The Dim-Post

December 9, 2013

No future for you

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 12:59 pm

According to the Herald’s editorial today:

There will always be a constituency for the Act Party’s founding principles of individual freedom, personal responsibility, small government and lower taxes.

And again in the conclusion:

At the last election, Act secured just 1.07 per cent of the vote. There is absolutely nothing to suggest it would do better next year. For some time, starting over with an alternative neo-liberal party under younger leadership has appeared to be the only viable response to Act’s many woes. The departure of Mr Banks underlines this.

It may take time for a new party to get off the ground. But there will be a constituency for its core philosophy and territory in the political spectrum for it to occupy, all because both of these substantial pluses were squandered by Act.

In the New Zealand Electoral Survey they ask people about their political beliefs. In question B7 of the 2011 survey they ask:

Generally, do you think it should be or should not be the government’s responsibility to provide or ensure:
a) A job for everyone who wants one
b) Decent living standards for all old people
c) Decent living standards for the unemployed
d) Decent housing for those who can’t afford it
e) Free health care for everyone
f) Free education from pre – school through to tertiary and university
This gives us an indication of where voters stand when it comes to the level of government intervention in the economy. If you’re one of Nietzsche’s last men, a loathsome parasite feeding on the work of others then you’re going to answer ‘Should’ or ‘Definitely should’ to 6/6 questions. If you’re a super-human magical wealth creating genius and potential ACT voter then you’re not going to answer ‘Should’ or ‘Definitely should’ to any of them. Here’s the distribution:
nzesgovsupport

Another triumph for the moochers and looters! 3.5% of the survey want an ACT-style night-watchman state – less than the 5% threshold. (Actually fewer than this since this includes all the people who just wrote ‘Don’t know’ or simply didn’t answer this question. If you limit it to people who wrote ‘Shouldn’t’ or ‘Definitely shouldn’t’ you’re down to 1.4% of the sample).

Intriguingly, more of the 0/6 respondents voted for Labour than ACT (the vast majority voted National). Depressingly, many of the people in 1/6 and 2/6 columns are near or above retirement age and don’t think the government should do anything except fund superannuation and/or free health care.

Anyway, my point here is that even if you ‘rebrand’ ACT or build a new party and somehow get all the people who identify with its values to vote, and to vote for you, there’s still not enough support to get into Parliament without doing an electorate seat deal.

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21 Comments »

  1. Apart from in 96,99,02 when ACT had around 7% electoral support. So either these people are all dead or changed their ideology.

    Comment by King Kong — December 9, 2013 @ 1:12 pm

  2. Generally, do you think it should be or should not be the government’s responsibility to provide or ensure:

    Ok, here’s one problem with this suite of questions, just off the top of my head.

    There are lots of different ways a government can ‘provide or ensure’ something, and how you think a government might go about doing that is going to be coloured by your pre-existing political beliefs.

    For instance, if I was an ACT voter (I’m not) I would look at a question like “Generally, do you think it should be or should not be the government’s responsibility to provide or ensure a job for everyone who wants one?” and think to myself: “Yes, it is the job of a Government to ensure employment opportunity for everyone, AND they way they do that is by reducing regulation and cutting company taxes to encourage growth and profitability.”

    Comment by Phil — December 9, 2013 @ 1:27 pm

  3. The survey should also have asked whether the Government should charge zero tax. Then see how many people wanted 7 out of 7

    Comment by MarkS — December 9, 2013 @ 1:30 pm

  4. Apart from in 96,99,02 when ACT had around 7% electoral support.

    True, but –

    In 1996 Bolger was seeking a third term and MMP was new for the voters.

    In 1999 and 2002 National and their leaders were unpopular and very unpopular respectively.

    If ACT can only get over 5% when National are unpopular, they can’t get a majority together.

