Sydney Morning Herald on left vs right globally

December 23rd, 2007 at 10:18 am by David Farrar

The Sydney Morning Herald has an in depth article on the challenges facing the right in various countries, including New Zealand.

I chatted to the SMH political editor, Peter Hartcher, for up to an hour on the political situation here.  Always fun to chat politics with interested people.

I suggest people read the full article, but here is an extract about NZ:

In New Zealand, the story is similar. The conservative party, the Nationals, exiled from power since December 1999, have been huddling close in the lee of Labour’s Helen Clark.

More than Britain or the US – indeed, more than any other country – New Zealand was a zealous early adaptor of the Thatcherite market agenda. Per capita, it implemented the biggest privatisation agenda in the world. But the conservative revolution is long since passé and privatisation is a dirty word.

Labour has rolled back some of the early conservative accomplishments. The national system of railway tracks has been re-nationalised. The Post Office banking business, after being sold off, has been re-established. The privatisation of the three national energy companies, halted after the sale of only one, has been frozen. And the National Party is not proposing to change any of these policies.

The conservatives have a popular, young, self-made leader, John Key. “His strategy is ‘don’t rock the boat’,” says David Farrar, a popular conservative blogger who has worked for four Nationals prime ministers and opposition leaders.

“A year ago he tried to shut down traditional areas of controversy – nuclear ship visits and climate change, for example. The Nationals have been ahead in every poll this year and they are likely to win the next election” – due by next November – “but that’s because Labor is old and tired and not because of any upswelling of support for the Nationals’ agenda.”

As with any article, only some of what you say makes it.  Certainly it is true that Key has moved to shut down some areas of difference which could hurt National.  Likewise it is true that the mood is more to throw Labour out, than a popular revolution for National.  I did however give some examples of areas of difference such as allowing minority private shareholdings into some SOEs, the extent of tax cuts, competition for ACC, likely education policy etc.

Some interesting criticism of the Howard Government’s record also by CIS Director Greg Lindsay:

Howard increased the size of the state in Australian life and made it the biggest-taxing and biggest-spending government in the country’s history. Even his signature efforts at deregulation, such as Work Choices, were a confusion of detail rather than a clear retreat of the government, Lindsay argues.

“When you are as rich as Australia is now, you should be reducing the amount of money people receive from government, but Howard increased it. The Howard government forked out obscene amounts of money in Family Tax Benefit A and Family Tax Benefit B. They tried to nationalise the family.”

Sadly all Governments increase spending – the only debate nowadays is by how much. The debate in NZ will be about whether spending increases by $2.5 billion a year or $2.1 billion a year. Now that is what the public want – so they will get it.  But to really push NZ up the global league tables, we would need to be prepared to be a bit radical as to what should the state do and not do.

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45 Responses to “Sydney Morning Herald on left vs right globally”

  1. Graeme Edgeler (3,290 comments) says:

    conservative, DPF?

    [DPF: Yeah these one dimensional labels really don’t work so well.]

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  2. Lindsay Addie (1,595 comments) says:

    What really annoys me with the Nats is they have let the left define what right wing is. Clark and friends for years have made out that the rightwing in NZ is only about asset sales, sucking up to the Yanks, cuts in Govt spending and now having ‘rich pricks’ for friends.

    Key and his party must show some balls and take these assumption on in 2008. A good topic for Key’s first major speech in 2008.

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  3. reid (16,638 comments) says:

    Having re-watched Comanding Heights last night with my brother who hadn’t seen it, I’m feeling re-invigorated this morning by Hayek’s key messages. I completely agree with you DPF about the need to be more radical, but will it happen?

    Conditions are different now. When Douglas came in, the NZ and global economies were stagnating from the widespread application of Keynesian policies. Now the global news is very different, but the US is looking increasingly shaky. If the US economy tanks in 08, and it’s severe enough to cause a global crisis, people in that situation tend to look to government for solutions. I think National is going to be looking at very different global conditions than Labour has been lucky enough to experience.

