One use of a lecture in such intelligent company would be to sketch a social democratic future in which Australians become even richer, freer, more equal, more cooperative, fonder of one another and happier than most of us already are.
I could do that, but I know what the realists among you, like our present political leaders, would think of such an elderly, ignorant, impractical, nostalgic waste of time. So this lecture is not about what we should do. It’s about ways of arguing about what to do. Some big questions will be decided – by choice or default – as we respond to our changing global situation. How can we debate them honestly, cooperatively, usefully, whatever our disagreements?
My three themes are best introduced ‘on the hoof’, in the lives and work of four friends.
First, we here are the chattering classes. We can publish idyllic visions without any danger of influence or practical test. Why bother with our fantasies?