Tuesday 30 March 2010

As Auckland Goes - So Goes the Country

The Reichstag Fire 1933

In the light of today’s decision by the National-led Government to dismiss the democratically-elected Canterbury Regional Council and replace it with a panel of commissioners, I thought Bowalley Road visitors might be interested in reading the speech I delivered yesterday (29 March) to the Auckland Rotary Club.
ON THE 27 JANUARY 1932, some 650 members of the Dusseldorf Industry Club gathered together in the grand ballroom of Dusseldorf’s Park Hotel to hear an address by the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party – Herr Adolf Hitler.

Most of the industrialists seated in that glittering ballroom viewed Hitler and his National Socialists with considerable scepticism, and not a small number regarded the man as a dangerous radical.

They were, after all, meeting in the very depths of a worldwide economic crisis. Six million Germans were unemployed. The Communists "Red Front" and the Nazi’s "Stormtroopers" were daily battling one another for control of the nation’s streets. And to many of the businessmen in that room, the anti-capitalist rhetoric of the one was virtually indistinguishable from the other.

Adolf Hitler, dressed conservatively in a dark blue pin-stripe suit, knew that the speech he was about to give was crucial to his own and his party’s future. The Nazi’s were running out of money, and the men in the ballroom of the Park Hotel were the only people left in Germany with the funds to finance him and his Nazi Party to victory.

As he so often did, Hitler rose to the challenge. His speech to the Dusseldorf Industry Club marked a turning point in Nazi Party fortunes. From that day forward, Germany’s leading industrialists were satisfied that the Nazi Leader was a politician they could (as Margaret Thatcher would later say of Mikhail Gorbachev) "do business with".

My job today is the opposite of Adolf Hitler’s. Where he sought to allay the fears of the nation’s business leaders, I am seeking to inflame them.

Where he was at pains to stress what we would today call the "synergy" of his own extreme right-wing politics with the gathered industrialist’s commitment to private property and private enterprise, I have come to warn you that the Auckland business community’s historical propensity for using extreme right-wing ideologies and politicians to advance their own commercial interests has been bad for the city; bad for the country; and, ultimately, bad for themselves.

Let’s begin with the city.

Auckland has always been the odd one out among the four metropolitan centres of New Zealand. Both Wellington and Christchurch were planned, Wakefield settlements, while Dunedin was the creation of an heroic band of Scots Presbyterian dissidents.

Nothing about Auckland has ever been planned – at least not in the 19th Century positivist sense that New Zealand’s other major cities were planned. It is truer, perhaps, to say that Auckland was "schemed"; that it was "plotted" – even "conspired". But, planned? Never.

Let’s begin with Thomas Russell, the man whose ruthless merging of business and politics transformed Auckland from a hemmed-in colonial port to one of the great cities of the British Empire. Lawyer, banker, land speculator, industrialist and Cabinet Minister, Russell was the man who drove the young colony of New Zealand into a full-scale war with its indigenous inhabitants – a war from which he and his crony-capitalist associates reaped a bountiful commercial harvest.

It is not in the least bit surprising that, having seen what Auckland businessmen were capable of when they donned the politician’s frock-coat and top-hat, the parliamentarians representing the rest of New Zealand moved with almost indecent haste to re-locate the nation’s capital several hundred miles to the South.

Auckland, however, has never forgotten the lessons Russell taught her. Ever since the early 1860s, when a well-connected Auckland burgher could move freely and easily within the potent political triangle connecting Queen Street, the Legislature and the Governor’s Residence, casually swapping hats as he passed from one to the other, Auckland businessmen have dreamed of the day when that seamless web of influence and advantage would be restored.

In the meantime, if the capital could not be restored to Auckland, then, at the very least, Auckland could be sent to the capital.

Bill Massey, from Mangere, was the first of Auckland’s truly significant Prime Ministers, but he was by no means the last. In him, the pattern of radical conservative extremism which the Auckland business community has, over and over again, inflicted upon the rest of the country, was first fixed.

This was the man, after all, who, in the service of Mr Russell and his highly profitable gold-mine, organised the political-cleansing of the little mining town of Waihi. That the price of crushing the Waihi Miners Union turned out to be Fred Evan’s life, gave Massey and his brutal Police Commissioner, John Cullen, not the slightest pause.

And in less than a year, that same brutality was visible in the very heart of Auckland city. "Massey’s Cossacks" they called them – and rightly so. Because these Northland and Waikato farm-boys were the farmers and the Auckland employers very own private army: stormtroopers before the fact; New Zealand’s very own fascist squadristi – a whole eight years before Benito Mussolini pulled on his first pair of jackboots.

