Tuesday 5 February 2008

One-Law-For-All Day

Expect another day tomorrow of protest, anger and hot air, all now par for the course for the day on which New Zealand was founded.  You'd think, in a country with as much to offer and as much to celebrate as New Zealand has that our National Day itself would be something to celebrate. Not likely.

Even without a full moon, Waitangi Day instead regularly produces a ragtag cavalcade of mischief-makers intent on misunderstanding whatever anyone else says -- no matter how simple and however straightforward. Every year there's a whole lot of people doing a whole lot of talking very loudly past each other -- often the same people every year. I expect no less this year. I expect another Waitangi Day with the same protests as last year, the same people loudly proclaiming that the state owes them a living ... and more claims for even more legal privilege  based on race.

Another Waitangi Day in which the the usual parade of politicians and protestors confront and avoid each other, in which the professional grievance industry bewail their fate and issue further demands for the taxpayer to give 'til it hurts.  Frankly, we don't need another tax-paid gravy train or another grievance industry or yet another charter for separatism or a forum in which to demand it -- and this was never what was promised by the Treaty.  We simply need good law -- good colourblind law.  That was what the Treaty promised.

We don't need more nationalisation of land, of seabed or of foreshore; we simply need a legal system in which what we own is protected, in which real injustices can be proven swiftly and without great expense, and where justice can be done and be seen to be done.  That was what the Treaty made possible.

The disappointment is that the promise has not always been the reality.

Perhaps the greatest disappointment every Waitangi Day is to reflect that for all the time spent on Te Tiriti in New Zealand school rooms, there's so little understanding of what it means, nor of the context in which it was signed.  Teaching real history is no longer fashionable.  Teaching myths is.

Partnership? The Treaty was not about 'partnership' of the form now espoused -- neither word nor concept appeared in the document. It was not a Treaty offering permanent welfare, nor a tax-paid gravy train into perpetuity.  In three short articles it simply offered the introduction of British law, and the rights and protections that were then protected by British law.  That was it. 

Biculturalism?  The Treaty that was agreed talked neither about race nor culture.  Like British law itself at the time it was colourblind.  What it promised was not the politics of race but the same protection for anyone, regardless of race, creed or skin colour.

Would that today's law was so blind.

At the time it was signed, the context of British law really meant something.  By the middle of the nineteenth century, British law -- which included British common law -- was the best the world had yet seen.  It was what had made Britain rich, and what still makes the places where British law was introduced some of the most prosperous places in the world in which to live today. From the perspective of one-hundred and sixty-eight years later, when individual rights and property rights are taken for granted even as they're slowly expunged, it's easy to take the framework and protection of British law for granted.  Looked at in the context of the history of human affairs however it was a tremendous achievement: the first time in which individual rights and property rights were recognised in law, and protected in a relatively simple and accessible framework.  Perhaps history's first truly objective legal system

The introduction of British law to the residents of these Shaky Isles  at the bottom of the South Pacific, which at the the time were riven with inter-tribal warfare, was a boon -- and those who eagerly signed knew that.  Their immediate perspective might have been short-term -- to forestall a feared annexation by France; to end inter-tribal violence; to secure territorial gains made in the most recent inter-tribal wars; to gain a foothold for trade -- but there's no doubt they had at least an inkling that life under British law promised greater peace, and the chance at prosperity.

"He iwi tahi tatou"

'He iwi tahi tatou.' We are now one people. So said Governor Hobson to Maori chieftains as they signed the Treaty that is now the source of so much division. But are we really 'one people'? Not really. No more than our ancestors were then. But nor are we two, three or fifty-four peoples -- do you have a people? -- and nor does it matter. What Governor Hobson brought to New Zealand with the Treaty was British law, which then meant something, and Western Culture, which makes it possible to see one another not as 'peoples,' not as part of a tribe or a race, but each of us as sovereign individuals in our own right.

That was a good thing.

But unfortunately, we still don't see each other that way, do we? And the myth-making about 'partnership' and 'biculturalism' is just one way to avoid seeing it.

