Freedom of the Individual
Personal freedom, the right to live one’s life free from the interference of others is the natural bedrock of all human beings. Over the millennia it has been something more honoured in the breach than the observance, but as mankind emerged from societies whose economies were reliant on slavery and various forms of serfdom the assertion of personal freedom became unstoppable, and in the modern era it found its voice in The American Founding Fathers 1775 Declaration of Independence. It asserted as “self-evident inalienable human rights that all men are created equal and endowed with the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. This declaration of the essence of personal freedom of the individual which we have come to take for granted, has particular piquancy coming as it did after a bitter civil war between the settlers and their British cousins. Fourteen years later in 1789 it became the template for the battle cry of the French Revolution:” Liberty, equality and fraternity”. In Britain in 1859 the ideal of liberty found eloquent voice in the John Stuart Mill’s essay on the liberty of the individual. Such rights all of which have come to be protected by the Rule of Law include: The right to make choices as to how we lead our lives both in work and in leisure, without impinging on the rights of others to do the same. The right to bear and nurture children. The right to own, and freely buy, sell and exchange property, money and labour. The right to freedom of thought and expression. The right to live free from the fear of others encroaching on those rights. The crucial common factor in this bundle of rights is that they are an inseparable part of the human condition without them the individual has neither freedom nor equality.
These fundamental building blocks of the human condition are not to be confused with that trendy collection of “rights” much loved of politicians seeking a vote at election time such as: the the right to freedom from want, or “rights” to education and to health or housing. These are merely a wish list of wants which if not earned by the individual as part of the pursuit of happiness can only be supplied by the encroaching on the efforts of others.
The exercise of individual freedom carries with it responsibilities and limitations. It has long been understood that the unbridled exercise of personal freedom leads as certainly to tyranny as its absence. One of the hall marks of a civilised society is the way in which it preserves the essence of personal freedom while imposing on it the minimal but necessary constraints. In our New Zealand tradition this is achieved by two mechanisms: Good manners, and the rule of law.
The notion of a code of “good manners” is something little talked about but taken in with our mother’s milk and installed by us in our own children. Good Manners are therefore a potent civilising force. They embrace every aspect of social interaction; from the self-imposed restraint on the exercise of free speech, for example not saying or writing unnecessarily hurtful thing to or about others, to surrendering our freedom to a seat on public transport to those who for whatever reason have a greater need. They are the reason why we do not with a clear conscience routinely lie and cheat in our dealings with others, be it at sport or elsewhere (something the Australian cricketers have yet to learn), and why we don’t boast about our achievements or bore others with long winded effusions of our virtues. Manners require that males do not visit their unwanted attentions on the opposite sex, or abuse positions of trust in relation to children. The failure to observe these basic restraints on personal freedom are at the heart of; the “me too” movement, the criminal prosecution of males in “holy orders, “and the scandalous allegations of sexual impropriety against members of my own profession. The recognition, by those who well understand the power imbalance inherent in these relationships could have avoided the pain, embarrassment and financial consequences of departure from the simple canons of good manners.
Examples could be endlessly multiplied but enough said to make the point that self-restraint is crucial to the exercise of personal freedom, and it is of course an ingredient of that freedom. It inspires the passage in Ecclesiastes (9-12) that: “the race does not go to the swift and the battle to the strong”, and the lyrics of the wonderful Bette Midler song “the Rose.” And you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong. It does not, and it is not. To live by this simple code results in a harmonious society and those who do so are generally held in esteem by their peers.
