Friday 24 January 2020

The Thoughtful Mr Parker.

Stunningly Wrong-Headed: So blinded are the “left-wing” believers in free markets and free trade (like Trade Minister, David Parker) that even when they are staring directly at the wreckage of the lives and communities which these “unconscionable freedoms” (to borrow Marx’s telling phrase) have left in their wake, they cannot see it.

DAVID PARKER is among the more thoughtful members of Labour’s caucus. On his Politik website, the veteran political journalist, Richard Harman, describes him as someone with “an unerring ability to get up the noses of his many critics”, a talent I have long taken as proof positive of serious cogitation. But, as Harman goes on to say, Parker is also “a sober-suited Dunedin lawyer who was a close associate of the buccaneering entrepreneur, the late Howard Patterson”. He is, therefore, a man to whom it is reasonable to attribute a solid working knowledge of free-market capitalism, and profound ignorance of the tenets of democratic socialism.

Like so many of Labour’s neoliberal-capitalism’s-about-as-good-as-it-gets brigade, Parker is no fan of populism. Truth to tell, it frightens him. Fear is, however, an important step up from scorn – which has, for some time, been the default setting for all those “centre-left” politicians who still regard Bill Clinton and Tony Blair as “pretty straight-up guys”. The sort of people who actually believe that Hillary Clinton was defeated by the Russians, rather than weighed in the balance and found wanting by her fellow citizens.

One of the reasons why Hillary was found wanting was her notorious description of opponent Donald Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables”. It is actually quite hard to think of a description more calculated to enrage those working-class voters from Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan who had twice pulled the lever for Barack Obama, yet remained unconvinced that the First Lady who’d been such a strong supporter of her husband’s North America Free Trade Agreement was the sort of Democrat to put the interests of American workers ahead of American bosses. (Their doubts in this regard were, by the way, entirely justified!)

I sense that Parker struggles just as hard to see those who oppose “free trade” as anything other than deplorably ill-informed. Thinking about it, however, he has come to the conclusion that the populist push for protectionism is, in reality, a symptom of what he calls “middle-class insecurity”.

What has prompted these feelings of middle-class insecurity? Well, as Parker told last year’s Otago Foreign Policy School, the causes are “pretty easy” to identify:

 “[E]normous rises in inequality, with so much wealth going to the one per cent, not just overseas, but also in New Zealand, which is exemplified by dropping homeownership rates and a sense amongst the public that trade agreements have been made for the benefit of multinationals rather than small businesses.”

Parker’s analysis is stunning in its wrong-headedness. In concentrating upon the feelings of the middle-class, it fails to identify the central core of populism’s attraction for the working-class voters who opted for Trump over Clinton and Boris Johnson over Jeremy Corbyn. Namely, their deep-seated loathing of precisely the sort of middle-class people who dismiss them as deplorable losers in the game of life they are so obviously winning.

So bitterly do working-class people resent the disdain in which the professional middle-class enablers of the One Percent’s excesses hold them, that they are willing to vote for a narcissistic billionaire, a tousle-haired toff, and all the other killer-clowns shrewd enough to recognize their pain – and not blame them for it.

That recognition is both the key to populism’s success and the explanation for the steady collapse of social-democratic and labour parties around the world. So blinded are the “left-wing” believers in free markets and free trade, that even when they are staring directly at the wreckage of the lives and communities which these “unconscionable freedoms” (to borrow Marx’s telling phrase) have left in their wake, the Parkers of this world cannot see it. Almost unbelievably, they’ve convinced themselves that its “middle-class insecurity” that’s jeopardising their political fortunes; utterly unaware that the real cause of their parties’ electoral disintegration is old-fashioned working-class rage.

It takes a special kind of political operative to grasp this reality: someone whose driving motivation is to tear the whole rotten edifice down and begin again; someone like Trump’s Steve Bannon or Johnson’s Dominic Cummings; Neos who haven’t swallowed the Blue Pill.

Fortunately – or unfortunately – that’s not David Parker. A thinker he may be, but his thoughts never seem to stray towards the unconventional. Rather than learning his politics at the feet of a capitalist buccaneer, he’d have done better to find himself an anarchist.

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 24 January 2020.


Patricia said...

My plumber and I were talking about politics one day and he said his family used to vote Labour but one day his Father came home and announced that it was not in their interests to vote Labour any more and henceforth they would vote National. Those were the days when a Father’s utterings were taken notice of. Now, if that is the case nationally, and I think it would be even today, Labour is not looking after its long term interests Mr Parker.