To be fair, the Treaty itself isn't much to see. What Hobson brought was not the founding document for a country, but a hastily written document intended to forestall French attempts at dominion (and the Frank imposition of croissants and string bikinis), and which brought to New Zealand for the first time the concept of individualism, and the protection of property rights and of an objective rule of law.
But the Treaty itself was short, spare and to the point. What it relied upon was the context of British law as it then existed.   The Treaty's three short clauses promised little -- as everyone understood, the intent was to point to the wider context and say 'We're having that here.'  But that understanding is now clouded with invective, and the context that is no longer with us. 

British law is not what it was, and there's a meal ticket now in fomenting misunderstanding of what it once promised.

The Treaty signed one-hundred sixty-seven years ago today was not intended as the charter for separatism and grievance and the welfare gravy train that it has become - to repeat, it was intended no more and no less than to bring the protection of British law and the rights and privileges of British citizens to the residents of these islands -- residents of all colours. That was the context that three simple clauses were intended to enunciate. And one-hundred and sixty-seven years ago, the rights and privileges of British citizens actually meant something -- this was not a promise to protect the prevailing culture of tribalism (which had dominated pre-European New Zealand history and underpinned generations of inter-tribal conflict, and which the modern myth of 'partnership' still underpins), but a promise to protect individuals from each other; a promise to see Maoris not as part of a tribe, but as individuals in their own right; a promise to protect what individuals own and what they produce by their own efforts. That the promise is sometimes seen in the breach than in practice is no reason to spurn the attempt.

The Treaty helped to make New Zealand a better place for everyone.


Life in New Zealand before the advent of the rule of law recognised neither right, nor privilege, nor even the concept of ownership. It was not the paradise of Rousseau's noble savage; force was the recognised rule du jour and the source of much barbarity (see for example 'Property Rights: A Blessing for Maori New Zealand').  Indeed just a few short years before the Treaty was signed, savage inter-tribal warfare reigned, and much of New Zealand was found to be unpopulated following the fleeing of tribes before the muskets and savagery and cannibalism of other tribes.

Property in this war of all against all was not truly owned; instead, it was just something that was grabbed and held by one tribe, until it was later grabbed and held by another. To be blunt, life was brutish and it was short, just as it was in pre-Industrial Revolution Europe, and - let's face it -- it was largely due to the local culture that favoured conquest over peace and prosperity. As Thomas Sowell reminds us: "Cultures are not museum pieces. They are the working machinery of everyday life. Unlike objects of aesthetic contemplation, working machinery is judged by how well it works, compared to the alternatives." Pre-European local culture was not working well for those within that culture. Let's be really blunt (and here I paraphrase from this article):

In the many years before the Treaty was signed, the scattered tribes occupying New Zealand lived in abject poverty, ignorance, and superstition -- not due to any racial inferiority, but because that is how all mankind starts out (Europeans included). The transfer of Western civilisation to these islands was one of the great cultural gifts in recorded history, affording Maori almost effortless access to centuries of European accomplishments in philosophy, science, technology, and government. As a result, today's Maori enjoy a capacity for generating health, wealth, and happiness that their Stone Age ancestors could never have conceived.

Harsh, but true. And note those words before you hyperventilate: "not due to any racial inferiority, but because that is how all mankind starts out (Europeans included)."   Some one-hundred and fifty years before, the same boon was offered to the savage, dirt-poor Scottish tribesmen who were living then much as pre-Waitangi Maori were.  Within one-hundred years following the embrace of Western civilisation, Scotland was transformed and had became one of the centres of the Enlightenment.  Such was the cultural gift being offered.

The boon of Western Civilisation was being offered here in New Zealand not after conquest but for just a mess of pottage, and in return for the right of Westerners to settle here too. As Sir Apirana Ngata stated, "if you think these things are wrong, then blame your ancestors when they gave away their rights when they were strong" - giving the clue that 'right' to Ngata's ancestors, equated to 'strong' more than it did to 'right.'

Who 'owned' New Zealand?

It's said that Maori owned New Zealand before the Treaty was signed, and that while the 'shadow' of sovereignty was passed on, the substance remained.  This is nonsense.  Pre-European Maori never "owned" New Zealand in any sense, let alone in any meaningful sense of exercising either ownership or sovereignty over all of it. 

