The Dim-Post

January 20, 2015

Vague Trotteresque Musings of the Day

Filed under: books,Politics — danylmc @ 2:02 pm

1. The Cult of Business.

Gordon Campbell has a post up about the similarities between John Key and David Cameron, and it touches on the issue of what these people actually believe in.

Robert Muldoon too, used to think that his own political instincts were always somehow mystically in sync with the mood and the tolerance levels of the nation. (In his last interview before his 1984 defeat, Muldoon told me that he had this innate ability to know New Zealanders, even though he hadn’t walked down Lambton Quay for over a decade, nor shopped for clothes in an actual shop for years – “ They bring in some shirts and I choose.”) With Key and Cameron, it is a far more conscious process, aided by focus groups. In both cases, being ever-willing to shift ground in order to perpetuate themselves in power is what passes for a political philosophy :

I was thinking about this very issue a bit over the summer. What does the right believe? I feel like the core beliefs have shifted in the wake of the GFC, but to what?

My theory is that contemporary right-wing thought has moved on from ‘neo-liberalism’ and its attendant belief in the magical power of free markets or the panacea of economic growth. What they believe in now is ‘business’, in much the same way that early Christianity transferred its system of belief from the mysticism of the Gospels and the coming Kingdom of Heaven to the temporal supremacy of the Church, and Communist intellectuals transferred their belief in dialectical materialism to the primacy and infallibility of ‘The Party’. Right-wing intellectual thought, such as it is, is focused on the primacy and infallibility of ‘business’ and the wisdom and needs of the private sector. So we have politicians like John Key and Steven Joyce, who are themselves revered as ‘business’ (ironically, every time they sit down to do a deal with the private sector they get comprehensively beaten at vast expense to the taxpayer) and who have no ideological problem with picking winners or extensive interference in the market, or just giving state money away to private companies. The free market isn’t important. Business is important. The state can intervene in the economy – massively – but at the service of business. Ideally it should be in partnership with business or, failing that, managed by someone from the private sector ideally a membership of the modern post-capitalist priesthood, our versions of the college of Cardinals, or the politburo: a ‘business-leader’.

Here’s a silly but – I think, telling – example: When Grant Robertson was announced as Labour’s Finance Spokesperson, various National-Party and ACT people scoffed at the appointment. Robertson has no private-sector experience. He wouldn’t win the respect of ‘business’. I pointed out on twitter that Bill English doesn’t have private-sector experience either: he was a Treasury analyst and then a politician. A National Party organiser quickly corrected me. English had worked on his parent’s farm in Dipton. Private sector! Which sounds absurd, because Robertson ran the Prime Minister’s Office, which – to me at least – is slightly more impressive and more of a qualification for being a senior Minister. But if the mystical properties of the private sector are at the core of your belief system then obviously English’s experience has blessed him in a way that Robertson’s has not. To an atheist the difference between someone claiming to be a bishop in the Catholic Church, and one who has actually been consecrated via apostolic succession is meaningless. To a believer it is everything.

So here’s a solid prediction based on this hypothesis: Paula Bennett will never be the leader of the National Party. She’s not ‘business’.

2. Nostalgia, mid-point Generation X literature and generational attitudes to climate change. 

A few of the novels I’ve read recently (The Marriage Plot, Wolf in White Van, The Interestings) have been set in the 1980s, or indulged in a little nostalgia for 1980s youth culture. Up until now, whenever I’ve read a novel dealing with childhood nostalgia it’s almost always been a boomer author pining for the 1950s and 60s, but Gen-X authors are now of an age when they’re looking back to their/our own youth.

Nothing wrong with that. But one of the features of growing up in the 80’s I really don’t miss is the Cold War and perennial threat of nuclear apocalypse. I don’t remember how old I was when I learned about the possibility of nuclear war. I do remember that whenever the electricity went out I always checked to see if my digital watch was still working. I knew that the EMP of a nuclear blast would disable my watch, so if I could still tell time then a nuclear war probably hadn’t broken out. Maybe I worried about these things a little more than most kids, but everyone was aware of it.

And then the Cold War just ended. The Warsaw Pact collapsed and the looming threat of global annihilation suddenly wasn’t there anymore. Which was awesome, but I do wonder if it impacts on generational attitudes towards climate change. Do most people of my generation and older sub-consciously equate the slow motion catastrophe of climate change with the threat of nuclear war and just sort of hope that climate change will painlessly vanish as a problem, somehow, the same way thermonuclear war did?

79 Comments »

  1. Part 1 is absolutely spot on re the current National Party.

    Part 2 is an interesting hypothesis. I think I first became terrified of nuclear war – or at least very, very worried – aged about 7 in 1979, but that may have been because we had to practice jumping under our desks in case SkyLab fell on New Zealand. I certainly remember being particular concerned soon after when the USSR looked like it might intervene in Poland over Solidarity (like you, maybe I worried about these things a little more than most kids!!). I also recall being alarmed by the rhetoric between Andropov and Reagan around 1983 and disappointed when the Reykjavík Summit failed. Things felt like they improved soon after, but Reagan’s “Tear down this wall!” speech seemed like a setback
    When the Berlin War fell, I was in the middle of 7th form end-of-year exams so didn’t really notice. The attempted coup against Gorbachev really shook me – were we about to go back to the worst of the Cold War? Anyway, your post evokes a lot of memories, not all positive. In terms of the link to climate change, I think the Y2K issue (scam? hoax?) is more important in driving skepticism.

    Comment by Matthew Hooton — January 20, 2015 @ 2:16 pm

  2. So here’s a solid prediction based on this hypothesis: Paula Bennett will never be the leader of the National Party. She’s not ‘business’.

    Neither was Jenny Shipley. Unless you can be “business” de jure uxoris, which would fit with the rest of the absurdity.

