03 November 2020

President of the US 2020?

In the song Mrs Robinson Simon and Garfunkel say:

Going to the candidates' debate
Laugh about it, shout about it
When you've got to choose
Every way you look at this you lose

This US election looks like that.  I'm far more tempted to take this article from Reason by John Stossel, which is to note that the most important parts of life are outside politics and we should be SO grateful for that, because in totalitarian countries, this is not the case.

You're meant to care about it, because it is for the leadership of the world's largest economy and military power, and as a result the great leadership of world institutions and norms.  However, it is a contest between two incredibly flawed individuals, neither of whom care much for the freedom of the individual, neither of whom care much for the rule of law and neither of whom have visions beyond the attainment of power.  It is hardly impossible to note how most media comment and news reporting on Trump is negative, and this is in part because it isn't hard to see the negative in a man who is utterly counter-cultural to the narrative as to what is good in a political leader or even a human being.  It is difficult to look past that, but that is what has to be done.

It is difficult to not take into account John Bolton's (a hawk if ever there was one) critique of Trump as being amenable to foreign leaders flattering him, even if nothing is ever achieved.  Sure, his wooing of Kim Jong Un achieved virtually nothing, and was never likely to, but Trump has not been afraid to confront the PR China, largely on very sound grounds (although China is all too keen to portray him as being racist to undermine this).  Sure, Syria remains a mess, as does Yemen even moreso, but the Middle East in general is more peaceful than it has been in many years. Iran is more contained than it has been, and Russia remains in retreat.  The biggest critique of Trump on foreign policy is his opposition to multilateralism, which has given China huge inroads to fund and populate such institutions with their own people, by paying off smaller countries to back their candidates.  Trump's withdrawal is a blunt mistake. He would be better off leading the WTO and pushing UN organisations to be more accountable and transparent. He was right to critique the WHO, because of its woeful performance and disgraceful isolation of Taiwan (and its disgraceful leader, former Ethiopian dictatorship Minister Dr Tedros who peddled accusations of racism against Taiwan).  Biden is likely to be more amenable to international institutions, but he is as much a protectionist as Trump. Given the Obama Administration's largely passive approach to China and the Middle East, it is difficult to expect Biden to be better overall, other than he might be able to get more US influence internationally because he isn't Trump.  Bigger questions have to be whether Taiwan would get military support more from Trump than Biden? Frankly, who knows.  On climate change, there is an obvious difference, because Biden is willing to surrender this issue over to multilateralism, although he might be able to do that with little actual change in domestic policy on the issue, given reductions in emissions in recent years.

A lot is made of Trump being racist (talking about many Mexican immigrants being criminals and rapists secured that accusation), and him appearing to be not be 100% critical of far-right extremists, although some wont think this blundering of his isn't just that, there isn't much evidence policy wise of this. As a President who is vehemently in support of Israel, and has been a part of peace deals between Israel and Bahrain, the UAE and Sudan, he's no neo-Nazi (although he has not been effective at deterring white nationalists).

The biggest criticism of Biden recently is allegations of corruption linked to his son Hunter, none of which is a huge surprise.  Corruption is endemic in much of US politics, in both parties, the difference is Trump is less susceptible because he doesn't need the money, but his appointment of relatives to high level jobs in the Administration is ludicrous, although much less toxic than some of the allegations against Biden.  What it does show is that both men are more than willing to use power to advantage their families, which is one reason why I think there isn't much between them.

Domestically, Biden has had to embrace some of the socialist agenda that part of the Democratic Party has embraced.  He'll increase taxes (on those on high incomes), but of course wont reform taxes in any meaningful way.  He'll subsidise the rent-seekers in the renewable energy sector and promise that his big spending will be better than Trump's. It's all mindless stuff, it will largely be a waste and be captured by businesses that will make a lot of money out of it.  He's feeding a Marxist style battle between capital and labour, which will be bad for education in the US, and bad for employment and economic competitiveness.

And on Covid? Trump has been chronically inept, that's no doubt and it's difficult to believe Joe Biden could be as worse (at least he wouldn't be diverted down all sorts of dead ends). 

So really I don't care. I'll have residual schadenfreude if Trump wins, because it will so upset so many on the left, but if he loses his ego will take a hit, assuming that he ultimately accepts defeeat. 

More importantly, whoever wins wont make a big difference.  What I DO hope is that no one party wins the House and Senate and Presidency.  So if Biden wins, the Republicans should retain the Senate, and if Trump wins, the Democrats should retain the House. Both men will grow the debt, will feed the monetary policy addiction bubble and neither will accomplish anything significant.  If Trump wins, he will at least not kneecap the economy with more regulation, taxation and climate change sacrifices, but there will no doubt be agitation from BLM and Antifa.  If Biden wins, he will at least rebuild multilateral institutions to move them away from Chinese dominance, but he'll waste more money and engage in follies that are futile and there will be some agitation from a few far-right groups.  

and no, Jo Jorgenson isn't worth it either.

My own philosophical journey

Well I am back in New Zealand, indefinitely, and so I thought I'd reflect on my own political journey, not least because as I've gotten older my expectations have lowered somewhat as to what to expect in political change.  So I thought I'd pontificate and largely reiterate what I want from a New Zealand government in 2020, review what I think of the registered political parties and what matters. See if there is one thing you can be sure of with libertarians, is that they can easily disagree and lot, and vehemently, on points that are an honest disagreement on what is meant by individual freedom. However there are quite a few people who "identify as" libertarians, but whose views are not consistently so (and probably plenty would say the same about me). Furthermore, it isn't just about individual freedom for me, but it is also about reason, science and a sense of what the purpose of life is - this is what I get from objectivism. 

