The Dim-Post

February 23, 2015

Morbid Symptoms

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 10:05 am
Tags:

The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear – Antonio Gramsci

ACT held their annual conference last weekend, so the Herald et al have been running columns and profiles and news stories, all to pretend that ACT is a real political party and not a loophole in the electoral law for National to pour taxpayer money into.

The premise of all this is that ACT will rebuild under ‘classical liberal’ David Seymour. It’s all nonsense. ACT was never a classical liberal party (and the whole notion of ‘classical liberalism’ seems more and more risible to me: a bunch of guys who are outraged about, say, the threat to freedom caused by anti-tobacco regulation but indifferent to the expansion of the surveillance state, or any of dozens of other substantive challenges to individual freedom). ACT made its wins with conservative voters via race-baiting and tough on crime rhetoric, and when an actual conservative party came along ACT’s vote vanished.

They might get it back, I guess, but they’ll be competing with Colin Craig (probably), Winston Peters and most problematically, the National Party, who have a patina of urban liberals, women and Maori arranged across their front bench but whose MPs are mostly middle-aged or elderly white male ex dairy-farmer/ex-cop types who represent electorates ACT would need to target, and who tell their voters to give two ticks to National. David Seymour will never connect with that demographic.

If National gets voted out of government and goes through an identity crisis, and New Zealand First folds post-Winston, and Colin Craig goes away then the conditions might be auspicious for a ‘classical liberal’ and/or conservative party to arise, but the existence of ACT, occupying that space, grifting an electorate off National and money off the taxpayer makes it less likely. Instead the morbid symptoms will continue.

26 Comments »

  1. Goes to show ACT is libertarian for economic reasons rather than social reasons. Then again, there’s nothing particularly free-market about David Seymour’s hostility to ‘8-storey apartment buildings’ in Epsom. Either he thinks Epsom is a gated community/Auckland Grammar zone, or he has vested interests in the housing bubble. Or both. In any case, it’s less free market and more neo-feudalist – for those who can’t tell the difference, read Nick Hanauer.

    Comment by Kumara Republic (@kumararepublic) — February 23, 2015 @ 10:26 am

  2. I still think there could be room for a properly liberal party, that cares as much about civil liberties and the expansion of the surveillance state as it does about economic freedom, that takes a market urbanist approach to favour both densification in-town and expansion on the fringes, that favours market-led and property-rights-based approaches to enhancing environmental quality, and that comes out clearly for ending prohibitionist approaches to drugs. That kind of party has a better chance of existing where Craig keeps the so-cons and so playing to them isn’t tempting.

    Comment by Eric Crampton (@EricCrampton) — February 23, 2015 @ 10:47 am

  3. Eric has said pretty much exactly what I was thinking. I suspect, though, that if Act was going to be that party it would take about 10 years for them to lose the stench of what it actually has been for most or all of its existence. And I doubt that in that time it would be able to resist jumping on some conservative bandwagon or voting for anti-liberal things that the people of Epsom support.

    Comment by helenalex — February 23, 2015 @ 10:56 am

  4. Part of ACT’s problem is that a very high proportion of its MPs and supporters are/were idiots. Nimbyism and all, Seymour seems a significant improvement on the standard offering so far.

    Comment by Tinakori — February 23, 2015 @ 11:10 am

  5. “…Part of ACT’s problem is that a very high proportion of its MPs and supporters are/were criminals…”

    Edited for truth.

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 23, 2015 @ 11:15 am

  6. room for a properly liberal party, that cares as much about civil liberties and the expansion of the surveillance state as it does about economic freedom

    The Libertarianz finally folded into the ACT party before the election, didn’t do them much good.
    The problem with Eric’s (and my) hope is that there is already a significant libertarian streak in other parties. If you’re really concerned about surveillance-state; the Greens have you covered. If you’re an old-school free market liberal you’re probably going to hold your nose and vote National anyway.