    Re: Commanding Heights, it’s a brilliant PBS produced 6-hour analysis of the global application of what the media labelled Thaterism/Reaganonmics/Rogernomics. Douglas actually won the 3rd Hayek prize which was a significant recognition of his courage and genius. Lange’s cup of tea and the failure to pursue further reforms by subsequent administrations (except for Ruth Richardson) is a sad reflection on the lack of vision and courage displayed by most politicians on both the left and the right.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/commandingheights/

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  4. Tina (687 comments) says:

    Alas, Lindsay speaks the truth….
    The working economy didn’t mind as long as tax reform went with the middle class welfare, which it did.
    Bracket creep was the Aust taxees greatest enemy.

    Govts use other peoples money like it’s their own and that’s a moral hazard that will never go away. Solution is to make sure they have minimal opportunity to use yours.

    Looking for a newspaper that would fit right in in NZ?…try the Age.

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  5. Tina (687 comments) says:

    As in Dave’s “Greg Lindsay”

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  6. Policy Parrot (174 comments) says:

    The obvious answer to these rumblings are…

    The vast majority of people aren’t interested in having less government, they want better quality government. DPF is right in saying that there is little enthusiasm for the National Party’s agenda amongst the general public.

    Polls consistently advocate devoting more money to health and education. Only those would receive a substantial tax cut are likely to support those over increased social spending. This is why the National Party cannot be certain of victory in 2008 as the Labour-Alliance opposition was in 1999.

    If incumbency is a negative, the Labour Party should engage the public by advocating the beginning of a new agenda for any possible fourth term, with many new personnel to carry it out – along the lines people like Jordan have advocated.

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  7. Lee C (4,516 comments) says:

    I am intrigued by the lack of policy from National.
    So here are a few suggestions for them:

    Scrap the EFA and set up a Royal Commission on Electoral reform
    Explore ways to stimulate investment in NZ’s manufacturing infractructure
    Incentivise settlement throughout NZ not just in Auckland
    Build some hospitals, and better pay for docs and nurses
    Review the foreshore and Seabed Act.
    Invest in public transport – road and rail – or incentivise investment in it
    abolish GST on fruit and Veg
    there’s more, but the wife’s arrived so I must go bye!

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  8. John Dalley (394 comments) says:

    At some stage John Key has actually grow some “Balls” and say what National actually stands for.
    When you sit on the fence for too long, when you slip you tend to feel the agony when ones nuts get crushed.

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  9. Kimble (4,443 comments) says:

    “Polls consistently advocate devoting more money to health and education.”

    Policy Parrot, that is simply because of the assumption that more money means a better outcome. People simply want better health and education outcomes. That should come as a surprise to no one.

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  10. Peak Oil Conspiracy (3,439 comments) says:

    Kimble:

    Policy Parrot, that is simply because of the assumption that more money means a better outcome. People simply want better health and education outcomes. That should come as a surprise to no one.

    That’s a hole in one – do you play golf by any chance?

    Here’s an experiment (I’m sure our resident academic genius, Phillip John/Roger Nome, could point to a journal article). Run a poll with the question: “Should the Government spend more on health and education?“. Then run another poll with the question: “Do you favour paying more taxes so the Government can spend more on health and education?“. Big difference in the poll result, Policy Parrot, no?

    And, please, no clever witticism about the budget surplus, or the Government rechannelling funds from existing spending. It’s the principle that I’m posing.

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  11. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    So depressing to read the words of the ignorant parasites here, to be reminded of what numbers they exist in, and how low this country will need to sink before we are free of their mentally crippled influence. The democratic system is not a means of voting yourself access to the fruits of other people’s labour you tiny minded cretins, and until you realise this, things will continue to get worse. Funny thing is when the country finally bottoms out, it will be your kind that suffers the most. Can’t wait for it myself. You think John Key might be a threat to your well being? What a fucken laff. Wait till reality comes along, then you bludging scum are really going to learn about hardship.

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  12. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,924 comments) says:

    GOH, your mates Clark and Co have succeeded in Americanizing the public service so give them another term and they’ll do the same to health. BTW, have you got any stats on the number of Americans who die in the gutter each year? Most Americans look pretty healthy to me. Please tell me, in exactly what way is the American health system worse than ours? Do they send young mothers home five hours after giving birth? Do they leave old women with broken bones untreated for two days? Do they stack up patients in the corridors because there are not enough beds? Come on, let’s hear it now.

