Last year Chris Snowdon wrote an interesting article for The Free Society.
Australia – the world’s number one nanny state described how a country "once renowned for rugged individualism capitulated to puritanism with barely a whimper".
Today BBC News magazine has a feature that, unintentionally perhaps, supports Snowdon's thesis. According to Nick Bryant:
Sports grounds ... offer a vantage point from which to view the country's surprisingly officious and authoritarian streak. At cricket matches, beach balls that transgress onto the playing area are confiscated and punctured. Fans who start Mexican waves face eviction. Those queuing up for beer have to remove their sunglasses to prove they are not half-cut ...
Its claim to be a laid back country, meanwhile, is belied by the bewildering array of rules and regulations, from strict border protections to the bylaws which stipulate that cars should be parked in the same direction as the flow of traffic.
This isn't the whole story, of course, as Australia: What the rest of the world gets wrong clearly demonstrates. Bryant does however make this damning observation:
In the face of this authoritarianism, the supposedly anti-authoritarian Australians are unexpectedly meek and acquiescent.
This struck a chord because less than a week ago I exchanged emails with a journalist in Ireland who told me, without prompting:
We Irish talk a great talk about being rebels, but this country is incredibly conformist. It's actually shocking how disconnected our self-image is from reality.
I'm sure a thesis could be written about this. Any volunteers?