Friday, June 21, 2013

Losing their soul?

Bryce Edwards headlines his roundup today with the question "Is the Green Party losing its soul", referring to its decision to drop the policy of "quantitative easing". Materialism aside, I'd answer Edwards' question in the negative. Why? Because while monetary policy may be the soul of the ACT party, its a peripherial policy for the Greens.

The Greens' "soul" is in their charter, which commits them to values of ecological wisdom, social responsibility, appropriate decision-making and non-violence. No mention of monetary policy there, and it doesn't connect tightly with any of the core values (unlike, say, their energy, transport, and social policies). Which makes it very much peripheral. As such, its constrained to measures which do not interfere strongly with those core values, but that still leaves an enormous policy space open. Complaining that abandoning a peripheral policy (whose time may have passed anyway) is "selling out" is simply melodramatic. Get back to me when they abandon their position on climate change, energy efficiency or child poverty, or support a coal mine in a National Park.

That said, I agree that Normans' attempts to pretend that he wasn't backing down on anything were clumsy and unprincipled. There's no shame in admitting that you've changed your mind, or that a policy's time has passed (but that you'll advocate it again under the right circumstances), and our politics would be a lot healthier if our politicians did it more often.