"Non-ideological good government"

redrabbleroz said: 

Non-ideological good government? There’s no such thing. Everything is ideological. What will be interesting is how confrontational they’ll be especially towards public services in NSW and whether we see Howard and Kennett style action by Barry

This is in response to this, in which I wrote, “If there were an election, however, in which the Liberal party could establish itself as a force of non-ideological good government, it is this one.” I cringed when I read that back, because Oz is right; there is no such thing as non-ideological good government. I was saying as much the other week while discussing centrism here:

Centrism too often pre-supposes that societal problems have simple, technocratic solutions that could be arrived at if partisan interests would step out of the way. In real life politics, however, reasonable people do not just disagree about what is the best solution, they disagree about what exactly they are trying to solve. The centrist assumes partisans are too wedded to their policies to arrive at an optimal outcome, when in reality, people at opposite ends of the political spectrum do not agree on what an optimal — or even acceptable — outcome looks like. Politics, then, is the best way we have come up with of solving those disagreements that doesn’t involve killing each other.

So allow me to rephrase. In New South Wales, Labor has largely abandoned any tie it has to left wing politics at all. The two different sides of politics didn’t disagree on much substantively, and the Coalition was able to be an effective opposition by harping on Labor’s many, many mistakes and every now and then gainsaying a few of their policies, even if that meant they would be nominally to the left of the government. (E.g. the power privatization.)

As David Marr wrote in his Herald profile of Barry O’Farrell, the Liberal leader “leads a party where morals crusaders still plot to save our souls.” That’s largely been the one thing distinguishing the party from Labor as conservative, and O’Farrell has done well to bury that side of his party. So, by “non-ideological good government,” I meant “government that is not materially different from Labor, only less corrupt and incompetent.” Which is not a prospect that particularly delights me, but reduced corruption and incompetence is an obvious plus.

Of course, I’m quite aware that this may not eventuate. Like I said, a party that has been out of power this long will be inexperienced, and inexperience often results in politicians doing stupid things. Further, as the United Kingdom has seen with David Cameron, nice, friendly, moderate conservatives often don’t remain nice, friendly, or moderate once they’re in power. I don’t know if O’Farrell will create an ideological difference between the two parties once he’s in power, but I do recognize that a long stretch in government is a good way to make a party’s base forget how bad the other side is. (See every single person who voted for Nader in the 2000 US Presidential election.)

That said, I hope my basic point stands. O’Farrell has the opportunity to be better than Labor has been, and I hope he will take it.