Bob Howard, “The Road to Where?,” Libertarian Optimism: Newsletter of the Progress Party of New South Wales, March, 1978, pp. 1-2.
[Thanks to the still political Maureen Nathan for access to her archives.]
It was the intention of the founders of the Workers Party that the party be a libertarian party — a party that remained true to the libertarian philosophy. The present Progress Party continues that intention.
Accordingly, it has always been one of the fundamental objectives of both parties to put principles before votes. This is one way of saying that we would rather be an unsuccessful libertarian party than a successful non-libertarian party. If the latter was what we wanted, then we would have joined the Liberal Party.
Such an attitude is often called idealistic and impractical. It is certainly idealistic, and it may well be impractical — but only in the short term. In the long term the ideal is the practical. If an idea is right, it is ideal. If it is right it is the only idea that has any long-term chance of success. That makes it practical — and most realistic.
Political parties are purely vehicles — means to an end. Or at least, that’s the way we view them. For most of our professional politicians, it might be argued that the parties have become both the means and the end. In our view, parties can be used, changed and, if necessary, discarded; they are like the clothes we wear; depending on the occasion a particular party, like particular clothes, can be a hindrance or a help.
Our system of ideas however — our libertarian philosophy — is like our soul. It cannot be compromised, denied or partially discarded with impunity. If we are not true to our ideas, we are not true to ourselves.
It is this sense that I believe we should consider ourselves to be libertarians first, and members of the Progress Party second. The Party is nothing more than just one of many possible vehicles for promoting the philosophy of libertarianism. And it is for the promotion of that philosophy that we are working together, in the vehicle that we have developed for the task, the Progress Party.
It is important to make this distinction, because if we were, in the words of John Clemitson, to measure our self-esteem by the number of genuine votes (i.e. the total number less the donkey vote) that we gained at the recent election, we would be miserable and pessimistic indeed.
And to be sure, the future of the Progress Party is Bleak.
Funds were scarce in the recent election — a factor which contributed greatly to the poor result — and there is no reason to expect them to be more readily available in the future.
However, when we look at the position of the philosophy of libertarianism in Australia, there is reasonable cause for optimism.
We have made significant gains in the past three years (as all who were active libertarians in the pre-Workers Party days can attest).
For the first time in Australian history (to my knowledge), this country has an explicit libertarian movement. That in itself is a quite extraordinary fact. For the first time, the classical liberal heritage — the ideology of men like Adam Smith, Herbert Spencer, John Locke, John Stuart Mill, Thomas Jefferson and Tom Paine — has found expression in a serious political movement in this country.
In addition, I believe we have made a significant contribution to altering the tone of the Australian political debate. We have highlighted the evils of big government, unnecessary regulation and high taxation. We have helped popularise the connection between an increasing money supply and inflation.
Many of our points are coming up with increasing frequency in public debate.
We have exposed thousands of people all over Australia to our ideas in some detail. Of those, over two thousand have at some time been motivated to join our Party.
We have gained very valuable experience in the ways and means of organising political movements, contesting elections, changing public opinion and promoting our ideas. We have made some ground in developing tactics and strategies for achieving change, and have started on the difficult road of developing step by step policies for getting “from here to there”.
We have brought together some very fine people, who were previously either lone voices calling in the wilderness, or people who knew that there was something fundamentally wrong with this country, but without any explicit ideas of the causes or cures.
And finally, we are in an historical situation conducive to change. It was one of Thomas Kuhn’s insights that scientific “revolutions” will only occur when two criteria are met: (1) current, accepted ideas — the existing “paradigm” — must be clearly seen to be failing; and (2) a new set of ideas — a new paradigm — that appears to explain and solve the problems of the time must be available for substitution for the old paradigm.
In other words, people won’t respond to calls for change when everything seems to be functioning reasonably well. It is only in times of crisis that they are receptive to radical change.
Obviously, we have such a situation now. Economically, politically and socially, the existing paradigm is failing. It can no longer be maintained that Keynesian economics, social repression and control, and the dominance of the state over the individual are the way to prosperous and harmonious society. The evidence of that we can see all around us.