Tom Hunter said...

It is actually quite hard to think of a description more calculated to enrage those working-class voters from Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan who had twice pulled the lever for Barack Obama

Oh I don't know about that considering that in 2008 they first pulled the lever for Obama after he had idly speculated about how they cling to their guns and their bibles when confronted by globalist forces - and that was after the Penn voters selected Hillary over him in that state's Democratic Primary.

One of the things that is strange about all this is that traditional Left parties like Labour in NZ and Britain and the Democrats in the USA, fought hard in the 1980's against the Free Market advocates like Reagan, Thatcher and Douglas (among others); arguing to defend their protected industries of coal, steel, cars and the like - and lost so badly that they became converted to supporting such things in order to win back power in the form of Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Helen Clarke.

It must be an annoying shock to the Bidens and the Parkers of this world to find themselves now on the losing end of anti-Free Trade arguments being issued not so much from within their own parties but by "Right Wing" opponents like Trump and Johnson of all people.

Such left leaders and thinkers must really be asking what the hell just happened?

David George said...

I'm still astounded by that "basket of deplorables" comment; so foolish and so inherently dangerous; a blatant attempt to dehumanise (hundreds of?) millions of people. Fundamentally, how far away is it from Adolf's "rats and cockroaches"?
It's all very well banging on about the perils of free trade and free markets, and sure there will be winners and losers but what successful (that is free and affluent) examples are there of countries that operate some other sort of system. The Scandinavians found themselves (under a more socialist model) failing in the 90's and moved to a far more liberal/open market economy with apparent success.
I'm sure there's a better path; here's some ideas: very interesting comments (since you mentioned him) from Steve Bannon on trade with an expansionist/imperialist China and the great dangers therein.

greywarbler said...

It seems that Parker comes from the same stable as Shearer, the notable left-wing politician taking a default position of jibes at an old man on a roof, likely being a free-loading pensioner. They need to come from the stable that Jesus was born in, not the one for sleek thoroughbreds.

And all the left-wing pollies need to do to see their service path for their supposed constituents, is to look around them. Look at the outcomes of past policies in New Zealand since 1984. Outcomes. Go through the newspaper each day and note the headlines under People Positive, Wellbeing Positive and People Negative, Wellbeing Declining (and Solutions Expensive). Easy.

I am drawn frequently now to Hans Christian Andersen's Emperor's Clothes story. He could see through to the heart of things, could trace the tangled yarn, and untwist it to its centre. And he had people stop him in the street and remonstrate with him about his stories. The last thing we want is to have our fine wine shaken and the lees rise up and spoil the imbibing experience the superior type of person deserves.

Sam said...

Well I think it would be a sad day if Chris Trotter was allowed to go unopposed for denouncing Labour. Makes me feel a bit like Trump when he grabs some nice kittens.

The Election of Jacinda is the only thing that could have opened Labour up to scrutiny as a reaction to neoliberalism now New Zealand is the only one going on with the rules-based-order.

What I like about Labour is Jacinda's genius. What Jacinda did was she disturbed this close incest Labour has with National. From Helen Clark to John Key not a heck of a lot changed but basically there was some understanding that they shared the same field. It's not always explicit rules there are customs and unwritten-rules and maybe it was the reaction to John Keyisms that disturbed the peace that we have now an ideological civil war and now Jacinda can use this opportunity.

Now you can look at the leader of the opposition and he is much more cautious. He doesn't attack Trump, Xiping or Dutere. He's much more cautious. That's why many hardline right wingers should doubt him.

It would be easy to attack the leader of the opposition for being immoral and all that but it would be much more interesting if we allowed the holy trinity, Snowden, Assange and Manning to learn us here. Which is to focus on human rights and elections but also to focus of the evil state apparatus. We don't need an evil guy like the leader-of-the-opposition in combination with Nazis and communist dictators and Facebook and Google analytics. We should be thankful that whale oil didn't sprout franchised organisations.

The problem today of digital control and corruption isn't the domain of a single evil actor, I'm much more afraid of the single fanatic arguing for patriotism and party unity and so on and so on. Of course the leader-of-the-opposition should not be unelectable but he should be arrested.

