THIS IS FROM ONE OF Jacinda Ardern’s MOST FAITHFUL ALLIES, The daily blogfrom the editor, Martyn Bradbury. He is not a happy man:
“Labour will do nothing against the supermarket duopoly. If they don’t bother to take the biggest recommendation from the royal inquiry into historic state abuse after asking for it and paying over $140 million, then they’re sure Christ can ignore it all. which the Commerce Commission is flimsy enough to suggest.
I agree with him.
How many occasions since 2017 have there been where the Labor Party, presented with the findings of a committee of experts convened to study a pressing social and/or economic issue, has ignored it? There was the late Sir Michael Cullen’s inquiry into the pros and cons of a capital gains tax. The Report of the Expert Advisory Panel on Wellbeing. Several reports on the urgent need to combat climate change. The Commerce Commission’s initial report recommending the breakup of the supermarket duopoly.
Asking for an official report was once considered a smart game. Straightforward and simple, there were only 5 steps.
1) Gather a group of experts and put them to work.
2) Receive their report.
3) After careful consideration, declare this to be excellent work.
4) Commit to implementing most of its recommendations.
5) Implement most of its recommendations.
Throughout the period in power of this Labor government, it has shown a strong will to engage in stages 1 and 2 of this process; a lower degree of enthusiasm for steps 3 and 4; and almost no will to go to step 5. The question is – Why?
Let’s go back to step 1. In the past, politicians entered the process of social reform already knowing what they wanted to achieve. This was particularly true in the Labor Party, the whole of which purpose changed society for the better. If you didn’t have strong opinions about what to do and how to do it, then what’s the point of becoming a Labor MP?
This predisposition to change the world added an important twist to Stage 1. shared your own (and the Party’s) view of what was needed. be done. Given that Labor politicians have spent a lot of time talking to all sorts of social and economic reform experts, picking the right people hasn’t been difficult. It also meant that steps 2-5 were pretty much a pro forma exercise.
Obviously, the Labor Party today is very different from the Labor Party of the past. What happened?
The answer, as always, is: Rogernomics.
A crucial aspect of Rogernomics was its ferocious intolerance of moderate social-democratic thought which had for decades permeated not only the Labor Party, but also the labor and academic circles which were the main intellectual reservoirs of Labor politics. .
Inspired and advised by the neoliberal ideologues of the Treasury, the top leaders of the Fourth Labor Government made it clear to their colleagues that any clinging to old ideas and old sources of advice would not be a career upgrade. The sympathetic professors and enthusiastic union officials of yesteryear have been banished to the outer darkness, and in their place a whole new breed of ideologically kosher political advisers has stepped forward. From now on, the overwhelming majority of experts called upon to guide governments would be convinced neoliberals.
Old ideas and old sources of advice have not fallen without a fight. Indeed, the ideological conflict within Labor between 1984 and 1989 was so intense that it divided the party. For those who remained loyal to the Labor Party, however, the whole idea of social reform underwent a profound change. There were now clear perimeters beyond which the guardians of the Rogernomic Revolution did not allow the party to venture. Gay marriage? Why not. Compulsory unionism? Certainly not
For those who have lived through these intense debates and debacles, this all seems like yesterday. But this is not the case. It has been almost 40 years since the Rogernomics revolution and its intensification under Ruth Richardson transformed New Zealand society. A New Zealander born in 1984 could easily have a 20-year-old son or daughter – maybe even a grandchild. The Prime Minister herself was only four years old when Roger Douglas became Minister of Finance. And Jacinda Ardern’s own finance minister, Grant Robertson, was only thirteen.
Most members of the Labor caucus grew up in an intellectual environment completely dominated by neoliberal ideas. Those trying to revive the social democratic ideals of the pre-1984 Labor Party come before today’s Labor MPs with the unwelcome historical smear of NewLabour divisive and Jim Anderton’s doomed Alliance. More importantly, they are viewed by neoliberal government advisers as Neanderthal intellectuals: people who simply don’t know how the world works; cretins and naive people who must be kept as far away as possible from real political power.
Unfortunately, the bits and bytes of 21st century hyper-capitalism have long ceased to respond to the impulses of mere human ideology. Without daring to admit it, the neoliberals have lost control of the machine. All they are capable of now is presenting increasingly implausible explanations for why it all went so wrong.
Naturally, politicians supposed to defend the damage caused by the Invisible Hand are looking for credible alternatives to more of the same. When Jacinda and Grant sign on to another task force, it’s not because they already know what they want the experts to tell them, it’s because the experts they currently rely on for advice n have more answers, and they’re really interested in what these new experts might say.
When the reports come out, however, they all read as if they were written by Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, or Max Rashbrooke and Susan St John. The lips of their bureaucratic advisers curl in contempt; the eyebrows of their media advisers arch provocatively; and with a sincere sigh, the unfortunate politicians placed the offending document on top of the surprisingly high pile of its predecessors. Another No Go.
The brilliant creators of ‘The Simpsons’ TV series said it all in the episode satirizing Ayn Rand’s ideas. On the walls of Randian’s daycare, a sign simply read, “Helping does not help.”
This is the story of the life of this government.