The Lucky Country
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The Lucky Country is a 1964 book by Donald Horne. The title has become a nickname for Australia and is generally used favourably, although the origin of the phrase was negative. Among other things, it has been used in reference to Australia's natural resources, weather, history, distance from problems elsewhere in the world, and other sorts of prosperity.
Horne's intent in writing the book was to document Australia's climb to power and wealth, basing it almost entirely on luck rather than the strength of its political or economic system, which Horne believed was "second rate".
The title of Horne's book comes from the opening words of the book's last chapter:
Australia is a lucky country run mainly by second rate people who share its luck. It lives on other people's ideas, and, although its ordinary people are adaptable, most of its leaders (in all fields) so lack curiosity about the events that surround them that they are often taken by surprise.
Horne's statement was an indictment of 1960s Australia. His intent was to comment that, while other industrialized nations created wealth using "clever" means such as technology and other innovations, Australia did not. Rather, Australia's economic prosperity was largely derived from its rich natural resources. Horne observed that Australia "showed less enterprise than almost any other prosperous industrial society."
In his 1976 follow-up book, Death of the Lucky Country, Horne clarified what he had meant when he first coined the term:
When I invented the phrase in 1964 to describe Australia, I said: 'Australia is a lucky country run by second rate people who share its luck.' I didn't mean that it had a lot of material resources … I had in mind the idea of Australia as a [British] derived society whose prosperity in the great age of manufacturing came from the luck of its historical origins … In the lucky style we have never 'earned' our democracy. We simply went along with some British habits.
In the decades following his book's publication, Horne became critical of the "lucky country" phrase being used as a term of endearment for Australia. He commented, "I have had to sit through the most appalling rubbish as successive generations misapplied this phrase."
- "Still lucky, but getting smarter," article by Horne revisiting The Lucky Country on the 40th anniversary of its publication, from The Age
- "Still Lucky: 50 years in Donald Horne's Lucky Country", Radio National
- "Is Australia still the Lucky Country?" by Jon Donnison, BBC News, 31 October 2014
- "The Lucky Country Turns Fifty" by Carl Reinecke, Inside Story, 1 December 2014
- "The Vanishing Point" by Carl Reinecke Meanjin