The Dim-Post

August 26, 2011

We’re all socialists now

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 9:30 am

Well, maybe:

Prime Minister John Key told United States diplomats all New Zealanders have a “socialist streak” and they secretly thought he was a “natural politician”, recent Wikileaks cables show.

Several US diplomatic cables from Wellington address domestic news and political issues.

Key met with visiting charge d’affaire Glyn Davies and told him National could not adopt conservative policies because a “socialist streak” runs through all New Zealanders, the cable said.

It’s useful to remember that a US charge d’affaire is not a therapist or a priest, and conversations with them do not give us a glimpse into the PMs soul. Key might just be saying this because it’s a useful thing to say to a representative from a very right-wing administration.

But lets say Key meant it. Are New Zealanders socialists? In the technical sense of the term, in which all economic capital should be owned by the state – no: hardly anyone in New Zealand endorses this ideology. In the rather loose, modern sense of the term in which anyone who doesn’t hold right-wing economic views is somehow ‘a socialist’, then yeah – most New Zealanders are socialists.

What the modern non-radical left actually believes in is welfare state regulated free market capitalism – but we haven’t come up with a catchy name for that yet so we’re stuck with being called socialists.

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53 Comments »

  1. Social Democrats?

    Comment by James Shaw — August 26, 2011 @ 9:35 am

  2. Social democrat does the trick, tho it’s stained by its attachment to party of same name

    Comment by StillSid — August 26, 2011 @ 9:39 am

  3. Or that other American standby: Liberals

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — August 26, 2011 @ 9:48 am

  4. In the NZ context it would be Conservatives, but that’s been hijacked by radical reformists.

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — August 26, 2011 @ 9:49 am

  5. I prefer “open-minded”.

    Comment by Ross — August 26, 2011 @ 9:52 am

  6. “Social Democrats?”

    That is the term I used to roll, as by definition it fits quite well – however, in this sense almost every party would be social democrats. But I think the term has been captured by a certain set of prescriptions in modern times. As a result, I think there is probably two groups in the centre-left and this one is too the left of the two (just because the prescriptions regarding social justice are generally a bit stronger than many NZer’s tend to believe).

    I’d say social democrats tend to favour some form of trade restrictions, a guaranteed minimum income, and a multicultural society – I’d say the “average” New Zealander tends to feel quite differently about those issues. Hell, I’m seen as a crazy right-wing nutbar and I believe in the last two attributes I just mentioned …

    Comment by Matt Nolan — August 26, 2011 @ 9:55 am

  7. Mixed economists?

    Comment by davidslack — August 26, 2011 @ 10:02 am

  8. @Graeme – Except “liberal” has always meant something different in the non-American English-speaking world where (in eight words) it refers to free-market capitalism with a non-authoritarian bent.

    Comment by billbennettnz — August 26, 2011 @ 10:23 am

  9. Socialist is the term that Hayekian extremists (like Richardson, Brash and English) use to describe what the rest of the world considers moderate centrism.

    Of course, in the terribly limited context of the anglophone political theatre, such positions are well to the left of the defined centre.

    Comment by George D — August 26, 2011 @ 10:27 am

  10. Non-Redbaiters.

    Comment by Pete George — August 26, 2011 @ 10:31 am

  11. “One dated May 2007 said his persona in private meetings differed little from the face he presented to the public.”
    I watched that 198? behind-the-scenes-at-Elders-Finance doco the other day where they follow Key at 25 – it was striking how similar he came across then too.

    Comment by garethw — August 26, 2011 @ 10:34 am

  12. Oh, and aren’t we Social Liberals at heart?

    Comment by garethw — August 26, 2011 @ 10:47 am

  13. Progressives?

    Comment by nicgavstar — August 26, 2011 @ 11:00 am

  14. Liberals – http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=liberals

    Comment by Rick Rowling — August 26, 2011 @ 11:01 am

  15. I was going to write ‘non-fuckwits’ but Pete George already beat me to it.

    Comment by Deano — August 26, 2011 @ 11:01 am

  16. @garethw #11
    Perhaps you (and they) have fingered one of the most telling reasons why John Key is so well regarded by the general public. What you see is what you get, warts and all. This really gets up the noses of the raving nutbar left (see almost any post at the Standard for evidence) who cannot concieve of a politician who is open, honest and says what he really thinks – minimal hidden agendas and an unfortunate tendency to speak off the cuff without the need for a pre-rehearsed script. I say minimum agendas because the “socialist streak” comment hints that he would naturally move further to the right if he thought the electorate would support that.

