The Irving Kristol Award and Lecture for 2008
Introductory Remarks

Read the prepared text of John Howard's lecture.

Christopher DeMuth
President, AEI

The recent Prime Minister of Australia and his wife have traveled 10,000 miles to permit us to honor him. Canberra and Washington are not quite antipodes, but they are very close to that. Which reminds us that the Anglosphere is in fact a sphere--the English speaking people have populated and settled the expanse of Planet Earth like none other. And civilized it: On the Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal "Index of Economic Freedom," of the top ten freest nations on Earth, eight consist of the United Kingdom and its offshoots, including the Australia that nurtured Banjo Paterson and the America that nurtured Irving Berlin. Oil goes up, real estate goes down, but the hearty civilization that first emerged in the English middle-ages persists, prospers, paints and Googles the globe, and continues to attract. Admittedly there were a few missteps along the way. As we are nowadays dispensing apologies, I hereby apologize to India, Zambia, and Tanzania for the British affliction of Fabian Socialism, and offer fervent best wishes to the reformers in those nations who are striving yet today to overcome that awful legacy.

Can our achievements be replicated as well as our mistakes? William F. Buckley taught us a boggling number of truths. One of the most important is that our civilization--the civilization of democratic capitalism--must be understood "whole, or not at all: as springing, season after season, from a trampoline of assumptions which are the warp and woof of freedom and progress." Our fabric is woven of private property, competitive markets, disinterested law, and observed restraints on conduct and most of all on government itself. But the springs that give us lift lie deeper: high degrees of social trust, of spontaneous association, of openness to others, and of assimilation, resilience, and reverence. And there is a frame which holds it all together, which is individualism: the basis of social and political organization is the person--not the family, clan, tribe, religion, or race, not to mention class or gender.

We in the Anglosphere gained what we have through a thousand seasons of trial-and-error and of resistance to those who, yesterday and today, would destroy the whole creation by subsuming the individual to some collective ideology of power and plunder. We must not forget or falter, nor doubt our growing advantages as humanity progresses from mineral economies to intellect economies. For ourselves and for those who emulate us and depend on us, we have four great tasks: to improve each of our national systems of freedom, to deepen and fortify the ties among our systems, to remain open and welcoming to all who would join in our adventure, and to effectively counter those who oppose it.

So it is altogether fitting that Americans should honor this magnificent Australian who has devoted himself to not one or two but all four tasks, and with such stupendous tenacity and success. May his example be studied and followed north and south, and the bonds of affection and cooperation between America and Australia continue to grow in the third century of our common enterprise.

James Q. Wilson
Chairman, AEI Council of Academic Advisers

Australia, as Chris DeMuth pointed out, is part of the remarkable legacy of the British Empire: free, stable, and prosperous.

That Australia should so fully partake of the happy consequences of the empire is astonishing since, as a former prime minister once said, the country was born on the shores of Gallipoli. The Australian Federation was created just thirteen years before sixty thousand Australians, out of a male population of only two and a quarter million, died on that Turkish beach. It is in a sense a nation founded on its dead soldiers, and yet it survived this tragedy.

Less than eight decades later this nation deregulated banking, floated the Australian dollar, cut trade tariffs, and began to privatize state-owned firms. John Howard helped create, sustain, and deepen this effort to make Australia liberal in the old-fashioned European sense. Its people were steadily emancipated from the government burdens that still afflict so much of Europe.

Before Mr. Howard brought Australia into the war on Iraq, he said that his country's relations with America were "the most important" because they rested not simply on trade or power but on shared values and aspirations. To him the three core values were a free legislature, the rule of law upheld by a vigilant judiciary, and a skeptical press that he said (perhaps with tongue in cheek) politicians "simply adore."

Those values and aspirations have not prevented his country from absorbing countless immigrants from all over the world. Only Israel has a higher proportion of foreign-born residents.

In 2006 Mr. Howard spoke about this. "The truth is that people come to this country because they want to be Australians. The irony is that no institution or code is a test of Australianness." His countrymen celebrate diversity because Aaustralians have "a sense of shared values." On another occasion he put it more bluntly: "We no longer navel gaze about what an Australian is. We are no longer mesmerized by the self appointed cultural dieticians who tell us that in some way they know better what an Australian ought to be."

John Howard is not a fan of identity politics. Nor is he a fan of backing down before the enemies of freedom. He supported Australia's involvement in the Vietnam war, he sent troops to Indonesia to protect the people of East Timor, and he provided military forces for the defeat of Saddam Hussein. Despite opposition from his political rivals, he was re-elected in 2004 and became the second-longest serving prime minister in his country's history.

The Kristol Award reads as follows:

To John Winston Howard
Stalwart all-rounder of politics and policy
Who made good government a popular cause
And advanced Australia fair and free

Let me supply a brief translation. An "all-rounder" is a cricket term for that rare player who can both bowl and hit, and "Australia fair and free" is a phrase from his country's national anthem.

It is my great privilege and high honor to introduce to you this evening a great friend of freedom, John Howard.

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About the Author

 

Christopher
DeMuth
  • Christopher DeMuth was president of AEI from December 1986 through December 2008. Previously, he was administrator for information and regulatory affairs in the Office of Management and Budget and executive director of the Presidential Task Force on Regulatory Relief in the Reagan administration; taught economics, law, and regulatory policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University; practiced regulatory, antitrust, and general corporate law; and worked on urban and environmental policy in the Nixon White House.

     

  • Phone: 2028625895
    Email: cdemuth@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Keriann Hopkins
    Phone: 2028625897
    Email: keriann.hopkins@aei.org

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