    Comment by Phil — February 23, 2015 @ 11:26 am

  7. For once, I find myself agreeing completely with Eric and Tinakori.

    But for now, ACT is two things that have little to do with each other: the Seymour electorate jackup, no different to Dunne and UF really; and a tiny group of no hopers who properly should be ignored like all the other fringe and crazy parties.

    Comment by Stephen J — February 23, 2015 @ 12:03 pm

  8. On a completely different topic, saw a a collection from the Chinese short story writer Yu Hua on the return shelves at the Wellington public library at the weekend. Perhaps Sean Plunket is simply a misunderstood literary critic?

    Comment by Tinakori — February 23, 2015 @ 12:36 pm

  9. “Part of ACT’s problem is that a very high proportion of its MPs and supporters are/were idiots.”

    Does ACT even have significant supporters in this day and age, outside of the National Party’s top ranks?

    ACT barely reached as many Party votes from the entire country as David Seymour managed to scrounge together in Epsom, and of his total 15966 electorate votes, 90% came from National Party supporters splitting their vote as they’d been all but instructed to do, even though 30% refused to follow that instruction.

    Comment by izogi — February 23, 2015 @ 1:02 pm

  10. Classical liberals are conservatives who have read more books.

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — February 23, 2015 @ 1:31 pm

  11. A bit of context…

    ACT Party-Vote

    2014 16,689
    2011 23,889
    2008 85,496
    2005 34,469
    2002 145,078
    1999 145,493
    1996 126,442

    Oh, how the mighty have fallen ! (and then revived slightly and then fallen again).

    Comment by swordfish — February 23, 2015 @ 1:45 pm

  12. You probably believe in that political quadrant thing, which is largely bogus. An attempt at combining economic neo-liberalism with liberal social policies will fail:
    – the capitalists need a repressive apparatus to protect them from the people they are exploiting
    – allowing the exploited people more tangential freedoms (such as drugs and stuff) brings the problems of their social exclusion to the fore

    The answers to this lie in either a selectively repressive society with laissez-fair economics (much as today’s National and to some degree Labour provide), or in a liberal society with the economy taken under popular control.

    Comment by richdrich — February 23, 2015 @ 1:45 pm

  13. This could be Nat party dirty politics.

    Act goes full liberal, stops race baiting (the Maori Party perspective can be presented more forcefully) and attacks on pension funding (the Nats begin looking hard at pension funding). The Nats suddenly look slightly more liberal and pro-Maori.
    .
    Meanwhile Winston continues to look like Labour and the Greens second best friend as they jointly manoeuvre to get him elected in Northland. Has he done a deal with the socialist left for a bauble?

    All this creates a 2 – 5% more of the population who are old time conservative but can’t trust National and can’t trust Winston.

    Next thing we know Garth McIvor defects to the Conservative party in a Crosby Textor play.

    By 2017 Colin Craig Conservatives are a 6 – 8% political party, holding the balance of power. The Nats form a minority government.

    Comment by unaha-closp — February 23, 2015 @ 1:59 pm

  14. “The answers to this lie in either a selectively repressive society with laissez-fair economics (much as today’s National and to some degree Labour provide), or in a liberal society with the economy taken under popular control…”

    …and repression carried out against any minority who disagree with popular control.

    Comment by unaha-closp — February 23, 2015 @ 2:12 pm

  15. Next thing we know Garth McIvor defects to the Conservative party in a Crosby Textor play.

    WTF is “Garth McIvor”, and from whence is he defecting?

    Comment by Flashing Light — February 23, 2015 @ 2:26 pm

  16. …or in a liberal society with the economy taken under popular control.

    Time to start that anarcho-syndicalist party I’ve always wanted to.

    Comment by Gregor W — February 23, 2015 @ 2:56 pm

  17. “…and repression carried out against any minority who disagree with popular control.”

