The Dim-Post

November 24, 2011

Pundit’s fallacy watch

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 6:47 am

The pundit’s fallacy is when a political commentator decides that what they personally want to happen is the best political and strategic outcome for a party or government. And here you can almost hear the wheels spinning in John Armstrong’s brain: he wants a National-led government, he doesn’t want Winston Peters to be part of it – click; whirr; hiss – so the Greens should enter into coalition with National.

If the Greens go into coalition with National they instantly lose an unknown but non-zero percentage of their MPs. They’ll lose more during the term as English and Joyce make cuts to the public service and Finlayson and Collins go to war on the Bill of Rights and the legal system, and MPs resign from the party in protest. They lose party members and donors. They lose a huge percentage of their voters who are soft-Labour supporters, and they get wiped out at the next election. It’s political suicide. It won’t happen. It makes more sense for Labour and National to go into coalition together than it does for the Greens to sit at the Cabinet table with Judith Collins and Steven Joyce.

If National gets a majority then the Greens might agree to abstain on confidence and supply in exchange for some policy wins. And that’s a good reason to vote Green if you’re on the left – they’ll be an effective opposition but they may also deliver some policies.

46 Comments »

  1. “It makes more sense for Labour and National to go into coalition…”

    It does, but don’t expect Labour and National to put sense (and country) before their own party interests.

    Greens have been looking like effective opposition (more so than Labour) for some time and are being rewarded in the polls, most of that should translate to votes.

    Comment by Pete George — November 24, 2011 @ 6:54 am

  2. The fallacy certainly exists but the motivation is not necessarily ideological. It is often just wanting the more dramatic of two options to happen – because that is more fun to comment on in the media, and pundits are much more in demand when the dramatic thing happens than when it is business as usual. Saying on radio on TV that “John Key has cancelled his trip to India to return to Wellington to deal with his wayward coalition partner” makes me waaaay more important as a pundit than “some important tariff negotiations will be negotiated in Delhi this week”.

    Comment by Matthew Hooton — November 24, 2011 @ 7:01 am

  3. Human nature promotes a chaotic state?

    Comment by Pete George — November 24, 2011 @ 7:06 am

  4. The Greens need to look back 30 years to 1981, when Social Credit, having campaigned on a balance of responsibility mantra, thus increasing their vote from people who wanted no part of Muldoon style government, then caved in to vote for the Clyde Dam project. The wind coming out of Wellington after that was the collapsing Social Credit support, and that effectively killed them as a credible political party.

    Comment by Al — November 24, 2011 @ 7:43 am

  5. The pundit’s fallacy is when a political commentator decides that what they personally want to happen is the best political and strategic outcome for a party or government.

    The MSM equivalent of tinkerblogging?
    https://dimpost.wordpress.com/?s=tinkerblog

    Comment by Joe W — November 24, 2011 @ 8:35 am

  6. I agree there is no way the Greens will agree to support or abstain on supply and confidence for National if they have the choice of a Labour-led Government.

    However it may be unclear how viable a Labour-led Government is. If Labour can only govern with support of NZ First, Greens, Maori and Mana, the Greens would face Winston being able to bring them down at any stage (as he will refuse to commit to supply and confidence) or worse Winston telling Labour he will only give them confidence and supply if there are no Green Ministers (as he did in 2005).

    Then the Greens might take the view that a Labour-led Government is not viable, even though it is mathematically possible.

    Comment by dpf — November 24, 2011 @ 9:08 am

  7. They could also look at what happened to the Lib Dems in the UK after the election last year.

    Comment by JN — November 24, 2011 @ 9:15 am

  8. there is no way the greens will go into coliation with national. But i am sure if the green party propose somethning to national which is sound and smart john key will support which helps both the grenens/national and the country

    Comment by graham lowe — November 24, 2011 @ 9:16 am

  9. It would be a huge tactical error if they did it. Look at the Lib-Dems in the UK – it hasn’t done them any favours. And the Greens have been a very effective Opposition in many ways – Kevin Hague was effectively the Opposition Health spokesperson until he got so understandably caught up in the Pike River disaster.

    Comment by Michael Stevens — November 24, 2011 @ 9:20 am

  10. @ Matthew Hooten: “The fallacy certainly exists but the motivation is not necessarily ideological. It is often just wanting the more dramatic of two options to happen – because that is more fun to comment on in the media, and pundits are much more in demand when the dramatic thing happens than when it is business as usual. ”

    But by that reasoning, Armstrong should be MORE in favour of a National Government reliant on Peters to govern. No risk of “business as usual” in that scenario!

    @DPF: “If Labour can only govern with support of NZ First, Greens, Maori and Mana …”

    Then they won’t govern. In such a scenario, the Maori Party will support National again (why would they sit down with Mana in such an arrangement?) and the Greens will be off the hook.

