Monday, 4 February 2008

"A pleasant man who, without any important qualifications for the office, would very much like to be Prime Minister."

David Farrar has drawn great comfort from a review of John Key’s background appearing in NZ's Sunday Star-Times -- which is now, let's face it, an unreliable rag. (The article suggests the report has some association with London's esteemed Financial Times (FT), but the exact connection is unclear, and a search at FT's site reveals no recent news on John Boy.) The Sunday Star-Times praises his managerial skills:

What made Key an outstanding success in the brutally Darwinian business of banking was not his foreign exchange skills although they were more than acceptable. Instead what set him apart were essentially political and managerial skills. He was unusually good at charming colleagues and clients, and rallying staff around him...

While most successful traders in the financial world tend to be introverted, extremely brainy or thrive on taking crazily big bets, Key had never been a “typical” trader...

“I suppose a lot of FX [foreign exchange] guys do tend to be inward looking [says Steve Bellotti, Key’s immediate boss at Merrill Lynch] but John is a lot broader than that. He has real leadership skills. That was what made him really stand out.”

I have no doubt that John Key's management skills are exemplary. I've never challenged that. I'm sure his ability to lead a team in business is second to none. I've never questioned that. What I do note, however, is the skills cited are not the qualities that are needed in politics.

In business one's goals are generally focused and clear -- the job is to manage your team towards those goals. Politics is not like that. What's more important in politics is not so much what you can do (thought let's not discount that) but as what you stand for: the ability to charm colleagues and clients is all very well, but what's more important is what you're charming them for; leadership skills are all very well, but in a chap seeking the job of Prime Minister what's more important is where exactly we might be led. In this respect, John Key stands for nothing, and the Star-Times article gives no indication he ever has. The worry is that we'll all be led up the garden path.

John Key has articulated no clear direction. None at all. He's given no clear idea of which direction he intends to take New Zealand if he gets the chance, and given his proven ability to make one-hundred and eighty degree changes in direction, no sign that he even has one. In which direction does he intend to manage us? Anyone know? Does he?

Last week's spectacular U-turn on interest-free student loans -- a Labour policy it once promised to oppose with "every bone in our bodies" -- tends to indicate that there is no bone in the National Party body, and no direction in view beyond getting elected. No bone, no spine, no heart, no guts and no vision -- just charm, smarm and the empty vessel of managerialism.

Key's own direction is certainly not set by any inner political conviction -- the existence of which he has never given any sign -- but by the simple expedient of a wetting a finger to find the prevailing wind. A man with no direction is an empty vessel waiting for someone else to fill him up. For all John Key's admirable managerial skills, one is unable to shake the firm conviction that John Key's next direction is all-too frequently determined by the last person he talks to.

In this respect he is the hollow man he's frequently been described as. To paraphrase Walter Lippman's famous remark of Franklin Roosevelt, he is a pleasant man who, without any important qualifications for the office, would very much like to be Prime Minister.

That's not enough. As Leighton Smith has been heard to say, "John Key's National is not necessarily the answer."


UPDATE 1: Added for clarification: The co-author of the 'Star-Times' article is Gillian Tett, "an assistant editor of the Financial Times [who] oversees the global coverage of the financial markets."

UPDATE 2: Dave Mann puts it bluntly in the comments: "The choice between an ugly domineering asshole and a grinning smarmy conman is not an enviable one and the country really should have a real alternative to chose from. Where is our alternative?" Might I suggest that the only fundamental alternative to all the various brands of Nanny State is Libertarianz -- and to those who suggest Libertarianz need to get serious to be taken seriously I say, "Watch this space."

UPDATE 3: An article that could have been written especially for John Key's list of essential reading appeared as The Weekend Read of the Mises Daily: 'The Role of Ideas' by Ludwig von Mises.  Mises points out that "action is necessarily preceded by thinking" -- in the realm of public affairs, acting without thought generally means actions based on the thoughts and ideas of others. Me-tooing.  Real thinking on which genuine human action is based means "to deliberate beforehand over future action and to reflect afterward upon past action. Thinking and acting are inseparable..."

It is always the individual who thinks. Society does not think any more than it eats or drinks... The theories directing action are often imperfect and unsatisfactory. They may be contradictory and unfit to be arranged into a comprehensive and coherent system.

