Thursday, 18 September 2014

Clarifying why voting is a placebo


A few of the public and private responses I received recently suggest I might need to clarify some of my central ideas about voting. It’ll be my pleasure.

While I don't think politicians or politics truly matters in the long run, this by no means suggests I don't care about the future of New Zealand. I care deeply and want to see it succeed in every way possible.

But apathy isn’t the same thing as taking a wider view of the system in which I live. What I've discovered is that no one in power truly has power. At least, not in the way that everyone else thinks they do.

Being elected the leader in a country like New Zealand will never allow that person to do whatever they like. Seeing this as the political reality keeps me immune from personalities and election promises after they’re measured against New Zealand’s imperatives.

It’s not about implicitly supporting the status quo of a National-led government. I support policies which advance our nation and are drawn from an understanding of our nation's strategic and economic imperatives. All political parties will complete these imperatives, as I pointed out in my previous article, otherwise the country fails.

Again, the government isn't the problem here. The government is essentially a steward of the nation as the economy drives itself forward. Even the analogy of driving isn’t entirely accurate. All a government can do is respond to the continued evolution of an economy, it doesn't drive it.

Despite the claims that National has “all but destroyed" New Zealand, that’s not true in the slightest. I take that as political poetry because there’s very little evidence for it.

But I think we can rely on our institutions. Freedom of speech, the judicial system, right to a fair trial, democratic ideals, the social contract, private property, intellectual property, scientific progress, toleration, liberalism, religious freedom, secular schooling, individualism and many others are all very robust in New Zealand.

One needs only look at our national competitors to see how strong our institutions really are. Sure, there's room for improvement, there always is, but the core values remain intact.

Besides, any government of the day, in a country with robust institutions like New Zealand, has an extraordinarily low amount of influence on changing those institutions. 

While I couldn't agree more that the spectrum of politics has many shades of grey, the spectrum I was talking about was not the political spectrum.

I was referring to the concept of national imperatives. These fall into a bandwidth in which the options for advancing the economy of a country are constrained by the population, geography and technology of that country.
 
For instance, New Zealand will never have enough resources to float a true blue water navy to rival the United States' navy. And America can leverage their population and geography to send spacecraft to the moon, but Mali will never be able to that.

In the same way, New Zealand cannot create an economy out of low cost labour, but China can. Yet China can't make an economy flourish out of exporting almost strictly dairy products, but New Zealand can. And so it goes. 

These are the constraints facing every government. If they want to stay in charge of a viable country, they will quickly recognise these constraints and act accordingly. All they're doing is pulling the correct levers whenever the appropriate time arrives.

On a long enough timeline, there's nothing special about particular governments. They all end up doing the things necessary for a country's vitality. Even when the policies seem stupid or shortsighted, it pays to test them against the country’s national imperatives and constraints to see if they're actually important or unimportant in the big scheme of things.

Generally, stupid policies turn out to have incidental or marginal effects for the country in question. How else can you explain why the economy continues to grow despite the constantly changing governments?

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