First of all, they had no concept at all of ownership by right; 'ownership' was not by right but  by force; it represented taonga that was taken by force and held by force -- just as long as they were able to be held (see again, for example 'Property Rights: A Blessing for Maori New Zealand').  Witness for example the savage conflict over the prosperous lands of Tamaki Makaurau, over which generations of Kawerau, Nga Puhi, Ngati Whatua and others fought.  There was no recognition at any time that these lands were owned by a tribe by right -- they were only held as long as a tribe's might made holding them possible, and as long as the fighting necessary to retain them brought a greater benefit than it did to relinquish them (and by the early 1800s, with so much fighting to be done to hold them, all tribes gave up and left the land to bracken instead).

Second, even if the tribesmen and women had begun to develop the rudiments of the concept of ownership by right (the concept of ownership by right being relatively new even to 1840 Europeans) they didn't own all of the country -- they only 'owned' what they owned.  That is, what Maori possessed were the lands and fisheries they occupied and farmed and fished and used.  This was never all of New Zealand, nor even most of New Zealand. The rest of it lay unowned, and unclaimed.

Third, prior to the arrival of Europeans Maori did not even see themselves as 'one people'; the word 'Maori' simply meant 'normal,' as opposed to the somewhat abnormal outsiders who had now appeared with their crosses and muskets and strange written incantations. The tangata whenua saw themselves not as a homogeneous whole, but as members of various tribes.  This was not a nation, nor even a collection of warring tribes.  Apart from the Confederacy of United Tribes -- an ad hoc group who clubbed together in 1835 in a bid to reject expected overtures from the French -- there was no single sovereignty over pre-European New Zealand, no sovereign entity to cede sovereignty, and no way a whole country could be ceded by those who had never yet even laid claim to it in its entirety.

Our 'Founding Document'?

So the British came, and saw, and hung about a bit. The truth is that some of the best places in the world in which to live are those where the British once came, and saw and then buggered off -- leaving behind them their (once) magnificent legal system, and the rudiments of Western Culture. See for example, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and of course (as noted in obituaries of former governor John Cowperthwaite) Hong Kong. We lucked out.

What the Treaty did do, for which we can all be thankful, was to bring British law to NZ at a time when British law was actually intended to protect the rights of British citizens, and it promised to extend that protection to all who lived here. For many and often differing reasons, that was what the chieftains signed up to.  To become British citizens, with all the rights and privileges thereof.

But the Treaty itself was not a founding document. No, it wasn't. On its own, with just three simple articles and a brief introduction, there was just not enough there to make it a document that founds a nation. As a document it simply pointed to the superstructure of British law as it then was and said, 'let's have that down here on these islands in the South Pacific.'

The treaty's greatest promise was really in its bringing to these islands those rights and privileges that British citizens enjoyed by virtue of their then superb legal system; the protection of Pax Britannia when those rights and that protection meant something, and when British power saw protection of British rights as its sworn duty. The result of this blessing of relatively secure individual rights was the palpable blessings of relative peace, of increasing security, and of expanding prosperity.

Sadly, British jurisprudence no longer does see its duty that way, which means the legal context in which the Treaty was signed has changed enormously, and the blessings themselves are sometimes difficult to see. Law, both in Britain and here in NZ, now places welfarism and need above individualism and rights. That's the changing context that has given steam and power to the treaty-based gravy train, and allowed the Treaty and those who consume the Treaty's gravy to say it says something other than what is written in it.

The truly sad thing is that the Treaty relied on a context that no longer exists -- and the only way to restore that context, in my view, is with a new constitution that makes the original context explicit.  To restore the original legal context, and to improve upon it with a legal context that protects and reinforces an Objective rule of law -- as British law itself once did -- one that clarifies what in the Treaty was only vague or was barely put. And in doing so, of course, such a constitution would make the Treaty obsolete.

Thank goodness.

The Dream

Waitangi Day comes just two weeks after Martin Luther King Day. It might be worthwhile to remind ourselves of King's dream for the future of his own children:

"I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character..."
Perhaps we will one day celebrate that dream down here -- not as a dream, but as reality.  Celebrating our national day not as a charter for grievance that continues to poison discussion, but instead with real joy.  Celebrating that the colour of a man's skin is of no importance compared to the content of his character.  Shaking off the gravy train of grievance.

