“National isn't just Labour Lite, it's Labour Zero - same taste but no sugar, in a different coloured can.”
…………………………………………………- Liberty Scott
From high taxing nanny state to... high taxing pragmatism
The National-led government was elected in New Zealand on a platform of less tax, less government, and less nanny statism. Theirs was to be a pragmatic government, free of leftist ideological social engineering. Nine months and one budget on, we still have a high taxing nanny state. Pragmatism, it seems, is not all it’s cracked up to be.
The current government campaigned against the overweening powers of the ‘nanny state’ Labour government, and declared that a ban on inefficient light bulbs and plans to restrict shower pressures (for environmental reasons), would be overturned. It has done so. However, it now appears that the trade-off for canning these restrictions is going to mean giving up rights to use your cell phone while driving. Minister of Justice Simon Power has also indicated that alcohol will be taxed more highly and become more difficult to sell and purchase.
Ultimately, this reflects a value judgment. The new government reasons that it is somehow better than the last government at making decisions about which goods and services should be restricted. Apparently incandescent light bulbs are a matter of freedom and choice, when and where you use a cell phone is not. This is hardly less government.
Somehow this pragmatism has become a compliment in New Zealand politics. Pragmatic people are thought to be practical, issue focused, and not distracted by abstract theory. This reflects New Zealand’s tradition of political anti-intellectualism. Yet without the theory, or an ideological framework from which to work, how can we measure decisions? Where are the standards against which to measure the efficacy of policies? Without first principles, how can objectives be worked out and implemented?
New Zealanders may dislike ideology, but fashionable pragmatism in politics is far more dangerous. It makes short term public opinion the only standard against which to gauge policy quality or desirability. Indeed, that is pragmatism: trading the desirable to gain the achievable. And in politics, the achievable is often that which wins votes.
The current government is likely to press forward and restrict more freedoms, but the freedoms they are now examining are genuine nanny state stuff that have a real effect on the lives of most adults.
Top stuff, Luke. Well said.