If the left had to pick one word to describe the essence of its political philosophy, that word might be “fairness”. If the right had to do the same that word might be “freedom”. Which makes this article by Labour MP David Clark an interesting read. Here are some extracts, well worth clicking through to read the whole thing:
Dunedin North MP David Clark considers the balance between fairness and freedom.
If you believe New Zealand’s egalitarian dream is dead, I want to argue that belief in its underlying principle of fairness is the single most important determinant of our country’s future.
I have just returned from an Eisenhower Fellowship exchange trip to the United States. What a remarkable opportunity. I’ve spoken with other Kiwi politicos who reckon such a study trip early in a political career pays dividends for a lifetime. I’ve a sense that’s true.
I learnt many things. One of the most important was a better understanding of why ”fairness” has been, and continues to be, such an important value for New Zealand.
New Zealand’s values system contrasts with the United States in that there ”freedom and liberty” dominate. Our greater emphasis on ”fairness” and the US’ belief in the primacy of ”freedom” have a lot to do with historic timing. British colonial history shaped our history. …
New Zealand was founded on a model of partnership. Freedom has been important in New Zealand, but freedom has been subject to a fairness test from the start. While we have often failed to live up to our own publicity, a test of fairness remains our culture’s most important measuring stick – at least for the silent majority. …
In New Zealand we want a fair go for all, but our weakness is that we are also a little too suspicious of those who have made the most of their opportunities.
Personally, I prefer the values set we have in New Zealand over that which dominates in the US. Citizens in other countries envy the lack of corruption, the valuing of justice and the happier overall population that result from the primacy of ”fairness” in our value system. …
If we wish to become a more prosperous nation, we need to strengthen our reputation for fairness, not undermine it. A growing gap between rich and poor makes New Zealand a less attractive destination for talent.
The research popularised by bestselling book The Spirit Level shows that wealth matters for happiness, but only up to a point. Beyond a certain income level, population happiness and wellbeing improve with a more even spread of wealth.
To make New Zealand a more attractive place for talent to live, to ensure we continue to have a privileged place at the table in trade negotiations, and because it fits with our national identity, our country needs to adopt policies that create a rising tide that really raises all of the boats, not just a privileged few.