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There may be many “Andrew Reynolds” in the Perth metropolitan phonebook, but the odds are good there is only one who is a self-described classical liberal who also happens to know a fair bit about church bells. How did this unique mix come into being?

Andrew was born in South Perth in 1967 to his father Laith Reynolds who was a radio technician, salesman and manager, and his mother Jan, a full-time homemaker. Before marriage and children, his mother worked as a secretary for a number of Perth’s top legal partners, however, as was traditional at the time, women were expected to cease paid employment once married.[1]

Andrew was the Reynolds’ family’s second baby ultimately ending up as the middle child of three. His parents met at the Anglican Youth Fellowship the result being that Andrew was born and raised an Anglican and remains a member of the Anglican faith to this day. Andrew has a younger brother Cameron, and his elder sister Linda has been a Liberal Senator for Western Australia since 2014.

When asked about his parent’s political views Andrew first refers back to his paternal grandfather who was a Labor MP during the John Tonkin era. Andrew describes his mother as politically strongly conservative, while he describes his father as being ‘reasonably’ conservative but somewhat more relaxed about various social issues. One of his earliest memories was of his father being very animated about the sacking of Gough Whitlam, and this reaction triggered awareness in Andrew that something very serious had happened.

By then his father had drifted away from supporting the Labor Party as he had done in his earlier life. Andrew suspects this shift may have been influenced by his career advancement into management and an understanding of what had happened to the ALP. As a technician his father had been a shop steward and a member of white-collar unions, however, he was concerned about the potential devastation Whitlam was threatening which influenced his move towards the right side of politics.

Dinner table conversations at the Reynolds family home were, and still are, lively. Andrew recalls that political issues were talked about at home “all the time”, and very few topics were off-limits. When inviting newcomers around for dinner, it was often a good idea to give guests advance warning to be prepared to hear some sometimes forcefully expressed opinions.

When Andrew was six years old his parents move to Jakarta for his father’s work. Upon his return three years later to the local primary school in Gooseberry Hill his class went through four teachers in one year, prompting his parents to move Andrew to Guildford Grammar School for grades six and seven of primary school followed by high school. The transition to high school wasn’t a particularly pleasant experience for Andrew, hampered by the fact that he was a “weedy little kid” who was very opinionated and had travelled an awful lot more than many of the bigger kids who hadn’t seen much of life outside of the family farm and school.

During his high school years, Andrew did a lot of reading on political philosophy and economics including Das Capital, The Communist Manifesto, Mein Kampf, Animal Farm and 1984. He also read Anthony Burgess’ lesser-known volume 1985 which had a very strong impact on Andrew revealing to him how a political concept, in this case, syndicalism, could go horribly wrong once implemented. During this time, he also read a lot of science fiction, including Heinlein and Azimov, which represented in his mind the ability to conceptualise the “other” and to see what is possible.

Sadly, Andrew’s high school peers were not much interested in discussing the ideas that were so compelling to him, but after joining the Western Australian Union of Liberal Students (WAULS) at the University of Western Australia, Andrew found himself among people who were very much engaged, and who were happy to argue about ideas and still have a drink with each other at the end of the day – an experience reminiscent of Andrew’s home environment.

This early exposure to political and economic philosophy had somewhat of an unexpected consequence during the course of Andrew’s economics degree at UWA. He quickly realised that the economic orthodoxy he was being taught in class was wrong. This realisation was in part due to his own reading and research, but also the influence of his high school economics teacher, whom Andrew remembers as being very thorough in ensuring that his students were aware of both Keynesian economic theory, monetarism and classical economics, the last of which made much more sense to Andrew than Keynes ever did.

Combined with the social distractions that came from recently leaving an all-boys school and a fairly cloistered upbringing, the result was that Andrew soon lost interest in his coursework. After two years he was asked by the university to show cause as to why he should be allowed to continue in his studies, and he came to the conclusion that his economics degree was something he no longer wanted to pursue.

In 1987, the year of the “Black Monday” stock market crash, Andrew went to work in Kalgoorlie as an offsider for Davies Drilling Australia. After a year he returned to Perth and enrolled at Curtin University part-time studying a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in banking while at the same time taking a job with the WA Corporate Affairs Department during the Rothwells investigation[2]. Andrew worked on the investigation for seven years while putting himself through university. 

Andrew’s life experiences, private reading, and formal studies have put him firmly in the classical liberal camp. When asked about his awareness of libertarian philosophy he reveals that he doesn’t very much like the term “libertarian” as he sees it as ceding the term “liberal” which has been hijacked by socialist ideology, particularly in the United States. Using the term “libertarian”, in Andrew’s mind is telling the socialist movement that the great tradition of classical liberalism – a political and moral philosophy based on civil liberties, equality before the law and economic freedom – is a socialist idea which it most assuredly is not.

