, why are not the whiskeys of Dewar, Macdonald, Haig and Macdougal commendable for the same reason? If a Bach fogue is praised for stimulating the mind, why not a Corona Corona? If the senses are commendably excited by Balzac and Zola, why shouldn’t they be excited, and equally commendably, by means that may be described as being somewhat less literary?
George Jean Nathan, The Autobiography of an Attitude (New York: Knopf, 1925), p. 138.
To speak of morals in art is to speak of a clergyman in a bawdy-house. This is perhaps why the argument for morals in art is considered by its numerous sponsors to be so credible.
And George Jean Nathan’s House of Satan (New York: Knopf, 1926) begins:
It has always been the mission of the theatre to reduce, in so far as it lay within its power, the manners and morals of the community. Obviously, I do not speak of the debased, uncivilized theatre, but of the theatre that is artistically on the highest and finest level. …
When I speak of the theatre as a corrupter of morals, it is of course as a synonym for drama. And when I speak of drama, I speak at the same time of most of the other arts, for the accomplishment, if perhaps not always the intention, of all art is the lowering of human virtue, in the commonly accepted sense of the word, and the conversion of men from metaphysical and emotional Methodism to metaphysical and emotional Paganism. To believe the contrary, to believe that great art is an inspirer of virtue, is to be so vealy as to believe that Tristan makes its auditor feel like St. Francis of Assisi, that Byron and Swinburne conjure up Sunday-school memories, that the Venus of Cnidus makes one think of entering a monastery, and that Lysistrata is the most eloquent argument for continence ever written. Only the fly-blown and ignorant, however, longer suffer any delusions about the purposes of art. Such mammals hit upon a few obvious kindergarten exceptions to the general and seek to build their case upon them. Unacquainted with nine-tenths of the world’s best music, literature, painting, sculpture, poetry and drama, they imagine that all art has the same effect upon the human spirit as Chopin’s E flat major nocturne or the slow movement of his B flat minor sonata, Botticelli’s Madonna and Child, and Romeo and Juliet. Yet if art were what these imbeciles imagine, it would have died from the cosmos hundreds of years ago. It has been kept alive by man’s unregenerate sinfulness alone. Its greatest patron saints, the men who with power and gold and favor have encouraged and assisted its craftsmen, have almost without exception been the more dissolute kings and emperors, lechers and millionaire crooks, fleshpot fanciers and followers of Pan. And its greatest lovers and stoutest champions have ever been the men who most truly appreciated that under its pretense of divine origin there curled a red and forked tail.
Art ennobles? Then tell me what, precisely, is the ennobling nature of — and how, precisely, one is made to feel Corpsbruder to the angels by — Macbeth, Rembrandt’s portrait of his sister, Madame Bovary or Richard Strauss’ Salomé. The simple truth, of course, is that, aside from a purely critical gratification, Macbeth exalts the cultured and intelligent man just about as much as a modern Edinburgh bathtub, that the chief thought that enters the man’s mind when he gazes upon the Rembrandt portrait is that it would be charming to give the old boy’s sister a hug, and that Flaubert and Strauss induce in the reader and auditor much less an overwhelming desire to lead a better and nobler life than a worse and more lamentably agreeable one.
- Bert Kelly on his 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
- Bert Kelly, Hayek and Mencken on the virtues of farmers
- Sound economics calls for quiet from government
- Petrol for Farmers
- Some Sacred Cows
- Experiences in Parliament
- Spending your Money
- Is Taxmania a politician fetish?
- How Bert Kelly repays a free feed
- Modest column #898
- Chicken-hearted feathered friends strange bedfellows on a feather bed?
- Who needs literary licence?
- A touch of Fred's anarchy
- Helping the farmers help themselves
- Standing on the shoulders of the downtrodden
- Supply and Demand
- Bert Kelly responds to claims he is arrogant and uncredentialed
- Politics: it's a very confusing business
- The best featherbeds run on rails
- Bert Kelly on Disaster Relief
- Bert Kelly Wants to Secede
- Blinded by their tears
- Anti-freedom pro-tobacco industry lobby harmed Australia
- Under Labor, is working hard foolish?
- An Idiot's Guide to Interventionism
- Is free healthcare worthless?
- Can government kiss it better?
- 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
- State Premiers are always asking for more taxing powers
- 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
- The inspirational incentivising Dear Leader Gough Whitlam
- Labor: a girl who couldn't say no
- Why leading businessmen carry black briefcases
- Ludwig von Mises on page 3 of AFR
- Bert Kelly's empowering feminism
- Mavis wants the Modest Member to dedicate his book to her
- What if the whole country is swindled?
