Tim Wilson and the Institute of Public Affairs Demonstrate Why Their Message Cannot Work

Returning home from field work yesterday, I was listening to Triple J’s Hack program. To round off the week, they were debating the balance of power in Australia with Tim Wilson from the Institute of Public Affairs Australia and Sam McLean from GetUp (listen the podcast here).

Firstly, Tim referred to himself as “central right” in much the same way Chris Monckton does. These ideologies of the far right have been, for some time now, trying to reposition themselves onto the central stage in an attempt to make their principles sound reasonable. However, just like any group in deep left or right territory, they are easily exposed for what they are when one looks into just how much faith is required and how much contrary evidence must be ignored to align oneself with such beliefs. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Tim gave us something that the IPA trumpet to no end, which on the surface of it sounds noble; people power. They want small government and to provide the individual with as much power as can be achieved. It’s all done, as the IPA website waxes lyrically about, in the name of liberty, freedom and the rights of the individual. Sounds great, huh?

But this is exactly where Tim and the IPA in fact undo their argument themselves.

The IPA is all about the neo-liberal free market. Equally, with their paying for Donna Laframboise to gloss over her irrational book to their eager audience, with their promoting Gina Rineharts book or bringing in Rupert Murdoch for their 70yr anniversary, it is clear that they take a “sceptical” position in regards to climate change.

This is contrary to, well, reality.

To hold such a position, the IPA, and presumably Tim Wilson, need to reject the findings of such analyses as the Limits to Growth and the entire body of climate research and physical chemistry.

From Turner (2008)
From Turner (2008)

Using thirty years or more of real world data compared to the Limits to Growth has shown that these models have done a remarkable well, leading us to genuine concern about the long term pathways predicted by the models.[1,2]

Equally, the models for anthropogenic climate change, take for instance Hansen et al. 1988, have done equally well to give us realistic expectations as to how much greenhouse gas forcing from human activity is likely to change the global climate.[3,4]

“People power” and indeed democracy itself is only as good as the voting body is informed. Giving power to the people would, for the IPA at least, lead to poor decisions regarding the long term prosperity of our species in favour of short term gains.

By deliberately selecting what is arguably misinformation on subjects that form part of the desired ideology, the IPA are, in essence, building a large sand pit to bury their heads in, leaving only their rears to vote with. The capacity for such people to ensure the bright and happy future for our children is gravely limited.

Tim and the IPA provides us with ample evidence as to why governments simply cannot pander to popular ideas (I have argued previously that Australian politics have been reduced to branding, which is pretty much the same thing).

I’m not arguing for a certain size of government, but only effective governance. We cannot rely on people power because the collective power is diluted by individual desires and, as Tim demonstrates, wide spread misinformation. Administration, based on quality information and known and appreciated social values is key to effective governance of large, complex societies.


  1. Turner, 2008. A comparison of The Limits to Growth with 30 years of reality. Global Environmental Change. 18:3 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2008.05.001 
  2. Bardi, The Limits to Growth Revisited. ISBN 978-1-4419-9416-5
  3. Hansen et al. (1988) Global climate changes as forecast by Goddard Institute for Space Studies three-dimensional model. J. Geophys. Res., 93, 9341-9364, doi:10.1029/JD093iD08p09341
  4. http://www.skepticalscience.com/Hansen-1988-prediction-advanced.htm

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