The basic idea of this blog I think of as “Understanding the world through understanding politics”. Its aim is to provide informed commentary and analysis on foreign politics: elections, parties, political ideas and the like. I’ll be trying to provide some of the background and historical context needed to understand the day’s headlines, as well as presenting stories from some places that don’t make the headlines but illustrate important points.
The underlying theme is that politics matters: not (just) the sweep of great historical forces, but the detail of how political systems translate people’s preferences into actual decision-making. Without some understanding of that, important aspects of how the world works will remain mysterious. While we would all be better off without politics, that doesn’t provide an excuse for ignoring it – ignoring the state doesn’t make it go away. And what happens in other countries matters here, partly because the world is so interconnected, but also because political behavior is fundamentally similar across time and space so that one country’s experience provides lessons for others.
I’ve been writing and talking and thinking about politics for most of the last 40 years. There’s still an awful lot I don’t know, but I want to share some of what I’ve learned with a wider public. More important, I’d like us to continue learning from one another – to carry on an ongoing conversation that in some small way will advance the search for truth and justice.
Politically I’m a liberal; I’m committed to the enlightenment project of free thought and free trade. But I try to follow the evidence wherever it leads, and I believe that democracy needs to be nourished and supported even if it produces results that we don’t always like. My academic training is in philosophy but I’ve also worked in a range of political jobs, producing (I hope) something like a synthesis of big picture thinking and attention to detail. I’m also a director of a company called Above Quota Elections Pty Ltd, which provides private election-management services.
I write from an Australian perspective, so while of course everyone is welcome to join in, I’ll mainly be trying to interpret things in ways that an Australian audience will understand. Our media are full of reports lifted straight from British or American sources that can be difficult to comprehend and in any case rarely do more than skim the surface. The internet provides a wealth of more detailed material, but its very richness can be a powerful deterrent to those coming to a topic for the first time. Over time, I hope this blog will help to serve as a guide.
Some readers will already be familiar with my writing for Crikey on political topics over the last ten years or so. I’ll still be appearing in your daily Crikey from time to time (so subscribe!), but most of my energy will be concentrated on the blog. The advantages of the blogging format, as I see it, are threefold:
(a) The opportunity for continuous feedback, allowing us to build up a community of readers who add to the available information and help to shape the direction of the blog.
(b) The freedom from some of the constraints of regular publication, as to timing, length and topicality; stories can be covered when they arise and followed up after they have faded from the daily news.
(c) The ability to experiment: to post material that sometimes amounts to “thinking out loud” or a work in progress rather than a neat and fully-formed package.
So visit, read, think, contribute. Be mindful of Crikey’s comments policy, which is designed to promote sensible debate (also, although it’s not mentioned in the policy, it’d be good if people use their real names – I think it encourages civility). Partisan ranting, trolling, abuse and unhelpful digressions will be deleted. But if you enjoy a good story and good discussion, we’ll try to make you welcome.