I guess what I'm saying is I'm suspicious of this new left or red left, the spin-off, the standard leftist reaction even a little bit Trotter and Bomber narrative that "lets make endless jokes about the leader of the oppositions pronunciations" (okay I don't know if the mocking is that strong in Trotter and Bomber) but at the end of all that mocking it would be more likely than not he gets elected to the 9th floor and so on.

Maybe I'm wrong about the leader-of-the-opposition but we have a Kiwi-Squad. Bernie Sanders has his Squad AOCortez and Tulsi and so on and so on and we have Jacinda and Merepeka Rukawa Tait and the Labour prez (forgot her name) but the strength of the Labour Party will be to get Jacinda together with the squad to bring together old working men. This is the combination lefties ought to strive for and keep mobilising for this even older fashioned moral majority.

Kat said...

Yes Chris I can just imagine you wanting Mr Parker to "die in a ditch" for populist far left loony idealism, not.

Nick J said...

Patricia, interesting story about your father. I was once accused of voting National... by my children. I had not, but the accusation cut to the bone. The reality is that my grandparents were all very proletarian, my parents emergent middle class. Never forget who you are!

Andrew Nichols said...

Sam Does anyone in this forum have the vaguest idea what you're trying to say?

Nick J said...

The Scandinavians found themselves (under a more socialist model) failing in the 90's and moved to a far more liberal/open market economy with apparent success.
Apparent success defined as what? More inequality? Seems me Greywarbler alludes best to success being the quaffing of wine whilst ignoring the cost.

Sam said...

So Andrew Nicholas has responded to my reply to Chris Trotter. Andrews response is horrible and just appeals to the audience which of cause is to seek to poison the well for how Jacinda might put the whole Labour Party in her backpack and cary the whole show again so I'll just walk him through it.

In one response Andrew declares that he does not understand what I'm saying so that he doesn't have to react to the point I'm making (and Andrew, people read what you say and if you think I'm so bad at writing then I'm sure you can defeat me in a debate). I'm sure I wouldn't push you into a corner and annihilate you so why don't we have a conversation?

We can do it here or in private if you want it doesn't matter to me I just think you're wrong and that you can't defend you're confused position so let's have a conversation.

Seeing as you haven't said anything remotely similar to what anyone here mentioned so first of all do you think it's morale to abandon the workforce because if not then you wouldn't have confessed to being confused by my conclusion to Trotters question about one way to repair an economy geared towards ripping into the last untouched savings pool of the workforce, Superannuation.

So the reason why Jacinda winning is being mentioned is because Trotter said free market "buccaneers" can't accept that the economy is weighed towards exports instead of feeding and housing its own people, they just can't accept that. So if what Trotter and I say about the economy is true then your preference would be inline with an export economy. So in those circumstances where the economy hasn't organised against starving and freezing to death politically or what ever, and they're ending up in early graves then you, Andrew, would think that it is ethical to starve people to death.

I'm not dealing in level 1 amateur hour arguments here I'm going straight to the question. Do you think that it's ethical to starve people to death?

So that's why I'm talking about Jacinda defeating the National Party. That's the reductio in Chris Trotters essay, that's what follows on from what he said. And I'll add if we are not taking Andrews reply (the one about being ignorant of man made economic crises) as an accurate response or maybe he just doesn't know how to read or maybe he was joking, Yknow what ever excuse he wants to invent on the fly well then he just hasn't addressed any of the critiques.

Either Andrew has a crazy reductio on his view or he can't even address the critique.

greywarbler said...

Thinking about the Swedish move to become more right-wing, reduce taxes and so on, I recall a para from Henning Mankell, Swedish writer - focussing on crime. He was also a social activist. (His father was a District Judge and they lived in a flat over the Courthouse. So he was sort of 'in the thick of it'.)

This from the Kurt Wallander series 'Side-tracked' and I thought it seemed to be personal observation, not just fiction.

You're too young to remember. But there was a change sometime in the 1950s. It was barely perceptible, but it happened. Sweden was sailing along on unbelievably fair winds. It seemed as though unlimited funds were available to obliterate poverty. At the same [time] a change occurred in political life. Politicians were turning into professionals. Career politicians. Before, idealism had been a dominant part of political life. Now this idealism began to be diluted. People (who were venal and ambitious) began their ascent. Youth associations became the hatcheries for the politicians of the future.

I wonder if this connection of youth and career advancing politics was at the back of the mind of mass murderer at the island camp in Scandinavia years ago?