    You betcha. The societies that have achieved what they have called popular control – Argentina under Peron and to a lesser extent some of his successors, any number of Latin American despots, Mussolini’s Italy, Germany in the 30s and 40s, the Iron Curtain countries post 1945 – have never been liberal societies. Liberalism is not just subscribing to a certain set of view and being utterly intolerant of any others. In the NZ context, The Labour Party was once far more heterodox than it is now (or was in the 80s for that matter) and its membership and MPs reflected that fact, but the boundaries of debate have narrowed as the support base, membership and range of MPs has narrowed.The National Party, on the other hand, was far more homogenous than it is now and this reflects its changing support base, with the rural hinterland of far less importance now than the urban areas. One has become less liberal and the other more so, socially and economically.

    Comment by Tinakori — February 23, 2015 @ 3:32 pm

  18. Nazi Germany had the economy under popular control? I’m sure the owners of Krupp and I.G. Farben would have been upset about that (disregarding that popular control in a dictatorship is an oxymoron).

    Comment by richdrich — February 23, 2015 @ 3:52 pm

  19. 18.Nazi Germany had the economy under popular control?

    I though this was a strange point to make too.
    Maybe Tinakori means ‘under the command-and-control of a populist apparatus’ but he got all NeilM on the meaningless of language.

    Comment by Gregor W — February 23, 2015 @ 4:16 pm

  20. “Nazi Germany had the economy under popular control?”

    Rather telling that from the totalitarian hit parade you chose that particular chart topper. I guess they didn’t need to write all those books about the close relationships between those firms and the Nazi regime after all? Rather than Krupp and Co on the independence of German industry you would have been better to cite the role of Eduard Schulte the head of one of Germany largest mining firms who provided the earliest and most comprehensive information on the Final Solution to the Allies.

    Comment by Tinakori — February 23, 2015 @ 4:43 pm

  21. Pretty good to get to 17 comments before the thread Godwinned out.

    We’ve already got plenty of classical liberal parties. ACT, National, UF, Labour. Social liberality is pretty much a given these days, with a bit of argument around the fringes. Economic liberality is strongly upheld by both the major parties since Muldoon, with only a small amount of jigging around in the middle. We pretty much lost any need for ACT in NZ when we elected a banker PM. Not a pie-eyed Reserve Banker, but a hardcore arbitraging currency specialist. We’ll never again have a more credible head for that ideology, nor a more clear proof of how little difference that background can make to the sound management of an economy.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — February 23, 2015 @ 5:37 pm

  22. The natural ground for liberal parties is in the centre. But that is politically untenable, as you just get squashed by Labour and National. The only sustainable positions are on the extreme left and right, where the Big Two don’t compete. So I don’t think we will ever have a successful liberal party, or a successful central party of any stripe, in New Zealand politics.

    Comment by Malcolm Wright — February 23, 2015 @ 8:06 pm

  23. It’s the difference between aggregate voter behaviour and abstract political theory.

    Most people sit around the centre having being nudged by a multitude of factors a bit this way or a bit that way. Which gives rise to the common but odd, if you think about it, nearly 50/50 left/right split we see in vote distribution.

    Comment by NeilM — February 23, 2015 @ 9:51 pm

  24. “Economic liberality is strongly upheld by both the major parties since Muldoon, with only a small amount of jigging around in the middle. We pretty much lost any need for ACT in NZ when we elected a banker PM.”

    Except in the health and education industries, in transportation, banking, telecommunications etc etc.

    Comment by Swan — February 24, 2015 @ 7:26 am

  25. The NZ Herald should be deeply embarrassed by their ceaseless cheerleading for ACT (and ACT policies)….but they appear to be shameless. Auckland is poorly served by the dishonest publication.

    Comment by Steve — March 1, 2015 @ 7:56 pm

  26. And, of course, pipsqueak Seymour is all for intervention in Iraq.

    Apparently against the kindly nanny state that provides shelter and some bit of income to the poor but all for the mean militarist nanny state that wreaks havoc in the homes, streets, hospitals and schools of people in the Middle East, people the militarist Western nanny states presume to order around and sort out.

    Since Seymour is so keen on the militarist nanny state, let him sign up and go.

    Phil
    https://rdln.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/no-to-all-western-military-intervention-in-the-middle-east/

    Comment by Phil F — March 2, 2015 @ 1:20 pm


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: