Tuesday 2 March 2021

The Long March From The Bottom To The Top.

Revolution From Below: The original “Long March” was, of course, undertaken by Mao Zedong and what was left of his communist military forces. They did not, however, head off for the nearest school or university, government office or medical clinic. Their goal was not to infiltrate the institutions of capitalism, but to overthrow them.

THE POLITICAL ENGINEERING required to transform social-democratic New Zealand into a global poster-child for the free-market was considerable. Most New Zealanders under 50 years of age have accepted a description of the process which is four-fifths propaganda and one-fifth half-truths. The late Bruce Jesson, one of this country’s most astute political writers, characterised the events of 1984-1990 as a “bureaucratic coup d’état”.

Jesson’s description was, however, very far from being the general understanding of “Rogernomics” at the time of its introduction. Most New Zealanders greeted the economic transformation unleashed by the Fourth Labour Government as a welcome liberation from “Muldoonism”. More than three decades after its fall, “Muldoonism” continues to be the preferred shorthand for all the evils David Lange and his Labour Government were obliged to confront.

Muldoonism – and all its wicked works – served an ideological purpose over-and-above providing a never-ending series of anecdotes about the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of the state-dominated economy which the National Party leader and Prime Minister, Rob Muldoon, worked so hard to prop-up and protect. His regime was presented as being so practically and morally dysfunctional that the extraordinary measures employed to bring it down were entirely justified.

Lange, Roger Douglas, and all the other key “Rogernomes”, were presented to the New Zealand public as patriotic heroes – something akin to the Roman senators who assassinated Julius Caesar. Drastic illnesses, ran the argument of the bureaucratic “experts” guiding the Labour leadership, require drastic remedies. Sometimes the people have to be protected from the consequences of saying “No.” Sometimes the best thing you can do is not give them the chance.

Of all the many malign legacies of Rogernomics, this rejection of the democratic mandate – the principle that major changes to the status-quo should not be enacted without first obtaining the explicit consent of the electorate – is unquestionably the most pernicious. It is rendered even more dangerous by the need of its advocates to manufacture a political environment in which the setting aside of democratic norms can be presented as both reasonable and necessary.

The massive devaluation of the New Zealand Dollar of July 1984, followed a few months later by the crucial government decision to abandon the fixed exchange-rate policies of the previous thirty years, only became politically feasible in the context of a run on the New Zealand dollar – a crisis engineered by the very same people who now insisted that no viable alternatives to their preferred policies existed.

That this manufactured financial crisis led directly (and predictably) to a constitutional crisis, from which Muldoon emerged with his reputation even more blackened, bears testimony to the extraordinary skill of the string-pullers behind the scenes. Years later, when one of the Treasury officials most deeply involved in these events was asked whether or not the New Zealand business community of the time possessed either the talent or the will to have initiated the Rogernomics Revolution, he replied: “If we’d waited for them to do it, we’d be waiting still.”

It is hardly surprising that the men and women involved in what might best be described as the “heroic phase” of the neoliberal transformation of New Zealand, allowed their experiences to go to their heads. A small band of highly educated and (by their own lights) highly principled individuals had, through a judicious mixture of intelligence, audacity and raw courage, set an entire country on a radically different course.

They did not permit the near certainty that a clear majority of the population did not favour their new course slow them down for a second. As far as they were concerned, ordinary voters had no understanding of the profound issues confronting their country and were, therefore, undeserving of the veto power accorded them by classical democratic theory. The bureaucratic and political clique responsible for the revolutionary changes of Rogernomics were neoliberal Leninists who, like Lenin himself, had no intention of letting democracy get in the way of what had to be done.

As an effective method of securing radical change, “revolution from above” had much to commend it. That the Right embraced the new way of getting things done was hardly surprising, given its historical disdain for the dangerous distempers of democracy. For the Left, however, the embrace of elitism requires a more fulsome explanation. The most obvious being that elitism offered it a way out of the conundrum of an exploited working-class that consistently refused to abandon its reactionary social views and was altogether more receptive to the siren-song of radical nationalism than radical socialism.

When the Marxist student radical of the 1960s, Rudi Dutschke, came up with the idea of “a long march through the institutions”, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that, consciously or unconsciously, he was substituting the acquisition of institutional power within capitalism for the creation of a mass working-class movement capable of confronting capitalism? His vision was of thousands of secret revolutionaries embedded in the professions, the civil service and the universities; all of them just waiting for the moment to transform capitalism’s institutions from within – so that capitalist society could be dissolved from above.

But, this optimistic vision reckoned without the power of capitalism’s institutional cultures to subvert the principles of even the most dedicated revolutionary. Dutschke failed to anticipate the risk that his Long Marchers might end up in a place where their radical social and cultural reforms, imposed on the masses from above, would end up strengthening capitalism rather than bringing it down.

Old-time revolutionaries might, themselves, have wondered about the apparent contradiction in Dutschke’s slogan. The original “Long March” was, of course, undertaken by Mao Zedong and what was left of his communist military forces. They did not, however, head off for the nearest school or university, government office or medical clinic. Their destination was the Chinese interior where they planned to regroup and refill their depleted ranks. Mao’s goal, at least until he was safely ensconced in power, was revolution from below – not above. That came later, in the form of the catastrophic “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution”.

How then should the “Left” respond to the radical programme of social and cultural reforms about to be imposed upon the population from above by institutions of the New Zealand state? It is at least arguable that the changes planned by the Human Rights Commission and the Ministry of Education are analogous to the economic reforms formulated by Treasury and Reserve Bank officials in the early-1980s. As with those measures, there is next to no evidence of ordinary voters clamouring for the changes proposed. In 2021, those calling for restrictions on free speech, or compulsory “Unmake Racism” courses for schoolchildren, are as few and far between as working-class voters calling on Labour to embrace Thatcherism in 1984.

