The fundamental question of politics is how the wealth of society should be divided among the members of society. We live in a capitalist society. That means it is the people who own the capital (businesses, factories, farms) who own the things that are made and get to choose how to divide the wealth between themselves and the people who work in their businesses and factories, and on the farms. Governments can change this balance by giving workers more rights or fewer rights, rising or lowering the minimum wage, taking wealth off those who get most and using it to provide public service free for everyone.
These graphs show the economy, the annual amount of wealth produced by our society. It is divided into the amount that is paid to workers in wages and salaries (in red) and the part kept by the owners of capital (in blue). Notice how the portion going to workers fell when National from when National started governing in 1991 to 2000 when Labour came to power and how the workers’ share has grown since then.
Fundamentally, that’s the choice between Labour and National.
National was founded by and continues to be run and backed by the owners of capital – businessmen and farmers. In their natural self-interest, they have a political party that makes sure they get a bigger share of the wealth by not placing restrictions on the use of capital for the individual gain of the owners, lowering taxes and cutting public services, and weakening the power of workers to demand a larger share.
Labour was established by and continues to be run and backed by people from the workers’ rights movement. In their natural self-interest, they have a political party that makes sure they get a bigger share of the wealth by restricting capital so that it acts in the broader interest of society, redistribution of wealth to poorer workers through taxation and public services, and strengthening the power of workers to demand a larger share.
When National says it wants ‘change’ it is actually saying it wants to restore a time when the balance was more in favour of the owners of capital. When Labour says it offers ‘stability’ it is actually saying it offers to continue a gradual evolution of the balance in favour of those who do the work.
The size of the circle grows over the years as the economy grows. One fundamental of National-type parties is to promise to make the economy grow faster to make up for the fact that those who do the work, most people, get a smaller share of the economy when they govern. However, Labour also wants to grow the economy as the easiest way to increase workers’ wealth without facing resistance from the capitalist class. When you compare their records, it has been Labour that has grown the economy faster while also growing the share that goes to workers.
The Greens argue (and Labour agrees to an extent) that, while giving a fairer share to workers is important, we must also make sure that in growing our wealth we don’t destroy the foundations of that wealth, our environment. If we abuse our natural resources, the amount of wealth we have will start to decrease. Moreover, they argue we shouldn’t be so obsessed with creating more ‘stuff’ in the first place.
The Maori Party argues that, while giving a fairer share to workers is important, the capitalist/worker divide is not he only one in society. They argue that as well as not getting a fair share as workers, Maori don’t get a fair share because they are Maori and deserve a fairer share.
ACT argues the market is the only fair way. The Progressives basically agree with Labour. United Future does what’s best for Peter Dunne’s pay packet.