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New Zealand Is all right, at the end

Written By: - Date published: 8:30 am, April 28th, 2018 - 27 comments
Categories: Deep stuff, democratic participation, elections, Europe, Globalisation, International, jacinda ardern, leadership, Left, Politics, uk politics, us politics - Tags:

I want you to imagine a world in which all but a handful of countries – where politicians really have to answer to real live people, where their policy decisions really can and do change if they are held up to enough scrutiny from the media, and where elections really are fought on the difference between policies – are true democracies.

This is where we are now. There is a fate to democracy itself.

Its permanence is not inevitable.

Its alternative is certainly not beyond civic imagining.

New Zealand is one of the shrinking number of democracies who really do all of the above.

Ain’t no other elected leader wearing a cloak of a disposessed yet proud postcolonial people, is there?

At the height of World War Two, Henry Luce founder of Time Magazine, argued that the United States had amassed such wealth and power that the remaining half century would be simply “the American century”.

Despite being challenged by World War Two’s Nazism and the totalitarian Soviet Union, liberal democracy was rolled out throughout many countries. The liberal democracy definition means: one person one vote systems who also supported human rights as defined in the UN human rights charter.

The definition of ‘liberal democracy’.

It felt so inevitable for so long that ever since representative democracy and strong states emerged together, they spread as if pushed forward by inevitable forces of modernisation. Surely if citizens from Italy, to India, to Venezuela could be loyal to essentially the same political system, it must have been because they had developed a deep commitment to both individual rights and collective self-determination. And from the early 1990s, if the Poles and Filipinos could make a transition from dictatorship to democracy, it must have been because they too shared in the universal human desire for liberal democracy.

Alas, ideals about human rights were not disconnected from economic and geopolitical success. Civic ideals may have played a part in converting the citizens of formerly authoritarian regimes into convinced democrats, but the astounding economic growth of western Europe in the 1950s and 1960s, the victory of democratic countries in the Cold War, and the defeat or collapse of democracy’s most powerful autocratic rivals were just as important.

And here we are in the eternal politics of New Zealand, celebrating the last and purest forms of democratic hegemony and bouyed by democracy’s greatest and most reflexive successes, a budget surplus better than anyone else, with the world as we know it coming to an end. Do we lead the death of “neoliberalism”?

Or do we get to pull the shroud over western civilisation’s dead face?

Beyond your imagining, whether you supported Key, English or Ardern, we are the last of the good. One very small country at the ends of the earth.

27 comments on “New Zealand Is all right, at the end”

  1. Bill 1

    Fun piece to read Ad. A tad pollyannish in my view, but hey.

    Anyway, you ask “Do we lead the death of neo-liberalism?”

    The answer has to be a resounding “no”.

    New Zealand is centrist writ large, with not a damned thing sitting on its parliamentary left and little to no prospect of there being anything in the short term.

    New Zealand’s kind of akin to Ireland when it was on its way to being the bastion for Catholicism.

    • OnceWasTim 1.1

      “Fun piece to read Ad. A tad pollyannish in my view, but hey”

      If you don’t mind my saying, it doesn’t take much for you to get your kicks but then I never really got to know Pollyanna that well

  2. Riffer 2

    Wow. Wish I shared that optimism. Unfortunately, I’ve always felt democracy was more like two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner… But, as Churchill said, its the worst system, apart from every other one we tried. Me, I’m still waiting for the Star Trek Utopia.

  3. Draco T Bastard 3

    Will democracy as we know it – a hybrid of government by elected officials, a free market economy and the rule of law – nevertheless survive in recognizable form?

    I hope not as it’s obviously a failure. It puts in place what the rich and powerful want so that they become even more rich and powerful while ignoring what the people want and need.

    “None of the founders envisioned our modern democracy, with its broad suffrage and competing political parties,” says Gordon Wood, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian of the Revolutionary War era. “Running for office was demagogic and dangerous. The founders believed in equality but they essentially meant equality of opportunity. Sons of weavers and cobblers could go to college and become gentlemen, but weavers and cobblers themselves were not to become politicians and campaign for office.”

