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They're All Wrong

Entry 1929, on 2018-08-15 at 21:18:37 (Rating 3, Politics)

Some political commentators are predicting the imminent demise of New Zealand's libertarian party, Act. And many people might be celebrating this possibility, but I'm not so sure. First, some background...

New Zealand was a bit late in entering the neoliberal revolution which was started mainly by Reagan in the US and Thatcher in the UK, but when we did take that route in 1984, we took a more pure and extreme path, especially compared with the highly controlled, protectionist, and socially conservative policies we had up until then.

Oddly the National Party, which is theoretically a socially conservative and more business oriented party, was replaced with a Labour government which traditionally is far more socialist, but had been hijacked by a new libertarian group. So a moderately right-oriented party practicing socialist policies was replaced by a traditionally center-left party with extreme libertarian ideas.

After the revolution started it was kept going by both parties for many years, and it is only recently that neoliberal (I'm using the words neoliberal and libertarian loosely to mean the same thing here) economic policy has been rejected because of the harm it causes.

So there was rarely a lot of room for a true libertarian party to exist, because those policies had been adopted to varying degrees by both the center-left and center-right, and now that those bigger parties have backed away from libertarian ideology there is still no great need for one because most voters don't want libertarian economics any more.

That means that, apart from on a few occasions, Act has always struggled to exist here, just like true libertarian parties have struggled everywhere, even in the US where they might be thought to be more acceptable. In fact, it is only through an arrangement with Act's closest ally, National, that they have any influence at all.

And Act seems to attract odd people to its ranks. Successive leaders have all been a bit eccentric, and the current leader, David Seymour, is no exception. But I quite like him in many ways because he has fresh ideas and it not too constrained by what is considered politically correct or pragmatic.

So, while I reject libertarian economic dogma (pro-privatisation, small government, low tax, user-pays, anti-intervention) in broad terms, I do recognise that there is a lot of value on some of those ideas and that the libertarian political philosophy has a place in our system.

But it is unlikely I would vote for Act, because being well to the left politically I sometimes feel like a vote for the Green party is more worth considering. But then I see some of their more outrageous policies and philosophical perspectives and I think, can I really vote for a party which supports an idea like that?

In recent times the most annoying types of Green beliefs, to me, tend to be in the area of political correctness. If you follow this blog you will know this has been a theme of recent posts and that I have "gone to war" against PC recently. This makes voting for parties on the left more difficult.

In reality, I would prefer not to vote for the right or for the left. As I have said in earlier posts, it is really a matter of choosing the least bad option, and that tends to be the center-left for me.

That's why I think direct democracy would be a far better fit for my political philosophy. Each major issue could be voted on, and if a new idea which I like is more right oriented when I helped vote in a party of the left, I wouldn't regret my vote (and potentially the other way around with left and right reversed).

In that way we would get a mix of policies instead of having to accept the preference of the party currently in charge. Of course, it would still come back to a popularity contest, and one where there would be no guarantee that ideas I preferred would succeed, but that's just an inevitable consequence of living in a democracy. That can't be avoided, unless I found a way to become supreme dictator, and governments operating on those principles haven't been conspicuously successful in the past!

But under either a direct or representative democracy there is still a need for a mix of ideas. As well as the moderate parties of the left and right, we need the more specialist and extreme groups to be represented. That includes libertarianism, populism, environmentalism, indigenous rights, and even anarchy, neo-Marxism and - dare I say it - neo-fascism. Let all the ideas, however extreme, interact to give the best results.

So, if Act does disappear I won't be celebrating. I think libertarian economic policy has been responsible for many of the problems the world faces today, but they also have some good ideas, especially in their support for maximum individual freedom. And every other party I know of, no matter how far from my beliefs they appear to be in theory, has some policies that I like.

In the end, in some ways they are all right. But also, they're all wrong.

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Comment 1 (4936) by Jim on 2018-08-30 at 12:01:39:

Seems that you are stating the obvious here. Of course they are all right and all wrong. No one is perfect. But who is MORE right and who is MORE wrong?

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Comment 2 (4937) by OJB on 2018-08-30 at 19:34:44:

That is a fair point. But many people don't act that way. They always support stuff from “their side”, but always reject stuff from the “other side”.

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