    Comment by idiotsavant23 — January 20, 2015 @ 2:56 pm

  3. Of course ‘business cult’ has been the ideology of the National Party since its inception. However much they professed a liberal bootstraps ideology, the first and second National governments (we don’t even need to talk about the third) gave ample support to businesses (particularly exporters). This was justified by concerns about the balance of payments and the need to develop New Zealand’s exports, but the undertone was that healthy profits correspond directly to a healthy economy.

    In terms of the current government, the rhetoric around workplace regulation and forcing beneficiaries to work demonstrates a similar this narrative. The changes are defended not by saying that demand for labour will ensure wages are maintained at adequate levels (the neoliberal argument, if you like) but by insisting that employers are *good people* who we can *trust*. The good of businesses and the good of the collective are again aligned.

    Comment by Wilbur (@IAmWilbur) — January 20, 2015 @ 3:07 pm

  4. There has been some level of revival/obsession with the 1980s since the late 1990s, which means it’s been going on for signficantly longer than the original decade. From memory, 60s nostalgia also lasted what seemed like an eternity and then the 70s revival lasted about five years at most befor the 80s revival came along. There’s probably some signficance in this, but it’s 3.45 on a summer afternoon, and if I wanted to think I wouldn’t be avoiding work by stuffing around on the internet.

    Comment by helenalex — January 20, 2015 @ 3:46 pm

  5. English’s time on the farm was pretty limited as well. He went to boarding school and then university ( two degrees). His worked at the Treasury , during that time he was Haitaitai branch chairman, until the nomination for Wallace electorate became available when he moved back to Dipton for a brief period ‘for appearances’ till the election meant he was basically back in Wellinton.

    Comment by ghostwhowalksnz — January 20, 2015 @ 4:03 pm

  6. Having worked on some Y2K projects, it was no scam. Rather, a wonderful geek success story. Simulation exercises a few years beforehand by large global corporates showed what could happen if it was not addressed. So many organisations would not have shelled out if the problem was fake.

    Comment by Sacha — January 20, 2015 @ 4:03 pm

  7. There’s a greater prospect of nuclear war now than in the 1980’s. It’s the difference between people willing to fly a plane and drop bombs from it, and people willing to get on a plane and blow themselves up. I miss the non-crazy Soviet bogeymen. They wanted to stay alive.

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — January 20, 2015 @ 4:09 pm

  8. 1. Which Trotters, Del Boy, Rodney and Grandpa or Chris? The former, although fictional, are far smarter, more charming and articulate than the latter.

    2. The Cold War ended because the politicians of the West (of which we were and mostly remain a fully functional part) were endlessly adaptable in dealing with the threat they faced and because the politicians of the East – unlike Hitler – understood the underlying strength of the respective blocs. Both sides were also sobered up substantially by the presence of nuclear weapons. There may not have been a happy ending without them. The western politicians had the great advantage of capitalist economies which generated wealth for the largest number and widest range of human beings in history. And continues to do so, here and elsewhere. The command economies were military facades whose citizens discovered the joy of supermarkets and a food production system owned and run by bureaucrats. The citizens of Venezuela are currently undergoing a similar experience and the subjects of the Castro family have never known otherwise under that regime.

    3. Looking at the Key government’s engagement with business I struggle to see any dramatic change in engagement other than Key and Joyce being the first high level politicians to speak the same language as business. The movie stuff has been going for multiple governments, ditto the dairy industry framework. The time limited assistance to Comalco is both minor, entirely understandable and would have happened under any government of the last 20 years. Solid Energy has threatened to go broke under multiple governments. The assistance to business hasn’t changed dramatically- as a proportion of the economy – from that which Labour provided. The labour laws did not change dramatically and we still don’t have youth rates and the partial SOE sales hardly satisfied the more macho business advocates. The only one different in kind that I can think is the deal with Sky City. I think you are confusing image and substance and wishing National was a big business bogeyman rather than the extremely mild set of liberals (in business and social policy) that they are.

    4. If I had to compare Bill English with Grant Roberston it would be that one had some understanding of economics (through education) and some experience of macro economic policy making (at Treasury , the macro-economic policy agency) prior to taking up the job, and the other has neither.

    Comment by Tinakori — January 20, 2015 @ 5:03 pm

  9. Y2K definitely wasn’t a scam. It was just handled effectively, albeit much later than it needed to be which probably accounted for some higher than necessary urgency and costs. Another significant aspect of the Y2K thing is that it was a specific problem that could have severely affected the operations of businesses on a known deadline, or near to it. Businesses that addressed their own problems would directly benefit themselves relative to any competitors who didn’t, and that probably made it easier to motivate typical corporate culture to assess it and react to it.

    Climate Change doesn’t have many of those properties. Standard corporate culture can much more easily write it off as someone else’s problem.

    Comment by izogi — January 20, 2015 @ 5:20 pm

  10. ” because Robertson ran the Prime Minister’s Office”
    Well silly me. I always believed that that was Heather Simpson. How could I have been so foolish.

    Comment by alwyn — January 20, 2015 @ 5:53 pm

  11. The problem with climate change is that many people are inherently skeptical about the claims of environmental armageddon. The goalposts keep shifting – once it was the hole in the ozone layer, what happened to that? The it was peak oil, but now the price of oil is in freefall. Someone is always telling us the end of the world is nigh. One day they will be right. But so far they have always, without exception, been wrong. So I reckon you can forgive people for taking an “ignore it and it will all go away” attitude to climate change.

    Comment by Nick R — January 20, 2015 @ 5:59 pm

  12. But one of the features of growing up in the 80’s I really don’t miss is the Cold War and perennial threat of nuclear apocalypse.

