Tuesday, 8 November 2016

From Bottom To TOP.

Man At The TOP: Motivated by founder Gareth Morgan’s desire to ensure that future generations of New Zealanders enjoy the same opportunities as his own Baby Boomer Generation, The Opportunities Party (TOP) aspires to attract the support of enough unaffiliated voters to “light a fuse” under New Zealand’s lethargic and risk-averse political class.
 
BY A QUIRK OF GEOGRAPHY, we have woken up on America’s election day while the American electorate is sleeping fitfully through the night before. It will be Thursday morning (let’s be optimistic!) before the outcome of the most important US presidential election since 1860 becomes clear. So, while nightmares weigh heavily upon the breast of America’s Lady Liberty, let us turn our thoughts to the incredible lightness of being a New Zealand voter.
 
Barely five days ago, on Guy Fawkes eve, our very own millionaire gadfly, Gareth Morgan, announced the formation of The Opportunities Party (TOP). Motivated by its founder’s desire to ensure that future generations of New Zealanders enjoy the same opportunities as his own Baby Boomer Generation, TOP aspires to attract the support of enough unaffiliated voters to “light a fuse” under New Zealand’s lethargic and risk-averse political class.
 
So far, so Trumpish? No, not really.
 
Donald Trump’s extraordinary achievement was to mount a successful reverse takeover of the Republican Party. Pivotal to his success was the support of America’s most ignorant white voters. Who can forget the moment, early on in the race for the White House, when Trump was proudly listing the demographics he was winning. “We’re winning the poorly educated”, purred the Donald, before flashing his trademark grin and cooing: “We love the poorly educated.”
 
Morgan is approaching politics from a radically different direction. His openly avowed goal is to wield “undue influence” over New Zealand politics. He cannot hope to do this by enlisting the most ignorant and alienated of voters. The demographics he must win are those containing the nation’s most intelligent and engaged citizens.
 
Nor does Morgan intend to place TOP’s collective posterior on the Treasury Benches. He’s ruling out coalition agreements with both National and Labour. Instead, TOP proposes to position itself on the cross-benches, from where it plans to assemble one-off majorities for a series of overdue, but essential, policy reforms.
 
Far from becoming a permanent feature of New Zealand’s political landscape, TOP’s aim is to assemble a transient political movement dedicated to goading the lacklustre and cautious politicians seated on both sides of the aisle into purposeful action. Having ticked-off its strictly limited set of policy objectives, Morgan and his party intend to pack up their box files and go home.
 
I have to confess to being more than a little intrigued. Whether or not a political party dedicated to achieving a handful of key policy objectives, and then disbanding itself, could attract a substantial measure of electoral support is a thought experiment upon which many productive hours can be idled away.
 
Naturally, money would be crucial to the success of such a venture – lashings and lashings of money. But, lashings and lashings of money is precisely what Gareth Morgan has got. What’s more, he has spent much of his time since becoming a multi-millionaire looking for answers to some of New Zealand’s biggest problems.
 
The radical American journalist, Upton Sinclair, famously observed that: “It is hard to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon him not understanding it.”
 
This largely explains why Morgan, the founder of Infometrics Ltd, was widely regarded as one of this country’s leading free-market evangelists. With his salary no longer dependent on preaching that old-time free-market religion, however, Morgan has shown dangerous signs of ideological agnosticism. Indeed, on matters as controversial as climate change, poverty and the delivery of a universal basic income, Morgan has shown himself to be a commendably open-minded intellectual pilgrim.
 
It’s a quality that could propel TOP a lot further than Colin Craig’s superficially similar self-funded electoral vehicle – The Conservative Party.
 
Depending on what Morgan and his fellow TOP members settle on as their half-dozen core policy objectives, the party has the potential to draw support away from practically every party currently represented in Parliament. Should this eventuate (and with proper political guidance and promotion there’s no reason to suppose it shouldn’t) it is even conceivable that TOP could achieve its goals without ever having to set foot in parliament.
 