Now if you know me, you know I can go on and on and on about a lot of stuff, so let's make this fairly quick:

  • I support capitalism, not just empirically, but morally. I believe that competitive, open, free market economics can, mor often than not, reflect a balance between personal preferences and the costs of supplying goods and services, and that the best way to address issues of scarcity, price and monopoly is to allow this to be open.  It doesn't mean people have the right to use force and fraud in trading, because that isn't freedom. Sell something that isn't what you said it is, and you're a fraudster. Misrepresentation is fraud.  Morally, capitalism is the only system that allows free people to own property and trade their efforts (labour), ideas (intellectual property) and property with others.  As such, it is not concurrent with slavery, nor is it concurrent with legal monopolies or the use of threats to inhibit the choices of others to sell or buy.  It is also not without consequences.  Sell a product that is designed or produced negligently or recklessly and you should face legal consequences.
  • I support freedom of expression, tempered by expression that initiates force or fraud against others. On private property, that freedom of expression is limited by the permission of the property owner. If you use expression to threaten others, you are initiating force, whether you are threatening specific individuals or groups of individuals.  If you steal intellectual property, you are initiating force (and yes I know some think intellectual property is not libertarian, to which I say, you probably have never written a book, recorded a song or created a patent that others are willing to pay for). If you defame someone, you are initiating fraud and force (people's reputations are their "property" and you don't have a right to claim someone is a criminal if it is not true). You don't have a right to be protected from the words of others offending or upsetting you.
  • I support private property rights, as a corollary of the above and believe that greater use of such rights can enhance environmental as well as economic outcomes. Property is the fruit of your own efforts, including relationships (why people gift or bequest their property to you), it is not anyone else's.
  • I support freedom of religion. Sure I'm an atheist, but people's private beliefs are their business and they have the right to hold those beliefs and express them.  The line is drawn when those beliefs (including non-religious beliefs) are used to promote or plan violence against others or their property. Yes, I really don't care much if you are a Salafist or a Marxist-Leninist or a Nazi, until you move from quietly living your life in peace according to your beliefs, to attacking, planning to attack or promoting attacks against others, for any reason. Violence is an act of hate. 
  • I'm an atheist, but people of faith shouldn't be ridiculed for their private beliefs. Most people with faith are good people who raise families and live quiet lives doing the best they can, and as long as their religious beliefs don't cross a line of infringing on my (or anyone else's rights), the fact of them existing should be respected.  Live and let live.
  • I believe constitutionally limited liberal democracy is the best political system that has been devised to date (not liberal democracy untrammeled). However, I doubt very much if there is sufficient support to contain the role of the state with a written constitution at this stage.
  • Racism, sexism and all other forms of bigotry are irrational and immoral. All people should be judged primarily on the basis of their actions, intentions and beliefs, not on immutable characteristics. No government authority should apply any such bigotry to its actions and no laws should seek to force distinctions based on such factors, unless it is objectively relevant (e.g. segregating female and male prisoners). Racial supremacists should be ridiculed for what they are, troglodytes who think pride should be based on your DNA. The post-modernist identity politics shysters should be as well, classifying people based on race, sex, sexual orientation and other factors into the oppressor and the oppressed, and seeking to undermine and overturn economic, political and legal systems based on the false premise that unequal outcomes need to be reversed into a new set of unequal outcomes.
  • Corporatism and subsidies or protectionism of industry is immoral, outside the context of war or civil emergency. Government should not take money from some to give to others for producing, nor should it penalise others for producing. Sure the international trading system does allow for some leverage to be exercised to open up foreign markets through reciprocity, but rarely does protectionism of trade benefit an economy or the population. Free trade IS fair trade, but that doesn't mean consumers shouldn't trade wisely and consider preferences or boycotting products because of where they are from, due to their own political beliefs. Boycott goods from China or Israel if you like, or prefer them, that's your choice.
  • The welfare state should ideally be replaced by benevolence as a means of helping those in need. My ideal is that human beings help each other out voluntarily, whether they be family, friends, neighbours or more widely through communities, charities or other non-governmental means. Compassion doesn't come from the state taking money by force and handing it out to others.  Having said that, the welfare state isn't going anywhere soon, and without enormous transformation in how people live and act with one another, there is going to be taxpayer funded education and healthcare to ensure universal service, and a taxpayer funded welfare state as a safety net.  The welfare state in NZ is much much bigger than this, and includes subsidies for employers and subsidies for having children, as well as the ludicrously unfair National Superannuation.  Welfare should be reformed to a social insurance model with individual accounts, so people pay to have insurance for unemployment, sickness, injury or other loss of income, and if they do not claim it extends to their retirement (and it gets topped up for a lengthy transitional period).  
  • Education should be under minimal state control and regulation. Schools should be autonomous and able to teach whatever they wish, within legal limits around promotion of illegal behaviour. Pay and recruitment of teachers should be completely decentralised to schools. Funding should follow pupils directly through vouchers to whatever school parents choose. Curriculum standardisation should be scaled back to a minimum, and schools should teach English, Maori or whatever languages parents demand. It is critical that education be driven by what works to raise the skills and knowledge of children in their capacity to think critically about the world around them, and no, critical theory doesn't do that.
  • The Western alliance of NATO, ANZUS and other bilateral allies, centred around the US, as well as much of Europe, has a patchy history of many mistakes, but it is still the most positive force for international rule of law in a world increasingly challenged by authoritarian regimes ranging from the PRC to Russia, to the DPRK, Iran and Syria, as well as multiple non-state actors. New Zealand contributes inadequately to this because it spends too little on defence (and has eliminated its air strike capability). The UN is useful as a talking shop, but is incapable of taking action against any of the Permanent Members of the UNSC, and so the Western alliance needs to be prepared to respond to military aggression, industrial espionage, spying, hacking and other actions by those wishing a new world order. It doesn't mean NZ should follow the US always, but it doesn't mean NZ should solely depend on the UN Security Council to determine when military action is justified.
  • Climate change is real it is accelerated by human action, and governments should get out of the way of technologies and innovations to reduce emissions. Policies to reduce emissions should be based on net benefits and not be absolutist, like many groups like Extinction Rebellion and the Greens insist. However, just because a policy appears to reduce emissions doesn't mean it is good to implement. There is no point kneecapping industries in one country to have them relocate to another with similar or greater emissions. Climate change is not the end of the world and humanity needs to learn to adapt to it, and there are much bigger issues and higher priority issues that can be addressed, at lower cost, than reducing emissions, to improve humanity - e.g. access to drinking water, vaccinations. Indeed it is immoral to cause net economic harm to achieve incremental reductions in emissions that do nothing.  If you want to fight climate change, then change your own behaviour, not having children is the number one thing you can do. What should government do? Get out of the way of innovation and don't subsidise the use of fossil fuels (and to be fair most Western economies don't). I'm highly sceptical of the merits of meeting the targets under the Paris Agreement because it gives a free pass to large growing emitters like China to not care and so import high emitting industries from other countries, and grow its economy with little scrutiny from others.
  • Conspiracies are almost always nonsense. People you don't like aren't conspiring on a global scale with an agenda you disagree with. Sure, there are institutions with philosophical goals and methodologies to achieve them you will disagree with and I do too.  The moral equivocation of the United Nations is almost unbearable as is the gratuitous rent seeking behaviour of some of the staff and leadership and recipients of its largesse, but overall the world is better off to have a talking shop of the good, bad and the ugly than not (although it would be better off if some of its subsidiary bodies reformed or were replaced).  5G isn't going to kill you and vaccinations are almost always a good idea. Covid19 isn't a conspiracy.

