Friday 6 May 2011

Going Up Together (Most New Zealanders, Meet The Mana Party)

Not-Young, Not-Poor, Not-Maori: The Mana Party may not need the votes of most New Zealanders to capture a parliamentary foothold, but unless it offers a compelling - and inclusive - political vision to the overwhelming majority of their fellow citizens who are not-young, not-poor and not-Maori, its chances of achieving very much at all are pretty slim.

HERE IS SOMETHING for all those leftists currently celebrating the birth of Hone Harawira’s Mana Party to think about.

Most New Zealanders are not-young, not-poor and not-Maori.

And, even by the most optimistic count, only about one-in-twenty of them are “Left”.

Now, to hear some of Mr Harawira’s champions tell the story, none of this matters. The Mana Party, they say, isn’t seeking the support of “most New Zealanders”.

With as little as 1.6 percent of the Party Vote, Mana’s spin-doctors tell us, the MP for Te Tai Tokerau (assuming he retains his Maori electorate seat after November’s election) will be able to walk back into Parliament with the veteran Maori nationalist, activist and lawyer, Annette Sykes, on his arm.

With just 3.5 percent of the Party Vote, Mr Harawira could be cantering up the parliamentary steps alongside four new Mana Party MPs.

To do what?

Socialise the local supermarket and replace GST with a “Hone Heke Tax” apparently.


Well, no – not really.

To implement its policies of taking monopolies and duopolies into public ownership and replacing GST with a Financial Transactions Tax, the Mana Party would have to become the dominant partner in a coalition commanding more than half the seats in the House of Representatives. And to do that it would have to win a great deal more than 3.5 percent of the Party Vote.

Which brings us right back to the stubborn, undeniable (and I’m sure Mr Harawira’s supporters would add “counter-revolutionary”) fact that most New Zealanders are not-young, not-poor and not-Maori.

How to reach middle-aged and elderly New Zealanders; average-income earners; the 85-90 percent of electors who are Pakeha, Pasifika or Asian: this is the stuff of serious electoral politics – and it cannot be accomplished with a megaphone. Most of the compromises that make for effective political action are knitted together. Some are hammered out. With others a dog-whistle is required.

Mr Harawira and his supporters have made a virtue out of their unwillingness to compromise and have rejected what they call the “politics of fear”.

All very inspiring, I’m sure. But, if the immediate and all-too-genuine fears of their fellow citizens are to be addressed – let alone allayed – more than fine words and uncompromising stands will be needed.

And what are those fears?

The greatest fear gripping New Zealanders at present is that they may be living in a society which can no longer guarantee their children and grandchildren a life as secure and prosperous as their own.

It was Winston Churchill who promised “The Greatest Generation” that Hitler’s defeat would see the life of the world move into “broad, sunlit uplands”. For the thirty years between 1945 and 1975 that promise was kept. But since the mid-1980s the skies have darkened. Cold winds now sweep our narrowed and no longer sunlit uplands.

New Zealand’s political future belongs to the party (or parties) which offer voters the most effective and comprehensive shelter from the storm.

And if our society is not to turn on itself in a Hobbesian struggle of “all against all”, that shelter must be built by, and for, as many New Zealanders as possible.

The task of the genuine left-wing party, therefore, is not simply to target enough voters to win a handful of parliamentary seats, but to construct a programme capable of commanding enduring majority support.

Campaigning for the Democratic Party’s nomination for President in 1968, Bobby Kennedy confided to a handful of trusted journalists that what his daily encounters with real America had taught him was that: “It’s class, not colour. What everyone wants is a job and some hope.”

Mr Harawira needs to understand that the not-young, not-poor, not-Maori core of the New Zealand electorate will punish severely any party that writes it off as a collection of racist, rednecked, colonialist motherf***ers. [And any leader who praises Osama Bin Laden, one suspects!]

The Mana Party’s proud refusal to compromise its principles should not be cited as justification for refusing to seek, or driving away, potential allies. No party has a right to the voters’ automatic support. People are entitled to ask: “What’s in it for me?”

As the Democratic Party populist politician, Fred Harris, noted in the early 1970s: “The blue-collar worker will be progressive as long as it is not progress for everyone but himself.”

We move into those “broad, sunlit uplands” together – or not at all.

This essay was originally published in The Timaru Herald, The Taranaki Daily News, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 6 May 2011.

POSTSCRIPT: The TVNZ Close-Up phone-in poll of 40,000 viewers on 5/5/11 which showed 81 percent of respondents disagreeing with the proposition that “Maori have a special place in New Zealand” confirms the enormity of the attitudinal obstacles confronting the Mana Party and its supporters.


Anonymous said...