Ah yes, the Auckland business community had much to thank Bill Massey for – not least its instinct for the baton and the boot when challenged.

But Massey, like all of us, was mortal, and thought had to be given to who his successor should be – especially in the baleful light of the Labour Party’s growing political strength. In the ten years since the desperately close General Election of 1914, the Left’s electoral strength had grown from a manageable 5 to a threatening 17 Members of Parliament.

Enter one of the most fascinating – and little known – figures in New Zealand political history. Bert Davy was the Auckland business community’s "Mr Fix-it"; their "back-room boy"; their "political wizard".

Long before Nicky Hager started collecting National Party e-mails, Bert Davy had mastered the art of emptying the political process of all integrity. Trained in the United States, Davy knew how easy it was to scoop out the substance of democracy, leaving only a glittering shell. He was the original "hollow man".

Yes, but he was good – very good – at what he did.

Massey’s chosen successor was the Northland farmer and First World War hero, Gordon Coates. As Diana Beaglehole puts it in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography:

Employing the latest advertising techniques for the first time at a New Zealand election, he focused attention not on the party or its candidates, but on the leader, Prime Minister Gordon Coates. New Zealanders were urged to take ‘Coats off with Coates’, ‘the man who gets things done’, to vote for ‘Coates and Confidence’, ‘Coates and Certainties’. Appeals were made to patriotism, women voters were targeted, and the business community was promised ‘more business in Government, less Government in business’. Nothing was left to chance, ‘Coates’ candidates’ and their committees were issued with booklets, briefing them on how to best run their campaigns. The electorate responded by giving Reform its greatest victory and Davy gained a reputation as a superb political organiser.

"More business in government, less government in business" – ahh, how those words have echoed down the years. So much more congenial to the ears of your average businessman that Abraham Lincoln’s "government of the people, by the people, for the people". Davy’s great gift, of course, was his knack for putting the "right people" in government.

Except that Coates (the first New Zealand Prime Minister to be born in New Zealand) turned out to be nothing like "right" enough. In fact, he thoroughly alarmed Davy and his backers by proving to be something of a closet socialist. This was not at all what Auckland’s business leaders were expecting – and it certainly wasn’t what they had paid for.

Since Bert Davy had made this mess – Bert Davy would have to clean it up.

Enter one J.W.S. McArthur – a wealthy Auckland timber merchant. McArthur gave Davy £1,300 (about $200,000 in today’s money) to "organise nationally against the government". This Davy did, bringing off one of the most extraordinary political reversals in New Zealand electoral history. Reform went down to Davy’s purpose-built United Party and the inconvenient Mr Coates was dispatched to the Opposition benches.

Davy’s influence was again brought to bear in 1931, when he was instrumental in bringing the two right-wing parties – Reform and United – into a defensive electoral coalition against a resurgent Labour Party.

Unfortunately, this brought the dangerous Mr Coates back into play and, once again, Auckland’s right-wing business leaders decided to intervene.

The man with the money this time was William Goodfellow, the founder and former managing director of the New Zealand Co-operative Dairy Company, and the moving force behind Empire Dairies – the huge, privately-owned sales operation responsible for off-loading the lion’s share of New Zealand’s dairy exports on the London docks.

Goodfellow had taken fright at Coates’ willingness to embrace a much greater level of state involvement in the marketing of primary exports, and was willing to pay Davy £1,250 for three years to construct a new anti-socialist party with which he planned to take just enough seats to hold the balance of power between the Right and the Left. Davy accepted, and by October he was ready to announce the formation of the Democrat Party.

In 1935, however, Davy’s magic deserted him. Driven by his hatred of Coates, the "political wizard" exceeded Goodfellow’s careful brief and organised a serious bid for power. Predictably, his efforts resulted not in another victory for the Right, but a triumph for Mickey Savage’s Labour Party. Davy had split the conservative vote – and the Left was in.

I’ve devoted some time to the exploits of Davy because his little-known career speaks volumes about the aims and methods of Auckland’s ruling elite.

New Zealand’s whole history since the First World War was, in a very real sense, distorted by the secret machinations of Auckland’s politicised businessmen. And that distortion didn’t stop with the downfall of A.E. Davy in 1935 – it continues to this very day.

Just substitute Heatley and Gibbs for McArthur and Goodfellow and, well, I’m sure you get the picture.