    The US Founding Fathers didn’t want democracy. They were concerned that the people would vote their wealth back into their hands and thus out of the hands of the rich. Which is actually the complaints about communism that the capitalists have – that they won’t be able to bludge off of the rest of society in a communist state by owning it.

    Thing is, our ‘democracy’ is pretty much based upon the same antidemocratic ideals.

    The liberal democracy definition means: one person one vote systems who also supported human rights as defined in the UN human rights charter.

    Which, as we know, the US doesn’t actually support:

    Noam Chomsky: First, it is important to remember that the US does not accept the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — though in fact the UDHR was largely the initiative of Eleanor Roosevelt, who chaired the commission that drafted its articles, with quite broad international participation.

    The UDHR has three components, which are of equal status: civil-political, socioeconomic and cultural rights. The US formally accepts the first of the three, though it has often violated its provisions. The US pretty much disregards the third. And to the point here, the US has officially and strongly condemned the second component, socioeconomic rights, including Article 25.

    This explains their propensity to invade other nations and implement ‘regime change’ whenever they don’t like the government of that nation which is, IMO, usually based upon their corporations getting what they want which is ownership of the resources in that foreign country.

    Beyond your imagining, whether you supported Key, English or Ardern, we are the last of the good.

    Representative democracy was never ‘good’. It was adequate for its time but its time has ended.

    Now we need a better democracy and the removal of the rich.

    • Tuppence Shrewsbury 3.1

      Another long and pointless diatribe from a basement dwelling internet know it all

      • adam 3.1.1

        Coming from an ideological hack like you Tuppence Shrewsbury, it’s not really a cutting comment. Definitely a D-, you need to put in some more effort.

        • Tuppence Shrewsbury

          Come for another discussion you’ll run away from?

          • Drowsy M. Kram

            Can’t discern anything worthy of “discussion” in your initial reply – “Another long and pointless diatribe from a basement dwelling internet know it all”.

            Adam’s point seems to be that your reply didn’t cut it. Perhaps you can shed some light on the ‘discussion value’ of your reply…

      • Draco T Bastard 3.1.2

        Ah, so you’re so ignorant that you can’t actually argue my points.

        Got it.

        • Tuppence Shrewsbury

          Some idiot moved the goal posts of democracy to “one person, one vote AND agreeing with something else” the UNHR declaration is a fine thing, but it doesn’t make something more democratic by agreeing to it.

          If the majority of people have got a vote and it’s counted, it’s democratic. Democracy is alive and well.

          So thanks for the pointless diatribe. We already knew you hate the rich.

          • Stuart Munro

            Much depends on whether one wants an actual democracy or a formal one. An actual democracy actually tries to represent its citizens and work in their best interests. Putin’s Russia is a formal democracy, but falls some way short of actuality – as does the US polyarchy.

          • Draco T Bastard

            If the majority of people have got a vote and it’s counted, it’s democratic.

            The problem, of course, being that the majority of people don’t actually have a vote where it counts. If we did the TPPA wouldn’t have been signed. It’s probable that neo-liberalism wouldn’t have been brought in.

            So, no, democracy isn’t alive an well.

            The oligarchy is though.

            And I note that you still didn’t address any of my points. You ideological ignorance is coming through loud and clear.

            • solkta

              What utter bullshit. If people REALLY didn’t want the TPPA they could have voted Green.

              • CHCOff

                Actually there was a de-facto referendum on the TPPA, neo-liberal ‘free market’ economics recently, it was on Asset sales.

                2.3rds of the population said No.

                The neo-liberal political elites march on, as they get away with it, everytime.

                THe New Zealand population has never said Yes, to any of it!

          • mikesh

            It could be argued that a democratic government is one which governs for the benefit of everyone, not just for the benefit of a small minority. ‘One person, one vote’ may be one way bringing about such a government, but it may not be the only way, and it may not always work.

