Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Manipulation of language

This post is NOT about the merits of deregulating and privatising ACC - you can take it for granted, I'd fully support full competition for all ACC coverage and privatising ACC itself. It is a debate about language used in politics, to manipulate public opinion. It is not a manipulation confined to those I am accusing in this post either.

In the debate about ACC, those on the left consistently refer to the policy of opening ACC up to competition as "privatisation".

Yet these are two very different things. A government owned entity can remain state owned and face private sector competition without it being privatised.

How? Let's take some of the major deregulations in recent years.

- Until 1982, trucks were banned from hauling freight further than 150km (with some exceptions), with rail having a monopoly. Was opening up long haul freight to competition the privatisation of New Zealand Railways?

- Until 1983, Air New Zealand had a statutory monopoly on domestic airline routes, in that competitors were only allowed by and large if Air New Zealand granted permission. Was the removal of this monopoly the privatisation of Air New Zealand?

- Until 1989, TVNZ had a monopoly on television broadcasting, and in 1991 the television market was fully opened to anyone who wished to purchase frequencies, satellite capacity or lay cable. Was this the privatisation of TVNZ?

- Until 1998, it was illegal for anyone other than NZ Post to deliver mail for less than 80c. Was opening up the postal market the privatisation of New Zealand Post?

So why talk about opening up the ACC market to competition as privatisation?

It's simple - it is the manipulation of language for political effect.

You see most people would not disagree with allowing competition. Prohibiting competition seems to be a bad thing, as it means a monopoly can take advantage of you, can underperform, and you have no choice. It doesn't even have to expect the threat of potential competition.

The left cannot attack ACC reform based on the word "competition", because most people will go "So what? I like competition, I don't like monopolies."

Privatisation is a bogey word. It brings up images of an "asset" being sold for less than it "might be worth", of control transferring to those horned devils called "foreigners" (spit) and it not "being our's anymore", even though people complained about it when it was.

So that is why they lie, explicitly, about the proposal. To have people think it is about selling ACC - which, sadly, would not happen in this term of the government, rather than opening it up to competition, which might.

So it should be challenged, repeatedly. NZ Post has NOT been privatised, neither has TVNZ, just because both are fully exposed to competition. Why should ACC be described as privatised if it is also subject to competition?

UPDATE: Both Frog Blog and the Standard repeat the lie, blatantly.

UPDATE 2: The Standard doesn't like being challenged. Take this nasty little remark about "learning my lesson".


homepaddock said...

Very good point and on a related matter of linguistic manipulation - when did benefits become entitlements?

Right again said...

I learnt my lesson long ago, the Standard is not a forum for debate, it is a circle jerk of idealogues who won't be budged from their position. You are right though, it is competition rather than privatisation.