Tariana Turia’s Maori Party wants to end Maori dependence on welfare, she says in this week’s Listener. Great. So do I.
“We’re saying these are the groups of people [whanau, extended whanau, hapu, iwi] that have to start taking back responsibility and obligation. Don’t rely on the state because the state makes mistakes.” Marvellous stuff!
The party has been careful to promise nothing, Turia tells the Listener. “Instead it is telling people they have to stop allowing the state to take over their lives.” Just keeps getting better and better, doesn't it.
And it does: “Labour has always believed the state will provide,” continues Turia. “Labour has kept our people trapped in dependence. This so-called welfare state has not done us any favours. We didn’t want welfare. We wanted independence.”
Wow! A libertarian reading this should probably be standing and applauding right now – the rhetoric almost echoes that of great libertarians like Isabel Paterson who warned half-a-century-ago in her God of the Machine that a government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.
If only Tariana truly understood that. If only that was what she was really saying.
Sadly, she’s not. Her idea of ‘independence’ is one that is funded by taxpayers. She still wants Maori to suck off the state tit, she just thinks the manner of the suckling needs to change: "[W]e believe we have a right to rangatiratanga, as guaranteed under Article Two.” What exactly does she mean by that? “It’s our firm belief that money being spent on Maori needs to be unbundled. It is being spent on them, on behalf of them, but not effectively. It’s a waste of public money… We’re just tired of it. We also think there is a more effective way of spending that money.”
Well, she’s partly right. It is a waste. As Charles Murray pointed out in 1984, from the late sixties to the early eighties the so-called War on Poverty in the US spent almost the equivalent of the country’s entire Gross National Product on ‘relieving poverty’ and it didn’t. “That’s $3,800,000,000,000 – enough to give every poor person in America $117,000 [in 1984 dollars] to start his own war on poverty.” It didn’t. A similar calculation here would I’m sure show a similar result. Said PJ O’Rourke of the lesson learnt: “You can’t get rid of poverty by giving people money.”
And you can’t pretend it’s not welfare just by calling it rangatiratanga. Whatever 'unbundling' might mean it's clear she's not calling for welfare spending on Maori to end.
So the Maori Party is in favour of race-based funding, then? “For sure. Unabashed, upfront,” says her co-leader Pita Sharples. So it's clear what the Maori Party wants is independence and ‘rangatiratanga’, and they want someone else to pay for it. So much for independence. Rongo Wetere has recently given a master-class in what this kind of independence means. So what's new?
And why do the views of Turia and Sharples even matter? At just 2% or so in general polling they’re not even getting traction in the general electorate, despite all their publicity. Naturally however, it’s not the general electorate they’re targeting. A recent and much discussed Marae-Digipoll of just over 100 voters in each of the seven Maori seats gave them a real sniff of success in five of them. These are seats of course that are firmly based on an apartheid gerrymander – a by-product of colonial paternalism that a true claimant of rangatiratanga would firmly reject.
But not this lot. Because when it comes to standing on their own two feet, they really want someone else to do it for them.