    In fact, National alone (1990, 2011, 2008) have generally done better than National plus 5% ACT.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — December 9, 2013 @ 1:34 pm

  5. About 30% of the survey agreed with the statement that lower taxes would help the economy. But almost all of them want lower taxes when asked but more government spending on everything when asked in a separate section of the survey. They ain’t ACT voters.

    Comment by danylmc — December 9, 2013 @ 1:39 pm

  6. There’s also the argument that the threshold really should not be as high as 5%..

    Comment by Robbie — December 9, 2013 @ 1:54 pm

  7. I think this analysis would work if people were fully-informed and vote purely on the basis of policy ideal points. But they aren’t and they don’t. A person could decide “I really want lower taxes, but I have a gay friend” and easily end up ticking the ACT box in preference to National. Nothing too errant in that logic, even though you’d almost guarantee they would not come out as ACT-accolytes on the NZES quiz. I honestly think that with the an untainted messenger, a simple message, and a weaker National, they could pull 5-7% again.

    Comment by Rob Salmond — December 9, 2013 @ 2:10 pm

  8. PS – Orit Kedar has a good book on why moderate voters vote for extreme policy in PR systems. For her, the core issue is policy *direction*, not policy *ideal points*.

    Comment by Rob Salmond — December 9, 2013 @ 2:13 pm

  9. A moderate libertarian could easily answer “should” to one or more of those. You could, for example, support intervention to stop the elderly freezing to death while also supporting raising the super age and introducing means testing, both of which would be major smaller government reforms.

    But you knew that, of course #troll

    Comment by Richard — December 9, 2013 @ 2:22 pm

  10. But there will be a constituency for its core philosophy and territory in the political spectrum for it to occupy, all because both of these substantial pluses were squandered by Act.

    I can’t help wondering, if the constituency exists, why did ACT squander it with its various opportunistic attempts to corral extra voters with appeals to racism & gun ownership & racism again? Are we supposed to blame it all on Hide and Brash?

    Comment by herr doktor bimler — December 9, 2013 @ 2:29 pm

  11. Given that we’re yet to see a support party continue its electoral success after joining in coalition with National or Labour, I’m not sure it’s particularly constructive to look at ACT’s collapse in isolation – without first trying to find some common threads with the Alliance, United Future, The Maori Party, and NZF.

    My guess is that:
    1) the policy demands of the junior partner are generally subsumed within the senior partner agenda, and what should be touted as a flagship for the junior partner simply becomes a ‘government’ (i.e. Nat/Lab) decision.
    2) the need for the junior partner to give support to a whole raft of senior partner policies is seen as ‘selling out’ by the activist/membership core, and they desert the party en-masse, allowing a relatively small fringe or wing of the party to move it in an electorally unpalatable direction.

    Comment by Phil — December 9, 2013 @ 5:24 pm

  12. Given that we’re yet to see a support party continue its electoral success after joining in coalition with National or Labour, I’m not sure it’s particularly constructive to look at ACT’s collapse in isolation…

    But ACT didn’t collapse “after joining in coalition with National”. It got its highest vote in 2002, then “collapsed” to 1.5% in 2005.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — December 9, 2013 @ 5:36 pm

  13. >A person could decide “I really want lower taxes, but I have a gay friend” and easily end up ticking the ACT box in preference to National.

    Because John Banks loves gays?

    >why did ACT squander it with its various opportunistic attempts to corral extra voters with appeals to racism & gun ownership & racism again? Are we supposed to blame it all on Hide and Brash?

    It happened despite them, IMHO, on the natural logic that extremist economics attracts extremists, and the biggest group that likes the whole zero tax thing are religious fruitcakes. This was the thing that put me off ACT (I did vote for them once) back in about 1992. Basically, the ideas have some appeal, but the practicality doesn’t. It attracts creeps, and it doesn’t work.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — December 9, 2013 @ 6:17 pm

  14. “Anyway, my point here is that even if you ‘rebrand’ ACT or build a new party and somehow get all the people who identify with its values to vote, and to vote for you, there’s still not enough support to get into Parliament without doing an electorate seat deal.”

