Eulogy: Neville Kennard had Unconventional Wisdom

AUSTRALIAN anarchist and sceptic, Neville Kennard, died last night (Sunday 3rd June) from secondary cancer from a melanoma. Many knew Kennard as one of the brothers who owned and managed Kennards Hire and Kennards Self Storage. Kennard was also one of the first financial supporters and the first Chairman of the Centre for Independent Studies. I knew Nev as an enthusiastic supporter of Socratic dialogue and unconventional wisdom.

The last time we met was at the Royal Sydney Yacht Club  in November last year. Kennard had invited a small group to dinner there to hear Hans Hermann-Hoppe speak about fiat money.  Fiat money is what Professor Hoppe refers to as irredeemable pieces of paper.  Hoppe talked about the history of money and our current banking system concluding that only a system of universal commodity money (gold), competitive banks (not the current system where monopolistic reserve banks set interest rates etcetera), and 100-percent-reserve deposit banking with a strict functional separation of loan and deposit banking can assure economic stability and present a genuine answer to the current “monetarist fiasco”.

I went home that evening with a copy of Hoppe’s book: The Economics and Ethics of Private Property, Studies in Political Economy and Philosophy. [1]

It’s a great read if you are not frightened of radical ideas. Hoppe’s ideas are not new, but based on those of Ludwig von Mises. The work of Mises is often confused with the work of his student F.A. Hayek. Professor Hayek won the Nobel prize the year after Professor Mises’s death and while there is apparently little difference in their economics, according to Hoppe, Hayek was philosophically a Social Democrat while Mises a true Laissez-faire radical: an extremist.

I can hear Social Democrats at Australian Universities screaming: but everyone knows that Hayek was a radical Libertarian not a Social Democrat. Not according to Hoppe: Hayek is actually a moderate social democrat, and since we live in the age of social democracy, this makes him respectable.[2]

Kennard was a fan of Hoppe who in turn was a fan of Mises, but not Hayek.

But Neville Kennard read them all, beginning he claims with Paul Samuelson and eventually finding Murray Rothbard. Kennard clearly believed in the importance of the study of economics and economic theory and from every perspective and from first principles.

Kennard also believed fundamentally in sceptical thinking. He called it contrary thinking and encouraged everyone to challenge the conventional wisdom:

“Being curious may bring you back to the conventional wisdom, or it may not; but at least you’ve arrived there of your own accord and not just followed the crowd. Be a sceptic, a contrarian, an iconoclast even, if you have the where-with-all for it. Most don’t, so it will never be a crowded field.”[3]

Kennard was someone who liked to sow radical ideas, but in a world where we are increasingly encouraged to be team players. Australian culture encourages conformity and according to Kennard the mainstream media reinforces conventional wisdom:

“The Mainstream Media often establishes and then pours out the Conventional Wisdom. That is their job and that is their market so we should expect little more. The Mainstream Media likes to be dramatic and provoke emotional responses in us. They like to provoke outrage, condemnation, pity, blame, guilt — and sometimes admiration and respect. The content and the presentation is frequently banal and of little depth. So typically there is little to learn from it.”

Neville Kennard understood my approach to environmental issues. He visited me when I lived in the Blue Mountains. We discussed solutions to what some consider intractable problems. He understood that almost all environment-related science is now government funded and problem focused and that this severely limits the capacity of scientists to examine important issues from a truly independent perspective and freely publish evidence that may, in some cases, be contrary to current government policies.

Furthermore, when scientists do buck conventional wisdom, the mainstream media will either ignore them or condemn them.

As upset as some may be to hear F.A. Hayek described as a Social Democrat, I am upset every time I hear the mainstream media announce a new government-funded report in support of one or other state-sponsored belief (like global warming), as independent. As Kennard would attest: there is nothing independent about government or government funding.

Kennard agreed with my assertions that we have a problem today because if economics and environmental science is not conventional, tidy and government-funded, it is automatically distrusted. It is as though government is emerging to take the place the Catholic Church once demanded as the depository and arbiter of all knowledge. Kennard understood that consensus science is perhaps the best and most obvious example of this.