Perhaps one day we will actually celebrate the birth of this great little country, instead of seeing its birthday as an annual source of conflict. Wouldn't that be something to celebrate?

* * * * *

Linked Articles: Unsure on foreshore: A Brash dismissal of Maori rights? - Not PC
Do you have a people? - Not PC
Property Rights: A Gift to Maori New Zealand - Peter Cresswell
What is Objective Law? - Harry Binswanger
No Apology to Indians - Thomas Bowden
Superseding the Treaty with something objective called "good law" - Not PC
All hail the Industrial Revolution - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Individualism - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Rights - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Need - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Welfarism - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Ethnicity - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Government - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism:Constitution - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Property - Not PC
A Constitution for New Freeland - The Free Radical

More from the Archives: Maoritanga, Racism, History, Law, Constitution

UPDATE: Lindsay Perigo forgoes the idea of 'One Law For All Day' and plumps instead for going the whole hog: "Dump the Treaty and the Day; Let’s Have Western Civilisation Day!" he says.


KG said...

A wonderful post. I wish to hell I could afford to have thousands of copies printed and distributed to every household in the country.
It's sorely needed.

Gecko said...

A brilliant post!

not an architect? said...

brilliant Peter.....I couldn't have said it better myself. Wouldn't it be great if John Keys had the intelligence strength and vision to say something like this?

Anonymous said...

That might just be the best thing you have ever written.

Anonymous said...

Print a million copies of this post and box drop the country next year.

Barnsley Bill said...

Cannot add much to the fulsome praise already heaped upon you for this outstanding post.
But I will try, it was simple enough for a dunce like me to follow but with a depth of detail to add weight to its authority. Well done.
I have put a post up on my feeble by comparison blog and have INSTRUCTED my readership (mum and a couple of mates)to immediately click through and read it here.

Electro-Kevin said...

Thanks to Barnsley Bill for directing me here and indeed a great post Not PC.

The problem is that you can argue until you're blue in the face about the rights and wrongs of Political Correctness but they will NEVER listen.

Don't even try to convert the PC brigade. Watch them at every turn and defeat them. Don't give them an inch as their methods are insidious and unrelenting. They have destroyed the UK and there is no way back for us now.

It starts in the colleges (most notably teaching colleges) where young and easily influenced minds can be intercepted. Also the popular media - trash TV, kid's TV and soaps where ideas are pushed subliminally.

Without wishing to sound hysterical about this you are but a generation away from being robbed of your culture. Value it and defend it at every turn or they'll be teaching your kids African drumming over classical music before you know it.

No wonder radical Islam and Eastern European gangsters are making such headway here.


Electro-Kevin said...


Political Correctness starts as a joke "Oh it's that barmy lot again !"

Next thing you know they're in power.

Recently we had a bus driver throw off a couple because he was holding her on a leash "I'm his pet." she claimed - she was serious. Journalists found out they will be raising a family on taxpayer funded benefits as is their entitlement whilst having an 'alternative lifestyle.'

The bus driver is now looking at losing his job.

Employers are terrified of race and gender issues to the point that the majority are discriminated against and quite openly. Devon and Cornwall Fire Service ran recruitment days excluding white males.

But worse ...

We must fund the housing and healthcare of anyone who lands on these shores and claims asylum. Immigrants cannot be discriminated against because they have no skills. Britain has turned into a shit hole in the space of 20 years.

Luke H said...

Great post PC.

The only thing is, your description of the Treaty is how it was SUPPOSED to be.

We all know that it turned out quite differently - the Maori had heaps of land stolen, etc, injustices, etc etc. All standard in NZ history books.

Surely a libertarian solution includes an apology and just compensation by the Crown to Maori tribes involved?

Or are you arguing that the gift of Western culture makes up for all the injustices carried out by the 19th century government?

Daisy said...

very well written and direct...thanks to barnsley bill for the redirect...seems we go through so much turmoid to become great we often forget the principles that made us desireable to everyone else...i'm from the US...not a desireable place to be anymore...we lost the freedom part of our country and are now so PC we walk over the people who were born here or who are LEGAL citizens...pity really...

