Friday, October 03, 2014

NZ election 2014 post-mortem

Every election that comes about inevitably has some hacks saying it is “interesting”, “historic” etc, which of course they always are.  Elections always change governments in some way, even if not the ruling party. Psephologists (an area that I am often tempted to drop into) are keen to dissect some greater meaning from a vast range of individual decisions made at the ballot box or to not go to the ballot box, and political parties are even more keen to use that data to inform their future utterings of rhetoric, promises and contortions of fact.

The 2014 New Zealand General Election is, though, a bit more than all that.  For it needs to be seen in the context not only of 20 years of MMP politics, and an vigorous level of campaigning by opposition parties, that saw many pundits thinking the election would be close, either due to wishful thinking on their part, or because governments seeking a third term usually only scrape through (see 2005, 1996, 1981). 

In the height of economic recession, a majority of voters chose to change the electoral system, thanks to sustained campaigning by a coalition on the left, poorly focused counter-campaigning by those on the right (remember Janet Shirtcliffe?) and the feeling by a significant number of voters that they had had enough of radical reforms they neither understood nor felt were helping them.  Bear in mind in that same election in 1993, National won by one seat, with 33% of the vote.  First Past the Post meant that opposition votes were split between Labour, the Alliance and NZ First.

Today, opposition votes are also split between Labour, the Greens (which have succeeded the Alliance as the far-left faction in Parliament) and NZ First, but National has won an election in its own right, with the system many on the left thought would deliver them sustained so-called “progressive” majorities of Labour supported by a leftwing partner, and perhaps a centrist party maintaining a balance.  Not now.  Despite a campaign whereby the left DID campaign on a lot of policy, and dishing up a fair bit of dirt, a majority of New Zealand voters weren’t swayed.   National getting its best ever result since 1951 and Labour its worst since 1922 speaks volumes not of the split on the left (which has not grown, as the Greens are sustaining fairly consistent levels of support), but on a series of factors that should result in some introspection, particularly from the left...

Forgotten Posts from 2009 : Conservative Party ignoring its core?

Simon Heffer has written in the Daily Telegraph "Why is it deemed politically acceptable for Labour to suck up to and bribe its core vote, but not for the Conservative Party to do the same to its own?"

He doesn't mean bribe, he means demonstrate that productive, aspiring, entrepreneurial people matter.

Except, of course, in the counting of heads, called elections, they don't. What matters is attracting the masses bribed by middle class welfare in the form of child benefits, the large bulk of middle income people who are beloved of the NHS, because they have been told that the only alternative is the bogeyman of the US health system, and that only the government can make sure their kids get a good education.

"Caring" in the form of "we'll spend other people's money" is the order of the day, and many are convinced that the state should spend their money how they want it - and it is Labour that is far more adept at convincing voters that it can do that.  That's because Labour is philosophically committed to a larger state.  The Conservatives are, far too often, philosophically terrified of arguing that people should keep more of their own money.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Forgotten Posts from 2009 : Brown and Darling show what's wrong with democracy

Labour was been in power in the UK for 12 years. For most of that time, the UK economy has grown steadily, to the envy of some its poorer performing continental neighbours. During that time the public sector proportion of GDP has gone from 38.8% to 42%. Almost without exception every year there has been a budget deficit. As Chancellor of the Exchequer and subsequently Prime Minister, health spending has gone up by 66% as a percentage of GDP, doubling in real terms, yet the outcomes are barely an improvement. The economy of some parts of the UK, such as Scotland, is more dependent on the state sector than Hungary was in the latter days of communism.

So the last act, having ridden on a wave of asset price inflation, encouraging massive credit bubbles and then seeing them pop, has been to spend - spend - spend.  To ignore the collapse in tax revenue and the budget deficits since 2001, and to leave a legacy of overspending that the next government will have to face, and then be criticised for being "cruel" because inevitably it will cut spending on welfare, local government and other areas of social spending.

People vote time and time again for governments that spend money borrowed from future voters, and then when confronted with the true costs of those decisions, they will bite back.  What chance the next Conservative government will be a one term government because Labour's client welfare recipients and public servants will bite back.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Scotland votes No

It might have been fear about money.