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  13. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    Reid- I wouldn’t watch PBS if I was paid to do so. Get real you dumbo. They’ll tell you as much truth as any leftist propaganda organ.

    The Associated Press
    3/11/02 9:30 PM

    NEW YORK (AP) — Mikhail Gorbachev says the Soviet communism he served most of his life was “pure propaganda.”

    The former Soviet leader told a Columbia University audience on Monday that by the time he rose to power the ruling politicians “were discussing the problem of toothpaste, the problem of detergent, and they had to create a commission of the Politburo to make sure that women have pantyhose.”

    “Soviet politicians operated with lies. We, including I, were saying, ‘Capitalism is moving toward a catastrophe, whereas we are developing well.’ Of course, that was pure propaganda. In fact, our country was lagging behind,” Gorbachev said.

    Change didn’t come easily, either he said. “Well, we did move eventually, but into an abyss, with the economy collapsing and chaos in the economy, chaos in the social sphere, chaos in the federation, chaos in the army, chaos everywhere.”

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  14. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    GOH..??? Forget him- he’s a bludging communist racist troll, the kind of vermin that will vote this country into the abyss.

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  15. John Dalley (394 comments) says:

    Redbaiter! A true Bluecoat. If it’s not Blue it must be a Communist and even it it was Communist, Racist Troll. What a wanker you are to think that one should be the other.

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  16. iiq374 (262 comments) says:

    GOH – interesting; the main difference I seem to see between their and our health care systems is that there is some level of accountability in the U.S. when someone f***s up…

    Same sh** happens here and there is nothing you can do about it

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  17. James (1,338 comments) says:

    Sigh Right wing….Left wing….same turkey at the centre….

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  18. dog_eat_dog (790 comments) says:

    I think it’s probably equally time that Labour comes out and says what they stand for. It’s becoming absurd that they take shots at National from the ‘left’ but fail to exercise any leftist policy at all when it comes to the economy. Take unbundling and Telecom. It’s been a farce. Labour was happy to take the laurels at the time, but have let Telecom get away with retailing below the price that they charge wholesale. And then Cunliffe came out and said he wanted ‘competition’ to determine the price users should pay. Right.

    I think we can all agree that telecommunications is one instance where the free market has failed, yet Labour has managed to fluff around for so long that it will be the end of next year, not the start of 2008, before we see any economic benefits – that’s assuming that they don’t **** it up any more.

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  19. dog_eat_dog (790 comments) says:

    Pardon me, that should read:

    I think we can all agree that telecommunications is one instance where the “free” market has failed,

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  20. iiq374 (262 comments) says:

    DED – Sorry not sure I can agree with you on that; I can agree that introducing “free” market participants into an arena in which the incumbent is highly regulated and subject to Government interference has failed…

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  21. dog_eat_dog (790 comments) says:

    Well yes, it’s been six of one and half a dozen of the other. I personally can see the case for a state-funded network, or one totally determined by a free market without any sort of incumbent at all – but instead of going in a particular direction, all we’ve gone is further down a road that we know isn’t viable.

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  22. iiq374 (262 comments) says:

    but instead of going in a particular direction, all we’ve gone is further down a road that we know isn’t viable.
    There at least I can be in agreement :D

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  23. Labour are scum (58 comments) says:

    # Redbaiter Says:
    December 23rd, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    ‘So depressing to read the words of the ignorant parasites here, to be reminded of what numbers they exist in, and how low this country will need to sink before we are free of their mentally crippled influence. The democratic system is not a means of voting yourself access to the fruits of other people’s labour you tiny minded cretins, and until you realise this, things will continue to get worse. Funny thing is when the country finally bottoms out, it will be your kind that suffers the most. Can’t wait for it myself. You think John Key might be a threat to your well being? What a fucken laff. Wait till reality comes along, then you bludging scum are really going to learn about hardship.’

    Exactly.

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  24. checkthefacts (29 comments) says:

    So National won’t really follow policies very different from Labour. So why bother? Key, like Cameron, is worthless. And unless the Nats have something to offer that is different in regards to policies there is no reason to vote National.

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  25. Tina (687 comments) says:

    Well quite….. checkthe

    NZ is a deeply socialist experience, no matter the party of Govt.

