Avoid big plans and win

Written By: - Date published: 8:30 am, April 4th, 2017 - 27 comments
Categories: election 2017, greens, labour, nz first, Politics - Tags: , ,

Recently, Whaleoil posted General Marshall’s 1947 speech to Harvard University that outlined the full post-World War 2 reconstruction of Europe.

The plan became known as the Marshall Plan, often referred to nowadays as a highpoint of command-and-control politics in which the results were largely successful.

Are we missing something in New Zealand, even before the 2017 general election really gets going? In some sections of the voting public there is still a desire for a grand plan and an ambitious state with a strong narrative about where a nation should be going.

What if, for example, politicians of resolute idealism like Sanders or Melenchon or Corbyn could rise with a similar facility for bringing it all together in a plan, grasp the political mood like the reins of a horse, and harness that capacity for good? If they could do that, could they not then reorganize whole states as Marshall, Attlee, and Fraser did seven decades ago?

It is now a common mode on both the left and the right to turn to nostalgia for commanding leaders who form great plans with precise emotional grasp to respond to complex crises and thus achieve otherwise inconceivable policy goals. “Make America Great Again” is political poetry that would have worked well for Republican and Democrat alike:

But there is no crisis so compelling to our public that such a plan or such a leader is warranted. The facts and the framing keep shifting. Depending on where you read about it, you will discover that the Gini coefficient has been steadily rising across the developed world, because of – what? Robots? Trade with China? Ruthanasian deregulation? Sheer financial depravity? Mass and uncontrolled immigration? It might be all of the above, but one cannot know for sure: the question remains open. Same for housing: too many causes and conditions, not enough answers, and the question remains open.

But then Donald Trump says that explanation is much more simple: It’s NAFTA, and China. “We’re living through the biggest job theft in the history of the world, folks,” he says. We can fix it easily. In terms of conviction and coherence, it’s getting close to General Marshall himself.

The axial point to convince New Zealand that we should change governments is not to offer a grand plan, but to frame the right question. Trump tapped into real human need better than the other candidate did. His base was not an army of gullible slouches and racists on sofas with guns, smartphones and a brief vocabulary. He rose from a large, disenfranchised chunk of society that was promised meaning through social mobility, got little of it, and after a generation of stagnating wages still has no clear answer to the question: why, after so many years of work, am I still suffering?

Our political leaders, particularly the lefty ones, don’t need a grand plan for New Zealand. If there is anything the last six political terms has taught us, our governments are capable of managing through multiple crises without pre-announcing anything too coherent. Indeed within living memory it’s the grand plans that have done the most damage.

You also don’t get a really bold plan in a democracy without a really strong leader. By strong, I mean Lee Kuan Yew strong. I mean Erdogan strong. Chavez strong. The full expression of civil rights tends to be curtailed fast, and even with that considerable sacrifice the results are unstable. Lee Kuan Yew may well have tamed the real estate market, and who there misses chewing gum really? But Erdogan is well on the way to shifting away from any kind of functioning democracy and into another civil war. Chavez presided over the largest oil boom in history, and yet left behind a hungry, ailing, economically ruined society. Their magic as leaders is that many still idolize them as saviours.

We don’t need to take that risk here.

There’s no crisis such our population demands a new Marshall Plan or anything like it. Granted, there’s an opposite occurring in a kind of drifting, soporific, incoherent mumbling way.There are also meaty problems for government to solve. But there is no crisis worth reaching for massive plans, super-strong states, super-strong politicians, or other dynamics that require destabilizing our core.

We have instead only precisely what we need, guided by MMP: a chunk of policy wonk (Labour), a little idealism (Greens), and a sprinkling of steady-as-she-goes conservatism (New Zealand First). We have seen the risks of “Make (X Nation) Great Again”, for left and right.

What is needed in 2017 is the right question to ask.

27 comments on “Avoid big plans and win”

  1. ianmac 1

    Just what determines the votes cast for them or the others?
    I don’t think it is the policy differences.
    It has been the images of contenders.
    It has been “mistakes” blown out of proportion
    It has been family history of support.

    But what will it be this time?
    Find the single overwhelming uniting question to which the people can respond with, “YES!”

  2. weka 2

    ‘Make NZ Great Again’, lolz at all the kiwis cringing (and rightly so).

    Sure, we don’t need a Grand Plan because there is no crisis in the public’s mind big enough to warrant one this year (and I largely agree with the general premise about this years election). But there is of course a huge crisis, but it’s long and slow enough at this point that we can still pretend it’s not happening. When we do get to the point of the public mind being focussed on it we will need a plan. Not sure about a Grand one, I guess that would depend on the state of democracy in NZ. The idea of National with a Grand Plan doesn’t bear thinking about.

