Sunday, April 1, 2012

Marc Alexander: Labour or National... Is there much of a difference anymore?

The last few years have prompted a number of people to become increasingly cynical about politics and all the more suspicious of fidelity to one party or another. Grumpy voters can’t see much of a difference in our expensively elected ‘party pamphlets’ hawking their party’s latest propaganda like trained parrots – only less cute. The public now discerns the divide between Labour and National as simply one of degree rather than a fundamental difference of principles.

Labour is seen to be the protector of ‘workers’ rights’ and seemingly has no problem in gouging the pockets of the rich to do so, handing out as many entitlements as they need to woo voters (think ‘Working for families’; progressive tax system etc). National meanwhile, champions ‘business’ but when push comes to shove, has little problem with extorting as much money from the ranks of the employed to help defray the cost of economic failure for those businesses deemed ‘too big to be allowed to fail’.

Just consider the National Government’s payout of $1.775 billion - or $405 for every man woman and child in New Zealand - to take control of failed moneylender South Canterbury Finance's assets; a payout borne by the taxes from those people who overwhelmingly chose to risk their dollars in the company. The point being that for as long as Labour and National are the alternatives to lead government, we end up having a free choice in which only one option is offered – socialism.

It’s hard not to escape the conclusion that they seem to be playing on the same team, as in American football, where one is the offensive and the other defensive. The legacy of both is an ever increasing intrusiveness of government, meddling in those affairs which ought to be private decisions. Take the example of obesity, caused by individual eating decisions, which is now to advanced as a ‘social problem’ to be dealt surgically and paid out for by taxpayers who have nothing to do with those poor dietary choices. The problem, in a nutshell, is that both Labour and National cling to a similar ‘liberal’ (and I use the term loosely) vision of government.

This liberal vision, unfolds into an implied assumption about the role of government and, more directly, on sources of votes which drives it. Their vision, if you could call it that, helps explain the language they use and policies they support. In a sense they are salesmen for entitlement programs paid out by all, but benefitting the few, based on the votes they expect in return. The focus of elections therefore, can be seen primarily as a battle of which entitlements are to be held sacrosanct and which are to be cut – depending on the constituencies Labour and National want to be seen supporting. The end result, however, is a government increasing its power, and cost, as it ratchets up its invasiveness to secure the next term in office. Little surprise then, that successive governments have seen their advertising (media) departments ballooning as they try to win the publicity war.

While each ‘side’ decries the priorities of the other, at heart is the basic idea that anything the government fails to provide is something that people will be deprived of. In other words, if you fail to make available social housing, people will be homeless. If you fail to subsidize prescription drugs, old people will have to eat dog food in order to be able to afford their medications. It is a vision actively promoted by politicians and, as a consequence, much of the media. But, in the real world is it true for most people?

Go to a ‘poor’ suburb and count how many Sky satellite dishes are on the roof. How any of our ‘hungry’ low-income neighborhood residents have cars, cell-phones, afford cigarettes… eat out at fast-food joints regularly? They make choices – like the rest of us. We should not be side-tracked by the nonsense promulgated by the big government advocates: the country will not be any richer because the government pays for more of our identified ‘needs’ — with money that it takes (steals?)from us.

We are speedily sending our nation into bankruptcy, in the name of countless entitlements, on people or companies who could take care of themselves. They have been used as ‘causes’ by parasitic politicians as shields behind which the expanding welfare state can advance – for both individuals (in the case of Labour) and business (in the case of National). In either case it is socialism by stealth. The real goal is purely political. It is to create dependency because dependency translates into votes for politicians who want to play Santa Claus.


Brian said...

Forty years ago National was opposed to socialism. Now since the advent of MMP it has embraced its principles in a "Middle of the Political Road Venture" hoping to appeal to everyone.
The main problem with appealing to everyone, is that in the final analysis you end up appeal-ling to no one! However with today's Politicians this is a minor consideration, a hurdle they will avoid by the simple expedient of not being around long enough to deal with it.
In today's MMP environment all parties in Parliament subscribe to a form of socialism. After all most Western Nations are socialistic managed and driven.
We can then expect, more funding for policies which have a direct effect upon the next election, more debt, more excuses, and more problems based upon ethnic divisions.
A great inheritance to leave to our children.

Steve Baron said...

You say "The focus of elections therefore, can be seen primarily as a battle of which entitlements are to be held sacrosanct and which are to be cut – depending on the constituencies Labour and National want to be seen supporting".

The trouble here is that it is a package deal, all or nothing. Both sides, along with the minor parties, have good policies and bad policies. The problem is we can not reject the government policies the majority of voters are against because the government has a so called 'mandate'.

That is not democracy. Having the ability to veto a policy when the government are out of touch with the majority, is democracy. Or even to initiate policy when the government does not want to, or is afraid to approach a subject for political reasons.

And if majority rule worries you--minority rule should worry you even more! It is time we had these options and it is time we all trusted the collective wisdom of 3 million NZ voters.

Miles Hayward-Ryan said...

The voting system must be seen in the light of evolutionary history. We are still stuck with a westminster parliamentary system which was devised to counter-balance regal power. The usurpers were the more educated and assumed the parliamentary role of doing what was best for the people. As it has evolved, vested interests then lobbied parliament for favours which gave in to the pressure. The worst example is probably USA now. Parliament no longer speaks for the people. Parliament is less powerful while Cabinet and the Prime minister has become king with regal powers.
The people too have evolved to be far more educated and certainly capable of being educated about the system. But learned helplessness and apathy prevents citizens from doing anything.
The problem is that we vote only on a new parliamentary king or queen every three years. As even Ken Douglas said many years ago, the triennial vote is too blunt an instrument.
The whole system must be changed from the bottom up. Politicians will not do it. It must be done soon before a new racially based constitutional arrangement makes it more difficult. A veto referendum power is a good step but by no means far enough. People must be led to claim back their government so it works for the people instead of for politicians and vested interests with the people in third place. The absence of much legislation which protects people is proof enough that Parliament does not act for the people.