    Comment by DavidW — August 26, 2011 @ 11:03 am

  17. The real scoop there was Key’s praise of Michael Cullen. Has he ever been so kind about Bill English?

    Cullen … Shameful splurger who caused the global recession, and prudent guardian of nation’s finances who paid down debt and bequeathed strong fundamentals to his successor, does not compute, Natborgs’ heads explode …

    Comment by sammy — August 26, 2011 @ 11:15 am

  18. open, honest and says what he really thinks

    Aye: that solo mothers are breeding for a business and that bugger-all would starve if we cut all benefits tomorrow. Yes Johnny, we all secretly think that you’re a natural polly – and a sporting whizz, an intellectual giant with the heart of Mother Theresa and that Liz Hurley has the hots for you. Secretly, of course. No need to picture mum in a bikini while you’re around, son. (speaking of which, I do hope Clare’s not thinking of doing a socialist streak for a wool cup game…then again, Jacinta?)

    Comment by ak — August 26, 2011 @ 11:21 am

  19. “…a politician who is open, honest and says what he really thinks ”

    Comedy gold of the day!

    Comment by Me Too — August 26, 2011 @ 11:31 am

  20. The fact is while no politician says everything they think openly John Key comes across as far more open and accessible to ordinary people than most, which has been refreshing – and popular. And he’s been more true to his word than most politicians too.

    In direct contrast Goff’s body language suggests he’s often not comfortable with the message he tries to get across.

    Comment by Pete George — August 26, 2011 @ 11:41 am

  21. As usual, The Ramones take on political philosophy is useful. After 18 years of the headmaster/mistress, the popular head boy/cool kid has taken over the school. Makes it a lot more popular, but not really fit for purpose. CF Rock n Roll High School, with Key as Riff Randle, Clark as Principal Toger, English as Tom Beyer and Rodney Hide (remember him) as Eaglebauer. (and Farrar & Slater as Hansel & Gretel)

    Comment by Paul Rowe — August 26, 2011 @ 11:42 am

  22. @Pete George

    Well, as long as they *look* honest, who cares what they say …

    Comment by Tui — August 26, 2011 @ 11:53 am

  23. Little Southern Pragmatists (as in US doctrine of pragmatism viz settler frontier societies)

    Comment by raved — August 26, 2011 @ 11:55 am

  24. Tui, I also said “And he’s been more true to his word than most politicians too.” He’s generally trusted.

    Comment by Pete George — August 26, 2011 @ 12:02 pm

  25. We seem to have accepted having the lowest top tax rate in the OECD of countries with progressive taxation giving us the lowest tax wedge. In addition we are virtually trade barrier free and are recognised as one of the most liberal trading nations in the WTO being selected to sit on the highest number of panels (44) due to our neutral reputation this gives us compared to the average country which has only sat on 12-13. We are also ranked as the easiest country in the world in which to do business. In terms of state assets very little is owned by the government. I struggle to see how we could be classed as a socialist country, our markets are more liberal than they are in the USA.

    Comment by Rob — August 26, 2011 @ 12:14 pm

  26. +1 on “social democrats”.

    If you think about it, the foundation values of our civillisation are socialist.

    “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is essentially a communist / socialist credo directly attributed to the claimed Son of God. Karl Marx reformulated it in an industrial context as “From each according to his ability. To each according to his need.” It’s essentially the same thing.

    Families are also deeply socialist, all working together (in the ideal, anyway) for their common good.

    Neo-liberalism is thus hostile to the core values of our civilisation. Not that they see it as they reach for the cash.

    Comment by Steve (@nza1) — August 26, 2011 @ 12:35 pm

  27. I’d characterise NZ politics as more ‘Hot For Teacher’ actually.

    Rob, NZ also has one of the flattest tax structures in the world, and the recent increase to NZ’s universal flat-tax has made this even more so.