Oh, and a small reminder of how small the world of New Zealand politics truly is, William Goodfellow’s grandson, Peter Goodfellow, was last year elected President of the National Party.

Let us now move forward to 1945, to the end of the Second World War.

Tens of thousands of demobbed Kiwi servicemen were pouring off the troopships on to the Auckland wharves. More than a few of them, having seen the great cities of Britain, Europe and North America, were none to keen on returning to Levin or Geraldine.

The sparkling waters of the Waitemata and the bright lights of Queen Street spoke to them of a future much more in tune with their post-war expectations. Auckland was poised on the threshold of a sixty-year period of expansion that would see her transformed from being merely the first among equals of New Zealand’s larger cities, to this country’s indisputably dominant urban conurbation.

The planners at the Ministry of Works in Wellington were well aware that Auckland’s population was set to explode – and they were ready. An appendix to the 1946 edition of Hansard contains a remarkable draft plan for what might be called "The Auckland That Never Was".

The city’s anticipated population explosion was to be accommodated by a correspondingly dramatic expansion in state housing – planned communities built around a comprehensive system of public transportation modelled on the electrified railway network of the Hutt Valley.

Had the Labour Government’s vision for Auckland been realised, we would now be living in a city not unlike the elegant cities of north-west Europe. The architectural drafts for the public housing estates prepared by the distinguished Austrian architect Ernst Plischke make it clear that Auckland would have been no dreary replica of East Berlin, but an internationally celebrated model of sophisticated urban design.

But, of course, Labour’s vision was never realised. Auckland became not the Stockholm – but the Los Angeles – of the South Seas. Instead of public housing and public transport, Aucklanders got sprawling private suburbs, accessed by private automobiles travelling along a meandering network of hugely expensive motorways.

The Auckland That Never Was, with its collective lifestyle centred around sturdy, rent-controlled public apartments, and its efficient, publicly-owned rapid-rail networks, would have had a very different political and cultural complexion. Essentially, it would have been a social-democratic city.

The Auckland we’ve ended up with is a city of individuals who travel by car. It’s a city based on the tried and true formula: "real-estate equals roads – roads equal real-estate". This is what I call the "Auckland Racket", and it underpins the city’s speculative economy, its nouveau-riche property-developers’ culture and, most importantly, its far-right neoliberal politics.

If you’re looking for a neat summary of this thesis, just remember: trains and buses vote Labour; cars vote National.

Those responsible for designing the new Auckland "Super-city’s" constitutional architecture know this only too well. What we have been given is a developer’s and a roading contractor’s charter. A democracy-proof array of "Council Controlled Organisations", staffed by the "right" people, and dedicated to keeping the "Auckland Racket" alive and well for at least another generation.

What we are witnessing is the ultimate fulfilment of Bert Davy’s 1925 promise to ensure "more business in government, less government in business". That this means abandoning the subsidiarity principle of local government: the organising principle which holds that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority, and that all such authorities should be democratically elected and controlled; does not appear to concern Auckland’s elites.

Democracy, it seems, is over-rated.

And, as Auckland goes – so goes the country.

But the cost of abandoning democracy will be very high. And here I am not talking about the effects of its abandonment on Auckland’s ordinary citizens – those about to be stripped of effective representation, even as their local taxes (in whatever guise) are set to rise.

No, what I am talking about here is the moral cost of turning politics into a business.

To shut ordinary people out of the decision-making process, first requires a belief on the part of those responsible that they are in some way extraordinary – and in some important sense superior to their fellow citizens. Because, surely, a "super-city", led by a "super-mayor", requires not just men – but "supermen".

The man who addressed the Dusseldorf Industry Club on 27 January 1932 put it this way:

I am bound to say that private property can be morally and ethically justified only if I admit that men's achievements are different.

Only on that basis can I assert: since men's achievements are different, the results of those achievements are also different.

But if the results of those achievements are different, then it is reasonable to leave to men the administration of those results to a corresponding degree. It would not be logical to entrust the administration of the result of an achievement which was bound up with a personality either to the next best but less capable person or to a community which, through the mere fact that it had not performed the achievement, has proved that it is not capable of administering the result of that achievement.

Thus it must be admitted that in the economic sphere, from the start, in all branches men are not of equal value or of equal importance. And once this is admitted it is madness to say: in the economic sphere there are undoubtedly differences in value, but that is not true in the political sphere.

It is absurd to build up economic life on the conceptions of achievement, of the value of personality, and therefore in practice on the authority of personality, but in the political sphere to deny the authority of personality and to thrust into its place the law of the greater number - Democracy.