It is only where this self-restraint fails that the recourse to the Law is necessary. Most of the Criminal code exists to punish those who exercise their individual freedom by lying cheating, stealing and trespass on the person of others (murder, manslaughter assault etc.). In those cases, society ordains that the perpetrator does not deserve the right to personal freedom and it is lost either inside of a prison, or some other sentence involving a fetter on that freedom. Nothing more graphically illustrates the crucial human importance of individual liberty than its physical loss in this way. In the case of the civil law it exists to proscribe: unbridled freedom of speech contrary to the defamation laws, lying, cheating, and abuse of some protected relationship (trustee and beneficiary and the like). The consequences of these transgressions generally result in the deprivation of the individual of the enjoyment of accumulated property by awards of damages to the aggrieved party. For those to whom the ownership and acquisition of property is central to their being (and it often is with the cheat and the liar) this loss of freedom to enjoy what they have accumulated is a condign punishment. But all of that said these constraints vital as they are leave untouched the core value of personal freedom which is the right to live how one will, think what one will, and speak what one will without constraint or fear of the consequences.
The other important self-imposed restraint on the exercise of personal liberty is the deeply ingrained need to act charitably to those who through no fault of their own falter in life and need help. There is nothing new in this. The word translates from the Latin to mean” love of human kind” and is most clearly seem in a mother’s love for a child something so overwhelming that it can at times trump the mother’s personal freedoms often subordinating them to the needs of the child. Truly it can be said that charity begins at home with the mother but does not end there.
This love of human kind has long found a place in the wider community: From the Good Samaritan, through the Elizabethan Poor Laws and the Victorian Workhouses to the provision of cradle to grave medical and social support which is common to all the modern developed societies (about which more later). Put at its crudest as a society we are uncomfortable with beggars on the street and sickness going untreated. To mitigate this, we accept that a part of our individual wealth shall go to the less fortunate in the form of state administered charity and in addition by our voluntary donations to good causes as we individually see them to be. As to the latter Americans lead the way in supporting private charity. The amounts donated are not tabulated but from those activities one is aware of, such as the hundreds of millions of dollars raised by professional golf bodies each year which go largely to support children’s charities and veteran servicemen and women, to the billions given away by such as Bill Gates, (to mention only one of the great charitable American Foundations) the total must run to hundreds of billions of dollars a year. All of which is a self-imposed fetter on the freedom of the individual or corporation to spend personal wealth solely on what pleases the holder. Of course, as is said charity benefits those who give and those who receive leaving a feeling of wellbeing in the giver, but that said the benefits to the receiver are material and necessary, not merely a warm feeling of doing some good.
The Market Economy and private property.
Central to the notion of personal freedom is the ownership of private property and the innate way in which peoples have since time immemorial and without being told, chosen to conduct their commercial affairs. Left to themselves this is achieved by the simple means of the market place. I wish to buy or sell my labour, or things I own and to do so I take them to a market place where I may or may not achieve the outcome I seek. If I do then I will leave the market with bartered goods or in more developed societies, money which I then use to pursue further economic activity. When this is multiplied by the untold number of such decisions made at any time it becomes “The Economy”. This basic human interaction occurs in the most intricate and sophisticated societies and the most primitive. We see it daily in our shopping and one need only witness for example: a customer in a butcher’s shop making considered decisions whether to exchange money for blade steak or perhaps a sirloin or maybe fillet, or browsers in London’s Petticoat Lane deciding whether the artifact on offer is genuine or a worthless fake. Nearer to home a twelfth century visitor to our Sunday Markets, which attract thousands around the country, would feel quite at home browsing the stalls and deciding whether to buy, and if so at what price. At a macro level share markets around the world operate in the same way as the Sunday Markets a meeting of buyer and seller and a daily exchange of trillions of dollars of value all with only the minimum regulation necessary to ensure the honesty of the market. So childishly simple is this to our ears we forget that when fetters are placed on this inherent human desire to trade (other than are necessary to protect that right) then personal freedom is fatally compromised and, in its place, arises one or other of the various forms of slavery with which history abounds. It is an extraordinary tribute to the resilience of the human spirit that thus far when freed of political oppression all attempts to supplant the free markets have failed. With one on going sinister exception (discussed below) these attempts to displace the market economy center around state control of the means of production, distribution and exchange with the result that the citizen becomes dependent on the state for subsistence which is vassaldom by any other name.