Electro-Kevin said...

Luke H,

My geography lessons at school were all about the 'injustices' that the British inflicted on the colonies.

The idea of this indoctrination was to engender a feeling of guilt trhoughout my generation which was largely successful. The resistance against political correctness was thus neutralised because we 'deserved it'.

Arrogant though it may seem, YES the gift of western culture does make up for the injustices of the 19th century government. Let them give up modern medicine and the benefits of transport if they are to have an appology or compensation - I wager that they won't take the offer - otherwise you are opening up a deep well of resentment and handing power to minorities (but more so power to malicious white lawyers and activists) PC and minority interest will be used as a vanguard to batter every last vestage of your culture. Whatever ground you give will never be enough and a 'libertarian solution which involves just compensation by the Crown ...' is exactly what you must NOT do right now.

By all means seek independance from the spent force that is the British Commonwealth and one which does not deign to honour the likes of Edmund Hillary.

Don't give an inch. If you want to know what effect relenting will have on your culture then visit me in the UK and I'll gladly show you. Remember to bring your stab proof vest with you though.

Anonymous said...

Mother Ecclesiastica here...

Thanks for that.
You're quite right when you say that Maori didn't 'own' New Zealand.

Same problem here in Australia.
Somehow, us whitefellas are suppose to believe that a bunch of constantly warring tribes 'owned' the whole of this island, and if we'd simply left them alone to get on with the Noble Savage thing, they'd have been realy happy little Vegemites.

The fact that the British chased off the French (whose only interest in the Aborigines was to capture and enslave them and sell them off to god knows where)doesn't get a mention.

The fact that the 'white' Australians chased off an attempted Chinese invasion in the late 1800's and thus saved the lives of the Primitives also gets no 'thank you'.

And of course, there's the Japs in the 1940's who definitely wanted Australia - sans dark-skinned people...

I personally don't think 'white' Australia should be offering any apologies nor 'making amends'.

But if good manners has now become a De Facto Politic: I'd be real willing to accept a pleasant thank you.

I'm not asking for one mind...

Anonymous said...

Over in Australia the recently elected PM, Rudd, is about to "apologise" to the abos for all sorts of bad things that supposedly were done to them. His predecessor, John Howard, consistently refused to apologise for occurances which he and his colleagues had nothing to do with. John Howard used to say that an apology implies wrong doing on the part of those who make it. Howard was also concerned that it would mean accepting an obligation to compensate. Interestingly enough, no sooner had Rudd announced he would apologise (for what? being born?), the abos were already calling for billions of dollars of cash and, more significantly, legislative changes...

Australia will follow New Zealand into the black hole of national socialism soon enough it would seem.


KG said...

"Or are you arguing that the gift of Western culture makes up for all the injustices carried out by the 19th century government?"


KG said...

And...some of my wife's ancestors were murdered by Maoris--can she expect an apology for that sometime soon?
Of course not and she wouldn't expect one because the whole idea is absurd.

Anonymous said...

Hear, hear, PC.

I speak as one whose family came here in 1843, first native NZ'er in the family born 1844

Rebel Radius said...

Thoroughly splendid work Peter.

KG, I totally agree. Wouldn't it be wonderful to get this out to every household.

Anonymous said...

Tim Wikiriwhi has an excellent article here about property ownership.

Foreshore and Seabed Bill Submission

Tim, may I suggest you write more excellent articles like the one above stated above, instead of preaching about God. It may pull in more followers to the Libz ideology.

Anonymous said...

A wonderful post. Thanks.

I dream of a day when Maori see the Treaty in this way (i.e. in the way it was written and signed) and so support parties that promote protection of property rights instead of the opposite.

AngloAmerikan said...

LGM, your comments might appeal to a wider audience if you refrained from using the term “abo” which is now widely regarded as an ethnic slur. Australian Aborigine isn’t quite as pithy I know. It’s a shame that there appears to be no better term for Aborigine like how the people once known as Eskimos are now called Inuit. Does anyone know of one?
Have I been too influenced by politically correctness?

KG said...

Anglo, I've lived and worked among Aborigines for years (admittedly, not among the city-based ones) and I've never known them to object to either the term "Abo" or "blackfella".
I suspect the outrage about the term is confined to bleeding-heart whites and black activists, pretty much.