    God yes. I was 18, ie ideal cannon-fodder age, when Reagan was elected, and Muldoon never struck me as the kind of bloke who’d refuse to join in WW3 if Ronnie asked him to. Between those two and Thatcher it was a trifecta of right-wing nutcase war enthusiasts. Brezhnev and Andropov felt like calm, reasonable types by comparison, and I’ll always have a soft spot for Gorbachev, for seeing to it that my brief, fatal military career didn’t happen.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — January 20, 2015 @ 7:02 pm

  13. once it was the hole in the ozone layer, what happened to that?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montreal_Protocol

    Comment by danylmc — January 20, 2015 @ 7:25 pm

  14. The hole in the ozone layer got fixed by concerted collective action. If anything that whole saga demonstrates that A) scientists know what they are talking about, B) we can screw up the environment, C) we have the ability to recognise that and do something about it.

    Wild fluctuations in the price of oil are entirely consistent with being at or close to peak oil.

    I have some minor inside knowledge of the Cuban missile crisis and I can tell you Gen X had it easy.

    Comment by Adrian — January 20, 2015 @ 7:33 pm

  15. Yep, ‘taking care of business’ and an actual free-market system have overlap, but they’re not one and the same. Cynics would call the current economic age a neo-feudal age, when the public is told the cupboard’s empty, only to find out that people can ask for as much money as they like if they have a Swiss Account. The SkyCity wheeler-deal is exposing the limitations of the neo-feudal model. And when tech billionaires like Nick Hanauer count themselves among the cynics, you know something’s amiss.

    Even though the Cold War thawed just over a couple of decades ago, a lot of the old attitudes die hard. Vladimir Putin’s KGB background has mutated into some sort of neo-Tsarism. And the western Cold Warriors have mutated into counter-jihadists who’ve replaced the Warsaw Pact with a ‘cultural Marxist-Islamist’ conspiracy, and telling us there will always be war with Eastasia.

    Comment by Kumara Republic — January 20, 2015 @ 8:07 pm

  16. PS. Counter-jihadists seem to fall under a wider group of neo-reactionaries. And neo-crusaders are the armed militant wing.

    Comment by Kumara Republic — January 20, 2015 @ 8:14 pm

  17. Re: fixing the ozone layer, what Adrian said. The same goes for leaded additives to petrol.

    Comment by Kumara Republic — January 20, 2015 @ 8:18 pm

  18. Only for the lead to be replaced by carcinogens, the ‘ring’ molecules like benzene and toluene.

    Comment by David in Chch — January 20, 2015 @ 8:35 pm

  19. I used to comment at a rural National party blog. One of the true blue believers there once described self employment as being next to godliness.

    Comment by Corokia — January 20, 2015 @ 9:17 pm

  20. I don’t think you can separate neoliberalism and the business-cult* out that handily. The reason “business experience” is so deeply prized is because it’s outside the nasty, morally corrupt, freedom-sapping tendrils of government. This is why a few months of working part time on a family farm is preferable to years managing a large, high-stakes government department. One is outside the state, one isn’t. The belief that it’s better for economic activity to take place outside the state than inside it is classic neoliberalism.

    I don’t think conservative ideology has changed at all since the GFC. They’ve just shifted their presentation slightly.

    Speaking as somebody who grew up in the 80s, the possibility of global thermonuclear war is something I only really appreciated in retrospect.

    *There’s probably a less judgemental term but I can’t be bothered thinking of it

    Comment by kalvarnsen — January 20, 2015 @ 9:49 pm

  21. “…My theory is that contemporary right-wing thought has moved on from ‘neo-liberalism’ and its attendant belief in the magical power of free markets or the panacea of economic growth. What they believe in now is ‘business’…”

    Effectively they have moved beyond the ideological zealotry of the revolution to managerial job of defending it. The question of how long it will be possible to defend the outcomes of global neo-liberalism is an interesting one. One the one hand, you could argue that since socialism (or at least, it’s managerial successor the welfare state) lasted in NZ for about 60 years then if you date the neoliberal revolution to 1984 it’s already over halfway towards it’s generational use by date.
    On the other hand, if you see the welfare state and mixed model economies as aberrations and merely defensive modifications to capitalism designed to save an economic and political system utterly discredited by the Great War and Great Depression then we now live in a world similar to the pre-Great War one of the late Victorian-Edwardian era. If that is the case, then it seems to me either neo-liberalism will collapse in a wholly unexpected and unpredicted global war brought about by fact we’ve now saddled ourselves with exactly the same sort of leadership class as that which engineered the disaster of 1914 or it’ll continue sail along with all the booms and busts of late 19th century capitalism until suddenly, to paraphrase Trotsky, the impossible revolution becomes inevitable in a major global power, at which point it will rapidly collapse everywhere.

    As for part two, my view is global warming came along at the same time as a certain level of decadence crept into Western intellectual thought. With post modernism, deconstructurialism, post-structuralism and anti-humanism came a certain degree of retreat from reason. When academics start saying “facts” are actually plastic interpretations based on gender or orientation or whatever it doesn’t take long for that intellectual climate to leak into the political discourse and be quickly exploited by corporations and their lobbyists. When you throw into the mix the culture wars, it is all too easy to argue weather climate “facts” are plastic things, and anyone’s opinion is as good as anyone else’s on the subject, since what matters in these post-rational days in not the accuracy of your beliefs but rather the sincerity with which they are held.

    Comment by Sanctuary — January 21, 2015 @ 8:57 am

  22. One other thing – I visited Europe as an impressionable teen in the cold war. In particular, visiting Berlin involved a train journey through the old GDR. It was surreal, like a form of theatre designed to reinforce everything you ever heard about Stalinism. Snarling GDR guards with AK-47s kicked in our train door for no other reason than to make a point; the first thing you saw from the train as you entered the GDR were dozens of Soviet tanks in the rail sidings (I presume they were positioned there for westerners to see). East Berlin was a dull, grey, depressing, bullet holed and shell pockmarked place still frozen in 1945 that you entered on a day pass through Checkpoint Charlie, where you first got a quick pep talk on what to do if you were arrested by the STASI agent that would follow you for the day. The Cold war was real, and you knew which side you wanted to be on and you didn’t take your freedoms for granted like it seems so many people in the west do now.

