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Large representative bodies – “slow”, “unwieldy”

Written By: - Date published: 8:26 am, October 4th, 2013 - 22 comments
Categories: democracy under attack, Steven Joyce - Tags:

That would be Steven Joyce describing university councils, but he could be describing any democratic governance – including parliament.

Dictatorship is so much more efficient.  That’s why we praise the likes of Bainimarama.  The getting rid of “large unwieldy representative bodies” is such a good aim.  Makes things faster.

Even better to appoint, rather than elect the small ruling elite.  Democracy can be so messy, people might not vote for the right thing (see ECAN).

So universities, those independent institutions, with academics free to critique and keep in check intellectually such people as the government…  Will have the government limit their governance and appoint up to half their ruling councils.  Staff and students will not have guaranteed (elected) representation on institutions in which they are the vital part.

Does that sound like an attempt to neutralise any opposition to you?  Of course they scarcely need to – they have academics by the funding.  Ever tighter funding, with academics spending more and more time helping more and more students achieve the grades to keep funding, never mind the research – and they wonder why our university rankings are dropping.

We’ve talked on this site about National’s contempt for democracy before, but here it is explicitly stated again, this time by Joyce.  Getting reasonable representation by having a decent size body with elected interest groups is “slow” and “unwieldy”.

Yes small appointed groups will make faster decisions.  But they may well not make better ones, or fairer ones.  Democracy is an important check and balance on power – as are independent academics.  This move by Joyce is an attack on 2 important conventions.


22 comments on “Large representative bodies – “slow”, “unwieldy””

  1. ianmac 1

    We must be vigilant about anything that Steven Joyce says. Ulterior motives? Yes.
    However according to far back Parkinson, the best size for a committee is 7 with max of 9. Thereafter committees break into factions which diminish effectiveness.
    Mind you Joyce would prefer a committee of just 1. Himself.

    • Colonial Viper 1.1

      Most city councils have more than 10 members. What are we going to do next? Chop them all back to single digits, in the name of “effectiveness” (effective for whom?).

  2. One Anonymous Knucklehead 2

    The Wisdom of Crowds.

    As for Joyce?

    Preaches free markets.

    Practises partisan intervention in every market.

    Out of his depth at the shallow end of the pool.

  3. Sanctuary 3

    “…Dictatorship is so much more efficient…”

    Except that when they collapse, they are always revealed to have been corrupt, venal, destructive and wasteful.

    What bothers me most about this move from Joyce is it shows yet again the contempt that this government of authoritarian managerialists has for the warp and weft of democracy. It is yet another hollowing out of civic society in the name of the cult of managerial efficiency. Aspiring young student politicans start to have the rough edges knocked off them when they see the complexities of governance on a council. Staff representatives who stand for election to a councils learn how to get elected, how to run an election campaign (however modest), and those electing them understand how to achieve a voice in their governance peacefully. It is This sort of democracy that is actually the DNA of democratic societies. Constantly eroding will simply ensure than when power shifts, those that get it are unready to use it – with the sort of disasterous consequences you see in those countries in the Middle East which try to have democracy without a civil society.

  4. marsman 4

    As well as his meddling in democratic governance of Universities Steven Joyce is telling them what they should be focusing on teaching, large animal studies was one of his choices. The man is a malevolent moron and the sooner he’s made inoperable the better for NZ.

  5. Tracey 5

    Yup. He views everything as a business. He has no concept of the social contract aspect of society despite having a leader who depended on that very contract while growing up. Its one thing to run sonething efficiently but another to demand it makes profit and behaves like a corp board.

    social contract and democracy are something this govt and its supporters are waging war against

  6. Bill 6

    really wish people would make the distinction between democracy and representative democracy. The former is quick and efficient while the latter – a name with no/little democratic substance – is a dog due to it’s reliance on bureaucracy. Anyway…

  7. Tracey 7

    can you point to a large democracy without bureaucracy?

    • Bill 7.1

      Representative democracy is necessarily woven around or shot through with bureaucratic structures. And insofar as ‘all’ nation states manage their societies via representative democratic means, the short answer is ‘No – I can’t’.

      The slightly longer answer is that it makes no sense to view democracy as some singular or unitary structure…that can only lead to an insistence on representative democracy.

      Non-representative democracy can only be fluid and multi-facetted ie,structured but impermanent and always being recreated by those participating in it into whatever new appropriate configurations suit matters are at hand.

      Eg. democracy allows for absolute dictatorial decision making where the decision does not affect any person beyond the person making the decision. And it also delegitimises any decision made without appropriate input from affected people.

