Chris Trotter argues the causes and conditions are in place for the formation of a new mainstream political party in New Zealand but the chances of one emerging are 'vanishingly remote'

Chris Trotter argues the causes and conditions are in place for the formation of a new mainstream political party in New Zealand but the chances of one emerging are 'vanishingly remote'

By Chris Trotter*

Seldom have the conditions for establishing a new, mainstream political party been so favourable. There are a host of critical issues crying out for concerted government action – and not receiving it. There is voluble backing from key state institutions, the Treasury, the Reserve Bank, for a significant increase in government spending – which is not being heeded. There is a rising chorus of voices lamenting the inability of the nation’s political leaders to rise to the challenge of urgently needed reform – but not from within the existing parliamentary caucuses. Why, then, are we not witnessing the birth of a new political party?

Part of the answer lies in the sheer homogeneity of opinion throughout New Zealand’s political class. When Francis Fukuyama wrote about the “end of history” in the early 1990s, he was, of course, quite wrong. History never ends. What he was really describing was a phenomenon that had already been observed and written about roughly three decades earlier, the “end of ideology”.

The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the Fifties is a collection of essays edited by the American sociologist Daniel Bell and published in 1960. The book’s argument, in essence, is that post-war politics had ceased to be about dramatic confrontations between diametrically opposed systems of belief, and was, instead, reducing to a process characterised by sensible debates between sensible people about practical measures designed to improve, incrementally, economic and social systems that were generally agreed to be working well.

That description corresponds remarkably closely to the manner in which the New Zealand political class carries out its functions. Thirty years of neoliberal economics have left very little in the way of credible, organised opposition to its standard operating procedures. Not even the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-09 was sufficient to undermine the world’s confidence in neoliberal policies. It continues to be the language in which serious people debate serious issues.

Such was not the case when neoliberalism first began to acquire political momentum. Forty years ago, Keynesianism was still the language in which serious people discussed serious ideas. It’s successes in 1960, when Bell’s book was published, were so prodigious that the dwindling band of Keynes’s critics were largely dismissed as cranks. To become the language of economic common sense, neoliberalism had first to challenge and then to decisively defeat its Keynesian opponents.

In New Zealand, as elsewhere, that struggle split the ranks of the major parties. In both Labour and National there were plenty of individuals and interests whom Keynesianism had served extremely well since the 1930s. Their champions were familiar with Keynes’s arguments and wielded them unhesitatingly against the proponents of the “free market”.

When it became clear that the battle had been lost in both major parties, the upshot was two new political formations: NewLabour (later to become the Alliance) on the left, and NZ First on the right. Their respective leaders, Jim Anderton and Winston Peters, came from within the two big parliamentary caucuses, and a great many Labour and National members followed them out.

Just how different the present political environment is from the 1980s and 90s may be gauged by the almost complete absence, in 2019, of alternative economic ideas (and their champions) within the boundaries of mainstream New Zealand politics.

The closest this country has come to a champion promoting an alternative to the neoliberal status quo, Labour’s David Cunliffe, proved to be a very weak reed indeed. He had the wit and the courage to declare neoliberalism a failure, but failed entirely to produce and promote a coherent economic alternative for the broader labour movement – which had voted him into the leadership – to make its own. Without such an alternative, he was powerless to mount any kind of effective defence against the defenders of neoliberalism in National, the news media, and – crucially – his own caucus. 

It is no accident that those who occupy the leading positions in Labour’s present parliamentary hierarchy are, to a man and woman, the leading prosecutors of the case against David Cunliffe between 2011 and 2017.

Another explanation for why there appears to be so little sign of a significant electoral challenge to the status quo lies in Anderton’s and Peters’ success in attracting the opponents of neoliberalism to their respective banners. This, and the closely related success of the MMP option in the 1993 referendum, meant that, economic policy-wise, National and Labour ceased to be “broad church” parties. Their MPs might differ over same-sex marriage and euthanasia, but on the key components of Roger Douglas’s neoliberal revolution they remain fiercely united.

The implosion of the Alliance over Anderton’s support for toppling the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11 was, thus, even stupider than it looked. The split not only robbed the left of its most competent leader, but also ensured that the most talented and articulate opponents of neoliberalism lost their parliamentary seats and were scattered across the progressive community. There they did much that was good – but never on the scale made possible by the Alliance’s presence alongside the Labour Party in government. 