    And I guess all the capitalists looked at all those Soviet tanks and feared assassination by Soviet armed or inspired communist movements like the Red Army Faction and were chastened into behaving themselves better than they otherwise would have.

    Still, it is nice not to fear global nuclear war anymore. Iran and Israel will probably end up nuking each other at some stage, but at least we’ll all get to be sad about it after watching it on TV.

    Comment by Sanctuary — January 21, 2015 @ 9:19 am

  23. Interesting post. “Business” does know everything. Nats genuinely believe they are good at business. They actually suck at it despite the striped suits. Nick Smith took credit for low interest rates on the radio yesterday without explaining how these rates relate in any way to the actions of the Nats. Its like taking credit for the weather. My 12 year old is fearful and upset about climate change and takes it very seriously. At her age I felt exactly the same about the coming nuclear holocaust.

    Comment by Westiechick — January 21, 2015 @ 10:10 am

  24. “Shall we play a game?”
    “Love to, how about Thermonuclear war”
    “Wouldn’t you prefer a nice game of chess?”

    You can’t say “Thermonuclear” without me thinking of that quote.

    My dream of roaming a post apocalyptic world killing for petrol is one that died with the end of the 80’s.

    Comment by King Kong — January 21, 2015 @ 10:19 am

  25. … an economic and political system utterly discredited by the Great War and Great Depression
    Get with the program Sanc; the GFC is the event du jour that we now all “know” discredited capitalism and it’s various offspring. This is, of course, the same system that did more to drag approximately 3-4 billion people out of absolute poverty in the space of a generation than in pretty much the rest of history combined.

    Your comment about decadence in western thought is an interesting one. The ‘Global’ financial crisis is a good example of the indulgence we’ve all taken in our thinking – the GFC left Asia and most developing nations largely unscathed. It was almost exclusively an anglo-saxon and european crisis.

    Right-wing intellectual thought, such as it is, is focused on the primacy and infallibility of ‘business’ and the wisdom and needs of the private sector.
    Here’s a prediction you can take to the bank; this will evolve in coming years to the primacy and infallibility of data. The pitched-battles we’re having over National Standards in education or NSA data-stores will be looked upon with quaint nostalgia in patronising tones.

    Comment by Phil — January 21, 2015 @ 11:47 am

  26. I’d rather a pro business govt than an anti business one (Greens)

    A.

    Comment by Antoine — January 21, 2015 @ 12:49 pm

  27. ““…My theory is that contemporary right-wing thought has moved on from ‘neo-liberalism’ and its attendant belief in the magical power of free markets or the panacea of economic growth. What they believe in now is ‘business’…”

    What they believe in now is transferring wealth to the (self-evidently deserving) wealthy. Business just happens to be the preferred mechanism right now. Once upon a time it was farm subsidies (when government was the preferred mode of wealth transfer). When I look at how the Key government operates, they are either transferring wealth to the wealthy (tax cuts, removal of gift taxes, charter schools, corporate welfare, public funds to private schools, opening up Schedule 4 land to mining etc) or adopting a position that will keep them in power (keeping WFF, student loans, and sundry small sops to their support parties etc).

    @Antoine, since when was it anti-business to hold businesses to account for, say, wrecking the local environment ?

    Comment by Mikaere Curtis — January 21, 2015 @ 1:49 pm

  28. Part 1 is all a bit straw-man-ish: not everyone who voted National is conservative, nor pro-business, nor anti-immigration, nor liberal, nor illiberal. We can’t choose individual dishes to suit our tastes/beliefs, we can only choose from a selection of fixed-menus. Hence a number of people held their noses and voted National because it seemed a least-worst option…

    Comment by Clunking Fist — January 21, 2015 @ 2:01 pm

  29. And of course CAGW, being a seemingly non-falsifiable hypothesis, was always going to grow legs because it suited so many agendas.
    a) Business who love to be picked as a “winner” and have taxpayer money sprayed upon them and/or favourable regulation to hold back their competitors
    b) Anti-business types who could see the damage the “necessary measures” would have on the “free markets” and capitalism
    c) The well-intentioned who wanted to reduce the “pollution” of co2, oblivious to the fact that energy intensive industry simply relocated to the East
    d) Politicians who have a driving need to “save the world” and had this handed to them on a plate) bankers whose eyes ligt up at the thought of trading in new derivatives, carbon credits.

    It’s interesting how the hippies believe in the science of global warming, but not in the science of nuclear energy, fracking, GMOs, fluoridation, Vaccines, etc. Confirmation bias?

    And it’s interesting to see the rise of a new class of person. I’d hesitate to call them “denialists” but they do keep insisting that there’s no pause…

    Comment by Clunking Fist — January 21, 2015 @ 2:11 pm

  30. 1.
    >Effectively they have moved beyond the ideological zealotry of the revolution to managerial job of defending it

    You nailed it. I don’t see neoliberalism having been abandoned. Quite the opposite, it’s normalized. What they’re actually doing hasn’t changed at all. All that’s changed is the way they talk about it. It’s no longer this “new” thing, but the way things are, and a safe pair of hands is what is called for, rather than idealism. That’s what they say. In practice, though, they do exactly as they used to, and always have. Free market talk has always just been a rhetorical trick, it’s never been applied with the slightest consistency here.

