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Viv Forbes, “The Libertarian Movement in Australia,” a five minute address to a special meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society in Hong Kong, September 1978.
Republished in Ron Manners’ Heroic Misadventures (West Perth, Australia: Mannwest Group, 2009), pp. 153-54.

In the short time available I’d like to emphasise just one message for libertarian politicians: THERE IS NO EASY WAY.

Every day I’m earbashed by someone trying to convert me to his plan for instantaneous political success.

For example, on the boat yesterday, I was told: “The only answer is to work through the established political parties.”

My answer: “Fine, which one are you going to join?”

Today I was told: “The secret is to stick to education of the opinion makers.”

My answer: “Fine, which one will you work on?

And almost everyday someone says: “Why don’t we concentrate all of our resources on one state, electorate, project or whatever, and really give it a trouncing?”

My answer: “Fine, which one will you work on?

All of these views are examples of what I call THE MYTH OF CONSTANT RESOURCES.

They all assume that there is a fixed amount of human and monetary resources available to the libertarian movement, which some wise leader can manipulate like a pawn on a chess board.

I have learnt that the resources available are not constant — they depend on what activities are carried out — the more activities, the more resources will be available.

For example, there are people who believe that there is no value in entering politics at all. If this is the only avenue available, these people will not work — their energy and their resources will be lost to the movement. If a non-political avenue did exist, RESOURCES AVAILABLE TO THE MOVEMENT WOULD INCREASE.

Therefore, to maximise our resources, we must let people work in all fields. We should encourage free enterprise and individual initiative in politics.

In Australia, the libertarian effort is occurring in about 4 areas. They are, in ascending order of aggressiveness:

  1. Education
  2. Lobbying
  3. Infiltration
  4. Direct political action

In education we have the Centre of Independent Studies, which is doing a great job spreading the word among the academics and intellectuals. The director, Greg Lindsay, is here. We also have an infant Foundation for Economic Education, which is an Australian replica of Leonard Read’s organisation. FEE distributes books, shows films, arranges lectures and seminars.

In the lobby area we are taking over or setting up special interest lobby groups whose aims agree with ours. For example, we:

  • set up NFC (National Firearms Council) to oppose confiscation and registration of firearms
  • set up PRAG (Property Owners Action Group) to oppose compulsory acquisition of land
  • control part of RTW (Right to Work Association) to oppose compulsory unionism
  • set up Ratepayers Association to reduce rates
  • sit on Taxpayers Association to reduce taxes
  • have close contacts with the Cannabis Research Foundation to question the morality and effectiveness of prohibition
  • hold executive position in the Civil Liberties Group
  • also in Chambers of Commerce, Chamber of Mines, IPA, Small Business and Self Employed Association, etc

At the third level of aggressiveness we encourage infiltration of other parties. We welcome members of other parties as members or as subscribers to our mail list. Our mail list now includes several members of parliament and prominent members of older parties. This builds a fifth column within the other parties.

The fourth area of activity, direct political action, appears to be the most effective. It generates publicity and it makes politicians listen. I believe politicians will only listen when you kick them in the ballot box, good and hard. And to do this you need direct aggressive political action.

Each state of Australia has its own autonomous libertarian political party. We use the name “Workers Party” in South Australia and “Progress Party” everywhere else. The Progress Party is two years old and has contested: a federal election, where we got an average 2-4%; and about 4 state elections, where we got 5-10%, with several candidates getting 15% or better. The best net result was 19% of the primary vote. About 3 members have been elected to local government positions.

Because of the preferential voting system in Australia any party that can attract 5-10% of the vote can determine the result of elections. Thus the Progress Party is already a growing political force, especially in the frontier states where it does best.

For the future, I see persistence as the only key to success. We must keep sowing the seed.

Only the government can reap without sowing. We must sow before we can reap.

To put it in military terms, I see a three-pronged strategy:

  1. Fight on all fronts.
  2. Press on, no matter what the outcome.
  3. Don’t stop for casualties — you can lead a thousand men, but you can’t carry two.

And to those who believe they have an idea which will guarantee the success of the libertarian movement, I say: “Ideas without action are but words in the wind.”