"... confirms the enormity of the attitudinal obstacles confronting the Mana Party and its supporters" of people who:

1) watch Close-Up
2) Have a Phone/Cellphone and credits
3) Feel strongly enough to bother "ringing-in"

Less than 8% of the purported viewers of Close-up bothered. rating for 5th May: 513,490

Anonymous said...

I am white, middle aged and earn $70000pa and I am voting Mana.

Robert Winter said...

Come on, Chris, admit that it's an adventure more likely to do damage than good. You know you want to!

Victor said...

Another factor we need to take into account is the (at least on anecdotal evidence)increasing unpopularity of MMP.

Whether we like it or not, the age of coalition building with niche, micro-parties may be coming to an end.

Hone and Dr B might be hastening this process by their antics.

Anonymous said...

If any of the young, poor and/or Maori vote for the Mana Party, when they otherwise wouldn't have bothered, I suggest that it has served a purpose. Consigning a category of a young ethnic minority to a disenfranchised, marginalised welfare existence is what will occur if all the mainstream parties carry on business as usual. At least someone is making some kind of stand against the narrow middle class politics of National and Labour; Hone v. Don is much more interesting to watch as well.

Anonymous said...

A very good summary of why Hone’s ‘Kommissariat’ is doomed to failure. Even the much milder Greens have spent 15 years in the MMP wilderness, so Hone’s mob, should they win any seats, are likely to be shunned like a poisonous spider.

As one of the old-school, culturally conservative traditional Labourites often alluded to in today’s discourse, no one has done more to swing me back towards the left than Chris Trotter.

Mark Wilson said...

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
Albert Einstein.

Hone and the left fail to understand that there has been a key shift in how capitalism works in the last decade. And outside the genuine lunatic left there is no one left who thinks that anything other than some form of capitalism can provide the best future for society.

Business in first world countries understand that employing unskilled, poorly educated (and these days usually drugged and welfare dependent) labour is financially not viable so technology is replacing it. Even war is becoming far less labour intensive.

27% youth unemployment in NZ - chicken feed - expect 100% for the unskilled and uneducated.

Our society has always followed the US. There unemployment for the unskilled and uneducated is permanently entrenched. Recently it has been established that 30% of the black citizens of Detroit are illiterate. That is catastrophic. And in the usual misery loves company attitude the worst insult a young black person who is engaged in getting an education can suffer is to be told that they are "turning white."

Last week's Sunday Star Times had a chilling quote -
" Rotorua resident RangiMarie Bosma said she registered because Harawira was willing to challenge the government for change.
"We just want to be housed, clothed, fed, basically looked after. That's what we're fighting for."

How can the poor be assisted to move up and out of poverty with an attitude like that?

It is correct to say that Hone is emasculated before he starts but the left's desire to throw more and more money at the welfare dependent without the quid pro quo of insisting on work is truly insane.

Interestingly the Australian Labour Government has exactly the same work policies that National does in NZ.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, well your eyes and ears are open then.

Try as I did I cannot find much to disagree with today.


Victor said...

Actually, Mark Wilson, you'll never help large numbers of people to move out of poverty by shifting the tax burden down the social scale, as has happened under the current government.

Moreover, your position is inherently illogical. If the unskilled have no role to play in a modern economy, you can only harm that economy by forcing them into employment.

Conversely, helping them upskill involves government funding and, hence, taxation.

Meanwhile, social spending keeps the wheels of commerce going, which is more than can be said at present for tax cuts for the rich.

Of course, it might be different if New Zealand genuinely had a bloated state sector. But, as Standard and Poors has pointed out, we don't.

I'm sorry if this disturbs the pristine beauty of your ideological obsessions. Them's the breaks.

Anonymous said...

Kennedy was wrong, you've only got to look at the fuss surrounding Obama's birth certificate. For most it is not class, it's colour. On both sides of the divide I might add. Is a deep undercurrent of prejudice in this country which most people just ignore.
Most New Zealanders aren't poor – compared to what? There's a substantial minority of people who just can't make ends meet, or participate in New Zealand society in any meaningful way. And they are pretty much disenfranchised, because the Labor Party has moved rightwards after the so-called aspirational vote.

Olwyn said...

@ Mark Wilson: Your response encapsulates the contradictory attitude to poverty that is all too common, but I begin by pointing out that you do not know whether the Rotorua person you cite is employed or not, and even if she is not, you know nothing of her willingness to work. Low wages and insecure jobs make the same cry possible from employed and unemployed alike.

You then go on to say (a) no one wants to employ these people (b) if these people want welfare then they should be willing to get a job. The implication is that "we" neither want to give them welfare nor employ them.

Your insistence that they should all then get an education is something of a red herring: not only are the obstacles to education increasing, but it's also very doubtful that if all were educated then all would be employed.

"Our society has always followed the US" you say. There are authoritative voices around at the moment such as Stiglitz and Krugman, both Nobel Prize winners, who think that divide between the haves and the have-nots in the US is both unsustainable and dangerous.

