Dunne on reason

April 21st, 2009 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

A very good blog post from Peter Dunne:

Politics and public discourse today have become dominated by passions and feelings, rather than rational analysis of the issues involved. Evidence and the facts have long been overtaken by interpretation. For their part, politicians increasingly take electoral success to mean not only endorsement for their policies but also their personal prejudices. Funnily enough, when we observe such trends in the Muslim world, we decry them as “fundamentalist”, but when the same thing happens in our world we tend to admire it as “principled”.

To my way of thinking, both are as bad as each other. There used to be a classic slogan from the old radio crime dramas of “the facts ma’am, just the facts” which is worth remembering here. How refreshing would factually based public debate be!

It is sadly often lacking.

Take a couple of contemporary New Zealand examples. The Auckland supercity debate is being completely sidetracked by “feelings” – the perhaps understandable upset of a handful of Mayors who see themselves being put out of a job, and the “outrage” of some tangata whenua that they will have to compete for electoral preference on the same basis as everyone else. Both blame the ideology of the Minister of Local Government for their predicament (a highly superficial assessment at best), and invoke all sorts of emotion in support of their respective cause. Neither seem interested in a rational and critical assessment of what is best for Auckland.

I have yet to see any serious analysis about how six local Councils would be better for local communities than 20 to 30 local counnity boards.

Then there is the matter of a separate penal institution for Maori. Again, the argument is focused on the emotion rather than the facts. The Labour Party screams “separatism” (somewhat ironic I would have thought given its record) while the Minister of Maori Affairs defends it as “good for Maori.” Where is the analysis about whether such institutions work, by helping rehabilitate offenders and reduce recidivism? That is the criterion on which or otherwise of this proposal should be judged.

Indeed. Will it work is a key question? If it leads to fewer people being beat up, killed or raped by lowering reoffending, then it is worth doing I would say.

As a liberal, I believe very strongly in the primacy of reason, where decisions are based on the evidence not the prejudice, and where we do things because they work, not because they look or feel good. That is why as Associate Minister of Health I want to see more collaboration between the public and private surgical sectors to reduce elective surgery waiting lists, not because of an ideological view that private is better than public, but simply because it strikes me as dumb to have surplus private sector surgical capacity while the public system is hopelessly overloaded and waiting lists are growing.

I couldn’t agree more.

It is why I want see our alcohol and problem gambling policies focus on dealing with those adversely affected by abuse of those products, and not curtailing the opportunities of the overwhelming majority of people who enjoy them, and will never suffer any problems.

Again – absolutely agree. Target those who have a problem, and support them. Don’t punish the vast majority who do not.

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14 Responses to “Dunne on reason”

  1. Elvis Christ (29 comments) says:

    “the perhaps understandable upset of a handful of Mayors who see themselves being put out of a job” – hard to see how they have a grievance. They would be competing for the existing mayoralty’s again anyway.

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  2. Rex Widerstrom (5,354 comments) says:

    As a liberal, I believe very strongly in the primacy of reason, where decisions are based on the evidence not the prejudice, and where we do things because they work, not because they look or feel good.

    O rly? Three words (well, letters to be precise) for you Petey: EFA. So let me fix that up for you:

    As a liberal [self-serving egotist], I believe very strongly in the primacy of reason [my ambition], where decisions are based on the evidence not the prejudice [what keeps me in a job, regardless of principle], and where we do things because they work[we're told to by whichever party is willing to tolerate our obsequiousness], not because they look or feel good[are right].

    What a fatuous load of tripe coming as it does from the most unprincipled person not just in this Parliament but in any in the past two decades. At least Alamein Kopu just stole our furniture. This man was willing to trade our liberty for his own job security. There were some things even Winston wouldn’t tolerate, but we haven’t plumbed the depths of Dunne’s barrel yet and I suspect we never will.

    So take your “liberalism”, Petey, and shove it up your discourse.

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  3. bwakile (757 comments) says:

    What Rex said. x2

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  4. James (1,338 comments) says:

    Amen! ….x 3

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  5. MyNameIsJack (2,415 comments) says:

    and thus the 3 stooges prove Dunne’s point

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  6. big bruv (13,904 comments) says:

    Rex

    Can you edit your outstanding post and include this question for Peter.

    “Where is our fucking money?”

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  7. lyndon (325 comments) says:

    I think the quality of the debate is probably a product of the way the sound bite media works at least as much as the protagonists. Although I doubt it’s new or novel. And rather than complaining about something that’s not there (to build up to the conculsion that your opinions are right) you’d get more qudos for supplying it.

    “Where is our fucking money?”

    The money everyone except NZ First paid back? Or some other money?

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  8. insider (1,028 comments) says:

    So Peter is basically saying “I don’t like human nature in politics”.

    Politics is about people and people are emotional, of course issues are going to become mixed with emotion. Nothing new under the sun. It might be worse having a bunch of technocrats run things – the results might be rational but will they be humane?

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  9. Rex Widerstrom (5,354 comments) says:

    MNIJ: I’m sure Quisling fervently wished his captors would be bereft of all emotion. Alas when you’ve betrayed others for your own self interest then you’re faced with the reality that, as insider accurately pinpoints, politics is about humanity and humans have emotions. And the EFA wasn’t Dunne’s only betrayal, just his worst – his entire career stands as a monument to venality.

    It’s not that I disagree with what Dunne says, MNIJ, it’s that he of all people is least qualified, by virtue of his own actions, to lecture others on the virtues of rationality.

    Though you may have a point… survival (even if it’s only of a pointless political career) is the most rational of all human drives.

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  10. Will de Cleene (485 comments) says:

    Of course, evidence always trumps “passions and feelings.” If only the minister would see reason on cannabis! Oh that’s right, it IS politics! :-)

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  11. Poliwatch (335 comments) says:

    Dunne sitting in the centre of the political pendulum once described himself as “either the most relevant or the most irrelevant person in parliament”. Yes, a bit egotistical perhaps but time has proved him right. It sounds like he rationally thought through how to stay in the public trough for so long.

    I guess Rex that you seem most suited to support the Greens, who without any sense of reason and logic between the lot of them have managed to stay out of government forever. Mind you they also duck into the public purse every now and again … and again …. and again.

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  12. freedom101 (504 comments) says:

    Has Dunne paid his money back yet? He is the Minister of Revenue. You expect this in some African country run by a dictator, but not in NZ.

    Maybe Mr Sensible can explain why it is liberal to insist on wasting vast amounts of money on a useless Families Commission. Perhaps Mr Sensible can come onto this blog and explain what the Commission has achieved for the millions lavished on it.

    Any why does Mr Sensible keep harping on about income splitting when the problem is actually high marginal tax rates. No doubt Mr Sensible will be able to tell us what a ‘family’ is before he drafts income splitting legislation. It defies definition, and will add to the complexity of our tax laws. How is that so sensible, Mr Sensible?

    And finally, brickbats to the Nats for not taking Mr Sensible out of Ohariu-Belmont because they ‘might need him’. It’s like keeping a prostitute in the garden shed, just in case she’s needed at some stage!!

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  13. bwakile (757 comments) says:

    Exactly freedom.
    Dunne is living proof that the Prostitution Reform Act never worked

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  14. freethinker (691 comments) says:

    Freedom101
    I wonder what the hell is going on getting Winston & snakeoil to pay back the stolen taxpayer $ – I really question the priorities of state services commission and the minister in the tardy way they have dealt with Winston in particular and why in snakeoils case they don’t just deduct from his salary just like IRD do for child support. As the departments minister how can he support the draconian methods sometimes used by his dept to recover money and operate different standards for himself – bloody hypocrit.

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