This is the preface to the first edition, with slight modifications and some additions.
I was born and nurtured in a traditional and elitist environment in which classical liberal, religious and Asian values intermingled. The importance of integrity and individual responsibility, concern for human suffering and problems, and the vision of human interaction under divine inspiration as the basis for the establishment of a better world were the ideas that I imbibed from my earliest years.
I embraced socialist and progressivist ideas whilst at university. Socialist and progressivist ideas based on concern for human problems led me to question seriously and reject many of the values and institutions of my early education and home environment. I felt they were not conducive to the confrontation of and solution to human problems and suffering. Socialist and progressivist ideas took a deep hold on me for about twelve years. Whilst studying at Cambridge I opposed the Vietnam war and was involved in the anti-war campaign. I came to believe that the Soviet Union was being unjustly and overly criticised and I was cynical about anti-Soviet propaganda. I was interested and involved in the political struggles in Sri Lanka. I supported the Socialist Constitution and was the chief intellectual apologist for it. I was, however, a continuing critic of the socialist government in Sri Lanka, pointing out the deep gulf between theory and practice. The consequence was that the possibility of political victimisation necessitated my emigration from the then socialist Sri Lanka. I arrived in Australia a refugee from Bandaranaike socialism without a penny in my pocket (due to exchange control laws) and was compelled to make a new start in an unknown country.
While I was a socialist I took socialism seriously. I had struggles with my conscience in purchasing a family home, becoming a property owner and receiving inherited property. On deeper reflection and experience I have found socialism and progressivism wanting. I have come to believe that socialism and progressivism are in practice, as far as human development is concerned, retrogressive philosophies.
I have been committed at various times to socialism and progressivism and also to the liberal tradition. Through this process of thought and experience, I have come to appreciate the evolved values of western civilisation. Socialist and progressivist ideas which influenced me at one time have been influential in the refinement of my liberal values.
I have drawn from socialism's professed concern for human problems, for suffering and for a better world but I have rejected the foundations of socialist and (so-called) progressivist ideas. A better world for all, especially for the poor, can only be achieved through a revival of the values and institutions which were responsible for the rise of western civilisation (for reasons provided in various parts of this book).
I have drawn from many philosophies and traditions in writing this book, including the liberal/conservative and socialist ideas. This is a book for the secular reader. My Christian beliefs underpin, but are nowhere specifically articulated. I suppose in a sense I do not belong anywhere. I am a cultural bastard (an Asian in a western environment). The emphasis I place on individual liberty and political freedom in a way which made me an oddity among socialists. The highlighting of the problems posed by unrestrained liberty and the problems which liberty creates made me unpopular with liberals. My recognition of the value of strong government and limited government based on moral values are understood by few. Finally the focus on the transcending importance of spiritual, moral and family values and the common law, do not always fit in with the ideas of political philosophers.
A new perspective has emerged in my thinking about the present and the future of Australia and the western world between the first and second editions. This is that there are many problems in the western world which are real. The first edition focused on these real issues.
There is a tendency to place too much emphasis on those problems.
There is a section in the book which points out that so much of reform which is counterproductive has been the consequence of a focus on a problem without a sense of perspective. There is an addition to this in the second edition that likewise the critics of what has gone wrong (including myself) have tended to focus on the problems, without a sense of perspective. There is a need to look at the positive as well as the negative. There is much still to be proud of and grateful for in western civilisation. Would Australians rather live in Australia or in Russia, Ruwanda, or many other parts of the world? This has led to small rewritings of some sections of the book.
Many have helped in various ways in the preparation of the first edition of this book. Their names (in alphabetical order) are: Val Bennett, Kenneth Brinsden, Niloufer Cooray, Noreen Cooray, Pauline Evatt, Chris Favotto, Lalin Fernando, Deborah Foster, Elizabeth Good, Malcolm Gracie, John Gully, John Hall, Gerda Hirsch, Cathy King, Ben Lexcen, Maggie Liston, Simon Lynch, Jennie Nicoll, Marjorie Nicoll, Iris Nyman, Carolyn Powell, Suri Ratnapala, Joan Rattray, Jane Rayner, Grant Reid, David Smallbone, Lynette Wagland, John Weir, Danielle Wright, Mustapha Yuksel and John Young. I owe a great deal to my research assistant David Smallbone, who indefatigably and with expedition and keenness of mind and intellect responded to the many demands I made. Lynette Wagland did much of the work on this manuscript- and responded to my many demands with expedition and efficiency, which often went beyond the call of duty.
Tony Davies, Bob Day, Bill Fenner and Himani Perera have been of great help in the preparation of the second edition.
Macquarie University and the New South Wales Institute of Technology (as it then was) provided facilities to me in the preparation of the First Edition. Macquarie University and the University of Sydney provided facilities to me in the preparation of the First Edition. I convey my grateful thanks to these institutions.
LJM Cooray, Faculty of Law, University of Sydney, Sydney NSW 2000 — July 1996 (2nd Edition)