- Moss Cass: "Flood plains are for floods"
- A worm's eye view
- Eccles returns to haunt us
- How to grip a politician's ear
- It's hard to digest this economic cake
- Time to Butcher "Aussie Beef"
- Cold water on government-instigated irrigation schemes
- Hooray for Ord River Dam!
- Tariffs paid by exporters
- The problem of principles v popularity
- If you support State Quotas, where will your logic take you?
- Against guidance by government
- A socialist in Liberal clothing
- Never ask the government to help
- Don't listen to economists!
- Bert Kelly's revolutionary strategy
- Whitlam's July 1973 25% tariff cut
- Bert Kelly on Import Quotas
- Good directions when government backseat driving, like reversing down wrong side of road
- Barriers to imports are barriers to exports
- 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
- I like my kind acts to get a mention in the press
- A Modest Member rakes the embers
- Tariffs Introduced
- More About Tariffs
- Sacred cow kicker into print
- Bert Kelly's 1984 two-article quote-collection on Aboriginal policies
- Modest Member must not give up
- Traditional Wheat Farming is Our Birthright and Heritage and Must be Protected!
- Tariff-cut nonsense lives on
- Bert Kelly brilliantly defends "theoretical academics"
- The high cost of protection
- Generosity creates problems
- 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
- modest members society
- 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
- Industrial Relations Club shovellers
- From Shann to Stone
- Government Intervention
- A sojourn in the real world
- The tariff wind swings
- Bigger Cake = Bigger Slices
- Bert Kelly on the Political Process
- A charabanc called protection
- Taken for a ride - to nowhere
- Down hill, in circles, all the way
- Economic facts and figures are statistics who should speak out
- Any cons arguing small business bad but big government good?
- Relationships with the Liberal Party
- Tariffs = High Prices + World War
- Bert Kelly's Family History
- Bert Kelly's Pre-Parliament Life
- What the MP could say to the Bishop
- 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
- Undigested morsels in Fraser spew
- Bert Kelly on LSD
- Bert Kelly reflects on the Australian car industry in 1992
- Bert Kelly wants reprinted Shann's Economic History of Australia
- If tariffs are opposed here then why not there?
- The emperor has no textiles, clothing and footwear sense
- 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
- Tariff Protection in Australia (1970)
- Has Santa socked it to car makers?
- Is the Budget a cargo cult?
- Will we end up subsidising one another?
- Keeping the bucket of worms alive
- Can we get off the stomach-churning head-spinning tariff merry-go-round?
- 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 on Alf Rattigan's Industry Assistance: The Inside Story
- 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
- Bert Kelly baits Welfare State Tiger
- Why does Govt wear two faces?
- Parliament a place for pragmatists
- Of Sugar Wells and Think-Tanks
- Bert Kelly: "I must take some of the blame"
- Bert Kelly on dumping duties
- The Govt's helping hand often hurts
- Unbuckling the hobbles on the motor industry
- 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
- Having your cake and eating it
- Perish the thawed!
- Hooray for Northern Development!
- The silly image of our MPs
- Bert Kelly Question Time highlights
- Modest Farmer sees his ideas take hold
- Should facts stand in the way of a good story?
- Fondling one another's glass haloes
- What is the sense in making the effort to look after yourself?
- Fred's Feeling: Counterpatriotic country contrarian
- Handouts for big boys only
- Mavis trying to buy a hand loom
- Bad news for bearers of bad news
- Is it time to get aboard the tariff band-waggon?
- Why farmers resent tariff protection for motor makers
- A sordid use of scare tactics
- Goods vs services
- Tariffs are hilariously counterproductive
- Bert Kelly on decentralisation
- Inflation breeds moral decay
- Who envies equality?
- Growth – malignant or benign?
- Government wiser than Magna Carta
- Bert Kelly on looking to politicians for moral leadership
- Max Newton: Maverick in Exile
- Whitlam & co on the Dismissal
- 25% Tariff Cut
- Bert Kelly on pensions
- Mr Clunies-Ross of the Cocos Islands should rule Australia
- They get the wind up when it changes
- Why the Big Green Lie survives
- Ross McLean in 1982: "Malcolm! Why don't we try good government? It might be popular."
- Bert Kelly on the importance of exchange rate movements
- Bert Kelly shows how to attack
- Bert Kelly vs Bert Kelly vs Bert Kelly
- Industrial relations dinosaur, Bruce, chews his cud
- Hooray for "firmly entrenched"!