    I’m curious what prompted the post. Has someone said that the left should have a grand plan?

    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      Plans are nothing; planning is everything.

      We actually do need plans – and we need to keep them continually updated. It’s delusional to think that we can achieve anything as a society without planning to do so.

      If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!

      Ask a bank for a business loan without a business plan and see how well you go. I can assure you, you won’t be getting a loan.

      So, why do people think that a society can get by without overall planning and when so many individual plans are in conflict with one another?

      The idea of National with a Grand Plan doesn’t bear thinking about.

      National has a Grand Plan, or perhaps you can call it a Grand Objective, which is to shift all of the communities wealth into the hands of themselves and their backers.

      • weka 2.1.1

        I didn’t say we shouldn’t have plans or planning (that would be ridiculous), so not sure why you have directed that at me. I responded to Ad’s idea of the Grand Plan (which is a different thing)

        Grand Plan and Grand Objective are not the same thing either, at least not in the context of this post. I took Grand Plan to be an actual strategy based around a perceived large crisis. But I agree with you about National’s objective.

  3. saveNZ 3

    One of the biggest unsaid issues in NZ is that our governments instead of making NZ no 1 place to be for Kiwis to keep our best and brightest here, have gone around to think that keep smart people here is too hard, charged them for their degrees without putting any money into investments that would keep them in this country and put in rules to keep labour cost low, contracts temporary and so forth to drive smart people out further.

    That has forced a lot of smart Kiwis to leave the country – at least most of Gen x had that opportunity to leave. The boomers didn’t have to leave because they had plentiful jobs. Now it’s much harder for Gen y to leave, because with all the neoliberalism and free trade agreements and wars leading to displacement of people, climate change many western countries have tightened up that type of migration. For NZ not being able to access work opportunities in Australia and EU has left them with less options than 20 years ago. Not just with housing but with work.

    To make up for our ‘brain drain’ the neoliberal option was to import skills shortages into our country. Often those migrants left though because they faced the same problems as the Kiwis, low wages, poor working conditions and poor job prospects in NZ once they came here.

    To overcome the GFC and to try to retain the migrants who kept leaving, the Natz fell on the idea of just importing anybody into NZ, petrol attendants, burger King workers, non english speakers, property investors, what have you anything to pretend all was well – tax havens attracted anybody wanting to launder money without anybody knowing who was doing it, and you didn’t even have to live here.

    The newest migrants came and gave short term relief for businesses in certain sectors, the banks, and employees who wanted minimum wages workers who didn’t ask too many questions. It also became clear that you could use this as a business opportunity to import more people in. The NZ passport business was born and still going strong. Sadly that has left even less jobs, less secure jobs, a massive social services problem for the future and not enough houses in the hot spots and now it’s spreading to most of the country.

    So the other day one of the poster’s was saying

    “The three other List parties are right that foreign demand and over-reliance on immigration for economic growth needs to be addressed. The left-wing parties are right that more measures taxing wealth need to be implemented to balance out the economy and cool down the housing market. ”

    I think the average Kiwis especially in Auckland are tired of that talk. We have been taxed to death already with degrees (and I had to pay 11% compounding interest on my student loans), user pays charges popping up everywhere, now to ‘pretend’ all this didn’t happen and start user pays to pay and house the last decades migration scam – sorry I think that when politicians and analysts open their mouth to voters Gen X and older, those types of dry words ring hollow with gaps in the logic and the truth unsaid.

    There is also a fairness aspect to it. How many times do politicians want to screw over their own people?

    Like the democrats in the US and Labour in the UK, who thought all this people and job movement with neoliberalism was a lovely idea and had zero impact on jobs and housing and anyone who disagreed was an uneducated racist and all that had to happen was distribute the wealth distribution a tweak and ‘overall’ we are all so much better off.

    Even today, apparently we can’t charge tourists anymore because locals need to pay instead.

    Lets face it, as well as the cows being sold off with our farms, Kiwi’s themselves are considered cash cows by governments to be milked.

  4. gsays 4

    For me the youth are the context in which many issues can be discussed.

    Inequality/poverty.
    Falling education standards.
    Housing.
    The violence visited on them by others.
    Environment.
    Water quality.
    Wages/labour conditions.
    Future of work.

    The question: what will this vote deliver to children/grandchildren?