Mark Wilson said...

Sorry Victor and Olwyn but you cannot put words in my mouth.

What I said was -
1- That the unskilled, uneducated and welfare dependent have no possibility of employment in a modern society.
2- That they either get skilled and educated or they will stay unemployed.
3- That the left refuse to give them a choice of either getting skills and education or lose the benefit so enforcing their generational poverty. Interestingly the Australian Labour Government agrees with me as per Sky News this morning.

4 - I would add that stating an unpalabtle fact does not make the fact wrong or indicate that the person who states it agrees that the fact is a good or bad thing.

And Olwyn they may be Noble prize winners (in economics the poor fools)but they know nothing about controlling the poor. The American establishment does - the left always lose in the end because the right are better organised.

And please see 4.

jh said...

On the Close Up program Wilie goes on about how treaty settlements so far are only 1% of what is owed while saying Mana is a party for poor Pakeha. A little thought on where the 99% will come from and how will it effect Mr Poor Pakeha? Will he no longer be a living in a country where the beaches belong to everybody (for a start)?

Chris Trotter said...

To: Mark.

There's a whiff of the troll about you, Mark.

If you're the same Mark Wilson that plagued Pundit, please do not expect to be shown the same tolerance at Bowalley Road that you received from the long-suffering Mr Watkin and his friends.

My fuse is a lot shorter.

Victor said...

Mark Wilson

Thank you for clarifying your position.

I absolve you from the charge of illogicality, in that you clearly don't want to force the unskilled into employment.

So how exactly are we to render them skilled and employable?

There's not much evidence of the withdrawal of welfare benefits creating anything other than want, misery, marginalisation and potentially destructive social tensions.

There is some evidence, though, that tax policies favouring the poor make it easier for them to seek employment and stick with it.

However, upskilling also involves investment and expenditure, something in which the state must inevitably get involved.

In the meantime, wherein lies the benefit to our economy of depriving those who cannot or will not seek employment people of the necessities of life?

The cost of supporting them is trivial (as is our state indebtedness as a whole) but the downstream costs of not supporting them would be horrendous for everyone,including the rich.

Meanwhile,whilst the rich hoard their wealth or borrow from Japanese housewives in order to fund non-productive real estate investments, the poor use their money to keep the economy rolling without an excessive increase in overseas debt.

How, exactly, would we benefit from dampening down this significant segment of consumer demand?

Graeme Edgeler said...

Having run the numbers, the Mana Party doesn't even need close to 1.6% of the party vote to get a second seat. Somewhere around 1.17%-1.25% should be enough.

Unknown said...

Chris your analysis ignores one factor, we live in an MMP world and if a left party can get an electorate seat and some votes or 5% of the total vote it will have power. And if ACT disappear and Mana get 5 seats then this will have a significant effect on the balance of power next election.

It is not as simple as some people thing.

MMP makes the building of coalitions much more important.

jh said...

A socialist state where the indigenous people own the resources and hold more power (per head) than individuals of other races.Not because it is a system with a track record but because two parties signed a treaty on behalf of two different populations and because the geographical entity into which the settlers moved is considered "owned" by the indigenous tribes.

Anonymous said...

Maybe all the Mana Party needs is a few seats and a good working relation ship with the green party

Anonymous said...

Got some stats Chris? most New Zealanders are not-young, not-poor and not-Maori

Most Ngapuhi for example are young, and lots of them are in West and South Auckland. Be interesting to know just how much of Aotearoa is young, and get some poverty and inequality stats.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the comments by Victor and Mark, it strikes me that no one minds supporting someone who has fallen on hard times, and is genuinely unemployed, particularly if they are actively seeking work.

Likewise, no one minds people being successful and wealthy, especially if they are generous and philanthropic.

What I suspect we all get grumpy about are those who are unemployed and carry an entitlement mentality with no desire to work, or who make themselves unemployable through substance abuse.

Likewise we get equally grumpy about the wealthy who dishonestly exploit the old and the vulnerable.

In short, we welcome virtue and abhor vice.

It seem to me therefore, that if we truly want a just society, the role of the state is to reward virtue and to punish vice without fear or favour.

In the last 30 to 40 years we have moved away from making moral judgements regarding a persons character, and in particular the character of the poor. Interestingly enough, we still seem happy to make moral judgements regarding the character of the rich.

This shift is most evident through the introduction of 'entitlement' welfare. In other words, there is no character test, just a needs test.

It seems to me, that so long as this situation exists, the state will inevitably reward vice alongside virtue.

It's a truism that we get more of what we reward.

In New Zealand we have 13% of working age people on welfare, and the number is climbing. We may well be able to (just) afford the monetary costs of welfare. What we can no longer afford is the downstream dysfunction produced by entitlement welfare.