    Comment by George D — August 26, 2011 @ 12:55 pm

  28. We’re either progressive Conservatives or conservative Progressives

    Comment by gazzaj — August 26, 2011 @ 12:58 pm

  29. Q: Are New Zealanders socialists?
    A: Yes

    Comment by abel the amish — August 26, 2011 @ 12:59 pm

  30. National Socialists?

    Umm, oh dear…

    Comment by gn — August 26, 2011 @ 1:10 pm

  31. Q: Are New Zealanders socialists?
    A: Yes

    therefore…

    Q: Is abel the amish a true Scotsman?

    Comment by Sanctuary — August 26, 2011 @ 1:15 pm

  32. “We seem to have accepted having the lowest top tax rate in the OECD of countries with progressive taxation giving us the lowest tax wedge.”

    “Rob, NZ also has one of the flattest tax structures in the world, and the recent increase to NZ’s universal flat-tax has made this even more so.”

    Just as a starting point – our top tax bracket comes in at a much lower rate of income than many countries in the OECD. It is also relatively higher due to the fact that our consumption taxes are higher. But the relevant point to look at when talking about these issues is our spending on redistribution, which in turn makes final transfers through the tax-benefit system a lot higher (which is what we actually care about when talking about how redistributive government policy is) – and implies that these transfers are a lot more progressive then you are suggesting. Furthermore, for an OECD country we have a high level of government expenditure as a % of GDP well well in excess of Australia and the US, in fact according to the figures on wikipedia (as I couldn’t find my old OECD link) we spend more of income than Canada or Norway … http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government_spending

    This means that the government brings in and redistributes more of societies income than a good number of other countries – something to keep in mind.

    Comment by Matt Nolan — August 26, 2011 @ 1:25 pm

  33. In the technical sense of the term, in which all economic capital should be owned by the state

    This is a position held by almost no actually existing socialist ever, except perhaps for certain communists for a very limited time period thinking about a very limited transitional period. In fact, I would go so far as to say that in a technical sense, this is a completely wrong definition of socialism.

    Comment by Keir — August 26, 2011 @ 1:27 pm

  34. “Social democrat” is a more informative description of NZ than “liberal”. There’s debate over where the safety net should be set, but the vast majority of NZers believe the net should exist, and it’s politically impossible to remove it — Douglas got smacked down in the ’80s for moving in that direction. This isn’t a necessary component of contemporary liberalism — no major figure in the US, liberal or otherwise, has really pushed for a safety net since that flaming pinko Nixon.

    Comment by bradluen — August 26, 2011 @ 1:31 pm

  35. New Zealanders do not deserve nice things.

    …and that’s exactly what they get..

    So everyone clear on why Socialist losers lose?

    Socialism the loser when winning means everything

    Comment by OECD rank 22 kiwi — August 26, 2011 @ 2:06 pm

  36. Brad, on almost every issue, the United States is an outlier; in many cases greatly so. The mistake English-speaking people make is in thinking the US is somehow ‘normal’.

    Comment by George D — August 26, 2011 @ 2:19 pm

  37. Matt Nolan: “Furthermore, for an OECD country we have a high level of government expenditure []… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government_spending

    True, for definitions of ‘high’ that include ‘below average’.

    Comment by Tim — August 26, 2011 @ 2:28 pm

  38. @ Sanctuary “Q: Is abel the amish a true Scotsman?”

    Whats with the racist comments?

    Comment by abel the amish — August 26, 2011 @ 2:47 pm

  39. Poor abel, not the most erudite. Google “No true Scotsman”.

    Comment by Sanctuary — August 26, 2011 @ 2:59 pm

  40. Scottish? I thought he was from Utah.

    Comment by Phil — August 26, 2011 @ 3:06 pm

  41. Pennsylvania, surely?

    Comment by Nick — August 26, 2011 @ 3:08 pm

  42. You could all be right. I knew a Scotsman who was a Calvinist, but no true Scotsman could be a Dutchman.

    Comment by Sanctuary — August 26, 2011 @ 3:23 pm

  43. “What the modern non-radical left actually believes in is welfare state regulated free market capitalism – but we haven’t come up with a catchy name for that yet so we’re stuck with being called socialists.”

    It’s called a mixed economy.

    Comment by DeepRed — August 26, 2011 @ 5:02 pm

  44. George, true, but “liberal” was introduced to this thread in the US sense, and I don’t think “liberal” in the classical sense is particularly appropriate for NZ. While our policies are more pro-market than most, I don’t think the electorate has a consensus on the order of magnitude of regulation or freeness of trade — at least not enough of a consensus to distinguish us from other countries.