  5. Draco T Bastard 5

    …or other dynamics that require destabilizing our core.

    Or perhaps our core was destabilised 30+ years ago and that wobble is steadily increasing.

    What is needed in 2017 is the right question to ask.

    What is the purpose of the economy?

    HINT: It’s not too make a few people rich.

    • ropata 5.1

      The purpose of the NZ economy is to grow infinitely and always be in surplus so that Bill English can congratulate himself. It is all about converting human effort and natural resources into numbers in a spreadsheet as fast as possible. And minimising inconvenient costs like health, education, or the environment.

    • Adrian Thornton 5.2

      @Draco T Bastard +1
      “Or perhaps our core was destabilized 30+ years ago and that wobble is steadily increasing”

      Exactly right….as it was an internal revolution that co-oped the Labour to the dark side of the cult of neo liberalism , so it is that we need an internal revolution to remove that cancerous growth from the party now.

      BTW I would have thought that having solid answers for a New Zealand that is obviously on the brink of some sort of massive financial re-aliment would far be more important that asking questions?

      But then again Labour doesn’t seem to be in the business of having answers or solutions to real world issues that effect working people any more…so just keep asking questions…more and more questions.

  6. AB 6

    Aren’t we already living inside someone else’s grand plan?
    i.e. neoliberalism – for want of another word.
    But fair enough – we need a way of dismantling their grand plan by not announcing a new grand plan of our own. Just a steady erosion with the odd sharp punch in the solar plexus and all shrugged off with a few Kiwi-style homilies and sayings like “a fair go for the average rooster” or some such thing. A left-wing John Key would be a truly interesting phenomenon.

    • weka 6.1

      “Aren’t we already living inside someone else’s grand plan?
      i.e. neoliberalism – for want of another word.”

      Good point.

      Interesting too about how to dismantle that, and whether a Grand Plan is inherently problematic. “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house”

  7. saveNZ 7

    Big questions for Labour/Greens 2017

    Can you justify increasing development for the so called economy at the expense of the environment ,increased debt, and the democratic process and expecting local’s to pay for it because user pays doesn’t apply for business or you are ideologically opposed to put in immigration controls because the markets and free trade should decide?

    If you say that’s ok, it’s pretty much agreeing with National.

    Or is there a new strategy – of putting trust in locals to build their own houses and infrastructure, pay for a decent education and training, give decent jobs that pay decent wages and value each individual citizen, working or not, retain your own best and brightest people, give grants to locals not foreign owned businesses, tax those who turn over millions but somehow pay zero taxes…tax those who own assets but don’t live here, have real foreign policy, share ideas and have a genuine relationship not based on fear, money and trade with other countries, have a much higher minimum standards of living… Do not give NZ residency and citizenship away as though it is worthless, value foreign visitors but not allow exploitation as their reason for coming, allow migrant families to visit but on long term tourist visas to keep the NZ population static so that social welfare can still be maintained, etc etc

    • weka 7.1

      Green Party Charter,

      The charter is the founding document of The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand.

      The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand accepts Te Tiriti o Waitangi as the founding document of Aotearoa New Zealand; recognises Maori as Tangata Whenua in Aotearoa New Zealand; and commits to the following four Principles:

      Ecological Wisdom:

      The basis of ecological wisdom is that human beings are part of the natural world. This world is finite, therefore unlimited material growth is impossible. Ecological sustainability is paramount.

      Social Responsibility:

      Unlimited material growth is impossible. Therefore the key to social responsibility is the just distribution of social and natural resources, both locally and globally.

      Appropriate Decision-making:

      For the implementation of ecological wisdom and social responsibility, decisions will be made directly at the appropriate level by those affected.

      Non-Violence:

      Non-violent conflict resolution is the process by which ecological wisdom, social responsibility and appropriate decision making will be implemented. This principle applies at all levels.

      https://www.greens.org.nz/charter

      When enough NZers vote Green, that’s what we will get. In the meantime the Greens will work with the power and tools that they have. In other words, it’s not the Greens that need convincing of these things.

      • saveNZ 7.1.1

        @ Weka – well I’m a bit concerned that all the talk of more houses, more development in Auckland (spreading elsewhere aka Wellington) is outside of the Green charter. The unitary plan has been a disaster and an opportunity wasted to gift Auckland with sustainability and affordability criteria and increase community ties.

        Chloe’s Swarbrick, Mayoral policy on rates, was to charge the same amount of rates on land with buildings as with land. A dream for Act and National.

