I’ve been enjoying a fine smorgasbord of speakers and ideas at the Centre for Independent Studies’ Consilium in Coolum. A highlight has been a session titled ‘The Language of Denial: Freedom of Speech in an Age of Political Correctness’, featuring James Allan, super smart Canadian law professor formerly at Otago and now at the University of Queensland.  Janet Albrechtsen, columnist with The Australian and a regular guest speaker at Business Roundtable events, Brendan O’Neill, editor of The UK’s Spiked, and Thilo Sarrazin, author of Germany Abolishes Itself (the publication of which forced him to resign from his role as a Bundesbank director).

The session covered the chilling effects on free expression of political correctness in such matters as the science behind climate change, immigration, religion, the plight of Australia’s Aboriginal people, the justification of ‘hate speech’ laws, and the problems posed by the newfound prominence of Islam in Western society.  While Australia’s problems in this regard are greater and more complex than ours, there are plenty of lessons here for New Zealand. 

Less edifying was a session titled ‘An Uncertain Harvest: Investigating Global Food Security’. Malthus seemed to have a couple of seats at the table in a round of agonizing about food security and whether the world can feed its population in the 21st century.

I made the point that food security is often the code word for agricultural protectionism. It has been the excuse for the common agricultural policy and protection of Japan’s rice farmers, for example. If markets are allowed to work, trading is free, and property rights and contracts are secure, it is hard to see why global supply and demand will not balance over the longer term.  As one delegate said, there’s never been a famine in a democracy.