    Key’s attraction is that you/we may get a moment’s respite from a society run at its base and on behalf of your heroic unemployed, AC beneficiary, hiv positive, save the whales, probably part Maori, molested as a child, single mother of 4, most of whom have ADD, with self esteem problems……the mother that is.

    That’s the pretend paradigm.

    In NZ, the values of the middle/ employed classes are subservient to the above…..whereas perhaps the above should trail in the wake of the of the wealth producers and not drive the country’s political philosophy.

    But I vote elsewhere, so it’s your choice.

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  26. stuarts-burgers (97 comments) says:

    GOH
    Here in NZ we have a health system that sucks up huge amounts of money and still does worst than last year in terms of operations done. We have a health care system that seems to want to employ more administrators an not not clinical staff.
    We have a health system that can not find clinical staff due to the little effort s of Helen and Ms Harrie( when she was with the Nurses Org) in throwing pay realative in the sector out the window.

    America does not have a perfect health system but nor do we. Look at the recent and continuing problems at Capital and Coast, look at the problems at Hawkes Bay, look at the post code lottery that can occur in Auckland.

    Labour has chucked billions at the problem with not real result.

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  27. grumpyoldhori (2,362 comments) says:

    stuarts-burgers

    Have you checked how much the yanks spend on health with their free market
    system?
    Now if the Nats had some balls they would
    announce that they would sell off all state owned assets to those who deserve them
    more.
    So is it to be a free market Nat government
    or Labour lite?

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  28. dad4justice (8,313 comments) says:

    grumpyoldhori – talking of health system’s bro, I thought Labour Lite have dropped the ball and lost the plot altogether regarding our dysfunctional health system . What ya reckon bro about what Alister James a member of the Christchurch District Health Board says; “ The system is just not working. Its not working for hospitals, I don’t think it’s working for staff, its not working for patients.”

    I guess they say that in yank hospitals eh bro ?

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  29. Lee C (4,516 comments) says:

    the issue is can NZ stomach a set of radical policies that will challenge the shibboleths that Labour have erected during their tenure in power?

    The answer is no.

    Is there a large enough block of New Zealanders willing to ditch Labour if they have half a chance – hell yes.

    If National produce policies which are not watertight in their appeal and reasoning, Labour will tear them to pieces. Let’s hope there are no ‘Coldplay’ soundtracks attached to any new announcements from National, otherwise, they might as well forget it.

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  30. calendar girl (1,272 comments) says:

    checkthe facts said: “So National won’t really follow policies very different from Labour. So why bother?”

    Tina, your response is spot-on. Key just may have the optimism needed(and the personal experience?) to ensure that NZ will be governed with the mainstream citizen primarily in mind, namely the employed, taxpaying, law-biding citizen who seeks advancement and optimum self-reliance for him/herself and his/her family. Time will tell if Key can deliver this much-needed change in emphasis.

    It is one thing to have empathy and provide support for those genuinely disadvantaged members of our society who require social nurturing and protection. It is quite another to run the whole country in a way that increasing proportions of citizens of able mind and body become dependent on the state for (a) their entire income, or (b) an indispensible proportion of their income.

    One further thing I look to in Key or in any other leader whose government will replace the present administration. That is a standard of integrity that puts the interests of the country before all else. Especially before electoral self-preservation.

    There was a time when the Helen Clark’s government seemed to point to “inclusiveness” as the badge that it would wear most proudly. The kinds of unilateral and divisive policies affecting social mores, welfarism and NZ’s constitutional environment that the Government has served up in recent years have left that badge permanently tarnished.

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  31. Danyl Mclauchlan (1,071 comments) says:

    At some stage John Key has actually grow some “Balls” and say what National actually stands for.

    Yeah – because when your party is 20 points ahead in the polls what you REALLY want to do is start pandering to the lunatic fringe of the far right.

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  32. dad4justice (8,313 comments) says:

    And Danyl, an example of the lunatic fringe of the far right is ?

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  33. Kent Parker (451 comments) says:

    Dog eat Dog, power lines companies is another area that has suffered under ‘privatisation’. I know at least one that was onsold twice, each time at a profit to the private organization that speculated on it, with little maintenance work done. Now the consumers pay a premium for their power to pay for the inflated price that their current owners paid.

