Dunne on reason

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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