    Yes, the Greens are working towards a situation where they can conceivably take some role in a National led government, but it isn’t this election.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — November 24, 2011 @ 9:31 am

  11. Um… he doesn’t say anything about a Greens-National coalition. He says pretty much what you say in the first sentence of your last paragraph.

    Comment by helenalex — November 24, 2011 @ 9:31 am

  12. If National gets a majority then the Greens might agree to abstain on confidence and supply in exchange for some policy wins. And that’s a good reason to vote Green if you’re on the left – they’ll be an effective opposition but they may also deliver some policies.

    I’ve been thinking much the same. It’s not a given that such an ameliorating effect on National would happen but it makes the chances of that higher at least.

    Had Labour looked like winning I’d have voted Maori Party for the same reason.

    Although now with the Greens doing so well anyway perhaps the Maori Party makes some sort of sense. Having both a strong Green and Maori Party would make life interesting for the National govt.

    Comment by NeilM — November 24, 2011 @ 9:33 am

  13. Greens may opt for confidence and supply in return for concessions on ending child poverty/cleaning up our rivers/green jobs. No cabinet positions. They can still be a real opposition party while looking mature and responsible in these troubled times we face.

    Comment by Neil — November 24, 2011 @ 9:43 am

  14. In my opinion, the Greens are one, perhaps two, elections away from being the dominant left-wing party, but only if they steer clear of even appearing to support National. Labour doesn’t look anywhere close to having a caucus of sufficient quality to withstand a decent challenge from their left. If the Greens maintain the momentum of the campaign into next year by developing their economic policy to be as strong as the environmental and social, and perhaps work alongside Mana (because no-one else is going to), I think the electorate would strengthen the current “soft” support.

    Comment by Greg — November 24, 2011 @ 9:56 am

  15. Greg – Green Party Policy is not to end Child Poverty, it’s to take 100,000 kids out of poverty, and leave the other ~140,000 impoverished.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — November 24, 2011 @ 10:27 am

  16. sorry – that was a comment for Neil.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — November 24, 2011 @ 10:35 am

  17. Graeme, there’s a policy suite here. You may not argue that it’s not comprehensive enough, or that it will be ineffective, or that rich people should pay less tax and therefore government budgets cannot include such measures. But this is stated policy objective with wide a range of measures designed to address it directly.

    Comment by George D — November 24, 2011 @ 10:43 am

  18. “Yes, the Greens are working towards a situation where they can conceivably take some role in a National led government, but it isn’t this election.”

    I wouldn’t be so sure, Andrew. If ACT and UF are history, and if National doesn’t get an outeight majority, then I’d be willing to say that there’s a fair chance that the Greens will have some role to play.

    Comment by Ross — November 24, 2011 @ 11:32 am

  19. If the Greens maintain the momentum of the campaign into next year by developing their economic policy to be as strong as the environmental and social then they’ll end up looking like This.

    Comment by Phil — November 24, 2011 @ 12:25 pm

  20. This.

    Comment by Phil — November 24, 2011 @ 12:27 pm

  21. Andrew wrote: If ACT and UF are history, and if National doesn’t get an outeight majority, then I’d be willing to say that there’s a fair chance that the Greens will have some role to play.

    If the National Party couldn’t govern without the Greens, that would probably mean a Labour-led government could get a majority with the Greens, so why wouldn’t the Greens go for that?

    Comment by Kahikatea — November 24, 2011 @ 1:14 pm

  22. @Graeme Edgeler @ 10:27 am

    The 100,000 kids out of poverty is what the Greens expect their policies could achieve in the first three years in Government, given the fiscal constraints likely over that period. Their longer term goal is to end child poverty.

    Comment by toad — November 24, 2011 @ 1:33 pm

  23. Kahikatea

    National may be able to govern without the Greens, but that doesn’t mean National will necessarily ignore them. National could govern with the Maori Party but may also want to bring the Greens onside (even though it might not be neccesary) as part of a longer term strategy.

    Comment by Ross — November 24, 2011 @ 1:33 pm

  24. I don’t disagree Danyl, but I think a lot of what you’ve said about Green support collapsing would result from a coalition with National too.

    This has been the pattern for Green parties globally, the moment they participate in government, they start to flail. The German Greens have yet to recover from the 1990s.

    Comment by Hugh — November 24, 2011 @ 1:44 pm

  25. “Andrew wrote: If ACT and UF are history, and if National doesn’t get an outeight majority, then I’d be willing to say that there’s a fair chance that the Greens will have some role to play.”

    No I didn’t. Ross did. I said that I don’t think the Greens can take any formal part in a National led Government post-election. But I also don’t think National will need them. So it’s all guesswork, really.

