RIP Kenneth Minogue

July 7th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

died last week, aged 82. Not well known in NZ, but significant classical liberal who was President of the Mont Pelerin Society. Wikipedia notes:

Minogue wrote academic essays and books on a great range of problems in political theory. His 1963 book The Liberal Mind: The Psychological Causes of Political Madness, about the perversion of the liberal label by radical leftists became popular internationally. Minogue argued that genuine liberalism rests on the tradition of thinkers like Adam SmithBenjamin ConstantAdam FergusonAlexis de Tocqueville,John Stuart Mill et al., who built the foundation for a conservative perspective. Minogue defended civility, decency, and moderation against globalists and leftists, and advocated an honest and transparent public sphere where individuals can freely pursue their own ideas of happiness.

National Review writes about him:

Kenneth Minogue, who was one of the most brilliant yet also most approachable philosophers of liberty, died suddenly on Friday when returning from a conference of the Mont Pelerin Society, whose retiring president he was, on the Galapagos Islands. This is not a formal obituary and so it will not list Ken’s academic achievements and honors. All one need say for the moment is that he was at the center of an extraordinary group of political philosophers, economists, and journalists — other members included Michael Oakeshott, Bill and Shirley Letwin, F.A. Hayek, Roger Scruton, Perry Worsthorne, Noel Malcolm, Colin Welch, Frank Johnson — who between them instilled intellectual rigor, political imagination, a deep appreciation of liberty, and a sharp (occasionally derisive) wit into the all-too-inert body of English conservatism.

Ken, a New Zealander by birth, an Australian by upbringing, and British by affection and long habit, established a solid academic reputation at the London School of Economics and gradually expanded it into an international one through his books and lecture tours. He was well-known throughout Europe and the English-speaking world for the freshness and originality of his thought and expression. He was a contributor to National Review under all of its three editors, and an occasional guest of Bill Buckley’s on Firing Line.

He did come back to NZ from time to time, and will be missed by those who knew him.

10 Responses to “RIP Kenneth Minogue”

  1. Judith (8,534 comments) says:

    I hadn’t heard he had died.
    I recently had reason to write a review on his book “The Concept of the University”, and really enjoyed his stimulating approach on the ‘state of the university’ in post-modern society.

    He was a wonderful contributor to discourse in political ideology. Another mighty oak has fallen – a loss for academia.

    Vote: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  2. Changeiscoming (335 comments) says:

    What the heck is a classical liberal?

    Vote: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  3. Redbaiter (11,656 comments) says:

    “What the heck is a classical liberal?”

    Basically, someone who believes in small weak government.

    For example someone who might think the government in NZ today is about 75% oversized and far too intrusive.

    A true classical liberal would never support the power of government being used to redefine such traditional and long standing concepts as marriage being between a man and a women.

    Kenneth Minogue recently wrote that support for homosexual marriage would strike most people as “mere parody,” that could further weaken an already strained institution.

    RIP Kenneth Minogue.

    Vote: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1 You need to be logged in to vote
  4. Alan Wilkinson (2,435 comments) says:

    @Changeiscoming, Google is your friend.

    Also see Mises Institute, eg:

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  5. Redbaiter (11,656 comments) says:

    “Also see Mises Institute”

    Yes, that is of course the Libertarian view of what constitutes classical liberalism.

    There are other views.

    Vote: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  6. flipper (5,304 comments) says:

    Luke Malpass, writing in the New Zealand Initiative newsletter on Friday last, named Minogue as one who has identified, analysed and written about the disturbing similarities between socialist and totalitarian states, and their apologists (“self loathing intellectuals”).


    ” …. Minogue’s most recent and greatest contribution to political thought was his book, The Servile Mind: How Democracy Erodes the Moral Life (2010).

    Despite the title, Minogue’s thesis was not that democracy was bad per se, but that a class of self-loathing intellectuals are constantly denigrating the Western world as a place of inequality and oppression. According to this worldview, society’s Foucaultian superstructure grinds people down into living desperate lives of consumerism and ordinariness.

    Minogue argued that before the fall of the Soviet Union, there was within the academia a sentimentalist longing for, and pseudo-intellectual cover given to, totalitarian socialist regimes. These were states that people tried to escape from, at great risk, if given half the chance. Think Cambodia, Poland, East Germany, the Soviet Union.

    But why was there such longing for vile regimes to succeed?

    It is because, Minogue said, there is a great addiction in the Western world to the idea of creating the perfect society, as since the mid-nineteenth century the old idea of improvement was replaced by progress. Improvement is about the modest betterment of one’s situation or society, and progress implies pursuit of a goal. In this sense, progress is the antithesis of what made Western societies attractive, that is, the freedom to choose one’s own version of the good life.

    Minogue saw this political idealism as leading to a ‘politico-moral’ public sphere where people only need to give lip service to politically correct views on poverty, taxes or, environmental causes without being required to consider the moral consequences of their own actions.

    Professor Minogue’s passing should be mourned in New Zealand. He made a substantial contribution to the world of ideas, modern liberal thought, and thought deeply about how governments should interact with their citizens. …. “

    Vote: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  7. swan (778 comments) says:

    Change is coming: A classical liberal is basically a liberal. The reason we say classical liberal is because other people buggerised around with the term liberal, changing its meaning. Hence to avoid confusion, real liberals are called classical liberals.

    Vote: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  8. Redbaiter (11,656 comments) says:

    Yep, Swan is pretty much on to it. The term is really just a counter to neo-liberalim, which is the kind of pseudo liberalism as advocated by most of the left wingers and or Labour/National supporters here on Kiwiblog who claim they support liberty but inisist on using big powerful government to coerce everybody else into behaving and speaking and thinking like them.

    For example they support governments that have whole departments set up to promote certain political points of view.

    Dept of Woman’s Affairs is a good case. A modern liberal would support it. A classical liberal would deem it government over-reach. Same goes for the Human Rights Commission.

    Vote: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  9. Kovac (32 comments) says:

    Wouldn’t classical liberalism allow for homosexual marriage since it is allowing individuals more control over their lives and giving the Government less power to enforce traditional marriage?

    If you empower the Government to enforce the strained institution of marriage it seems contrary to the idea of a weak and less intrusive institution.

    “The original philosophy of liberalism (now sometimes called classical liberalism, or libertarianism in the US), favors many forms of freedom, such as:
    Sexual freedom”

    Vote: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2 You need to be logged in to vote
  10. The Scorned (719 comments) says:

    A true classical liberal would never support the power of government being used to redefine such traditional and long standing concepts as marriage being between a man and a women.

    Classic liberals are supporters of individual rights….so they would say marriage of any kind is not the business of the State to regulate or define…and so Gays can marry as freely as straights.

    Vote: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2 You need to be logged in to vote