Democracy Not His Cup of Tea: "It is time to change the system. It is time to get rid of voting for health boards. It is time to vastly reduce council sizes. It’s time for more appointments, less democracy, given that we’ve rejected democracy as a mechanism." - Mike Hosking.
SOMETIMES, even the most staunch defenders of the system slip up. It doesn’t happen all that often, but, very occasionally, they say things that they shouldn’t. Take Mike Hosking’s recent rant about the failings of democracy. He really, really, shouldn’t have said what he said. It’s just not smart to let ordinary people hear what those at the top of the social pyramid think about the way society should be run.
What did Hosking say? Well, he was giving us the benefit of his deep insight and wisdom concerning the recent local government elections. This is what he said:
“No one cares. Turnout yet again was down. The vast majority of us couldn’t be bothered voting. Not interested this time, not interested last time; haven’t been interested for decades. The elected representatives concerned have failed for a generation to engage us. They’ve failed to convince us that what they do is relevant. It is time to change the system. It is time to get rid of voting for health boards. It is time to vastly reduce council sizes. It’s time for more appointments, less democracy, given that we’ve rejected democracy as a mechanism. We need to stop the moaning about the fact it doesn’t work, and actually start changing it”
Obviously, Mike has never heard the old saying about “the only cure for poor democracy is more democracy”. Indeed, his cure for our poorly performing democracy is to give us less of it. Never mind that the ratio of Auckland city councillors to electors is already 1:70,000! The solution, obviously, is to “vastly reduce council sizes”.
We can only speculate about what Mike would consider an appropriate ratio. One councillor for every 150,000 residents perhaps? That would halve the size of the Auckland Council from 20 to 10. Never mind that this ratio would allocate cities the size of Dunedin, Hamilton and Tauranga just one councillor apiece. After all, as Mike says: “We need to stop the moaning about the fact it doesn’t work, and actually start changing it.”
And when Mike talks about change, he’s not kidding. What’s needed, he says, are “more appointments” and “less democracy”.
Just who will make these appointments, and on whose authority, Mike doesn’t say. Clearly, Thomas Jefferson’s argument that governments derive their “just powers” from the “consent of the governed” forms no part of Mike’s new constitution. But, that’s okay, because according to Mike “we” have “rejected democracy as a mechanism”.
Now, given how closely I pay attention to politics, I’m simply stunned that I missed the nationwide referendum on the future of “democracy as a mechanism”. But “stunned” isn’t a strong enough word to describe my reaction to what I can only assume is the fact (Mike Hosking is, after all, one of this country’s most trusted broadcasters) that a majority of New Zealanders voted to put an end to their democracy.
It truly is astonishing, because, to the best of my knowledge, no people on earth has ever done such a thing before. Plenty of peoples – the Greeks, the French, the Americans, the South Africans – have fought and died for a system of government based upon the freely given consent of the governed. But a people voting to reject democracy as a mechanism? Wow! – That’s new!
Speaking of the Greeks, it is interesting to note that in Ancient Athens – the birthplace of democracy – it was considered the height of irresponsibility not to “care” about the processes of self-government. In fact, the Athenians had a word for the sort of citizen who wasn’t interested in the affairs of the “polis” (the Greek word for the body of the citizens making up a city-state – from which we get the word “politics”). The people who declared “not interested this time, not interested last time; haven’t been interested for decades”; the ones who simply “couldn’t be bothered”; they went by the name of “idiotes”.
The word still survives. We use it every time we watch, listen to, or read the words of – an idiot.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Wednesday, 12 October 2016.
Not voting is a rational choice given the disconnect in knowledge re choices and likely outcomes.
Councils get to act on the consequences of central government policy and population increase is government policy. TV One promotes migration big time with a Hoskings, Latta , Spoonley tag team. Democracy only works if people have access to both sides of the argument.
And so the herd shuffles on its way, blinded by PC and inane TV that elevates and exalts mindlessness in ten minute bites between the real reason for media’s existence.. to make consumers out of everyone and profit for themselves..
Well, why do we not vote? Well. What’s the point? The people in power are experts in their fields. Since when do they listen? Up go the billboards in local body elections just concluded. ‘Vote for (ME)’, with large photo, denoting nothing at all that would enable an informed vote beyond some possible vague sex-appeal; where ‘Affable Aardvark’ would have a distinct advantage on the ballot paper at the polling booth. At the national level it is a bit different. There, party sleeves are rolled up, and actual promises roll off tongues and into letterboxes. You may meet the beaming smile of a candidate at your front door, so pleased to finally meet you, but as we all know it means nothing. ‘You can fool some of the people some of the time, but….’ “Polling day? Where’s my fishing line..?”
Yes, the concept of Democracy is under threat as perhaps never before, and throughout the world.You won't find enlightenment with surface runners like Hosking.