I think that the aspirational will always find a way to overthrow a well-functioning system that has places for leverage to allow higher exploitation. And there is the rub. In the last few years as I have been reading and thinking I have noticed how people of low beginnings tend to regard getting more material possessions and money as rising in the world.
There is satisfaction in doing deals and winning, which is almost as big a boost as I hear Viagra is. Like that drug, the plotting and winning becomes an addiction. That's why it is so hard to put the winnings back into the pot in some useful way that will aid others. The wealthy have enough moolah to heal the world and provide craft workers in small villages with a steady income and help them counter their health and food management problems using a mix of modern and their own natural ways of managing earth resources.

If we are going to have a part-decent world, then we have to assess people's worth according to their character and their balance of kindliness and practicality. I certainly value the tradespeople I know, and those who can provide services well and affordably (the dentist) and the combined local long-term opthamologist and hospital eye clinic, and my helpful, friendly and capable GPs etc. as being of inestimable value. People who are capable, knowledgable, have a good heart, not harbouring deep negative prejudices or unrealistic positive ones either, are the real gold to treasure. If we could get to the stage where we are happy with sufficient and some left over for fun, creativity, physicality, then we could have a happier society. But there will always be those who have that Affluenza, class-consciousness and hubris inside them, wanting something more and willing to upset others to get it, without the question "Is your action necessary, or a mindless spasm?"

Tiger Mountain said...

When all else fails as to what to make of the likes of Mr Parker and others in the Labour Caucus, there is the buttress of a few objective facts. Namely the existence of–The Reserve Bank Act, The State Sector Act, SOEs, one of the freest in and out flows of capital in the world, plus NZ’s various international free trade agreements. The changes to the Health, Education and Local Government sectors by the late 80s, and deregulation of just about any economic activity imaginable completes the structural Neo Liberal takeover of New Zealand.

Previously publicly owned infrastructure and processes, including electricity generation and supply and Marsden Pt oil refining, have been subject to wide or full penetration by private capital–and take over by business management practices. NZ remains an investors dream for Finance Capital.

Roger’n’Ruth’s legacy has been a neo liberal hegemony per Gramsci, and a main Parliamentary party right wing economic consensus, that few dare to question publicly let alone get seriously active over. Writer Eleanor Catton was just about driven from the Country by then PM John Key no less, for daring to make public comment about such matters. The underclass and their descendants from Rogernomics and Ruthanasia have been consistently both ignored and disparaged while cheap service workers are imported over the top of their needs from elsewhere.

David Parker is thus an enabler of the first order of inequality and monetarism.

David George said...

I guess those questions are directed at me Nick; I'm no expert on the situation but looking at the stats these countries have very low inequality, a high living standard, good life expectancy, health care and education together with low levels of corruption and a free democratic government. I would consider that a success both in comparison with other OECD countries and how bad things can get when things get seriously dysfunctional. There is a question mark over their recent suppression of free speech, a very bad idea.
There was a short recent talk with a couple of Swedes you might find interesting. Correcting the myths on Sweden:

David George said...

Nick: "Never forget who you are!"
If who you are is defined by an ideology then the best thing you can do is forget it. Let it go Nick; you can't hope to see reality if the world is corrupted by the lens of your predetermined belief. No matter how convinced you are of it's rectitude, it is, or will be, proven wrong.
Folk murdering each other; the world hovering on the brink of nuclear annihilation thanks to attachment to some half arse belief and your recommendation is cling to it even tighter?

"Farewell, happy fields

Where joy forever dwells: hail horrors, hail

Infernal world, and thou profoundest hell

Receive thy new possessor: one who brings

A mind not to be changed by place or time.

The mind is its own place, and in itself

Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven."

David George said...

Sam, I'm not surprised Andrew has difficulty understanding your posts; they're pretty incoherent, more like a series of loosely connected thought bubbles. Might I suggest reading them objectively, take your time and try to recognise the difference between thoughts and thinking.
I don't think your last post warrants a reply when you're prepared to indulge in such obvious absurdities as "Do you think that it's ethical to starve people to death?"

Nick J said...

KDave, the past informs your choices for the present. It doesn't choose per se. Ideology went years back, I now take a Catholic approach, cardinal virtues versus sins. It's a bit like yin and yang, balance.

Andrew Nichols said...