Child abuse, violence, crime, underachievement - the list goes on.

It is too much to hope for a Government that understands these issues?

I'm not convinced that Mr Harawira has his head in that space, but then which party does?


jh said...

New Zealand before Unions
1832 - Earle, A. A Narrative of a Nine Months' Residence in New Zealand, in 1827

The scene I have just described brings into consideration the subject of slavery, as it now exists in New Zealand. That slavery should be the custom of savage nations and cannibals, is not a cause of wonder: they are the only class of human beings it ought to remain with. Here slavery assumes its most hideous shape! Every one they can effect a seizure of in an enemy's country becomes the slave of the captors. Chiefs are never made prisoners; they either fight to the last, or are killed on the spot, and their heads are preserved (by a peculiar method) as trophies. Children are greatly prized: these they bring to their dwellings, and they remain slaves for life. Upon the number of slaves a chief can muster he takes his rank as a man of wealth and consequence in society; and the only chance these wretched beings have of being released from their miseries, is their master getting into a rage, and murdering them without further ceremony.
"On entering a village, a stranger instantly discovers which portion of its inhabitants are the slaves, though both the complexion and the dresses of all are alike. The free Zealander is a joyous, good-humoured looking man, full of laughter and vivacity, and is chattering incessantly; but the slaves have invariably a squalid dejected look; they are never seen to smile, and appear literally half starved. The beauties characteristic of a New Zealander are his teeth and hair: the latter,
in particular, is his pride and study; but the slaves have their heads half shorn. The male slave is not allowed to marry; and any intercourse with a female, if discovered, is generally punished by death. Never was there a body of men so completely cut off from all society as these poor slaves; they never can count, with certainty, on a single moment of life, as the savage caprice of their master may instantly deprive them of it. If, by chance, a slave should belong to a kind and good master, an accident happening to him, or any of his family, will probably prove equally fatal to the slave, as some are generally sacrificed on the death of a chief.
Thus these poor slaves are deprived of every hope and stimulus by which all other classes and individuals are animated; no good conduct of theirs towards their master, no attachment to his person or family, no fidelity or long service can ensure kind treatment. If the slave effect his escape to his own part of the country, he is there treated with contempt; and when he dies (if a natural death), his body is dragged to the outside of the village, there to be made sport of by the children, or to furnish food for the dogs! but more frequently his fate is to receive a fatal blow in a fit of passion, and then be devoured by his brutal master! Even the female slaves who, if pretty, are frequently taken as wives by their conquerors, have not a much greater chance of happiness, all being dependent upon the caprice of their owners."

Chris Trotter said...

To: Anonymous @ 12.07PM

I'm afraid I don't have the stats at my fingertips, Anonymous, but it has been a regular feature of social commentary for more than a decade now that the New Zealand population is ageing.

It is, however, true that in Maori and Pasifika communities there are more young people than in Pakeha communities - but it is important to bear in mind that these are high percentages in relativly small populations.

The last time New Zealand had a large percentage of the whole population aged under 25 was in the 1960s and 70s - and, yes, you guessed it, it was the infamous Baby Boom Generation.

uke said...

You're correct Chris.

Until middle NZ is really on its knees again, like in the Depression (e.g. selling furniture to pay for food; growing vegetables instead of grass lawns; making its own fun instead of indulging in luxury entertainments; watching their poorer neighbours slowly starve to death), they will never vote enmasse for parties with as radical a left agenda as the Mana Party.

Victor said...


Philosophically, if not politically, we are closer to agreement on this thread than you might imagine.

You are not, in your latest post, positing beneficiary bashing as an economic panacea, which it certainly is not.

Your concern seems rather to be with the moral and social consequences of what you see as excessive indulgence of beneficiaries and the growth of inter-generational dependence.

The problem is that accurately defining the 'deserving' rather than the 'undeserving' poor requires a complex bureaucratic regime that seeks to fit the inherently untidy, imperfect flux of human existence into neat patterns to accord with the abstract formulae of policy makers.

As I take you to be a genuine conservative and not just another facile, theory-bound, neo-liberal, I wonder how you could support such an obviously erroneous approach.

Because our lives normally defy tight definitions, there will inevitably be want, distress, unnecessary margilisation and despair amongst the legions who don't quite fit the formulae.

These are not good things for our society and a sensible conservative should seek to avoid and minimise them, both for their own sake and because they point the path to violence and the destruction of our civil and essentially consensual society.

Moreover, the bureaucratic machinery needed to divide up the needy population into deserving and undeserving will be (and, in fact, is)inherently expensive, perhaps as expensive as simply making many benefits universal.

I would have thought that even a facile neo-liberal, let alone a genuine conservative such as yourself, would wish to avoid additional government expense. You might be able to justify it if you thought in strictly Keynesian terms and believed that bureaucratic salaries were essential to economic stimulus. I'd be surprised, though, if that was your view.