    What has changed outside of the way they work, though, is that western capitalism has gradually morphed away from controlling the means of production into merely owning shares in it (with a few exceptions like the software and mass media industries). Which is why we would even see a merchant banker as a successful representative of capitalism, rather than the epitome of everything that’s wrong with it.

    2.
    >With post modernism, deconstructurialism, post-structuralism and anti-humanism came a certain degree of retreat from reason.

    This one, not quite so nailed. Yes, a certain degree, there is a “retreat from reason”, but it’s simultaneous with the biggest explosion in history in data science, and information technology generally. We are awash with data and processing power to the extent that for the first time in history it’s become feasible to automate reasoning to a massive and pervasive degree. It’s pretty damned natural that this would be the exact moment in which the entire nature of what rationality itself it would come under the greatest challenges. And it’s NOT like we knew everything about that 20 years ago. We actually knew a whole lot less about it than we do now. It’s the first time that entire systems of philosophy could be extensively designed and actually critically evaluated in practice. In that process, it’s quite natural that what was taken as the epitome of rationality could be turned on its head completely. That is the nature of scientific revolutions, in fact, that what was previously “known” is cast into doubt, and can be shattered.

    That does make it a difficult time to live in, one of uncertainty about basic principles. But that also makes it an interesting time. What I see is a retreat in some quarters from a “tyranny of reason”, which always was mostly a dogmatic defense of a particular status quo. And simultaneously with the retreat in some quarters is the advance in others, the more trenchant and dogmatic defense of the supposed “reason”. Neoliberalism slots into this little hole perfectly, defending very old idea backed up mostly with difficult mathematics and very little by way of any approach that could even pretend to be called scientific, but certainly claiming to be.

    But science outside of economics is healthier than it’s ever been. We’re pushing back the veil of ignorance about the natural world at a steadily increasing rate.

    And that is why I DON’T feel much nostalgia for the 80s. I remember them well, and mostly, they sucked. The only thing that was good about them was that I was younger and healthier, and residential property was cheaper, and a few things that needed removing got removed, like the Iron Curtain, and laws against homosexuality, and the credibility of Apartheid. Also a few things that shouldn’t have been removed were, like state control of some vital infrastructure. I’m glad those times are behind us, and I hope we can continue to learn from them.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — January 21, 2015 @ 2:16 pm

  31. @Ben 30: “What has changed outside of the way they work, though, is that western capitalism has gradually morphed away from controlling the means of production into merely owning shares in it and/or debt loading productive enterprise in the pursuit of unearned rents.”.

    Re Danyl’s point 2, to paraphrase Twain, reports of the Cold War’s demise were an exaggeration. It was just taking a well earned break.

    Comment by Gregor W — January 21, 2015 @ 3:11 pm

  32. the hole in the ozone layer got fixed by concerted collective action

    Like how most things get fixed. Of course climate change is a little more ethereal and a lot more expensive. Spending trillions of dollars to see a slightly less warmer climate might not be the best bang for one’s buck.

    Comment by ross — January 21, 2015 @ 3:28 pm

  33. It’s interesting how the hippies believe in the science of global warming, but not in the science of nuclear energy, fracking, GMOs, fluoridation, Vaccines, etc.

    The science of fluoridation? Meanwhile, you might have heard of that wonderfully helpful product called toothpaste…which is not meant to be swallowed. Go figure.🙂

    Comment by ross — January 21, 2015 @ 3:35 pm

  34. @Mikaere

    > @Antoine, since when was it anti-business to hold businesses to account for, say, wrecking the local environment ?

    I don’t have a problem with holding businesses to account for wrecking the local environment. I have a problem with someone who hears ‘business’ and the first thing they think of is ‘wrecking the local environment’.

    A.

    Comment by Antoine — January 21, 2015 @ 8:11 pm

  35. Antoine: It’s no longer a choice between pro-business and anti-business these days, but rather a choice between pro-feudalism and anti-feudalism. When business is less about simply providing goods and services, and more about absolute power and corruption, it’s no longer an actual free market. It’s something more resemblant of the Roman Empire or Middle Ages Europe. In the words of Bruce Springsteen, “poor man wanna be rich, rich man wanna be king, king ain’t satisfied till he rules everything.” The Koch Bros, Sheldon Adelson, Gina Rinehart, and Rupert Murdoch spring to mind.

    CF: “but not in the science of nuclear energy, fracking, GMOs, fluoridation, Vaccines, etc.”

    And it’s equally interesting how neo-feudalists supposedly believe in those sciences but not the sciences of birth control, smoking and cancer, obesity, Darwinian evolution, … you name it. Hippies don’t have a monopoly on antivax-ism; Right-wingers who believe the same are often theo-cons and/or NWO types who think Cultural Marxism is the new ‘enemy within’ – the Oily One’s wife wrote an anti-vax piece a few weeks back. Also worth noting that anti-fluoridationism has its origins in the 1950s Red Scare. As for nuclear energy, it’s not the hippies stopping it, but the accountants.

    Comment by Kumara Republic — January 21, 2015 @ 8:15 pm

  36. To clarify, when I mention feudalism, I don’t mean the McGillicuddyan Great Leap Backwards sense. I mean it in the sense of an oligarchy of self-appointed lords being a law unto themselves, who don’t give a toss what’s happening outside the castle walls until the great plague breaks out.

    Comment by Kumara Republic — January 21, 2015 @ 8:21 pm

  37. Are you sure that we can really usefully define the current political system as “feudalism”? Or are you just trying to create a link between current practices and a system that is universally agreed to be awful by using broad comparisons? If we are to call every political system where the rich are largely indifferent to the needs of the poor and enjoy de facto immunity from the law ‘feudalism’ then there’s no need to call the current system ‘neo-feudalism’, because what you’re describing has always been the case ever since actual feudalism existed.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — January 21, 2015 @ 9:43 pm

  38. It’s sad how the so called left parties also fall over themselves to appease ‘business’. Labour has done it for as long as I’ve been alive, and I’ve noticed that the Greens now try to present their policies as business-friendly.