    Comment by bradluen — August 26, 2011 @ 5:07 pm

  45. John Key has clarified his comments re socialism:

    When Prime Minister John Key said all New Zealanders had a “socialist streak” it refered to their caring for others, he says….

    …Key said he could vaguely remember the meeting and said his comment was during a discussion about very right-wing policies.

    “I think New Zealand is a very caring country, I think New Zealanders do have a heart.”

    http://bit.ly/nIuFql

    That noise you hear is Don Brash, rending things.

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — August 26, 2011 @ 6:10 pm

  46. That noise you hear is Don Brash, rending things.

    I have to say that the Brash/Perigo combination (by the way, look up “slash” fanfic) is the best that’s happened to Newzild politics in years, at least as far as entertainment value is concerned. Key’s as slick and formulaic as a bland, production-line sitcom, while Goff, Mallard, King, and Curran make face/palm redundant because there’s never a moment when the face and palm are not intimately acquainted.

    These two… Hoooo-boy, they’re utterly sure that they’re right (‘cos, to borrow a phrase, the universe told them so), and utterly devoid of any understanding of the first principle of politics – that it is the art of the attainable. I can’t wait for the next press release. Will Perigo start ranting that the intrinsic ‘socialist streak’ makes us all ‘sheeple’ or will Brash say that, on the contrary, be have rugged individualism, or some banker’s jargon for the equivalent?

    Comment by Rhinocrates — August 26, 2011 @ 10:37 pm

  47. “A US diplomatic cable from mid-2007 said he met with charge d’affaire Glyn Davies and told him National could not adopt conservative policies because a “socialist streak” runs through all New Zealanders.
    (snip)
    “I think New Zealand is a very caring country, I think New Zealanders do have a heart.”

    “New Zealanders did not want to see the “overt” signs of poverty here that were present overseas, he said. ”

    So, basically, “the only reason I don’t enact policies that have people living on the street is because it wouldn’t be popular with the electorate.” CHARMING.

    This is also really great:

    “Asked if he had a socialist streak he said “absolutely” and pointed to Government programmes to help people during the global recession. ”

    Can someone please point out these programmes to me? (Not Cycleway.)

    Comment by Tui — August 26, 2011 @ 10:40 pm

  48. @Tui

    TAX CUTS!!TAX CUTS!!TAX CUTS!!TAX CUTS!!RAISING GST!TAX CUTS!!TAX CUTS!!

    Comment by Andy (the other one) — August 26, 2011 @ 11:02 pm

  49. “Asked if he had a socialist streak he said “absolutely” and pointed to Government programmes to help people during the global recession. ”

    Can someone please point out these programmes to me?

    The retail deposit guarantee scheme certainly helped a few people in Timaru.

    Comment by Gregor W — August 26, 2011 @ 11:04 pm

  50. I recall someone saying , back in the ’70’s , that putting two self proclaimed socialists in the same room would result in an argument
    (heated) over at least 3 (more likely 5) definitions of “socialism”.

    “socialism” has become meaningless as have other pejoratives such as “politically correct” (mind you that was always a pejorative and meaningless).

    Exchange “fuckwit” for “socialist”, within the context of that conversation and the communication outcome would be identical.

    Some of the posters above might want to alter their posts (slightly).

    Comment by peterlepaysan — August 27, 2011 @ 10:52 pm

  51. so you say socialists are fuckwits Peter?

    Comment by will — August 28, 2011 @ 1:11 am

  52. @Tui: Also, helping teenage beneficiaries to not buy alcohol. Just what the doctor ordered!

    Comment by Hugh — August 28, 2011 @ 7:17 am

  53. That’s because Key is such a hard-core conservative, that he thinks anyone with moderate views is a socialist. I think not. A lot of New Zealanders are conservative in their thoughts, such as our farmers and business leaders, but some of them over the years have resorted to voting for Labour because they’ve seen the damage caused by National’s Nazi policies like the welfare cuts in the early nineties which stuffed the country up further and put the whole country into the toilet for a while, themselves (farmers and business leaders) included.

    Why National, who have a former foreign exchange trader posing as their leader, do not realize by now that welfare cuts and rigid controls that they’re so keen on, does not result in stimulating our economy, which desperately needs a boost, is beyond belief.

    Comment by Gryte — August 31, 2011 @ 11:09 am


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