But, what about the Greens? Surely, theirs is the party that occupies the political and ideological space vacated by the Alliance? Certainly, there are many who would say so, but are they correct? Have the Green Party, and the Values Party before it, ever truly been the “watermelons” – green on the outside, red on the inside – their enemies claimed?

The honest historical answer is: sometimes they have, sometimes they haven’t. It was the bitter struggle between its eco-capitalists and eco-socialists that tore Values apart, and very similar tensions have plagued the Green Party since its formation in 1990. The plain truth, however, is that while the eco-socialists have at times exercised considerable influence over, they have never dominated the Green Party. Whenever a choice has been offered – as it was in the contest between Sue Bradford and Metiria Turei – the eco-socialists lost.

Never has this eco-capitalist ascendancy been more evident than under the present co-leadership of James Shaw and Marama Davidson. It was, after all, Shaw who insisted that Labour and the Greens sign up to the quintessentially neoliberal Budget Responsibility Rules. And it was Marama Davidson who, only last week, sat beside Megan Woods and seconded Labour’s abandonment of the KiwiBuild project. Some rent-to-own and shared-ownership experiments are a poor substitute for the massive state-house construction programme which a genuine eco-socialist would have insisted upon.

Though the programme for a new party is essentially already written:

  • Increased spending on our crumbling national infrastructure
  • Root-and-branch reform of our health and education systems
  • A crash programme in state house construction to end homelessness, drive down rents and lower house prices
  • A “Green New Deal” to tackle Climate Change
  • Radical transparency and enhanced accountability within the state sector
  • A foreign policy which proclaims “Neither Washington nor Beijing!”

The chances of a political party forming to seize the present moment are very low.

On neither the Left nor the Right are there the individuals or the institutions ready to launch and fund such a challenge to the status quo. For the best part of a generation there has been no serious debate over the core content and direction of New Zealand economic policy. Young people, in particular, find it difficult to frame even the questions necessary to challenge what they have been taught to regard as “common sense”.

Perversely, MMP – intended to prevent sudden, massive and unmandated change – has locked in place the very neoliberal revolution its adoption sought to roll-back. What’s more, MMP has excused both the Labour and National Parties from making room for rebels. In this country we will not see the sudden emergence of ageing keepers of the Keynesian flame like Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn; nor the “authorised radicalism” made possible when self-proclaimed socialists and revolutionaries attract the mass support of younger voters by setting up shop within the reassuring structures of the existing party system.

The political irony of the situation is exquisite. Just when the Powers-That-Be would welcome a radicalisation of the language used by serious people to discuss serious issues; the possibility of a serious new political party emerging to make that happen is vanishingly remote.


*Chris Trotter has been writing and commenting professionally about New Zealand politics for more than 30 years. His work may be found at http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.com. He writes a fortnightly column for interest.co.nz.

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Chris mush have read my mind.

New Zealand People's United Party is coming.

Watch this space.

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... the South Pacific branch of the China Peoples United Party ?

Its called National.

GNATS ... Gnomes not acting , too scared !

Beware the Gnats

Their Asset Sales neo liberal economic belief is so misguided.

$20 Billion profit per annum heading offshore to Foreign Owned companies operating in the supply chain of NZ.

A giant ponzi scheme.

Here. Read em and weep.

Quartery in millions, ie. Quarter ended March 2019 $4.675 Billion

Tab 7 :Investment income from foreign investment in New Zealand

Jun 2017 Sep 2017 Dec 2017 Mar 2018 Jun 2018 Sep 2018 Dec 2018 Mar 2019
4,542 4,705 5,069 4,408 4,885 4,911 4,800 4,675

The reason we've now have NO capital, the profits being made by the Companies they now own in NZ over the last 30 years are all owned by Foreign Investors as they own the shares.

This is why Govt assets were made SOE's with shares, so Foreigners could buy them on the NZX listing when it happened. e.g. Telecom, Banks, Electricity shares etc..,

No trade surplus generated, no Govt surplus generated. What is the point of Foreign Ownership, when you lose $20 Billion per annum.

Weak politicians, with no idea. Belly rub anyone ?

China Peoples* United Party

*Disclaimer: Uyghurs and other undesirables may not qualify as part of "Peoples"

. . there's already a NZ Peoples Party ... run by Roshan Nauhria , representing immigrants in NZ ( that's ALL of us , really ! ) ... they got 1860 votes in total , at the 2017 election ...

