The Dim-Post

July 31, 2014

Why ACT always needs to play the race card

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 11:29 am

During the 2011 election Don Brash was leader of the ACT Party, and he did something really stupid and crazy, but also rather admirable:

Act leader Don Brash is calling for the decriminalisation of cannabis, saying prohibition of the drug has not worked.

He has told TVNZ’s Q+A programme policing cannabis costs millions of taxpayer dollars and clogs up the court system.

Brash, who announces his party’s law and order policy today, said he has never been tempted to use marijuana or any other kind of drug, but the reality is the present law is not working.

He said it is estimated there are 400,000 New Zealanders using cannabis “on a fairly regular basis”, 6,000 people are prosecuted every year over cannabis and $100 million of taxpayers’ money is being used to police this law.

If you really are a ‘classical liberal’ party which is what ACT pretends to be, half-convincing only itself, then drug prohibition is arguably the most important policy issue you face. The state spends gigantic sums of taxpayer money to prevent the consensual transactions of its citizens, then confiscates their property and imprisons them. It’s also pretty easy to fix. That’s why Brash, being an actual classical liberal raised the issue. Unfortunately the number of classical liberals in the country is so tiny they’re not even a rounding error in the census data, and as it turned out the number of classical liberals in the actual ACT party was also pretty small, because when Brash made his announcement the party hit the roof, and its candidate in the Epsom electorate – one John Banks – instantly denounced it.

Banks was right to do so. He was running in Epsom, a socially conservative electorate vehemently opposed to liberal policies like cannabis decriminalization and if he didn’t win it ACT would have been wiped out. The new leader Dr Jamie Whyte is also a classical liberal who holds various beliefs that are incompatible with the majority of Epsom voters, and conservative right-wing voters in general – *cough* incest *cough* – so here we are yet again, for the third election in a row with ACT railing against the over-privilege of Maori, because in the tiny venn-diagram intersect of stuff the ACT leader believes and stuff that some actual humans might vote for, getting tough on ‘Maori privilege’ is they only thing they’ve got in common.

Whyte insists that he’s not playing the race-card, he’s campaigning for ‘legal equality’ (just as New Zealand First is never ‘anti-asian’ or ‘anti-immigrant’ but rather ‘for New Zealand sovereignty’ and the Conservatives are never ‘homophobic’ but rather ‘promote family values’).

But there are plenty of legal inequalities within our society. I can’t remember who first pointed this out, but National recently announced they’d create extra places in medical schools for rural students. Now, that sounds exactly like the type of inequality Dr Whyte was railing about in his speech, which was about extra Maori admissions to law school. Why aren’t ACT challenging this policy and insisting that rural farmers are like the aristocrats in pre-revolutionary France? I suspect that if you asked Whyte about this he’d say that he didn’t like this policy, that admission should be based purely on merit. But he’s not going to run around giving speeches denouncing rural admissions because the pool of potential ACT voters don’t hate farmers – they hate Maori, which is why every three years at election time ACT decides that the greatest threat to individual freedom is a bunch of trivial policy settings aimed at helping Maori.

27 Comments »

  1. It’s hard to find a better example of affirmative action than Whyte’s status as “leader” of a faux political party. There was an empty chair labeled ACT leader, and he had nothing better going for him than to choose to sit in it. As the position and its perks – e.g. every inane utterance fawned over by a bought media – is funded by wealthy sociopaths rather than the state, presumably that makes it OK with “actual classical liberals”.

    Comment by Joe W — July 31, 2014 @ 11:48 am

  2. I can’t remember who first pointed this out, but National recently announced they’d create extra places in medical schools for rural students. Now, that sounds exactly like the type of inequality Dr Whyte was railing about in his speech, which was about extra Maori admissions to law school. Why aren’t ACT challenging this policy and insisting that rural farmers are like the aristocrats in pre-revolutionary France?

    Well, I raised it in a Kiwiblog comment thread that (as you may imagine) very quickly went downhill. Can I claim the credit?

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — July 31, 2014 @ 11:48 am

  3. I suspect that if you asked Whyte about this he’d say that he didn’t like this policy, that admission should be based purely on merit.

    Which strikes me as being a silly thing to argue. Exactly why should “merit” be the sole determinant of whether the State invests some hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in your education? Human capital is a resource – if the State thinks it needs a bunch more rural doctors (or, a professional class that includes a representative sample of Maori/Polynesian/Disabled people), then why shouldn’t it deploy its educational facilities to develop these? Simply having a system that blindly says “we will put funding into training the people who get the best test marks, irrespective of what social outcomes this produces” is … nuts.

