Sunday, April 5, 2009

Nuisance value

A revealing interview in the Weekend Herald with Stephen
Jennings, the New Zealander investment banker who
made and lost a bundle in Russia and has now come home,
though whether to stay, the article does not say. Jennings
says that New Zealand’s reacting too slowly to a ‘once-in-
500-year economic adjustment of which the global credit
crisis is just a symptom,’ and that MMP must be abandoned
so that our governments can make bigger and bolder
decisions and get the country into the ‘high-growth league.’

This argument—essentially one for unbridled capitalism—
used to be wheeled out by opponents of MMP when the
nation was debating whether or not to introduce it. First-
past-the-post (FPP), they said, had the virtue of delivering
majority governments unhampered by coalition partners
and consequently able to take swift bold action without the
pesky need to consult and negotiate. Or, it should be added,
to represent the people’s will. New Zealand voters ditched
FPP precisely because it had allowed governments to take
'swift bold action'—with disastrous results. Between 1984
and 1993 Labour and National governments treated the
people with contempt, blatantly lying to them and betraying
them. MMP puts a curb on that kind of behaviour: not much
of a curb, it’s true, but enough to prevent the recrudescence
of toxic outbreaks like Rogernomics.

It’s all too predictable that people like Jennings should now
revive the idea of an electoral system with an exemplary
tendency to produce governments beholden to no one but
themselves. It should be resisted, utterly. From Jennings’s
point of view you can see what messy, annoying nuisances
people are, with their pathetic insistence on not being
ridden roughshod over. How much simpler and cleaner it
would be to take them for granted and get on with the real
business of making serious money without democratic
impediment! In that case, as Brecht once suggested, why
not dissolve the people and elect another?

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