Suggest a new name : " Xings Party McParty Face Party " .. you're guaranteed to not be confused for anyone else ....

This bloke trolls every thread..

A youth party has more merit than people realise.

Look what they have done in Hong Kong!

It might mobilise the youth into voting, for so of the injustices they are experiencing as a consequence of the retirees kicking the can down the road.

Just imagine how may youth issues would go away, if there was:

1. Smaller class sizes,
2. Free bus services,
3. Reduced living costs,
4. More competition,
5. Fair tax of capital wealth.

The last one will affect me, however I'm happy to take the pain for a more harmonious society.

... clean waterways ... so , kids can fish and canoe , swim ... in safe 100 % pure water . . Just as we enjoyed , when we were their age ..

Coalition of our lovely children and teenagers .. .. .. " Cool Cat " party ..

5. Fair tax of capital wealth. Great idea. But is it possible to keep it fair?

I can hear an ehco?
Let's find a live wire, successful property developer.
One that is also a shame less promoter.
A Frank critic of the mainstream media and failing press!
I am reading one of his books now!

Bob, Bob Jones come on over here!

Garrgh!

Join ACT and Gareth Morgans party together ....

... " TOP ACT " ...

I was thinking TOP CAT.

. . yes , a coalition of TOP and Judith Collins new party " Crush and Terrorize " ... TOP CAT ...

Ooh, ooh, I have a catch cry for a party run by Collins "Drain the swamp!"

With Gareths thoughts on cats.. Nah, promoting self harm is very un-PC.

Great piece.
We have, in our finance minister a great example of a 'chardonnay socialist'. His conservatism rivals Bill English's.

MMP has not exactly been embraced effectively by NZ. We have had third parties. The Alliance, ACT, NZF (& it’s splinter,) Christian Heritage, United & then United future, The Maori Party & The Green Party. The majority of them have all had good numbers os seats at some stage and a role in government . All that remain, in more than one seat, are NZF & The Greens. And that is only because of one single person, WP for the former and because part of the electorate will, without fail, vote for The Greens as a compulsion. history therefore evidences a bleak outlook indeed for any minor party.

... if the Greens could get a little more financially savvy we might link them with TOP and grow a GREEN TOP Party ?

The threshold being part of that problem.

If Chris Trotter formed a coalition with a new Maori party , the Peoples Indigenous Group , we could form the " PIG Trotters " ....

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Currently parliament is full of middle class home owners who have massive conflicts of interest in solving the housing crisis. While house prices are causing massive social problem, the MPs just can bring them selves to knock hundreds of thousands off their net worth. Labours doing everything it can to get more people houses without affecting the market price. Our PM bought a 1.8 mil house in Auckland last year do you really think she had any intent of immediately knocking a few hundred thousand off the price. Our two main parties, currently represent "business" and "intellectual" factions of our middle class and get their votes from the rest of us by offering token gestures that they have no intent to actually be successful in.

The problem is the moment we turn away from neoliberalism I think our house prices and economy crash. I think there is a gap for center left, (clasical) liberal and populist party to have some success but it probably needs to wait for after a crash or until things get worse and we figure out that Labour wont solve anything.

Well put and I think you are right that only a crisis will wake up other political options. We are stuck in a daze of centrism, whether it's Labour or National.

I wouldn't call it centrism, the best description of what we seem to be heading towards I can think of is middle class authoritarianism. (The left right spectrum has so many interpretations these days I think its almost useless.)
Look at Brexit if you want an example of how the beginning how crisis could plays out (its not even close to over yet). Hopefully we learn from it and the parties fix themselves, rather than us repeating it.
Fritz, if you want to better understand Labour: While its not directly or obviously applicable you could read "The Intellectuals and Socialism" by Hayek. Labours not a fully socialist party but I think the article helps explain some of the ideas needed to understand our current left wing parties. There probably better descriptions out there but this is best I have come across.

$1.8M - that is roughly the traditional three times annual income.

If a politician has a single house and lives in it then policies changing house prices will not really affect them unless they are planning to downsize. I prefer MPs with no investment properties. Or shares in specific companies. Or children in 1st tertiary education.

Perversely, MMP – intended to prevent sudden, massive and unmandated change – has locked in place the very neoliberal revolution its adoption sought to roll-back

That's not a bug, but a feature. Two decades ago, this was predicted by (amongst others) Philip Burdon, in speaking to my MBA cohort. 'Decades of stasis' was IIRC the phrase he used. Discovering it at this late stage, CT, is not an Epiphany, but a monument to decades of ideological blindness and wishful (possibly Magical) thinking.

