by John Q on February 16, 2008

Australian politics this year has been dominated by the incoming Rudd Labor government’s commitment to offer a formal apology to indigenous Australians for discriminatory laws and actions of the past, most notably the policy of removing children from their families, with the ultimate aim of assimilating them into the white population. The policy, later referred to as creating the “Stolen Generation” was directed mainly at mixed-race children, since it was assumed that the remnant population still living in their traditional lands would “die out” within a couple of generations.

The previous Prime Minister, John Howard, had resolutely resisted an apology and in particular the word “Sorry” and the issue was one of the focal points of the culture wars that went on under his leadership. Continued resistance to an apology was the main reason the Liberals (= conservatives) passed over their most able remaining figure, Malcolm Turnbull, who supported an apology, in favour of the amiable but ineffectual Brendan Nelson, who indicated opposition, but was ultimately forced by public pressure to change his view.

The apology was the first business of the newly elected Parliament this week, and received the unanimous support of the House of Representatives, though given with obvious reluctance on the part of some Liberals. All of Australia’s previous Prime Ministers, except Howard, were present, and the TV coverage (at 9am) drew over a million viewers.

Apologies for various kinds of past national actions have been debated in quite a few countries in recent years. Perhaps because we’ve been arguing over the question for a decade or more, or perhaps just because I’ve followed it more closely, the Australian debate seems to me to have clarified some of the general issues.

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Revealed preferences

by Henry Farrell on February 16, 2008

Via Robert Farley“Scott Lemieux”:, I see that “noted economist”: Megan McArdle “is arguing”: that the fact that Virginians haven’t voluntarily contributed to a fund increasing government revenues implies that people don’t want higher taxes. [click to continue…]