22 September 2023

New Zealand election 2023 - The case against Labour

So it’s that time when you get a chance to have a tiny say in what group of politicians pass laws on what you can do, and how to spend a portion of your money, or what to do with your property. They gain the power of legitimised violence over people’s bodies and their property, and they do it because the majority of voters let them do it.  They'll say they'll buy you healthcare, buy you education for your children, buy you a retirement income, and buy you some roads, policing and of course, keep you "safe".  They'll also all claim that they - people who produce nothing, and who have power - "create jobs" and "steer the economy", when of course they do this by interfering in it.  They produce money out of thin air, and then proclaim that they will "solve" inflation.  They take money when you work, when you invest and when you spend, then tell you they are "helping" you when they give some back to you (or more often than not, give some to a smaller group whose votes they are keen to get).

In a liberal democracy we live in relative freedom in that there are plenty of people living in countries with either totalitarian or authoritarian regimes that have an all-pervasive interest in what their subjects do, and also many who live in countries where government is incapable of protecting people from each other.  The latter are only free in the sense that you have to organise your own security and hope that the infrastructure that politicians provide doesn't collapse and kill you (see Libya).  

New Zealanders are fortunate to live in a developed liberal democracy, with rule of law, a lot of property rights and a relatively high degree of social and community cohesion, although the latter very much depends on where you live, and who you live with. It has that because of capitalism, private property rights, rule of law and a relatively high degree of freedom to interact, trade and employ people.  

For advocates of freedom and capitalism, the main advantage of a general election is that it is a chance to evict incumbents from power, to remove their power. The main disadvantage is that this is mainly done by giving your endorsement to another lot, the key for any libertarian is whether the other lot will, on balance, do less to interfere with your individual rights, tax you less, enable you to have more power to choose your healthcare, your kids’ education and hopefully protect you from criminals. 

Fortunately this election comes as a chance to evict the most leftwing Labour Government in decades, much moreso than the Clark Government and even the Kirk Government. 

It's hardly surprising that I want rid of a Labour Government, because it simply doesn't reflect my values. I don't want a government that believes in constant growth of the state, including the welfare state, to make more and more people dependent on other taxpayers.  I don't want a government that thinks that its role is primarily to take the wealth generated by others to give to other people or businesses.

However, this Labour Government in particular deserves to be defeated.  While I could go on about the government that fueled inflation by loose monetary policy and even looser fiscal policy, or the constant accretion of costs to business whether it be a new public holiday or extra annual leave or increasing the minimum wage far beyond inflation.  I could go about the mediocre outcomes in education, which has become increasingly centralised in a Wellington bureaucracy that not only micro-manages the curriculum, but strangles the supply of teachers by demanding they have many years of training, and be ideologically aligned to Labour's view of the role of the Treaty of Waitangi. There is no shortage of failure, but there is a strong pattern seen across almost all of the policies of the Labour Party:

Obsession with centralising power and control: It's seen in the creation of single national entities for technical education and for health delivery. This not only concentrates power, but it also stifles innovation and creativity, it provides no basis to compare performance, except by measures that the single entities set up for themselves.  Diversity in education is not encouraged, and diversity in the skills and talents of teachers (let alone their belief systems) is also discouraged.  All of this makes it easier to control, but also easier for rent-seeking professional associations (glorified unions) to control supply of professionals, and to demand pay increases and a lack of accountability for performance of any government.

Distrust of individuals and individual freedom and property rights:  Whether it be the spending of other people's money, it's continued lack of belief in using private property rights as a basis for laws on planning or its concern with regulating speech (whether it be "hate speech" or "misinformation") or its creeping ban on tobacco, it inherently treats individuals as needing guidance, as not being particularly fit to make their own choices.  It did seek to prohibit speech that ridiculed religion by default, before backing down. Now it funds a whole academic project against misinformation, which has enormous blind spots when it comes to anti-science and anti-reason claims popular on the left, such as on nuclear power, or genetically modified organisms, or even on whether NZ not taking action on climate change threatens humanity.  It certainly doesn't care about politicians lying about what they have done, or lying about each other in an election campaign.