When Morgan was Infometrics’ leading economist he was a passionate promoter of the virtues of competition. The arrival of a competitor in any given market, he’d argue, will always produce a galvanising effect on existing market players. Is Morgan hoping that, simply by entering New Zealand’s lamentably self-satisfied and sluggish political marketplace, TOP is going get the National/Labour duopoly off its bottom?
 
This is what differentiates Gareth Morgan from Donald Trump. Rather than goading New Zealand’s ignorant pessimists into doing their worst, our own millionaire-turned-politician is inviting his country’s intelligent optimists to get the best out of their fellow citizens by offering the best of themselves.
 
In doing so, TOP may even frighten the National/Labour duopoly into giving away the safe move – for the right move.
 
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 8 November 2016.

18 comments:

Polly said...

At last an intelligent comment on 'TOP'.
I am certainly interested, after a visit to their website I have decided to await something on policy. Gareth Morgan states that will be coming in December.
I am hoping that will give me something concrete on their direction. I will then make a decision on membership. Since resigning from the Labour party I have not joined any other party but I want to.

I am dissatisfied with MMP which looks like giving a person who runs a fiefdom political party the kingmaker role in our political future. That fact is not sustainable in a purported democracy.

So its wait and see for me, I will read all comments with interest.

Good blog.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Echoes of Bob Jones' party I guess somewhat akin to the old ginger group. At least he's kept his ambitions within reasonable bounds. And if he wants to give my kids and grandkids – when that bastard gets off his arse – the same chances that I got then I'd be pretty much behind him. Depending on how he wants to do it.

REDPOINT said...

Like Polly, I too, resigned from the labour party and am intrigued by TOP.

And will wait to see the kinds of policy they produce.

At this point looks like a home for people that had a guts-full of lazy useless Labour party careerists intent on doing nothing.

Simon Cohen said...

So Chris are you joining up

greywarbler said...

I think all should put their name down to support The Opportunities Party. Sounds like a dose of vitamins for malnourished New Zealand. Get behind it, there is little to lose and tonnes to gain. A home-made earthquake to move the so-called level playing field.

Jack Scrivano said...

Chris, to a large extent, we have brought this upon ourselves. If a politician (or a group of politicians) says that they will, if elected, do something which needs to be done but which disadvantages us personally we tend to do our best to ensure that he, she, or they are not elected. By openly acknowledging that he and his merry band want to change things but do not want to ‘take office’, Gareth Morgan is suggesting that there may be another way.

I wish him well. I’m going to be interested to see what he puts on his list of ‘things we need to change’.

I’m also interested to see how the established political groupings react to the TOP list of things that need to be changed.

Twenty years ago, I would have said that the party most likely to have taken advantage of this opportunity would have been Labour. Today, I don’t think so. The age of ideology has passed. If Labour wants to become the next government, they need to get their collective heads around this. And quickly.

David Stone said...

Hi Chris

I'm not surprised by the trend of comments.

I think Gareth Morgan should announce a sketch of his main policy ideas; Fair enough there needs to be input from membership, and the ideas may not all survive . But serious thinkers who may consider joining up will have ideas of their own and will hesitate like Polly to sign up to a movement with no idea where it's going . ( save exploring UBI ). The result is likely to be that it will just be a Gareth Morgan fan club .

Perhaps he wants it that way so there is no problem with getting his policies endorsed and ratified without interference , but a one man band won't get past Winston.

Cheers David J S

Brit Bunkley said...

Chris, you seem to have fallen off the Wagon, rejecting Labour and moving strangely to the right! You must know that Gareth Morgan is a Milton Friedman acolyte.

Morgan's "risks" are primarily based on his centerpiece of a rigth wing version of the Universal Basic Income (a plan with zero benefits). Morgan's UBI is a carbon copied Milton Friedman's UBI plan developed in the 1960's (Milton Friedman was one of Reagan prime advisors, a renowned Chicago school economist, and poster boy for the NZ "New Right" in the 80's). Gareth Morgan once praised Russia's Shock Therapy" highly regressive tax system that has left their health and education in shambles. It is a mystery to me why people on the left even consider Morgan. He is basically a modified ACT politician, but one with a human face (in that he has also a added a modets wealth tax... and he likes birds).