      • Sanctuary 7.1.1

        I have seldom had the misfortune to have wasted my time reading such a load of wishy washy hogwash as I have just now. Your post makes about as much sense as a piece of parsley on a stale turd.

        • Bill

          So are you’re saying you have no grasp on what democracy is or how it operates in the real world? Or that you have no interest in democracy? Or maybe you’re suggesting my attempt to briefly summarise is unhelpful in some way and that you have something useful to say that you haven’t submitted as a comment yet?

        • Draco T Bastard

          Made perfect sense to me. Perhaps the problem is that you don’t have enough understanding of democracy.

  8. Tamati 8

    Just how many people sit around the Cabinet table Steven?

    I can think of a few bureaucrats around that table which would be well worth cutting.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 8.1

      Its seems to some sort of immutable law that cabinet is fixed at 20, with another 8 or so with training wheels.

      But of course the real work and energy comes from only 5 or 6 members. But that is the same with any group of 20. But you need that 20 or so to have a pool of skills that are useful

  9. xtasy 9

    Education has over more than two decades now increasingly been turned into a “commodity”, and this trend started with the introduction of student fees.

    Fees have continued to rise, curricula have been changed and “reformed” again and again, and it is not surprising that a National Party Minister pushes all the way to turn all tertiary institutions into “businesses”, designed to deliver “output” and “results” that serve the interests of business before anybody else. A government that caters primarily for business and their private sector lobby groups will feel obliged to do this, and hence we have this plan to limit the number of representatives to university councils.

    “Streamlining”, creating “efficiencies”, in a “competitive” environment, that is the slogan headed direction, and the day will come that many arts degrees, when history, political studies and much else that guys like Steven Joyce despises, will be abolished, so that all will just study business, science and technical subjects, none else.

    Democracy is only useful to them, if it is allowed only in the form of letting the brainwashed and ill-informed (by a collaborative privately dominated mass- or mainstream media) citizens vote once every so many years, merely to appoint a government that represents the ideology the public have been inundated and totally conditioned with. They will have lost all ability to think critically, alternatively and independently, and only vote for the supposedly “necessary”, undisputed policies, a bit like reaffirming self-fulfilling prophecies.

    I sadly see the vast majority of students at universities and other places of study being nothing but career minded individuals, that are totally focused on “buying” the “commodity” they need, to advance their career, and to ensure them a secure, well-earning job that guarantees a good living standard. There is regrettably too little questioning and participation, and collective spirit basically needs to be re-invented and rekindled, as most have not learned much of this, having grown up under nothing else but slight variants of neoliberal governments, all following free market, laissez faire dogma.

    So yes, opposition to this is needed, and I would appeal to all students to inform themselves and take a clear stand on this, and to stop the government “commoditising” them as “customers” or “buyers” of “commodity education” from “university businesses”!

    There is more to education and life than buying, selling, consuming, working, career aspirations and self interest. Some will only learn this when it may be too late.

    • Draco T Bastard 9.1

      I sadly see the vast majority of students at universities and other places of study being nothing but career minded individuals, that are totally focused on “buying” the “commodity” they need, to advance their career, and to ensure them a secure, well-earning job that guarantees a good living standard. There is regrettably too little questioning and participation, and collective spirit basically needs to be re-invented and rekindled, as most have not learned much of this, having grown up under nothing else but slight variants of neoliberal governments, all following free market, laissez faire dogma.


      • Rodel 9.1.1

        I think the rot began when someone first talked about ‘delivering’ education as if education was parcel or product involving one way delivery only (as in a legitimate a business model) rather than using the verb ‘to educate’ which is an interactive process . Ministry bureaucrats and politicians seem to like the ‘delivery’ concept.

        • Murray Olsen

          Very true, Rodel. Education that is “delivered” can be left at the door, much like an unregistered letter. There is no onus on the “supplier” to ensure it is appropriate or received. Perhaps the worst aspect from my point of view is that this philosophy allows students to think of themselves as passive buyers rather than participants in a process. As well as being the favourite model of bureaucrats and politicians, it is loved by lazy, incompetent students as well.

          • Rodel

            Yes ..good added thought on the effect it has on recipient students…well delivered.

  10. Zaphod Beeblebrox 10

    Well we do need less MPs, what do they do all day? Auckland has 3 times as many MPs as councillors, surely aligning the electorates with the council wards and even having your MP as your councillor would make things a lot less unwieldy.

  11. tracey 11

    zaphod, why not just have auckland cede from the rest of the country

    • Colonial Viper 11.1

      Actually I think that there is some popular support for cutting the Cook Strait cable.

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