If the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, then it is crucially important to protect free markets and their offspring private ownership of property. There are those academics who are so dissatisfied with their well upholstered freeloading lot that they spend endless time and effort dreaming up systems to supplant the free market place and do away with private ownership. Perhaps the most influential in the modern era were those old frauds Karl Marx, and his soul mate Frederick Engels, who while living variously in nineteenth century London and Paris and enjoying all the benefits of free and open societies devised their discredited pejorative terms “capitalism” and “bourgeoisie” to denote those who own property, and the free market. These are by design sinister and meaningless terms which have long outlived their authors, but which have had catastrophic consequences for mankind. By a flawed analysis of the laws of supply and demand, and reference to a mystical tribal past when all property was said to be owned in common, Marx concluded that those who only have their labour to sell will remain tantamount to serfs, always at the mercy of those who supply the capital necessary for the enterprise which employs the labour. He assumed that the supply of labour was endlessly elastic and would always drive down its value. His prescription to right these ills was the enforced abolition of the free market, and private property and, in its place, a “communisation” of all property including labour. The various Communist Party manifestos of the eighteen eighties became the biblical texts for these tedious and outdated notions, and generations of academic economists have since worshiped at this alter.
Significantly the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Corban Labour opposition in the United Kingdom makes no secret of his view that Marks is the greatest economist of all time and promises that if Labour gets into office he will be implementing the Marxist world view. Requiescat in pace the market economy, private property and freedom of the individual in the United Kingdom in the unlikely event Corban’s party is ever elected to office. It is also no coincidence that the inner circle of the Corban Labour Party is anti-Semitic, as was the post war Atlee Labour government which bitterly resisted the American imitative of returning stolen Jewish assets to the owners or their heirs. In a warped Socialist way this is understandable because the market economy and the freedoms that attend it are closely associated with the hard work and enterprise of the Jewish people over the Millennia. Qualities recognised down the ages by rulers who routinely surrounded themselves with Jewish advisors to fill their treasuries sufficient to wage their wars. A process so historically revolting that in most cases when the Jewish people had outlived their usefulness to the Ruler or government they were exiled or slaughtered in their millions.
Because free markets are so successful It has become necessary for Socialists to demonise them and those who trade therein. Encouraging this agenda is the current school of economists’ which stretches back to Thomas Malthus. Born in 1776 he thought amoung other outlandish views that an economy run on oil was a flash in the pan and couldn’t last. (no pun intended). Currently this ilk includes such as Thomas Picketty and the latest addition Mariana Mazzucato (unsurprisingly an academic at University College London which has a fine socialist pedigree), who both believe and proselytize that more taxes and bigger government are the answer to society’s perceived ills. M/s Mazzucato espouses the transparently flawed thesis that as some new idea such as the internet, or mobile phones was initially funded by public money that should result in the Government having the majority stake in the enterprise by way of imposing punitive taxes on such commercial successes. She appears unable to understand that having a good idea is one thing but taking it to the market and making money from it is quite another. She seems immune to the obvious reality that governments traditionally shy away from joint ventures in good ideas because the track record of the success of most “good ideas” is just too awful to risk public money beyond, perhaps an initial research grant. One need only consider for example the story of the A2 Milk Company in New Zealand the success of which is currently propping up the New Zealand share market. It started life at Otago University with an idea that a certain gene in the milk of some but not all cows helped prevent the onset of diabetes. This was widely derided by Fonterra from the outset (but who now have bought access to the A2 intellectual property). The idea was first taken up and commercialised by Howard Paterson a Dunedin business man who began the extraordinary process of 50 cents shares now being bought and sold by the public for upwards of $13. The real success of this venture is not the original good idea but the effort which has gone into selling it to the public. That is the free market working par excellence.
The lesson of history is that a free and open market economy operating within the Rule of Law notwithstanding temporary power imbalances and stumbles along the path is the only way to ensure prosperity and rising standards of living, education and health. Quite simply no other economic model achieves these ends. Therefore, those who would subjugate others to their own ends must first destroy or fatally compromise the market place and deny universal access to its benefits.
