A collection of republican commentary dating from before November 1996.
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ACT stands for Association of Consumers and Taxpayers. As such it epitomises the moral bankruptcy of Western Civilization. People who used to define themselves by their ideals - democratic, liberal, socialist, conservative - now define themselves as mere consumers of commodities and (unwilling) payers of tax. There is no sense of responsibility to society.
Why then does ACT say it stands for "the freedom to choose and personal responsibility for the path chosen"? What is meant by responsibility? Responsibility to the state? In that case read subjection to the tyranny of the state. Surely not what ACT intends?
Responsibility to God? There can be no more worthy dedication (and no greater danger of hypocrisy) than in commitment to God Himself as the director of personal action. But is this what ACT really understands by responsibility? If so, why not make the position explicit?
Responsibility to oneself?. A notion which is at best a figure of speech meaning "self-interest", at worst a complete oxymoron. To be responsible is to be required to respond or answer to another. Therefore to be responsible only to oneself is to deny all responsibility entirely. And this is in effect what ACT intends. God is saying "Where is your brother?" and ACT is answering with Cain "Am I my brother's keeper?". This is the party which says we are responsible to neither God nor our brother for our acts in this world.
ACT portrays itself as a band of rugged individualists and entrepreneurs. In fact, the makeup of the party is little different from that of any other political party, being dominated by professional politicians, those who from their adolescence had hung around the fringes of local and central government, seeking political careers and incomes. Often they have very little experience of any other vocation. They are state courtiers, and their criticisms of the state are not to be taken seriously. State beneficiaries may find that by denigrating the state they remove from themselves the stigma of subservience and dependence. But it does not fundamentally alter their status.
It is a mistake to think that ACT represents producers.
The name itself says that they are there to represent not producers, but
consumers. Often these consumers are virtually indistinguishable
from the social welfare beneficiaries whom ACT regards as such as threat
to society. As non-productive interest, rent or dividend beneficiaries
they can claim no moral superiority over the clients of the welfare system.
If you suggest that bi-culturalism is the same as apartheid - or "separate development" as it was called in English - you will immediately be judged to be lacking in intellectual discrimination, probably extremely right-wing, and possibly racist.
Bi-culturalism does not involve the oppression and exploitation of a majority racial group by a minority, or, indeed of a majority by a minority. It is consistent with the normal process of representative democracy. Never-the-less it is an insidious threat to social integrity, because it officially sanctions two, and only two, cultures, which, by virtue of their official status, become static, incapable of developing within their own dynamic, or of continuing to assimilate characteristics of the alternative culture.
The advantage of one culture is that we can endlessly dispute, and agree to disagree, over the exact, or even the general nature of that culture. We can choose to stand outside the culture. We can criticise it. We can set up a counter-culture. The advantage of a multiplicity of cultures is that we can move from one to another as the spirit wills. But with two, and only two cultures the lines are drawn. If we are free to choose one or the other, we must choose. And having chosen we are enjoined not to criticise the alternative. To do so would be tantamount to a declaration of cultural war, as disruptive as civil war without the progressive possibilities of cultural revolution.
The government supports bi-culturalism because it is the only way of ensuring the survival of a degenerate exploitative and class-based European culture in the South Pacific. It is European culture which would be most seriously threatened by the emergence of a true, unitary Kiwi culture. Maori support bi-culturalism because they quite wrongly suppose that Maori culture would be destroyed if our society was allowed to develop naturally.
Among the most fervent supporters of bi-culturalism in New Zealand are
the white South African immigrants who have been brought into the country
under the auspices of the National Party government. These
people have formed a strange consensus with politically conservative Maori
and politically liberal Pakeha in the interests of bi-culturalism.
Although these three groups are able to agree on all the policies that
constitute bi-culturalism, they are, of course, fundamentally opposed to
A politician whose chief achievement was to propound the syllogism "I am a politician. I cannot manage an economic enterprise. Therefore politicians cannot manage an economic enterprise". The first statement of the proof must be taken as a given. The second was proved by an economic calamity known as "Think Big", Birch's attempt to emulate China's "Great Leap Forward", in which he expended more than $10 billion of taxpayer funds in building assets valued at less than $5billion. The New Zealand electorate then decided that Birch must have gained considerable wisdom from such an expensive experience, and, after allowing him a brief pause for reflection out of office, put him once more at the helm of the nation. Still "Thinking Big" but this time with the order from the bridge being "Full Speed Astern" Bill swiftly disposed of state assets valued at $5 billion for just on $2 billion.