Moreover, I wonder why a genuine conservative would always prefer to see a solo mother in the workforce, with childcare in the hands of anonymous institutions, rather than at home, doing what, as a conservative, you must surely recognise as the most important job anyone can do.

So, if beneficiary bashing makes, at best, limited sense in either economic, social or ethical terms, why make it so central to our political and economic debates?

It's hard to avoid the suspicion that it's, at least in part, a dog-whistle tactic, intended to incite popular prejudice, divide us into angry mutually-resentful factions and reap the electoral rewards.

The alternative theory is much more worrying; that those who rule us truly believe that further taughtening our social net is actually an economic panacea. If that's genuinely their view, then they're nuts and we're in deep trouble.

markus said...

"And, even by the most optimistic count, only about one-in-twenty of them (New Zealanders) are "Left".

Depends how you define "Left", Chris.

Auckland University's 2002 Election Survey of more than 4500 randomly-selected voters (the only data I have at hand) asked respondents to place themselves on the ideological spectrum using a 0-10 Left/Right scale:
0 = Far Left
5 = Centre
10 = Far Right

4% of respondents could be described as "Far Left" (choosing 0-1) - so 1 in 25 New Zealanders.

13% chose either 0,1 or 2 (roughly 1 in 8)

22% chose 0-3 (more than 1 in 5)

And in terms of the broadest possible definition of the Left - 31% chose 0-4.

You're certainly right, then, if you're referring solely to the "Far Left". But, defining "Left" just a little more broadly, one could argue that at least 1 in 8 and quite possibly as many as 1 in 5 are pretty solidly on the Left.

None of which, I hasten to add, negates you're central thesis, here. And, of course, this data's almost a decade old now. Difficult to know whether attitudes have changed and, if so, to what degree and in which direction.

Adze said...

I wouldn't necessarily trust a self-report along a simple left/right scale.
I have always thought of myself as centrist but according to the "political compass" quiz I'm a left-leaning liberal. The Moral Foundations Questionnaire recently developed by the University of Virginia however uses a scale that is more sophisticated - and picked up the moral "domains" where I tended to be more conservative than the "typical" left-leaning liberal.

Anonymous said...


I'm sure you are correct, I have often found that although people may differ on the means, they are often united on the ends, which in this case may be broadly interpreted as a safe and just society where everyone is accorded respect, there is universal opportunity for education and upward mobility, and the needs of the vulnerable and the poor are not neglected.

I have attempted to be respectful of differing views in this column because even though we may disagree about the means, I understand sincerity and thoughtfulness when I see it, and I do see it here.

You have asked a challenging question : how does a bureaucracy separate the sheep from the goats. The deserving from the undeserving poor.

The short answer is that it is very difficult for the State to act as a moral guardian, and for this reason, I'm not sure it is the correct question. Furthermore, it's a relatively modern question, and not one that would have been asked as recently as a hundred years ago.

For me, the better question would be, 'After eighty years of a failed experiment, why do we still believe that State centric welfare is a better option than family centric welfare?'.

The benefits of family centric welfare over a State centric system are considerable.

1) It provides a real incentive for parents to instill personal responsibility into the lives of their children, as they know that one day they will be dependent upon them.

2) It encourages children towards respect and obedience for their parents, as there is no support for them outside the extended family.

3) It encourages parents to educate their children so that they may have a better future.

4) It models personal sacrifice, and intergenerational deferred gratification along with family wealth generation.

5) It encourages workers and employers to save and provision for the future difficulties of life, and also to ensure against them. In short, it produces a saving culture rather than a spending culture.

6) It acknowledges the place of family as the basic building block of culture, and seeks to affirm and strengthen families.

In short, family centric welfare encourages virtuous behavior on behalf of both parents and children, even if it is based primarily upon self interest.

It also proscribes virtuous behavior for politicians who are unable to treat a growing welfare class as a pool of potential voters to be 'purchased' with further benefits.

Now there will always be exceptions - people who fall through the cracks, those who either have no family, or whose extended family is so dysfunctional that they cannot provide the care and protection that children deserve. In this case in the first instance, I would think that mediating institutions like the church, or other social agencies should be the first port of call.

Also, in this scenario, adults will have taken insurance against unemployment, or sickness or accident rending them incapable of employment.

This would be affordable because of the reduction in taxation, and the waste that is presently endemic in the current model.

I would accept that the State has a role as a place of last resort, but only when it can be demonstrated that someone is beyond the reach of family and other mediating institutions. No moral judgement is required in this instance on behalf of the State. Just the above test.

Victor, the present welfare system contains within it the seeds of its own destruction. Welfare has become the problem it was designed to solve. It was designed for a 1930's 'virtuous society' where 99.9% of the population did not want to bludge off their mates.

