Susan Ryder explains how she became Libertarianz Sus, and what now for Libz.
There was no specific time as to when I became involved with the Libertarianz. I just sort of drifted into it.
It started after I returned to New Zealand permanently in 1995 after a long absence. Music radio left me cold, (the announcers, really, having been one in a past lifetime), so I started listening to Radio Pacific out of respect for friends who worked there.
The then morning host had a degree in Political Correctness and a Masters in Wetness, which saw me quickly seeking refuge in Leighton Smith’s pro-capitalist programme on Newstalk ZB. It was either that or succumb to the temptation to commit grievous bodily harm with my bare hands.
Listening at work allowed me to initially fax my opinions prior to email coming into existence. There was plenty to discuss. The cloth-cap lefties of old had alarmingly morphed into professional, well-organised, publicly-funded feminazis with a clear and chilling agenda. And the so-called right-wingers were also socialist at heart, parting company with the left only where they deemed it necessary to additionally mind others’ personal business. However the left has since ventured into that sphere, too, with the passing of legislation such as the Anti-Smoking/Smacking Acts. That’s the thing with authoritarians: there’s just no end to their interference.
They all seemed to be big-government advocates and I just wanted them to go away and mind their business. But nobody else seemed to think the way I did – or so I thought.
Ranting to a friend from Radio Pacific one day over a drink, he grinned and said “Why the hell aren’t you listening to Lindsay Perigo?” My eyebrows couldn’t have shot up faster had I been to the Botox clinic. “But he’s a communist!” I said. “Not anymore,” said John, “he’s had something of an awakening. I think you’ll approve!”
I suspiciously returned to Pacific at the appointed hour and thought I’d died and gone to heaven. “He thinks like me!” I thought. “I must be whatever he is!”
Back to ZB where I was quick to broadcast my allegiance to this party of small government devotees even though I hadn’t joined anything and didn’t know a soul. I didn’t care. They were opposed to state interference in all its manifestations and that was good enough for me. That they also rubbished political correctness and its proponents was a delicious bonus; a bit like winning Lotto and scoring the Powerball as well!
I joined the stable of regular correspondents, including my particular favourite, Barry the Garbo, a Warriors fan, rubbish collector and poet of some repute. As a result, a Libertarianz stalwart made herself known to me a few years later at a private function which marked my introduction to the party proper. I remain committed to its philosophy of free minds and free markets to this day.
Lately, there’s been discussion as to the ‘effectiveness’ of the Libertarianz. In so doing, it is necessary to look at the party and libertarianism separately.
Commentary on this and other blogs has unearthed numerous suggestions, many of them worthy of consideration. What has emerged is a call for a simplification of “the message.” I say “simplification” because the message – or philosophy – itself has never changed. By definition, it cannot. But that doesn’t mean to say that it cannot be streamlined or presented differently.
There is no denial that our voting numbers have decreased since the early days. And this is a good place to elaborate on the difference between the party and its principles.
Without rehashing past commentary, I believe that the voting numbers do not reflect dissatisfaction with libertarianism per se in that having embraced the principles of freedom and limited government, it is impossible to desert them. But there are two factors at play here that must be taken into consideration:
- the acceleration of socialism and the Nanny State under Helen Clark, and
- the vagaries of our convoluted MMP parliamentary system
They alone frightened many into voting for larger parties whose policies they may not have fully supported, just to be rid of the previous government. The “wasted vote” theory, if you like. And we can harp on all we like about what really constitutes a wasted vote, but for these voters, the fear of another Labour-lead victory was greater than any perceived failings of John Key and National.
But the chickens are already well on their way to roost. The Key government is nine months old and, abolition of the reviled Electoral Finance Act notwithstanding, little has really changed. The size of the state has barely altered while private sector jobs disappear every day. Essential services remain firmly in state clutches and Key has thumbed his nose at the upcoming Citizens Initiated Referendum in a style worthy of Helen Clark.
What better time, then, to capitalise on the current situation. “Nanny State” is a well-known term these days. It certainly wasn’t ten years ago, but – as the left knows all too well; Lord knows they’ve been at it long enough – constant repetition has done the trick.
This is where simplification of what we’re about comes in. I disagree with the notion that this is diluting or selling out our principles. On the contrary, it’s a clarification for newcomers and potential newcomers, who are sympathetic to the idea of less state control and/or dissatisfied with the status quo. Any salesman worth his salt knows that you never sell something; you find out what the customer wants and then you provide it. You talk your customer’s language.
The suggestion has been made to talk “reduce” rather than “abolish” and “free market” instead of “capitalism”, etc. After all, language revision has been a powerful tool for the statists, so there is some satisfaction in using their own proven method to attack them.
I therefore suggest we concentrate on a handful of issues and take it from there. And we could do worse than focus on the RMA and its connection with the assault on property rights and increased compliance costs, Climate Change and Social Engineering to start with. Others will have their own ideas.
We are unique in that we would prefer our ideas be adopted by other parties rather than be in power ourselves; a difficult fact for voters to grasp. We cannot expect people to “get it” straight away; it can take time. But I’ve long been of the opinion that I’d rather concentrate on the areas in which we share agreement as opposed to the reverse. Those already sympathetic to the concepts of personal freedom, personal responsibility, limited government and tolerance – thank you, Richard McGrath! – will eventually come around.
They have nowhere else to go.
* * Read Susan Ryder’s column every week here at NOT PC * *