The great enemies of individual freedom and humanity today come in a number of forms, but all have a common theme, a belief that some humans have the right to do violence against others or their property, to achieve some state of nirvana or heightened collective goal.  Today we see it most virulently in:

  • Environmental catastrophism:  There are many legitimate issues with the environment, but it is the catastrophists of Extinction Rebellion and much of the mainstream Green movement that seek to undermine capitalism, individual freedom and human productivity to reach certain utopian goals. This includes "zero emissions" or "zero plastics", both of which would harm humanity and shorten life in the ways that are suggested.  Their focus is monomanic, has no scope for nuance and no sense of balancing costs and benefits (and certainly little concern about actual impact).
  • Islamism: Easily the most toxic religious-political philosophy is the advancement of Salafist-Wahhabist stone-age beliefs with politics and militarism. This form of fascism lures young people in many part of the world into a death cult of a totalitarian dark age of slavery, misogyny and eliminationist violence. A big source of political violence in recent years.
  • Post-modernist collectivist authoritarianism: Whether it be the banal identity politics view of oppressor vs. oppressed based on race, sex and other characteristics, or the "cancel culture" intolerance of views that are not the "correct line" and seek to destroy individuals and businesses because of their incorrect views, it is new form of Maoism that pervades much academia, but also parts of the media and elsewhere.  It is seen in the need for outcomes to be equal, not just opportunities or treatment, and for "representation" based on race, sex etc to be equal in everything from government to businesses, for there to be fairness.  None of those touting these concepts loudly believe in freedom of speech, private property rights or even the rigorous use of science or objective analysis to inform decision making (after all that's white supremacist patriarchal talk).  Everyone's opinion is to be seen through the lens of their race, sex, sexuality and background, just like the Nazis, just like in Maoist China.  Note that this lot turn a blind eye to Islamism and paint the first as a symptom of the problem, being the white hetero-normative patriarchy that wants to keep everyone else in their place.
  • Reactionary fascism:  In response to the third are the so-called populist, far-right reactionaries who use the language of freedom to claim the right to proclaim superiority of their race and of men, with lashings of anti-semitism and conspiracy theories about the wiping out of white Europeans. Few they are, but their methods are violence and in NZ it culminated in the vile terror attack in Christchurch.  
  • Socialism: It seems that forever more, there are plenty who think no only that people in need should have their needs provided for, but that the entire economic/social system should seek on the one hand to take forcibly from those who are most financially successful, and to give others as much as possible "for free" paid for by this confiscation.  The calls are endless, it's gone well beyond universal healthcare and education, and a basic welfare state, to taxpayers being told they should buy food for the children of people who aren't going hungry, or to buy sanitary products for all women and girls, to buy public transport for those who happen to find it convenient, or to pay for high income professionals to send their children to childcare.  The draws on taxpayers are endless, it's "fair" for everything to be free, except that it corrodes personal responsibility and generates a culture that you don't need to do anything if you claim a "need" except make anonymous people pay taxes to provide for you. 

15 October 2020

So who should get your party vote?

Having returned to NZ, I'm amused by the list of registered political parties.  So for the hell of it, I thought I'd say some words about the party vote choices in alphabetical order:

ACT:  Mild mannered free market liberalism and now socially liberal as well (in some cases too liberal for me). Has sought to win some of the gun-owners' vote, and diluted economic policies given Covid19. Supports a smarter, high-tech approach to Covid19. Social liberalism has burnt off some socially conservative support. Big question is whether some of the team will match the capability and competence of David Seymour.  I'd give 8 out of 10 for ACT, points off for not being more courageous on education, for being a little too bureaucratic on some issues, and David Seymour's position on abortion (I'm halfway between the two extremes). ACT will likely be a vibrant part of the opposition, so watch the maiden speeches of its new MPs.

Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party:  Hopefully the ALCP will disband if the referendum goes the way they will support. It has been consistent, and although it is largely full of dopeheads who just want to be left alone, there is nothing wrong with that from my point of view. They aren't going to hurt me.  Sure, regular cannabis use is harmful and it is particularly destructive for young people to smoke cannabis, but the answer isn't the status quo.  ALCP gets 10 out of 10 because there is one issue it campaigns on, but there is little point voting for the party this year, because the referendum on cannabis is your chance to have your say.

Heartland New Zealand Party: Who?  Nothing wrong with a rural party, and this is basically campaigning for more taxpayer funded services in rural areas, although some of its principles I could sign up to (it sounds a lot like the National Party back in its founding years).  Backed by Harry Mowbray, I can't help but think he'd be better off donating and influencing the National Party or ACT instead.  There is a little bit of economic nationalism, a climate change policy that looks like ACT. The review of Auckland Council ought to be welcomed, but let's be realistic, Heartland New Zealand has little influence and even less chance of getting elected. Heartland New Zealand can get 5 out of 10 for freedom.

Mana Movement: What was once the radical breakaway from the Maori Party is now endorsing the Maori Party and isn't competing in the 2020 election. That should give reason to be fearful of the Maori Party now that it has absorbed the ultra-nationalist Mana Movement.

Maori Party: John Tamihere's latest endeavour for power having failed to be elected Mayor of Auckland (on an incoherent centre-right platform) is the Maori Party, which has gone toward the left and advancing an explicit agenda of racial separatism, including a highly corporatist agenda of compulsory quota of Maori businesses having to win government procurement contracts.  For example, it means 25% of road maintenance contracts would have to go to Maori businesses (are they 51% Maori owned?), even though no such businesses exist (and what if there were only one, this monopoly could encourage rent seeking and poor performance). I'm all for devolution of power to lower levels and encouraging individual self-determination, and Maori finding their own solutions for social problems, but the Maori Party now touts the highly debatable notion that Maori social problems are all about racism, and institutions that are structured against Maori. It wants a Maori Parliament, which implies separate laws for Maori. It wants to segregate fully Maori representation in Parliament and local government in Maori seats. No one who believes in limited government and equality before the law would tolerate this ethno-nationalist seek to "nationalise" Maori into an almost parallel state (and you can be sure they aren't to be paid for by only Maori taxes). Tamihere is an opportunist, and will change his stripes as he sees fit.  Hopefully the Maori Party wont make it (it needs to win an electorate), but on a freedom rating it gets 1 out of 10.  Maori are better off sticking with Labour in electorates.