    It’s impossible to imagine National trying to appease unions, which just indicates how far right neoliberalism has pulled New Zealand’s politics.

    Comment by Seb Rattansen — January 21, 2015 @ 10:52 pm

  39. @Antoine

    I have a problem with someone who hears ‘business’ and the first thing they think of is ‘wrecking the local environment’.

    You’re the one casting baseless allegations. I’ve read most of the Green policies, and there are no anti-Business policies, but there are policies which hold businesses to account, and wrecking the local environment is one of them.

    I have a problem with the willfully ignorant spouting complete bullshit about the Greens.

    Comment by Mikaere Curtis — January 22, 2015 @ 8:17 am

  40. @Mikaere

    So do you support or oppose neo-feudalism?

    A.

    Comment by Antoine — January 22, 2015 @ 9:03 am

  41. PS Clearly the Greens have made an effort to adopt pro-business policies e.g. https://home.greens.org.nz/policysummary/sustainable-business-policy-summary.

    Despite this I still think many Greens members, including to a greater or lesser extent their MPs, come from a background of deep distrust of business in general, large corporations in particular, and especially industrial farming, petrochemicals extraction, banking and mining.

    A.

    Comment by Antoine — January 22, 2015 @ 9:14 am

  42. ….what you’re describing has always been the case ever since actual feudalism existed.

    Agree. Using feudalism in an economic / Marxist sense makes it a pretty narrow comparison and, as you say, pretty much a state of nature.
    It ignores the social obligations between rulers and ruled that were moderated by the Church (vassalage etc.) which were the key component of feudal society but are completely absent today.
    To a fair extent, feudalism was a process of decentralisation or federation of power which is the antithesis of today’s political environment.

    Comment by Gregor W — January 22, 2015 @ 9:27 am

  43. Despite this I still think many Greens members, including to a greater or lesser extent their MPs, come from a background of deep distrust of business in general, large corporations in particular, and especially industrial farming, petrochemicals extraction, banking and mining.
    Another thought experiment that has no correlation with reality. If you want to hold baseless opinions, fine, but since you can’t back any of this up with anything less flimsy than “I think”, how about you preface you comments with “I have no evidence, but I think:” ?

    Comment by Mikaere Curtis — January 22, 2015 @ 9:40 am

  44. I can easily evidence my assertion by finding Greens party members going off on anti-business rants on the Internet, but it seems a bit like shooting fish in a barrel

    A.

    Comment by Antoine — January 22, 2015 @ 9:50 am

  45. @Mikaere: No offense, but given that you’re a would-be Green MP, I’m not sure that you’re assessing the Greens’ policies in the most objective light. I’m sure ACT members would sincerely inform us that their policies aren’t anti-environmentalist, but it’d be no more convincing.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — January 22, 2015 @ 10:35 am

  46. @Antoine: Green policy development is rather more robust than you might think. It is effectively crowd-sourced to the members and there is quite a bit of process around formulation and moderation. Any of these “members going off on anti-business rants on the Internet” would be moderated out pretty quickly by the rest of the participants; one cannot simply hijack the policy process.

    @kalvernsen: No, I’m pretty good at being objective about the party policies. The real problem is ignorant commentators projecting their un-research and baseless strawman opinions onto the Green Party. Of course, not of this is helped by the MSM portraying the Greens as rabidly anti-progress and anti-business, neither of which is true.

    Comment by Mikaere Curtis — January 22, 2015 @ 4:55 pm

  47. Well, Mikaere – piss-taking aside – I wish you good fortune in the ongoing process of reconciling ‘policies that hold businesses to account’ with ‘supporting New Zealand’s small business and manufacturing industries’. The hardest bit may not be doing it, but convincing the media and NZ public that you’ve done it. Challenging, especially when you’ve got ‘STONE THE EVIL NEO-FEUDALIST CORPORATIONS’ guys running around.

    A.

    Comment by Antoine — January 22, 2015 @ 5:37 pm

  48. @Mikaere: I’m sure you view yourself as objective, but those hypothetical ACT members would probably tell me how objective they were in similar circumstances. If there’s one thing people have difficulty being objective about, it’s their own objectivity.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — January 22, 2015 @ 9:39 pm

  49. Climate change strongly resembles the cold war, the West tells the rest of the world how to behave and the rest of the world tells the West to piss off. Every climate change conference is akin to a disarmament meeting. Both sides walk in looking for world peace and walk out saying the problem lies with the other side refusing to be reasonable.

    I’ve looked at that problem and come to the unfortunate conclusion that it is us Westerners that are the most intractable. We live in demand side weighted economies, yet all of our “solutions” to climate change require regulation and restriction of supply side businesses.

    Comment by unaha-closp — January 23, 2015 @ 10:54 am

  50. Green policy development is rather more robust than you might think. It is effectively crowd-sourced to the members and there is quite a bit of process around formulation and moderation.

    This is true, and I’ve noticed that the moderation has been very consistent. and well managed over all.

    However, I’ve also found on a couple of occasions that when expert and lay-man opinion has been robustly considered and policy recommendations have been made by the group that they are routinely ignored once they get back to policy HQ – even more unfortunate when it becomes clear that the MPs in question know sweet FA the real world implications of the positions they have taken within their portfolios.

    I personally found this a little disheartening when the pitch from the GP around policy making has been openly democratic and (purportedly) rational. From my perspective, it has put me off offering further advice in my areas of expertise.

    Saying that, this ‘ideology-trumping-rational discourse’ policy creation position is certainly no different from other political parties so it’s probably unfair to hold the GP to a higher standard (even if they claim the highground).

