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Perspectives 16 - The Question of Our Times


The Question for Our Times

Institutional Design for a Free Society

One of the few points of agreement in the wake of Brexit, the election of Trump and the success of minority parties in the last election is that the disenfranchised, the alienated and the forgotten are seizing the opportunity to express the depth of their anger.

But what lies beyond that anger? What, if any, options do we have?

Whitlam Institute Professorial Research Fellow Professor Anna Yeatman distils a vast body of work to outline not only how the failures of neoliberalism (market liberalism), so firmly entrenched in modern society, are now clear but perhaps more importantly the contours of a social democratic alternative.

“The social liberal/social democratic idea of institutional design was built upon the historically established institutional order of the constitutional state and the rule of law – the state understood as sovereign public power”.

In the paper, Professor Yeatman argues that we are the architects of our own institutional design – and we decide whether the relationships that we have with each other as a society ought to be, at their core, collaborative or competitive.

“It’s a question for each of us,” writes Professor Yeatman, “and we have no time to lose.”


This publication forms part of Perspectives - essays on contemporary public policy published by the Whitlam Institute in which respected public intellectuals put forward their views and canvass ideas on policies that shape a better, fairer Australia. Perspectives encourages creative, bold thinking and new ways of looking at the challenges of the 21st century to spark thought and debate among the community and policy makers. More

Read the paper:


Listen to Professor Yeatman discuss elements and arguments of this paper The Question for Our Times: Institutional Design for a Free Society.