New Conservatives: This is finally a good serious attempt at setting up a socially conservative and free market oriented government to the right of National.  It's good because it's not an explicitly Christian party, like previous attempts (although spot the non-Christian in the candidate list, this shouldn't matter).  Sure it plays hard on drugs and abortion (only the latter I have a bit of sympathy for). It's opposition to excessive action on climate change is positive, although I don't like its policy on binding referenda (I'm not keen on rights being up to a vote).  It's puritanical on alcohol, but surprisingly relatively liberal on prostitution (yes, really). It's approach to porn online is to block it unless it is requested, which I get (to minimise access to children), but this failed in the UK because it's impractical (pretty much impossible to filter out adult content from social media).  The health policy is actually one of the better ones (barring euthanasia, but that's a different issue), and on education, the policy on school choice and funding is good (although I am sympathetic around concerns about gender dysphoria, as I'd leave this up to individual schools to address as a matter of philosophical choice).  Overall (and unsurprisingly) the New Conservatives have some policies that shrink the state, and others that grow the state.  It gets 6 out of 10, if only because it has some philosophical underpinning that respects individual liberty, and some good policies.  It's a shame it wont reach 5% because there is a place for this party and for its views to be debated, but it wont be in Parliament this time.  It's a bigger shame that 2-3 other smaller parties are probably taking away support that should go to this party.

NZ First: I'll give Winston Peters credit for holding up restrictions on freedom of speech, and being a bit of a brake on Labour and the Greens, but then he wouldn't have had to be had he not selected them to be leading the government in the first place. NZ First is generally benign, in that it doesn't do much to undermine freedoms, and generally just wants money thrown at pork barrel sectors like racing and the railways. I have a bit of time for Winston's fiscal conservatism and his correct fears of PRC investment and influence, and also more recently hesitancy around levels of immigration (if only because of the inability of politicians to ensure infrastructure is adequate and concerns about PRC influence).  NZ First gets 5 out of 10, because it doesn't tend to do any harm, and occasionally some good. 

Labour: The best that can be said is that it is a party of incrementalism. For a party doing so well in the polls, it is promising to do very little other than spend up the next generation's money and continuing to accrete the welfare state in scale.  The more government it provides, the more it finds it needs yet more again.  It's the party of ever more state, but you could do worse.  The main problem is that the worse option would pull Labour further over (because fundamentally they DO want to spend a lot more and regulate more). 3 out of 10.

NZ Tea Party: Like a breakaway from ACT, the Tea Party is much more pro-immigration, and has an odd mix of policies that don't form a coherent whole.  Education policy is all about foreign students and export of education.  There isn't really much going on here, and the patronage of Sir Roger Douglas whilst nice, isn't apparent in policies (I mean you'd expect Unfinished Business to be seen here).  Why would you bother when ACT exists?  6 out of 10.

NZ Outdoors Party: Its website operates as a speed that indicates it has a 28k dialup modem connecting it to the internet. It has aspirations of everyone having a home, something called holistic education and sustainable agriculture. Sure it wants a different approach to Covid19, and I have a little time for thinking more broadly about it, but then it turns against 5G which is simply conspiratorial anti-scientific bullshit. Zero waste policy is nice in theory, but it wants a "plastic free New Zealand", a policy that will kill people (by banning medical equipment) and has vast unintended consequences. This party, once a proud party for hunters and shooters is now polluted with a mix of anti-scientific hysteria and "in the clouds" vagueness. 4 out of 10.

ONE Party: A party with theocratic origins which does talk about freedom, and which is sceptical about foreign investment.  Not sure quite what the point is, other than those who think the New Conservatives are too liberal.  It's a Christian party, and although it has some policies that would advance freedom it has plenty that don't. 4 out of 10.

Sustainable New Zealand Party: Like the Greens, but don't them being so left wing, then this is the party wanting your vote. However, it seems an awful lot like a wishlist of the Greens. I note the desire to spend what would be tens of billions of dollars on railways, and a vast range of pricey tech-led projects from recycling to building corporatist environmentalist businesses.  Where's the money coming from?  What about health?  What about education?  2 out of 10.

Advance New Zealand Party: Sure it talks about freedom, and how can I not like a few policies (like income tax free threshold) but it's just anti-reason and anti-science.  The finance policy is lunacy. You're not insane, just avoid. 1 out of 10.

Greens: More tax, more regulation, more government, more borrowing, New Zealand can save the world if only it taxes and regulates businesses and individuals more because of climate change, and if it doesn't, the world will come to an end. More welfare, more "free" stuff and collectivisation (pigeon holing everyone into identity categories). Mining should only be for materials that serve a "socially useful purpose" (seriously?). This is the party that's against capitalism, against private property rights and wants to regulate speech.  Children should both be mollycoddled and not be accountable for what they do, but ought to be able to vote.  Beyond euthanasia and cannabis, the Greens offer nothing for individual freedom. 1 out of 10.

Democratic Party for Social Credit: Funny money is mainstream, but this is still even funnier money.  Just print more for current spending. This movement was an embarrassment of New Zealand politics for years, now it is just an embarrassment for those who advance this nonsense.  1 out of 10.

National Party: Slightly lower taxes, but more spending and less appetite for the identity politics advanced by Labour. Nationals's record, except 1990-1996 (and to a limited extent 1996-1999) is to reverse hardly anything Labour does. Judith Collins is more conservative and probably better than many recent leaders on some freedom points (excluding cannabis of course). National has principles that it could do well to return to, but Labour has successfully fueled a culture of spending and regulation as the answers to any problems, through its utter dominance of the education system and the culture of much of the media.  National gets 6 out of 10, because it at least points in the right direction and has the power to effect change.

The Opportunities Party:  The centre-left policy wonks' party. For clever people that would usually vote Labour, and think they can solve many solutions if only the tax system were tinkered with.  There are a couple of clever people here, but it just the intellectual wing of the Labour-Green parties, and takes its support from there.  Long may it do that.  4 out of 10.

