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Owen McShane

Beyond Amalgamation – Did anyone expect this?

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Many of us are scared this global depression will lead to the abandoning of free trade and a rash of protectionism – like the last one did.

We should be more afraid that this global depression will lead to the widespread adoption of fascism – like the last one did.

After all, the European Fascists opposed laissez-faire economic policies dominant in the era prior to the Great Depression. After the Great Depression began, many people from across the political spectrum blamed laissez-faire capitalism for their distress. History appears to be repeating itself.

The Royal Commission’s report on Auckland reflects much fascist thought, minus the promotion of the use of violence and external expansion. (You have to read the whole 800 pages, and know something about the theory of Fascism to appreciate this.) I suspect the authors had little idea that they were resurrecting the thoughts of Friedrick List, and other fascist theorists when they wrote their report. That is probably because, since the Cold War began, political debate has been played out between parties of the ‘left’ (socialist) and ‘right’ (capitalist). We tend to be unaware of fascist thought, even when it stares us in the face.

Also, during the sixties, ‘fascist’ became a general term of abuse for anyone you disagreed with, which has tended to deter rational discussion of fascist thought and ideology.

Strength through Unity

The promotion of a single Uber-City with a single Uber-Mayor, reflects the classic fascist advocacy of “strength through unity.” The term ‘fascism’ comes from the Latin fasces which were a symbol carried by the early Estruscan Lictors – an axe wrapped in a bundle of bound sticks. The bundle of sticks reminds us that a collection of sticks can be broken one at a time, but when bound together the sticks become strong.

Many of the advocates of the Unified City State argue that Auckland needs to be ‘strong’ to deal with Wellington, and to be able to “speak with one voice”. Amalgamation is normally driven by the desire to reduce costs and increase efficiency. We cross an important line when the amalgamation is designed to increase the ‘strength’ of the City, the unity of its leadership, and the presumed unity of the people who are being spoken for.

Of course the presumed unity is a fiction.

One Plan, One Rate, One Leader, One Voice to promote a Monocentric City.

So we now have a proposal for a single Uber-City, with a single Uber-Mayor, so that the City State “speaks” with one voice. The Uber-City Council will strike one rate, and write one plan. There is no right of appeal against the Plan’s objectives policies and rules. The One Plan must be put in place directly, and be firmly enforced to direct all the people’s actions in accordance with the plan. And of course the plan must promote the monocentric city model even though Auckland is naturally becoming multi-nodal as are the vast majority of cities in the world.

I approve of one RMA plan with one set of environmental standards, but we are talking about a plan to manage “Urban form” to reflect an aesthetic ideal of the vision for Uber-Auckland. We need to be aware that fascism is largely an aesthetic theory.

The report recommends that the symbol of the Uber-City is the old Town Hall in Queen Street. Many people in the region have hardly ever seen it, and many never will.

Fascism and the Economy

Socialism is primarily an economic theory that requires the nationalization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. Fascism is much less econocentric and allows property to remain in private hands but requires property owners to use their property to promote the interests of the State.

The Commission says we must all live at high density to ensure the viability of public transport because high-density living and public transport is more energy-efficient than low density and motor cars. Neither statement is true. This will require a total transformation of the City which will never happen and will never achieve its goals because technology change will outpace the rate of structural and form change by decades. Cities are not rebuilt overnight unless they are subject to rapid and intensive “Urban Renewal Programmes” such as the Blitz and the bombing of Dresden.

And of course the Commission tells us we must build no more roads – because cars set us free. (And make us fat.)

Presumably the Uber-Mayor will get the trains to run on time.

The Assault on Property Rights.

On page 533 the Commission recommends an Urban Development Agency, and says:

The UrbanDevelopment Agency would give effect to the spatial plan and infrastructureplan, and its activities must be consistent with the RPS, regional transport plan,and regional economic development plan. This agency could also have a role inensuring that the more complex urban renewal in planned nodes and corridorsis achieved. Compulsory acquisition powers for the Urban Development Agencyshould be considered under the Public Works Act.