That New Zealand no longer exists.

My prediction is that we will either voluntarily default to family centric welfare, or it will be forced upon us by simple economics. I hope for the former, I expect the latter.


jh said...

The Mana Party may not need the votes of most New Zealanders to capture a parliamentary foothold, but unless it offers a compelling - and inclusive - political vision to the overwhelming majority of their fellow citizens who are not-young, not-poor and not-Maori, its chances of achieving very much at all are pretty slim.
I'm not sure what party Lew at Kiwipolitico belongs to but I'm not sure the poor souls in the Unite union (from Fiji, China Aotearoa etc) will be happy with their intellectual wing calling them tauiwi (=foreigner in this land). As in:
So it’s really very simple: as Tau Iwi, if we live here in Aotearoa, we have an obligation to do our bit in ensuring the Treaty gets honoured.

Victor said...


Thanks for your thoughtful and typically courteous reply.

I agree with you that the Welfare State, both here and overseas, was developed for very different societies to those in which we now live.

But, then, the same argument applies to market economics, which now operate in a technological, financial and, above all, moral and intellectual climate, far removed from anything that, for example, Adam Smith, would have recognised.

Can we reclaim the past? I think not. It really is another country.

Margaret Thatcher famously declared herself in favour of a return to ‘Victorian Values’ and also proclaimed that quintessential mantra of self-reliance: ‘There is no such thing as Society. Merely individuals and families’!

Yet more than three decades later, despite an obsessive enshrining of individualism and lauding of market fundamentalism, Britain is considerably further away from the levels of personal financial prudence, social cohesion, public spiritedness, orderliness or honesty that the grandparents of the current ruling generation would have regarded as normal.

The same is true in New Zealand and in much of the rest of the English-speaking world.

It is, on the whole, less true of those west European societies that have continued to pursue ‘Social Market’ or social democratic policy mixes.

It’s hard, however, to determine how much these national differences are a matter of culture and demographics rather than of economics. Moreover, the differences themselves are matters of degree rather than of essence. To a very great extent, we're all in a similar cultural and behavioural fix.

...more to come

Victor said...

….continuing previous post

So what has gone wrong?

The simplistic answer is that, if the state is willing to fund idleness, large numbers will choose to remain idle and, out of boredom, hopelessness, self-disgust or alienation, turn to self abuse and the abuse of others.

But if this was the sole reason, the Welfare State would have burgeoned into the paymaster of social and personal decay virtually at its inception. But it did not do so.

What has changed are the economic and cultural streams in which we all, for better or worse, find ourselves swimming.

Let’s deal with economics first. The post war decades were, across the western world, a time of almost full employment and the rapid enrichment of hitherto economically deprived sectors of the population. They were also a time of great economic stability and, most important of all, there were still jobs a plenty for the comparatively unskilled.

We can argue till the cows come home whether this benign situation was the product of deliberate government policy or of the objective need to rebuild a world recovering from the most destructive war in human history. Both explanations have some merit, although it’s fair to add that some of the most successful economies of that fortunate epoch (e.g. the United States and Sweden) didn’t have any bombed cities to rebuild.

In contrast, the last three decades have seen unskilled jobs evaporate or move to China, Vietnam et al. The economic cycle has, meanwhile, plunged and soared with dizzying rapidity, making change the normal but far from natural condition of our lives, throwing us back on our own rarely adequate psychological resources and helping to undermine our sense of human solidarity.

Meanwhile, the gap between top and bottom incomes has grown wider and wider, even amongst those in employment. There’s a considerable body of research worldwide suggesting that inequality is an incubator of the social dysfunctionality and amoralism with which you are rightly concerned.

Still more to come (a bit later)

WAKE UP said...

"...81 percent of respondents disagreeing with the proposition that “Maori have a special place in New Zealand” confirms the enormity of the attitudinal obstacles confronting the Mana Party and its supporters."

It's not "attitude", it's the the truth.

Victor said...

Concluding my response to Brendan:

And then there are those strange cultural currents that started gurgling amongst the young in the late 1950s and reached flood tide in the 1960s and 70s.

The imperative of personal liberation was originally proclaimed in an often radical leftish context. But it proved just as compelling a slogan in the mouths of financial hucksters, admen and, latterly, libertarian bloggers and mortgage derivative salesmen.

Yet, whether invoked by left or right, the upshot was to dissolve tradition and weaken the hold of values that you rightly regard as essential to civilization.

And, whether invoked by left or right, the imperative of liberation always involved disdain for the safe, ordered, benificent if narrow world of the mid-century Welfare State….. the world that Mum and Dad built with so much labour and love for our peevish, ingrate generation!

