In my beloved Rarotonga I got a bug, spent one night throwing up and the next four days with agonising stomach cramps. Not too long after getting home, I caught another bug and spent five days blowing my nose every 40 seconds, coughing up something unmentionable and chain-sucking Strepsils. A woman would have soldiered on, but I am a man and, early in the piece, took to my bed which pleased the cats hugely. This is why there have been no new posts on the site for some time. I’ve not been a well man. I need to conserve my strength. And would you really have wanted a rugby heretic like me writing about the Rugby World Cup? (Actually I thought the opening ceremony and the fireworks were absolutely brilliant and would have been even more brilliant if only Wendy and Andrew had been struck down with laryngitis. And Murray McCully has behaved appallingly over the last few days, while Len Brown has handled himself with restraint, dignity and grace. – End of biting and insightful RWC analysis.)
Anyway, to fill the space, I thought you might be interested to read a piece I wrote for the Dominion Sunday Times in November after one term of ‘Rogernomics’. It’s idealistic and naive in parts – I’m not sure we’d get very far without competition – but it more or less expresses my core political philosophy. And it still has relevance today. This Labour Government does not Speak for Me This Labour Government does not speak for me. I do not believe we need to make the law of the jungle our human or economic model. I find it morally insufficient to contemplate the encroachment of that jungle upon civilisation and merely to observe: ‘This is the real world, the world in which we have to live, the world to which we must adapt.’ There is no immutable real world. The real world will be what we make it. That is the philosophy upon which our nuclear policy is based. We do not say: ‘The real world is a world bristling with nuclear arms, this is the world in which we have to live, the world to which we must adapt.’ We have said: ‘We, a small but not insignificant South Pacific nation, reject this madness.’ We have said it. We have done it. We are none the worse off for it. Indeed, other nations are following our lead.
This Labour Government does not speak for me. I do not believe that the end justifies the means. I do not believe that justice can be built on injustice. When an organisation such as Electricorp can declare a record profit of more than 300 million dollars while at the same time taking away the livelihood of more than 800 of its workers, in order (at the behest of Government) to maximise its future profits, there is something rotten in the State Owned Enterprise. Such ‘efficiency’ can only be defended by sophistry. Such ‘rationalisation’ can only be defended by unreason. This Labour Government does not speak for me. I am not a fan of competition. Competition favours the strong, discriminates against the weak. Competition stratifies, labels, pigeon-holes. Competition creates few winners and myriad losers. Competition stresses to breaking point. There are alternative and saner systems. This Labour Government does not speak for me. I am not a disciple of the religion of ‘user pays’. I do not, for example, believe that an elderly person suffering from diverticulitis, a painful condition controlled by the use of bulk laxatives, should be compelled to pay $24 a month or more for a remedy that – before the advent of this humanitarian regime – was available free on prescription.
I do not share the view of this Government that terminal cancer patients, constipated through the administration of morphine, should have to pay in excess of $50 a month for Duphalac. If this is Rogernomics, you can have it. I’ll stick with Marx. ‘From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.’ Money should never be an impediment to health care. Money should never be an impediment to education. Money should never be an impediment to social services. Money should never be an impediment to justice. Money, in the society which these political entrepreneurs are creating, is all of these things. This Labour Government does not speak for me. I am not dazzled by the radiant beauty of market forces. Market forces are elemental and capricious. They buoy, then buffet. The argument that the free play of market forces allows ordinary people rather than governments to control their destiny, is patent nonsense in this world of international high finance, of global economic inter-connections. What control has the ordinary New Zealander over Wall Street or, for that matter, over the value of the New Zealand dollar? None. Ordinary people do not control the market. They are its first casualties.
This Labour Government does not speak for me. I am a believer in intervention. I believe we should intervene to relieve distress. I subscribe to the philosophy: help first, ask questions afterwards. When a small African child extends its hand to us and asks for food, we do not engage in economic dialectic. We do not debate the issues as the child starves: ‘Is this really the best way to help such children? Are such short-term solutions soundly based? Isn’t what we really need a healthy, market-led economy?’ No, we deal first with the urgent reality of the child’s suffering. We do if we are human. So it should be at home. This Labour Government does not speak for me. It was elected by sleight of hand. The limitless arrogance of its Ministers has been matched only by the depth of its contempt for those who disagree with it, the profundity of its deafness to alternative possibilities. These are no just some of the ‘slogans and clichés’ upon which the Minister of Finance poured scorn at the Labour Party Conference. Yet all political debate is conducted in slogans, and I prefer my slogans to his, They are more emotional. It is time for emotion. This Labour Government does not speak for me. I do not embrace the philosophy of the survival of the fittest. That slogan has no place in a Labour Party manifesto. It is appropriate to a quite different political ideology.