    Of course, Whyte may argue that the State shouldn’t be in the business of providing tertiary education at all, but rather private universities should do it all. In which case, they are free to choose their students howsoever they want … which is why (say) Harvard has far more “race conscious” enrolment policies than does (say) University of California.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — July 31, 2014 @ 12:01 pm

  4. andrew geddis – ” Human capital is a resource – if the State thinks it needs a bunch more rural doctors then why shouldn’t it deploy its educational facilities to develop these?”

    sounds awfully like what a big corporate might choose to do from time to time doesnt it – hooray NZ Inc🙂

    Comment by framu — July 31, 2014 @ 12:35 pm

  5. I’m trying to remember who else thought Susan Devoy unsuitable for the job.

    Comment by NeilM — July 31, 2014 @ 12:40 pm

  6. Epsom, a socially conservative electorate vehemently opposed to liberal policies like cannabis decriminalization

    I’m never sure on these generalisations. Pretty much every electorate in the country apart from Wellington Central gets tagged as “socially conservative”. This is possibly because there are a bunch of self-appointed “community leaders” who are vocal in their denunciations of liberal misbehaviour, but don’t actually represent anyone.

    Is there any actual hard data on social attitudes in different places?

    Comment by richdrich — July 31, 2014 @ 1:02 pm

  7. sounds awfully like what a big corporate might choose to do from time to time doesnt it – hooray NZ Inc🙂

    True that. Welcome to what tertiary education is in the 2010’s!

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — July 31, 2014 @ 1:03 pm

  8. Has anyone here actually read the speech in its entirety?

    http://www.act.org.nz/?q=posts/speech-race-has-no-place-in-the-law

    It simply cannot be pigeonholed as a race baiting speech.. unless you select the bits out of context to make it so.

    JC

    Comment by JC — July 31, 2014 @ 1:12 pm

  9. I have read the speech. It’s a race-baiting speech, like every other ACT race-baiting speech.

    Comment by danylmc — July 31, 2014 @ 1:15 pm

  10. I wonder whether David Seymour will stand by the principles of his party and denounce the Grammar school zone among his potential future constituents in the public meetings?

    Comment by lefty — July 31, 2014 @ 1:16 pm

  11. i kind of referred to this under a pseudonym on KB (long story) The notion of privilege as Whyte describes it appears to ignore that for a long time a certain ethnicity (it could be argued) has experienced just the sorts of inordinate privilege he opposes when it is apparently applied to Māori. I refer of course to white New Zealanders. Whyte doesn’t appear to be accusing white New Zealanders of being lazy, underachieving or venal, but by his logic, they would be.

    The other thing that bugs me about this is how Māori are doomed to fail by the logic. If they remain in the status-quo then its fine if another four generations twist in the wind because (here’s the colonising logic) ‘it’s good for them’ perhaps ‘character-building’. But if Māori access the means to better themselves, (here’s the other kind of colonising logic) they’ll become ‘spoiled’.

    Both views (in my opinion) represent an infantalised view of Māori, which in effect, is part of a ‘philosophical’ view entrenched in the same 18th century notions that promoted the tabula rosa idea of ‘the primitive savage’ and Hobbesian views of social contracts that justified the wholesale plundering and resource-stripping of the non-western world all those years ago.

    Comment by LeeC — July 31, 2014 @ 1:38 pm

  12. @LeeC,

    I’m sure that Kiwiblog comment was well received and considered in a respectful and thoughtful manner … .

    Comment by Flashing Light — July 31, 2014 @ 1:49 pm

  13. no the motherf**ers dissed me.

    Comment by LeeC — July 31, 2014 @ 2:20 pm

  14. The speech seems to me to be a sensible internally-consistent expression of personal-rights-oriented liberal philosophy, but the fact that it is given by the leader of the ACT party instantly means it’s race-baiting. Whatever it actually says.

    Comment by SHG — July 31, 2014 @ 2:29 pm

  15. “It simply cannot be pigeonholed as a race baiting speech.. unless you select the bits out of context to make it so.”

    There has been progress. They are no longer arguing against the settlement process and accept it because of violated property rights – something Rodney Hide would never acknowledge in arguing for the rights of the leasehold farmers of Taranaki against those of the Maori landowners. According to Rodney, one side had them and the other didn’t. We can easily guess which was which. And they acknowledge that legal distinctions clearly have not led to economic privilege, given the relevant income and employment stats. But then he goes all John Ansell on us and contradicts himself by saying that rights of admission to certain courses only benefit the middle class. Somehow ACT as the champion of the Maori proletariat against the Brown Table doesn’t ring true. It was laughable when John Ansell tried it and it is ridiculous when Jamie Whyte runs the same lines (and it will be just as ridiculous if you try it too, Sanctuary). Whatever the merits of admission schemes that is a very weak argument against them.

    Comment by Tinakori — July 31, 2014 @ 2:46 pm

  16. The speech seems to me to be a sensible internally-consistent expression of personal-rights-oriented liberal philosophy which only mentions supposed breaches of that philosophy on racial lines, and ignores all and any other breaches of it (**cough cough** the property advantage given to Epsom voters by the Grammar school zone **cough cough**).

    FIFY

    Comment by Flashing Light — July 31, 2014 @ 3:09 pm

  17. I’m not saying it’s race-baiting per se. I’m saying the philosophical basis of his logic contains entrenched racism, but to Whyte, what he is saying appears to be perfectly reasonable, as a ‘liberal’ defence of ‘fairness’ and ‘equality’ in law. However, it is based on an historical view of sovereignty and state which supplants race, ethnicity or culture.