Vision New Zealand:  More Christian theocratic than the ONE Party, it's Destiny NZ Party revived (now with Hannah Tamaki being a more friendly face than Brian). Peppered with nationalism, this is a detailed vision, and one that has little room for individual freedom.  2 out of 10.

14 October 2020

So I'm voting ACT... quelle surprise

It wont be surprise to many, but I'm be voting ACT for my party vote.  I've been critical of ACT for many years, and until lately, David Seymour was struggling to get recognition and attention.  So why ACT?

1.  Freedom of Speech: David Seymour has been forthright in defending freedom of speech from proposals to expand laws on hate speech.  Sure he has had a few unsavoury supporters from that, but my view is that embodied in the US Constitution First Amendment.  The law prohibits threatening speech now, and there is no evidence that restricting what angry violent people say will protect anyone, but there is a risk that criminalising speech against people because of their religion will be a new blasphemy law by default. Free speech is under sustained attack from structuralist theory touters on the hard left (who seek to not only police language but police speakers because of their race, sex and political views) and from theocrats (particularly Salafist and Wahhabists).  With the exception of the New Conservatives (who get wobbly on free speech involving sex and drugs), no other significant party is strong on free speech.  National passed the Harmful Digital Communications Act, although I suspect Judith Collins is better on free speech than some of her predecessors.  ACT's view on academic freedom, specifically requiring taxpayer owned and funded institutions to ensure freedom of debate is maintained is also important.  Sure, it will mean some vileness will be permitted on campus, but this already happens, from activists on the hard-left, whether it is for the destruction of Israel, or for Islamism, or for radical Marxist perspectives, including structuralist views around Maori ethno-nationalism. 

2. Property rights:  Libertarians have been arguing to abolish the RMA for many years (2004!) but it has taken David Seymour to bring ACT on board with this properly.  Sure EVERYONE is talking about replacing the RMA, but be VERY clear, the Labour/Green version of this is a tinkering, mainly to let government build what it wants and to sustain the central planning approach that the RMA has facilitated since 1991 (note that the RMA has origins with Geoffrey Palmer under the Lange Government and then gleefully pushed forward by National under Simon Upton (so-called Hayekian).   The RMA needs to go, and be replaced with a planning system centred NOT on central or local government planning, but private property rights.  ACT's plan is much weaker than I'd like, but a strong ACT vote means the party has a chance to significantly influence replacement of the RMA, and this is one of the key steps needed to address the housing shortage.

3. Role of the state:  ACT has a plan to get back to balancing the books by cutting clearly wasteful spending, whilst simplifying and lowering taxes.  It could do a lot more, but it's a start when both major parties are promising more borrowed money spent.  ACT is also likely to be much more critical on regulation and interventionist approaches to addressing economic and social issues.

4. Climate change:  The Zero Carbon Act is an absurd waste of the legislative process. It is a law to bind governments with their policies, rather than a law that binds individuals or citizens, but is a exercise in virtue signalling (as was the one in the UK).  ACT will replace the ETS with a transparent price of CO2 that is linked to that of NZ's major trading partners, so that it doesn't undermine NZ's competitiveness internationally.  NZ can make its contribution, without it kneecapping its economy, and by having a single price it avoids the need for a panoply of interventionist policies on fossil fuels, transport or farming, among others. 

5. Smarter on Covid19: Taiwan is the great international success story on Covid19 by using technology and ACT advances this. New Zealand will suffer if it goes through another lockdown and New Zealand needs to progressively open its borders to other countries for safe travel.  National wouldn't have done much different from Labour and the NZ economy is running on a sugar hit of borrowing and printed money. This has to come to an end, by having an open economy and a long term sustainable policy to be open, but protecting the most vulnerable and taking simple steps around sanitising and use of masks where appropriate, whilst staying open.

6. Foreign Affairs: ACT is campaigning on strengthening foreign affairs and defence ties with New Zealand's traditional allies, which is important as China continues to pursue a more aggressive approach to foreign policy in the region.

Sure there is a lot else I am less enthused about.  I'd like ACT to be much more pro-active on education choice, with charter schools, funding following students and funding all schools equally per pupil, and to decentralise teacher pay. I'm more conservative on abortion than David Seymour (but not as conservative as many in the New Conservatives).  I'm non-plussed about firearms personally, and I'd love local government to get less power.  I LIKE the proposal for an independent infrastructure corporation, as a step away from politicisation. 

Will ACT bring people into Parliament who I am little uncertain about?  Possibly, but it is the same for all parties and I trust Seymour to keep them in line. What about the alternatives?  Well more on them later. 

13 October 2020

New Zealand Election 2020: Electorate vote Part Two - General Electorates Mangere - Wigram and Maori electorates

As the nation waits in anticipation for the Libertyscott opinion of who you should vote for in electorates, I present the following (and yes, I'll accept any additional information to change my mind about any of them, I simply did a cursory search online for those I don't know):

Mangere (safe Labour): Labour's William Sio is a sure thing here, note he opposed gay marriage. National's Agnes Loheni is standing again, and she speaks well about avoiding a victim mentality.  Her maiden speech included "That soft bigotry of low expectation is the road to hell laid brick by brick with good intentions". She's conservative on abortion, although I don't think late-term abortions on demand are consistent with individual freedom. There isn't much other choice here, Fuiavailili Alailima from New Conservatives talks little about freedom.  Agnes Loheni - National

Manurewa (safe Labour): There is a whole story around why Louisa Wall, the sitting MP, has effectively been ousted by internal party infighting.  So the Labour candidate is now Arena Williams, a young lawyer who looks like being very much in the mould of Ardern. Nuwanthie Samarakone is the National candidate, who is a young entrepreneur (so that's a step up). ACT doesn't have a candidate here, although the breakaway TEA Party does, there is next to no information about its candidate, Wella Bernardo.  New Conservative candidate Mote Pahulu is too conservative for me, s say yes to Nuwanthie Samarakone - National

Maungakiekie (marginal National): Denise Lee is the National MP, she's inoffensive, and her rival is Labour list MP Priyanka Radhakrishnan, whose main achievement has been around campaigning against domestic violence across ethnic communities (which is laudable). On balance I'd prefer Lee in a marginal that Labour might win, but there's little from her background to suggest she's any great advocate for less government. The ACT and New Conservative candidates both say some good things about less government, but none are compelling.   Take your pick