    Comment by Gregor W — January 23, 2015 @ 11:04 am

  51. @Gregor, I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with you but could you cite an example or two of the Policy HQ influence to back up what you’ve said?

    In any case, despite its faults I also think the GP often tends to be held to disproportionately high standards. It’s still never actually been in government despite working hard for many years to build and maintain a solid support base, and yet many of the people who seem to think the world will end if it’s ever let near any Ministerial benches also appear to be comfortable with a party like ACT artificially engineered into power, repeatedly, despite virtually no support base and some highly eccentric and ideological people being given high influence. And yet the world hasn’t ended.

    Comment by izogi — January 23, 2015 @ 11:22 am

  52. @izogi

    It is a stretch of the imagination to say ACT is, or has ever been, “in power”. (Fortunately!)

    > the GP often tends to be held to disproportionately high standards. It’s still never actually been in government despite working hard for many years to build and maintain a solid support base

    I think much of the nervousness about the GP _because_ it has never been in Government. There’s not much track record on which to judge it.

    A.

    Comment by Antoine — January 23, 2015 @ 11:44 am

  53. >And yet the world hasn’t ended.

    Yup, even though as a result of that the nation’s biggest city, home to a third of the population, was radically restructured. After the dust settled, even left-wingers think it’s an improvement. More than right wingers, ironically, who have found their role’s reduction to a gossip column on the mayor’s penis a bit of a letdown.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — January 24, 2015 @ 10:29 am

  54. Antoine: ACT have previously been in power, but not as ACT MPs. They were still Labour & National MPs when they did most of their business.

    Izogi, Ben W: it reminds me of when the Employment Contracts Act was scrapped by the Clark Govt, and its defenders which included the then Minister of Labour Bill Birch and the Employers Federation, spoke of it as if NZ would get unburied corpses, rubbish mountains and rolling blackouts a la 1978 Britain. We’re still waiting.

    The AKL Supercity was designed in the hope John Banks would take it, and as far as the Banksians are concerned, Len Brown stole the key to the supercity. Hence all the Rovian smear tactics.

    Comment by Kumara Republic (@kumararepublic) — January 24, 2015 @ 3:15 pm

  55. “it reminds me of when the Employment Contracts Act was scrapped by the Clark Govt, and its defenders which included the then Minister of Labour Bill Birch…”

    Bill Birch was Minister of Labour in the Clark government?

    Comment by kalvarnsen — January 25, 2015 @ 1:18 am

  56. Kalvarnsen: oops, typo. I meant to refer to Bill Birch as the preceding Minister of Labour, and the architect of the ECA. No Edit function with WP.

    Comment by Kumara Republic — January 25, 2015 @ 2:53 pm

  57. For the limited amount that it’s worth, I should clarify what I meant with my comment about the world not having ended, because I didn’t mean to suggest that the world (or NZ) isn’t necessarily worse than it could have been. More that once “bad” policies have been implemented, or “good” policies haven’t, we’re simply stuck with a situation that’s often not practical to reverse. So people adjust their expectations to what’s now realistic. The lethargic global reaction to climate change is a great example of this. The discussion used to be about preventing and reversing its effects. Now it’s been re-framed to a discussion largely about minimising the effects as much as possible, and adapting to everything else, most likely at much greater long term cost than would could have been possible.

    Comment by izogi — January 25, 2015 @ 3:29 pm

  58. More that once “bad” policies have been implemented, or “good” policies haven’t, we’re simply stuck with a situation that’s often not practical to reverse.

    I doubt we’re particularly good at determining how we got where we are and even if we were finding a way out is probably harder.

    Comment by NeilM — January 25, 2015 @ 11:01 pm

  59. test

    Comment by Gregor W — January 26, 2015 @ 9:32 am

  60. @izogi – for some reason I cant post a detailed response to your question @ 31. Not sure why.

    Comment by Gregor W — January 26, 2015 @ 9:34 am

  61. Gregor W: it’s likely been intercepted by the moderator-bot. I had a whole post with quotes from the Nick Hanauer article I posted earlier, and got the same issue.

    Comment by Kumara Republic (@kumararepublic) — January 26, 2015 @ 1:34 pm

  62. Seems to happen when I cut and paste? If I can be bothered I will re-type my response later.

    Comment by Gregor W — January 26, 2015 @ 2:17 pm

  63. I’ve had that issue recurringly, often when switching between PCs, and I think when WordPress decides I’m not logged in properly or not someone pre-recognised. It started happening maybe a year or more ago when I assume WordPress changed something about how it authenticates.

    Comment by izogi — January 26, 2015 @ 3:09 pm

  64. Still cant post the response even after retyping – no idea why.

    Suffice to say that the response to a policy group recommendation endorsed by the convenor was not included in the membership review process – even though many other were taken verbatim – with the justification that it had been a “widely promoted policy” and had “caucus backing”.

    Never mind that it made no sense whatsoever either economically or technologically, would have resulted in a direct subsidy to offshore companies, would have created a duopoly and that there were cheaper alternate solutions (i.e. regulation).

    Comment by Gregor W — January 27, 2015 @ 10:18 am

  65. Note – all of this was laid out in the policy review as a counterfactual but not presented to the membership, which is what annoyed me at the time.

    Comment by Gregor W — January 27, 2015 @ 10:19 am

  66. If Y2K had been less enthusiastically addressed, there probably would have been some inconvenience and financial losses by businesses.

    But a disastrous failure of infrastructure – nah. Most critical systems like power and water have fairly unsophisticated processing, and will have an override, even if that’s somebody manually operating a breaker.

    I remember in 1973 the UK had powercuts for a third of the day – we still kept going – the stores had candles on the shelves and made change manually.