The facts speak for themselves and are open to anybody who cares to look. To mention a few: Before the Industrial Revolution average inflation adjusted earnings were about NZ$1600 per annum. Between 1989 and 2018 New Zealand average wages per hour increased from$13 to $31. Over the last hundred years market generated technology has liberated the labouring classes from much of the back-breaking work previously expected of them. The home maker has mechanical aids, and personal leisure undreamed of by prior generations. Crop yields have risen, Malthus is yet again confounded and famine in most parts of the world is in steep decline. Access to mostly carbon-based energy supplies has increased global average life expectancy from 68 for males in 1960 to 80 in 2018, and for females from 73 to 83. All of this has been made possible by access to free and open markets. For those who think that the place of markets in this remarkable story is overstated they need only look at socialist countries such as North Korea one of the few places in the world where famine continues to occur, or the USSR under Stalin where millions died of famine caused solely by socialist prescriptions.
The test of any political system is how it’s rules and practices support the fundamental human right of free and open markets and ownership of private property. It is political decision making which ordains whether these rights flourish or wither. In particular whether the economy of a country recognises the existence of these rights and supports them. It is here that rights collide with the “isms” But first a word about Democracy and The Rule of Law.
Democracy and the Rule of Law
As with our individual freedoms we have arrived at the crossroads. So much are these pillars of our freedom neglected, or at best compromised because we do not expend the effort necessary to protect them from alternative and less beguine forms of government – dictatorship, oligarchy, autocracy etc. The idea of the will of the majority arrived at by a secure voting system is as Winston Churchill observed the “least bad of all the alternatives” but it is fundamental to the survival of our fundamental human rights. When it goes the rights die with it. This is something well understood by the dictatorships as an existential threat and hence the malign foreign interference in the exercise of democratic rights by, the spreading of misinformation on “social media” and misuse of lobby groups such as Cambridge Analytica. All of which sought to distort the recent American Presidential elections bringing to office as it did a popularly elected President but one who because of his mannerisms and contempt for the Washington Establishment is loathed by it and the media. There is also the worrying tendency that the whole idea of democracy is being subverted by those who wish to use its legitimacy to plunder the coffers of the state. Malaysia affords a recent example of a democratically elected President facing allegations of having stolen vast sums of public money, similarly with the recently deposed President of Zimbabwe. The same forces are at work in the United Kingdom by those who seek to overturn the result of the Brexit Referendum – one of the most impressive exercises in democracy seen anywhere in the world in recent times.
The root causes of these attacks on popular democratic decision-making lie largely with the contempt that the elites and their academic hangers on have for the ordinary citizen. One senses a genuine puzzlement amoung these people that the “Great Unwashed” should have a vote on something, as complex (they think) as cancelling Britain’s membership of the Brussels bureaucracy. In fact, the choice was black and white, and an ideal subject for a referendum: is Britain a sovereign state or a vassal of the European Union? Similarly, with the recent European elections, which returned Euro sceptic democratically elected governments in Italy, Poland, The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. No university education was necessary to answer the questions put to the public in those countries. One writer recently described this European drive to crush democracy as “Managerialism” and said: “It is now the dominant ideology among the educated classes around the world. It is based on the idea that popular voting is fine as long as it doesn’t change anything or produce a result with which the elites disagree”. Similar forces are at work in the United States of America with the election of the American President in respect of whom most of the media and their body guard of elites have developed a paranoid obsession castigating any decision made by him because they regard him as the wrong person from the wrong party and elected by the ignorant.
Whether or not these elites understand the threat to democracy that their attitudes represent is not clear. One suspects that they do but envisage a form of democracy that accords with their world view and protects their rights, whatever they conceive them to be. Rights which should not be shared with those who do not enjoy their elite status, as they see it to be, or do not have an equivalent number of (largely meaningless) pieces of paper embossed with University seals.