    • ropata 3.2

      100% DTB but as AD points out the USA is not the only bastion of democracy and freedom, despite the PR. (Team America World Police video goes here)

      When the real GFC hits (real soon now) we will see a major reshuffle in the global elite class. No more tax havens hiding trillions of $ of the wealth of nations. No more exotic financial instruments designed to deceive and steal.

      The USA and other advanced nations better get ready because the sort of inequality we see nowadays was the precursor to some pretty nasty shit in the 20th century

  4. ropata 4

    Great video AD looks like a series I can get into. I’ve seen a bit of “The Handmaid’s Tale” lately and it’s a similar wake up call… seems like parts the USA are regressing to this quasi fascist dystopia…

    But this was a nice counterpoint to the totalitarian tyrannies that threaten humanity

  5. CHCOff 5

    The majority of the political process alone is greed and corruption – everytime.
    It is a poor decision making wisdom.

    Greed and corruption has it’s place in government systems, as it does in population. But it is always overly represented when politics takes over outdated and rigid governmental societal systems.

    In terms of politics, the New Zealand govt. of Ardern, Peters and Co is indeed not the absolute majority – the upsetness was/is correct in that regard.

    • patricia bremner 5.1

      We have MMP so the majority of parties do not agree with National, our minority.
      Dry your tears and try again. That is democracy.

  6. esoteric pineapples 6

    There certainly do need to be a lot of unpleasant leaders around the world at the moment. I don’t believe the general populations are unpleasant so you do have to wonder how such a…..s have ended up leading so many countries. I think a lot of it is to do with the pressure populations are feeling as they try to survive. Part of this is due to huge and still growing populations. Egypt, for example, has over 95 million people and next to no income other than tourists seeing the pyramids and I think some oil. The Philippines has over 103 million etc. And in many of these countries half the population is under 25. Competition for rapidly shrinking resources at both a local and national level will inevitably lead to more human conflict which will be reflected in increasingly belligerent and undemocratic leadership.

  7. NZJester 7

    How many emerging democracies though did the US snuff out by supporting dictators because they thought that the new democracy might fall under the influence of the USSR?

    • KJT 7.1

      Democracy is not for export.
      They might vote for “crazy” things. Like looking after their own people, and taxing US corporations.

  8. Pat 8

    “On a domestic and global level, it bears repeating, democracies need to reassert control over money and capital, whether this means capping bankers’ bonuses, transaction taxes, or cracking down on tax havens and tax loopholes. Financial and fiscal discipline should be enforced for long-term economic benefit, but with consideration of social justice and equity. The public good ultimately comes before the rights of creditors. Bankers and the financial sector should be the servants of the public, not their masters – otherwise democracy succumbs to plutocracy.”


    So back to the future and this time accept Keynes….and hopefully without the incentive of global conflict?


    Im not hopeful the response from power will be any different this time round.

  9. There are even better options than NZ’s formal democracy that we could aspire to.

    Bronwyn Hayward’s 2012 book Children and the Environment: Nurturing a democratic imagination outlined three kinds of democracy – authoritarian, citizen as consumer and deep democracy. Deep democracy was described as engaged, participatory and deliberative with the real intent that citizens’ voices be heard. In our democracy voting and formal procedures like submissions to select committees and local government annual and 10 year plans have a high bar to participation and don’t often attempt to inform, just to collect and report on citizen’s existing positions. Real citizen engagement needs participatory approaches including deliberative activities where those involved are learning, thinking and then deciding – including noticing the opportunities for trade-offs between options.

    Scoop is doing something along these lines at the moment with a submission to the tax working party that takes account of the voices of many people. The idea is that as well as voting for preferred options you also see ideas that other people have submitted and resources that allow you to learn more about the issue.

    Here’s the link – which runs till 9.00 am tomorrow morning if you want to give it a go.

  10. Cold Hard Truth 10

    Yes we are so good we are signing up to the worst neo liberal betrayal of a country and its people imaginable the CP-TPP……

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