Neville Kennard didn’t believe in chaos or disorder, but called himself an anarchist. Kennard claimed that the traditional meaning of the term was simply to be “without a ruler”. Conventional wisdom says that democracy is better than anarchy. But Kennard was even brave enough to challenge the ascendancy, the superiority, the unchallengeable rightness of democracy:

“Democracy may or may not be superior to other forms of societal and political organisation, but it is more interesting to question it than to blindly accept this, or any, orthodoxy. What is also interesting is to ask someone to define what they mean by democracy: you will get some interesting answers. And what is curious about this widely accepted belief in the superiority of democracy is that in the recently released Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom for 2010 the two countries that are numbers 1 and 2 respectively Hong Kong and Singapore… both offer the best economic freedoms in the world without what would be called any or real democracy.”

Kennard was not only an anarchist but also a very successful businessman interested in many things including the environment, but especially economics and economic philosophy. He wanted to be successful and make money according to conventional wisdom, but he also cared about economics because he cared about the real world, and wanted to make it a better place for everyone. Towards this end he wanted us to think long and hard about the potential value of radically different political and economic systems.

To the end Neville Kennard was a persistent radical. He may have died yesterday, but his ideas and his enthusiasm will persist yet.

****
1] See also Chapter 6, The Economics and Ethics of Private Property: Studies in Political Economy and Philosophy, 2nd Edition. By Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Ludwig von Mises Institute, Auburn, Alabama. 2006.

2] Why Mises (and Not Hayek)? By Hans-Hermann Hoppe, October 10, 2011. http://mises.org/daily/5747

3] Read more from Neville Kennard here:
http://economics.org.au/staff/neville-kennard/

25 Responses to Eulogy: Neville Kennard had Unconventional Wisdom

  1. Ian Thomson June 4, 2012 at 7:20 pm #

    About 10 years ago, I took a temporary job closing up a South Melbourne address in the evenings. As a country person at heart, I used to stand , amazed and watch the huge flow of expensive cars coming out of a place which actually made – NOTHING.
    I would have liked your mate Neville.

  2. Benjamin Marks June 5, 2012 at 2:30 am #

    Great eulogy, Jennifer, packed with the ideas Nev was so passionate about.

  3. Neville June 5, 2012 at 10:12 am #

    I think Topher fits in well for this post. But Luke, Gav, Bazza etc don’t bother watching because it will offend your groupthink fantasy of a totalitarian future for all of us.

    Topher raised most of the funds for this video after appealing to Bolt’s readers and the response was amazing. Great to see that many people still regard freedom of speech as being of utmost importance. Go Topher.

    http://joannenova.com.au/2012/06/the-forbidden-history-of-unpopular-people/#more-22020

  4. Luke June 5, 2012 at 10:56 am #

    “after appealing to Bolt’s readers and the response was amazing” well I never.

    Topher forget to mention all the wannabe Galileos with bad ideas that are still unpopular.

  5. Neville June 5, 2012 at 11:00 am #

    Imagine the countless billions that would’ve been saved if the clueless labor govt listened to Bolt years ago about the stupidity of building an idiot desal plant in Vic.

    Of course Luke has prattled on like a true groupthink loon of the first water about drier than dry conditions in SE Australia and yet there’s now another flood and yet more to come in the next 24 hours. The Mitchell should have a dam built on it yesterday.

    http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/another_labor_flood_on_the_mitchell/#commentsmore

  6. Luke June 5, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

    Yes there’ll never be another drought will there? Demand is constant. Isn’t hindsight so wonderful.

    Sort of blends the last two posts – immeasurable belief in oneself (Galilelo syndrome), armchair critics, selective memory

    What’s the ISBN number for the Plan B – still can’t find it in the library catalogue.

  7. Denis Webb June 5, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

    Jen

    Thanks for dropping the names of Nev Kennard’s favourite authors, that Luke should read beginning with Murray Rothbard or Hans Hermann-Hoppe.

    If there was less government there would not be $10 billion to spend on saving the Murray Darling and so our most efficient food producers, the irrigators, could just get on with producing food.

    With less government many of the other environmental problems would also disappear.