Real left-wingers, today, emulating the real left-wingers of the 1980s, would require those advocating top-down revolution to first obtain a bottom-up mandate.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 2 March 2021.


Wayne Mapp said...

Just like you, I remember what happened in the 1980's, though my memory is quite different to yours. For instance the 1984 Economic Summit held in Parliament where the key elements of the reforms were laid out. Also the books and articles by Prebble and Douglas also indicated what the plan was.

And especially the 1987 election which was effectively a referendum on the reforms. By that stage being floating of the dollar, end of tariffs, end of SMP for farmers, the first round of privatisation, the introduction of GST and the reduction of income tax.

The recession of the 1987 to 1992 was much deeper than anything since, with unemployment hitting 12% and going to 25% for Maori. That was when the sharpness of the reforms was most evident. However unemployment has been less than 5% for most of the last two decades, sometimes down at 3%. However, I do know (extended family) that some of those who became unemployed in the late 1980's never really got good jobs again. By now they are on National Super.

It is worth noting that 1984 is now 37 years ago. Anyone under 40 has no real memory of those times, except as a young child.

We have had 12 elections since 1984. There have been plenty of parties in all these elections which wanted to reverse the reforms of the 1980's. Not one of these parties has been the lead party in government. I guess the closest was 2017 when NZF chose the smaller of the two main parties. But by 2017 NZF had quite a muted approach to the 1980's, they were no longer promising to reverse much of it at all. They had moved to other things, mostly immigration, not that they did much about that either.

The world has moved on. There are new challenges. Mostly climate change and wealth inequality.

At least in New Zealand, wealth inequality is mostly about housing. As much as anything that is to do with low interest rates and the surge of money into the economy. Building lots of social housing will certainly improve housing quality for low income New Zealanders, but it will do nothing about wealth inequality. That can only be affected by getting more people into their own houses. So far the government has done nothing about that. Are they even going to do so?

homepaddock said...

Chris, people across the political spectrum should be very, very concerned about this. It’s not a left or right issue, it’s one for all people who care about freedom of speech, balanced history, and treating people as people not groups of identities against institutions of the state that are promulgating it.

Ricardo said...

Voter suppression is perfectly ok if it means people can't make decisions that you don't like.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"The world has moved on."

Actually it was New Zealand that moved on, and the other English-speaking countries on the whole. With an unending barrage of neoliberal propaganda, along the lines of TINA – when there were plenty of examples of a different approach around the world – more successful than ours. It was damn near impossible to get a conflicting view, we might as well have been in Nazi Germany or Soviets Russia for all the information we got about the drawbacks of neoliberalism. Freedom of speech didn't really work very well then did it given the neoliberal monopoly of the information stream.

"Mostly climate change and wealth inequality."

Neither of which the extreme right cares about in the slightest. And much of what passes for the left these days.

Brendan McNeill said...


I cannot recall a government stacked with so many ministers that cannot be trusted by the PM to do anything other than occupy space around the cabinet table and be transported in Ministerial cars. They are functionally incapable of progressing any economic agenda dear to the left, right or in-between. Think kiwi-build, reducing waiting lists for social housing, 13% more children living in benefit dependent families than four years ago… (according to The Salvation Army report). The list of failures is long and embarrassing.

All they can hope to do is deliver on radical social reform.

The great irony is that to do so will almost certainly ride roughshod over the New Zealand Bill of Rights, a document that sought to enshrine the liberties once dear to the Left, free speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of association and so on.

Such liberties once lost are very difficult to restore. I suggest that protecting the New Zealand Bill of Rights against the predations of this Government is the uppermost issue for the remainder of their term in office. We should do everything possible to make that clear to the PM and Labour MPs.

greywarbler said...

It seems that Labour spends so little time with the little people that they can easily pass by them on their pathway to clever righteousness; the people are nearly invisible. It takes a really sensitive person to pick up the needy and act recuperatively, to spend money with counsellors listening to and discussing their concerns followed by actioning their wishes.

When you are pure middle-class with higher pretensions you don't find it incongruous to talk loftily about 'our' Maori like Jenny Shipley at her level of class-consciousness, or to always seek 'excellence' and match 'world's best' and constantly pre-empt strugglers' stratagems.
It is clear what is deficient in them when deciding their faults preventing them meeting middle-class mores and becoming 'appropriate' in every way.

Guillaume said...

Towards the end of last year I was moved to write the following letter to the Listener. I was naïve enough to believe that they might publish it and clear up a few points – predictably it did not see the light of day.

I suspect that the public of this country are tuned out and are largely unaware of the direction in which successive governments are surreptitiously taking us. One wonders at the motivation of our elected representatives in pursuing a path to biculturalism, when it is clear that the country, for all its faults, has long been multicultural.

To the editor:

I was not surprised that, when challenged by a journalist at Waitangi, the Prime Minister could not cite the content of the first article of the Treaty of Waitangi. One hopes that since then, she has acquainted herself with the content. I suspect that she would not be alone in being unfamiliar with the content and intent of the Treaty.

The Treaty is a straightforward, simple document in both the English and Maori versions. When signed by both parties, it fulfilled its objective to the extent that Captain Hobson was able to say, “We are now one people”. No further action was needed on the Treaty, and there were no residual requirements. Notably, there was no mention of partnerships or principles.

