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Socialism Revived - An article by Peter Dunne


An Article by Hon Peter Dunne MP
Leader, United New Zealand Party

Most of us like to think of the rise of Mikhail Gorbachev and the subsequent fall of the Berlin Wall as the final deaths of socialism. In New Zealand it had died many years earlier, of course. The Fourth Labour Government had seen to that!

But now, many years later, there are signs of life in the old corpse. In New Zealand, of all places. But it is not the advent of Jim Anderton that is responsible, but rather his Cabinet colleague, Mickey Savage look-alike, Dr Michael Cullen.

Dr Cullen has always been a far more left-wing politician that he has been widely portrayed. Indeed, claims that Dr Cullen is a moderate really show how left wing the current Labour Caucus is. Dr Cullen’s plans for a dedicated superannuation fund have all the aspects of old style socialism that would make the Kremlin proud.

However, it is dressed up the Cullen plan has all the traditional socialist elements of wealth redistribution; envy of success; and complete disincentive for personal initiative.

The superannuation fund is about wealth redistribution because it is essentially saying that instead of using future budget surpluses to cut tax rates, the Labour/Alliance government will use the surpluses to boost its superannuation fund, thus bolstering the retirement incomes of the least well-off, at the expense of the better-off. Dr Cullen has not just rested at increasing the personal tax rate for the top 5% or so; he is now going one step further and denying everyone saving for their retirement the chance of future income tax reductions.

The Cullen plan has all the classic signs of envy and intolerance of individual success. Its perpetuates the flaw that rather than reward society’s achievers, it sees their success – in this case, being able to save for their own retirement – as no more than a justification for saying that they can therefore afford to save for someone else’s retirement as well.

And the strategy also reinforces the Left’s traditional view that people cannot and should not be trusted to look after themselves. Where people do exercise personal initiative, the Dr Cullens of this world prefer to turn a blind eye, and see that as those people’s problem, rather than their achievement. In his version of the Kiwi clobbering machine, people thinking and providing for themselves are to be strongly discouraged, because some may be more successful than others, and that would never do.

Dr Cullen’s grand superannuation plan has more to do with restoring modern day socialism as the dominant ideology after more than a decade of the laissez faire approach of the centre Right, than it has with sustainable superannuation policy. Labour is trying to re-write the nation’s ideological script away from self-reliance and more in favour of collective responsibility, in superannuation, as in accident insurance, education, health and industrial relations.

Their fundamental problem, however, is that the generation of voters they are relying on to pay for the return to socialism are those who have grown up since the mid 1980s, and who know no different world from today’s individualistic, self-reliant one. Not even Dr Cullen will be able to turn their pages of history backwards.
(17 March 2000)


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