Monday, 26 September 2011

Don, John and the right to take a toke [update 2]

Good news from yesterday’s speech by Don Brash, with two announcements from an ACT leader that are long overdue: that he thinks folk have the right to defend themselves and their loved ones, and the right to ingest cannabis if they so desire. [Full speech here.]

That it has taken this long for an ACT leader to state the bleeding obvious is tragic, especially since there’s little chance of any ACT MPs being returned next election—and if there are, then little chance of any ACT MPs or board members voting to make either policy their party’s policy.

Can you see John Banks (potentially their only MP) promoting your freedom to put into your body what (and whom) you see fit? Not a chance. [UPDATE: See.]

Can you see him attacking the police for victimising crime’s victims instead of the perpetrators of said crimes? Not a hope. No more than he can credibly promote the party’s position on fiscal responsibility after leaving his Auckland City Council over $800 million in debt under his stewardship.

So this is what it appears to be then; a trial balloon released just to attract attention, without any  commitment as to policy. What’s surprising about this tepid non-announcement however is how surprised the commentariat is that an ACT Party leader would (gasp) muse aloud about policy positions like this, because policies like this always should have been firmly in ACT’s territory.

Even if the country’s clueless, calcified commentariat is unable to see the connection between the right to pursue your own happiness and the right to defend your own life—two rights which are linked as one in freedom—if ACT ever had a reason to exist then it was to promote the policies of freedom and individual rights, i.e., policies like this, while all around them parties were peddling the opposite. That they’ve rarely if ever done so has led them to the place they are now: which is to have made themselves completely and deservedly unelectable, and incapable of promoting the very policies their party’s leader (and many of their members) would like them to promote.

Mind you, at least the party’s other John is leaving. That can only be good news for ACT’s few remaining freedom-lovers who do want to promote the right thing in a party committed to principles, not just politics. I do genuinely wish them good luck.  (One John down, one more to go?)

UPDATE 1: And here’s another John, and this one’s talking gibberish.

UPDATE 2: Eric Crampton makes some excellent points:

… ACT would do best to return to its classical liberal roots - that there's an unserviced space that's relatively liberal on economic and on social issues. As a right-wing rump to National, more liberal on economics but conservative on social issues, they'd be bound in the spot occupied by the Greens on the left - forever taken for granted by the dominant coalition partner because they couldn't plausibly bring down the government in favour of a coalition led by the main party on the other side. And, I've also thought that staking out a position on marijuana legalization could be a good way of signalling a move to that space. It would confound the usual narrative dominated by right-left thinking and, in so doing, bring a lot of positive press for ACT as it moves into a different space.
    So I was really pleased to hear Don Brash musing about marijuana decriminalization over the weekend. Sure, decriminalization hardly goes far enough: if the trade remains illegal but possession legal, production remains split between informal household production among those into gardening, friendly informal supply among friends (albeit with risk that comes with growing more plants than is needed for personal use), and the gangs. Cactus Kate is right: full legalization is better.

…Brash [has] tried to pull the Party to the liberal side - a move that makes sense, but is hard given ACT's starting point. It wasn't made easier by that a bunch of people who claim to support marijuana decriminalization started piling on making fun of Brash's policy move. Yeah, you know who you are. It's all hip to make fun of the 70-year-old who's obviously hardly come within smelling distance of pot and pretend that he's a dope-head for advocating policy change….  
    If the result of pushing for rational policy discussion is to be made a laughingstock even by those who purport to support rational policy, it ain't hard to figure out the likely effect on the supply of rational policy discussion… There's no way that the politicians will lead public opinion on this one, but there's good chance they'd follow. [However] if even the pundits who agree with legalization make fun of the politicians who support it, no chance of any kind of policy move until there's obvious public support…
The issue's now dead. And ACT probably is too.


  1. It looks like Brash and Perigo have been betting on the wrong horse.

    Unfortunately it also shows NZ is nowhere near ready for freedom.

  2. This is good news, on a number of levels.

    Someone with a public profile has broken through the left/right divide on social liberal/economic liberal values. This will confuse alot of folk, and perhaps get the grey matter working.

    Certain bloggers, like our host here, deserve some credit for bringing such to pass. And another chap called Perigo.

    Those on the left should show support for this. Hard for them as they don't seem to like Brash, but time to grow up methinks, and get beyond petty personality stuff. Will they?

    ACT is being cleaned out. This can only be a good thing for freedom.

  3. So Banks is now ACT's lifeline right when it now seems their long neglected socially liberal side has attracted attention and may well be the wellspring for new interest and support it so desperately needed......ahhhhhhhhhhhh! Irony's a bitch.

  4. SamP....If the libertarian Rodney was still the man for Epsom instead of Banks you would be right...but now the arch conservative is the one holding the liberal ACT by a thread from oblivion....oh what a fuck up we ensure when principles are bypassed for pragmatism.

  5. WTF is going on in ACT-land? Will they never ever learn? Change of leader, same old f-ups.

    Brash: "Hey John-boy, I'm going to put out a feeler for marijuana decriminalisation this weekend. It's something I believe in, it's something which fits in with core ACT values.....hang on, John-boy, yes I know there's no way you'd support such a policy...I know, I know, if I can finish....SHUT UP John, for a minute, now listen - I need you to run with this....let's get back to core ACT values and see where they take us support-wise. No harm in that I would have thought...all you have to do isis keep your mouth closed for a week so that we at least appear united... You can do that? Great! It's in your best interest John....ok, ok I know you'll win Epsom no matter what happens so I guess it's in the party' interests John, but you believe in the values of the ACT Party, you believe in me as the leader....don't you John-boy?....Johnboy?.....hello?....hello?..."

  6. James, the 'libertarian' Rodney had 3 years to put his liberal values front and centre but spent it building a bigger bureaucracy in AK. Useless.

    Brash has to go bigger than a lifeline in Epsom.

  7. The supercity was a foregone conclusion whatever party came into power...Rodney made it a lot better than it might otherwise have been...


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