The idea that the Treaty created a partnership between the signatories, the Maori and the British Sovereign has emerged in the past four decades. Legal authorities have pointed out that it is constitutionally impossible for the Crown to enter a partnership with its subjects.

Nonetheless, successive governments have seized upon the idea of partnership and principles to write requirements into legislation. Government departments have set up offices that give effect to the concept of partnership with Maori entities.

Although these ideas have become policy in several political parties, the concepts have not been the subject of consultation or debate with the electorate. It could be held that partnership and principles have been introduced into legislation by stealth. To what purpose, is this a deliberate policy, or have the ideas taken on a life of their own and move forward without logical constraint?

Whatever, these ideas are divisive and augur ill for the health of civil society and democracy in this country.

DS said...

>>>And especially the 1987 election which was effectively a referendum on the reforms. By that stage being floating of the dollar, end of tariffs, end of SMP for farmers, the first round of privatisation, the introduction of GST and the reduction of income tax.<<<

*cough* Nuclear Free *cough*.

1990 was a referendum on the reforms too. I don't recall that going particularly well for the Fourth Labour Government, and nor is it the public's fault that the party they voted in to end the madness (National) proved madder than Labour.

(A further referendum on the reforms was MMP in 1993. If you can't trust either National or Labour not to go crazy, you put limits on their ability to do anything).

Punch said...

Contrary to what you may remember Chris, the Rogernomics reforms were not unexpected. Douglas, circa 1980, when Rowling was Labour leader had released his alternative budget which outlined his direction of travel. Also, do not forget the influence of the Bob Jones led New Zealand party, which from memory captured a further 12 percent of the popular vote without winning a seat. We knew an economic revolution was on the way because, like today, the economy could not continue to be propped up by Government subsidies like Supplementary Minimum Prices and the make-work scheme that was New Zealand Railways. Frankly, something significant had to be done. Did we really want the government having a monopoly on telecommunications, owning banks and being way too big a part of everybody's life? And the behaviour of outfits like the Meatworkers Union and the Cooks and Stewards on the ferries meant that sooner or later major industrial reform had to be addressed too.
I'd sooner have New Zealand in 2021 than in 1981, despite what may be coming down the road from the HRC, the Ministry of Education and the Climate Change Commission. In the fullness of time I have confidence that sanity will prevail, although it may take another election cycle!

Mike Grimshaw said...

It is also 40 years since the 1981 springbok tour which was the start of the real rebellion vs muldoonism and the old nz and part if the long march to 1984 rogernomics and the progressive neoliberalism of today...
Capitalism is creative destruction in many forms

Jens Meder said...

With "The Long March From The Bottom To The Top" Chris has unleashed a lively critical discussion -

none of which so far has come up with a vision or debatable proposal about overcoming the widening socio-economic polarization into Haves and Have-Nots under the plutocratic capitalism resulting from excessively libertarian "neo-liberalism" -

or the widening poverty under excessively redistributive welfare capitalism which practically subsidizes rather than eliminates poverty -

and becomes unsustainable and ends up in poverty for all -

or in (totalitarian) state monopoly capitalism when the need or desire for wealth redistribution becomes more widespread and profitable than working and saving for the delivery of it by private enterprise.

Private enterprise capitalism which does not survive without profitability, is therefore more effective and democratic than state monopoly capitalism, as has been experienced by the Soviet Union and Maoist China.

Would it not be very refreshing if Chris devoted one of his articles for discussion on the pros and cons of "peoples capitalism" as the goal for an economically more egalitarian and promising future than what we have had up to now ?

"People's Capitalism" - defined as a long term policy towards achieving at least a minimally meaningful level of individual (retirement) wealth ownership by all citizens eventually - not to replace the wealth redistributing welfare principle, but to make it more sustainable by reducing the need for it.

Tom Hunter said...

As far as they were concerned, ordinary voters had no understanding of the profound issues confronting their country and were, therefore, undeserving of the veto power accorded them by classical democratic theory.

Chuckle. You might want to take a look at your Leftist compadre, Paul Buchanan, and his latest vent on this subject, <a href="http://www.kiwipolitico.com/2021/02/the-tyranny-of-the-dishonest-and-stupid/>The Tyranny of the Dishonest and Stupid</a href>

Some things never change.

Tom Hunter said...

As an effective method of securing radical change, “revolution from above” had much to commend it. That the Right embraced the new way of getting things done was hardly surprising, given its historical disdain for the dangerous distempers of democracy. For the Left, however, the embrace of elitism requires a more fulsome explanation.

Hang on! You wrote this immediately after describing Lenin's having no intention of letting democracy get in the way of what had to be done. Or is he suddenly a Right Winger. I've certainly heard Chomsky describe Leninism as such, which is very convenient for the Far Left.

Tom Hunter said...

As "Punch" noted, 1984 was well telegraphed in 1980 by Douglas and company.

You really need to put aside your anger at the Young Turks of the 4th Labour government and recognise that none of it would have been possible had your world of post-WWII economic controls actually still worked by the 1970's and 1980's.

I and my peers were young then and it wasn't just Muldoon we were angered and disgusted by. We'd had a gutsful of the entire, overly regulated world that we lived in. I recall a couple of undergraduate friends of mine who went to work for NZ Rail in the summer, since Rail were always keen to attract such graduates. My friends openly told everybody that they'd rather slit their wrists than work in such a place again, such was the stifling Glide Time bureaucracy of the place. Other friends had other stories of other such places. Like all young revolutionaries, lacking families to care for and so one, we didn't care if such places burned.

