Hot Topic Reporting season
Hot Topic Reporting season
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Can Libertarianz step up?

OPENING SALVO Government spending as a percentage of GDP has grown since 2008. Now National is flirting brazenly with NZ First's Winston Peters.

Matthew Hooton
Mon, 01 Oct 2012

The grievances are many and growing.

Government spending as a percentage of GDP has grown since 2008 and Finance Minister Bill English borrows hundreds of millions of dollars a month, mainly for welfare.

Prime Minister John Key broke his promise of further tax cuts, yet his pledges to keep Labour’s Working for Families, interest-free student loans and current superannuation entitlements remain inviolable.

Fiscal surplus is elusive. Even if New Zealand reaches balance for a year or two this decade, Treasury’s long-term fiscal outlook indicates that, without major policy change, public debt will surpass Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain well before mid-century.

A vast new bureaucracy has been established to hand out corporate welfare while other bureaucracies work on five-year plans.

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs, the Ministry of Maori Development, the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs, the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, the Office of Ethnic Affairs, the Ministry for the Environment, NZ On Air and dozens of other unpopular agencies and quangos continue to exist.

Efforts to expand the private sector into health, education, welfare and ACC are half-hearted at best.

Nothing serious has been done to reform the Resource Management Act, which Steven Joyce rightly points out has already held up new job creation on the West Coast for seven years – with no end in sight.

There is no true freedom to contract under the Employment Relations Act.

While SOEs are not being privatised, management of Te Urewera National Park will be, as part of a Treaty of Waitangi deal with a tribe that didn’t sign it.

Rogue spy agencies are intercepting New Zealand residents’ communications and passing their business secrets to foreign powers.

The nanny state is re-emerging in welfare, including the requirement to enrol children in early childhood centres, seen by some as peddlers of socialist doctrine.

National is flirting brazenly with NZ First's Winston Peters.

It’s quite a list and the classical liberal movement should be booming, especially with National’s support falling and the combined Labour/Green vote leading the polls. That ACT languishes on 0.5% underlines that party’s abject failure.

A new liberal bloc
Next weekend, the Libertarianz will hold their annual conference in Auckland.

The party has a record of electoral failure exceeding even where ACT is today, peaking at just 6000 votes in 1999.

In its defence, the party points out – with some justification – former National leader Don Brash, former Act MP Deborah Coddington and former United Future MP Marc Alexander can be seen as previous parliamentary torchbearers for its ideas.

This year, though, it is getting serious, calling its conference Towards a True Liberal Bloc in parliament. Its doors are open to anyone who believes there needs to be a new political party in parliament advocating small-government, liberal solutions to economic and social problems. 

It believes next year’s local body elections will provide a proof-of-concept opportunity, claiming some rural and provincial New Zealanders are facing rates rises of up to 40%, largely because of parliament’s idiotic 2002 decision to grant local government general competence.

Libertarianz representation on councils and parliament would undoubtedly be good for New Zealand, but achieving it will require discipline which classical liberals and libertarians are programmed to resist.

Historically, like the far left, the movement has suffered from regular schisms.

While all libertarians agree that self-interest, individual rights and capitalism are the ethical, political and economic systems of objectivist philosophy, some insist the political wing must also insist, for example, on romantic realism in art. 

Others believe broadly in classical liberalism but would be quite happy with, say, vouchers for all schools rather than wholesale abandonment of the state system.

There are potentially as many different opinions as there are libertarians over matters from tolerance toward Islamism or creationism being taught in schools to defence.

Without destroying the very nature of libertarianism, a way must be found to accommodate different views while achieving the degree of political discipline necessary to win the 100,000 votes to get into parliament.

The good news for everyone who would like to see the Libertarianz succeed is that all matters of political strategy appear to be on the table, including perhaps even the party’s name.

If they do get into parliament they will not see themselves so much as a coalition partner for Mr Key but a faction to give his government a kick up the bum.

Matthew Hooton
Mon, 01 Oct 2012
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Can Libertarianz step up?