Thursday, 11 February 2010

Fitzsimons’ Values Party: They won the nuclear war!

“Credit cards and a Maserati,
Don't go to films
‘Less he knows they're arty
Likes Womens’ Lib
And the Values Party,
He’s a Rasta, he’s New Wave,
Don’t do nothing
Less he’s told exactly how to behave . . . ”

- ‘Rebel,’ by Toy Love / Chris Knox(1978)

A_260209NZHDPFITZSMONS10_220x147LAST NIGHT JEANETTE FITZSIMONS brought down the hemp curtain on her thirteen-year Parliamentary career. When an MP gives their valedictory speech, all their colleagues and the whole commentariat comes out in force to review their career.

But I’m not going to do that now.  No more than I did last week.  Instead, what I want to review (just briefly) is the ‘career’ of the Party with whom she was first associated.

Back in the early seventies there was a political party called the Values Party. (“She likes Women’s Lib and the Values Party. . . ”)  Non-threatening, non-violent and never any hope of winning a Parliamentary seat, they ran a programme based around saving the whales and the Tangata Whenua; around multiculturalism and mediocrity; promoting state support of everything except the production that would pay for it; attacking the “obsessions” with competition, money and personal gratification and promoting instead the spiritualism of sacrifice and “sustainability”—long, long  before any of these ideas were politically fashionable.  They were the original politically correct “rebels.” And they made them fashionable.

Tripping over their sandals, banging their head on their wind chimes, reeking of patchouli and clad in the inevitable tie-died macrame, at the the time they only appeared to be a threat to themselves, but a careful review of the Values Party programme would show that the Values Party have been one of the most successful parties of the last four decades. They never got an MP within a hippie’s roar of Parliament, but just take a look at the core Values programme (conveniently laid out for us by Claire Browning). and review for a moment how the ideas they brought to the fringes of the political table four decades ago are now front and centre in so much of what passes for political debate today:

Politics -- MMP, and open government, including freedom of information, now given effect by the Official Information Act.
International relations -- an independent foreign affairs stance (eg, ANZUS withdrawal), an anti-nuclear, nuclear-free stance, anti-apartheid in sport.
Law -- New Zealand’s highest court should be a New Zealand court not the Privy Council, Fair Trading and Consumer Guarantees policies.
Race relations and status of Maori -- strengthening Maori cultural identity and tino rangatiratanga, a Maori Minister of Maori Affairs.
Status of women -- a suite of policies to remove discrimination and gender bias against women in employment, healthcare, public participation (eg, jury service), and in the home (eg, deploring gender stereotypes, and proposing matrimonial property reform).
Individual responsibility for moral behaviour -- eg, homosexual law reform.
Immigration -- a cautious multi-racial population-replacement immigration policy (as opposed to Eurocentric).

The foundation planks of the Values’ manifesto gave birth to the nostrums of ecological collapse due to climate change; to the soft fascism of political correctness and the collectivism of failure; to the mush of multiculturalism and the mainstreaming of “minorities”; to the “politics of enough” and a  “redistributive philosophy” in which the state would recover and share around the wealth of “the excessively greedy or fortunate”; to anti-capitalist assaults on consumerism and industry; to the greening of socialism and the throttling of capitalism--and they brought these all to the mainstream.  They didn’t just gave birth to the Greens, they gave birth (almost unobserved by the mainstream) to the political agenda of the last forty years.

What was wildly “way out, man” then is just mainstream and taken for granted today.  That’s the extent of their victory.

THE VALUES PARTY PROGRAMME was so wildly successful because their members, and many former members, all  understood they were involved in a battle of ideas—at a time when most of their opponents would barely be said to have an original idea between them.  And they had patience. They knew that to capture the mainstream they had to capture the young—and that to capture the young they had to capture the education system, so they could tell those youngsters how to behave.

And so they did.  And then those youngsters grew up, and took with them those ideas they’d imbibed when their brains were still tender.  It was always a battle of ideas—a battle in which they still give no quarter.

As Ayn Rand put it, “a political battle is merely a skirmish fought with muskets; whereas a philosophical battle is a nuclear war." I very much doubt whether Ms Fitzsimons would ever put it quite like that, but she would be one of the few in the present Parliament who would understand.

Because, you see, you could always smell the ideological uranium on Fitzsimons’ breath. You could always smell it on her colleagues.  Which is why the Values Party won the nuclear war. 

They won it because, for the most part, while their opponents  were fussing about with the tactical weapons of pragmatism and politics—by refusing to confront the fact that bad ideas can only be fought by better ideas—the strategic nuclear weapons launched by the Values alumni were already having their victories.   While their opponents were figuring out the tactics of political musketry, the Values’ troops were (in the words of Chris Knox’s song) preparing everyone to be “told exactly how to behave.” Not for them fussing about with poll numbers, seats and cabinet rankings. They always knew that in the end it didn’t really matter how many MPs you sent to parliament, but how many ideas.

And that’s why the Values Party won.

The lesson, for most of us, should be obvious.


  1. So a list of the ideas the National Party brought to Parliament would be:
    - Confront the trade union movement.

    That is all.

    NOTHING else is new, everything else Labour conceived of or implemented first. Before Muldoon the Nats did nothing other than confront the watersiders in 1951. With Muldoon the Nats simply took socialism a leap forward. With Bolger the Nats did a bit more of what Douglas had done, then put the brakes on till it came to a virtual halt. Now it is leave what Clark did pretty much intact.

    Because the Greens are about ideas they are more interesting than all of the others, more engaging and more dangerous - and they know it.

  2. Peter,

    A possible reason for the "victory" is that some of those are really good ideas.

    The underlying philosophy is terrible, but Open government, freedom of info, gay and female equality etc. are good.

    I think, given your closing sentence, that this should be the focus of an Ideas party (by which we both mean the libz). Sure the Underlying philosophy is there, and should be named in honesty. But focus on the ideas, and begin with the popular ones.

    This to me is where the libz message gets scrambled. You have to buy the whole shebang, by buying the philosophy (which I do), before any of the ideas are championed.

    When speaking to friends that are anti-libz, we should try to focus the message on Ideas they can buy into (like lower taxes), and gradually they may or may not accept the underlying philosophy.

    Case in point: a lot of people voting for the greens honestly do not understand the philosophy of the party, but they like the Idea of no mining in the coromandel and they find whales cute.

  3. "Tripping over their sandals, banging their head on their wind chimes, reeking of patchouli and clad in the inevitable tie-died macrame, they hardly appeared a threat to anyone"

    I would say most ended up working for NIWA

  4. The post prompts an interesting - and crucial - question: why are only the bad ideas winning?

    Classical liberalism has been around for over two centuries, libertarianism (in one form or another) for over 50. Yet, we continue to slide in the wrong direction with only just now (in the U.S.) some hackles being raised (to what long-term effect it isn't yet clear).

    It's very puzzling - and critically important to understand - why and how the general population decides to accept some ideas and not others.

    So far as I know, no one (including me) has the first clue why this is.

  5. the drunken watchman11 Feb 2010, 18:53:00

    "So far as I know, no one (including me) has the first clue why this is."


  6. Sean Fitzpatrick12 Feb 2010, 06:49:00


    It is a combination of things.

    Add Churchill's comment about how a lie gets half way around the world before the truth gets its pants on to the fact that propaganda works best when based on already popular beliefs (be they mis-conceptions or no) and the conditions naturally exist for bad ideas to go viral. This is made all the worse by politicians who can not see beyond their own electoral success and prepared to say anything to get into power.


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