    Comment by richdrich — January 27, 2015 @ 10:58 am

  67. @ Kumura Republic .55

    Hence all the Rovian smear tactics.

    Len Brown is immune to policy attacks from the right wing.

    Len Brown has cut rates for businesses, secured an expansion for SkyCity, prioritised apartments built by large corporate developers over houses, driven up land values and rents. This year he is going to whack up the rents on pensioner flats and create a regressive regional fuel tax so landowners can get a rates reduction. These are all perfectly “good” right wing policies.

    Comment by unaha-closp — January 27, 2015 @ 1:31 pm

  68. “Len Brown is immune to policy attacks from the right wing.”

    Then again, the usual suspects aren’t big fans of the proposed City Rail Link, because they somehow think it’s a slippery slope to banning private cars. All the same, if they can’t nail Mayor Len on policy, then they’ll try nailing him on infidelity, bedroom antics and other stuff that appears in gossip pages.

    Comment by Kumara Republic (@kumararepublic) — January 27, 2015 @ 3:52 pm

  69. “36.To clarify, when I mention feudalism, I don’t mean the McGillicuddyan Great Leap Backwards sense. I mean it in the sense of an oligarchy of self-appointed lords being a law unto themselves, who don’t give a toss what’s happening outside the castle walls until the great plague breaks out.

    Comment by Kumara Republic — January 21, 2015 @ 8:21 pm”

    The European Commission you mean? heh, heh.

    A Dutch friend, knowing I was a bit right wing, was warning of the perils of the TPP and it’s attacks on national sovereignty. Must to his surprise, I agreed. Being a left-winger, he was less impressed with me pointing out how the EU was a similar attack on national sovereignty.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — January 27, 2015 @ 10:34 pm

  70. “…prioritised apartments built by large corporate developers over houses… These are all perfectly “good” right wing policies.”
    Hang on: I thought high-density housing is a favourite of town planners and other left-wing, big-govt, central planners, lol. Of course “corporates” are going to get involved: who else has the capital raising expertise and willingness to take a risk..?

    Comment by Clunking Fist — January 27, 2015 @ 10:45 pm

  71. “Hang on: I thought high-density housing is a favourite of town planners and other left-wing, big-govt, central planners, lol. Of course “corporates” are going to get involved: who else has the capital raising expertise and willingness to take a risk..?”

    It illustrates the inconsistency of ACT leader David Seymour on the issue of high-density living. He leads a party that’s meant to be strongly pro-capitalist, but he strongly objects to the relaxation of zoning restrictions, particularly in his Epsom electorate. It’d be amusing if Donald Trump or whoever developed the Burj Khalifa decides to build a super-tall apartment in Remuera or Mt Eden… and David Seymour vetoes it on the grounds of ‘property rights and the character of community‘.

    Comment by Kumara Republic — January 27, 2015 @ 11:04 pm

  72. On the topic of Epsom, what’s up with the Epsom area seeming to have a median income of around the $27k mark, give or take?

    I can’t be bothered tracking down the census data directly, but the interactive map on this recent Stuff article that’s compiled from Census data suggests that Epsom North, Central and South are all much lower than many surrounding areas.

    Is this something to do with many Epsom residents obtaining their wealth from sources other than salaries paid directly to them? Or are there also dense pockets of low paid people in those regions?

    Comment by izogi — January 28, 2015 @ 12:33 am

  73. izogi: a bit of both I suspect. On that DomPost article, Parnell is among the richest areas on the map. And Parnell is firmly Epsom territory. There’s also been some de-facto gerrymandering – when the Electoral Commission started redrawing the Epsom boundaries due to standard population changes, there were loud objections and the Commission kowtowed to preserving the rotten borough setup.

    Comment by Kumara Republic — January 28, 2015 @ 2:19 am

  74. “Hang on: I thought high-density housing is a favourite of town planners and other left-wing, big-govt, central planners, lol.”

    When John Banks was mayor it was the removal of sane planning constraints to create loopholes which greedy private developers exploit and construct ugly apartments marring the beauty of Auckland.

    Comment by unaha-closp — January 28, 2015 @ 1:20 pm

  75. unaha: “When John Banks was mayor it was the removal of sane planning constraints to create loopholes which greedy private developers exploit and construct ugly apartments marring the beauty of Auckland.”

    Those were built solely for investors who wanted to cash in on a foreign student boom that never happened, as opposed to building for people after a home and a view.

    Comment by Kumara Republic (@kumararepublic) — January 28, 2015 @ 3:41 pm

  76. KR: “Those were built solely for investors who wanted to cash in on a foreign student boom that never happened, as opposed to building for people after a home and a view.”

    These will indeed be a better investment.

    Comment by unaha-closp — January 28, 2015 @ 5:26 pm

  77. the beauty of Auckland

    You’re joking, right?
    Auckland has been a sprawling ugly mess, reminiscent of spaghetti dropped from a toddlers plate, since about 1960.

    Comment by Phil — January 29, 2015 @ 9:44 am

  78. >If Y2K had been less enthusiastically addressed, there probably would have been some inconvenience and financial losses by businesses.

    That was pretty much how it went down in most of Asia where there superstitious aspect of Millenialism didn’t weigh into sober decision making. They didn’t spend very much, and not much happened. The “financial losses” do have to be offset against the cost of the Y2K preparation project. In the large firm I was in, it was fucking huge. About 30 full time staff were dedicated to it for over a year. It cost them many millions. I didn’t hear a single report of any large Asian firms being cost millions by an unplanned Y2K bug kicking in.

    Fuck it seemed like a boring project too. It built nothing.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — January 29, 2015 @ 12:00 pm

  79. “It illustrates the inconsistency of ACT leader David Seymour…”
    A politician who’s a hypocrite? Never!

    Comment by Clunking Fist — February 3, 2015 @ 2:50 am


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