The hero of this tale, however, is not Bill Birch, but the New Zealand
taxpayer, who provided greater funding for Bill's personal learn-by-doing
educational experience than for the entire state educational system over
the equivalent period.
A religious party which advocates that abortion and homosexuality be
outlawed, and whose chief object is to retain in government a secular party
which is determined that abortion and homosexuality shall be a matter of
personal choice. The Christian coalition apparently approves
of God's condemnation of usury in the Bible, but even more emphatically
approves Dr Brash's manipulation of local interest rates to the highest
levels in the Western world. Living proof that Christianity
is one religion which allows adherents to have their cake and eat it.
Individualism, the medical profession and death are three phenomena
which are linked even more closely than most people recognise.
The affluence of the medical profession is largely attributable to the
fear of death, which has always been and always will be part of human nature.
But that fear has grown stronger this century, and with that fear has grown
the wealth and prestige of the medical profession, and the desperation
of those unable to afford its services. Why has this happened?
In two words, secularism and individualism. To go willingly
into death involves sacrifice - regardless of whether death come violently
before its time, or naturally in the fullness of time.
It requires a willingness to resign life to others. That
implies a trust in, commitment to, and sense of complete identification
with others. An impossibility in the secular, individualist
market driven economy. So we will have increasing demands
for "heroic" (frenetic?) medicine in the Western world, "unsustainable"
medical costs, and medical personnel who are regarded with the same ambivalence
Tibetan monks have prayer wheels upon each of which is inscribed a ritual
incantation. By giving the wheel a spin they are able to evoke
the same ritual dozens of times with a single action.
The Christian Coalition lack the technical sophistication of Tibetan Buddhism
and hence the constant verbal repetition of the phrase "family values".
The Western world has persuaded itself that free speech is the absence of laws against the expression of ideas. But as John Ralston Saul and others have pointed out freedom cannot be defined negatively. Free speech is existential. Where the full range of ideas are expressed, denied, and debated, there free speech exists. Can one draw a circle in the desert and say "There is a garden?" No, a garden would need to contain living plants. It is not good enough to say "We have done nothing to prevent plants growing there". You first have to ask why nothing grows, and then you have to create the conditions for life.
Similarly one cannot say "There are no laws against expressing anti-social
ideas, and therefore we have free speech". Unless it is manifested
in controversy, free speech does not exist. Where there is absence
of intellectual controversy we must ask for an explanation. What
is it that inhibits what should be most natural to the human mind?
But do not expect simplistic explanations for the absence of free speech.
Do not assume that it is the monopoly control of the press, or the power
of advertisers, or the covert influence of government. It may be that the
members of the population as a whole are afraid of the consequences of
free speech and, consciously or otherwise, deny it to themselves and others.
PRINCIPLES OF THE TREATY OF WAITANGI
The principles of the Treaty of Waitangi are defined as being those
principles which are not mentioned within the document itself, but which
deserve to be in the opinion of its well-meaning supporters. Outsiders
who have difficulty following the constitutional implications of the Treaty
of Waitangi should not even attempt to enter the conceptual morass which
goes under the style of the Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.
In appearance another "democratic" shibboleth. In actuality another means for the individual to avoid accountability for his own actions. Some years after Richard Nixon's disgrace in the Watergate affair I picked up an American hitchhiker who told me that he was the only American who had ever voted for Richard Nixon. Which meant of course that he was the only one to admit and take responsibility for the crimes of power committed by the elected President of the United States of America. The secret ballot allows individuals and nations to come up from the cesspools of fascism, smelling of roses. How much stronger the democratic cause would be in Germany or Austria if Hitler's plebiscites had been publicly conducted - if posterity knew the name of every German who had voted for the Third Reich.
But, the cry is, the vote will then be dictated by fear - the elector will vote as he believes his neighbours, his employer, the police constable, the local mayor, or his customers would wish him to vote. I say that an individual is never free until he is prepared to act in a conscientious way against the will of those who hold power over him.
