Thursday, June 9, 2011
Gerry Eckhoff: The Age of Reason
The original “age of reason” refers to the period around the 1750s onward when the population refused to continue to accept the teachings of authority – namely the church who at that time preached the doctrine that the hereafter was all ‘ordinary’ people could look forward to. Myths and superstition were replaced with freedom and the pursuit of knowledge and happiness. As the age of enlightenment took over, any challenge to the conventional wisdom of the day, no longer earned a citizen the title of heretic before being burned at the stake - supposedly to cleanse the body and soul of impurities before entering the after- life.
We in NZ accept that our personal freedom is (to some degree) secure but what of our economic freedom and security that currently lies in the hands of offshore financiers.
Any public comment or suggestion that our current policies are inadequate to deal with a decade of economic largess is greeted with emotive and spurious argument that a return to applying economic reason to NZ is unnecessary and would cause too much short term pain for too many people now reliant on the state.
Given the timorous nature of the recent budget and the Governments futile attempts to stem the tide of NZs systemic impoverishment, it is clear the age of (economic) reason has yet to reach our very own political Mullahs.
Not so very long ago another National Party Prime Minister - Sir Robert Muldoon thought he could stop NZs economic decline by borrowing vast sums of money and investing in infrastructure, just as John key is doing today. There were those who challenged Sir Robert at the time such as his cabinet Minister Derek Quigley. Quigley was branded a heretic and was discarded which was and still is the modern day equivalent of being burnt at the political stake. History tells us that Quigley was right and all Muldoon did was prolong NZs economic recovery with his ‘borrow and hope’ economic policies. Our current policies are similar.
Helen Clarks grasp on the economic “age of reason” was equally as tenuous. Clark’s decision to build the civil service to unparalleled levels had the effect of diverting resources away from building resilience into the economy. That ensured that the potential growth in our collective wealth never occurred. Neither our current Government nor the past Labour Government understand that the very policies that brought about a 4% growth rate in our economy are the very policies that must be continued if our nation is to prosper. There are no hushed voices who advocate a return to farm subsidies today yet the Government appears willing to subsidize people rather than sectors of our economy.
Had that Muldoon’s policies not been overturned in the 1980s our nation would totally impoverished. Greece, Portugal and Spain would be wealthy by comparison but stand today as the worst performing economies in the OECD because they ignored the need for economic reason.
There are those who attempt to warn this nation that we cannot continue to borrow $300+ million a week just to pay the nations equivalent of the grocery bill. Such people are vilified in and by the media, possibly to curtail debate of current policies and or to prolong the power base of those who studiously refuse to enter “the age of reason”.
Thomas Paine, who wrote the Age of Reason, was told by Benjamin Franklin in 1757
“I would advise you…. not to attempt unchaining the Tyger, but to burn this piece before it is seen by any other person, whereby you will save yourself a great deal of mortification from the enemies it may raise against you and perhaps a good deal of regret and repentance.
Thomas Paine also wrote that the most formidable weapon against error of every kind is reason. Reason is defined as the ability to form and operate upon concepts in abstraction – without emotion. That unique ability also allows us to recognize that there are those amongst us who through no fault of their own are in need of sustained help from within our communities but it also commands that waste and failed policies are exposed.
The rich irony is that just as the Middle East (hopefully) enters their own age of enlightenment, we in NZ appear to withdraw from reality and reason as we find new reverse gears for our economy that - at best- stall or neutralize the future for our young. We ignore that time (which was not so long ago), when we as a nation led the world into a true ‘age of reason and enlightenment’ that so many countries admired and followed.
We now subsidize the middle class.
at 9:02 PM