It might have been dislike for Alex Salmond.

but Scotland voted to remain in the UK.

and so nationalists and socialists in Scotland, and those wanting to kneecap the UK worldwide will weep.

I'm having sparking wine in the Air NZ Koru Club in Auckland Airport....

but it isn't over, since the three main Westminster parties promised substantially greater devolution to Scotland as a last minute bribe.  That means the West Lothian question - the issue that Scottish MPs elected to the House of Commons get to vote on matters that do not affect Scotland - is unresolved.

That is now front and centre.

2014 New Zealand voting guide for lovers of liberty

1. Is there a positive candidate to endorse?
2. Is there a likely winner worthy of tactically voting to eject because he or she is so odious??
3. Is there a tolerable "least worst" candidate?

So I list by electorate, the status of the electorate and who I am endorsing, then if you care, an explanation why.  Just search for the name unless you want to have a very long read...  and of course I am happy to see contrary views expressed.  I am updating this as I am on a series of flights in the next couple of days, and it is dependent on the gap between flights, wifi access and access to laptop power...

2014 New Zealand voting guide for lovers of liberty complete

1. Is there a positive candidate to endorse?
2. Is there a likely winner worthy of tactically voting to eject because he or she is so odious??
3. Is there a tolerable "least worst" candidate?

So I list by electorate, the status of the electorate and who I am endorsing, then if you care, an explanation why.  Just search for the name unless you want to have a very long read...  and of course I am happy to see contrary views expressed.  I am updating this as I am on a series of flights in the next couple of days, and it is dependent on the gap between flights, wifi access and access to laptop power...

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Why Scotland should vote No

Today is the day that most of the Scottish electorate get to decide whether they want Scotland to break away from the UK and be an independent country.  

Well independent notwithstanding the passionate desire by its First Minister to tie it to the Pound Sterling, meaning that its monetary policy and by default fiscal policy (as it will affect public borrowing) will be driven by the Bank of England.  

Now that isn't a bad thing in itself, for if Scotland were to be truly independent, you can imagine the Scottish Pound being worth much less than the already devalued Pound Sterling, primarily because virtually all of the advocates for independence are socialists, committed primarily not to the earning of wealth, but the taking of it and "redistributing it" to those they deem worthy.   Such a vision isn't one that inspires confidence in money created out of nothing.

Furthermore, "independent" Scotland aspires to be a member of the EU, as it will lose EU membership the day it breaks away from it, and seeks to be a member so it can "earn" its cut of subsidies etc, although curiously the "Yes" campaign seems to think Scotland could be like Norway - except, of course, Norway has its own relatively solid currency and is not a member of the EU, because it doesn't want to share its wealth with Bulgaria or Greece, or its fisheries with anyone else.

"Independent" Scotland of course is happy to share its fisheries with the subsidised fleets of the rest of the EU.

"Independent" Scotland will still have the Windsors as head of state.

All of that is just political posturing by a campaign led by a megalomaniacal habitual liar.

There are solid reasons to not vote for independence, but there are also arguments in favour of the union.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Comparing parties' transport policies (in progress)

Given the blogosphere in NZ in terms of transport policy debate is dominated by one (well-meaning) blog that is almost entirely focused on one dimension of transport (how people move about in cities, specifically one city), and with one philosophical perspective (central planning, state funded, as opposed to market driven, user funded), I thought I'd do a quick review of parties' transport policies for this election.

My test for them all is:

1. Understanding of the transport sector:  Most politicians don't know who owns what, who is responsible for what and what exists and doesn't exist.  Those that do deserve some credit.

2. Support for competition, innovation and entrepreneurship:  New entry both of operators and vehicle types, and new modes of transport should generally be encouraged.  This includes those who wish to do what the government fails to do.

3. User pays:  Taxpayers generally shouldn't be subsidising users of transport services or infrastructure, but it does allow cross-subsidisation of marginal users of networks that are inefficient to charge for (e.g. footpaths).  Infrastructure costs should generally be recovered by users of those networks, not by other network users.

