Thursday, 2 April 2009

Owen McShane on the ‘Super’ City [updated]

Owen McShane sent me these thoughts on the proposed Auckland Uber State “super” city:

We are scared this depression will lead to trade protection - like the last one did.

We should be more afraid that it leads to Fascism – like the last one did.

The Royal Commission’s report on Auckland Governance is Fascism from A to Z. (You have to read the whole 800 pages, and know something about the theory of Fascism to appreciate this.)

One Uber City, One Uber Mayor, reflects the classic fascist position of “strength through unity.”

The term “Fascism” comes from the Latin fasces which was a symbol carried by the early Roman Victors – an axe wrapped in a bundle of bound sticks, reflecting the idea that a stick can be broken one at a time, but when bound together the sticks become strong.

So we have the idea of the Uber City needing to be strong to deal with Wellington and to “speak with one voice.” Amalgamation is normally driven by the desire to reduce costs but we cross the line when it is designed to increase the “strength” of the City State.

So we have the proposal for One Uber City, with one Uber Mayor, so that the City State “speaks” with one voice, and strikes one rate, and has one plan. And the people cannot appeal anything in the plan. After all it must be perfect having been made by the Uber Mayor’s uber team. And of course the “Urban Form” Plan promotes the monocentric city model even though Auckland is naturally becoming multi-nodal as are the vast majority of cities in the world.

I approve of one RMA plan with one set of environmental standards [Ed: “Not I,” said your editor] but we are talking about a plan to manage “Urban form” to reflect an aesthetic ideal of the vision for Uber Auckland. After all, Fascism is essentially an aesthetic theory.

The Commission says we must all live at high density to ensure the viability of public transport because high density living and public transport is more energy efficient than low density and motor cars. Neither statement is true.

And of course we must build no more roads – because cars set us free.

And naturally, the Uber Mayor will get the trains to run on time.

But the commission recognises that this is difficult and will require rigorous “enforcement” because we have the wrong “attitudes” and these bad “attitudes” must change – or be changed. So Aucklanders must be socially engineered to gain the right attitudes, presumably using the social budget allocation recommended in the report.

We don’t need the Jews as the enemy of the state any more. The 21st century “polluters of the pure” are those who don’t turn their lights out for Earth hour, who want to have a decent shower, and use plastic bags and drive cars – and of course farm belching cows.

The document never mentions the wants or desires of the people. The people’s actions must serve the state and they are subservient to the needs of the city state. Fascism allows the people to own their property and the means of production, distribution and exchange, but they are all required to use their property to promote the strength of the State.

The report sets up a powerful republic with an all powerful “President” but without the countervailing discipline of the US constitution and Bill of Rights. The six city mayors would be a joke.

They get their main funds from the Uber Mayor and so would challenge the Uber Mayor at their peril. However they can raise funds from charges for resource and building consents. Guess where that leads?

Fascism is largely an aesthetic theory so the Commission recommends that every significant development in the region must be approved by an Urban Design Panel. (ie an urban design censorship board.)

The problems with infrastructure will probably be solved by the RMA reforms and setting up a few region-wide service organisations to manage water and sewage etc - preferably on a fifteen year franschise so they compete like the French do.

We tend to confuse democratic form and function with engineering form and function - but that is a fascist view because they see Government as a design process.

Lange decided to use the famous 4000 page Social Services review as a doorstop.

This piece of Labour (or work) is only 800 pages but would keep the door open for some sensible ideas and democratic reform.

And as Owen said in his draft version: “Won't it be remarkable if Rodney Hide becomes responsible for
establishing the first Fascist State in NZ?”


  1. I think Owen is making a fundamental mistake here: the association fallacy. His argument is something like: fascism promoted centralisation, and fascism is evil. Therefore the Auckland centralisation is evil.

    Now Owen may be right that the creation of uber Auckland is evil, but that's got nothing to do with German politics circa 1938. So why mention fascism? How about limiting the argument to the plan's merits?

  2. Yes there is some hyperbole here, but fundamentally in respect of property rights, regulation and interference with business and control of transport (and taxation through rates) he is right.

    The ONLY differences are you will be able to leave and you will have free speech.

  3. Matt

    You've made an error. Owen McShane's argument is that fascism is a certain type of political ideology with certain attributes. The uber-city idea has the same attributes and ideology.


  4. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



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