Wednesday 3 August 2011

Witch Hunts Downunder?

I don't know Prof. John Quiggin personally.

I couldn't tell much about him as a person: whether he's tall or short; whether, surrounded by his mates, he digs into a good BBQ washed down with a cold beer or two, or whether he's a vegetarian and a teetotaller, instead.

I do know he is a distinguished Australian scholar, who makes himself available to the lay public through his blog, which I occasionally read.

By this limited interaction, I can say he seems to be a well-meaning, unpretentious bloke, with some progressive views (the kind of views that another well-known mainstream scholar, Prof. Paul Krugman, shares, for instance).

I can also honestly say that Prof. Quiggin's expertise does not extend to Marxian economics or politics. And at times, this shows.

In this context, I found the criticism directed towards Prof. Quiggin by Mr. Michael Stutchbury, from The Australian, surprising, misleading and disturbing: "an economist who is good in theory but on the far left in practice".

It's easy to understand why I find it surprising and misleading, given what I have already said about Prof. Quiggin. However, to make sure the message is not lost, let me state it clearly: he seems to be a decent bloke (maybe what Americans call "liberal"?), but he ain't no socialist, let alone a "far Leftist". Mr. Stutchbury's attack on Prof. Quiggin is as unfounded as it is ludicrous.

However, Mr. Stutchbury's accusation, coming in the wake of the Oslo-Utoya extreme-Right terrorist attacks, is disturbing, too. It sounds way too close to "cultural Marxist".

Mr. Stutchbury's piece could be saying much more about his personal politics, than what it says about those of Prof. Quiggin. And I call that disturbing.

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