This is the political logic underpinning the constitution of the Auckland "supercity".

A government of supermen, by supermen, for supermen.

As Auckland goes, so goes the country.

God help us.


Brewerstroupe said...

Stunning piece Chris. Quite the best I have seen from your priceless pen. Consider it linked, blogged and read aloud to all my friends.

Simon said...

Live in Pt Chevalier by capitalist car to the CBD its 7 minutes by socialist bus 40 minutes. I take the capitalist car. It is about quality of life.

So after 1945 umm democracy was dismantled and the Labour movement denied then business Auckland built all these roads and then Auckland became the biggest city in NZ with the biggest economy and now is one of the top ten cities in the world to live in.


(Can’t see any north western European cities in the top dozen.)

This is the “Auckland Racket” its far-right neoliberal politics results in one of the top ten cities in the world to live in? This is bad somehow and must be stopped? Are you gunning for place in the bottom 100?

Olwyn said...

I have taken the bus to or from Pt Chev many times and it does not take 40 minutes, more like 20. If you add finding a park to your 7 minutes the time difference will not be great. Furthermore, I take the 10 top cities story with a grain of salt - much depends on the criteria on which such judgements are made, and I would question a criteria that puts Auckland so far ahead of Melbourne.

However, even if you accept that Auckland is indeed the 4th best city in the world, there is certainly no guarantee that it will stay that way one Rodders & friends have had their wicked way. What this lot are doing is actually more frightening than the nineties lot whom they pretended they were not going to emulate. The nineties lot merely put certain aspects of the economy beyond the reach of democracy, whereas this lot seem to be systematically dismantling it. An excellent piece, Chris, about a terrifying prospect.

mike said...

Simon said "It's about quality of life."

I wonder if "quality of life" also means not having to sit or stand next to your fellow human beings in a bus. All those ordinary folk. Much better to have your werry awn deodorised transport capsule.

The basic problem is that if everybody drove their two ton ego-chariot, functionality would diminish sharply. Only because people take the bus are you able to drive your car. Cars are essentially a counter-productive and undemocratic transport device. The more there are on the roads, the slower they travel, the less useful they are.

Thanks Chris for the eloquent essay.

Brent said...

Simon said "Can't see any north western European cities in the top dozen".

Copenhagen is 11th.

Nick J said...

It is a little sad that Simon is more interested in travel by car and rating his city against others whilst the democratic principle eludes him. There are lots of Simons out there, which is why the fascisti manage to over ride democracy so regularly.

A brave article and speach Chris, sometimes the beast needs to be named for what it truly is. Well done.

dave said...

7 minutes from Pt Chev to the CBD?

At 2am perhaps.

mark said...

good post
but on city planning, I think we need to be careful. The advent of the car allowed our lifestyle to develop. Culturally, I think the 1/4 section is a key element to who we are.

While many asspire to some european city model (often based on being a tourist -not living and working there), they create people with a different culture/outlook.

While we will get more apartments, we must protect the suburban and village environment we have now.

In my view the 1/4 section, allows us to socilaise differently (along with our weather), we have larger groups of friends etc, we build deeper contacts within our communities (especially around schools etc). that large group gathering around the bbq is a kiwi and indeed pacific/maori community lifestyle - which isn't replicated in high density european cities.

I believe it's behind one of our strenghs as Kiwis - the relaxed/social communication skills. We're not as insular in our small family apartments, competeing for communal outdoor areas.

while there is a strong anti car sentiment - in some ways it's fighting an old battle. Technology will change that. Even public/vs private trabsport will be out of date in 20-30 years. GM unveiled a small electric vehicle based on 2 seater segway - computerised/gps etc
-this will be the way of teh future.

Chris Trotter said...

I'm sure you're right, Mark, about the question of space, and how the generous suburban gardens of the 1950s contributed to NZ's "round the barbie" culture.

What stands out in Plischke's vision of "The Auckland That Never Was", however, is how careful he was to incorporate the Kiwi love of open space into his plans. His apartment buildings were not only situated in parkland settings, but they were also built around a central pedestrian court chock-full of community ammenities: libraries, swimming baths, workshops, meeting halls, theatres.

Plischke's "counterfactual Auckland" truly would have been a sight to behold: it remains a tragic "what might have been" if Labour had been able to hold on for just a few more years.

mike said...

Mark, you make some interesting points. The 1/4 acre section gave the typical NZer a yeoman-like measure of independence. In such a setup, suburban communality was voluntary and convivial.