- Respect your dinosaurs
- What if something is "deeply ingrained" yet harmful?
- A case for ministerial inertia
- Why politicians don't like the truth
- Our great open spaces
- 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?"
- Politicians get undeserved praise, why not undeserved blame too?
- Feet in a bucket of champagne
- Rural Problems
- Health cover needs a $30 excess clause
- 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
- Eccles Law of the constant wage share
- "He whom the gods would destroy ..."
- Tariffs: when to wean infant BHP?
- Keep any government as far as possible from farming
- 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
- How a well meaning Government can be so stupid
- The icing on the economic cake
- 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
- Bert Kelly makes politicians eat their own words on tariffs, then says, "We cannot be blamed for treating the statements of our statesmen with cynical contempt"
- Bert Kelly on Free Enterprise
- Cartoons of protected industry, the welfare teat and the nanny state
- Bert Kelly on the theory of constant shares and the Fabian Society
- Bert Kelly vs Doug Anthony
- You're lucky if you escape being helped by government
- Bert Kelly on Small Farmers
- Bert Kelly on Apathy
- Bert Kelly in 1967 on "problems of government and things like that"
- The last "Dave's Diary"
- Bert Kelly vs The Australian on tariffs in 1977
- Bounties or Tariffs, Someone Pays
- Geriatric companies without a minder
- A free marketeer wary of free trade
- Nixon's puzzling profession of faith
- "Ford ... seems to spend more time bending its knees than its back"
- Clyde Cameron's weak ways with wise words
- Why flaunt what others flout?
- Bert Kelly yearns for Tim Flannery's powers of prediction
- Looking after yourself is silly
- Bert Kelly masterpiece on drought, fire, flood and other natural disaster relief schemes
- Government can take credit for our car industry mess
- Car makers want the 4wd driven deeper into tariff bog
- Why our MP is no longer prone to a good sob story
- Auto industry is in a straitjacket
- Bert Kelly on market predictions
- Why should dryland farmers subsidise irrigation farmers?
- How much should government decrease incentive for independence from government?
- Clarkson crowned Deputy Government Whip
- Bert Kelly to blame for soaring government healthcare costs
- 1959 return of Dave's Diary
- Bert Kelly in 1966 on developing northern Australia
- Successful government intervention can [sic] occur
- Vernon Report upholds Clarkson
- Quiet Man Makes An Impact
- Should it be compulsory to buy footwear and clothing?
- To save Australian clothing industry women must all wear same uniform
- Don't confuse plucking heart strings with plucking harp strings
- Speech only for public
- Catchy Tariff Circus Extravaganza
- Bert Kelly in 1985 on cars yet again
- Hurrah for the Gang of Five
- Thoughts on a verse about Balfour
- Bert Kelly pep talk to politicians
- Government intervention = Agony postponed but death brought nearer
- Recipe for disaster: Freeze!
- Recipe for government intervention: Gather winners and scatter losers
- Recipe for industry destruction: Blanket market signals
- Mavis writes!
- Bert Kelly's empiricism is not kneejerk reaction kind
- The $2,000 song of the shirt worker
- Subsiding only small farmers means subsiding the big banks
- Difficult to be fast on your feet when you've got your ear to the ground
- It would surprise people to see how sensible MPs behave if they think they are not being watched
- Bert Kelly on "this land of limitless resources" and "great open spaces"
- Growing bananas at the South Pole
- Car components tariff protection under fire
- Why carry a $300m car subsidy?
- Tariff feather beds for the foreign giants
- Bert Kelly says end compulsory voting to stop donkey vote
- Perhaps being smart and insured isn't all luck
- You gets your tariff, you pays a price
- More funds to train Olympians?
- Fire in their guts and wind in ours
- Should free universal healthcare include pets?
- Sound advice from a modest farmer
- A tottering monument to intervention
- Cunning meets wisdom
- Competition, Aussie-style: Who's the bigger parasite?
- Australians are proud patriotic parasites, says Bert Kelly
- Taxpayer-funded sport is cheating
- Being loved by all is not always a good thing
- Welfare State Destroys Society
- 1980 Bert Kelly feather bed series
- The White Mice Marketing Board
- Government intervention and advice can be harmful, even when right, even for those it tries to help
- One small step on the compulsory voting landmine
- The free & compulsory education sacred cows have no clothes
- Holding a loaded wallet to an economist's head
- Political No Man's Land
- Only blind greed demands both equality and prosperity
- A cow that sucks itself — that's us!