Well it is unfortunately an attitude and interpretation, partisan and immature, by the electorate that has been the undoing of MMP. When a party such as The Maori party join a coalition they are criticised and booted out for doing nothing even though they had highly capable MPswho in fact achieved a heck of a lot for their mandate. And then, conversely, you have NZF who are criticised for being the tail that wags the dog, accused of controlling the government, even though their intervention in areas has made a lot os sense given the impulsive ventures over which, Labour and the Greens cannot control themselves. So as per the question CT poses of the electorate. What exactly do you expect. What exactly do you want. Because so far, in terms of effective MMP governance, it has all come out pretty hapless and hopeless. Who knows, perhaps maybe if the number of MPs had been kept at 90 or so, as recommended by the Royal Commission, it may have meant a better calibre of, and tighter disciplines on, MPs and MMP may have had a sporting chance of achieving what was hoped.

Chris' own brand of 1950s conservative socialism is probably best represented in our Parliament by NZ First. Interesting that they don't get more of a mention here.

There was I thinking Chris was a closet Trotskyist. Maybe it's the name.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trotskyism

wellll by modern standards, most Western gov'ts 1945-1980 were extremely socialist... Rob Muldoon was basically a Stalinist! Command economy and social conservatism... I think the likes of Chris and Winston Peters are nostalgic for some of the benefits of that set-up. Trains everywhere, gov't-guaranteed jobs, tariffs to protect industry, etc. History records both pluses and minuses for these things.

Oh, I didn't realise. Did Muldoon starve millions of his countrymen to death? He may have been misguided, but he was no Stalinist, he handed over power peacefully.

The real reason that the free market economics has become dominant is that all other economics has failed. Socialism/Communism enslaves people and makes people poor and usually results in the deaths of millions. And no, it's not because "real communism" hasn't been tried, but rather it has been tried and failed.

Many of the ills in NZ is because we don't have a free market. The cost of land is too high because successive governments (local and central) restrict land-use. You may think those restrictions are a good thing but it does result in land prices increases. As I have written before, no one has told the bakers to bake more bread.

Same goes for health and education. There is no free market in the public health system so we have a bloated health system that is not responsive. Can anyone tell me what the health boards do as we supposed to be voting for them soon?

In regards to education I am surprised that Mr. Trotter thinks there needs to be major reform as his comrades in the teachers union dictate the entire system. Is that an argument for or against more unionization?

But I would welcome a real debate between a "planned and control economy" vs. free market. I am sure the vast majority of NZers would always prefer the fruits of a free society rather than the bitter fruit of the so-called alternatives.

I think the problem we have is the exploitation of the system by some at the expense of the many. e.g. bailing out the banks following GFC. More people should have gone to prison for that and the taxpayer shouldn't have had to pick up the bill for the mess caused by those who caused it.

The same could be said here in NZ if our rockstar turns sour - should John Key and Bill English be jailed if it turns out the things they said we should be celebrating (expensive houses) were really lies that resulted in numerous kiwis being wiped out financially?

If profits are to be privitized, then the losses must be as well. If Fonterra falls - should Theo Spierings pay back the 10's of millions he's earned from a bad business model that he's been selling to society? Where is the responsibility? We can't pay executives this amount of money if they are responsible for nothing.

Also from a broader perspective, as people we want to care for each other. Capitalism is about competition which at times I think causes a sense of cognitive dissonance for people and our society. i.e. a sense of oneupsmanship where we're all competing with one another (or exploiting each other) instead of helping one another and promoting a strong sense of community that can come when there is a common goal. Is this why we have such bad mental health generally at the moment - or has it always been this bad? Told that its best to 'get ahead' of your peers (by buying rental properties...) instead of promoting your peers, and they promoting you. 'Here you have this house' 'No you have a young family, you have this house' - house prices fall as demand is decreased (the greed element of the market is gone. To an extent I think neoliberal capitalism has distorted the thinking of a generation (or perhaps more than one), but they're so used to it they think its normal.

By no means do I believe in socialism - history has demonstrated that it isn't the answer.