4. Economic rationalism:  Where the state does intervene, the net economic benefits should exceed costs, demonstrably.  This includes spending and reducing compliance costs for unnecessary regulations.

5. Wider impacts:  Make this safety, environmental and social impacts, and say I'm being soft.  What this basically means is, will the policy help or hinder reductions in accidents, noxious pollution, and improve people's ability to access what they want (bearing in mind the impacts on others who may have to bear the costs of the measures).

I'll give each a score out of 5, giving a total possible score of 25.  Bear in mind I am looking at land, air and sea transport.  Any party that says nothing about any mode is presumed to agree with the status quo, which is generous I believe.  I am guided only by the parties' expressed policies online, unless there is a statement by a leader or leading spokesperson that gives cause to vary this.

National: 5, 3, 3, 2, 3 = 16 out of 25.  It's about big roads, some of which aren't good value for money, some of which are.  There's a lot for public transport, not enough for the fundamentalists, and spending on Kiwirail is likely to be the best last chance it gets to show it is worth anything.

NZ First: 2, 2, 2, 1, 1 = 8 out of 25.  Suddenly an obsession about public transport, especially reviving long distance passenger trains. Remember the Northerner, the Southerner? They'd be back. Get rid of road user charges, replace them with fuel tax, then replace fuel tax with tolls like road user charges.  Usually silliness you'd expect from a cult that gets one member to write policy.

ACT: 3, 4, 4, 4, 3 = 18 out of 25.  It's all about roads, and having them run like businesses, with user pays for public transport and allowing the private sector to build competing roads as well.  It's light in terms of content, with nothing on other modes, but given air and sea largely look after themselves, that's not a bad thing.  It's a start, and it would mean some of the Nats' pet road projects would come under closer scrutiny.

Labour: 1, 2, 1, 1, 2 = 7 out of 25. "The current government has been obsessed with a handful of hugely expensive projects that it selected for political reasons" then Labour selects the ones it agrees with, for political reasons, including the big Auckland underground rail loop, building a new line to Marsden Point and reopening the Napier-Gisborne railway, so it can carry the 12 truckloads a week it once carried.   Lots of spending, lots of utter drivel, and it supports the so-called "congestion free network" promoted by leftwing/greenie/central planner ginger group "Generation Zero" (which will do next to nothing for congestion on the network people are prepared to pay for).  It's Green Party policy-lite and just as intellectually robust, with silliness on motorhomes and trucks not being allowed in fast lanes on motorways to give NZ First something to admire.

Democrats for Social Credit: 2, 1, 1, 1, 1 = 6 out of 25.  Central planning obsessives with weird statements like "Air New Zealand as an important means of transporting perishable goods to overseas markets".  The mental contortions required to give credibility to the funny money men adds to it (but then funny money is more common than we think).

Greens: 3,1,0,1,2 = 7 out of 25.  So much money wasted on road projects with poor economic returns, stop them and build railways with even worse ones.  Well that's not what they say, but it is the truth. The Green mantra is that walking, biking and riding rail based transport puts you into the promised land, but driving is a curse.  Those who drive are "auto-dependent" and are "forced" to use your car, and you're just aching to walk to a tram stop to wait to ride a tram with lots of other people to go to the place you want to go.  If only everyone could get about this way it would be smart. Except its not. It's a tired, old-fashioned obsession with building your way out of problems, except this is with railways and busways, not roads.  What's got to be most stupid is that unlike green parties in other countries, the Greens have ignored congestion charging as a way of reducing traffic congestion and pollution.  Politics over evidence.  

ALCP: no policy

Maori: no policy

Internet Mana: 2, 0, 0, 0, 1 = 3.  Well you didn't exactly expect much did you?  Rhetoric on nationalising parts of the transport sector that are already government owned, but the big deal is free public transport. Everywhere.  It's an old-fashioned tired old leftwing proposal that claims it would free up the roads, but what it would do is shift a lot of air by rail and bus.   It wont ease congestion, it will cost a fortune (uncosted), and don't expect any innovation or competition, but a large union dominated set of monopolies.

Conservative: no policy


United Future:

Focus NZ:


Independent Coalition:

More detail..