Mt Albert (safe Labour): You'll want to vote against Jacinda Ardern. National list MP Melissa Lee is trying again, and her record in the Key Government is nothing particularly exciting (voting against gay marriage and in favour of NOT raising the alcohol consumption age).  About the only signal you can give here is to try to narrow Jacinda Ardern's majority by voting for Lee, and also keep the young  hard left Green candidate Luke Wijohn at bay Melissa Lee - National

Mt Roskill (safe Labour): Labour's Michael Wood is the MP, and of course was previously a union negotiator and spent years in local government.  National list MP Parmjeet Parmar is trying again to win this seat, but there is little in her profile that suggests she believes in less government.  Give Chris Johnston of ACT your vote.  Chris Johnston - ACT

Napier (marginal Labour): It's hard to see Stuart Nash being unseated here, but this was a secure National seat for some years.  Katie Nimon is head of a long-standing family business and has a shot at unseating Nash, which is good enough for me (especially since this is now my electorate).  Katie Nimon - National

Nelson (marginal National): Nick Smith is no friend of small government, and although the profile of Rachel Boyack of Labour just grates (former union organiser with a big Green bent), I'd be tempted to vote for her to help excise Nick Smith from Parliament (he's number 18 on the list). If you can't cope with Boyack, then Chris Baillie from ACT is an excellent choice, given his commitment to free speech.  However, given Nick Smith's record on the RMA, he is central to the housing crisis and the hand-wringing corporatism that held back the Key government.  Rachel Boyack - Labour

New Lynn (marginal Labour): Deborah Russell is the Labour MP, who effectively said the small businesses failing under lockdown was their fault. Lisa Whyte is the National candidate who despite having been in local government, does appear to support lower taxes and opposes Kiwibuild and the Twyford tram.  Lisa Whyte - National

New Plymouth (moderately safe National): National MP Jonathan Young is socially conservative, but I'm not holding that against him. ACT's Ada Xiao although originally from the PRC appears to support freedom in Hong Kong and supports Taiwan, although that seems a strange pitch for the people of New Plymouth and may be to push back against concerns that she was an aircraft designed for the PRC government.  No strong feelings here.  Take your pick

North Shore (safe National): Maggie Barry has retired, which is no great loss.  National is putting forward Simon Watts who is a health administrator.  Nick Kearney of ACT has openly opposed land tax. Give Kearney your vote.  Nick Kearney - ACT

Northcote (safe National): Dan Bidois is standing again for the Nats, he's quite a clever chap and his maiden speech actually lauded free enterprise.  He's only be there a couple of years, so give him another go.  Dan Bidois - National

Northland (marginal National): NZ First hopes this will be its lifeline, so a vote for Matt King is to stop this and remove one party of corporatist pork barrelling (it isn't insurance against Labour, for obvious reasons).  Matt King - National

Ohariu (marginal Labour): I'm not fan of Greg O'Connor, Labour MP and ex. Police unionist.  Brett Hudson, National list MP is running again, and although he quoted John Stuart Mill in his maiden speech that's not enough to woo me. Jessica Hammond (who I know) is a very bright and very engaging candidate for TOP, but if she were elected she'd bring in TOP MPs, and there is no need for more enthusiasts of new taxes/ex. policy wonks in Parliament.  My friend Sean Fitzpatrick is standing for ACT, and as an entrepreneur and self-made man, who believes in freedom and personal responsibility, he deserves your vote.  Sean Fitzpatrick - ACT

Otaki (moderately safe National): Nathan Guy isn't standing again.  Wing Commander Tim Costley is the new National candidate and although he sees himself as a natural leader (uh oh), he's probably worth a shot this time compared to Labour's Terisa Ngobi, who is clearly in favour of more government.  Tim Costley - National

Pakuranga (safe National): So do you want to keep Simeon Brown?  He's socially conservative, but believes in free speech and talked well about government governing least, yet has been big on advancing the war on drugs.  There's not enough about Mo Yee Poon for me to give him an endorsement.  So Take Your Pick

Palmerston North (safe Labour): Iain Lees Galloway is standing down, so the Labour candidate is Tangi Utikere. He's a former teacher and city councillor, and seems pretty much the bog standard moderate Labour politician. William Wood is the National candidate and is notable for being just shy of being a child, having turned 18 at January. While some think encouraging young people to be politicians is a noble goal, I think it is a waste for young minds to be focused on telling other people what to do, rather than building one's own life. Yet he got a lot of grief because when he was 14. 14! he impersonated Hitler. Now he then apologised and this beat up is so utterly over the top. No one should feel humiliated for what looked like poking fun at Hitler in your early teens, so for that alone, give him your vote.  William Wood - National

Panmure-Otahuhu (new electorate nominally Labour):  former Manukau East MP Jenny Salesa is the Labour candidate, and was a public servant before being an MP.  National list MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi is running this time.  His maiden speech was promising, with the only major negative being his strong opposition to gay marriage.  ACT has no candidate, but Ted Johnston, the New Conservative candidate appears weak on freedom especially since he stood for TOP in 2017.  I'd pick Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi - National

Papakura (safe National): Judith Collins holds this and will keep it, so give Bruce Whitehead of ACT your vote, just so she knows some people in her seat have a penchance for individual freedom. Bruce has a long pedigree of being a strong supporter of individual freedom  Bruce Whitehead - ACT

Port Waikato (safe National): former Hunua MP Andrew Bayly is standing for the Nats.  He waged war on meth in homes, which is all very well, but shows little interest in less government.  ACT's Dave King is more promising, whereas Steven Senn of the New Conservatives is a bit too enthusiastic about citizens' initiated referenda for me (freedom doesn't come from the majority voting for whatever they want).  Dave King - ACT

Rangitata (safe National): Megan Hands is the new National candidate, nothing wrong with her (nothing exciting either).  The alternatives are Hamish Hutton of ACT (who seems reasonable) and Lachie Ashton of the New Conservatives (who seems like a Muldoonist).  However James Rae of Not a Party seems like he'd be more fun.  James Rae - Not a Party

