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Maxim Institute: real issues. this week: No. 53

Maxim Institute: real issues. this week: No. Fifty-Three

Contents: * Public cash for cup The Government has committed $5.6 million to the next America's Cup challenge but serious questions can be asked about this decision. * PC resistance talks Visiting PC expert Dr Frank Ellis speaks out. * 1984 becomes 2003 A politician says its 'unacceptable' to allow a Christian group to show particular videos; this action, she says, is 'hate speech'. * Maxim Forum 2003 Auckland, March 22, register now.

Public cash for cup

The Government has today committed $5.6 million to Team New Zealand for the next America's Cup. When the Prime Minister was asked on Tuesday if the Government should be funding an attempt to win back the cup she said: "The Government's role was whatever the Government defined it to be" (Dominion Post, 4 March). She went on to say: "And if it's beneficial we tend to look for some way to be associated with it."

But who will really benefit to justify the taxpayer funding? After all, it's going to be sailed on the other side of the world. Air New Zealand will benefit by taking people and equipment to the cup venue, and supporters of yachting and others directly connected with the event will obviously benefit. And, if the New Zealand syndicate does well, there will be status and work for local boat builders. These groups, then, should put up the money.

There are numerous events and sports the Government could also sponsor, but it appears to be offering money riding a wave of big business opportunity. National pride is also an issue, but this is even more problematic: do we need the Government to drive it, assuming, of course, we know what 'national identity' actually means? Surely national identity is a grass roots thing, not defined and shaped by the state.

But most worrying is the claim that the Government's role is whatever the Government defines it to be. Imagine if this philosophy were adopted across the board? This reminds us that politics is all about power, not principle. Even contemplating spending taxpayer money to support the next America's Cup attempt is astounding. The initial $5.6 million based on spurious notions of national identify and the public good is just a start.

PC resistance talks

Visiting English academic Dr Frank Ellis has been discussing the origins political correctness (PC) in the former Soviet Union and also how to resist it. Here are snippets from a talk featured on Newstalk ZB this week:

Most people who I meet not involved in the academic study of PC have a gut feeling that something's wrong with it...The Left has conceded to the Right on the economy in the post-Cold War era, but governments such as in Britain and, from what I can gather, in New Zealand too, have very 'liberal' social agendas...the neo-Marxists now believe if you can control language and ideas, you can control everything else. This is why we are finding such extraordinary sensitivity in these people towards traditional ways of expression and belief.

When PC first hit the headlines in the UK about ten years ago, the general response, even from left-wing papers, was it was just another manifestation of American lunacy, another crack-pot American fad. Twelve years later they don't now say those things; PC is a form of soft totalitarianism, a form of mind control - PC advocates have taken control of our universities, of public sector bureaucracies, and increasingly they're using the judiciary to by-pass the ballot box in imposing unpopular legislation and ways of doing things for which they do not have a mandate.

...PC is in fact, a rather unpleasant form of 'Balkanisation'; diversity beyond limits is a great weakness. You only have to look at the former Soviet Union or Yugoslavia. For most of the post-WWII period we were told that Yugoslavia had solved the problem of various ethnic groups living together, but ten years after Tito died, the whole place fell to pieces and tore itself apart in dreadful spasms of genocidal fury.

Dr Ellis says the first step in 'breaking the cycle' is simply not to be intimidated by PC and remain resolute that good argument, rather than intimidation and silence, are critical to the health of a free society. An Audio-cassette tape of his talk in Auckland is available for $15 by emailing mailto:amanda@maxim.org.nz or calling (09) 627 3261.

1984 becomes 2003 - learning from Orwell

"The Party is not interested in the overt act: the thought is all we care about", so said Winston Smith's torturer in George Orwell's 1984. Why? The answer is obvious: it limits dissent. But a free society must permit robust debate. In a democracy worthy of the name, people must be permitted to say what they like so long as it's not defamatory.

But the Government Administration select committee chaired by Labour MP Dianne Yates does not think so. The committee disapproves of a Court of Appeal decision two years ago which upheld the right of a Christian group to distribute two videos critical of homosexual behaviour and politics. Previously the videos had been given an R18 rating by the Censor's office. Ms Yates claims that the Court of Appeal decision was 'unacceptable' because it is an example of 'hate speech'. 'Hate crime' clauses were slipped into the Sentencing Act last year. The argument is that 'hate speech' encourages 'hate crime'. But there was no public demand for 'hate crime' legislation neither was there a similar demand for 'hate speech' regulation.

Incitement to murder, vandalism, rape and assault have all been crimes for a long time, and all are, or should be, punished accordingly. They are adequately covered by the law already. 'Hate speech' legislation gives special protection to selected groups; it makes some people more valuable in the eyes of the law than others.

If we are going to embrace the concept of 'hate speech' we must ask ourselves why hate for a group is worse than hate for a person. Any line we draw to distinguish between personal hate and group hate is going to be arbitrary and rife with identity politics. This is exactly what's happening with the select committee's condemnation of the Court of Appeal decision.

Maxim Forum - just five days left to register

Maxim's inaugural Forum on 22 March has an outstanding line-up of speakers. Lawrence (Larry) Reed is president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Michigan - one of the largest and most influential state-based think tanks in America. The topic of his address is: 'The Seven Principles of Sound Public Policy', which will be compelling given what's occurring in New Zealand and what's shaping present public policy. Do plan to come.

Larry will also speak in Christchurch on Thursday 20 March over a light meal at The Canterbury Club, corner of Cambridge Terrace and Worcester Street, 6 to 8.30 p.m. Cost $20. To register, please phone 03-343-1570, or e-mail mailto:denise@maxim.org.nz.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Adlai Stevenson

A free society is a place where it's safe to be unpopular.

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