Jun 28, 2012

The benefits of diversity, cultural and intellectual

With the Gillard government being consistently outgunned and just plain monstered in public debate, it has more cause than ever to regret the departure of former finance minister Lindsay Tanner.

Charles Richardson — Editor of The World is not Enough

Charles Richardson

Editor of The World is not Enough

With the Gillard government being consistently outgunned and just plain monstered in public debate, it has more cause than ever to regret the departure of former finance minister Lindsay Tanner, who was one of the few politicians with the ability and inclination to actually explain things to the electorate. His talents were on display again last night when he delivered the annual Walter Lippmann lecture in Melbourne. (No, not that Walter Lippmann — this one.)

Tanner’s theme was the economic benefits of immigration — not the narrow “arithmetic” sort, but the advantages that flow from greater ethnic and cultural diversity. Multiculturalism, as he put it, is not a matter of “moral vanity or middle-class indulgence”, but an economic necessity.

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8 thoughts on “The benefits of diversity, cultural and intellectual

  1. Mark Duffett

    Richardson illustrates the dangers of groupthink with examples from the Right, but very similar criticisms could be levelled at large portions of the environmental movement as well. Look how many potential solutions to climate change are proscribed by Green policy because of thinking that has ossified around positions taken in the 1970s. Or go no further than the preceding article by Macintosh and Denniss, which indicates what happens (or, more to the point, doesn’t) when initiatives are evaluated more on ideological purity than quantifiable results.

  2. Charles Richardson

    @Mark: Fair point, I think the left has definitely got problems with groupthink as well. I gave the example of the right because it seems they took steps to institutionalise their groupthink at a particular point in time (for, I think, understandable reasons, but with very bad consequences). It doesn’t seem to have been such a systematic thing on the left.

  3. Dogs breakfast

    Very nice Charles. Yep, Tanner was a great loss to the nation when he leftpolitics.

    I’ve stumbled across some very interesting articles lately which made reference to heirarchical organisations, typified by the old British army generals who were against developing tanks because they had horses, good horses.

    It interested me greatly, as the symptoms of a heirarchical organisation were precisely my lived experience at my current employer. Groupthink is certainly one of thee traits, principally because ‘yes-men’ are promoted and lateral thinkers, you know the ones who actually solve problems, are always branded as troublemakers.

    The pity of it is that I work in an esteemed academic institution. They exemplify both groupthink and the laws of heirarchy.

    We know this stuff, but even our supposed brightest can’t be sufficiently self-reflective enough to actually engage the idea and own it.

    It’s one thing to know something, but taking it on requires an emotional journey, an admission of being wrong, and few are able to take that step.

    But the best way to take that step is when you confront another human being who is the embodiment of difference.

    But this is higher thinking, politicians by and large aren’t interested, and the populace is largely bereft.

    Sad times. Maintain the rage Mr Tanner, we miss you.

  4. Mike Smith

    Tanner painted an unflattering picture of the Australia of John Howard’s treasured 1950s: largely monocultural, hierarchical, anti-intellectual and dominated by “the British army model of business management”.

    I thank the migrants for their culinary diversity – and not having to eat vegetables that have been boiled to death. Does anyone remember 50/60 era restaurants? gah.

  5. klewso

    Tanner’s biggest sin was not thinking the right way –
    like those with the power –
    look where the party’s ended up under those that did?

  6. klewso

    And Mike – I could never understand why you wouldn’t put sixpence in
    your mouth, because there was the chance a Chinaman might have done
    the same, but every month when we went to Parramatta the Chinese was
    where we had lunch – then we got our own in Windsor – and every Thursday
    it was Sweet and Sour pork, fried rice, crumbed prawns and chips – decadent and exotic.
    Till then we had to make do with the Blue Bird and George’s Cafes – Greeks, for treats.
    It turned out they were all much like us – surprise! But by then it was the 70’s.

  7. Jillian Blackall

    Well said Charles.

  8. Prudence Wawn

    John Stuart Mill’s quote could well be applied to the public vs private school/ selective school debate. There’s dubious value in confining students within ghettoes of the like-minded.
    Tanner for PM

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