The culture around speech, expounded by Labour, and much of the media and academia, is one of hysterical name-calling and cancellation of those who are less able to articulate what they don’t like and what they oppose.  Anyone who opposes a structuralist/post-modernist view on Maori issues is “racist’, anyone who questions gender self-assignment and puberty blockers is “transphobic” and anyone who questions cycleways or lower speed limits want “children to die” or wants “cyclists under attack”.  Furthermore, the taxpayer funded Disinformation Project had quite the blind spot for those spreading nonsense about nuclear energy, GMOs and other leftwing “cause celebres”.  It’s hardly surprising from an organisation that is committed to “the realisation of Tiriti justice” or the sinister UNESCO definition of freedom of speech meaning the “free flow of ideas by word and image that contributes to peace, sustainability, poverty eradication and human rights”. Heaven help us all for the vast panoply of human expression that doesn’t do that!  It’s also throughout academia, how else to explain the ranting invective of Professor Mohan Dutta towards former newspaper editor Karl Du Fresne

Support for post-modernist identitarianism and the dishonesty about its support:  One of the most toxic philosophical trends, emanating primarily from the United States, is the embrace of post-modernist structuralist theories about power, privilege, advantage and groups. Central to that is a view that the "world" is designed and run (which assumes highly centralised command and control) for the most successful identities of people, and this is done by them systematically oppressing the least successful.  In the NZ context it basically means that wealthy able-bodied European heterosexual men (not trans-men of course) have designed the economy, social systems, laws and society to suit their success, and that the systems they designed cannot possibly suit the needs of those who are poor, disabled, from other races, other sexualities and other sexes (and genders).  The "evidence" for this is seen in unequal outcomes for various groups, particularly Maori and Pasifika, particularly women.  Whether it be crime, poor health and educational outcomes, employment or the like, it is primarily because the systems that exist are designed at worst to oppress, at best to ignore the needs of others.

This philosophy is absolutely promoted throughout much of academia, but also significant parts of the bureaucracy. Instances of racism when identified are only seen as symptoms of systematic oppression, and in the NZ context it is "colonisation" that caused it.  Statistics showing people of some other backgrounds (e.g. Asian) doing well in some contexts are blanked out, because the narrative is one of oppressed vs. the oppressor.  The Greens and Te Pati Maori are explicit about this, as it was blurted out by Marama Davidson saying all of the violence in the world is due to "cis white men". It's nonsense of course, but it's the world view of people who pigeon hole everyone into groups.  It is a more sophisticated version of Maoism, which simply deemed those who were wealthy or related to those with wealth as being the enemy, who exploited the proletariat, and so had to be demoted, purged and punished.  

The elements of truth behind all of this is that the state does have people who are bigoted by multiple identity categories, and the state's health and education systems let a lot of people down.  It lets down people of poorer and less-educated backgrounds more than others, because if you are wealthier, you have options to go elsewhere and more confidence to complain and get better service. So there are absolute merits in enabling more choice, more variety and more tailoring of services to meet individual needs, but Labour (and its allies) think it is more. See the report commissioned by the Human Rights Commission called Maranga Mai! which claims:

 "New Zealanders need to understand that colonisation, racism and white supremacy are intertwined phenomena that remain central to the ongoing displacement and erosion of tino rangatiratanga"... and "To eliminate racism throughout Aotearoa will require nothing less than constitutional transformation and we urge the government to commit to this much needed change".

Labour is happily funding government entities promoting a narrative of radical constitutional reform and that anyone getting in the way of it will be subject to direct action against the "settler-colonial status quo".