But in addition the simple fact is that even very smart, informed Hard Leftists like Ken Douglas no longer had any answers to the Douglas onslaught. What could he say in the face of countless youngsters like me? That the status quo was tickety boo? That he had different ideas as to what could be done? Aside from going even further Left the likes of him had no answers, and people like that will also lose their status quo world to the Jacobins.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

So Guilliaume. The treaty is quite a simple document – so presumably we should take it at face value? Forget about all that partnership business then? In which case there is a lot of stuff that is going to have to be given back to Maori that was taken from them in violations of the treaty. I suggest you just accept partnership.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Punch and Tom Hunter.

No, fellas, the dramatic reforms of 1984-1990 were NOT signalled well in advance.

Roger Douglas's alternative budget and his little book "There's Got To Be A Better Way" were in no sense an accurate description of things to come. In fact, when you compare them to the actual blueprint for change, Treasury's "briefing paper" to the incoming government, the book-length "Economic Management", they were pretty standard Labour fare.

As for Richard Prebble, he went on a nationwide "Save Rail" tour, organised largely by the railway unions.

Certainly, Labour's 1984 manifesto, hastily pulled together (it was, you will recall, a snap election, called months before the usual date) by Geoffrey Palmer, gave no hint of the upheavals to come.

In 1987, Labour decided not to release a manifesto, for the very good reason that - as David Lange later admitted - if they had told people what they were planning to do, then they wouldn't have voted for them.

By 1990, of course, everybody knew what Labour stood for. The party had split. Defeat was certain.

The opposition party, National, capitalised on the electorate's disgust by promising a return to "The Decent Society". What they got was "Ruthanasia".

That so many apologists for the neoliberal "top-down" revolution, like yourselves, have to resort to blatant historical falsehoods is all the proof we need of their bad faith - and troubled consciences.

John Hurley said...

Wayne Mapp
At least in New Zealand, wealth inequality is mostly about housing
There's the problem:

"Asset inflation isn't wealth creation; it simply creates a charge elsewhere in the economy"
Kurt Richenbauer - Austrian economist.

I was there for the 80's. Unemployment was made worse by unions because they created inequality and "getting in" was often a family affair.

As Edward Dutton (Jolly Heretic) says "it's the things you aren't allowed to look at that are the most interesting and what is always forgotten about is adding population.

Based on a large body of new research evidence and practical experience, the consensus
among policymakers now is that other factors are more important for per capita growth
and productivity than migration and population growth.23 CGE modelling exercises for
Australia and New Zealand have been influential in reshaping expectations.

Treasury Paper 14-10.

A conventional economic analysis of large -scale immigration impacts
The distinctive feature of the New Zealand economy is that land is an important input into the productive process. This is obvious with the agricultural, fishing and forestry sectors but it also applies to international tourism. In a simple model of the New Zealand economy where the supply of land is fixed, and New Zealand’s isolation means it is not a ‘natural’ location for the production of a broad range of internationally traded goods and services, then an increase in the labour supply through large scale immigration will reduce the marginal product of labour. As a result:

 Real wages will fall
 Owners of land will benefit
 There will be an outflow of ‘native’ labour in search of higher wages in Australia
 The economy will be bigger, but average incomes will fall
 Resources will flow into low value service production.

Paul Spoonley [2016] says "there are a one or two economic skeptics" but the evidence is that house prices and immigration aren't connected that much - we just haven't built enough houses

Here in the Detail he is saying we need to look at different ways to measure the effects of Immigration - as if this has just been discovered. Prior to that... "Auckland has been the beneficiary of". The government must surely be seeing the whites of the eyes of the issue: Low value services or "Needed skills"? A whole lot of lying going down. Strangely you can trash the NZ lifestyle and sense of identity, but that is the moral thing to do, until you are affected. The problems NZrs have in Oz are directly related to Chinese and Indian immigration - but it only affects the unskilled so that is o.k. In the new order they are below immigrants in virtue.

Chris Trotter said...

To: John Hurley.

This statement:

"Unemployment was made worse by unions because they created inequality and "getting in" was often a family affair."

constitutes a massive blow to your credibility on this - and other? - topics.

Joining a union was compulsory in NZ in the 1980s. Everybody "got in".

It is possible that you are referring to the transmission of jobs on the waterfront from father to son which did happen in some provincial ports. This practice was not, however, the product of union corruption but the direct consequence of the smashing of the national watersiders union in 1951. Provincial ports, their managers, workers, and quite probably the tame union officials which replaced the militants, were notorious for setting-up all manner of cosy (and often illegal) arrangements.

It is, however, completely impermissible to extrapolate from these very limited instances of nepotism and corruption to stigmatise the entire unionised workforce.

Knowing more than a little about the union movement, I am now moved to speculate that if John Hurley knows so little about this subject, then what other subjects does he know so little about?

Jays said...

Manufactured economic crisis my arse.
Where the fuck do you come up with this bullshit Chris.
If you want to claim that the wrong action was taken in the presence of the crisis then by all means do so.
But claiming that the country wasn't utterly screwed financially is dishonesty or stupidity of the highest order.

greywarbler said...

It's interesting to read people who diss Te Tiriti and quote its simplicity, then try and overlay the words with their own complex interpretation. I would remind people of the recognition in law of the asymmetrical position between people unversed in the British law, or whatever is paramount, and those who are practitioners in using that law - I consider that 'Contra Proferentem' would apply to the Treaty signatories.