        So that means someone living in a caravan pays the same amount as the person that has a McMansion. The Spencer family with a 10 million dollar home pay the same as a neighbour with a 3 bedroom bungalow. It’s the opposite of sustainable and fair policy.

        I actually don’t even think Chloe understood the policy, but that’s what is the danger when you are 22 and making policy. Considering the Natz favourite game seems to be (like the Republicans in the US) to put in some innocuous sounding words hidden in a policy that are anything but and pretending it will do something else. My concern is that there is too much group think and policy wonks in power – rather than examining the entire premise they are just fighting over little bits and not looking at true alternatives.

        I guess Maori are just wasting their land by not building golf courses and motels as well as anyone else that doesn’t need much. (or can’t afford much).

        Anyway, just putting that out there, so Greens can make their public speaking closer to their policy, because my perception is, they are very supportive of current development paid for by public and private developers, which ‘apparently’ according to the right wing taken up by left wing commentators has some trickle down effect and “eventually” “maybe” someone renting can afford it, but the markets will decide what’s best.

        Too close to National thinking for my liking.

        • weka 7.1.1.1

          Chloe Swarbrick doesn’t make GP policy, and afaik she didn’t run for Mayor on a GP ticket, so I’ll just leave that out of the argument.

          As for the Greens themselves, I’ve explained the issue. If people want those kind of principles enacted in NZ they need to vote Green. The Greens literally can’t do what you are suggesting until they have a much bigger chunk of the vote/support from NZers. All they can do is ride the line between principles and pragmatics. In the meantime, they will work within the constraints that they have.

          In other words, we made the Green Party what they are.

          • saveNZ 7.1.1.1.1

            It should be the Green’s moment in history to shine. At a time where environment is so mainstream and current climate events are impossible to ignore, (floods, famines and drought) i’m not the only one surprised about the lack of environmental focus on their campaigns.

            The “great Green” campaign is not terrible but could easily be any party – labour or National. It is very advertising like – could be advertising breakfast cereal. Not too late to improve it I guess.

            The Greens best campaign effort was the one that focused on the children in the environment.

            Greens voters are worried about food quality and water issues. They want to preserve things, historical buildings, culture, environment, improve poverty, save the forests, birds and nature.

            I just don’t get that sense so far from what I get from the Greens, and that is a shame because they should be cleaning up this election.

            • weka 7.1.1.1.1.1

              The Greens spend a lot of time on environmental issues. Their campaign launch today said they for this election they are focussing on getting people to know who they are as people and a party. They say that their voters already know what the GP do environmentally, which matches how I see it too. Because they’ve spent so much time on that.

              Current environmental policy,

              https://www.greens.org.nz/policy/cleaner-environment

              https://www.greens.org.nz/policy/smarter-economy (yes, that’s got environmental policy in it too, because you can’t run an economy without the environment).

              Greens voters are worried about food quality and water issues. They want to preserve things, historical buildings, culture, environment, improve poverty, save the forests, birds and nature.

              Given that’s all the things the GP work on, I’m not sure what your point is.

              “I just don’t get that sense so far from what I get from the Greens, and that is a shame because they should be cleaning up this election.”

              Have you voted for them? Will you vote for them this time?

              • saveNZ

                My point is, clearly only 11% voted for them last time and the Green issues are now mainstream and if they bothered to highlight the environmental side rather than assuming ‘everyone knows that’ they could do a lot better and actually have more control over the environment.

                Yep, voted for the Greens in the past. Did not vote for them last election but thinking of voting for them this election or Labour.

                But now I feel Greens look too much like Labour. They should be a different voice for the same agenda, of change the government, not cannibalise each other’s votes by focusing on the same social issues.

  8. Spikeyboy 8

    Any chance of some citations with regard to Chavez that dont come from Western establishment media. Chavez may not have left the upper middleclasses better off but there is no doubt that there are far less below the poverty line now. Ill provide citations if you do.

  9. Poission 9

    Avoid big plans and win

    Ah Think Little

    The satirists await.

  10. adam 10

    Thanks for the conservative analysis the Ad, far better reading you than other conservatives.

  11. Spikeyboy 11

    Anyone interested in real analysis on Chavez and Venezuela could start with the Center for Economic and Policy Research
    http://cepr.net/publications/op-eds-columns/chavezs-legacy
    Better than just regurgitating the fox news line

  12. Tamati Tautuhi 12

    National & Labour Governments have been funding themselves by State Asset Sales and Offshore Borrowings, looks like Winston NZF is the only alternative this coming Election.

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