If we look at all the theorems and theories guiding the conduct of certain individuals and groups as a coherent complex and try to arrange them as far as is feasible into a system, i.e., a comprehensive body of knowledge, we may speak of it as a worldview...  The concept of an ideology is narrower than that of a worldview. In speaking of ideology we have in view only human action and social cooperation and disregard the problems of metaphysics, religious dogma, the natural sciences, and the technologies derived from them. Ideology is the totality of our doctrines concerning individual conduct and social relations. Both, worldview and ideology, go beyond the limits imposed upon a purely neutral and academic study of things as they are. They are not only scientific theories, but also doctrines about the ought, i.e., about the ultimate ends which man should aim at in his earthly concerns...

Some authors try to justify the contradictions of generally accepted ideologies by pointing out the alleged advantages of a compromise, however unsatisfactory from the logical point of view, for the smooth functioning of interhuman relations. They refer to the popular fallacy that life and reality are "not logical"; they contend that a contradictory system may prove its expediency or even its truth by working satisfactorily while a logically consistent system would result in disaster. There is no need to refute anew such popular errors. Logical thinking and real life are not two separate orbits. Logic is for man the only means to master the problems of reality. What is contradictory in theory, is no less contradictory in reality. No ideological inconsistency can provide a satisfactory, i.e., working, solution for the problems offered by the facts of the world. The only effect of contradictory ideologies is to conceal the real problems and thus to prevent people from finding in time an appropriate policy for solving them. Inconsistent ideologies may sometimes postpone the emergence of a manifest conflict. But they certainly aggravate the evils which they mask and render a final solution more difficult. They multiply the agonies, they intensify the hatreds, and make peaceful settlement impossible. It is a serious blunder to consider ideological contradictions harmless or even beneficial...

There is no other means of preventing social disintegration and of safeguarding the steady improvement of human conditions than those provided by reason. Men must try to think through all the problems involved up to the point beyond which a human mind cannot proceed farther. They must never acquiesce in any solutions conveyed by older generations, they must always question anew every theory and every theorem, they must never relax in their endeavors to brush away fallacies and to find the best possible cognition. They must fight error by unmasking spurious doctrines and by expounding truth...

Society is a product of human action. Human action is directed by ideologies. Thus society and any concrete order of social affairs are an outcome of ideologies...  Any existing state of social affairs is the product of ideologies previously thought out. Within society new ideologies may emerge and may supersede older ideologies and thus transform the social system. However, society is always the creation of ideologies temporally and logically anterior. Action is always directed by ideas; it realizes what previous thinking has designed.

If we hypostatize or anthropomorphize the notion of ideology, we may say that ideologies have might over men. Might is the faculty or power of directing actions. As a rule one says only of a man or of groups of men that they are mighty. Then the definition of might is: might is the power to direct other people's actions. He who is mighty owes his might to an ideology. Only ideologies can convey to a man the power to influence other people's choices and conduct. One can become a leader only if one is supported by an ideology which makes other people tractable and accommodating. Might is thus not a physical and tangible thing, but a moral and spiritual phenomenon...


  1. "No bone, no spine, no heart, no guts and no vision -- just charm, smarm and the empty vessel of managerialism."
    Beautiful! And so true.

  2. All the more reason for us to get stuck into him and prevent this 'confidence trick' he is trying to play on the NZ people from happening.

  3. I remember another PM in waiting of whom it was said he was "Sleepwalking to victory".

    It's just the dynamics of elections in NZ. Brash had to recover the party from it's awful slump in 2002 and he was bold because he had no other reasonable choice.

    Key, like Bolger doesn't need to do that as his opposition is folding and like Bolger, doen't know just what awaits him, so he's cautious to simply let a tired and corrupt Govt fall under it's own weight.

    I've no doubt that there's policy to come but not ten months prior to the election because that simply allows Labour to divert attention from it's own failings.


  4. The terrible thing about John Key (and the whole National party) is that, as you point out, they have no actual policies, philosophy or firm vision for where thy feel New Zealand's direction should be.

