Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The future of the Revolution

Economist and blogger Tyler Cowen has been visting New Zealand recently as one of the endless series of foreign experts parachuted in by the BRT to praise the Revolution and provide external validation for what they did in the 80's and 90's. On Marginal Revolution, he asks will New Zealand reform any further? I don't think so. While there's now an acceptance that many of the changes were necessary, and certainly no desire to go back to the "Polish shipyard", there's also no desire to continue in that direction. The Revolution was immensely painful for many New Zealanders, who suffered restructuring, strategic unemployment, benefit cuts, corrupt privatisations, market rents, health cuts, and tertiary fees at the hands of governments which lied to get into office and showed no regard for public opinion or their election promises once there. Bluntly, we hated it - and we hated it so much that we changed our electoral system to ensure permanant minority government, so that no-one could ever do that to us again.

And that's the real reason why we're not going to see a repeat of the Revolution: MMP prevents it. Don Brash may be a radical relic of the Revolution, but in order to govern, he will have to rely on New Zealand First - a party deeply hostile to the "reforms", led by a man who left National because of them. This will severely limit his options: he may get some moderate tax cuts, but anything further is likely to be stymied. In particular, the neo-liberal vision of a strategic deficit to provide impetus for asset sales and mass privatisation of education and health will be off the table. And this would hardly be "undue influence" by the junior partner: the consistent polling trend is for around 60% of the electorate to vote for non-Revolutionary parties (as they have done in every election since 1990). There simply is no electoral mandate for further radical "reform", no matter how "necessary" it is in the eyes of neo-liberal ideologues.

This doesn't rule out "reform" entirely, but the political realities mean that any future changes will be piecemeal and far more cautious, rather than the kind of blitzkrieg we saw in the 80's and 90's.


I agree. Winston will make life very difficult for National, and National wants power so badly it would sacrifice much of its agenda.

And, on the other hand, I hardly see a Labour-led Government selling off assets. It has spent much of the last 6 years buying them back.

Posted by T : 8/17/2005 10:52:00 PM

I suspect a National / NZF government would be lucky to last a year.

Posted by Rich : 8/18/2005 11:08:00 AM

I agree, Rich. OTOH, a brief period in opposition would be a godsend to the Centre-Left - we can use the opportunity to purge Labour of the remnants of New Right dogma and go back to the people with a genuine platform of social democracy. The Right will be shattered an unelectable for another decade.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/18/2005 03:29:00 PM