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Radicals are a pain

Written By: - Date published: 10:31 am, March 12th, 2010 - 27 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, Economy - Tags: ,

Looking at the leaders for the Fabians seminar on Sunday, it looks to me like it is going to be quite interesting because it is likely to focus more on incremental rather than radical methods. One of the major issues to me with the existing ‘debate’ on economic matters has been the level at which it is ideologically driven rather than based on the actual economy.

The lack of pragmatism about how to move the economy has been particularly apparent recently with some of the hysterical mutterings of the disappointed dry right, not only in the media and blogs, but also amongst politicians. There were and are similar ideologically restricted people on the left. In both cases they seem to wish for radical restructuring of the economy rather than incremental. That is a course that causes major dislocation in the short and medium term and should be reserved for actual emergencies.

The fiasco over the restructuring of Auckland demonstrates yet again the failure of the radical approach. This is our biggest city, and a economic hub. Any benefits to ratepayers from the restructure are likely to be decades away, and all indications are that it will increase costs in the short-term to medium-term.  There don’t appear to be any significant benefits to the business exporters based in Auckland that help drive the non-farming income for the country.

The overall costs of doing a radical restructure are likely to be far higher than the more incremental version that the Royal Commission recommended. It will also cause a decade of political turmoil in Auckland as local politicians have to wrest control back from the Wellington egos that have forced this change on Auckland.

What we don’t see in the overall debate in this country is where we should be moving towards, and the incremental steps that we need to do to get there. Hopefully seminar series like the one that the Fabians will provide a forum for getting ideas about direction that aren’t driven by noisy impatient radicals with their half-arsed plans.

The seminar leaders are listed below.

: March 14th, 2010 12:30 PM through   4:30 PM
6 Harrison Rd
New Zealand College of Chiropractic
Mt Wellington
Auckland, AUK
New Zealand

Bold Choices for a Better Future is the provocative first seminar in the Resilient Economy Series, entailing a pragmatic 360Ëš view of the economy, its problems and their possible solutions.


Ganesh is well known for his media commentary on New Zealand’s economic options, based on the in-depth research provided by BERL Forecasts. Ganesh will profile our economic reality in simple everyday language, point to poor policy decisions from the past and contrast them with potentially better policy options that have been adopted elsewhere.


As a business journalist, Rod helps companies, not-for-profits, government agencies and other organisations capitalise on seismic shifts in global economic, environmental and social trends. He was named the Landcorp 2009 Agricultural Communicator of the Year and he is a finalist in the 2010 Vero Excellence in Business Support Awards.


John as a seasoned director and founder of several New Zealand companies (and the CEO of the Manufacturers and Exporters Association) will explain the board room needs and concerns of our fragile tradable economy, why this sector is so critical to New Zealand and what policy settings will lead to increased investment in this sector.


Selwyn, from his perspective as a company builder and recent inductee into New Zealand’s prestigious High Tech Hall of Fame, will talk about New Zealand’s past economic investments, their impact and how it could have been. He will put these issues in the context of how they have and continue to affect, the real economy.


27 comments on “Radicals are a pain”

  1. randal 1

    at the risk of regurgitating a lamburger the problem in New Zealand is that we are basically thicko’s trying to do something smart. The sine qua non of life in enzed isa rice bomb or a hardly davison. Peter Jackson managed to get lift off but he never wrote an oroginal screenplay. hmmmmm. we need more stuff like that but more ambitious in scope and the scale will come later. The principle is complimentarity so our towns can host high tech enterprise and develop cultural artefacts without the culture vultures and the screamers and boosters getting into the act beofre the pudding is cooked. dig?

  2. Bored 2

    I think you have a point with the need to avoid radicals of left or right but I have some doubts that would get me labelled a radical. Should I attend this interesting panels debates I would really like to hear them talk about:
    1. How we respond as a nation / economy / personally to a low energy future (I dont and wont buy any technology will save us etc guff: we are going to have to go low energy as oil production slopes away and demand goes up).
    2. How they see ecological sustainability as part of our future, and how an economy restrains itself from exploitation.
    3. How we can transition to an economy that realises that long term growth of any nature is not sustainable, so what models do we have available to get be as close to sustainable as possible (i.e manage the growth imperative in line with resource sustainability).

    • lprent 2.1

      I suspect that those are all issues that will come up.

      The era of cheap oil is rapidly dissipating. But I suspect that it isn’t just a question of only a low energy economy. It is probably feasible to have a high energy future using renewable and non-carbon based fuels. The changes in energy density of solar over the last few decades and the slow shift to more common materials to make them means you could have a high energy economy based just on solar (if you can store power).

      Sustainability has to be part of the future simply because we’re currently mining the soil fertility and oceans at a rate higher than it can sustain.

      Basically there are several issues about growth. But until the population growth slows and starts to drop, then you either have to have economic growth or drops in living standards. Even amongst the existing populations, there is an inevitable desire to raise living standards in low living standard societies. There isn’t a magic switch to turn either of those ‘demands’ off (unless you use the 4 horsemen). Attempts to move to a sustainable economy has to start with those two issues first, otherwise it is just speculation….