    That said, there probably will be some effort to get a MOU between the two parties (an expanded version of the one that applied at the last election). And long term, significant elements in both parties would like to get to a position where they can govern jointly. But it will be bloody hard for them to do so!

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — November 24, 2011 @ 1:46 pm

  26. The fun (if unlikely) scenario is something like:

    NAT 57
    LAB 38
    GRE 16
    NZF 6
    MAO 3
    MAN 1
    Total 121

    No ACT, no Dunne.

    Labour would need the Greens, NZF, and either the MP or Harawira to cobble together a majority. Best of luck, Phil.

    National would need either the Greens or NZF. Key really doesn’t want to deal with the politically poisonous Winston. The Greens might be able to wrangle five Cabinet seats and most of their bottom line policies if they offered a formal coalition. Would that be worth the immediate fracturing of party unity?

    Comment by bradluen — November 24, 2011 @ 1:50 pm

  27. toad: “The 100,000 kids out of poverty is what the Greens expect their policies could achieve in the first three years in Government, given the fiscal constraints likely over that period. ”

    That’s a very optimistic goal for an inter-generational problem. It’s not just a matter of giving a few thousand families some more money and raising the minimum wage.

    It involves education for children and parents of the most difficult demographic to educate, it involves creating a lot more employment in severe economic conditions (not just dreaming that a % of international green opportunities will pop up here), it involves upgrading a lot of housing, it involves dealing with substance and gambling addictions and it involves changing entrenched cultures.

    Comment by Pete George — November 24, 2011 @ 2:35 pm

  28. I think in that scenario, Brad, the Tories would negotiate with the Greens and NZF, although they would be negotiating with both from a position of strength. This would mean that the Greens wouldn’t get that many bums on seats around Cabinet, nor all their “bottom line” policies. (And what are those bottom line policies, for that matter? Is all this child poverty stuff bottom line? Because there is no way in a billion years National would ever go with it) Going with Winston would be a bad look, but if you think that National would rather pour hundreds of millions into poverty alleviation than have to have Winston as Minister of something or other, there’s not much I can do for you.

    Comment by Hugh — November 24, 2011 @ 2:57 pm

  29. Pete that would be a good point of poverty was caused by a lack of education, not a lack of money.

    Comment by Hugh — November 24, 2011 @ 3:07 pm

  30. There was poverty in the world before there was money.

    Comment by Pete George — November 24, 2011 @ 3:46 pm

  31. Hugh: heh, in a bounced comment to yesterday’s Kiwipolitico thread that asked for a bipartisan commitment to addressing child poverty, I wrote “This almost necessarily has to be paid for out of taxation, and if you think you can convince National to sign up to that, then good luck to you… But ending child poverty will not happen with the initial consent of this National Party.” (“Ending” is too wussy a statement, should be “substantial reduction” or something.) So yeah.

    Comment by bradluen — November 24, 2011 @ 3:53 pm

  32. Good point, let me rephrase. Poverty is caused by a lack of material resources, which in a capitalist society, is mediated via money.

    Comment by Hugh — November 24, 2011 @ 4:16 pm

  33. You got bounced for that comment, brad? :-/

    To be honest I’m not sure if Labour would wear it, either. Which is why I’m hesitant to give the Greens full credit for their economic policies, because I give them enough credit to know that those policies would get ground down to almost noting in any coalition deal, so they don’t realistically expect to ever have to implement them.

    Comment by Hugh — November 24, 2011 @ 4:18 pm

  34. Poverty is caused by a combination of things, including lacks of material resources and the right intellectual resources. It can also be caused by bad luck.

    By today’s measure I probably grew up in poverty, certainly at times my family was very poor. But I never went hungry. And I always had sufficient clothes – they were often hand-me-downs but they kept me warm.

    And I learned a good work ethic from a young age. When I was nine I earned money to go on a holiday camp, one of the few holidays I had. I was lucky to live in a time and place that that was possible.

    We need far more wideranging solutions than borrowing more money.

    Comment by Pete George — November 24, 2011 @ 4:32 pm

  35. This campaign has been weird in that the major parties have been expected to account for every last dollar over the next three years, even though everyone thinks Treasury’s forecasts are bullshit. Nevertheless, it means there’s going to be little money left to buy off the minor parties, so I might be pretty wrong as to how far the Nats would go to get Green support. Would the Greens agree to C&S for clean rivers and maaaybe a modest cleantech slush fund?

    (By “bounced” I mean it was something I assume was a glitch on the part of somebody’s computer, and nothing active on KP’s part.)

    Comment by bradluen — November 24, 2011 @ 4:49 pm

  36. @Brad: I’ve always assumed that the Greens would prioritise their environmental policies, which are largely low-cost or no-cost, and jettison their economic policies, which are mostly very expensive.

    @Pete: No, you see, that old-timey-back-in-my-day wank is just that, a bunch of wank. Poverty is an insufficiency of basic material resources. It can be solved by giving people more money, because that’s how you get resources! Poverty is caused by lack of money, so more money > less poverty.

    All this flap about how your parents raised you right and how people used to know the value of an honest day’s work and blah de fucking blah is just a self-serving rationalisation because you don’t want to have to share your wealth with the poor. And you know what, that’s your right, but why not just come out and say it rather than this pompous moralising palaver? Don’t you have better things to do, like go yell at a bunch of kids to get off your lawn?

    Honestly Pete, I’m half your age and yet the things you seem to regard as bold, innovative blue-sky thinking, I’ve heard about a billion times before.

    Comment by Hugh — November 24, 2011 @ 5:02 pm

  37. Poverty is caused by lack of money, so more money > less poverty.

    Interesting… so, remind me again why statistics on Maori poverty and outcomes show no improvement (relative to their Pacifica or European peer-group) when we’ve spent the better part of two decades throwing money at Treaty Settlements?

    Comment by Phil — November 24, 2011 @ 6:08 pm

  38. Because the money that’s spent on Treaty Settlements isn’t generally used for poverty alleviation, I guess.

    Comment by Hugh — November 24, 2011 @ 6:09 pm

  39. for a while i’ve been a bit been mysterfied by just how poorly Labaour has been doing. I know why thet lost my support but I’ve never thought my peroccupations would be shared to any great extent.

    But after seeing the clip of Cunliffe linked to be dpf I can see why. The patronising attitude is remarkable, the dumbing down of the message and the slipping into fake cuzzie-bro accent. If that’s how they treat their supposed supporters.

    Comment by NeilM — November 24, 2011 @ 6:16 pm

  40. Hugh, maybe when you’re my age you will have learned that throwing a blanket of money at people doesn’t fix most of the problems.

    Nor does forcing businesses across the board to increase all minimum wages, especially when businesses have just endured three very difficult years.

    Comment by Pete George — November 24, 2011 @ 6:33 pm

  41. Maybe I will, Peter, maybe I will. Maybe I’ll get off your lawn, too.

    Comment by Hugh — November 24, 2011 @ 7:02 pm

  42. Want another perspective on who to vote for?

    http://www.electwho.org.nz reveals what politicians think about the number one issue that will affect the future of the NZ and the world.

    Check it out!

    Comment by 2050alliance — November 24, 2011 @ 7:20 pm

  43. Hey Phil ‘two decades throwing money at Treaty Settlements’ wasn’t about poverty, it was actually a small deposit on a rather large debt. What gets done with the money isn’t your concern.

    Comment by Galeandra — November 24, 2011 @ 9:12 pm

  44. Poverty is caused by lack of money, so more money > less poverty.

    This is probably a correct statement, in that “less” is an imprecise target easily met by fudging statistics. And certainly, when I was enjoying a life of leisure at taxpayers’ expense a long time ago, I could have lived a fancier lifestyle if more taxpayers’ money had been directed my way. Not that I would have mind you, as any surplus was being directed to the bottle store – but I could have, mos def.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — November 24, 2011 @ 9:31 pm

  45. > Poverty is caused by lack of money…

    I’d hazard a guess that with a little moral courage, the politicial parties could alleviate most (if not all) of the poverty we see here. I don’t believe we lack the resources to tackle this. We do seem to lack the political will, a point that was made by Bryan Bruce in his doco. The same applies to full-employment. Political parties used to list that as one of their objectives but not any more. It’s as if the parties have put it into the too-hard-basket. Ironically, if there was a genuine and meaningful policy to achieve full employment, we would probably see less poverty. Being in full time work is surely likely to reduce poverty.

    Comment by Ross — November 25, 2011 @ 7:16 am

  46. @Ross #45; it’s in the too-hard basket in large part because of culture war piggery. Scapegoating the proles for society’s ills is shooting fish in a barrel, but social fireworks (Tottenham) and demilitarised zones (South Africa and Bolivia) are the long term result.

    Another complicating factor is the mechanisation and/or outsourcing of jobs that used to be done by unskilled hands. New jobs being created often need degree-level qualifications, and despite what the Paula Bennetts of this world will tell us, it’s unrealistic to expect a janitor or meatworker to become a software engineer or bio-chemist overnight – the bottom rung of the ladder is a lot higher than a generation or 2 ago. And Bennett the nouveau riche hypocrite has kicked away the very ladder she once climbed.

    Comment by DeepRed — November 25, 2011 @ 7:49 pm


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