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Denis Dutton on Mike Moore (and piano playing)

Denis Dutton is a new name to me, but I have the strong feeling that this says a whole lot more about me than it does about Denis Dutton. Unless I’m grievously mistaken, Dutton is a New Zealander. He is certainly based there, at the University of Canterbury, and writes a lot about New Zealand.

Arts & Letters Daily today linked to Dutton’s excellent review article about piano playing, classical music etc., which I enthusiastically recommend to anyone who is even slightly interested in such matters. I’ve just been saying all that on my Culture Blog, and then had another of those this-guy-should-also-be-on-Samizdata reactions. So I followed the links I’d just been setting up, and got to this 1998 review article, which starts thus:

That the old politics of right and left are obsolete is demonstrated in the very person of the Rt. Hon. Mike Moore. A Labour man with a unionist, shop-floor background, he was once a hero of the working man. He still ought to be. But when he became New Zealand’s Trade Minister, he saw it as his “patriotic duty” to pull down this country’s Berlin Wall of import controls both for the benefit of New Zealanders and incidentally to help our small Pacific neighbours to make a living for themselves.

This was viewed as a betrayal of working-class interests. “From hero to traitor in a decade!”, he writes. But this stubborn bloke knows vastly more than his embittered critics about trade and the creation of wealth in the brave new borderless world of international commerce and he’s not about to be shouted down. In A Brief of the Future he mounts a persuasive case for the increased internationalization of New Zealand and for greater individual liberty and responsibility: “democracy and the ingenuity of our species know no bounds when freedom unleashes the genius of the people.”

The word “reactionary” once applied exclusively to the political right. The reactionary conservatives who count most today include not only jingoistic provincials like the Australian Pauline Hanson, but leftists who, disappointed by the failures of socialism and embarrassed by the stupendous successes of capitalism, are keen for any excuse to reintroduce their programmes of government economic control. (I’ve been told by at least a half-dozen friends and correspondents from the left that the recent share-market setbacks are clear evidence that capitalism is on the ropes. Or so they seem to hope.)

Hardly, says Moore, pointing out that the living standards of at least half a billion people have doubled since the early 1980s, and it wasn’t state socialism that achieved it. The setbacks Southeast Asia don’t negate that. Even countries such as India that once seemed backward basket cases now have prosperous, growing middle classes of hard-working people. Singaporeans, to whom New Zealanders used to send food parcels, now earn more per capita than we do, have a lower infant mortality and higher life expectancy.

For Mike Moore, the key to New Zealand’s future is to take an open and competitive attitude toward world markets. We must eschew protectionism and commit ourselves, both intellectually and technologically, to the information revolution.

See what I mean about a guy who should be plugged by Samizdata? All that, and he knows his piano playing.

It’s also good to know that being called Mike (née Michael?) Moore doesn’t automatically make you an idiot.

4 comments to Denis Dutton on Mike Moore (and piano playing)

  • You realise that one of Dutton’s main claims to fame is that he is the editor of Arts & Letters Daily? He is also the coolest kind of philosophy professor.

  • Brian Micklethwait

    No I didn’t, although the graphic unity of his site and A&L had me thinking that he and it had to be pretty tight. This explains a lot.

    He is, then, one of the most effective free-market/libertarian propagandists alive, I would say. And part of the reason for that is that he seems to know just how good he is. I’m delighted he was vain enough to link to his own piece on piano playing, which, as I say, really is excellent.

  • Shawn

    Denis is an American living in New Zealand. I am not sure if he has actually immigrated or not. I know this because I am an American citizen also living in New Zealand. I have been reading his articles and opinion pieces for several years now, and I would pretty much agree with Brian’s post above. Denis of course outrages the politically correct New Zealand Left, which is entertaining enough on its own.

  • I didn’t realise he was an American: I had assumed he was a New Zealander. However, his combination of a complete lack of bulshit and great understanding of an immense number of subjects means that he is tremendously refreshing to read. He is also an arts person with a strong grasp of the sciences, too, which is relatively unusual.