Buried deep within the National Party's constitution are espousals of support for "maximum freedom" and "the avoidance of unnecessary controls." You wouldn't know it from yesterday's performance: It was another day, another series of trial balloons for bigger government.
In the face of a statistical blip in the road toll, the National-led Government floated the idea of cracking down even further on your driving freedom. On the back of last weeks ban on hand-held mobile phones, this week it wants a rise in the age at which you can get a drivers license; a reduction in driving speeds; and an even lower limit on the amount of alcohol in a driver's blood – zero, if you’re under twenty.
You can point out that drunken drivers in accidents are overwhelmingly over the existing limit anyway, so reducing the alcohol limit is going to have no measurable result -- you can make these sort of factual objections -- but of course you'd be wasting your breath. You'd be wasting your breath because the fix is already in, and the leviathan of big nanny government is already on the march. A few sober factual objections won’t be enough to stop it – never has.
Anyway, that was just the new controls a National minister was talking about yesterday afternoon. In the morning, anther National minister was floating the idea of new taxes! Plus ça change, plus ca même chose.
In the face of rising deficits and reduced revenue -- facts which were well known before the election -- we're even further from the tax cuts that were their flagship policy. Instead of tax cuts -- which were promised before the election and which would leave more money in the pockets of those who produced it -- instead of keeping their promises and maximising freedom -- instead of tax cuts they're suggesting tax hikes. Specifically, a hike in the Government Slavery Tax. And specifically too, a new tax on home-owners.
Instead of cuts in government spending, which would be the responsible thing to do in the face of falling revenues -- and would be as easy as abolishing useless agencies like the Families Commission and the Ministries of Maori and Island and Women's Affairs -- instead of the things a responsible government would do, this government instead wants to go back and even reverse their election promises.
Instead of helping New Zealanders struggling to pay their bills – instead of slashing their own costs, and even cutting GST, which would help everyone in the country – instead of helping them it wants to kick them in the teeth.
And instead of moves that would actually help New Zealander home-owners and even expand their freedom -- instead of reining in the town planners who restrict the supply of land, the fractional-reserve money-manufacturing process that created out of thin air all the credit that fuelled the credit-created housing bubble, and the Reserve Bank governor (whose expansion of the money supply underpinned it) -- instead of any of these sensible expansions of freedom and removals of unnecessary controls, this government floats the frankly farcical idea of a Capital Gains Tax which, they say, will reduce future housing bubbles.
No sign they’re even aware of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary from all those housing markets overseas in which the existence of a Crapital Gains Tax did precisely nothing to puncture the credit-created bubble. No talk at all of removing taxes on savings, or even introducing the likes of America’s 401(k) or the UK’s ISES. Once again, it’s clear that neither evidence to the contrary nor ideas for even marginally more freedom aren't important when you've got a new tax or a new control to introduce.
"Maximum freedom" and "the avoidance of unnecessary controls"? Don’t make me laugh. They've only been in power barely eight months, but already it's obvious this is a government whose never seen a tax they don't like, a control they wouldn’t advance, or a spending cut they'd like to ignore.
It’s ironic that Labour’s lap bloggers are getting increasingly shrill because, if they closed their eyes and listened only to what’s being said instead of who’s saying it, they’d realise this is a government hardly any different to their own.
Big government still has friends in high places. It’s freedom that’s an orphan.
UPDATE 1: Meanwhile, the increasingly idiotic Adolf at No Minister reckons these further incursions on freedom will somehow lead to more freedom, not less. Looks like mental scotoma to me.
UPDATE 2: Even if you concede that it’s the government’s job to reduce the road toll, which is arguable, observe that every measure proposed in the government’s report reduces freedom rather than expanding it.
That’s no accident, and nor is it even necessary. Consider for example the idea that restricted drivers who cause an accident, i.e.,who actually demonstrate they’re a threat, are restricted for maybe another year from gaining a full licence. Or the idea of “Naked Streets,” stripping NZ roads of most street signs, getting drivers to focus on the movements of drivers around them, rather than focusing on those signs – an idea already saving lives in the US, UK, the Netherlands and Sweden.
But like I say above, you can talk until you’re blue in the face about ideas like these, because the primary thrust here is not so much for better road safety as it is for even more government.
UPDATE 3: If you really want to stop the property bubble and encourage saving – I mean, if you genuinely did -- then how about some good honest deflation. Time to stop inflating and start learning to love deflation:
Deflation is good news for savers, who get richer just by hanging on to their cash. And it is beneficial for consumers, who get cheaper prices. It is usually good for workers as well, as they can generally hold the value of their wages, even while prices fall.
There are winners and losers, just as there are from most economic developments. The important point is that the people who lose are more powerful than the people who gain. That might explain why we hear about the dangers of deflation, and not about its advantages. It still doesn’t make them right.
There is no threat from deflation. It may even be desirable if it encourages a balance between saving and consumption, and discourages governments and banks [and home-owners flush from their paper profits] from taking on debt.
But of course this wouldn’t work either, since it diminishes government’s power rather than expands it . . .
UPDATE 4: Lindsay Mitchell has 12 compelling arguments against raising the driving age, including statistical, geopolitical and semiotic evidence. Naturally, despite their persuasive power none of these arguments will be accepted by the powers that be, since none of them serve to expand the power of the state.