And that a society which cites fear as the justification for secrecy
has already conceded defeat in the battle for democracy.
The power of the oligarchy relies on fear of the unknown. Once upon a time the church told that if we did not submit to the order of the world we would go to hell-fire when we died. Now the Round Table tells us that if we do not subscribe to the values of the market we will suffer penury before we die. The church however was always more concerned about how people lived than about what became of them when they died, and the similarly the Round Table is not really concerned about what happens to people when they grow old - it is concerned with the way people use their power when it is at its greatest.
Retirement-without-a-pension is a hellfire vision designed to put the fear of the Market into the young and the fit. Once they recognise the "true horror" of retirement-without-a-pension they will cease to act as the young and fit are prone to- with daring and generosity, scepticism and rebelliousness. They will instead begin to save for their retirement. And once they have spent five years saving for retirement they will, in the natural way, want to know that their sufferings will be rewarded, and the blindness of others will be punished. They will then look forward with grim satisfaction to the arrival of the social catastrophe which they previously feared.
Thus the pin-striped priests of the Round Table will have achieved their object. In the hearts of the young they will have replaced courage with fear, generosity with meanness, sympathy with malignancy, questioning with complacency, spiritual openness with obsessive materialism.
That is why the Round Table is making an issue of retirement-without-a-pension.
Student loans achieve the same objective. It might be thought that young people, students in particular, would resent the debts they are required to assume in order to receive an education. Requiring the next generation to provide for its own education conflicts with the natural order of social animals, who have always assumed that it is the responsibility of the older members of the group to educate the younger. Why then does the issue of student debt not provoke a stronger reaction among those most affected? Why do so many students actually seem to support the policies which have put them in debt? One possible explanation is that young people welcome debt as a rite of passage into adulthood. It confers on them the same status as the mortgagee homeowner, farmer or businessperson - it is debt which turns an adolescent into a responsible citizen who adopts the attitudes and behaviour which appropriate to citizenship, becoming conservative in politics, cautious in living habits, and generally self-centred.
At seventeen years of age they make a decision to go into debt to acquire an education. They do not do this unassisted however. With respect, they do not really have enough knowledge or wisdom to determine whether the economy will be in most need of medical laboratory technicians, foresters, electrical engineers or accountants over the next half century. It is doubtful whether thirty-five year olds possess such knowledge or wisdom. But educational institutions provide the intending student with encouragement and advice. They will persuasively recommend that the student take one of the courses which they currently offer. If the student graduates in three years time and finds there is no demand for his qualifications, he has the debt, but no asset to show for it. The educational provider accepts no responsibility. The government accepts no responsibility. It will tell this 21 year old with his $20,000 debt compounding at 8% per annum that he must accept responsibility for the bad, foolish, reckless decision he made when he was 17.
That, he will be told, is what the market economy is all about. Personal responsibility for one's own decisions. The government will not be too worried. It will still be able to extract a usurious rate of interest from the hapless graduate. Employers in the industry will not be worried at all. They will be able to screw down salaries due to the number of unemployed graduates. The educational institution will not be too worried. It has gained student numbers and cash flow, met its bills and paid its salaries. So the government will tell the graduate that in a highly dynamic economy one must be able to change one's career path often. And the educational provider will offer further training at a higher level or in a different field ... for a fee of course. The graduate may be grateful and heartened. Or he may wonder at the ethics of forcing teenagers to make judgements which governments are incapable of making; he may question the morality of making the youngest members of society carry the cost of change in an undirected economy while government, commerce, and the educational institutions are protected from risk. And he may start to become angry.
Had Salman Rushdie challenged a sports metaphor rather than a spiritual doctrine, the fatwa imposed upon him would have met with universal approbation in New Zealand.
Salvation consists in being a team player. Never mind the object of the game. Never mind the rules (or lack of same) that we play by. Never mind even that there are times when we deem it necessary to eye-gouge the players on our own side. Team work is not a comprehensible set of rules or a code of conduct to be followed -it is a mystique to be revered and a mantra to be chanted.
