Articles on Political philosophy

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19th-century philosopher John Stuart Mill was a leading thinker on free speech. London Stereoscopic Company

Explainer: what is free speech?

The concept of 'free speech' is devilishly difficult, and depends greatly on a person's political and philosophical viewpoint.
Ricky Muir makes up his mind based on how he thinks the proposed policy will affect ordinary Australians like himself. AAP/Lukas Coch

The proposed Senate voting change will hurt Australian democracy

Australia’s political system would be better off with more ordinary people and fewer career party politicians in the Senate. It would thus be more representative of ordinary Australians, not less.
We might be ambivalent about taxation because it challenges our sense of ourselves as individuals – and we may not trust governments to spend it properly. Shutterstock

The politics of taxation – or how to convince people to part with their money

Many of us are happy for governments to increase spending on public services, but we don't like the idea of higher taxes. There are some good reasons for this.
Did the Roman arenas of political conflict support the common good? Trey Ratcliff/flickr

Contentious politics: Hobbes, Machiavelli and corporate power

History offers countless examples of social change that is now consolidated and popularly supported, but which was only achieved through protests that were judged at the time to be extreme.
David Leyonhjelm is chairing the Senate inquiry into ‘Personal Choice and Community Impacts’. AAP/Sam Mooy

Is the minimal state a reasonable response to the nanny state?

We don’t know what will come out of the Senate inquiry into the 'nanny state', but we do have some idea about what Australia would look like based on libertarian principles.
Jane Goodall is one of many scientists who have revealed how much there is to learn from animals about social organisation and communication. AAP/Julian Smith

If we could talk to the animals, what might they tell us about politics?

To endow animals with human emotions has long been a scientific taboo. But if we do not, we risk missing something fundamental about both animals and us. – Frans De Waal Some time ago I began reading scientific…
Public support for change that would enable Tony Abbott’s sister Christine (right) to marry her same-sex partner is much stronger than for ‘axing the tax’, but the PM is selectively deaf to the people’s voice. AAP/Joe Castro

Beyond hypocrisy to absurdity: the fortunes of same-sex marriage

Disaffection with Australian politics seems visceral and entrenched. An Essential poll in late June found that only 25% of those polled had trust in the federal parliament. Discussing this poll, Michelle…
Treasurer Joe Hockey wants to ‘end of the age of entitlement’, but which think-tanks around the world have played a part in developing that idea? AAP/Alan Porritt

Free-market think-tanks waged war on entitlement, conscripted an Australian Joe

We propose things which people regard as being on the edge of lunacy. The next thing you know they’re on the edge of policy. – Madsen Pirie, President of the Adam Smith Institute, 1987 In a speech in London…
Austerity programs were put in place after European governments bailed out their banks. But are they fair on the everyday citizen? Ben Andreas Harding

Do we have austerity obligations?

Governments are reining in spending on welfare, education and health care right across the western world. With the Commission of Audit recommending austerity measures that seemingly point to a tough federal…
Federal attorney-general George Brandis wants to champion a ‘classical liberal’ approach to human rights, but what does this actually mean? AAP/Daniel Munoz

What is a ‘classical liberal’ approach to human rights?

Tim Wilson, Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner, has announced that he will take a “classical liberal” approach to human rights. There is a fair degree of confusion about what this means. Classical liberalism…
Treasurer Joe Hockey’s declaration of an age of personal responsibility is welcome, as long as the principle applies consistently to all. AAP/Dan Himbrechts

If this is to be the age of personal responsibility, let it be universal

Federal treasurer Joe Hockey has announced that the age of personal responsibility has begun. Personally, I’m glad to hear it. I’ve often felt a swelling of pride at the achievements of CEOs or sportspeople…

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