Peter Cresswell blogs on the recent Libertarianz/Liberty conference:
So Project ACT and Project Libertarianz are both failures. And if success is measured by achieving measurable goals, then failure has unfortunately been the only thing about which the single-issue Legalise Cannabis Party has to boast. And that’s despite virtually every MP in the New Zealand parliament happy to confess they’ve inhaled. I think economic and social liberals from all parties—classical liberals, if you like—can learn from all our failures. Project Act and Project Libertarianz are failures for opposite reasons. ACT abandoned principle in favour of populism, and ended up losing both. Libz embraced principle over populism, and while we’ve succeeded in putting some of those principles on the public stage, it’s not as much as we’d hoped from 17 years of trying.
I think ACT’s failure hasn’t been so much about populism, but a number of factors including infighting. PC quotes Deborah Coddington:
the Libz narrow dogma — total free market, wholesale selling of state assets including having all schools and hospitals run by private enterprise, the right to carry guns, and complete freedom to take whatever drugs you like so long as you accept the consequences — have scared the bejesus out of people. … Cliches are usually true,” she says. “as in there’s only one way to eat an elephant: one bite at a time. So when you say you want freedom, you can only achieve it one step at a time. Don’t terrify people who’ve been enchained for 30 years. It’s like stripping them naked, when you should be persuading them they can just remove their overcoat. It will take time for some to be convinced they don’t need to hold Nanny’s hand.
Deborah is quite right. I worry more about getting policies that push NZ in the right direction, than purity of argument. Don’t get me wrong – in terms of personal belief and debate, I can be very purist. But as John Key said, you don’t start with a blank slate of paper in politics. If I was designing a society from scratch, I’d have it firmly on libertarian principles. But I don’t think NZ is ever going to be a libertarian state, and trying to make it one is futile.
Lindsay Perigo’s speech is here, which has some fascinating observations on his time as a press secretary to ACT.
PC suggests that the new liberal grouping should pick a maximum of five memorable parties to promote, rather than just try and make the case for a libertarian state. I agree with him, and wish them success I may even help out! He says the criteria for the five policies should be:
- Select those policies that clearly demonstrate our principles;
- Select those policies for which we estimate there are already 100,000 people in the country who agree with us; and
- Select those policies for which those 100,000 will vote for us instead of anyone else.
- Reject policies too closely associated with past failure.
- Accept those policies that promote the benevolence and sense of life of freedom.
Sounds good to me. Maybe add on a criteria that they should be easy to understand, and the benefits should also be easily understood. He lists some possible policies. I thought I’d share my thoughts on them:
Small Consents Tribunals – accept RMA but insist that Small Consents Tribunals are set up, something like Small Claims Tribunals, to deal with projects under $300,000 on the basis of a Codification of Common Law. At one very easy stroke you make more low-cost housing much more affordable for many more people.
Love it. Could be very popular.
Iwi then Kiwi – accept ToW, insist only that all property involved (which, let’s face it, is the only way we’re going to see any real privatisation this decade) is individualised and transferrable. And call it what it is. Privatisation. At one simple stroke you have the biggest political power bloc in the country, the Browntable, behind privatisation.
I like the idea of all settlements being devolved to the individual. I suggest Iwi leaders will be less keen. The argument against will be up to members of each Iwi to determine what they devolve to members and tramples on their property rights. But an interesting possibility.
Yes please. Call it the Greece policy – to avoid us ever doing a Greece. Require a balanced budget over a three year term, with an exception only in an emergency.
I think this could be good, but I’d widen it to being whole different approach with soft drugs – a health, not criminal, approach that will save money and stop criminalizing users.
A good issue, but not sure many votes in it, and may have happened by 2014. People have views on this issue, but few would vote for it. Also public know it is a conscience vote, not something you can get in a coalition agreement.
Abolish Search & Surveillance Act, 2012
Silly idea. What do you replace it with?
Abolish Maori seats
I think other forces will be on that issue, and again there is little chance of getting that agreed to by other parties.
Enterprise Zone for Christchurch
Excellent idea. Might be not that big an issue by 2014 though.
I don’t know what that means. If it means affordable housing by opening land up, then could be good.
$40k income tax free threshold, 15% GST
This has been clarified to actually be a $15,000 tax-free threshold, 15% flat tax above that, 15% GST and 15% company tax (the last two declining over time).
All for tax cuts, but not credible when books in deficit. Save it for a later election. Need to reduce spending first or we end up like the US with a massive deficit.
A Very Special Carbon Tax: linked to temperature rise in troposphere at equator
I quite like this idea, but no way will Parliament scrap the ETS – too many businesses have made major decisions based on it.
Needs a name Joe Average can understand, but I like the concept – and may appeal to greenie libertarians
I agree with this, but few votes in it.
Also not a bad idea, but not one that will win hearts and minds. So, not necessarily in order, what would be my five:
- Small Consents Tribunal
- Balanced Budget
- Legalise Cannabis/Abandon War on Soft Drugs
- Enterprise Zone for Christchurch
- Eco UnTaxes
How about readers? What policies would you like to see a liberal party champion. Ideally ones that can attract 100,000 voters and that are achievable (ie a National-led or Labour-led Government could possibly agree to).