Bailing out of the Banks! Well think back a bit. Remember it was the Bolger government’s bailing out of the BNZ that precipitated the birth of WP & NZF & following on, MMP. Yep & sure some should have gone to jail over the foul and corrupt management of the BNZ and so too, some of the Wine Box exponents.

In fairness, free market economics is not so common either. In the USA, for example, it's pretty uncommon.

The debate isn't really between free market per se and socialism or communism or fascism etc. We're varying flavours of social democracy with markets that are varying levels of free. It's finding the right balance that's turning out to be the tricky part.

Don't agree that all other approaches have failed. Although they are less left wing than they used to be, I think the Nordic countries show that a centre-left approach can be successful. Singapore is another successful model.

Exactly. I mean China is a Communist/Capitalist state which has dramatically improved the lives of over a billion people in 2 generations. That's pretty successful and has a lot to do with the meritocracy it operates in the CCP (let's see if this continues under Xi). Lee in Singapore operated as a benevolent dictatorship. Singapore is now regarded as one of the riches countries on earth - 70 years ago it was basically an island swamp. It really still operates as a one party state, despite all appearances to the contrary.

Meanwhile some democratic/capitalist countries languish. India is gradually improving but not living up to it's potential and is playing second fiddle to China in the region. It's politics are held back by the old caste system and somewhat populist politicians. Indonesia/Philippines/Brazil are bogged down with their own brands of populism. The UK is in dire straits and has a political/parliamentary system crying out for reform. Why on earth is there a House of Lords still? Because you are born, you get to automatically be a representative and advise the government on policy?

Stagnation and decline seems to have been the result of centrist managerialism on the US model. The Labour Party doesn't represent labour and the National Party does not represent the nation, let alone capital. Both have succumbed to the numbing dullness of corporate ideology and easy bank created money. Countries do well when labour and capital work together, they rely on each other and achieve great things together. They are not in opposition. Dynamic capitalism, and the civilised society it creates, is always in danger of declining into a banking oligarchy based on political patronage.

The solution is not to turn to deluded old Marxist ideas that lead inevitably to a oligarchic dictatorship by Those What Know Best. MMP looked like a good idea, but it seems to have cemented an oligarchy of Fashionable Ideas in place. We have become institutionalised, unable to conceptualise how a more dynamic society might function.

The concept of revolution, as in the Glorious Revolution, is a return to former ideas and methods that proved their worth, not wholesale destruction, and the slaughter and slavery that inevitably result. We need a capitalist revolution, restoring freedom and dignity to all.

Possibly, Roger, political stagnation is less a result of 'centrist managerialism' than it is of a contemporary global economic impasse. Politics may be characterised as a means of deciding 'how to spend it'. National politics, though, is increasingly losing touch with where the money is. Global banking and global business are adept at keeping their winnings/earnings out of reach of national taxation systems and exchequers. Governments around the world are biting their nails wondering where the 'money to spend' will come from. New Zealand supposes it has solved the problem through immigration - a short term fix if ever there was one. On the other side of the ledger, are coming and mounting infrastructure, welfare, pension, health and education costs (to name just a few) that no-one in government wishes to account for. When you don't, won't or can't, look ahead economically, politics stagnates. New Zealand is no special case in this.

Absolutely, the decline of the West. NZ is run like a junior gold miner, constantly tapping the markets for fresh funds for management to spend and continuously diluting shareholders' capital as a consequence. There is another way: Running the business profitably, this provides funds for re-investment and growth.

Chasing GDP growth is equivalent to chasing profitless sales growth. It works well for management as long as the shareholders believe management know what they are doing, and are happy to keep giving them more money to spend. I call it the Teenager Business Model.

Chasing GDP growth is equivalent to chasing profitless sales growth.

Good way to describe.

Also highlights the fallacy of using population growth as the primary financial figure-fudger.

Yes, rapid population growth also seems to dilute our citizen shareholder value directly, in real things, like how long it takes to get to the beach.

We don't need a new party, what we need are decent leaders for the parties we already have. Can you even begin to imagine how difficult it would be come election time to pick one with several great leaders to choose from ? Would be great for the country wouldn't it ? instead we have a bunch of clowns to choose from and we go with the one handing out the most candy pre-election time that most benefit just you.

That might be the heart of the matter. One of the more plausible explanations for the current failure of representative democracy in England is that the local candidates are now largely chosen by Party Central, not the local party members as in times past.