These trends are alive and well in New Zealand and are compounded by our MMP electoral system which allows minorities to exercise power far beyond their democratic franchise. The recent election with its sordid behind the scenes horse trading necessary to bring to office three parties none of whom would have the remotest chance of securing majority at a democratically conducted election, (or indeed have much in common),stands as a condign warning of how far we have departed from the core principles of democracy. When one adds to this mix the antics of the National Party when in office encouraging Maori expectations of separatist sovereignty (something which the Labour Party to its credit has thus far resisted) it becomes clear that democracy is only a safeguard of fundamental human values if it is conducted by an electorate imbued with common sense in accordance with the principle of the greatest good for the greatest number but respecting the personal freedoms of all.
The Rule of Law
The Rule Of law is generally little understood by the community at large but it is crucial to the preservation of our freedoms and the functioning of democracy. At its simplest it involves the notion that laws governing our conduct are either enacted or changed by a properly constituted, democratically elected Parliament, or if there is a vacuum then by the Courts. Once in force the law applies equally to all members of society and as it is said no person, irrespective of how powerful or important, is above the law. All of our freedoms depend on this simple proposition; without it lies tyranny, corruption, and distributive justice (where the law can apply to some but not all).
The question then is which if any of the “Isms” protect and enhance personal freedom, democracy, open markets and the Rule of Law. For the purposes of this article I have selected the following: Socialism, Capitalism, Liberalism, and Environmentalism all of which are crudely abbreviated by the media and commentators to be of the; left, right, or centre of politics. The question is what do these labels mean in the context of twenty first century societies and how does the use of them help us understand how voters should respond to what is on offer from the current crop of political parties? The answer is nothing, and not at all. They are a lexicon for lazy thinking; shibboleths which serve to obscure the true nature of the aims and objects of those who advance these forms of political arrangement.
Before turning to the “Isms” a word about “Labour Parties” as they emerged in Western Democracies in the nineteenth century. They have their genesis in the idea of a political party representing those who had nothing to sell but their labour, which in any society consists of most of the citizenry. The first such party was formed in Britain in 1900, followed in New Zealand at a meeting of coal miners in a hall in Renunga on the West Coast in 1916. The rational of these Labour parties was to free the labouring classes from the tyranny of the employer’s dictum- work on our terms or starve, and to replace this with the notion of an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work; recognising what became known as the “dignity of labour”. In this context choice of the adjective “honest” rather than the lazy notion of “fair” (which means whatever suits me best) is revealing in that it carries with it the notion of a return on labour which is proportionate to its value to the enterprise and sustainable for master and servant alike. It that sense they truly stood for the personal freedom of the majority of society and the ability of the individual and the family to survive, prosper and to contribute to the greater public weal. Sadly, although Labour parties have to this day not been cursed with an “ism” they have long since lost their raison d’etre of guarding the freedoms of the majority. They have descending into political parties motivated by a crude envy of any form of personal success which makes some people better off financially than others. The apogee of this is to be seen the current United Kingdom Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn and his avowedly Socialist Shadow Chancellor. It unashamedly espouses Socialism as an electoral platform for governing British society. The New Zealand Labour is not far behind as the sinister emanations of the Cullen Committee on taxation bear testimony. Regrettably what began life as a genuine exercise in democracy and protection of the freedom of the working class to bargain for its labour is no longer the guardian of those freedoms and is now indistinguishable from the aspirations of the openly socialist parties. One of the few exceptions to this trend was the Labour government of Tony Blair in the United Kingdom. He and his inner circle recognised that socialism was dead in Britain and that a “Labour Party” was only electable if it abandoned its core socialist beliefs and that is what happened. The Labour Party manifesto was amended by deleting any reference to the communisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange with the result that the Blair government became one of the most successful British governments of the twentieth century. A lesson entirely lost on Mr Corbyn and his cohorts.
