Thursday, March 18, 2010

ACT and democracy

Writing in the Independent, Nick Smith (not him, the other one) put his finger on the core problem with the government's Auckland "SuperCity":

At the heart of Hide's reforms is a fanatical belief that he and his mates know best and the populace can't be trusted to make decisions.


One of Hide's ideological fellow travellers, Business Roundtable executive director Roger Kerr, recently voiced similar views in a speech to the Wellington Rotary Club.

"Fiscal decisions by simple majority rule, we believe, are too exposed to the biases of special interests to reliably reflect genuine collective preferences," he said, going on to add that the Government's mandate to make laws was "determined by transient political majorities".

Apparently, New Zealanders are too immature to govern themselves properly and people like Hide and Kerr know better.

Smith calls this "nanny state", but its worse - its the old aristocratic anti-democratic paternalism of the feudal era. The right has always hated democracy, thinking that power must be kept out of our grubby little hands. But their attempts to retain control by restricting the franchise failed in the C19th in the face of mass popular opposition and a gradual internalisation of democratic values. Their original ideological justification - that the wealthy were naturally more fit to rule by virtue of their birth or wealth - is simply laughable, and so the diehards have sought another one, under the guise of public choice theory. But it boils down to the same idea: that we dirty peasants can't be trusted with any access to any of the levers of power, and that power should instead be left in the hands of an unaccountable elite insulated from democratic pressures "for the common good". Hide's plan for Auckland is a classic example of this thinking. But its not democratic, and we should not be tolerating it. And if National continues to support it, we should use what democratic power we still have to replace them.