  8. Bob Fernley-Jones June 5, 2012 at 3:04 pm #

    Jen,
    My condolences for the loss of your friend Nev. All new to me, and I need to take a trip to the library.

  9. Sam Kennard June 5, 2012 at 4:41 pm #

    Thanks Jen.
    Well written and great summary of my dad.

  10. Stephen Williams June 5, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    I agree that compared with Mises, Hayek was a social democrat. The thing is that Mises was so pure with his theories that there was no room for government of any sort. While I could live in an anarchic society most people would not consider it and I’m not sure it would be a pleasant place to live. Hayek compared to the Liberal Party was an anarchist. I would love to see complete economic and personal freedom as long as ones actions didn’t hurt other people. At the same time I’m very doubtful as to the disinterestedness of private police and courts etc, which is the Misean preference. If the government could contain itself to the maintenance of Law and Order and perhaps defence of the realm then we would all be better off. I think that complete anarchy would just end with us being invaded and no real comprehensive way to defend our selves.

  11. Bob Fernley-Jones June 5, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

    Luke,
    I didn’t comment on the earlier two threads because I thought that your incessant negativism therein (or maybe trolling?) did not make for sensible debate. However, on this eulogy, I assert that you should show more respect for Jennifer’s loss of a friend and confidant through cancer, even if you do not agree with his or her belief systems.
    BTW, I notice that you did not participate in the Tropher thingy over at JoNova’s that you also do not like. Have you been banned there?
    Oh and for a bit of education read a famous poem of 1914 that tells of the past and probably the future:
    http://www.dorotheamackellar.com.au/archive/mycountry.htm
    Erh don’t be confused by the first stanza; it is about England

  12. Bob Fernley-Jones June 5, 2012 at 5:38 pm #

    Sorry,
    Poem date should be 1904, not 1914
    The Murray substantially dried-out in 1914 & 1915

  13. Johnathan Wilkes June 5, 2012 at 7:32 pm #

    Luke

    “Yes there’ll (sic) never be another drought will there?”

    Funny you should say that Luke, I thought the great desalination plants in Vic and elsewhere were inspired by the cry of “It will never be enough rain to fill our dams!”

  14. Luke June 5, 2012 at 9:01 pm #

    Bob – no disrespect intended towards Neville Kennard – I have not been the slightest critical of the man – indeed I think he would have been happy for me to engage against the incessant negativity and trolling and abusiveness of Neville. I mean AGW is not the conventional wisdom of the populace. What could be better for NK’s memory than a vigorous debate?

    Bob – the only reason the Murray did not dry out in the recent drought was due to “storages”. And we’ve all been quoting Dorothea MacKellar here for years so you’re a bit late..

    Johnathon – who knew when the drought would end? Did you years before? I think you’ll find water resource authorities canvas a variety of views. Many engineers are sceptics anyway.

  15. Hugh June 5, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

    I’m pretty much a Rothbardian, inasmuch as an orthodox traditional Roman Catholic can be. And I reckon Hans Hoppe is a true and worthy apostle of the great MNR, but … I also have a huge soft spot for Hayek the ‘social democrat’. In 1974, when I was in 5th form, (year 11 I believe nowadays), me and my dad received in the mail, from Laissez Faire Books in New York, Hayek’s monographs “Kinds of Order in Society” and “The Use of Knowledge in Society”. I vividly remember getting up early before school the next morning and, with my school blazer on and bus money in hand, reading both of them. I was completely blown away (as I had been by “For A New Liberty” a month or so before). Of course, none of my schoolmates or teachers would ever know … they were on another planet. I am forever indebted to Hayek for his insights here. And if ‘social democrats’ operated with Hayek’s insights today, my, how much better off we would be.

  16. Debbie June 6, 2012 at 7:24 am #

    I’m probably going to regret this,
    But Luke?

    the only reason the Murray did not dry out in the recent drought was due to “storages”. And we’ve all been quoting Dorothea MacKellar here for years so you’re a bit late..

    I note with pleasure you have finally recognised that ‘storages’ (which are of course dams) are actually perhaps a necessary evil in our ‘land of droughts and flooding rains’.