Sadly, early in the life of the New Zealand Labour Party it became the plaything of the Trade Union movement led by Socialists whose agenda was not simply to improve the conditions of the workers but to substitute socialism for the free market. Those who are old enough will remember the grim visages of Tom Skinner chatting with Robert Muldoon over the back fence of their adjoining properties fixing the next general wage order increase applicable to all workers and employers irrespective of the ability of the market to sustain such increases. And Con Devitt of the Boiler Makers Union whose bullying tactics directly caused the end of steel frame commercial constructions in New Zealand (The Bank of New Zealand in Wellington and the last steel frame building, and Mangere bridge the last such structure). Before that the corruption that marked the Trade Union Movement during the tenure of Fintan Patrick Walsh during the nineteen forties was entrenched and led to the 1951 Waterfront strike during which the striking unionists confronted armed militias on New Zealand streets for the first time since the conflicts with some Maori tribes in the eighteen sixties. In the United Kingdom Arthur Scargill leader of the Coal Miners’ Union attempted to bring down the Conservative government of the day and nearly succeed; failing only because of the courage of such as Margret Thatcher and sufficient of her Party. In Australia it was the socialist led unions which refused to unload the American warships carrying vital supplies for the defence of Australia against Japanese invasion. This violence and disruption followed the well worn socialist agenda for the destruction of democracy and free markets which had previously been employed in Russia and Eastern Europe with such success. But significantly it failed to achieve its ends in the Western Democracies.
In an extraordinary turn of events once in office in 1984 the New Zealand Labour Party reversed this slide to socialism, loss of individual freedoms, and near fatal compromise of the market economy in New Zealand by returning to its founding principles of democracy and the dignity of labour in a freely functioning market place. In doing so it implemented reforms which arrested the slide to socialism following the disastrous Muldoon years during which New Zealand slipped to third world status and for the first time in our history was on the verge of defaulting on our international obligations. In an unprecedented electoral step into the void the public rejected the socialism of Muldoon and instead elected a government which as it turned out was probably the most talented in our political history. Ministers such as Roger Douglas, David Caygill, Geoffrey Palmer, Trevor de Cleen, Richard Prebble, and Michael Bassett achieved a near miracle in turning the economy round by doing all of those things necessary to rescue free markets. (I omit David Lange whose only contribution was to stand by and let the reforms happen, but later to bow to ill-informed talk by taking his “cup of tea” and thereby compromising the reforms.) This Labour government cancelled farming subsidies, reduced income tax rates from sixty-six to thirty-three cents in the dollar, abolished foreign exchange restrictions, floated the dollar and introduced a goods and services tax. In doing so they also headed off the Muldoon government’s intention to introduce a de facto capital gains tax in the form of the 1982 Land and Income Tax Amendment Bill. So demonstrably successful were these interventions that they paved the way for the later repeal of: Gift duty and stamp duty, reduced the rate of death duties to zero and brought the bank rate down from around twelve percent to the current 1.75%. All of which made the open market economy of New Zealand the envy of the world. We continue to live under benefits of these reforms but there are clouds gathering and so to the “Isms”.
What is wrong with the Isms
The question then is what is wrong with the “isms” as a means of governing society and isn’t the loss of freedom, abolition of private property and the demise of free markets a price worth paying for the touted benefits of the living in a society where “all men are equal,” or in the case of “environmentalism” the saving of the planet from the depredations of its human inhabitants? A look at the track records of each of the “isms” answers the question.
Communism/Socialism/democratic socialism, including Nazism and Liberalism.
There is a commonly held but misconceived view, that socialism is somehow different from Communism and more benign. Nothing could be further from the truth. Communism based as it was on the “communes” or local councils was merely the way in which the Russians chose to implement socialist doctrines in that country. The various labels; “Democratic Socialism” (which apparently our current Prime Minister espouses), “Social Democracy” and “Liberalism”, if they mean anything, are an attempt to distance believers from the brutal excesses of the ideology when carried to its logical conclusion. If socialism and its hand maidens have a philosophical basis it is that the goods and services produced by society shall be shared not in terms of the personal effort required to produce them but according to some vague notion of “to each according to his needs from each according to his means, or if you are a liberal goods should be “fairly distributed.” As needs are bottomless but goods and services are finite, and fairness is always in the eye of the beholder this is, and always was, palpable nonsense. It results in the destruction of free markets and the loss of individual freedom; the twin pillars upon which rests the production of the goods and services which the socialists wish to redistribute.