However, it is also supporting law and tax setting powers being shared with unelected politicians.  Labour supported local government having appointed politicians, in the example of Environment Canterbury which has unelected Mana Whenua representation. This is an entity that passes bylaws, that regulates private property and taxes property owners, which Labour has decided should include members that no one can vote out of office.  This reflects a belief in constitutional reform that sees Maori not as individual citizens with freedoms and powers to vote, be consulted with and to advise their representatives on what they think, but to treat Iwi as a bloc of power that elected politicians share power and decision-making with.  None of this was part of the Labour manifesto, and the ease by which so many of its politicians regard criticism of this as "racism" is contemptuous of the general public.

Focus on image and virtue signalling over outcomes:  Policy on climate change is primarily, although not exclusively about image.  When Jacinda Ardern said climate change was New Zealand's new "nuclear-free" moment she was right of course, as the nuclear-free policy was at best, virtue signalling, and at worst a policy conceived by the hard-left to isolate New Zealand from its traditional allies. New Zealand's nuclear free policy did nothing to cut nuclear weapons or the threat of nuclear war, and does nothing now to reduce the risk of nuclear war in Asia or Europe. Ironically, climate change policy for New Zealand is about virtue signalling.  An honest government knows that whatever emissions reductions New Zealand undertakes will make zero difference to climate change, but that the main rational reason New Zealand undertakes to cut emissions is to avoid trade sanctions from some bigger economies.  However, Labour has treated it as an opportunity to "show off" by adding costs to the economy, and by going faster and further than others. 

There's plenty else, such as the pull peddling that Labour embraced during the pandemic, whereby a DJ, or sports stars, or thespians and jesters, could all get MIQ “slots” because they were approved important people, whereby ordinary New Zealanders wanting to go to funerals or worse yet, visit terminally ill relatives and friends, would find access to their own country subject to a lottery. It was the fact that wealthy and famous people could visit New Zealand because it tickled the fancy of Cabinet Ministers, over letting the dirty prols come home. Then it split the country into those who took vaccines, who would be allowed to largely live a normal life, and those who refused, who were ostracised, in part because of the false claim that being vaccinated significantly hindered the spread of the virus.  

But overall it is a government that thinks it knows best, not just in spending your own money, but in centralising control over key public services.  In education, as Damien Grant amply put, it heavily constrains supply of teachers requiring them to have six years of training, and then to be vetted by the Teaching Council according to their ideological beliefs. This isn’t just to suit the teachers’ unions, who like any monopolists are obsessed with containing competition, but also the philosophy that education should be supplied according to one view of pedagogy and moreover one view of philosophy. It used to be up to schools to decide if teachers were competent, because unlike medicine or engineering, it is not a complex technical skill.  Many people have the skills to teach and explain concepts, in fact good parents do it every day, many also have the skills to be social workers and mentors. However, Labour thinks unless its bureaucrats and in effect, its monopolist professional unions don’t have a stranglehold on curriculum and supply of teaching, children are at risk. Labour doesn’t trust parents, doesn’t trust individuals to set up schools and hire teachers based on merit and their assessment of performance.

This is also the government that talked of wellbeing and kindness, and demonstrated it by handing out free money, by increasing welfare benefits, and handing out corporate welfare in multiple forms. However, it is also a government that took an approach to law and order that while laudable on one level (interest in rehabilitating those who committed low level crimes), was driven by not believing that the number one job of the justice system is to protect the public from people who want to be aggressive towards them. Prisons protect people from those who want to do violence against them.

Most of all though, I am fed up with this meddling government. I don’t want Chris Hipkins to be “In It For You”, I want him to leave me alone, I want him and his group of mediocre minor achievers to get out of the way. To let more skilled and talented medical, educational, engineering and construction professionals into the country, not tied up by the monopolistic practices of gateway unions and associations, or the petty authoritarianism of immigration officials. I don’t want the Reserve Bank to be as concerned about climate change and Te Tiriti as it is about inflation. I don’t want a government or public servants that celebrate growth of public sector employees from 320 to 1200 as an "achievement".  I want Labour out.

and of course almost all of these criticism go for the Greens and Te Pati Maori as well.