Also it's recognised in law that Powers of Attorney have major implications; there are so many clauses for different purposes, limited and unlimited, that the ordinary person should proceed in fear and trembling. There is, from memory, actually a clause that sets out various applications of the PoA, and says that these are indications of its possible uses and to state any more may tend to narrow its provisions. (Something like that.) Maori when signing the Treaty have stated that they were wanting the British to take control of their people some of whom were running riot, very troublesome and impossible to manage without using force.

What the British also introduced was capitalism which undermined Maori society at the same time as enabling grand schemes to go forward. The law of contracts enters, and replaces practical measures of agreement. Maori assert the Treaty is a living document, and considering the above one can see it has from the start, seen many changes and needed to be invoked continually. Twist and turn as money-obsessed individuals do, the Treaty brings them back to the need to consider moral values as well as profit. We can see in our failing economy, busy creating nothing much except subterfuge, that leaving a country's economic health to be an externality results in a loss of wellbeing for the people born within the country who become subject to landlordism writ large and menacing, and to living hand to mouth. Tom Hunter and your restless peers wishing to live like aristocratic peers have no bloody idea of what a well-run, fair country can be expected to deliver; just a lot of half-masticated morsels of business legend from the young gents' table without the guiltless humour of Wodehouse's stories.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Jays.

Sad to see how much of the neoliberal Kool-Aid you have swallowed, Jays.

Try a little history, instead.

About half-way through the snap-election campaign of 1984, Roger Douglas "accidentally" left a confidential policy paper lying on a chair for journalists to find at the end of a candidates' meeting.

The paper made it clear that if Labour was elected it would devalue the NZ Dollar by 20 percent.

This was the trigger for a devastating run on the NZ Dollar. In effect Labour was offering those holding NZ Dollars a one-way bet. Simply by refusing to repatriate the NZ currency they were holding, businesses would realise a 20 percent windfall when Labour assumed office.

The cost to the NZ tax-payer would be huge - a point that Rob Muldoon attempted to drive home to David Lange. Advised by the RBNZ and the Treasury, however, Lange insisted that Muldoon devalue. When Muldoon demurred, a constitutional crisis was declared and, pressed hard by his National Party colleagues, Muldoon was forced to capitulate. The currency was devalued and some very lucky Kiwi capitalists received a multi-million-dollar gift from the newly-elected "left-wing" government.

When Jim Anderton, newly appointed chair of the Finance & Expenditure Committee of Parliament, attempted to hold an inquiry into the currency crisis, Lange, Geoffrey Palmer and Roger Douglas moved with great speed to shut it down.

If that is not a "manufactured crisis", then I don't know what is!

Guillaume said...

GS. This would seem to be somewhat off topic, but yes, the treaty is quite a simple document and should be taken at face value. Legally, it is not a treaty since, under international law (pertaining in 1840 and to date), a treaty can only be executed between sovereign states. There was no sovereign state on these islands in 1840.

One of the most pernicious and undemocratic aspects of this “Partnership” idea is that the public, the electorate, has never been consulted. Consequently, such arbitrary impositions must be challenged. I could go on, but I believe that this essay sums up the drift admirably:

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Wow – just got home and I must say that Chris has shown up the sheer ignorance of many of our conservative commenters. There's a word for this type of ignorance – I think it's called "Truthiness". Something is true because I want it to be true or I believe it to be true. Just goes to show what actual study of actual documents does for you. I've always said conservatives operate more on emotion than facts, although that's true of many "leftists" as well. But even so that was appalling ignorance.

Neil Keating said...

Re Wayne Mapp's comment about addressing wealth inequality by getting people into their own homes: a serious snag can arise with this, ie some people are unable or unwilling to properly maintain a house. BRANZ (Building Research Assoc of NZ) long ago commented on the number of house owners who spend money on a new kitchen or bathroom while the roof leaks, or deteriorates towards leaking. This can have two effects: 1) problems at time of resale, and 2) neighbourhoods heading towards scruffy. (I've lived in two such places: Massey and New Lynn.) Perhaps lenders need to know a bit more about would-be borrowers than whether they have sufficient deposit and whether they can service borrowings. Some folks would be better advised to live in 'social housing' (whatever that means!) than shoe-horning themselves into mortgaged property.

greywarbler said...

Oh wow - the dots being joined up Chris and one can see the shape of the gargoyle emerging through the smokescreen. A valuable report left eventually to be found by the cleaners? How fortuitous. I remember the Australian oil and minerals run back in 1969 - rumours were rife with positive mining tips and an accidentally dropped notice of encouraging indicative ores found in the stockmarket foyer with fast money to be made, caused bidding to go sky-high.

The shares of Poseidon had risen to a staggering 125x in value and crossed $100 per share mark, even though months before they were trading at a measly $0.8 per share. Later, the Poseidon share came close to the $200 mark and some brokers had an astronomical target price of over $350 on the Poseidon stock...

During the 1970’s, nickel was in extremely short supply in the world. This is because Canada was the largest supplier of nickel and there were certain supply issues with the Canadian nickel. On the other hand, the demand for nickel was booming given the Vietnam War which was underway. Therefore, as a result of supply and demand acting in the opposite direction, the prices of nickel shot up in the global markets. This sudden and exponential rise in the price of nickel was what ended up creating the Poseidon stock bubble in Australia...

The...factors did not stop investors from becoming excited at the prospect of making a lot of money. Not only was the Poseidon stock skyrocketing, but just about any mining company became the darling of investors. This is because speculators were assuming that the entire Western Australia region was a rich source of nickel and any company that could acquire control of land over there was bound to make money in the long run. https://www.managementstudyguide.com/poseidon-bubble-in-australian-stock-market.htm

(I think some of the Poseidon directors quickly planned trips to South America. Old song - What's war good for? Money-making - I deduce as the answer. Another old song - Money from Cabaret - priceless! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JDWJzKYfdc)

John Hurley said...