Rangitikei (safe National): Generations ago this was the heart of funny money Social Credit, but not anymore.  Ian McKelvie from the Nats will continue to hold this seat.  In his maiden seat he said "I don’t believe we have any ‘rights’ in life – property or otherwise - we must earn them", well... no.   Neil Wilson of ACT is a better choice as he believes in "enlightenment values" and "Human happiness is a legitimate moral purpose and productive work is a good and noble activity. Reason is the tool of choice but without freedom neither happiness nor productive work can be achieved".  He'll do.  Neil Wilson - ACT

Remutaka (safe Labour): Chris Hipkins is the MP here, so you'll want to challenge him. Mark Crofskey is the National candidate, but you'd think he'd update his party website to have a statement that isn't saying Simon Bridges is leading the team.  Otherwise Crofksey seems ok. Hank Optland of the New Conservatives seems largely better, as does Grae O'Sullivan of ACT, but I'd pick Crofskey just to narrow the majority of Hipkins.  Mark Crofskey - National

Rongotai (safe Labour): My old electorate, Paul Eagle from Labour holds it, and I'm going out on a limb here, but I think he deserves it.  He's low on the Labour list and he got some flack lately because he challenged the cycling evangelists who wanted rid of some car parking around Greta Point. He is a shoo in, but what about National's David Patterson? He wants co-investment by central government in Wellington's water and sewerage system, and Council housing.  Bugger that.  Nicole McKee will get in on the ACT list anyway.  I'd be happy with Eagle holding on here.  Take your pick

Rotorua (fairly safe National): Todd McClay of National is expected to hold onto this seat fairly safely, but he is a bit of a mixed bag. Referring to the Xinjiang re-education camps in China as "vocational training centres" rules him out of contention. Sure he may have said more about human rights later, but there should be no tolerance of obeisance to the PRC's nonsense. If only is opponent wasn't so clearly leftwing in the form of Claire Mahon, who has an impressive career funded by UN agencies and Amnesty International, which makes you wonder what she aspires to as the MP for Rotorua.  So both aren't going to be advancing more freedom in New Zealand. Vote Pete Kirkwood from ACT given he at least talks about choice and freedom. Pete Kirkwood - ACT

Selwyn (safe National): Nicola Grigg is the National candidate here who is a shoo in as well.  She was a press secretary to Simon Bridges.  Nothing remarkable here, so give your vote to ACT's Stu Armstrong, who talks about freedom, unlike Bronwyn Lyell of the New Conservatives who is an enthusiast for referenda as well.  Stu Armstrong - ACT

Southland (safe National): Joseph Mooney is the National candidate, and he would be new to Parliament.  He seems like a nice chap, who joined the Nats because he believes in limited government (well someone has to).  There is no ACT candidate and the New Conservative candidate, Fiona Meyer, shows little interest in limited government.  Joseph Mooney - National

Taieri (new electorate, nominally Labour): Clare Curran is stepping down and this new seat which includes rural areas is ripe for the taking. Ingrid Leary is the Labour candidate, and she goes on a bit about rail, which is silliness really. Liam Kernaghan is the National candidate who lists abolishing the RMA as a target, but he was a political advisor to Amy Adams. I can't get enthused about him.  The ACT candidate is from the shooters side of the party, which isn't enough for me and the New Conservative candidate also says little about freedom.  You might vote for Liam Kernaghan because it will annoy the Labour Party, but take your pick

Takanini (new electorate, marginal): Dr Neru Leavasa is the Labour candidate for this new electorate, and seems moderate.  Rima Nakhle is the National candidate, and she seems moderate.  Mike McCormick of ACT is vocal about the size of the state, so vote for him. Mike McCormick - ACT

Tamaki (safe National): National MP Simon O'Connor is standing again, and he is mixed on a range of issues, being socially conservative on some and liberal on others. ACT's Carmel Claridge is a better bet here, Carmel Claridge - ACT

Taranaki-King Country (safe National): National's Barbara Kuriger is standing again here and will be a shoo in again, so Brent Miles from ACT would better earn your vote as he is interested in freedom of speech.  Brent Miles - ACT

Taupo (safe National): Louise Upston is standing again for National and she is a mix as well and has little chance of being unseated. Some social conservatism on gay marriage and alcohol, but she was a benign Minister for Women. David Freeman of ACT is campaigning on liberty, so give him your vote. David Freeman - ACT

Tauranga (fairly safe National): Simon Bridges ought to be ok here, but do you really want to endorse him? NZ First and Labour have no real chance here, so give Cameron Luxton from ACT your vote, given he believes in defending freedom.  Cameron Luxton - ACT

Te Atatu (marginal Labour): Phil Twyford? No. National's Alfred Ngaro has most recently been controversial in his campaigning, but I'm generally not keen on his views.  ACTs Simon Court is likely to be in on the list.  The TEA Party's Frank Amoah might be interesting, but I have seen nothing about his views on anything.  I'd give Ngaro a tick just to try to oust Twyford, but honestly ? Take your pick

Tukituki (marginal National): National's Lawrence Yule is facing a battle with Labour's Anna Lorck for the second time (though this is Lorck's third time). Yule was Mayor of Hasting and head of Local Government NZ, none of which is really consistent with less government.  Lorck is a PR consultant, so there is reason to try to block her third attempt because this is no better than Yule.  If it weren't a close race, I'd damn both their houses and back another, but you should decide if you prefer Yule over Lorck, I'd probably pick Yule but Take your pick

Upper Harbour (fairly safe National): With Paula Bennett standing down, this seat is more competitive than usual. National is offering Jake Bezzant, who is a bit of an entrepreneur, so is a safe choice.  He supports reforming the RMA.  The others aren't much more inspiring, I'm not sure Karen Chhour of ACT is going to be keen on less government and it's hard to find much about Winson Tan of the TEA Party. Take your pick

Waikato (safe National): Tim Van de Molan is the National MP, and to his credit states that he believes in individual freedom of choice.  James McDowall is the ACT candidate, and at number 6 on the list is may get elected anyway. He's led ACT's firearms policy.  Even Caleb Ansell, from the New Conservatives, states a firm belief in individual rights. Given this, you actually have a reasonable choice between them.  Take your pick

Waimakariri (safe National): Matt Doocey is the sitting National MP and he gets credit for quoting Adam Smith in his maiden speech, and talking about how his wife's experience of living in Communist Hungary.  That's not a bad start, so you could do worse.  ACT's James Davies is young and seems to believe in lower taxes and abolishing the RMA.  More notable is New Conservative Leader Leighton Baker, but his focus appears to be referenda and empowering local government over central government.  Matt Doocey seems just fine, but give James Davies your vote in this safe seat.  James Davies - ACT