    Hindsight is indeed a wonderful thing.
    We need to learn from it as well.

    Perhaps if we don’t want our inland rivers to dry out in the next inevitable drought….we might do well if we look at ways to have more storage?

    Great eulogy Jen,
    I’m a fan of the ‘live and let live’ code of ethics that Kennard subscribed to…..but I also recognise that we do need Govt and administration to look after the obvious community assets and infrastructure that we all need to function as a successful society.
    It can definitely go seriously out of whack though!

  17. Neville June 6, 2012 at 8:18 am #

    Luke as smart as you think you are you really do suffer from a lack of logic and reason.
    CAGW or AGW is the conventional wisdom of just about every govt throughout the world or haven’t you woken up to this fact yet?

    This isn’t an opinion it’s just fact and there is no debate at all. Even I believe that there must be an increase in temp because of the increase in co2 emissions.

    BTW so does Lindzen, Spencer, Michaels, Christy, Pielkes, Carter, Curry, Watts, McIntyre, McKitrick etc.
    It’s just that they don’t think there’s much we can do about it and most believe ( of the above) a doubling of co2 would only add another 1C to the planet’s temp.

    Because they believe the above they are definitely the unorthodox heretics and you and the alarmists are the religiously orthodox.
    Surely you can’t be as dumb as you seem, sprouting that absurd delusional rubbish, particularly after world govts have spent scores of billions $ promoting this mitigation of AGW fraud.

  18. Neville June 6, 2012 at 9:06 am #

    Whether we class ourselves as libertarian, anarchist, conservative , rightwing, leftwing or whatever we should try and follow logic and reason, if only because it saves a heck of a lot of time and also a hell of a lot of money.

    Interesting column from Catallaxy via Bolt asking whether the present crisis in Europe has as a cause the mindless pursuit and mitigation of CAGW. ( CAGW because it requires fixing)
    I’m sure the answer is yes and I’m sure mitigation of CAGW is a total con trick and fraud, because it won’t/can’t work.

    In another few weeks we Aussies will have our own chance to get deeper into the crap for a zero return and super big losses and no change to the temp or the climate.
    Brilliant logic and brilliant reasoning, NOT.

    http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/has_global_warming_ruined_europe/#commentsmore

    BTW Gillard and labor don’t believe that co2 is a problem either, so why are they introducing a co2 tax?
    Witness resoures minister Ferguson encouraging the Ballieu govt to turn the latrobe valley into another Pilbara by exporting processed brown coal.
    More hypocritical stupidity and a govt suffering a complete bi-polar mental dysfunction.

  19. Minister for Truth June 6, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

    I am with you Neville and your line of thinking.

    What is it with academics that they have a need to engage in scary imagery based upon the most appalling logic.

    Only yesterday in “The Australian”, Tuesday IT section we have a Qld Academic and President of Australian Computer Society, a Dr Tate, drawing the longest of bows to claim that because of the scary complexity of things like Airbuses that crash, and driverless trucks that may do so, and financial markets that use computers and lose money, all computer professionals should be Registered and Accredited by them, the ACS.

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/australian-it/ict-accreditation-a-life-and-death-matter/story-e6frgakx-1226383924727

    The scary imagery is designed to agitate users and businesses into following his organisation, and the world will be sweeter place, and their membership will of course be increased . IT practitioners already have to have degrees and industry accreditations and professional competence as well as satisfied customers. Being accredited by the ACS which represents less than 10% won’t change a thing. Planes may still crash and stock markets will lose money and shit will happen not matter what they do

    I reckon people are fed up with academics and institutions playing this game.

    The IT industry in this country is dynamic and vibrant, and that last thing it needs is a self interested minority group that represents just a fringe of the market, setting themselves up as union of some sort, and it certainly doesn’t need some academics engaging in yet more scare mongering based upon fallacious arguments.

    Its GW all over again.

    BTW, the Air Bus referred to, crashed because of pilot error not complexity. More complexity may have saved the plane.