      • Bill 2.1.1

        “…there is an inevitable desire to raise living standards in low living standard societies.”

        Why is that a problem?

        Given the abysmal conditions that billions of us live under or in, I’d have thought that a bit of basic material well being wouldn’t be begrudged. Isn’t the problem more the material opulence that we take for granted and that we are unwilling to see diminished?

        Economic growth does necessarily not have to track population growth if our ways of living change in ways that encourage more communality and less individuality. Prosaically 1 washing machine or car or TV, fitted kitchen or whatever can easily accommodate the needs of far more than one person or family. It’s all down to changeable habits, desires and expectations.

        Or how about sustainable and manageable integrated farming techniques as opposed to highly inefficient mono cultural industrial farming practices?

      • Bored 2.1.2

        I had a fond hope of the high energy solar concept being possible until recently, without being a “kill joy’ pointing people at the latest to columns in the Archdruid report might be the kindest way to dispel this hope. He talks about exergy, worth a read. This is why I asked the question.
        The other fond hope people have is retaining their lifestyle and the rest of humanity raising theirs to an equivalent. I tend to the pessimistic view that the said 4 Horsemen are already loosed by the end of oil and global warming. That’s why I am interested in how sustainable flat line economics apply to us, getting into it before it is forced upon us (incrementally whilst we have the chance to do so).
        What I would hope to hear from the learned panel is some acceptance of this, and some positive thinking about how we make the best of a bad scenario. Or just as importantly how we can take positive advantage from the changed scenario.

      • Draco T Bastard 2.1.3

        (unless you use the 4 horsemen).

        Considering Peak Oil and Anthropogenic Climate Change… that option has already been chosen. It is the natural consequence of exponential growth (required in a capitalist socio-economic system to make the books “balance”) in a finite resource base.

    • Peter 2.2

      I think the answer is to stop with the endless search for further “efficiency” and to start to recognise all the inherent assumptions in that model. The supply of cheap energy is probably the most fundamental of all of those assumptions – without that our economic models are essentially bunk.

      Hence why the Fabians are focusing on the idea of economic resilience – of assuming that the future is going to be much more turbulent than the present and then designing our economic policies on that basis.

      A bit sad though to realise that prior to the late 1970s such thinking was commonplace here 🙂

      • Bill 2.2.1

        Designing economic policies on the basis that the future will be turbulent would seem reasonable at first glance. But having glanced through their ‘Three Possible Economic Models’, it’s pretty obvious the resilience they intend to introduce to economic policy is the type that seeks to offer resilience to something very much like we have right now.

        ie business as usual in altered circumstances.

        That’s a losers game.

        Incrementalism, if it is not part of a bigger or wider picture, of a broader moving in a given direction, is a nothing…is a tinkering around the edges in the hope that the status quo or something close to it can be preserved.

        Maybe that is what Lombear was alluding to in the Fabian Lectures thread when she/he referred to Fabians as “Dirty incrementalist red herrings”; that they do not represent any meaningful or useful expression of incrementalism… as paving stones on a pathto, or series of changes designed to… usher in something new, or bold, or revolutionary.

        I agree that radicals are a pain.

        But since I honestly cannot think of anything more radical and destructive than present day capitalism, and the Fabians want first and foremost to preserve a version of it, the Fabians get a fairly high position on the list of radical pains.

  3. Jimmy 3

    “It will also cause a decade of political turmoil in Auckland as local politicians have to wrest control back from the Wellington egos that have forced this change on Auckland.”

    How about you stop with the same lame rhetoric the Right like to use about some mythical conspiratorial beast called Wellington?

    After all, aren’t Messers Hide & Key Aucklanders?

    • lprent 3.1

      Yes they are. However you cannot tell because they never seem to ask or listen to any Aucklanders. Ask the angry national supporters that flood every meeting on the super-city.

      So your sole point is what? That I should have said “fuckwits in central government” (something like that was my original phrasing) instead of the seat of central government?. Now that is lame….

      Face it, you’re just being a idiotic pedant who rather than deal with the actual issue, would prefer to nitpick on things that don’t matter.

      • Jimmy 3.1.1

        Actually, i’m just saddened at the slow descent of The Standard to the low standards of the blogs you love to lambast.

        I agree with most of the points that are made here, but its not the rational, sensible and sane read it once was.

        [lprent: yeah right… It is like you have been a frequent commentator and visitor (not according to the logs)…. I think that you’re just another idiot ACToid troll spinning one of the usual stupid lines – like so many similar comments running back to the start of the site. When are you dickheads going to stop reading from the idiots playbook and use your brains when commenting? ]

        • Jimmy

          Well actually, i’m certainly not an ACToid troll at all, though who I may or may not support politically is irrelevant to my criticism of your post. And yes, i haven’t made many comments, though I was reading The Standard fairly diligently thanks to your RSS feed.

          I’m not sure why you’re so angry at me, and why you’ve decided to resort to calling your readers dickhead and idiot.