    Much as I despise the Labour party and their feminazi eco-fuck anti-family anti-capitalist tribalist hangers on, at least one thing you can say about them is that they STAND for something. They stand firmly for the destruction of our country as a cohesive entity and they are working clearly and openly towards this least the public can understand that.

    But the National party? What does the national Party stand for? Actually, it seems to stand for exactly the same thing as the Labour party if you examine their actions closely as some commentators do... but the tragedy is that the public of this poor benighted little backwater haven't got a clue what's going on.

    When John Key becomes Prime Minister of this country (and he will become PM), it will be the final blow that finishes us off. The Nats will then open up a whole new can of the same old worms in their mad scramble to grab power for power's sake, except that they will be even less principled than labour and they will sway and twist with whatever pressure group threatens them most or offers them the biggest bribes. Look for the maoris and the greens in the next government; their seats at the cabinet table are being reserved already.

    The public is absolutely sick of putting up with the failures of this sick socialist experiment - but instead of actually achieving a meaningful change of direction, it looks as if it will actually be worse after November as the scramble to divvy up what's left of this once proud country gathers pace.

    The choice between an ugly domineering asshole and a grinning smarmy conman is not an enviable one and the country really should have a real alternative to chose from. Where is our alternative?

  5. Yoo Hoo, dave! over here! *waves*

  6. Thanks Elijah... hmm... I'll seriously think it over (I promise).

    My biggest problem with Libertarianism is what I expect the electorate at large's problem to be; that of blanket extremism and principles taken to ridiculous lengths.

    I realise that I am generalising here, but its a far cry from putting forward cogent reasons why we should reduce the meddling interference of government in people's lives to making the repetitive cry that ALL tax is theft and the state should have NO PLACE at all in people's lives.

    Its a matter of degree. As far as I can judge "Libertarianism Lite" would be somewhere slightly to the right of ACT, which would be exactly what this country needs. Full strength Libertarianism would be almost as big a disaster in my view as National or Labour, but for different reasons obviously.

    I think the electorate would run a mile from LibzFullStrength, which is why they are the Shiraz of NZ politics.... heady and full blooded, but with an underlying irritating peppery quality which you can't quite stomach in huge quantities and which has a slightly suspicious name to boot.

    Quite a long time ago, I emailed Rodney with the suggestion that he launch a campaign to hollow out National's vote (after Brash was booted out) by stealing some of their better MPs and at the same time effect a merger with the Libertarianz in order to put in place some real policies and form a 'coalition of the right'. This suggestion was met with a polite stereotyped reply from some ACT functionary who might just as well have said "thank you but Mr Hyde is currently concentrating on perfecting his Walz technique. If and when he decides the time is right to Tango, no doubt he will get back to you... but don't hold your breath."

    OK, so I am maybe a little naive politically. But here, for what its worth, is my suggestion for the future of the Libz in this country:

    1) Tone down some of the extremist rhetoric and allow the possibility that government has a place in a civil society

    2) Clearly enunciate to the electorate that the time has come to not only drastically cut down government meddling and bureaucracy but also to set a new direction for the country. Good government works FOR the people, not the other way around.

    3) Change the name to "XXXXXXXXX". This could be shortened colloquially to a familiar name which has the same ring to it as your current name and it would serve admirably as a vehicle.

    4) As ACT won't act (so to speak), do the acting for them. Offer them the opportunity to be with you or against you and if they don't chose the former, attack them as hard as you can go by putting a good candidate against Rodney in Epsom and throwing all your resources into him (or her if you insist on PC language). ACT is finished at the next election anyway unless they revitalise and you people can be the instrument of their revitalisation if you play it properly. Either way you lose nothing and you stand to gain from the publicity alone in such a high profile seat.

    5) Start a viral email awareness campaign to put forward a radical new direction for New Zealand. If a bloody underwear company can do it, you can do it.

    I have not told you the party name I have in mind because a) I am not 100% sure it is available, b) I am not 100% sure you are worthy (hehehe. joke) and c)If you take this suggestion at all seriously, I'm sure you would like to keep it under wraps so that the fucking Greens or some other parasites don't grab it to prevent it being used.

    If you want to discuss the name, I'm sure PC could find me.


    Dave Mann

  7. Hi Dave .. you make some good points (& I agree entirely regarding Guy Smiley), but I would take issue with one or two.