It used to be the local party members chose their candidate on the basis of people who were known locally to be competent, fair minded, clear thinking, decent and honest. Somehow that tradition got diluted over time and the power of candidate selection got centralised in a small clique of people at head office. Just like the local film club tends to get taken over by a small unrepresentative clique. So the candidates are selected for their conformity to head office group think above all else.

The reason we dont have any new parties is simple.

We have a completely undemocratic 5% threshold which should be reduced to 1/(# of seats in parliament)

which of course worked just great for Italy after the war ..

I'd settle for anything below 2.5%, halving from where it is now. A compromise between too many 1 seat wonders, and the current hurdle too high for anyone to clear.

Mmmmmm.............. Social Credit seems to tick some of the boxes in CT's list. No neo-liberal nonsense there, and has been promoting the kind of stuff Treasury and the Reserve Bank are calling for - More govt spending sourced from the Reserve Bank (quantitative easing for the government not the banks), helicopter money (a national dividend). Also opposing China's takeover of land and agricultural production and want binding referrenda and recall of politicians who break election promises. www.socialcredit.nz

There's no doubting that leadership has lost it's mojo in the west. Political, business, education, community, you name it, it's poorly lead. Even the bloke trying to reverse the damage of American statism looks foolish at times. At least he's trying. But the neo-liberal argument is a fascinating one & one worth having. Our universities should try it. As for the politicians, well, what can we say. Overpaid, over-reported on, over promising, over fed, over the hill, over-travelled, over theoretical & over time. One thing they are not is over thought of. No one thinks highly of any of them, which perhaps is a result of the last 50 years of under-mining common sense education, leading to no new ideas (as Mr Trotter laments) and very average attendance & productivity from those who do partake - not to mention the breeder feeders who don't bother. My thoughts are that there is real urban - rural divide. From the old school workers on the land & the urban liberals/so called elites, in the big cities. The over-educated in the big cities are quite hopeless when it comes to reality while the grafters on the land feeding everyone, are conveniently blamed for every ill & pollution, when it's actually inside the big cities that the corrosive cancers are really showing their ugly heads. We may have the all the knowledge, but we are lacking a bit on the love of our fellow (wo)man.

Well said that pirate.

Does that work, though?

The urban folk are hardly elites, these days. Maybe if you're talking the older generations who got in when things were cheap and have benefited since then, but for younger Kiwis the reality is far different. Hard graft, low wages relative to cost of living and cost of building a life.

Meanwhile, are the people of the land still the people of the land? In the USA, much farm production is now from corporate farms rather than small owner-farmers, and it seems like since farming has lost priority to land speculation that we're seeing the decline of family farms in New Zealand too, the possibility of intergenerational farming seeing massive drops with land then bought up by corporate (and potentially foreign state) buying.

In both cases, the locals will be left with the dregs as large chunks of money are off-shored rather than recirculated through the economy to empower it. Both are left looking askance at each other while the country waits for politicians who will actually govern with the local population's long-term interests in mind.

Chris Trotter thinks he is 99% ..

Anyone know what is wrong with Winston?
Can not be anything to do with an op on an old sports injury!

The western political system it could be argued, ran out of ideas somewhere between the end of ww1 and the beginning of the great depression. Ww2 was simply an attempt to subjugate the eastern resources for the betterment of the euro/american nations, with disasterous fallout for most of the participants and the losers. The golden era of growth was simply rebuilding what had been destroyed and counting war bounty that had been looted in the process. Our biggest enemy is stagnation and neoliberalism is simply greed by another name and like rust it never sleeps. The democracies must constantly reinvent themselves or die.

I enjoy reading Chris Trotter's columns, but am generally left feeling that his nostrums lack any reality check. Since the first days of european settlement we seem to have suffered from the viewpoint that somehow little NZ ia part of the wider western developed nations, and that what Britain, or USA, or even Canada or Australia does/have is also entirely appropriate for us.
Face it Chris, we are just a tiny cork bobbing on the wide ocean. No matter how much we think the rest of the workd loves us, or how similar our desires, we have very little influence on the wider trends which sometimes buffet even large economies.
The sort of wishful thinking which seems so much a part of the Kiwi ethos, and our unfortunate tendancy to live beyond our means (both probably related) added to by the fact that our little country almost alone in the harsh world, has never suffered invasion natural devastation, civil war, or other carthartic experiences (which tend to concentrate the mind) all means that discussing the finer points of politics and who might prove to be a worthy leader, are a bit of a waste of time.