Dynamism Down Under
In a speech last week I talked about Australia becoming the best country in the world to live, to work, to start a business and to raise a family. This relies on unlocking the talent and potential in every home, every neighbourhood, every place of learning and every workplace.
It demands bold and energetic government. But it also requires a measure of humility. Getting this balance right is the essential art of modern government. Why do I say this? I say it because our future is open-ended, rather than a fixed, pre-determined destination. It relies as much on the local and the particular as on the bold, grand design. The American writer Virginia Postrel makes this point in her stimulating book The Future and its Enemies.
She writes how "the very nature of progress dictates an inherently open, and imperfect, future ... the future will be as grand and as particular as we are".
Our progress as a nation is not something that can be engineered top-down by Australia Inc. Or by technocratic design. It will arise, albeit imperfectly, from the creativity, dispersed knowledge and diverse choices of individual Australians. Those who crave predictability will be invariably disappointed. That's why the key to truly successful societies is what I've called in the past well-governed flexibility.
The Melbourne-based Institute for Public Affairs sponsored a speaking tour for me back in 2000 and has promoted the book's ideas from time to time. Since the book is not available in Australian stores (no publisher bought the Commonwealth publication rights), I can only assume that directly or indirectly that's how it came to Howard's attention.