Tried in various places around the world over the last two hundred years including: The USSR, East Germany, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Czechoslovakia, The Balkans, The Baltic states, Finland, China, North Korea, Cuba, various South American countries and most recently Venezuela. Of these the only places where the Communism brand of Socialism remains as the governing ideology are North Korea and Venezuela. Of the rest China is attempting to walk the tight rope of marrying a market economy with a command political system which can only lead to the demise of one or the other) Cuba is emerging into a post Castro era which will almost certainly lead to the revival of free markets and personal freedom in that country. Venezuela stands as a laboratory example of the damage even a short dalliance with socialism can cause. Once the wealthiest of the South American countries thanks to its oil revenues, it is now reduced to poverty and starvation. Personal freedom is non-existent, medical and social services have collapsed and even its fishermen are reduced to piracy in the waters of the Caribbean to make ends meet. No doubt all of this will be overturned in the next coup and there are signs this is happening, but the irrefutable lessons of the consequences of socialism in this latest iteration appear to be entirely lost on some voters in the Western Democracies particularly the young who continue to display the aphorism that if you are not a socialist at twenty you have no heart. If you are still a socialist at thirty you have no head.
Of the rest of the above-mentioned countries all have abandoned Socialism and, in the majority, have opted for the enhancement of personal freedoms by adopting Democracy, within the Rule of Law, and market economies. Russia is the exception. It has replaced socialism (which at least had the pretence of a philosophy) with a kleptocracy in which the wealth of the state is progressively stolen and accumulated in the hands of fewer and fewer criminals to the great detriment of the rest of society. There is in that country no pretence of protecting personal freedom, an uncorrupted market economy or of a Rule of Law. Elections are a farce and critics of the ruling clique are routinely murdered or imprisoned. The country has become a rogue state meddling in the affairs of the Western democracies, short of armed conflict, and using its best efforts to undermine democracy, the Rule of Law, and the market economies. All of which as mentioned above by the simple expedient of lies and miss information on a massive scale courtesy of the so called “social media”. The whole baleful exercise illustrates how socialism can reinvent itself with all its flaws but bearing a prettier face and concealing its clay feet.
In practice then experiments with socialism have resulted in: the death, enslavement and starvation of millions, the horrors of the German death camps and the Russian Gulags, and the massive death and dislocation which accompanied Chairman Mao’s “great leap forward”. In every country where socialism has become the prevailing political philosophy the results have been a complete negation of personal freedom and the right to life. It is little wonder that the current proponents introduce such fig leaves as “Democratic” or “Liberal” when peddling their ideas.
In any sensible society one would have thought that this experience most of which is in the lifetime of some readers would be enough to convince even the most naïve that socialism is to be avoided at all costs; but rust never sleeps. Experience has taught the socialist that the brand is tainted and unelectable in a prosperous market driven democracy. By the mid nineteen eighties none of the advanced societies allowed socialists near the levers of power so they were driven to find other sheep’s clothing beneath which to bear their teeth. The chosen subterfuges take the twin pillars of: “welfareism” with its the transparently deceitful notion that the State has a duty to ensure that all human needs are met, and “environmentalism” which even more dangerously peddles the notion that free markets are destroying the planet. Both are equally pernicious and will, left unchecked fatally undermine the market economy and individual liberty.
Around the “Western World” Welfarism is the bastard child of charity and we are currently standing by helpless watching it grow to maturity. New Zealand now expends twenty-three billion of the total gross domestic product of sixty-four billion on state welfare. This expenditure is entirely funded by the taxpayer but other than a three yearly “Hobsons choice” at the polls the public has no say in how the money is spent. Welfareism answers to wants rather than needs. Notions of self-reliance and sensible life style decisions have become eroded to the point of irrelevance. This is evident in the health budget which grows exponentially year on year. It proceeds on the basis that everybody has the “right “to health irrespective of how they treat their minds and bodies. It no longer exists primarily to help those who by incapacity, accident or from causes over which they have no control suffer misfortune. In all this it has been known for many years that the insatiable demand for ever increasing medical interventions is unsustainable but the drain on the taxpayer has become a flood.
