Free Press, 29 October 2018
History Carries On
Francis Fukuyama wrote in 1989 that we’d reached the ‘End of History.’ The communists had lost, we won, and a mutually reinforcing combination of free markets and liberal democracy would end the intrigue, conflict, and sheer barbarism that made up human history. This month, Fukuyama wrote a giant mea culpa in Foreign Affairs that can be read online here.
That Was Then
Nobody has celebrated the liberal order more than ACT. Our founders created it in New Zealand, and here it has worked. Even the current Government continues to accept this. It legislated for the TPP in Parliament just last week (see David Seymour getting stuck into the Greens, who opposed it, here). For New Zealand at least, being a free trading liberal democracy with free markets and social tolerance (with exceptions that the Free Press has mentioned once or twice) has worked.
This Is Now
The problem is that our friends around the world are not playing ball. President Xi is concentrating power around the Communist Party to Maoist levels at home and China is increasingly imperialistic abroad. The Brazilians are about to elect a president who thinks having a daughter is a ‘moment of weakness,’ amongst other bigotry. America is turning its back on free trade. The Philippines have a president who’s not too fussed with the rule of law. South Africa is imploding, and we won’t mention Russia.
What Does Fukuyama Say?
Identity politics is to blame. The left gave up helping poor people years ago. The welfare state has failed those it was supposed to help but for the left it is all too hard. Their bizarre opposition to charter schools is just one local example. Instead the left have focused on an ever-fragmenting range of victims and interest groups. Currently, Parliament is legislating to allow you to change your gender by signing a form while Oranga Tamariki (CYFS) is putting up 14 year old kids with foetal alcohol syndrome unsupervised in Dunedin hotel rooms.
Not Just the Left
The right are prone to identity politics, too. They may not be into extra rights for LGBTIQ+, persons of colour, persons with ‘lived experience’ (what other kinds are there?), women, the disabled, or people who ‘experience’ multiple of these identities through ‘intersectionality’. Their identity is that they’re the people left who are opposed to all of the above. Around the world the old Labour parties are haemorrhaging votes to nationalist type parties. Had it not been for the political phenomenon that is Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand First might have done much better in the 2017 New Zealand election.
What’s Your Identity?
BMG Research out of the UK have interviewed 30,000 voters and identified 10 subtribes or ‘clans’ that all voters fit into. It is a lot more rigorous than local tests and, unlike most overseas ones, it doesn’t have many issues that are obviously irrelevant to New Zealand. Most ACT members that have taken the test are either ‘Orange Bookers’ or ‘Notting Hill Society.’ Feel free to take the testand send your result as a reply to this email.
Another Kindred Voice
The Economist has come to similar conclusions as Fukuyama in its well circulated essay ‘the Economist at 175, reinventing liberalism in the 21st Century.’ It seems that economic policy has gone out of vogue in favour of identity politics, and it is terrifying. The 19th century was relatively peaceful as a time of free trade and growing prosperity, then the 20th century happened. We appear to be back on the downstroke of this cycle.
Ahead of Our Time
The Economist and Fukuyama both endorse ACT’s New Zealand Values Statement, the idea that people who want to join New Zealand should sign up to the liberal values of individual freedom and social tolerance. They both observe that if we want the peace and prosperity Fukuyama promised thirty years ago, it is going to require concessions to the nation state (e.g. Make America Great Again), while celebrating liberal values at the same time. The usual tedious folks all did their usual affected snigger when ACT talked about this policy two years ago, we were just ahead of our time.
A More Important Mission
The left’s abandonment of real policy makes ACT’s mission more important than ever. We were founded as the party with new solutions to old problems. We showed the left up when charter schools helped the most disadvantaged kids. There is a lot more where they came from. How can we empower the most vulnerable in our society to get a better deal instead of just giving them more money and making more rules to protect them from themselves? Clearly not with the government monopoly approaches we’ve tried for the last 80 years.
Economics Ain’t Dead Yet
New Zealand’s real problems are not identity politics, no matter what the left may think. They are that the welfare state has failed. Too many kids don’t get educated. Too many working aged adults are on welfare. Too many are in jail because there is too much crime and they’re never rehabilitated. Housing has gone from a commodity to a ponzi scheme. Our productivity growth is anaemic. With government's and councils’ approach to regulation, it’s amazing anyone still does anything. That’s why we need an ACT Party in New Zealand.