He says he is "not right nor left" (a meaningless, feel-good statement, popular among populist Trump-like politicians), but he certainly is not a centrist. Like Friedman he is a libertarian of sorts...and not the nice Chomsky left wing kind. His ideology is the polar opposite - also called anarcho-capitalist...but weirdly tempered with a modest "wealth tax", giving it a leftish patina.
https://www.libertarianism.org/.../libertarian-case-basic...


greywarbler said...

Faint heart never won fair lady. So the old saying went. And what a pack of careful old codgers here. It seems at present that Morgan wants an idea of who is interested. I don't think if people put up their name as interested that he is going to send Brownshifts round to twist your arm.

As for saying that MMP hasn't worked, it is expecting a bit much for a system to be politician-proof. Getting to be a politician is an example of Darwin's law of adaptation for goodness sake. They are sure to be able to game it, they have money to hire people like Crosby Textor and Karl Rove to do the thinking for them. MMP has made sure that there have to be concessions made to various groups that would otherwise be part of the mass that get completely ignored.

Tony Richards - freedom advocate. said...

Gareth Morgan has always presented as a rational, articulate and intelligent man with a conscience. I've been waiting for someone to step up. I'm in.

jh said...

Trump v Clinton is about globalisation and especially the benefit to existing citizens of large inflows of people. Gareth will have to come out on that. I asked Geof Simmons for his reponse to Ian Hamiltons model of adding people to a land based economy too far from markets to be a major manufacturer: Geof Simmons wasn't impressed?

greywarbler said...

jh
You are right there are many things for Morgan to think about, and his cronies. I haven't caught up with who they are - you mention Geof Simmons - who is he?

But don't start dissing the guy before he gets started. His image looks promising, a strong stance against a lowering sky, and dressed semi-casual looking like a bloke who is going to take on whatever. Bit like the style of Shane Jones but better.

There are so many things to do now we have a train wreck future fast approaching. Let's be hopeful encouraging and advise him of any lack in his policy wall in a friendly polite encouraging and determined fashion. He probably will listen and there is real muscle in the brain and body I think to move on many things. We have to start thinking about trade, and mix it with greater self-sufficiency.

He may be the one to come down on the heavy side of the see-saw instead of the present players trying to balance each other in the air to stay above the grassroots problem. That's a good mental image. Let's tie that see-saw in place, leave them stranded while we go about our country-saving business. I don't way to play with those nasty people any more, they're too rough, they don't share their lollies, and they aren't fair.

jh said...

Alex Marlow, editor in chief of Breitbart News, explained everything that was about to happen in this race back on the Sept. 14 edition of CNN’s Erin Burnett show.

While all the other “strategists” gibbered about Trump losing the Hispanic vote, Marlow said: “Trump is growing the big tent. … Trump’s policies are appealing to blacks. There are even some polls out there, like a survey USA poll, saying Trump is actually doing fine with Latinos.”

In the Nevada primary on Tuesday, Trump not only won the Hispanic vote; he not only won 17 points more of the Hispanic vote than his next closest rival; but his Latino vote nearly matched that of the two Latino candidates combined.

In one of the few times you might have heard this point expressed on television airwaves, Marlow said that the No. 1 issue for Breitbart News’ 20 million readers, “has consistently been — since last year — immigration. They are looking for someone who is going to seal the border and prioritize border security as No.1
http://www.breitbart.com/2016-presidential-race/2016/11/08/electionnightliveresultstrumpclinton/

Whereas John Campbell guest said "the melting pot is working!".
Note: In New Zealand we celebrate diversity. Thanks to comment policies, excluding, banning etc.

Charles E said...