(in order of appearance on Economics.org.au)
  1. Lang Hancock's Five Point Plan to Cripple Australia
  2. Put Windmills in National Parks
  3. Magnifying National Disasters
  4. Please Don't Feed the Animals
  5. Buy Birdsville Made?
  6. The Economics of Flood Risk
  7. Touring Bureaucrats
  8. Why Wind Won't Work
  9. A Profusion of "Prices"
  10. R.I.P. Ron Kitching - pioneer, explorer, author, family man, entrepreneur, scholar
  11. The Carbon Pollution Lie
  12. Closing Down Australia
  13. The Anti-Industry
  14. The Pyramid Builders
  15. Carbon Tax Bribery
  16. Crown Monopolies
  17. Carbon Tax Job Losses
  18. What Next, a Tax on Water?
  19. Carbon Health Warnings Coming Soon
  20. Growth Mythology
  21. The Tax Collection Industry
  22. Propaganda Puts Paid to Proof
  23. The Milk of the Welfare Teat is Watered Down
  24. "Crops for Cars" as Bad as Everlasting Drought
  25. Poll speech sets record
  26. The Emissions Trading Casino
  27. The Contract Society
  28. A Model Ministry
  29. The Five Point Plan to kill the economy with High Cost Electricity
  30. Put a Sunset Clause in the Carbon Tax
  31. Stuck on Red
  32. Time to Butcher "Aussie Beef"
  33. Carbon Tax Lies and Bribes
  34. The Middle of the Road
  35. United against taxes
  36. Call for Govt administrator
  37. Property & Prosperity
  38. "The Science is Settled" BUT Durban Climate Summit Not Cancelled
  39. No End to Fuelish Policies?
  40. The Right to Discriminate
  41. Sell the CES
  42. Free Water Costs Too Dam Much
  43. Creating Unemployment
  44. Viv Forbes Wins 1986 Adam Smith Award
  45. 1985 news item on Tax Payers United, Centre 2000 and the Australian Adam Smith Club
  46. Having the numbers is not the same as having the truth
  47. Who's Who in the Workers Party
  48. David Russell Leads 1975 Workers Party Queensland Senate Team
  49. Caught in a welfare whirlpool
  50. Global Warming Season
  51. Mining in Queensland, Past, Present and Future
  52. WEATHER IS USUALLY UNUSUAL
  53. Political branch formed
  54. Ron Manners on the Workers Party
  55. Viv Forbes on Libertarian Strategy and the Myth of Constant Resources
  56. The New Brisbane Line?
  57. Carbon Lies
  58. We Mine to Live
  59. Save the taxpayer
  60. Solving Three Canberra Problems
  61. Vested Interests in the Climate Debate
  62. Carbon Tax Retrospective?
  63. Carbon Price Propaganda Taxes the Truth
  64. Don't Burn Food for Motor Spirit - Feed People not Cars
  65. Two Big Climate Taxes
  66. Greens Rediscover Hydrogen Car
  67. Atlas of Australia
  68. Shutting Out The Sun
  69. Safety Mania
  70. Coal - Sinking in the Swamps
  71. Hobbling the Competition
  72. Cubic Currency Coming
  73. "Dear Government"
  74. Viv Forbes mocks Flannery in 1988
  75. Smoking, Health and Freedom
  76. Privatise Now! while they are still worth something
  77. The Electoral Act should allow voters to choose "none of the above"
  78. The New Federalism
  79. Sunset for Solar Subsidies
  80. The mouse will roar
  81. The Road to Homelessness
  82. Planning & Prosperity
  83. Viv Forbes and Jim Fryar vs Malcolm Fraser in 1979
  84. Quip, Quote, Rant and Rave: four of Viv Forbes' letters to the editor in The Australian in 1979
  85. Australia's First Official Political Party Poet Laureate: The Progress Party's Ken Hood in 1979
  86. Our homeless regulation refugees
  87. Progress Party and Workers Party lead The Australian
  88. Viv Forbes in 1978 on loss-making government, the Berlin Wall and misdirected blasts of hot-air
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