However, you are only half-addressing the car issue. It is quite possible to have the same experience of community within walking-distance radius: just ask any NZ small-town resident. Believe it or not, before widespread car ownership in the 1960s, NZers actually also had thriving communities with their own Kiwi character. Nor did our forebears necessarily mind walking 10 miles to visit a friend or relative.

What I am saying is that there are older, non-car dependent strands of Kiwi culture that we might look to. Rather than tying ourselves culturally to some dream of baby-booming car-dependent affluence.

Maybe back at the genesis of the 1/4 acre barbie culture, in the 1960s, there was a kind of golden age when the scale of the roading and the number of cars ensured a fairly smooth-running ride.

By 2010, however, this energy-hungry system is breaking down and becoming incredibly expensive to deal with. I certainly don't set much store by the electric car utopia = this will probably make the traffic-jams worse. And believe it: those cars will have obsolescence built-in by the manufacturer, just like light bulbs.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Chris; I've only a sketchy sense of national political history,and you've piqued my interest (and concern.) Too many of us have been Simple Simons, for too long.

Christopher Thompson said...

As a collateral descendant of Thomas Russell (my great great grandfather's eldest brother) I'm driven to make an objection to your associating him with Bill Massey's attacks on the Waihi workers in 1913; aside from anything else Thomas Russell died in 1904 and, as you sort of imply, he was no Tory. Aside from anything else his Waihi loot ended up funding the Fabian Society in the 1930s via the Mitchisons. Other than that I quite agree with everything you observe on the nature of Auckland and its governance but, as a pedant, I must point out that Ernst Plieshke was never knighted; he transcended such colonial honours by being an architect of extraordinary brilliance. However and fundamentally, the advent of privatised travel via the motor-car has been the worst thing that has happened to New Zealand, let alone Auckland. Its far worse than anything that Russell or his collaborators could have conceived of. In a fundamental way it has not only been the principal mechanism in the destruction of our environment but it has also been the principal vector in the disintegration of communities, both rural and urban. Sadly, collectively ,we neither have the intelligence to understand this little American intervention nor the will to remedy its disastrous effects on our society.

Christopher said...

Great essay Chris, thanks.

@ Simon in socialist Pt Chev - *whose* criteria judges top ten best places to live? Men in suits, that's who. And they are a fucken minority.

Olwyn said...

You only have to look at parts of West Auckland and Manukau to see the detrimental results of a city built around car culture. What you have is great carriageways cutting through residential areas, so that even if you choose to walk the miles between house and shop or school, it is a long and unpleasant walk full of noise and exhaust fumes. Furthermore, most of the people who live in these places are dependent upon cars they can hardly afford to keep on the road; the same people who are regularly stopped sans warrant or baby car seat on Police 10-7. It is a tribute to the human spirit that people in these places have actually managed to form communities in conditions so antithetical to community. Meanwhile, people like Simon applaud the car while enjoying life in suburbs that were established prior to its dominance, and which now count as prime real-estate.

Anonymous said...


Wow! You actually said this to the Auckland Rotary Club! How did they respond?

I think you've again hit the nail on the head in terms of the baleful influence of the Auckland business lobby on politics. The parallels you draw with the pre-1935 period seem highly apposite, as well.

But I think you're drawing a bit too long a bow in primarily blaming the business lobby for the way Auckland has developed.

I've lived and worked in a number of continental European cities and certainly found them pleasant, civilized places. Thirty-four years on, I still feel nostalgia for my old tramping grounds in Cologne and Amsterdam, let alone all the hundreds of other urban centres within an easy train ride thereof.

But Auckland was not primarily settled by continental Europeans but by Anglo-Saxons (or, to use the more inclusive Aussie term, Anglo-Celts), a breed that just doesn't tend to go for planned environments, apartment living or the sense of a city as an organic whole.

The dominant Anglo mode is 'rus in urbe'. London, for example, is a higgledy-piggledy collection of suburbs masquerading as villages. Birmingham is sprall of ribbon development. Semi-detached homes across Betjeman's 'Metroland' have features incongruously imitative of Elizabethan manor houses etc. etc.

In fact, apart from obvious cultural treasures such as Oxford, Cambridge or Bath, the average UK city has always lacked the proudly urban ambience that continental town dwellers take for granted.

My guess is that our early Pakeha settlers brought their Anglo-Saxon 'rus in urbe' mindset with them to NZ. They would also have brought a
strong sense of "an Emglishman's home is his castle". And all this would have been boosted by the colonist's quintessential urge to grab and hold more. That, after all, was why they'd left the old country.

