One of Steven Joyce’s favourite refrains is that Labour is trying to take us back to the 1970s. You know, those dark days when unemployment was near non-existent, wages were high, growth was strong despite external shocks, we had nearly no foreign debt, profits stayed here, were we one of the richest and most egalitarian countries. He’s not far wrong.
A lot of what Labour and the Greens are promising, and, for that matter, a lot of the 5th Labour Government’s greatest achievements were about restoring what was lost to neoliberalism. That doesn’t mean nationalising stuff, it means the state stepping in when the market doesn’t work.
Kiwisaver and the Cullen Fund resurrect the national savings fund concept that the 3rd Labour Government established and Muldoon recklessly destroyed.
Kiwibank has brought a government-owned player to the banking market with a ‘keep ‘em honest’ mandate. BNZ was once that government-owned player.
KiwiBuild is a government programme of building good, affordable houses for young families – ie just what state housing used to be before the neolibs turned it into just last resort housing for the poor. The Greens’ Progressive Ownership is effectively an updated State Advances to make buying those houses more affordable.
NZ Power restores the single buyer model that the Electricity Department used internally to set prices before the neoliberals got their dirty mitts on it and prices started rising at twice inflation, year after year.
Kiwiassure is another ‘keep the market honest’ business. It was common before neoliberalism for the government to have a player in markets that were otherwise oligopolistic to ensure the public wasn’t ripped off. State Insurance used to do that job, before it was sold.
Of course Joyce is opposed to this. He is the classic neoliberal, a mini Fay Richwaite who made his money by buying a public asset (radio spectrum) at firesale prices under the previous National government. Neoliberalism has been good for him and his 1% – they swooped in on the public wealth that had been built up over a century and privatised it for themselves. But it has failed the rest of us.
Labour and the Greens are offering an updated, modern version of policies that worked in the past, before the Joyces of the world tore it down.