Here’s what I’ve been thinking about this weekend:
- Inequality: the status of inequality in New Zealand isn’t controversial. We underwent a huge rise in inequality during the 1980s and 1990s. It dipped slightly under the Clark/Cullen government and its jumped around a bit under National. New Zealand (arguably) saw the largest increase in inequality of any OECD country since the 1970s.
- MMP. We have the Mixed Member Proportional electoral system. It’s mostly a good thing, but many of the other unequal OECD countries – and all of the anglo countries that we compare ourselves to – have FPP style electoral systems that are dominated by two large parties.
- If you’re a very high net-worth individual – the number of which will increase as your society gets more unequal – and you want to influence the political system in an FPP nation you’re pretty much stuck doing so through the two dominant political parties, and if your agenda or policy needs are outside the window of what’s palatable for those mainstream parties you’re out of luck.
- But MMP happens to be a system where (a) small parties can make it into government, and (b) they can have a disproportionately large impact on a government’s policy agenda if they can position themselves into a kingmaker role.
- So while Kim Dotcom and Colin Craig and their self-funded political parties seem like weird highly individual cases, I wonder if they’re symptoms of two converging trends: increased inequality and increased electoral proportionality.
- Most businesses and many wealthy individuals who want to influence the political system can do so through lobbying and donating to Labour and National, but for an increasing number of the very odd/very rich, setting up your own party becomes a much more viable, rational way to influence policy.
- I don’t believe many (or any?) of the other countries New Zealand likes to compare itself to have this interesting combination of high inequality and electoral proportionality, so this might be a problem that’s unique to us.