Chris Trotter.
I worked in horticulture, on a farm, drove trucks and at the Freezing Works. My memory from that time was that those "big money" jobs were hard to get into. I remember applying for a job as a tour bus driver just as the drivers were sitting down to do a wage negotiation and one of them said "they'll have to deal with us first". I joined that company just as they started the employment contracts act and I liked it because (otherwise) it seemed to me, that some old bloke who was grumpy could stop you from rising through the ranks. Unfortunately while we started out well paid it flatlined. Our union was Amalgamated Workers but they are just a negotiating service. It was no secret that we were in a very competitive industry with relying on discretionary spending.
As David Williamson showed real incomes in that sector have been steadily declining.
I found the Freezing Workers Union rep to be a bad actor, he would say "I went to talk to __ I don't like him". On the other hand I showed the analysis from Ian Harrison and Ha Joon Chang to the Amalgamated Workers rep and was told it was "propaganda". The way I see it the market will take care of wage rates but working class people need a link to politicians who these days have no interest and no connection, so that is where unions are missed.

Tom Hunter said...

Joining a union was compulsory in NZ in the 1980s. Everybody "got in".

Strange then that unionism even then never got above 50% of all NZ workers, merely touching that figure briefly in the early 1980's. Even in the heyday of NZ Leftist nostalgia it was in the 40% range.

Certainly none of the jobs I held ever "compelled" to join a union, even though they supposedly covered a few of my jobs.

In fact, when you compare them to the actual blueprint for change, Treasury's "briefing paper" to the incoming government, the book-length "Economic Management", they were pretty standard Labour fare.

Have a copy of Douglas's book here on the shelf. Have read it many times. Will simply have to agree to disagree. Certainly all my age group knew what was going to happen, via all the nudge, nudge, wink, wink manner of Douglas and company. We also knew the 1984 manifesto was a smokescreen, having stopped believing in such things from any party in our teens. We may not have known the specifics but we didn't need to. The general trends were enough.

As for Richard Prebble, he went on a nationwide "Save Rail" tour, organised largely by the railway unions.

And you believed him? I guess many older Labour voters did. We rolled our eyes.

blatant historical falsehoods is all the proof we need of their bad faith - and troubled consciences.
Oh please. This should be an intellectual discussion, not some standard Leftie jab about "caring". And your "blatant historical falsehoods" are very much up for debate, being more a product of what you apparently believed at the time versus what many of my friends believed Labour would do.

David George said...

I don't know there's a lot of value in getting caught up in the 1980's free market reforms so I'm not going to go there.

Seems to me, from this and Chris's other essays, that his fear is that a broad flank of Kiwis are/will be repulsed by the totalitarian and divisive social and cultural initiatives being engineered by Labour and that that will cause a substantial swing to conservative and liberal parties and a couple of decades in the wilderness for the left as a consequence.
I am happy about that and believe it's quite likely provided the opposition is courageous, coordinated, articulate and can get it's message through a generally hostile media. It won't be easy.

Much will obviously depend on the state of the economy, as it always does, but given the general incompetence on display from the current government, I can't see them creating a booming economy or making a dent in serious problems such as the housing shortfall.

Attacking our free speech rights and declaring war on whitey are seriously bad ideas for labour and fertile ground for a resurgent liberal conservativism.

John Hurley said...

If I was to write a history of this period from the bottom having started in the 1970's.
1. Unions had a bad reputation - seamen; warfies; freezing workers; drivers - not so much tea ladies.
2. Property. Two square meters of books at bookstore: Bob Jones, Dolf De Roos, Olly Newlands. Individuals who took the leap and retired by 2000 (the bus driver who owns a vineyard the baker with a canal home on the Goldcoast)
3. Globalisation. "Harcourts Shanghai" Immigration becomes religion on the left and mana from heaven for property investors.
4. Unions were mostly about restricting labour but when infiltrated by the progessive left (left-modernists) they became cheerleaders for immigration (labour supply).

Chris Trotter said...

To: Tom Hunter.

That book by Roger Douglas which you have on your shelf - and which you admit to reading many times - it isn't called "Towards Prosperity" by any chance?

Co-written with Louise Callan, "Towards Prosperity" was published in 1987, by which time, of course, the neoliberal train had long since left the station and was careening at full speed towards the sharemarket crash of October 1987 - a watershed event for the NZ middle-class and the beginning of all our woes vis-a-vis the property market.

It really does pay to have a rudimentary time-line in your head if you're going to engage in political-historical debate!

greywarbler said...

Trouble with a lot of those havinhg 'intellectual discussions' here is it is all about them and getting on and their advancement. The bigger picture of the society they are part of and which affects them and is in turn affected by them, and that we are all born human but turned into units of consumerism or judgment by business or dogma-loving religion. So no 'caring' there just intellectual discussion; cold brainwork directed by ego in psychological terms.

Rudimentary knowledge about society and the world, detailed knowledge about things that matter to them; result lesser than Shakespeare's 'rude mechanicals', becoming ruder as they view the possibility of apotheosis for those who choose to replace the Creator, obsessed with going into Space rather than finding Heaven. Hard-edged stuff for hard people, leaving the soft-edged stuff for Soppy Wets.

David George said...

Don't be so hard on people grey, we all fail to see the true glory of God; caught up as we are in the day to struggles of life.