    AFAIC I have no desire to be any part of some 'coalition of the right'. I have no faith in either the "left" or the "right", because either way it's still the state. It's not a a cliche; like it or not, it's a fact.

    Govt has bugger all place in my society, bar the libertarian concept of police, defence & justice. That's it. Other than those essentials, I want the nasty little grey bastards out of my life. Fuck them all.

    However! I recognise that it cannot and will not happen all at once. It's a process brought about by a societal understanding of liberty - and as such, I am happy to support a gradual withdrawal.

    But principles *cannot* be compromised. ACT has done that to its detriment.

    I support a gradual dismantling of the state on the proviso that the process does not stop mid-way, leaving us with a half-cocked, quasi-govt situation a la the SOE's.

    It is a matter of honour to be straight with the public; they deserve no less. (And God knows that would be a first, politically!)


  8. Hi sus - well, I'm afraid it ain't gonna fly, which is a huge pity, 'coz Libertarianism has a huge amount to offer.

    The electorate would repond in a massive wave right now to the idea that (for example) government is far to big and takes upon itself far too much meddling and interference and above all has its priorities fucked. But they would shy like frightened horses from the idea that THE ONLY things that government should be involved in are Police, Defence and Justice. Its just too big a leap for most people to take and, frankly I don't agree with it.

    You are advocating 'throwing the baby out with the bathwater'. That is an excellent phrase to describe it; its very old fashioned, but it serves admirably nevertheless.

    You won't get anywhere at all electorally unless you modify your stance and attempt to relate to the electorate from a realistic standpoint.... which is a huge pity, because in so many areas you speak so much sense.

  9. So concentrate upon what we have in common, Dave. Forget about the rest for now. Big picture and all that.

    Having said that, where do you see the state fitting in? Or put another way, where would you draw the line?

  10. Yes Dave....please explain where your line is where the state ceases protecting rights and begins violating them and why its justified...

    Im not being nasty...just pointing out that when the State exceeds its legit role of rights protector and begins picking winners by setting some people against others that that is where we get the shit that you and I are opposed to happening...

  11. I would draw the line right through (ie slash and burn) the ACC, The Labour Department (especially OSH), the Ministry of Human Development (and their spawn, the department of Social Welfare), the Conservation Department, the Waitangi Tribunal and Maori Affairs, Pacific Island Affairs and the 'Human Rights Commission' for a start... and then I would disestablish some of the more useless and meddling ministerial posts such as the Minister for Disarmament (Geez what a stupid idea that is), the Minister for Culture and heritage (another waste of time and money) and obviously the Racing Minister.

    Once I had firmly drawn these elementary lines, I would then be free to start considering how I could really make an impact and save the poor long-suffering citizen from the grief and meddling that this overblown self-important governmental system has foisted upon the taxpayer.

    Health, Education, care of the (actually) infirm and aged, Law and Order, Defence, Commercial Law and Order (however you want to put that) and basic infrastructure such as water, roads, sewerage etc would benefit enormously from my attention too, in that I would take it as a major objective to see to it that these areas SERVE THE PEOPLE - not the other way around.

    My goal would be to halve the tax take while at the same time doubling the quality and effectiveness of vital services provided by government and I would institute a rigorous regime of accountability and responsibility.

  12. Ummmmm....Dave, you engaged in a diatribe earlier about the Libertarian Party, but have just listed all our policies!

    I had originally thought you and the Libertarian Party agreed on 95%
    of things..(differing in presentation only)..but now realise it is 100%

    Welcome aboard!

  13. Without tax, how would we pay for the police, army, and justice system? I've seen this question asked before, but never properly awnsered.

  14. So you're still happy to have the nasty grey ones controlling health, education & utilities, eh.

    Rather you than me, Dave. Why the hell would you want more of what doesn't work? "But it'd be different this time!", bollocks. If they're *not* generating their own income, they don't give a hoot. No matter what you did it would only ever be window-dressing. I work in the health industry, by the way. It's a mess.

    And, of course, it means the grey ones decide who gets the op and who doesn't. Disgraceful.

    Hanso: a good question, and one that's addressed in the FAQ's at

    I'm sure PC could advise of the pertinent 'Cue Card' for more info ...


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