TREATY OF WAITANGI
New Zealand is unique among nations in having made the document by which it ceded sovereignty to a foreign power the basis of its national identity. A founding constitutional document which makes no mention of God, but gives a pre-eminent position to the morally-challenged offspring of a family of minor German nobility; and which, in stark contrast to the practice of most nations, is regularly invoked to prove that what appears to be a single people in reality, are actually two peoples constitutionally. Last century the Treaty was described by a learned Judge as "a mere device to pacify ignorant savages". A hundred years later a well-meaning but ignorant lawyer determined to elevate the device to a position of political and constitutional importance through the Treaty of Waitangi Act. It is now popularly implied that British rule in New Zealand is legitimated by the Treaty. The more astute among the Queen's ministers, however, recognise the weakness of such a position, and have in reserve, for more serious purposes, the claim that the authority of the crown arises from "colonization and revolution". At the end of the day the Treaty remains a device to pacify ignorant savages - roughly three and a half million of them.
In the context of the amoral capitalism of the end of the millennium
there is little obligation felt to justify either how one acquires one's
income or how high that income may be. Whether
one is employed in the sex industry at $100,000 a year, or as a cleaner
on $10 000, whether one is a doctor or a croupier, a property speculator
or a fitter and turner, all are on an equal moral footing, and all are
considered, by definition, to be worth what they receive in the way of
Almost. There are still occasional outbursts of indignation, and occasional attempts at justification. Why should Rod Deane receive $1.2 million in salary? Because he works hard. Because he is intelligent and capable. Because he is experienced. But we all know hardworking, intelligent, capable and experienced people who earn a lot less. The professional apologists need better justifications, and they claim to find it in the concept of "personal rent". Rod Deane is unique. Just as there is only one "246 Queen St" there is only one Rod Deane, and thus it is not meaningful to compare his worth to that of any other wage or salary earner. It is a curious argument because it implies that everyone else should also be considered unique. Yet we know that those at the bottom of the scale - the cleaners and the fitters and turners - are being treated more and more as interchangeable commodities - as human resources. So society is separating out into truly unique and highly paid individuals (like Rod Deane) and standardized low value commodities(like the woman who cleans his office). The truth of course is that Deane's claim to a unique personal status rests on his privilege, and not vice versa. No merit is attached to the cleaner and the fitter because they are without privilege. If they enjoyed privilege then they would also be considered unique and meritorious individuals just like Rod Deane.
Income is not generally determined by effort, intelligence, or
moral qualities. Any scientific attempt to correlate
income to any of these characteristics would, at best, show only a weak
relationship. Even on the level of "unskilled" labour, workers know
that the positions with the best conditions and the lowest demands on effort,
often pay the highest wages. Anyone who has worked
on the wharf and in the railway yards, in a timber mill and freezing works
will know that to be the case. For manual labourers
in the sixties the saying was that the harder you worked the less you were
paid. Applied not to the individual but to the
employment category it remains a true generalisation in the nineties.
There used to be a system of informal social relationships known as the "old boy network" directed towards maintaining a privileged class in society. No one publicly admitted to having benefitted from the old boy network, which, like all systems of privilege, could only benefit its members by discriminating against non-members, and hence was universally regarded as being highly disreputable.
One of the social groups discriminated against - women - responded by
setting up "feminist networks" which functioned in exactly the same manner
as "old boy networks" but which were tolerated because they appeared to
represent the interests of the underdog. Networks
thus became legitimised, and "networking" was promoted as a worthy activity.
Like the legitimisation of discrimination through the concept of "positive
discrimination", the changing status of networks confirms the fallacy that
a moral end may be attained through the employment of immoral means.
In the seventies there was an enthusiasm for self-sufficiency, which was acted out on a five hectare block on which one kept a cow, grew cabbages, and brewed one's own beer.
It was an illusion - self sufficiency never extended to making one's own axe, spade, skinning knife, plastic bucket or corrugated iron cladding - but it was a healthy illusion. People with a minimum of money endeavouring to directly supply all their own needs by a natural process of production.
In the nineties "financial self-sufficiency" means having enough money
to ensure that all your needs will be supplied by others through a monstrous
and artificial system of mass production and distribution.
The healthy illusion of natural self-sufficiency has degenerated
into the despicable fraud of financial independence.