Well put KiwiDave. I'm not unsympathetic to the general to much of what Sam's saying I suspect. It's just that I'm having difficulty wading through it. More is less....

Nick J said...

So Kiwidave, you are indeed no expert on stats. If Sweden has greater rates of inequality than previously that is a decline in equality per se. Because it is still better than other countries does not make that decline any less. Is to point that out an empirical observation as opposed to an ideological stance? What can you conclude to change the facts?

Nick J said...

Difficulty of putting the winnings back into the pot. That is a brilliant observation Grey. So true.

John Hurley said...

I think the PM's UN speech has the answer to it all. She say humans organise , we are tribal but she hangs on to a belief that it is a costless choice to choose who is us and who is them. If only we would choose who us is based on a common humanity she would be a shoe in for a top job at the UN. Until then we primate NZrs are tribal and as a tribal species it is up to the populus to decide who is us and who is them. It isn't up to Helen Clark. As well as who is us is the matter of what is ours. Beautiful Lake Pukaki is ours. Multiculturalism is multitribalism therefore someone is using someones tribal territory. Really that is what it is all about. Succesfull entrepreneurs don't care, as someone on Kiwiblog put it the Chinese had made him a fortune in property and there were the "reasonably priced blowjobs". The ordinary NZr (however) is a tribal primate and Lake Pukaki is tribal property.

Sam said...

For everybody Who is coming at me saying “does anyone understand," telling me I’m "incoherent" keep that same energy because y'all have bigger problems than trade. Stimulating the export market dosnt make up for a lack of industrial policy.

greywarbler said...

My plumber and I were talking about politics one day and he said his family used to vote Labour...and I think it would be [the case]even today, Labour is not looking after its long term interests Mr Parker.

Maybe I'm wrong about the leader-of-the-opposition but we have a Kiwi-Squad. Bernie Sanders has his Squad AOCortez and Tulsi and so on and so on and we have Jacinda and Merepeka Rukawa Tait and the Labour prez (forgot her name) but the strength of the Labour Party will be to get Jacinda together with the squad to bring together old working men. This is the combination lefties ought to strive for and keep mobilising for this even older fashioned moral majority.

Are Patricia and Sam onto something here; to find out what is in the heart of old male Labour supporters that would bring them back to being lefties again? And who supports PM Jacinda - who is her Heather? Where does she get her strength to make reasoned decisions apart from what she is supposed to be being fed by the career male politicians. Has she an all-women support group, consisting of Raukawa Tait and the Prez? Is there a male dedicated leftie with nous to be part of a like-minded group that can plot a route around the ragged rocks and neo-liberal mines.

Nick J said...

Chris, time to do health check on GS, he's gone AWOL. Hopefully he's taking a well deserved holiday and all is well.

sumsuch said...

No one responds, but my major claims are it's either socialism or fascism now and 1984 amounts to a war on Maori.

greywarbler said...

GS last wrote 23 December. That's a decent space, Are you there Major Tom?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Nick, thank you for your concern. In actual fact I was literally in the middle of writing a reply to one of our regular trolls a little while ago when I found out that one of my closest friends had just had a stroke, and I figured I really didn't need this shit for a while. I've been busy, but I may well be back.

sumsuch said...

Let the teetsiest MP of the Left kind chance their arm, talking for reality, despite the, pleasurable to Stephen Mills, downfall of Corbyn, let alone the failure of the Grand Oz Labour programme, they will get grasp. There are no present political mechanics that have any relevance. So the Left is only a pulpit now. Shout-sing like the Left was known for.

If Sanders goes down that will have as much proof to it as Zapata. Keep singing the song of Roger, Mills. It aint a song. Confirm your validity outside real reality. That's what I urge my born-again relatives to do. Is your self-worth worth more than us, as per America? Or are you a fucken NZer when it comes down to it?

sumsuch said...

Interested in your perfect salience into the heart of the matter about Mike Moore. You must have laughed yourself silly like the rest of us about the mass media's initial reaction. Though it's positively orwellian into the faces of us who remember. Or the losers.

Nick J said...

Welcome back GS, you may at times be foe but you are always one of us, great that you are fine. Your perspective with your friend shows your true heart. Nice to see you.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Thanks for those kind words Nick. I can't do much for the afflicted friend, except visit the hospital, but her husband – also one of my oldest friends – has never ever learned to cook. And now he's going to have to. That I can do something about.:)