Heather Roy's Diary – 26 May 2006
Heather Roy's Diary – 26 May
This week's guest columnist is Helen Simpson, President of ACT On Campus. Helen is a student at Auckland University.
The comment I am most frequently faced with after declaring my political beliefs is that I am selfish. Unfair. Immoral. It is difficult to convince students that Classical Liberalism is the fairest and most moral political philosophy. Socialism seems so much more appealing to students, at least on the surface.
Take last week, for example, when Auckland University celebrated Eco- Week. According to its organisers, Eco-Week provides a "big helping of local live music, vegetarian food, environmental info and debate". It seemed to be a valuable opportunity for environmental groups to promote innovative ways to sustain our environment. The university was buzzing: music hummed in the background while environmentally sound freebees were given away, and the smell of freshly cooking sausages snaked its way through the area.
However, the week was destined to be little more than a pillaging of student resources and a one-sided meditation on a narrow set of views. On Thursday, the "Student Representative Council" at Auckland University - a group of around fifty self-selected students - passed a motion that the Auckland University Students Association (AUSA) urge the Government to place a ban on unsustainable light bulbs.
I discovered that sustainable light bulbs last significantly longer than ordinary light bulbs and are much more economically viable. They sounded perfect. So why, I asked, have I never heard of them? And, if they are so much more efficient, why would anyone buy any other type of light bulb? Finally, and most importantly, if they are so wonderful, why is there a need to ban unsustainable ones?
I found that sustainable light bulbs, although cheaper to sustain, destroy many older light fittings when turned on and they also omit a blindingly bright light. To fit them into new buildings is rational; to be forced into replacing all old light fittings is ludicrous, especially for those who would rather pay to feed their family than to replace an entire household's lighting.
A minority of students, many of whom contribute little more to the economy than purchasing baked beans and two-minute noodles, are pressuring for legislation that would force many New Zealanders into financial hardship for the sake of defunct and irrational ideology. Although the likelihood of such a bill passing at parliamentary level is slim, the rationale behind it remains a classic case of elitism.
Behind this absurdity lurks a much more malevolent force involving compulsion, hypocrisy and the destruction of human lives.
What bothers me further about the Eco-Week 'celebration' is that it was student funded - not through voluntary donations, but rather acquired through the compulsory student levy that is used to fund student affairs.
Through no choice of their own, the 32,000 plus students of Auckland University were forced to fund a highly politicised event at huge cost.
$150 of the money allocated to 'Eco-Week' was used to buy an ancient Persian smoking device, otherwise known as a Hookah, to promote 'safer smoking substances.' In between snipes at the immorality of 'corporate overproduction', apple scented tobacco smoke billowed past in carcinogenic clouds.
Funds also went towards an organic egg and spoon race. Many of its organisers, while having a ball of a time throwing around exorbitantly priced eggs, wore t-shirts that encouraged an end to world hunger and poverty.
I began to wonder how morality and fairness ever came to be attributed to the political parties and individuals behind such an event. While one Greens member began a rant about the evils of free trade, another anti- corporate woman dressed in a Chinese- manufactured chicken suit smoked a Benson and Hedges through her beak.
It is easy to dismiss such sights as harmless student protest. But the effects go much deeper into issues of morality and fairness. There is no morality or fairness involved in compulsion; neither can there be in hypocrisy. The example used above is just one of many that ACT on Campus encounters at universities on an everyday basis. It is part of the reason why we are involved in politics and why we maintain such an active opposition. Most students are not irrational; however, those that scream loudly are difficult to ignore.
Like all ACT members, we realise that the beauty of free-market capitalism lies in its ability to expand ingenuity and entrepreneurship. We know that freedom and choice is fairest to everyone, and unlike socialists, we understand that individuals place a higher value on self- protection and environmental protection than governments do. Free-market capitalism is the only system that provides us with the incentives to do so.