The Reserve Bank has attempted, unsuccessfully, to control inflation by maintaining high interest rates. Governor Don Brash describes this process as a transfer of income "from borrowers to savers" thus putting a moral gloss on usury, a behaviour that is condemned in the Old and New Testaments and the Quran and thus is abhorrent to Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths.
The truth is that interest transfers wealth from borrowers to lenders. Lenders may be savers (hardworking and thrifty), but alternatively they may have acquired capital by inheritance, by luck, or through varying degrees of immorality. Borrowers may be spendthrifts, but they may be wage earners buying a home, farmers developing the land, or entrepreneurs setting up businesses and employing labour. Indeed it is very difficult to borrow money without providing some evidence that the loan will be serviced and repaid out of a legitimate source of income.
Borrowers paying off debts are in effect savers; lenders who spend their income on luxury cars, overseas holidays, and high living are not. All of which threatens to turn Don Brash's moralising on its side, if not on its head.
Morality aside, there remains the question of whether the means, raising interest rates, can achieve the end, lower inflation. The Bank is endeavouring to keep inflation low by keeping the value of the New Zealand dollar high. The strength of the dollar is maintained when foreign currency flowing into the country is in balance with the amount flowing out. In the normal and natural situation foreign currency is obtained by selling the produce of the nation. In the abnormal present situation it is obtained by borrowing using the nations physical capital as collateral, or by outright sale of privately or publicly owned national assets. The Reserve Bank is attempting to keep inflation low by keeping the dollar high, thereby keeping the price of imported goods low. It keeps the dollar high by keeping interest rates high, thereby encouraging the inflow of overseas capital. But high indebtedness to overseas interests and high interest rates can only, in the medium to long term, result in higher outflows of foreign currency. Therefore artificial attempts to maintain a low inflation rate through a high dollar through high borrowing through high interest rates must eventually lead to a collapse of the dollar and high inflation.
The prevalence of floating interest rates, the availability of lower fixed rates to new borrowers, and the lower cost of capital to overseas investors further complicate Dr Brash's schemes. If interest rate rises are to restrain "demand-driven" inflation in the capital goods sector (commercial, agricultural and residential property etc), they should be targetted at new purchases of capital goods.
But the reverse is the case in practice. New
loans are often at lower rates than existing loans
VOTING (see SECRET BALLOT)
Those who decide not to vote are sometimes unjustifiably accused of
irresponsibility. On the contrary, to vote is irresponsible, particularly
when it is the only form of political involvement. Very
few voters (perhaps 3% of the total?) are actively involved in the political
organisations for which they vote and into whose hands they commit the
country. Voting then becomes an abdication, rather than a fulfilment
of responsibility, and only serves to encourage the unprincipled self-seekers
who throng the hustings once every three years. Many New Zealanders
now regard the Parliamentary system as inherently corrupt,and vote not
out of conviction, but in the false belief that voting, while it may do
little good, does little harm. In fact, a whole lot of
harm is done by well-meaning people who endorse dishonest politicians through
the ballot box. On the other hand, voting an honest individual
into Parliament is like putting a maiden into a brothel - it is unrealistic
to expect matters to be changed for the better thereby, and the outcome,
whatever it may be, is bound to disappoint all those who pin their hopes
on reform of the current system. It is particularly irresponsible
to encourage those who might not otherwise have done so to cast a vote.
Very many of those undecided, swinging, or floating voters are undecided
simply because they are ignorant, or at least subconsciously aware of their
inability to make a rational judgement on the issue of who could best rule
thecountry. If coerced into voting their vote may reflect the
most superficial influences,the most banal considerations.
And yet the swinging voter has had the casting vote in all recent elections.
By encouraging a "high turnout" one seeks the most irrational possible
outcome to the election process. It is not just the swinging voter
whose judgement is suspect. As a society we have deprived
ourselves of the training, wisdom and judgement necessary to makedemocracy
work. For democracy to work we need to be able to judge
our fellowman. But we have abandoned absolute morality
in favour of "non-judgmental values". We have no standards
left by which to judge. And we have no social experience
in judging others, in either an informal or formal sense.
Some of us have experience in choosing subordinates. Virtually
none of us are experienced inchoosing our rulers. In
our daily life we see power as being imposed over us, rather than being
exercised by our leave. And the way we vote in elections tends
to simply mirror the reality we encounter in our daily life.