Anonymous said...

I can only echo the positive comments made by others about your post, PC. This is the best article I have ever read on the Treaty..... many thanks for writing it. It should have been published in all the daily newspapers and I am sure there are very few journalists or columnists who could have made as good a job of it as you have - let alone surpassed it.

It seems that in many parts of the world British colonialism was largely a matter of "1.beat the darkies into submission with huge amounts of judiciously applied firepower; 2.teach them who's boss; 3.force them to do it our way; 4.develop a viable colony on the ruins based on trade with Mother England". The New Zealand experience, though, was refreshingly experimental in that steps 1 to 3 were largely dispensed with and the Brits jumped almost straight to stage 4 and the country went almost immediately into growth and prosperitity (relatively speaking).

As it turns out, though, the resentment and angst invented and fanned into full flame by the natives seems to be just as intense as if the Brits had carried out steps 1 to 3 with a vengeance. In fact, listening to these miserable specimens carrying on and on and on and on about the 'evils' of this country's foundation make me wonder if the whole "New Zealand" thing should more accurately be seen as a failed experiment. A nice try, but it hasn't really worked out, has it?

Anonymous said...

Dave Mann is quite wrong in his summing up of British Colonialism.

The British did not act that way, generally speaking, but other Colonial powers (most notably Belgium) did.

The British were interested in making money, exporting our language, legal system, values, culture etc.

The British did not enter a Country and start walloping people...that is a Communist myth (which has to be repeated 10 million times to make it true)

The British entered a Country, claimed it by doing little more than saying "Henceforth this is a British Colony" and commenced commercial or farming or mining activities, and forging good relations with tribal Chiefs and others.

The numbers of British people in the average Colony were quite small...for example, there were perhaps 10,000 in India at any given moment, mostly Civil Servants and Businessmen and their families.

Lord Clive, for example, his military victories in India were against the French, or against locals who were 'put up to it' by the French.

The myth that India was 'invaded' and 'conquered' has emerged due to Indian embarrassment, as Lord Clive had 1100 troops against 50,000 and won...so naturally the Indians want to make out they were overwelmed by an enormous army of rapacious British troops, rather than a handful of chaps who were ill fed, ill clothed and suffering from the heat.

Anonymous said...

Yes Elijah, you are correct. I was generalising really, but trying to make the point that very often in other colonies, although the first moves were largely trading and diplomatic, there was usually either a large war or a series of bitter smaller wars which the British tended to win, following which, a period of peace ("pax britannica") and relative growth was established.

In India, of course, the British encountered a civilisation that was vibrant, flourishing and cultured and had been so for three thousand years before they arived and you are right, they were neither invaded nor conquered - the Brits sub-contracted to build their civil service and railways etc and when they had finished, they were politely shown the door!

I think, compared to other European empires (the Dutch in the east Indies... my God! The Belgians in Africa), the British were much more restrained militarily and their colonies were built on trade and diplomacy rather than being simply stripped of their resources and slaughtered as a matter of principle. The African British colonies, for example, were dynamic viable economies that were self-supporting while sending their produce 'back home' to Mother England. Compare these places then to what is happening now...!

However, I don't think there are any other examples of the British signing a treaty with native people like they did with the Maoris here; that is, a treaty INSTEAD of a devastating bloody war, rather than an IMPOSED peace treaty following a military annahilation. I may be wrong, but I think New Zealand is historically unique in this respect. And, funnily enough, there seems to be more smouldering resentment about 'colonialism' here in some circles that there is in other places I have visited; Australia, India and Singapore come to mind in this respect.

AngloAmerikan said...

The communists weren’t lying entirely about British atrocities during the colonial era. The Summer Palace in Beijing was deliberately burnt by British and French forces during the Opium War (1860) to punish the Chinese. I believe it took three days of systematic destruction to finish the job. The British along with their mates returned in 1900 and burnt it all down again. Even today you can view the ruins of the European Palace which the Chinese decided not to rebuild in order to show people the reality of Western aggression.
It would probably be fair to say that the British weren’t as bad as others but I think the truth is somewhere in the middle of the above views.