Underpinning these trends would have been the traditions of English Common Law, which assume you can do anything you want, as long as it's not specifically forbidden. That includes building down to the water's edge or to the cliff's rim, ensuring the privatisation of the superb vistas that would otherwise have been public property.

So why are Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin different? Well, Wellington is filled with transitory careerists,who (rather like continental Europeans) would rather go to the opera than add a deck to their house. Dunedin was settled by the Scots, who (unlike the English) are capable of building
cities with some style and scale (c.f. Aberdeen). That only leaves Christchurch requiring an explanation. Another answer is that they're really not all that different.

I'm not of course denying that the business lobby has had a huge influence on Auckland's development. I'm merely pointing out that they were going with the cultural flow of a nation of inveterate gardeners, tinkerers and nest builders.

Nor am I suggesting that there was never any alternative, merely that alternatives have tended to be culturally counter-intuitive.


RedLogix said...

cultural flow of a nation of inveterate gardeners, tinkerers and nest builders.

Not so very different really from folk everywhere. I scarce think it a solid basis for dismissing Chris's thesis.

Perhaps it is more easily traced to the now fading Anglo echo of Empire still being played over here in the Antipodes. NZ was settled by a mix of folk, some desperate to leave the hell at home, others determined to leave behind ossified class divisions, and others determined to exploit the last greenfields of the British empire, adventurers who sought what small fortunes they could wring from Aoteoroa.

And with them came the assumed superiority, the rampant sense of entitlement, the notion that whatever they could lay hand on was theirs for the taking... the ancient logic of conquest of all ages... that still drives these men today.

By contrast the Europeans, humbled by the devastation of two catastrophic wars have tended to been more content to live with their means.

Victor said...


I don't think I've dismissed Chris's thesis, merely questioned whether it is a total explanation.

I think the points he raises are necessary rather than a sufficient to an understanding of what is going on and why Auckland's reality always falls far short of its potential.

I also think that it's often a mistake to assume that the habits and tastes of one's own tribe are universal norms.

Many of the differences between New Zealand and those north-west European societies that both Chris and I admire are actually extensions of the differences between those societies and the UK, differences that existed long before the catastrophes of the twentieth century.

This is a huge topic which can't be addressed fully in an exchange of posts. However, to my mind, a crucial element has for several centuries been the political and economic strength of the British bourgeoisie allied and contrasted with its curious lack of cultural autonomy from the landed upper classes.

Hence the pervading and resilient 'rus in urbe' culture, the dislike of apartment dwelling,the emphasis on the ownership and development of real estate as opposed to other forms of wealth and the absence of effective planning.

Orwell wrote instructively on the differences between the Brits and the rest of Europe. Many of the points he made also help to explain some of New Zealand's characteristics, as do, of course, the colonial inheritance of settlement, land grabs and the commodification of land.

Victor said...


To clear up any misapprehensions, I'm certainly not arguing with your apt description of "the ancient logic of conquest".

I merely question your assumption that people from all cultures place equal and equally axiomatic value on ownership of real estate or on a life devoted to the protection, cultivation, extension and higgledy-piggledy development of their property.

The kind of cities that Chris is describing assumes that they would have other life goals and , perhaps, a different and more frankly urban aesthetic.

And that might presuppose people with a different cultural inheritance. For example, if we were all Italian, we'd be more likely to be out strutting our stuff in the Piazza and not at home weeding.

Tinakarori said...

A couple of minor factual corrections re "the distinguished Austrian architect Sir Ernest Plischke": Plishke was plain Mister - he was never knighted, and his first name was Ernst, as you might expect given he was born in Austria.

Chris Trotter said...

Thanks Tinakarori, I'll make the necessary revisions.

Anonymous said...

Great read Chris, thanks.

btw, how was the speech received?.

RedLogix said...


I really appreciate your response... it was a learning moment. Thanks. While there are no perfect people anywhere, and while I agree the Northern European's offer much to be admired....my understanding of why and how these differences came about is admittedly fuzzy.

Chris Trotter said...

To Anonymous:

The poor old Rotarians heard the speech in stunned silence.

There was one of those priceless pauses when I left the podium - and then a brief clatter of "polite" applause.

I'm not sure they truly believed (when they invited me) that I only ever use live rounds.

Victor said...


Well thanks for giving me an excuse to expound obsessively on one of my favourite hobby horses.


One good thing about Rotary is that they normally give you a decent lunch beforehand. I hope they were up to par.