Matt McCarten writes a fine opinion piece in today’s Herald. He hits four main points:
1. The neo-liberal dismantling of NZ’s egalitarian society ideal in the 80’s and 90’s.
2. The new subservience of the State to corporate interests.
3. Dramatic increases in productivity over the last 30 years that have been almost entirely captured by a tiny capitalist elite; a huge transfer of wealth away from working people.
4. The substantial rise in working hours and household debt that has been the direct result.
The simple, undeniable truth is that neo-liberal economics has been a dismal failure, except of course for a wealthy minority.
As I’ve said several times recently, it’s amazing how people get all panicky and obsessive about wage inflation (especially in the context of the minimum wage). The truth is that unions have been regulated to within an inch of their lives and with only 20% penetration in the NZ workforce it is risible to suggest that unreasonable wage demands have anything to do with inflation.
Yet at the same time massive asset price inflation, driven by a very lightly regulated finance sector was allowed to run unchecked for almost a decade… and few people seem to notice the disconnect. The underlying reason is simple and deep rooted… it’s all about class.
New Zealand now has the sixth highest GINI score of the OECD nations; According to the OECD, New Zealand had the biggest rise in inequality among member nations in the two decades starting in the mid-1980s.. That’s actually rather appalling.
Now while I still regard the Clark/Cullen govt with respect, in all fairness they really only managed to slow the neo-liberal rot, not reverse it. Several forces were at work against real change. Clark and Cullen, for all their genuine beliefs, are fundamentally conservative people, it was easier for them to take a stand on social/moral issues than attack the well funded and powerful capitalist elites. As Muldoon Bismark once said, “politics is the art of the possible” and for the modern Labour Party, that was always going to be a battle too far. Moreover New Zealand, like much of the rest of the western world has been captured by the cult of the individual; we’ve had our faith in the unifying power of the collective systematically undermined and eroded for decades.
For all the real and valued social gains that the left has made in the last 30 years, the moral foundations of the movement have been hollowed out and economic injustice has risen unchecked. The numbers that Matt quotes (and similar that MartyG has repeatedly shown here on The Standard) demonstrate the depth of the failure. The very first Labour Party meetings were held in Baptist Church halls, and for decades simple Christian notions, such as ‘I am my brother’s keeper’, and the parable of the Good Samaritan, were the glue that held the movement together and drove it forward. The power of that understanding now seems lost to us.
Nowadays opinions are a multitude, everyone has one…and everyone demands to be listened to. While no-one expects, or desires uniformity of thought (that’s the hallmark of a cult), it’s far too easy for our efforts to be scattered uselessly in argument and alienation. Our diversity and depth of thought will only be of use if it is harnessed in unity, and for that to happen the left must above all discover a common set of values to share. This is the simple lesson the left must re-learn at every generation, a lesson that old dinosaurs like Chris Trotter keep trying to remind us of… that it is still all about the rejection of class privilege, snobbery and injustice, it’s still about rising above these things and inspiring the best from each other.
Workers today are more productive and work longer whilst wages are going backwards. Conversely shareholders wealth and executive salaries have skyrocketed. No wonder the elites don’t want to draw attention to the true purpose of Labour Day. Workers might start thinking.
That’s why they dumb down our media and entertainment, and fast cycle 10sec soundbites…they don’t want us thinking. That more than anything else scares the hell out of the power hungry elites, because there is far more of us than there is of them.