*SOLO-NZ Op-Ed: Dystopia Now!*
*By Lance Davey *
It is a characteristic of dystopic literature and films, that the subjects of the story are unaware of the situation that they are in. The glaringly obvious nature of the times is made abundantly clear to the audience as the storyteller is able to tell their tale from outside the world, separated from the obfuscation within and communicating it to an audience unburdened with the prejudices and relativism of that world. There is usually a protagonist in the form of an individual or group, who - through some kind of process or benefit of insight - is able to see the world unblinkered and clashes with the dystopic system.
The most common setting in the dystopic genre is the BGPS: "Big Government Police State" (think *Brazil* or *1984*) and occasionally the PAAW: "Post Apocalyptic Anarchic Wilderness" (think *Mad Max *or *Waterworld*). The BGPS stories are horrific for anyone with any sense of individuality, a sense of ego or sense of life. The systematic oppression of the individual, the ego, the one part in all of us that lets us know that I am me, and you are you, is the most effective strategy to bring about a static and controlled society. Governmental desire for a static and controlled society comes from the failure to constitutionally limit the scope and function of government. When governments are permitted the use of force as a means, their "ends" must be limited. In the dystopic genre, the governments have not had or have ignored a constitutional restraint placed on their ends - i.e. their functions - and/or they have not had or have ignored constitutional restraints on their means. They either gradually, as part of a "slippery slope", or suddenly as a response to emergency, assume more and more responsibility and consequently power.
The "sudden" rise to power of a BGPS occurs when constitutional limitations on the function of government and enshrined individual rights are present but are ignored in the name of an "emergency". The *gradual* rise to power of a BGPS comes about when there are little or no constitutional limits on the function of government or enshrinement of the rights of individuals. These are not usually planned by some moustache-twirling villain, they are the natural consequence of handing over the use of force to people, assigning them the vague job of "make the country work properly" and letting them do it with no more limitations on the "how" or "what" than 3- or 4-yearly elections. Gradually the voters will become more and more tolerant of more and more abuses of individual rights. At first they might seem abhorrent, until someone helpfully points out the greater good that will be achieved. Oh of course rights are important, but the absolutes given in an enshrined Bill of Rights get in the way of laws that, if we just for this one instance ignore those rights, will benefit so many, allowing the ever growing and expanding government to efficiently carry out its vague and overreaching functions.
Cindy Kiro, New Zealand's Children's Commissioner, provides us with a stark example. Kiro's proposal to reduce the number of children dying or harmed by neglect or abuse is to have all parents of newborn children assign a state-approved monitor to perform regular check-ups on their child, and a standardised state program that will monitor "*the development of every child and young person in New Zealand through co-ordinated planned assessment at key life stages... The assessments would take into account the whole child: their physical, social, educational, emotional, and psychological development*." Protecting citizens from the initiation of force (not to mention allowing them the means of their own protection), in terms of child *abuse (*not punishment), is a legitimate function of government. However, mandatory mass monitoring of *everyone, just in case *is not a legitimate means to achieve that function. It violates limitations that *should* exist on the means.
Another example is the prohibition of certain substances, the latest being BZP, and the mandatory doping of the food supply with "beneficial" substances, the latest being the compulsory fortification of bread with folate. Here the government oversteps the ends - its function. By assigning the government the function of health provision, they have a vested interest in what we put in our bodies. If this is not obvious, consider that the government-run health service relies on taxpayer funding, and unlike private health care, to run efficiently it needs to run *less *not* more. *To reduce the strain on government-provided health care, the government needs to use the means of force, that we have given them, to keep people healthy and *not * *use* the government-provided health care. A private health provider is happy to get your business and has no vested interest in your lifestyle; government-provided health care *does not want* your "business" and will try to get away with using as much force as it can to prevent it, prohibiting and mandating what you can, cannot, must and should put in your own body.
We're living in a dystopia now. We're not on the edge of a slippery slope or looking at the thin end of a wedge. We're on our way down the slope and that wedge is closer to the fat end than the thin:
- The government is restrained only by popularity. We have no enshrined or constitutionally protected rightsâ€”they can all be ignored so long as popularity can be maintained.
- The first version of the Electoral Finance Bill was deemed to be in line with the Bill of Rights Act - it wasn't. The final Electoral Finance Act still isn't. Labour banked on maintaining enough popularity to get away with it. And with the shut- down of political discourse because of the act, they just might.
- The Resource Management Act, which nationalises private property and subjects almost all modification and alteration of it to public, ethnic and governmental scrutiny, had no checks and balances against the Bill of Rights Act - which does not include property rights, and even if it had, the BoR is completely toothless and can be safely ignored with the right amount of spin, as seen with the Electoral Finance Act.
- The government, with cross-party support, has banned BZP, based on findings and research that could just as easily provide a case for the prohibition of caffeine, if you accept the "harm minimisation" argument.
- *Cigar Aficionado, *a cigar lifestyle magazine was banned from distribution and sale in New Zealand. People are not allowed to read a magazine about tobacco. YOU are NOT ALLOWED to print a magazine about cigars!
- The last-minute blocking of the sale of Auckland International Airport, to a Canadian pension fund, shows how little protection we have from an unrestrained and potentially unlimited government. There was absolutely nothing to stop them interfering; they were instantly able to in effect nationalise private property, using the two magic, vaguely defined "S's": Strategic and sensitive.
- The police want the government to force Vodafone and Telecom to keep a record of all text messages in a database that they can search retroactively with a warrant. And there is nothing, nothing at all, but popularity stopping the government from going ahead with it.
Is this just about the Labour government? No. This is about government - full stop. Look at those examples listed. National has never been interested in enshrining the Bill of Rights or drafting a constitution. National gave us the RMA, and recently voted *against* the inclusion of property rights in the Bill of Rights Act. National MP Jacqui Dean was a champion of the anti-BZP movement. National leader, and then Prime Minister Jenny Shipley banned* **Cigar Aficionado*, citing a case of the public good requiring the trumping of the Bill of Rights' freedom-of-publication clause.
Both Labour and National (including their hangers-on like the Greens, NZ First, The Maori Party) have the potential and desire, and their track record backs it up, to further the dystopic Big Government Police State. We have given the government the means in the use of force, to achieve a scope of function limited only by popularity, and they have *billions *of dollars at their disposal to help them stay popular. It is in our vital interest that we constitutionally limit both their function and their means, in an enshrined Bill of Rights and Constitution that is above and beyond democracy. A Constitution and Bill of Rights that protects an individual's means of survival, namely the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of property.
One political party in New Zealand, Libertarianz, has such a constitution drafted. A constitution that both limits governmental scope and guarantees as inalienable individual rights and sovereignty. These cannot be trumped by popular vote or appeals to the perceived "public good". They are inviolate and inalienable, and enshrining them in a Bill of Rights as part of a Constitution for New Zealand would immediately halt and reverse the march of the Big Government Police State.
There is often a hint given in dystopic literature and films, that at some point in the past this was all avoidable. That at some point, had people been more aware or willing to fight or recognised the signs and utilised their reason that it could have been avoidable. Here in New Zealand, that time is now.
Vote Libertarianz - For Permanent Relief From Tyranny.
A Constitution For New Freeland: http://www.libertarianz.org.nz/?article=58