Australia’s sustained economic development and prosperity today is the result not simply of the accumulation of physical and skills capital and the entrepreneurial use of natural resources, but of the “software” of our cultural institutions.
These are things within ourselves: ethical norms, customs, work habits, and professional standards, which are anchored in basic preferences and values. Australia is a great success story because we benefit from the merits of Western civilization.
Many countries in Africa, some in Asia, and most of the Middle East have been locked in economic stagnation, poverty and illiteracy not simply because of lack of capital, but because their traditional cultural norms and other internal institutions and values are not conducive to economic progress.
Compare these sets of opposing cultural values:
|Some non-Western mindsets||Western mindset|
|Shun trading||Shun force|
|Exert prowess (use violence)||Come to voluntary agreements|
|Be obedient and disciplined||Be honest|
|Adhere to tradition||Collaborate easily with strangers and aliens|
|Respect hierarchy||Respect contracts|
|Take vengeance||Use initiative and enterprise|
|Deceive for the sake of the task||Be open to incentives and novelty|
|Make rich use of leisure (be lazy)||Be efficient|
|Be ostentatious||Promote comfort and convenience|
|Dispense largesse (to reinforce status and create debts)||Reward merit|
|Be exclusive (reject other cultures)||Be industrious and admire that in others|
|Be fatalistic||Be thrifty and plan for the future|
|Hate shame and treasure honour||Be optimistic|
How do immigrants from cultures like those in the left column fare when they come to Australia? It depends on how they respond to democratic empowerment, discouragement of corruption, stable money, the opportunities offered by free markets, and the environment of religious toleration and free speech.
The well-being of all of us can be diminished if too many immigrants with mindsets hostile to that of the majority Australian community join in only to exploit the comforts of a wealthy host country. Multiculturalists encourage this when they remove the pressures on newcomers to adapt to the needs of productive life in Australia. Cultural relativism – the idea that “all cultures are equal” – is a dangerous and subversive delusion. Some immigrant cultural practices and values are obviously incompatible with those of Australia, and these immigrant cultures must adapt themselves to the majority culture in the interest of Australia maintaining social harmony.
Integration does not require immigrants to give up their cuisine or festivals, but they must adopt fundamental values such as the commitment to self-reliance, to save and invest, and to respect the rule of law – one secular law for all – and to shun violence. The founders, builders and defenders of the Australian nation created valuable cultural capital by inculcating in us the value of responsibility, effort, and honesty towards all, not just our own clan or group. Every generation must preserve this enormously productive cultural capital: we must not distribute its rewards to all and sundry by allowing endless welfare dependency and by pandering to an undeserved “entitlement” mentality. And we must transmit these cultural values to our children, and to all Australian children.
It is vital to the prosperity and social harmony of Australia that we not subsidize counterproductive and untenable cultural attitudes or condone practices which are socially unacceptable to the majority culture, or contrary to Australian law.
Australia is a magnificent country. Some migrants need to make greater cultural adaptations than others. Those not prepared to make changes in their attitudes and values essential for their integration into Australian society should be excluded from settling here.