The power of the corporation, the power of money, the power of the media, and the infusion of ‘expertise’ in the service of it all are driving citizen participation away, and the process is worrying.
The great debates on visions for the future society that underpinned the clashes between capitalism and socialism, seem to be missing. Where are the contending visions that invite thoughtful explorations?
It is these visions that the politicians should be advancing, and placing before the electorates. It is visions of what might be and why that just might awaken the democratic impulses of the citizenry. Where are we going? Why? What is the best road to take? These things over the cups of coffee and beers might help turn us from the direction we are on now.
Visions of a future matter hugely. We don’t have to be experts. Establish the political vision, then harness the experts to create the machinery to get us there. They will! Their pay-packets will depend on it.
Mike Hosking is one of those people – like Muldoon – whose very voice annoys me so much that I can't be bothered listening to him. But that aside, let's look at what's happened to local government. It's no longer local. And central government wants to amalgamate even more. And of course it's always been in the hands of business people who have the time to do all the stuff that is necessary. Because they have other people to take care of their businesses. It's like an old boys' club, and while I do vote every time, I don't hold out any hope of making a difference. And I suspect that's why a lot of people simply don't vote. And that's why people don't vote in central government elections also I think. Perhaps it's time to try to show them that their vote would make a difference, but with the lacklustre politicians on both sides of the house we have at the moment – that's not going to happen. There's just no vision on either side of the house. Even the Greens.
Glad to see that you have latched onto the Salon tradition of choosing the very worst picture of someone you dislike/disagree with to put it the head of a column about them though. I heartily approve. To me, it simply represents his character.
Sadly Hoskings is not alone.
Aaron Aardvark would beat his affable relative every time, Alan. And GS, you're right that the Greens are failing to provide the big-picture view of a positive alternative to the status quo. I didn't spend half a decade of my life doing what was required to get them established (sufficiently to enter parliament) so they could spend their time there acting like a slightly-more enlightened branch of the establishment.
Now Chris, although you make a good case in your critique of Hosking, you ought to have a go at getting that big picture view yourself. Admit there's profoundly significant reasons why Hosking is articulating an increasingly popular perspective (a wave will always throw up froth on top), and that it's symptomatic of a general trend in western nations in recent decades. Make the connection to the mass psychology that caused the Greeks to abandon democracy after their extensive use of it in the classical era. Recommended reading on that: First Democracy - and, on the contemporary picture: The Life and Death of Democracy.
'Idiot' is a great word for the biggest fool on NZ television. As they say, he wouldn't know shite from clay.
It's possible people aren't voting not because it's failing, but because at base, they think it's going okay, whatever they actually say to pollsters or their neighbours. The waste disappears down the toilet, the roads are paved, the libraries have books etc. It could be quite reasonable - even if low turn out concerns us - to interpret it as, whoever gets in power at the local government level, the result won't be too different, council services will be run within a fairly tight range of overall competence compared to how half the world is run. So I'm not saying it's great, but I am saying failure of democracy or council performance is only one interpretation. In the grand scheme of things, our councils perform well and out and out crises are rare.
Fully agree about democracy. Our greatest treasure. It is still healthy in NZ as the national elections prove. Locally it needs a leg up but I'm not sure how. One trouble is perhaps that the majority do not pay rates directly so don't care. Or perhaps because mostly it is non party politics they think the candidates are all much of a muchness? Or perhaps there are too few pressing issues locally so really all is well in town? I don't know.
But I think you over rate Mike Hosking. I see him as an entertainer, not high up on the social scale as you put it. He is not a leader or even pretending to be one. He is a funny mix of the average basic bloke, the nouveau riche and a fashion victim (narcissist). He believes he has really made it in life because he has become wealthy and a popular double talk show host. It goes to his head unfortunately.
But at other times he is a rare voice for quite a chunk of society who we do need to hear from.
On this topic he is profoundly idiotic. We need more democracy, not less. Well put Chris.
Michael Reddell says
BusinessNZ argues for more immigration
In fact, business lobby groups in New Zealand tend to make the case for high levels of immigration largely in terms of keeping the cost of labour down. Of course, they don’t put it in quite those words. Instead, the constant refrain is “skill shortages” is mostly just another way of saying “I can’t get enough workers at the wage I want to pay”. Markets have ways of taking care of looming shortages, or surpluses: the price adjusts. We don’t hear of shortages of foreign exchange – the price adjusts. The availability of tomatoes varies with the seasons and storms, but almost always any consumer can buy as many tomatoes as he or she wants, at a price which adjusts (up and down) quite frequently.
and who helps them: progressives and "leftists of the internationalist tradition".
Has anyone noticed what mike Hosking, Paul henry and Brian Tamaki have in common? They all talk at break neck speed. When hoskings has to write an essay he writes something inane like "High House Prices a Sign of Success"
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