We cannot go back to the 1950s nor, on the whole, should we wish to. Still less should we wish to go back to before the Welfare State was born. We are different people with different sensibilities and different experiences and expectations.

Most of us would always prefer work to poverty and marginalisation, even if we'd prefer an independent income to both these alternatives.

But there is little reason to think that merely depriving beneficiaries of a miniscule, automatic income would force all of them into gainful, legal and/or socially useful employment.

Nor would our economy benefit from the mass entry of essentially involuntary labour, even assuming jobs were available. And nor, for that matter, should we necessarily regard employment as, in itself, a desirable goal for all, irrespective of health, age or aptitude.

By all means, let us encourage those who wish to work, to do so, by, for example, reducing income tax for the low paid to a minimum, as was done largely successfully by the Clinton administration in the US.

Let us also pursue family-friendly policies and encourage private philanthropy. But let us not fool ourselves into thinking that these steps could return us to a Victorian utopia that never actually existed.

Eventually, such policies might (just might) create a less selfish and destructive social ethic. But it’s not going to happen overnight and, in the meantime, there are needy people (including children) who require our help just to get by.

In the short term at least, helping them is more important than working out who’s to blame for each individual case of neediness.

Moreover, as argued in previous posts, it’s not the poor or beneficiaries who are primarily responsible for our current economic woes. And, ethically, Brendan, I’m sure you would agree with me, that there’s no point in causing suffering for suffering’s sake, particularly when it may be the children who suffer most.

Best wishes


Anonymous said...

Hi Victor

Thank you for your good humored response. I chuckled a couple of times as I read all three chapters, and I thought my epistle was long! If you live in Christchurch, we should have a coffee together sometime. I'm happy for Chris to pass on my email address should you be interested.

Just for the record, I'm not an advocate for a return to 'Victorian values' neither do I dream of resurrecting a past 'golden age' that we all know didn't exist. Each generation has had its own challenges to face.

We agree that the welfare state both here and overseas was developed for a people who are markedly different than we are today which is why it made sense then in a way it does not today.

As an aside, I happen to like Margaret Thatcher whom you quote, although I know she is no darling of the Left. She once famously said that 'the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money'.

I do believe that entitlement welfare undermines the family for all of the reasons I previously stated, and that somewhat ironically, it now funds the poverty it was originally designed to alleviate.

You hold up Europe as an example and while it held out the illusion of successful socialism, it did so because it reduced its military budgets to almost zero, and relied upon the hated USA to provide the military budget and the protection it needed so that it could redirect its spending to welfare entitlements. Then EU member states ran budget deficits of crisis proportions which ultimately will result in a collapse of some kind, either a country default, or a Euro devaluation.

In addition, they have been importing Islamic immigrants to replace the children they couldn't be bothered having (Hey, they state will support us in old age - right?). So now along with debt, they have a ticking time bomb of 'cultural difference' on their hands which will ultimately change the face of Europe as we know it over the next twenty to thirty years.

As an investment, I"m recommending you purchase some great French wine while they are still making it. Very soon, the entire French region will be known for it's excellent grape juice.

But, I digress.


Anonymous said...



The reason the welfare state did not 'burgeon into the paymaster of social and personal decay at its inception' is as I previously pointed out, the social environment was such that most people did not want to bludge off their mates.

Today, the biggest contributor to social and personal decay, or dysfunction is the willingness of the State to pay for single teenage mums to have babies in poverty and dysfunction, and then pay them more to have additional babies.

It would be an interesting statistic to know what part welfare has played in the 'homes' of the babies that have been bashed to death by live in boy friends over recent years. I think we all know the answer, yet we perpetuate the myth that paying teenagers to have babies is a compassionate thing to do.

Its a perverse and cynical act of political opportunism, and our children are paying the price.

It's not inequality that is the incubator of social dysfunction, it's lack of virtue that is facilitated by a welfare state that does nothing to promote personal responsibility and accountability. Entitlement welfare erodes the most basic life skills that are needed to get out of the poverty and dependency cycle.

People were poor during the depression of the 30's here in NZ but they didn't bash their babies to death every month.

It's nice to imagine that paying the DPB to solo mums is ensuring that their children are well fed and cared for as you imply, however, there is enough evidence now to suggest that could well be the exception rather than the rule. Furthermore, it wouldn't matter how large the DPB payment was, the outcomes would still be the same. Dysfunction, educational under achievement, violence, criminal offending, etc.

That's fine if we want to build more prisons each year to house the ever increasing crop of criminal underclass graduates, but it's not the New Zealand I aspire to. We can and should be doing much better.

The DPB needs to be returned to its original intention. Support for mothers who are abandoned or victims of violence, and who can demonstrate that they have been in a relationship for some time.

If you are a teenager and you are pregnant, then that's an issue for you, your family and the father. It has nothing to do with the State or the taxpayer.