  20. Debbie June 7, 2012 at 10:50 am #

    But but but Minister?
    We’re always told how incredibly complex and difficult and scary it is all becoming.
    That’s why we neeeeeed all these amazingingly complex structures that magically create a situation where no one is accountable isn’t it?
    They’re created to protect all us mere mortals (who just don’t understand all the complexities) from all this worry. . . . aren’t they?
    I think the scientific or biological name is ‘symbiotic parasites’. They have a purpose and they are basically friendly but there is no doubt about who supplies the nutrition to whom.
    As the discussion at this post highlights, that can go seriously out of kilter in modern societies when the hosts get over burdened and have their ability to supply nutrition severely hampered.

  21. Minister for Truth June 7, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

    Well said Debbie

    “Symbiotic parasites” is a good way to decribe them

    Further, the nutrition they are seeking is also the same in GW, power/control over our lives and money.

    At the moment the ACS has a very low coverage at less than 8-10% and its has been like that for years.

    Methinks they are mounting a campaign to increase member ship by trying to have control over all ICT people, ie become a union, that practitioners must be a member of, to work in ICT…the very antithesis of innovation and progress.

    And to do so by yet more dubious logic, emanating from a lot of activists and lefties. ..

    The last thing this country needs more of ..

  22. J.Hansford June 7, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

    Very nice Eulogy for your friend Jennifer…..and some of my thoughts on the topic of his interests.

    Political systems. Economic systems. Both are constructs of humans, their needs and their behaviors. As long as Freedom of Speech is held sacrosanct, the construction of civilized society can be maintained. That is the most important thing.

    Your friend sounded a very interesting man indeed. My condolences on this sad occasion.

  23. Colin The Bear June 16, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

    A great eulogy for Neville. I wish I had more than just a brief chat at the Mises Seminar in Sydney last year. Thanks to Neville, we had Hans Herman Hoppe.
    Like some of the other respondents here, I too would look forward to an Anarchistic Utopia, however I’d conceed to the Government providing the basics of law and order and protecting people and property.
    In Australia, Government is the only growth industry and will ultimately ensure our destruction.
    Like Neville and Jennifer, I despair at the level of government encroachment into our lives.
    I want to vote for a political force whose ambition is the dismantalling and shrinkage of Government!
    Phase-I : Abolish ALL GovT departments that did not exist prior to 1950 (especially the Reserve Bank of Australia).
    Phase-II: Cut the size of the remaining bureacracies by 50% each year of the administration until the burden of Government < 5% of GDP.
    I will conceed to a 5% burden. At this point, restrict the GovT to <5% of GDP forever.
    Install proportional voting, inproportion to the tax contributions of the voter.

    RIP Neville

  24. Maureen June 16, 2012 at 7:50 pm #

    What a great eulogy to Neville.
    I had the privilege to know Nev during our heady Libertarian 70’s. I am so grateful that he reconnected for the last few years of his life. He brought together some old friends, and many new thinkers.
    As anarchists, we understand that as long as each individual has to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions, society does not dissolve into the chaos and disorder so many believe is the result of anarchy. Similarly I have never understood how someone can get a job in the public service, elected, or otherwise, then suddenly know better how to “xxxx” up my life than I do. Nor do I understand why the moment a government does the robbery (calling it taxation and justifiable re-distribution) it is somehow legitimate.
    When you look at the financial meltdown, the environmental messes, reliance on bureaucrats for decision making etc etc, it is all so predictable.
    In the last 40 years there has been an explosion of literature on the “Freedom Ethos” For those who cannot cope with economics treatises, it is possible to get an idea of how to create an ethical world, by doing just as so many of us did in the 70’s . We said “It usually starts with Ayn Rand” A re-read of “Atlas Shrugged” or “The Fountainhead” is better than today’s sitcoms.
    Neville you were an Atlas, and never did Shrug. You have passed on the weight of the world to your many proteges.
    RIP

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  1. The best anti-Nanny state ad ever… : Hey… what did I miss? | Institute of Public Affairs - June 7, 2012

    […] for freedom this week with the passing of Neville Kennard. Jennifer Marohasy has written this lovely eulogy. And here’s Nev writing for the IPA Review in September 2008 on flat taxes in the […]

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