    The whole concept of ‘left’ and ‘right’ as discussed on this thread is pretty much redundant, given that it was a ‘left’ wing govt that instituted the first and most far reaching implementation of market laws (NZ Labour 1984). The Key admin, starting in 2008, is likely to be more on the ‘left’ than the ‘right’, judging from what we’ve seen so far, using the simplistic definitions ventured here.

    The ‘left’ is usually the progressive party, the one that insitututes changes. The ‘right’ is usually the conservative party, the one that sticks with the status quo. So it is not unusual that ‘left’ wing policies, once put in place, remain there. A ‘right’ wing govt is not going to change them because they are quite simply conservative and resistant to change. Key is no different in this account. We can be sure that he is not going to support a whole lot of progressive ideas but may roll back one or two of the previous govts bills.

    Don’t get ‘conservative’ mixed up with ‘regressive’. National is not regressive.

    There has always been and always will be massive state intervention in our lives, right through history from Julius Caesar to King Harold and the 20th century nanny state. It is worth adding that until the nanny state, workers could expect to be employed by the same outfit for their lifetime, an outfit, which usually provided, for better or worse, some form of lifetime care. The ‘nanny state’ is a necessary feature of a mobile, flexible workforce in which the responsibility of lifetime care is delegated to central govt. But I agree, there has to be limits and a balance maintained between care and incentive.

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  34. berend (1,716 comments) says:

    DPF: I did however give some examples of areas of difference such as allowing minority private shareholdings into some SOEs, the extent of tax cuts, competition for ACC, likely education policy etc.

    All very significant areas DPF. Labour will give a tax cut of 1%, National will do 1.2%. Minority private shareholding, wow, I’m impressed. Education policy, yeah right. Who introduced NCEA again?

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  35. Oscars Grouchy Mum (83 comments) says:

    Have people not heard the term “keeping your powder dry”.

    Can the left give one good reason why the Nats should be releasing policy now? They have a huge lead already – why give the oposition your game plan this far out from the election.

    Its the National party – not the bloody All Blacks.

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  36. PhilBest (5,125 comments) says:

    The problem is the same all over the western world. The Scandinavian welfare utopias have the highest ratio of national debt to gross national product of any nations. The people themselves, the voters, have been largely blinded by socialist propaganda, seeing the leftwing “long march through the institutions” has been so successful. How many journalists and how many teachers in NZ are even potential ACT voters?

    What has to happen, in one or more countries first, hopefully not NZ, is a full-scale economic collapse due to international creditors closing on these “borrow and hope” operators. NZ at least has been running budget surpluses, in large measure due to the tough calls made by Douglas and Richardson in the 80’s and 90’s. But it is interesting that the raising of the retirement age in NZ to 65 has not been an issue, when France and other welfare utopias LOWERED theirs to 55 at about the same time. So maybe Kiwis CAN see when something is becoming just plain unaffordable.

    NOTHING is more unaffordable than socialised health care, and this is rapidly becoming another potential nemesis of leftwing governments all over the world. Leftwing propaganda has won the battle for voters hearts and minds up to now, so that Roger Douglas’s “third way” proposals have never had a fair go.

    I know that the US system gets criticised as not ideal. here’s some points to consider.

    1) With Medicare and MedicAid, the US system is around 50% socialised anyway.

    2) The US system actually TREATS nearly 100% of those who need treatment, and quickly, so that socialised systems get the advantage of evading the cost of treating all those they successfully fob off – and believe me, our whole system is designed around fobbing people off. Many in the US may actually be unable to pay for their treatment, and their system carries an enormous bad debt write-off burden.

    3) The US system also carries a disproportionate share of the R&D burden for the whole world, and develops medicine and technology that the whole world benefits from.

    4) The US system carries huge malpractice insurance costs, a legacy of the increasingly absurd massive settlements that get awarded by juries manipulated by slick lawyers. THIS is the major element of the US system that should be avoided by nations like NZ.

    The best comparison for NEW ZEALANDERS interested in working out what will work best, is how our PRIVATE sector compares with our public sector. And the comparisons have been so dramatic every time someone with the expertise has carried it out, that it is a testament to the entrenchment of leftwing propaganda in our institutions that the utilisation of the far more efficient private sector has remained a non-starter with the voting public.