Of all the existing parties, movements and pressure groups in Australia, I believe that we are the only one with a radically different paradigm to offer; and I further believe that our paradigm is, in all essential respects, correct. It does provide answers to our economic, social and political problems.
Our task, of course, is to make the best use of all of our resources, and the gains that we have made to date, to further promote these libertarian solutions.
Whether or not this can be best done through the Progress Party, or through some new vehicle, is one urgent question which we must resolve. A new political entity, free of the image and associations of our present party (which has never really broken away from the old Workers Party image and associations), or even a non-political organisation — or both — are alternative possibilities to be considered. (Any and all arguments and suggestions on this question are welcome.)
But whenever we might decide, one thing can be said for certain right now — it is you, as libertarians, who will be the seeds of any future growth.
Libertarianism cannot be spread without libertarians — and the most effective way for you, as a libertarian, to help spread these ideas is for you to be as effective a spokesman for the philosophy as possible. That requires knowledge and experience.
Therefore, I believe that it is now urgent that we all begin to make a determined effort to learn as much as possible about all the various facets of the libertarian philosophy, so as to be best able to understand and communicate these ideas.
This need not be an unpleasant task. The libertarian philosophy offers the chance of a unique and exciting intellectual adventure. It is a coherent and consistent set of ideas that offers beautifully simple explanations and ultimate solutions to all our economic, social and political problems. If you’ve never subscribed to the self-defeating theory that “ignorance is bliss”, just having that knowledge and thus eliminating all those nagging and frustrating “Whys?” is a sufficient reason to justify the effort required to get it.
And because of the fundamental common sense of these ideas, you don’t need any formal training or a brilliant mind to grasp them. One of the unfortunate spin-offs of our brutal education system is that it manages to convince many people that they have no intellectual capacity, and that ideas are boring anyway.
We certainly don’t subscribe to that view. Our ideas are challenging, provocative and beautiful. They can be grasped in essence by anyone, and to help that happen we are organising a number of activities.
Every Friday night a discussion group meets in the Party office at 58 Harbour St, Mosman (see notice elsewhere in this newsletter). This is, in our experience, one of the best opportunities for learning available. Even if you just listen, you can’t help but absorb a surprising amount of information, with the great advantage of being able to listen to our ideas being questioned and discussed from all angles.
As a personal contribution, John Clemitson and I (and anyone else who is interested in helping) shortly hope to start reprinting and distributing essays written by well know people from all over the world. There are many brilliant essays available to us, and we hope to be able to give them a wide circulation.
We also hope to develop this newsletter into an interesting and lively tool for education, discussion and communication. Any contribution you like to make will be appreciated.
Through these and other similar efforts, we hope that over the next six to twelve months we can build up a committed, enthusiastic and knowledgeable core of libertarians, capable of acting as the motor and driving force for future political and/or educational activities.
After three years of close involvement with the Workers Party and the Progress Party, I am now convinced that the development of this group is our most urgent single need. Without it we are virtually reduced to continuing what have been to some extend blind, ad hoc, reactionary activities, without any real sense of purpose or unity, trying to generate and organise a body of support with no real substance.
It is not enough to rush out and organise candidates and election campaigns on the spur of the moment, to content ourselves with reacting to whatever political events might occur, or to spend our time, energy and money trying to gain the unthinking support of large numbers of people. Even if we were able to succeed in these limited efforts, it would only be a temporary success. Such shallow support is not stable support. We would simply be building a house of cards.
What we need is thinking support — understanding of and agreement with our most fundamental principles, and with their consistent application.
That’s solid support — the only support worth having — and even though there might not be much of it in these early days, it will be real and lasting, and a solid base on which to build our future growth.
Since this type of support only comes from people who know what we are all about, we would have to market our entire philosophy, and not just some carefully selected pieces that are deemed to be fit for general consumption. In other words we have to be a radical movement.
- We have wasted too much time and too many resources already trying to build a mass movement. It’s time to be more realistic. We have to walk before we run.
- We’re not going to win any elections now or in the near future, nor are we going to suddenly become a popular mass movement. The way to do that has been excellent demonstrated by Don Chipp, and if we have to follow his example, the first casualty would be our philosophy.