He sees both the left and right side of politics promoting the idea that government is there to tell us all how to live, however, the true classical liberal philosophy is that government only exists to carry out the basics – defend the frontiers, enforce a minimal set of laws, clean up the rubbish – not to tell us how to run our lives. Andrew feels that he came to these views very gradually over his schooling years.

To Andrew the essence of the economy is that it is an organic thing, not to be controlled. Everything comes down to Hayek’s “knowledge problem”, that is, you don’t know what you don’t know and you can’t know. Every attempt by the government to know everything and make largescale decisions on that basis is bound to end in deficiency.

In terms of the debate between the “anarchists” and the “minarchists”, Andrew’s view is that we are all on the same journey. Let us at least work together to get the size of the government reduced to only the most essential functions. Once this has been achieved then according to Andrew, we can talk about whether we want to “strangle it in its bed” or not.

One thing Andrew is very sure about is that violence is not the way to achieve change.  It is his view that revolution is never going to work, as all it does is promote those who are good at violence and makes any resultant government more powerful than ever. The one exception to the rule was the American Revolution which serves as the single counter example. Even then there was a lot that was unattractive about post-revolutionary America. It took a civil war to resolve one of the ongoing issues – slavery – and since that time, the government has grown ever larger in scope.

After completing his seven-year stint investigating Rothwells, Andrew moved to the UK with his wife Shirene and got a job with the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS). He was there for a year, then moved over to NatWest Markets, which became Bankers Trust. He was with Bankers Trust for another year at which time the firm was acquired by Deutsche Bank. Andrew remained with Deutsche Bank for three years before returning to UBS. Upon his return to Western Australia, he was employed at BankWest.

All of these roles were analyst roles and involved working closely with regulatory agencies to understand as much as humanly possible how the banks could work within the regulations in order to be profitable. When the financial crisis began in 2007, he knew exactly what caused it. In some ways he felt he was part of the problem as the only way to get around various regulations was to do things that made no sense from a business point of view. 

Andrew’s introduction to the liberty scene in Australia started after his return to Australia when he came across several blogs including Catallaxy Files, John Quiggin’s blog and Larvatus Prodeo. It’s fair to say that after Andrew’s seven years working on the Rothwells investigation, as well as his many years’ experience in the UK and Australia, he knew the banking system very well. Soon he found himself arguing with and sometimes agreeing with participants in these various online spaces. This forced Andrew to put what he had always understood from his earlier reading into compelling arguments of his own.

Andrew describes himself as a classic second child – the born negotiator, careful with his words, always seeking conciliation, arbitration and a reasoned way forward. Although his elder sister Linda was eventually drawn to a political career, this pathway didn’t appeal to Andrew who views himself as somebody who works better out of the limelight. He is more of an intellectual than somebody who is comfortable out the front flying the flag. Speaking in front of crowds was at one time terrifying to him, but since receiving training and through practice, it is now something that he can do without “too many worries”. 

So how do the church bells fit in? In addition to consulting in the fields of accounting and finance, these days Andrew is also a Director and hands-on project manager at John Taylor and Co., the world’s largest working bell foundry. This interest is a direct result of a passion his father Laith developed during the time he was head-server at St Georges Cathedral in Perth. The bells installed there hadn’t been rung since the years of the depression when the church could no longer afford to employ professional ringers.

Laith was on an interstate trip when he observed proper English change ringing, and from that time onwards he developed a full-blown passion that ultimately resulted in him and a group of associates acquiring the declining Taylor & Co., inspired in part by a desire not to see only one operating English bell foundry left standing. His father’s passionate enthusiasm and financial involvement resulted in Andrew sharing his interest, his current directorship being the end result.

Andrew’s involvement with Mannkal Economic Education Foundation began as a chance encounter on Facebook back on 21st July 2013  which led to Ron Manners sending Andrew an email to both introduce himself and to invite him to give an economics lecture to some Mannkal scholars. Andrew was happy to accept this offer as he feels that it is deeply important to introduce young people and our future leaders to classical economics and for them to appreciate the wonderful ways in which freedom and markets bring about better outcomes for more people.

~ Nicola Wright, May 2021

[1] Right up until 1966 it was against the law for married women to work in the public service, and many private companies expected women to resign after marriage.

[2] This investigation resulted in the former chairman of Rothwells, Laurie Connell, being charged in 1989 under Section 420 of the WA Criminal Code in relation to making false financial statements. Rothwells eventual liquidation resulted in heavy losses to Rothwells investors and the Burke Government as a result of their $150-million bailout package. The political fallout resulted in the Royal Commission that was later known as “WA Inc.”.

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