Every Farmer Understands
Every Tear from Every Eye
Becomes a Babe in Eternity
This is caught by Females bright
And returnd to its own delight
The Bleat the Bark Bellow & Roar
Are Waves that Beat on Heavens Shore
The Babe that weeps the Rod beneath
Writes Revenge in realms of Death
The Beggars Rags fluttering in Air
Does to Rags the Heavens tear
The Soldier armd with Sword & Gun
Palsied strikes the Summers Sun
The poor Mans Farthing is worth more
Than all the Gold on Africs Shore
One Mite wrung from the Labrers hands
Shall buy & sell the Misers Lands
Or if protected from on high
Does that whole Nation sell & buy
He who mocks the Infants Faith
Shall be mockd in Age & Death
He who shall teach the Child to Doubt
The rotting Grave shall neer get out
He who respects the Infants faith
Triumphs over Hell & Death
From Auguries of Innocence by William Blake

Here's a lovely talk on beauty: https://youtu.be/OjoPod4NZ5A?t=1037

Jens Meder said...

What sense is there in just arguing about history, when the basic need for an infrastructure and housing investment boom can sustainably be kept going only by higher taxation, local body and general savings rates for higher debt repayments and domestic capital creation rates.
The more of the latter, the more interest payments become domestic earnings.

greywarbler said...

Jens Is that what they did in the last NZ Depression? Have the array of figures that the bean-counters amassed hypnotised enough people so they don't realise that without an intelligent correction there will be ever bigger holes at the end of the rainbow. Many young people looking for living space are likely to hear "If you can find a better 'ole go to it".

That was said in WW1. We can afford to go to war and make sacrifices when it suits, but the suits and the gumboot-tech-farmers aren't prepared to sacrifice their piratical prizes and their middle-class comforts to ensure we balance our economy and pay for our own stuff. Your list of barriers are just bogeymen to scare all the sensitive rich and wannabes.

Tom Hunter said...

That book by Roger Douglas which you have on your shelf - and which you admit to reading many times - it isn't called "Towards Prosperity" by any chance?

Oh no, Chris. It's definitely called There's got to be a better way and its 79 pages (including even the back cover) contain such juicy items as this:

No income tax on companies. No income tax on individuals.

Which sounds radically far away from anything that any Left-Wing party, even a centre-left party like NZ Labour, has ever proposed.

Or how about this on page 22 under "Devaluation":
In 1980 we would need to devalue by around 20 per cent to satisfy the Douglas Index of International Competitiveness".

So yeah, nah. No need for a "lost" paper in 1984 that mentions a figure of 20% to start the run. The fight about devaluation had been going on with Muldoon for several year and we knew that if Labour won it was going to happen.

All of which is why the 1978 cover had a Tom Scott cartoon showing Douglas in in tuxedo on a stool singing "My Way" while a saw circles around the stool. Aside from the amused Mr Scott there were plenty inside Labour who were afraid of what all that radicalism meant: a massive shift to the Right.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Tom Hunter.

Three things, Tom:

1. "There's Got To Be A Better Way" was published in 1980 - four years before the Snap Election and shortly after Douglas was sacked by Bill Rowling from the Finance Spokesperson's role. There was very little cause for anyone to take his little book all that seriously.

2. I'm looking at the section on Taxation and there's a proposal to simplify the Income Tax rules; support for an increase in Sales Tax; and a big push for a Capital Gains Tax and an Assets Tax. All pretty standard Labour fare. Maybe your book is laid out differently to mine - but I doubt it.

3. The "lost paper" advocating a 20 percent devaluation precipitated the run on the dollar precisely because it confirmed that Douglas's ideas would be the ideas of the incoming government. Up until then, that had been far from certain - especially given the vagueness of Labour's manifesto.

I am impressed, however, that you still have a copy of Douglas's book. It wasn't exactly the biggest seller in New Zealand's publishing history. I got mine cheap-as-chips from the remainder bin at the University Book Shop (Otago) Ltd.

John Hurley said...

Speaking of unionists

greywarbler said...

kiwidave Anythng you can do I can do better.
Here is the whole of Auguries of Innocence. Don't hold your breath while you read it.

He saw visions from age four. Just because I mention God if I did, it doesn't mean I think that a person should be obsessed with religion and belief, but it is possible for mankinds' fine brains to be activated in spiritual thought FTTT and not just crass materialism. After all Just Being Here is a sort of miracle, like the Monarch butterfly I hope to see hatch. Live fully and enjoy knowing each other would be good, with a bit of kindness thrown in, in Goldilocks amounts - not too much, not too little.

greywarbler said...

Blake has fine words and fine feelings. I stand in awe to read his version of my thoughts.
A Truth thats told with bad intent
Beats all the Lies you can invent
It is right it should be so
Man was made for Joy & Woe
And when this we rightly know
Thro the World we safely go
Joy & Woe are woven fine
A Clothing for the soul divine
Under every grief & pine
Runs a joy with silken twine


Kit Slater said...

It’s worth noting that Dutschke’s slogan Long March through the Institutions of Power builds on the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci’s theory of cultural hegemony - that the most powerful groups in society don’t always have to force or coerce people to do what they want. They can manipulate them into believing that they really want to do it.

The process isn’t limited to pursuing Left-wing ideology; indeed, it’s quite secular. Marxist economist Dr Susan George quoted Gramsci and made the argument that neo-liberal economists used exactly that process to counteract the Left’s economic policies. It works for Islam, too, placing its moderate representatives in civic institutions informing media, educators, academics and politicians on the Islamic imaginary. And very successful it is.

Jens Meder said...