In other words we should adopt the Keno vs New London decision of the US Supreme Court, in spite of the outrage that decision has caused in those US states which have accepted the decision rather than written their own legislation to overturn it.

Why bother owning property if the Urban Development Agency can use a modified Public Works Act to compulsorily purchase your property and sell it to another developer who will develop it according to Council’s whims rather than to your own assessment?

Remember the 1960 Hunn Report that wanted to confiscate ‘under-productive’ Maori land? Maori should be wary of such ‘new’ ideas too.

We know that the worst thing to do during a recession is reduce investors’ confidence in their property rights. Such agencies have been tried in the US and found severely wanting. We should not be surprised. The Council proposed to exercise these powersis simply a larger one than the one that brought David Beckham to Auckland.

Aucklanders must be Socially Engineered.

But the commission recognises that this re-organisation of our style of living is difficult and will require rigorous “enforcement” because we have the wrong “attitudes”.

Consequently these “bad attitudes” must change – or be changed. So Aucklanders must be socially engineered to gain the “correct attitudes” towards living in apartments and using public transport, presumably using the social budget allocation recommended in the report.

Who are the Polluters who threaten Aucklanders Purity?

The fascist states of Europe feared the “mongrelisation” of their race and the Nazis feared the Jewish threat to the “purity” of the Aryan race. Because fascism is the dark side of the Romantic movement it looks back to tribal beliefs which strongly advocate purity and build a structure of taboo to enforce it.

The people of Auckland are probably among the least anti-Semitic in the Western World. Many Aucklanders voted for Mayor Robbie without being even vaguely aware he was Jewish.

But the fascist concerns about purity and pollution remain to be exploited. The people who threaten our 100% purity in the 21st century are those who don’t turn their lights out for Earth hour, who want to have a decent shower, use plastic bags, disposable nappies and drive cars – and of course farm belching cows.

Aucklanders must therefore unite to serve the “Sustainable City-State”.

The Commission’s Report never mentions the wants or desires of the people. Aucklanders’ needs and desires are to be subservient to the needs of the new City-State.

The report sets up a powerful republic with an all-powerful “President” unrestrained by the countervailing discipline of the US constitution and Bill of Rights. The Sub-City mayors and councilors would be a joke. The Uber-Mayor collects all the rating revenue which is then distributed to the councils who would challenge the Uber-Mayor at their peril. They will be like children who depend on their parents for their pocket money. Why would anyone stand for election to such a thankless post?

On the other hand, anyone who seeks the position of Uber-Mayor should immediately be disqualified from standing.

The Urban Design Panel.

Fascism is largely an aesthetic theory so, predictably, the Commission recommends that every significant development in the Region must be approved by an Urban Design Panel. (i.e. an urban design censorship board.) The Uber-Mayor will undoubtedly have a smart uniform.

Are the Infrastructure Problems about to be solved by RMA Reforms?

The genuine and identifiable problems with the development of Auckland’s infrastructure may well be solved by a combination of the proposed RMA reforms and by setting up a few region-wide service organisations to manage water and sewage etc – preferably on a fifteen year franchise so they compete like the French do.

The present Government also seems to be taking a realistic attitude to transport and will build some roads – preferably at-grade rather than in expensive deep tunnels.

We tend to confuse democratic form and function with engineering form and function – but that too reflects a fascist world view which sees Government largely as a process of design.

What should be done with the Plan for Uber-Auckland?

The Lange Government decided to use the famous 4000 page Social Services review as a doorstop.

This latest piece of Labour (or work) is only 800 pages long but could well be used to keep the door open for some sensible ideas and more democratic reform.

Certainly, this Government would be ill-advised to burden itself with a remnant of the last Government which was so committed to central planning and interventionism.

The economy and our people are under considerable stress and should not be tempted by the false fruit of fascism. It will lead us down the road to serfdom and to ruin.