          • lprent

            If you read the site, then you’re aware that I’m one of the moderators. That means I scan almost all comments looking for behaviour patterns. After you’ve seen as many people as I have spinning the similar lines repetitively, you get irritated with them.

            Do throw-away lines that are meaningless and without supporting evidence and I’ll treat you as a probable troll. The reference to ACT is because I can recognise all of the standard techniques that their indoctrinated minions game with when they arrive here to try and disrupt the site. Over many decades I’ve seen those techniques develop across the net and I have bugger all toleration for anyone who is fool enough to use them around me.

            Incidentally, that has been my attitude since the site began, because the main technique of a moderator is to be highly immoderate when someone starts disrupting the comments. Anyone who reads the site is aware of that. So I tend to view your statements about how comments have operated here over time with a high degree of scepticism. Feels like someone playing games.

            Say something sensible and I’ll treat you as being sensible and worth debating with. Act like an idiot and I’ll treat you like an idiot.

  4. Bill 4

    Reading the links closer. Are these people being fucking serious or have they just never grown up beyond some sort of Boys Own/ Flash Gordon phase? It’s vacuous crap!

    It’s ‘wouldn’t it be nice’ speculative nonsense with absolutely no critical analysis of the here and now in light of what they propose. Nor is there any explanation of how any necessary incremental changes could be introduced now… or under what circumstances they could be introduced before we could take ourselves closer to either of their proposed three possible economies.

    No attempt to understand or explain why some of the more fundamental aspects of their ‘wouldn’t it be nice’ futures have not materialised under present day capitalism. No recognition or sign posting of existing dynamics that would act to stop dead in their tracks fundamental aspects of their imagined futures.

    But I guess if participation in a pointless headwankfest that otherwise might have been fun if it had been honest enough to advertise itself as some sci-fi convention punting improbable futures is your thing, then hey.

    Just a little tip. Iain Banks is cheaper, better thought out, lasts longer and is honest about the need to suspend disbelief.

    • Puddleglum 4.1

      I’m with Bill on the ‘incrementalism’ question. As I’ve previously argued, almost none of the significant and, now, taken for granted improvements in modern society (and in the modern economy) did not arise from careful incremental adjustments to the status quo (e.g., suffrage, labour laws, human rights, public health, etc.). The ‘incremental’ movements in these directions that occurred were pushed by the ‘threat’ that came from radical and popular movements.

      If you think about it, it’s obvious. The bulk of people tend not to have their interests incorporated into elite decisions (in government or in the economy). By definition, their interests come to be labelled as ‘radical’ by elite opinion (which is not to say that there aren’t also other more idiosyncratic ‘interests’ that also get labelled as ‘radical’ – but that involves a quite different sense of the word ‘radical’). Too often, ‘incrementalism’ amounts to a justification for the continuation of injustice and oppression rather than some reasoned, evidence-based utilitarian calculation that ‘radical’ change would be too disruptive and so everyone would experience costs from the change.

  5. Puddleglum 5

    Oooops! Of course I meant “almost none of the significant and, now, taken for granted improvements in moderns society (and in the modern economy) arose from careful incremental…”

  6. Billy 6

    Aka moaning that the supercity structure will oust all of the carefully constructed Labour power structures across Auckland. But let’s talk about incremental change aka keeping the status quo and never getting anything done in Auckland.

    • lprent 6.1

      Idiot. Most of the cities political structure is dominated by C&R – national in disguise. I suspect they’re the ones who have the problem.

      • gitmo 6.1.1

        Eh Mike Lee, Len Brown, Brown Eye Bob and the drunk on the Northshore are on the C&R ticket ??.. news to me.

  7. lprent 7

    Mayors are just another councillor. They don’t weild significiant powers. Look at the makeup of the councils.

    Really g, looking at ‘headline’ figureheads and expecting them to exert much power is like getting key to do anything substantive

    • Billy 7.1

      Idiot yourself, did I say it was only labor? No but you were a little too quick with your invective huh, dickwad. Why don’t ya grow up.

      • lprent 7.1.1

        You didn’t specify what you meant. Perhaps if you got past acting like a troll and actually provided some information about what you think, then you would get an opinion related to that.

        In the meantime, in the absence of any written thought on your part, I’m sure that you’re still an idiot. I can only have an opinion on what you write…

        • billy

          Gee Lynn, you should to stop acting like a complete sociopath. Try yoga or something dude.

          [lprent: Yoga has this horrible tendency to make me suddenly realise that despised household chores are far more important than feeling my centre. However I could make an effort and behave far more like a sociopath just for you if you really want me to. I could do with the practice. ]

    • gitmo 7.2

      If that’s the case why is everyone so wound up about ensuring their man gets to be mayor ?

      Can’t say I give one whoever gets in as mayor and councillors they still trough like champions while putting the rates up year on year on year….. and resurfacing the same piece of road just before the end of the financial year.

  8. Rich 8

    The problem with incremental changes is that they can easily be reversed by a National government, as is happening now.

    Radical changes (as made by the Lange government in NZ, and Attlee and Thatcher in the UK) tend to persist because they take so long to unravel and become entrenched in society.

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