Well greywarbler -
As you observed we can make sacrifices if it is felt necessary by all (the overwhelming majority) of us.
That means, without a threat of war or some other deadly danger, would not democratic unity for eliminating poverty be more easily achievable with participation of the poor in a universal effort of wealth ownership creation for them -

instead of the current way in which the socio-economic split into haves and have-nots is expected to be cured by unilateral wealth transfer from haves to the have-nots, without even making sure that there is some wealth ownership creation by the have-nots in it, so they cannot consume "hand-to-mouth" all the wealth donated to them ?

Or can you give us a single practical or theoretical example of wealth creation (not through redistribution of wealth already created) without someone having had to save (sacrifice) at the expense of hand-to-mouth consumption potential ?

sumsuch said...

The people must lead. By a people's party. Where it's about response we're in the stultifying equator, where troubles breed. 1984 prevented that party.

Always glad I leap over Monte Holcroft's letter-writers. Scunge-buckets. But good general knowledge.

Roger Douglas is so thin, yet he overwhelmed Labour. Good essay there for you, Chris.

greywarbler said...

It's interesting how many well-read people there are here with great theories and understandings of how things should be. Presumably once the theories were actioned, NZ and the world would run very well or with a huge improvement. Since the end of World War 2 and its horrific activity there has been over 50 years to improve living conditions and culture for us all. So where the hell have ya been?

Perhaps you are keyboard tappers but not workers. There is a difference. If you are a keyboard worker of the sort I refer to, you will be looking for a way to bring about near-nirvana (perfection provides no challenges and humans love something tor somebody to improve - though usually not themselves). If keyboard tappers do anything they set up a trust or foundation to help spread money and privilege amongst their set to people who 'fit'.

So we should all have done courses in understanding human thinking right from primary school, sharpened our minds to human tendencies that have to be overcome to achieve successful harmonious communities where individuals are enabled to think for themselves, and put their bit into working as a group and discussing hows and whys.

So Jens your ideas are just repetition of old adages. You are right about being being enabled to be part of the economic life of the nation. As we were in the 1960s, enabled to get a mortgage and a house, there were jobs to choose from that enabled saving and advancement. But many people weren't happy because their minds were as narrow and uhnknowing as yours is. The Cooks and Stewards Union for instance, turned everybody off unions by selfishly demanding better conditions on top of their already satisfactory ones, going for more pay, though well paid. Going on strike at Christmas at the one time where the little people had a break, reconnected families and relationships, had the chance to enjoy visiting parts of their own country or save up and travel further. And we had settled work times, and weekends where we could practice being free individuals.

We have had it all and foolishly lost it, and we will never get it again. That is an example not just of NZs, but human behaviour; taking things for granted, not acknowledging what we have, not assessing what we can expect as a small country which is a pimple on the world's backside, and has been a thorn at times. We have given all that away for a handful of beans, bitcoins and passing indulgences.

We could have been great, now Joseph's Tome are just sitting around dissing the action, and throwing mud pats saying yah-boo and losers and you don't know anything. echnioloured Dreamcoat is a bit ragged and holey, and some of us are conserving it and patching it carefully so we can restyle it suitable for the present age. But some are just sitting around dissing the action, throwing mud pats and saying yah-boo you're losers and don't know anything. We don't need people with theories looking for the Lost Chord we need good tunes now.

Jens Meder said...

But greywarbler - what repetition of "old adages do you mean?

With what modern adages can you describe the demonstrable physical (i.e. measurable) fact, that without saving and profitable investment (starting with the first laboriously finished stone ax), we would be still living like in the animal kingdom ?
If you can, please do.

The "paradise" up to the 1960-s became unsustainable, because the increasing desire, "need" for, and dependence - on welfare benefits and subsidies exceeded our willingness to pay the taxes for it, and also because our relatively diminishing productivity resulting from the relatively diminishing savings and investment rate - highlighted by our total consumption of our systematic savings into the Mickey Savage initiated Universal Super Fund.

If this not experienced reality, then can you please describe your version of why and how it all went the way it did ?

Nick J said...

Kiwidave, your last paragraph rings so true. I feel it in the air, whiteys are getting fed up with being told they are born racist and are not allowed to express their opposition to ideas that tear away at their culture. Fertile ground indeed, and you are correct in where its headed.

greywarbler said...

Just looking back at interesting and illuminating discussions. So Guillaume - you said:
The Treaty is a straightforward, simple document in both the English and Maori versions. When signed by both parties, it fulfilled its objective to the extent that Captain Hobson was able to say, “We are now one people”. No further action was needed on the Treaty, and there were no residual requirements. Notably, there was no mention of partnerships or principles.

The idea that the Treaty created a partnership between the signatories, the Maori and the British Sovereign has emerged in the past four decades. Legal authorities have pointed out that it is constitutionally impossible for the Crown to enter a partnership with its subjects.

I think you are trying to argue a wrong premise. When Maori signed Te Tiriti they were not subjects, they were making a Treaty with an incoming nation and wanted to control its incursions. One big problem was its 'drug sellers' who brought in alcohol that Maori had not had before, and the hooliganish (woke genuflection - apologies to Irish people) behaviour that was driven by swilling too much of that alcohol, and the diminishment of Maori mana under its influence. Also there was an attempt to control the devastation to Maori land holdings, landholders rights and mana from predations from said incomers and the clever use of legal precepts by the British (woke apology to the Brits for pointing the finger at the piratical side of British wealth acquisition).
I'll finish with a cherry on top from Eddie Izzard about colonisation and conquest (in his male transgender persona, now mostly set aside).
Do You Have a Flag? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9W1zTEuKLY