Wairarapa (marginal National): Mike Butterick is trying to keep this seat for National, with Alastair Scott standing down. There is little to suggest his views on the role of the state.  Labour list MP Kieran McAnulty is trying to win it, he was a bookmaker and a council worker before, and is socially liberal (noted for wanting NZ to become a republic).  As a close race, benefit of the doubt might lie with Butterick, but he's going to have to do more to get my endorsement, so I'm saying Roger Greenslade of ACT is a better choice.  Roger Greenslade - ACT

Waitaki (safe National): Jacqui Dean is the sitting National MP, and is likely to keep it, but who can endorse her? She's obsessed with banning substances, so much that she once called for water to be banned because she didn't know what dihydrogen monoxide is.  I don't want someone that easily tricked having power, so what about the Labour candidate? Liam Wairepo is preferable to Jacqui Dean, even though he is a bit of an activist, he hasn't proven himself to be a fool.  If you can't cope with him, vote Sean Beamish for ACT.  Seam Beamish - ACT 

Wellington Central (fairly safe Labour): You'll want to oust Grant Robertson, so should Nicola Willis of National be given a chance? She's alright, and is currently a list MP. Brooke van Velden is a better choice, albeit she is number 2 on the ACT list.  On balance, given the Greens like to think they might have a chance here (one day), I'd give Willis the vote, just to keep this seat a bit more mobile, given it has been a National and an ACT seat in the past, and because the chance of a National MP would really upset many many people.  Nicola Willis - National

West-Coast Tasman (marginal Labour): Damien O'Connor is one of the conservative Labour MPs, opposing voluntary euthanasia and gay marriage,  as well as abortion decriminalisation.  Sure I disagree on two of those things, but it is good to see Labour isn't quite the closed club to those with different opinions.  National's Maureen Pugh famously described as "fucking useless", is not worth your vote given her opposition to pharmaceutical drugs (these have saved my life).  ACT's William Gardner isn't inspiring, neither is the New Conservative candidate, so I'd support Damien O'Connor just to give the Nats the message to not select Pugh again.  Damien O'Connor - Labour

Whanganui (marginal National):  National MP Harete Hipango is socially conservative and gave quite a maiden speech, although there was precious little there about minimal state.  ACT has no candidate, and the New Conservative thinks the ETS goes to the UN.  Labour's Steph Lewis seems fairly mild, so there is no real reason to fear her much.  Frankly, I'd not bother. None of the above

Whangaparaoa (new electorate, National): Rodney MP Mark Mitchell (National) is standing here and was a cop, so he talks about safety rather than limited government.  Paul Grace from ACT isn't stellar, but he's better than Mitchell.  Fiona Mackenzie of the New Conservatives doesn't mention limited government.  Lorayne Ferguson of Labour is not worth your vote, given her history in the UK Labour Party.  Paul Grace - ACT

Whangarei (safe National): Shane Reti of National is a reasonable fellow and much better than Labour's Emily Henderson (who seems just painfully leftwing).  The other David Seymour is an ACT candidate with Motor Neuron Disease who supports the End of Life Choice Bill. Take your pick

Wigram (safe Labour): You don't want Megan Woods do you? ex. the Alliance/Jim Anderton's Progressive "Coalition". National is putting forward Hamish Campbell, who is a scientist. Miles McConway is the ACT candidate and he is a solicitor who talks a little about freedom.  Take your pick between Campbell and McConway.

Hauraki-Waikato (safe Labour): Princess Mahuta is solid here and doesn't face a serious challenge, so your only choice is actually Richard Hill from the New Conservatives, as his profile refreshingly focuses on excessive government spending and debt.  Richard Hill - New Conservatives

Ikaroa-Rawhiti (marginal Labour): Meka Whaitiri is the Labour MP, her biggest challenger is the Maori Party's Heather Te-Au Skipworth. Personally, I'd vote Whaitiri to keep the Maori Party out.  Meka Whaitiri - Labour

Tamaki Makaurau (marginal Labour): Peeni Henare is facing a serious challenge from John Tamihere, in his latest attempt to gain political power. Henare is not a bad MP, having said the causes of poverty are many and varied, with no single fix. Tamihere on the other hand, is an attention seeker who dreams up new policies to gain attention depending on what he is standing for.  Now with the Maori Party, he's hitched up with ethno-nationalism, and wanting to create a series of Maori client businesses that government would be legally obliged to contract with, when undertaking work, which is a recipe for tokenism and rent-seeking, given experiences in the US.  Tamihere should be stopped, so vote for Henare (and ignore Marama Davidson). Peeni Henare - Labour

Te Tai Hauauru (marginal Labour): Adrian Rurawhe is the Labour MP and he is challenged by Maori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer.  She shares Tamihere's simplistic vision, of guaranteed contracts for Maori businesses, simply "raising incomes" and attacking fossil fuel industries.  Vote Rurawhe to stop the Maori Party.  Adrian Rurawhe - Labour

Te Tai Tokerau (fairly safe Labour): Kelvin Davis ought to be fairly safe here, and compared to other candidates, he's ok. In his maiden speech he said " Blaming the system implies we are too weak as a people to help ourselves—that we are victims. Bad stuff has happened, but we must cease to be victims. Māori need to sort ourselves out. Education is the passport, but we need to put ourselves on the flight to the future".  Ka pai! If you need to vote for another, vote for Maki Herbert of the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party, but I'd stick with Davis.  Kelvin Davis - Labour

Te Tai Tonga (fairly safe Labour): Rino Tirikatene will be safe here, as it is the family electorate in essence. However, don't be too complacent as the Maori Party's Takuta Ferris is the main opponent.  Anituhia McDonald is the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party candidate, so it is hard to beat someone who supports freedom on one issue (and I'm not keen on multi-generational electorates). Anituhia McDonald - Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party

Waiariki (marginal Labour): TV's Tamati Coffey took this for Labour last time, and is being challengd by Rawiri Waititi.  We're better off, just, by having Coffey holding onto his seat rather than opening for the Maori Party to get in through this seat.  Tamati Coffey - Labour

So there you have it, if I had my way, the electorate seats would add up as follows:

National 33 (and I think I'm being VERY generous here)

ACT 25

Labour 8

New Conservatives 2

Not a Party 2 


Now that's a sound balance of power!