    These historical views are set of a white western constructs, which have assisted (even justified) the success of colonisation, and the superiority of white western notions about state, sovereignty and culture. As justifications for ‘improving’ the primitive savage, who usually happened not to be white, racism became an essential means to codify and assert a ‘one law for all’ notion of how to run a state.

    As long, obviously, as ‘one law for all’ favoured the coloniser. Often history illustrates when an indigenous people have attempted to claim their ‘one law for all’ rights they have subdued by various means, from state education, firearms, alcohol, confiscation and legislation (see foreshore and seabed). One might even argue that white colonisation and separatism are alive and well, and have been reinvented as incarceration. And that’s a lot of ‘tions’.

    So I’d agree Whyte’s ‘sensible internally-consistent expression of personal-rights-oriented liberal philosophy’ is not race-baiting, and understand why Whyte claims to be shocked that people consider it to be so. With so many lining up to applaud his ‘free-thinking’ and ‘justiifed’ tilting at the supposed excesses of a ‘grievance industry’, of course Whyte is happy to capitalise on the gullibility of his electorate, so close to an election.

    Whyte’s speech is, SHG, because of the epistmology that informs it, intrinsically racist, but Whyte, ‘the philosopher’, if he’s done any reading lately, wouldn’t need the likes of me to tell him that.

    Comment by LeeC — July 31, 2014 @ 3:22 pm

  18. .”…which is why (say) Harvard has far more “race conscious” enrolment policies than does (say) University of California”

    Harvard may have more race conscious policies but it also has policies that mean extra consideration is given to those children of big donors as well as children of alumni.

    So its very French aristocracy after all

    Comment by ghostwhowalksnz — July 31, 2014 @ 4:09 pm

  19. NZers enjoy the privilege of walking on a beach for free, it is race based and imposed through the stripping of property rights – and it is blatant socialism.

    Jamie Whyte has listed many privileges that need to be removed, strangely silent on this one…

    Comment by unaha-closp — August 1, 2014 @ 10:11 am

  20. I am a bit confused and would be grateful to anyone who can explain this to me. In New Zealand, if one calls for one law for all and no special privileges for the traditional inhabitants, this is racist. But if in England one calls for special privileges for the traditional inhabitants as opposed to say the immigrants of the last 70 years, this is racist.

    Comment by Expat — August 1, 2014 @ 4:38 pm

  21. Hi Expat,

    Because the two things aren’t the same, so comparing them is daft. Hope this helps with your “confusion”.

    Comment by Flashing Light — August 1, 2014 @ 5:39 pm

  22. I would find it ironic if Epsom was strongly opposed to decriminilisation, considering from my experience their sons and daughters are the most likely to be using illegal substances, just not weed….

    Comment by Jeff R — August 1, 2014 @ 10:02 pm

  23. Itheir sons and daughters are the most likely to be using illegal substances, just not weed….

    The little buggers who steal the parental Rolexes to pay “the man”?

    Comment by Joe W — August 1, 2014 @ 10:15 pm

  24. LeeC,

    One for all law is a horrible, dagerous idea that must be suppressed to protect the colony. Colonisation is about taking over someone elses country as cheaply as possible. It is impossible to do that in a legal fair and equitable manner.

    As long, obviously, as ‘one law for all’ favoured [hint: it never does] the coloniser. Often history illustrates when an indigenous people have attempted to claim the law for all’ rights they have subdued by various means, from state education, firearms, alcohol, confiscation and legislation (see foreshore and seabed). One might even argue that white colonisation and separatism are alive and well, and have been reinvented as incarceration. And that’s a lot of ‘tions’.

    That is a awful lot of “tions”, but you’ve missed off the most important. The one that works best is affirmative action. If a coloniser provides a steady little stream of beads and trinkets, they’ll get compliance. It is by far the cheapest measure. And the indigs will practically beg for it.

    Comment by unaha-cllosp — August 1, 2014 @ 11:30 pm

  25. My view of Whyte’s race-baiting is that it’s more a case of Orwellian blackwhite. Especially since he effectively referred to Epsom voters as an ‘overtaxed minority group’. By that, I took it to be ‘model minority’ or ‘market dominant minority’, which are more appropriately thought of as ‘oligarchy’.

    Regarding weed, there’s a definite discrepancy in the sentences given out for the same offence. And it’s not just in NZ either.

    Comment by Kumara Republic (@kumararepublic) — August 1, 2014 @ 11:50 pm

  26. Act are so morally-bankrupt that race-baiting could easily be a deliberate tactic. #chortle

    In any case, the voters of Epsom richly deserve every bit of reputational damage if they vote for the creeps.

    Comment by Sacha — August 3, 2014 @ 9:19 pm

  27. Comment by unaha-cllosp thanks I’ve read what you wrote and I can’t work out if you are agreeing with me pointing out I’ve got it worng, or have misunderstood what I was saying.

    If you want a great example of colonisers with trinkets buying indigenous people though, I’d cite Kim DotCom and Hone Harawira.

    Comment by LeeC — August 4, 2014 @ 12:45 pm


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