Hot Topic NBR Focus: GMO
Hot Topic NBR Focus: GMO
7 mins to read

The Hobbit versus the world

Thu, 30 Sep 2010

The link between public funding and a sense of entitlement is too close for comfort.

Sir Peter Jackson has done everyone a favour with his broadside attacking the role of actors’ unions in deciding whether films should be made and under what conditions.

As a generalisation, actors are not the most politically or economically astute people, in my experience, and their attitude toward those who have money is not much different from other forms of rent-seeking.

Sir Peter may have made a lot of money for himself and his studio backers – but he is also mindful of the generous tax breaks his industry receives (not to mention programme subsidies for TV networks).

Simply put, The Hobbit is too big to fail if the film industry is to have a viable commercial future. Attempts to derail it are no different from the watersiders and other unions who held the country to ransom for many decades.

The Australian actors’ union and its New Zealand arm have now effectively put the government in the position of having to underwrite Sir Peter’s project if there is any hope of salvaging an industry into which taxpayers have put so much already in the hope of longer term benefits.

Arts and Culture Commissar Chris Finlayson will need more than a legal ruling in Sir Peter’s favour to pull this off. Hollywood economics may be the least transparent in the world – but the thought of listening to the country’s actors wanting handouts because they have no jobs would be too much to bear.

The real Owen Glenn
Pilloried for being an entrepreneur at a time when Labour had no need for successful business backers, the global logistics magnate has been brushing up on local knowledge to avoid future embarrassment.

Having substantially funded the eponymous building that houses the University of Auckland Business School, Mr Glenn has been in town this week talking entrepreneurship and philanthropy to students and networkers.

But most telling at an off-the-record lunch function was the parallel with Sir Peter. While I must paraphrase Mr Glenn’s words, though the confidential nature of his speech was not his decision, I can report that he attributes part of his success to his role in breaking the union stranglehold over American ports.

This occurred during the introduction of containers, a story told in an excellent book called The Box, and led to Mr Glenn creating a business as global as any formed by a New Zealander.

Details on OTS Logistics, the holding company, are here, while a major operating company, Vanguard Logistic Services, has its website here. These businesses operate as what is known as Non-Vessel Operating Common Carriers, buying space in shipping containers through 177 offices and agencies in 105 countries.

Meanwhile, the Glenn Family Foundation handles Mr Glenn's philanthropic activities. In this, he is rivalled only by two other highly successful New Zealanders in global business – Richard and Christopher Chandler, who both run philanthropic organisations.

For whatever reason, all prefer to keep a low public profile, though they are proud of their ventures. When Mr Glenn decides to tell his story more openly, it will be worth hearing.

The next rise of Europe
Europe’s union-instigated day of action against austerity cuts by over-stretched governments won’t make an iota of difference to the outcome.

While left-wing agitation has long been a European phenomenon, the more interesting trend is the rise of right-wing populism, which is dragging governments and countries to the other end of the political spectrum.

Spiegel Online has a typical liberal-media view – its round up is headed “Continent of fear" – and the article emphasises the prejudice and ignorance in these anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic movements.

But Spiegel has a harder job trying to explain why this uprising is greatest in Europe’s model societies of tolerance, enlightenment and social progress – Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Then there’s France, Germany, Austria as well as the post-soviet eastern European countries. Could it be, as Spiegel explains, because

The fear that Muslim immigrants could change the character of European society penetrates deeply into the middle of society … Barbaric practices in some Islamic countries – when women are forced to wear burqas, gays and lesbians are persecuted and adulterers are stoned, all under the pretext of religion – are undoubtedly deeply contrary to modern European values.

The losers have been the old-style social democrat parties, so widely admired by Labour parties in the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

Meanwhile, Newsweek predicts the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition in Britain will be more reformist and far-reaching than Lady Margaret Thatcher’s period in power.

The Left’s fatal conceit
Undoubtedly, the UK will soon follow Germany as the leaders of Europe’s economic recovery, further marginalising the unions.

You may have noticed the pound is steadily recovering while the euro remains mired by sovereign debt issues.

Yet the euro’s woes have been a windfall for Germany’s exporters, even as its government takes the high ground of world monetary policy by refusing to spend taxpayers' funds on stimulus programmes.

Germany’s consumers are probably the best attuned to knowing why and what causes depressions. They prompted a sharp recession by refusing to spend.

But now that fear is over, according to the Economist, as the recovery builds consumer confidence. It is worth noting that Germany’s refusal to borrow and hope has meant its unemployment levels are now lower than when the financial crisis began in 2008.

The final word on the Left’s decline goes to an Italian linguist and philosopher, Raffaele Simone, whose new book, published in French as Le Monstre Doux (“the sweet monster”), analyses why the Right, and its extreme elements, have won the battles of ideas and the ballot boxes.

The Wall Street Journal’s Emma-Kate Symons sums up his argument:

Mr Simone is especially strong on the left's accommodations with Islamism, seeing no common cause with regimes and world-views that are opposed to values of freedom of expression, sexual equality and secularism.

He rails against leftist anti-capitalism and anti-Americanism, the reflexive state interventionism of socialist planners, kneejerk demonisation of the market, and "dangerous sympathies" extended toward dictatorial regimes such as Fidel Castro's Cuba and Hugo Chavez's Venezuela.

But he goes further and says even the non-communist left is sitting on a set of ideas that is "on the edge of bankruptcy."

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The Hobbit versus the world