    The US for a century or more, represented the land of freedom and opportunity, and the flows of immigration around the world were a powerful testament to what worked and what didn’t, even apart from the conditions that existed in each country, or the rates of improvement. However, it is a question whether the US will remain this way. I fear that the article in the SMH, and the comments of Francis Fukuyama, are right, and that soft Eurosocialist politics of the Hillary Clinton type will win out in the end. Joseph Schumpeter in “Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy”, predicted that Socialist ideas would actually win out in the WEALTHIEST nations.

    It becomes a question, then, where the frustrated lover of freedom emigrates to. I predict that many, if not all, of the Asian powerhouse economies will not make the same mistake as the European nations, and will not introduce ruinous welfarism and socialisation. This will only increase the rate at which they “bury” the western world economically.

    It is interesting, too, that Chrisianity seems to be on the increase in South Korea and elsewhere in the Asian world.

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  37. Kent Parker (451 comments) says:

    Phil,

    Health is probably not a very good example, because a govt subsidized health system is a bottomless pit. You know, stories of 81 year olds getting hip operations and dying the next day. If we had enough life support machines we could increase our average longevity by a decade.

    Education, DPB and UEB and other forms of welfare are more finite and thus controllable.

    Our health systems probably suffer from too large a dependence on reductionist scientific solutions which treat the human body as an objective chemico-physical system. If the Asians end up spending less on public health than we do, then it will likely be due to more holistic health practices and different philosophical outlook on death/reincarnation.

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  38. James (1,338 comments) says:

    A Free Market properly defined is where free people interact without coercion. In a Free market the State plays NO PART WHATSOEVER in the economy or the personal lives of people EXCEPT to punish coercive acts commited by one party agaist another….outside of that role it should sit on the sideline and behave itself.

    As should be obvious no true free market exists in NZ and to blame it for problems caused by GOVERNMENT action is retarded.

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  39. grumpyoldhori (2,362 comments) says:

    Too many socialists in the National party, my
    neighbor is a member of the Nats and when
    I mention that we in the rural areas should
    not have our electricity supply subsidised by
    the urban types, he reeled back in shock.

    Yep, what the punters are looking for in NZ
    is some real changes.
    Having Ruthless Ruth as an advisor to Key
    would go down well with the mug punters.
    So come on Nats, show some real
    difference.

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  40. berend (1,716 comments) says:

    Oscars Grouchy Mum: Can the left give one good reason why the Nats should be releasing policy now?

    I’m not left. But if the National Party is so afraid it policies can be copied by Labour, it clearly indicates it is Labour. Only the faces are different. There are no real policy differences between National and Labour, that’s the whole point Oscar.

    Labour needs to go after the draconian measures of this term. Unfortunately that means the Nats will get in.

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  41. Kent Parker (451 comments) says:

    Why should an incoming govt be armed to the teeth with policy? Why can’t they just come in and govern wihout making radical changes? If they have no preconceived policy then the legislative chambers are free for MPs to thoroughly develop policy in response to what happens on a day to day basis, rather than in response to some ideological mind-set in some right-wing blogger’s head.

    John Key has made his fortune through good investment decisions. There’s a chance, just a small chance, that he may do the same for the country. That, more than anything else will be what compels people to vote for him. Not what he says he will do, through policy, but what he has done through evidential experience.

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  42. James (1,338 comments) says:

    I’m not left. But if the National Party is so afraid it policies can be copied by Labour, it clearly indicates it is Labour. Only the faces are different. There are no real policy differences between National and Labour, that’s the whole point Oscar.”

    So true….if the Nats were to put out policy consistent with their stated principles of private property rights,limited Government and free markets….such as full privatisation of health,education,welfare,roading etc etc….Labour wouldn’t go near them with a barge pole.

    But as National is only Labours tag team partner in power nothing will change much….

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  43. Raffles (69 comments) says:

    James

    Liarbour put out their main policies in the last 21 days before the last election. Why do you want as a “not left” supporter to fuck up a smart “keep your mouth shut” campaign by JK and his team at this stage.

    Being stupid will not win the election.

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  44. dog_eat_dog (790 comments) says:

    It’s worth pointing out that advertising corrupts the theoretically correct ‘free market’, so it’s all very well in principle, but it just isn’t practical.

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