Brit is correct. Morgan is a false lead indeed.
Can't stand him myself. He is a fake or more precisely a pseudo-intellectual in my opinion. Everything he says sounds semi-plausible but proves to be dopey or plain wrong. I remember 15 years ago he predicted the NZ$ would go to 30c US and stay there. So of course he said we should all buy (his) foreign investment managed funds of course. The opposite happened and still is. His views are just the loose ideas of a arrogance so common from men who have been lucky to become rich but think that makes them a very clever dick. His managed fund business was no better than if it was run by a monkey; he goes on about carbon but is constantly flying about the world & he long ago panned forestry as an investment but it has outperformed all of his pathetic funds;
And I love cats. My two catch more rats than birds and so I expect his stated reason for hating them is just his same old contrarian attention seeking. He is a self publicist. A nauseating 'narcissist of the opinion' type.
May he fail as fast as Craig & Dotty. He's from a similar mould. They are so full of themselves they think the peasants (as that is surely what they think we are)must like to be ruled by their idiosyncratic opinions. Trump is one spectacular example but we have our little men examples here too.
Stick with Labour, at least they have some sound ideas and are not a one man wonder.

Brit Bunkley said...

Chris, you seem to have fallen off the Wagon, rejecting Labour and moving strangely to the right! You must know that Gareth Morgan is a Milton Friedman acolyte.

Morgan's "risks" are primarily based on his centrepiece - a right wing version of the Universal Basic Income. It is a woefully inadequate UBI that also jettisons all welfare benefits. Morgan's UBI is a carbon copy of Milton Friedman's UBI plan developed in the 1960's. (Milton Friedman was one of Reagan prime advisors, a renowned Chicago school economist, and poster boy for the NZ "New Right" in the 80's).

Gareth Morgan once praised Russia's Shock Therapy" highly regressive tax system that has left their health and education in shambles. It is a mystery to me why people on the left even consider Morgan. He is basically a modified ACT politician, but one with a human face (in that he has also a added a modest wealth tax... and he likes birds).

He says he is "not right nor left" (a meaningless, feel-good statement, popular among populist Trump-like politicians), but he certainly is not a centrist. Like Friedman he is a libertarian of sorts...and not the nice Chomsky left wing kind. His ideology is the polar opposite - also called anarcho-capitalist...but weirdly tempered with a modest "wealth tax", giving it a leftish patina.

https://www.libertarianism.org/.../libertarian-case-basic...


I had a lot of typos! :)

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"In the Nevada primary on Tuesday, Trump not only won the Hispanic vote; he not only won 17 points more of the Hispanic vote than his next closest rival; but his Latino vote nearly matched that of the two Latino candidates combined."

And yet the best estimates suggest that Trump got the lowest percentage of Latino voters ever. 18%.

greywarbler said...

Brit Bunkleyu
That was a big typo - repeating the 21 hours comment at 22 hours.

Victor said...

Charles E

Would-be national saviours tend to have scapegoats whom they can point to as corrupters of the once snowy-white purity of the Fatherland or Motherland.

Hitler, of course, had the Jews and Roma.

Trump has Latinos and Moslems

And our Gareth has Tiddles the Cat.

I assume that not only will he eventually seek to build a wall or walls against moggies. He'll also demand that the cats pay for it.

The rats and stoats will love him for it.

Brit Bunkley

I agree with you that Morgan's 'Big Kahuna' is a highly right-wing version of UBI. Even so, the concept in itself has considerable merit and might be the only means we have of coping with a jobs-lite future.

As a Super-annuitant, I'd be a turkey voting for Christmas if I supported a version that didn't "grandparent" me in at a level more or less equivalent to current NZ Super.

And, unpopular though it might be to say so, there would be some justice to my position, as, unlike younger people, I wouldn't be benefiting from accumulated UBI payments over a period of years or decades prior to retirement.

Others would have different caveats to the quite simplistic scheme Morgan outlines. Even so, we need to keep exploring UBI as, in some form or other, it might be the only thing that works.