People are queuing up to adopt babies here in New Zealand.

The State cannot make us less selfish and more virtuous, but it can enact a policy mix that rewards virtuous behavior, and provides sanctions against those behaviors that undermine our social fabric.

We should probably continue this off line, with Chris' help if you are inclined.


Kind regards

Unknown said...

Agreeing with the Churchill quote (broad sunlit uplands)leaves you in good company, even if both of you were wrong. Post 1945 Britain and the rationing became stricter, the wheels came off the empire and Britain realised it's place in the world had changed for ever.

Victor said...

Hi Brendan

I'd be delighted to continue this exchange by email (albeit not immediately as I have a living to earn)and I'd be more than happy for Chris to send you my email address and/or vice versa.

As I wrote earlier, we're not philosophically far apart, which is what makes our obvious political disagreements so interesting (to me at least).

Kind regards


Anonymous said...

and Scotland is now pushing for Independence, how long till Aotearoa and Australia joint them. Wonder who the first President of the republic of Aotearoa will be...

Chris Trotter said...

To: Victor & Brendan

Sheesh, you guys - get a room!

If the two of you will send me your respective e-mails - I will pass 'em on.

Never let it be said that I stood in the way of true intellectual love!

markus said...

What a "Groovy Love-Fest", Victor and Brendan !!! (as I believe you members of the Hippy Generation would say). A new generation with a new explanation.

@ Adze. Yep, It's true that the standard one-dimensional Left/Right spectrum is a little inadequate for today's ideological complexities. Two-dimensional quadrants with Vertical (Economic Dirigiste/Laissez-Faire) and Horizontal (Morally Liberal-Libertarian/Conservative-Authoritarian) axes are, of course, much more revealing.

However, as far as Respondent ideological self-placement goes, data from NZ Election Surveys of the last two decades reveals that voters are actually a little further to the Left on economic issues than their self-placement would suggest.

Victor said...


Where exactly do I send you my email address at?

Your site doesn't seem to have an email option.

Or am I just technically challenged? (the most likely explanation)


I doubt whether either Brendan or myself has enough hair, in which to wear a single flower. But full marks for your sense of Zeitgeist. You're obviously into remote cultural history.

Chris Trotter said...

Victor - just send me your e-mail address as a comment (Not For Publication). I'll then send yours to Brendan and Brendan's to you.

Then you can set the world to rights to your hearts' content.

Wow, this is just like high school!

jh said...

This isn't relevant to your post but I've been hunting down the "all the land was stolen" meme:

Consider a history where Māori actually were given the full rights and responsibilities of British subjects following the Treaty; and in which the guarantees of kawanatanga and tino rangatiratanga were adhered to, and in which they had the advantages of owning most of the country, including virtually all of the economically productive land and the sites of what all the major cities; if they had the option to sell it for cash, or lease or farm or simply to live on it. Consider if the Māori of 1840 had been able to transfer that economic and cultural capital down through the generations to the present one. Don’t you think things would be different?
But they did have that option and it was sold.

"Lew when you say “Maori had their land stolen”,what do you mean. Do you mean territory (as in offshore and wasteland?). If you talk about Canterbury (for instance) the census showed 500 Maori living here at time of colonisation. The land was bought from Ngai tahu cheaply and as the terms were broken there have been a couple of resettlements. When pakeha arrived they bought sheep and exported wool. It cost as much as the average mans weekly working wage to buy one sheep and you had to prove you had the money to stock a run before you could take out a lease but runholders became billionaires. The West coast block was bought for 300 pounds (although James Mackie had 400 available) and the Greenstone areas were set aside for Maori. Following that gold was discovered and 12million pounds of gold exported.
I’m not sure about the rest of the country except for Taranki and Waikato."

jh, you don’t know your own history, and that’s half my point. As I’ve said before I’m not here to be your year 11 social studies teacher.

Read Walker, King, Kawharu for a kickoff; and although I haven’t read it I understand Richard Boast’s “Buying the Land, Selling the Land” is a good survey.

jh, you really just don’t have a clue.

I’m out.

Anonymous said...

Must say, Te Mana party forming is the most exciting thing in NZ politics in a long time.

I would be keen to see a Hone and Metiria vs Key and Brash public debate.

Looks like unions have a choice between three parties... the Greens and Mana Parties being the most radical two...

jh said...

"I would be keen to see a Hone and Metiria vs Key and Brash public debate."
it would be about two different realities. Meteria talks about "decolonisation [being] also a priority in a colonised country" and Maori having "kaitiaki responsibilities" due to a "world view" (= religious belief) over and above a marine biologist with a doctorate from Auckland University. Both represent a view of the treaty as Maori may have understood it in 1840 and believe that tribal territories stay intact in and around the modern state of NZ with it's 4.4m inhabitants.