- Systems of ideas cannot be sold like soap to large numbers of people, they can only be worked into the public consciousness by a long, deliberate and purposeful process of education. That’s the only peaceful way to spread ideas, and that is our task.
- But before we can hope to education anyone else, we must first educate ourselves.
- We have ignored that fundamental fact for too long. We can’t afford to ignore it any longer.
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- The Workers Party
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- Singo and Howard on Human Nature
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- Singo and Howard on
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- Singo and Howard Hate Politicians
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- A happy story about Aborigines
- John Singleton on Political Advertising
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- Singo Incites Civil Disobedience
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- The Bulletin on Maxwell Newton as Workers Party national spokesman on economics and politics
- Singo and Howard: Australia Should Pull Out of the Olympics
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- Mark Tier corrects Nation Review on the Workers Party
- The impossible dream
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- Time for progress
- The loonie right implodes
- Max Newton: Maverick in Exile
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- Censorship should be banned
- "Listen, mate, a socialist is a bum"
- John Singleton on Advertising
- John Singleton on why he did the Hawke re-election campaign
- Sinclair Hill calls for dropping a neutron bomb on Canberra
- Bob Howard in Reason 1974-77
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- John Singleton on elections: "a Massive One-Day Sale!"
- John Hyde's Progress Party praise
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- Singo says Lang Hancock violated Australia's 11th commandment: Thou Shalt Not Succeed
- Singleton: the White Knight of Ockerdom
- John Singleton bites into Sinclair Hill's beef
- Save Parramatta Road
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- Smoking, Health and Freedom
- Singo and Howard on Unions
- Singo and Howard Smash the State
- Singo and Howard on the big issue of Daylight Saving
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- John Singleton's 1977 pitch that he be on a committee of one to run the Sydney 1988 Olympics for profit
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- The great Labor Party platform: first or last, everybody wins a prize
- The politics of marketing - laugh now, pay later
- Singo and Howard call Australia fascist and worse
- The mouse will roar
- Viv Forbes and Jim Fryar vs Malcolm Fraser in 1979
- Quip, Quote, Rant and Rave: four of Viv Forbes' letters to the editor in The Australian in 1979
- Australia's First Official Political Party Poet Laureate: The Progress Party's Ken Hood in 1979
- Hancock's playing very hard to get
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- A party is born
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- Workers Party Economic Policy Statement, December 1975
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- John Singleton and Howard on Government Largesse
- Counterculture must exclude government handouts
- John Singleton's 1974 Federal Liberal Election Campaign Ads
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- John Singleton and Howard on Fred Nile, Festival of Light, FamilyVoice Australia and the Christian Lobby
- Capitalism: Survival of the Fittest
- Return Australia Post to Sender
- Singo and Howard on Public Utilities
- John Singleton and Howard say monarchy should be funded by monarchists alone
- John Singleton on cigarette advertising
- Singo in 1972 on newspapers' demise
- John Singleton farewells Bryce Courtenay
- John Singleton on Australian political advertising in 1972
- Gortlam rides again
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- VIOLENCE, TV BAN, DRINK - SINGO SPEAKS HIS MIND
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- An Ode to Busybodies
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- How many tits in a tangle?
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- John Singleton wants the Post Office sold and anti-discrimination legislation scrapped
- A speech from the Titanic
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- Minimum wages the killer
- Has Fraser got his priorities all wrong?
- John Singleton says "the royal family should be flogged off to the U.S."
- John Singleton vs Don Chipp and the Australian Democrats
- John Singleton vs Don Lane
- John Singleton. Horseracing. Why?
- John Singleton's 1986 reflection on the Workers Party
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- John Singleton on the stupidity of anti-discrimination laws
- Thou shalt know the facts ... before thou shoot off thou mouth
- Charity: An Aesop Fable
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- New improved moon
- Announcing people ... YES, people!
- Creativity in advertising must be pointed dead on target
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- John Singleton schools ad course
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- Mr Singleton Goes to Canberra for Australian Playboy
- John Singleton on his TV career for Australian Playboy
- John Singleton sacked for telling the truth about Medicare