The average individual exercises his vote not to select one of his peers
as his representative, but to ratify the power that exists in society.
That is the limit of his understanding and experience of democracy.
He has no concept of choosing the person who would be best fitted to be
his factory foreman, chief executive of his corporation, or principal of
his educational institution. In days past he may have
gained some democratic understanding and experience in his trade union,
church, or sports club, but he no longer belongs to a union, he doesn't
attend church, and is no longer actively involved in the sports club (though
remaining a spectator). One cannot safely generalise that it
is irresponsible either to vote, or not vote. And one certainly
cannot safely equate voting with democracy. Democracy and responsibility
are profound moral concepts. Voting is a simple act which may
have no intellectual or moral value attached to it.
A year in which more than the usual number of religious enthusiasts predicted the end of the world. And of course they were right.
In 1972 the long post-World War II boom came to an end. The historic compromise between capital and labour began to dissolve. The inflation of the 20s and the unemployment of the 30s and the armed conflicts of the 40s re-emerged en masse.
The relative economic position of the working classes declined inexorably and they began withdrawing from active involvement in the churches, the unions, and the mass political parties. 1972 was a historic turning point from which the masses ceased to play a formative role in society.
The inevitable consequence of the working class withdrawal was liberalism.
First moral liberalism - the consequence of the abandonment of formal religion. The conspicuous changes were in relation to acceptance of homosexuality, abortion, extra-marital sex, prostitution, gambling and social use of drugs. But it went further than that, to become a general rejection of socially defined moral codes.
Economic liberalism inevitably followed, despite the misleading belief that the proponents of economic and moral liberalism were from opposite sides of the political spectrum. A silent social war of Armageddon was fought between property on the one hand and morality on the other. The slogan of the abortion on demand movement was "a woman's body is private property" the same logic that justifies prostitution and every other form of so-called "victimless" crime, the same liberal logic which saw the transmutation of personnel officers into Human Resources Managers, and of wage and salary earners into self-marketed commodities. Moral restrictions and inhibitions were no longer to apply to either animate or inanimate matter, except in so far as to be consistent with the law of property.
There were also developments particular to New Zealand - a major adverse change in the terms of trade, loss of the British market for agricultural products, and the appearance of national debt on the grand scale. But these particular phenomena, while having a traumatic impact on local attitudes, were but the expression and result of the general, global trends.
Liberalism did not emerge over night or over a year. Its forces had been building steadily through the preceding decade. And it was only over the following two decades that they achieved comprehensive victory in the field of politics, economics, and social conduct. But 1972 was the year in which the charted indicators of society - economic, political, and religious - turn towards the new liberal order.
Because many economic liberals profess to be moral conservatives and vice versa, there is a widespread misconception that economic and social liberalism are in opposition. This is but the confusion of armies fighting in the night.
When a new millennium dawns on the new world order we shall see the West absolutely committed to a rational, secular and liberal economic and social system and its armies ranged up against the comprehensive moral absolutism of Islam.
1972 was also the year of changing attitudes to the state. The state had always been subject to political criticism from right and left. But both right and left regarded the institution of the state as their promise and hope of salvation. The state was perceived as an effective instrument, generally benign, or at least intrinsically neutral. The state provided defence, law and order, education, medical services, housing, insurance, roads, electricity, rail and air transport, economic regulation and development, in the context of a mixed (essentially capitalist) economy. The upper classes saw it as the guarantor of property and the rule of property. The lower classes saw it as the tribune of social justice, and the potential provider of a future socialist society. Neither view was wholly unreasonable. Very few people questioned the wisdom or propriety of the state's involvement in society. The first ideological attack on the state came from the left - from the Maoist and anarchist movements that exploded on the Western scene in the late sixties and early seventies. But the full onslaught, the most effective blow, came from the right in the form of the "free market" monetarism which now, in the nineties, is economic orthodoxy and the dominant political ideology. A prerequisite for the political success of monetarism was the destruction of the reputation, standing, and political prestige of the state.
Although this condition was not fully met until the decade of the eighties, the Vietnam war had already, by 1972, shattered the sense of trust in, and loyalty to, the state which had transcended all classes in New Zealand and Western society to that point.
The year 1972 was therefore a turning point not only for the economy,
but for church and state as well.