    Weren’t you just telling us, Danyl, about the supreme importance of campaigns in shaping voter behaviour? So surely ACT could get more than the support shown here after a good campaign. (Like the one they ran in 2002)

    Comment by kalvarnsen — December 9, 2013 @ 7:20 pm

  15. Oh, I missed this.

    “About 30% of the survey agreed with the statement that lower taxes would help the economy. But almost all of them want lower taxes when asked but more government spending on everything when asked in a separate section of the survey. They ain’t ACT voters.”

    Because nobody would ever vote on a single issue, right Danyl?

    Honestly it feels like you wanted to prove that ACT are permanently hopeless and went backwards from there. I think your own opinions are colouring your methodology.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — December 9, 2013 @ 7:28 pm

  16. “the biggest group that likes the whole zero tax thing are religious fruitcakes.”
    Yep, there was the whole ZAP thing.

    “Basically, the ideas have some appeal, but the practicality doesn’t. It attracts creeps, and it doesn’t work.”
    It seems unfair that the Conservative Party dude is getting stick now for believing that the moon landings were faked, when far crazier belief systems were standard currency in ACT circles without so much as a raised eyebrow from the media.

    Most obviously there was Muriel Newman — their deputy leader! — with her whole “Celtic settlement” magical archeology, but she was far from alone. Here were these people presenting themselves as hard-headed rationalists, devoid of sentiment or wishful thinking, devoting their lives to unflinching objectivity — and the media accepted that self-evaluation — but in practice magical thinking was the rule, with only a tangential link to consensus reality. It was depressing.

    Comment by herr doktor bimler — December 9, 2013 @ 9:00 pm

  17. Speaking of Muriel Newman, here’s the Aotearoa Conspiracy Wallchart for anyone who’s not already encountered it:
    http://all-embracing.episto.org/map/map.png

    Ben Wilson @13:
    “It happened despite them, IMHO, on the natural logic that extremist economics attracts extremists”

    So the long ACT pursuit of splinter constituencies was not so much cynical unprincipled opportunism, but simply the implacable workings of Crank Magnetism? Hard to argue with that.

    Comment by herr doktor bimler — December 9, 2013 @ 10:05 pm

  18. >So the long ACT pursuit of splinter constituencies was not so much cynical unprincipled opportunism, but simply the implacable workings of Crank Magnetism?

    Pretty much. A particular kind of crank, though. Put all the cranks together and you’d have a rival to the major parties. But it doesn’t work like that.

    Libertarianism has at it’s core the paradox of tolerance. The extreme social tolerance side means they end up having to tolerate the intolerant. So they can’t actually form a coherent unified force for long. They’re always going to be jacked from within by the wierdos they attract.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — December 9, 2013 @ 10:51 pm

  19. [QUOTE]Depressingly, many of the people in 1/6 and 2/6 columns are near or above retirement age and don’t think the government should do anything except fund superannuation and/or free health care.[/QUOTE]
    Old people are more selfish than everyone else. I’m surprised at this…I think.

    Makes me think of this article (in the UK the Tories are proposing raising retirement age to 69 – work harder you young bastards!)

    http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/society/young-people-just-going-to-change-pension-age-back-later-2013120681767

    Comment by Seb Rattansen — December 10, 2013 @ 9:47 am

  20. I don’t vote ACT, but would make the point that 97 people who believe that 3 individuals who don’t believe in their ethic should, regardless, be forced to sacrifice their lives for the needs of complete strangers, doesn’t make the 97 right.

    There’s no truth, nor morality, in numbers.

    I can do whatever I like so long as I harm no one. There is no higher morality than that.

    Comment by Mark Hubbard (@MarkHubbard33) — December 10, 2013 @ 6:23 pm

  21. With respect to the post: An obvious conclusion to many of us…..but the Herald’d neo-liberals don’t grasp it.

    Comment by Steve (@nza1) — December 12, 2013 @ 4:56 pm


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