15 October 2009

A republic, any republic

Asking if you want a republic, particularly when dreamt up by former communist Green MP Keith Locke, is a bit like asking if you want something to eat, and not knowing if you'll get a gourmet meal, fast food, some expired food from a supermarket bin.

A republic in and of itself it not necessarily a good thing. Not PC akins it to accepting a kidney transplant from a bureaucrat, but I think it is more like a trojan horse. It looks like something good, but you don't know what's inside, or why you got it. The motivations of some advocating a republic should be cause for worry.

You see a republic can range from being a constitutionally limited one, that is meant to constrain the role of the state, like the United States, or it may be a corrupt dictatorship, like the Republic of Tajikistan. I don't expect Keith Locke wants a "People's Republic" although he has been cheerleader for this in the past, but I also don't expect he wants to emulate the United States.

So whilst a debate on this is good, indeed very good, be wary of those who push a republic for the sake of a republic. If a republic appears in the coming years, it is a once in a lifetime chance to fundamentally change the constitutional structure of New Zealand and ringfence the role of the state - and equally to constitutionally demand an expansion or entrenchment of it.

Have a guess to what extent Keith Locke wants to constrain the role of the state, and to what extent he wants to expand and entrench it.

Then ask yourself if you really think that those who will advance a republic will predominantly share that view, or will they advance a republic should tightly define the state as an entity to protect individual rights and freedoms.

I doubt it is the latter, and as a result, whilst I would advocate for the latter, I'd prefer the status quo to any vision of a republic Keith Locke has.


Lewis Holden said...

It seems strange that Libertarians would support the monarchy simply because they didn't get everything they wanted in a republic.

A republic isn't a "it is a once in a lifetime chance to fundamentally change the constitutional structure". All constitutions - including the United States' - are organic and amended overtime. Jefferson's "a republic, if you can keep it" comment was simply about ensuring the fundamental basis of the US system was kept intact.

Anonymous said...

We need a republic in NZ - a republic that ensures the productive remain productive and the non-productive are not a drag on anyone else.

A republic - not a democracy, in other words.

Chance of Keith providing that? ZERO!

Lewis Holden said...

Have you actually read the Bill?

Libertyscott said...

Lewis: It is about not getting everything I want, it is about getting the opposite. About a constitution that guarantees so called "positive rights" effectively shutting down debate about a libertarian future for being "unconstitutional". It is about a constitution that forces an interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi onto all laws and the private sector. It could enshrine the abomination of the Human Rights Act.

The agenda of some pushing a republic is contrary to individual freedom. A monarchy is preferable to a constitution that makes it worse.

Keith Locke's vision of a constitutional republic is unlikely to come close to one I'd have.

I disagree about a constitution being organic. It should not be amended regularly, amendments should be incredibly rare - as it is meant to be supreme law. It isn't supreme if it can be changed readily.

Lewis Holden said...

I didn't say that constitutions ought to be amended regularly. But that does not mean the simple changes proposed by Locke's Bill excludes any sort of libertarian future. You're much less likely to get the sort of constitutional republic you want if you defend the status quo: no change means no change. That's because under the status quo we have a mish-mash of statutes making up our constitution; it's likely once we become a republic we'd move to a codified constitution.

Nothing about Keith's Bill entrenches the Treaty of Waitangi, Human Rights Act or creates "positive rights". That's exactly why I asked if you'd read the Bill.

How is the "agenda" of those pushing a republic against individual freedom?

I know from personal experience that the hard left despises the republic debate, because they consider it a distraction and a potential threat to the Treaty of Waitangi.