Similarly, with income support schemes. Originally intended as a short-term expedient to assist those who through no fault of their own are struggling financially. A quintessential charitable instinct, but one which has become hopelessly corrupted by successive generations of welfare dependant beneficiaries for whom paid work comes a poor second to open ended welfare, or in the case of some young women turning out a baby at regular intervals. Welfare thus becomes a rational economic decision, particularly as the money does not need to be spent on the child. Rather in too many cases the child will instead become a further charge on the state.
For the socialist the fact that the open market economy is the source of this largess is irrelevant, indeed barely noticed. The default position is that if the money runs out then more will be extracted from the dying embers of the free market. The most glaring example of this in recent years was the tax policy of the Muldoon government. When Sir John Marshall was forced out of office by Corporal Muldoon the personal income tax rate was nineteen cents in the dollar. When Muldoon called his infamous snap election in an alcohol infused moment in 1984 personal income tax rates were sixty-six cents in the dollar. It was Lenin who said that when income tax rates exceed forty pence in the pound an armed socialist revolution is unnecessary; it has already happened. If a lesson is ever needed of the evils of high taxation, it is the Muldoon years and what followed: Interest rates on first mortgages were conventionally around 15% and above. Business overdraft rates rose to numbers in the thirty percent range. The overnight bank rate rose to in excess of 150%. The New Zealand dollar dropped to historic lows (I recall on one trip to the United Kingdom in the early eighties the New Zealand dollar bought twenty-four British pence.) Following the Douglas reforms not only did the economy recover after some painful times for the rural sector, but the tax take increased. Interest rates dropped, and business once again became internationally competitive.
But the lessons are lost on the socialist because their goal is the destruction of the market economy and the central ownership of the means of production and exchange. Unbridled welfare leads inevitably to this end.
Thus far individual freedom and the free market economy and democracy have proved to be resilient enough to withstand the best efforts of the socialists something which one suspects causes them great angst and surprise. Their problem has been that in Western democracies they are never in office long enough to cause irreparable damage; but that has all changed. By allying with the cave dwelling Greens and the global warmers they have unearthed a cause which with willing compliance of the media, and the dishonest connivance of parts of the scientific community and some large corporations they can present the evils of the market economy as an existential threat to life on the planet. They contend that the causes of this doom-laden prophecy are the market economy and democratic decision making by those whom these green people believe to be too ignorant to be allowed any say in such complex and weighty matters. If only Stalin and Mao had thought of this the history of the world would have been very different and their attacks on democracy and the markets more successful.
This is not the place for any detailed analysis of the well springs of the global warming panic but suffice to say it is no more than an unproved theory and with the passage of time one that is emerging as demonstrably wrong. The Himalayan glaciers have not melted as the Indian train engineer who moonlighted as head of the IPCC predicted they would by some date in early 2000. The Polar bears have not been wiped out, to the contrary they are more numerous than ever. There is no evidence of sea level rise around the New Zealand coasts and therefore adopting the analogy of the bath tub presumably anywhere else – all oceans being interconnected. New Zealand’s undoctored temperature record as kept at the Alexander Turnbull library shows a temperature fluctuation of 0.4 degrees over the last 150 years hardly cause for alarm, but widely divergent from the homogenised figures produced by The National Institute Of Water and Atmosphere. The East Antarctic ice sheet is increasing substantially in size. The West Antarctic ice sheet is melting in places as a result of volcanic activity in the vast submarine mountain range upon which it lies. But in any event as any gin drinker will testify melting ice floating in a liquid does not increase the volume of liquid at all. Neither Prince Charles’s apocalyptic warning sounded in 2000, that the planet only had seven years before it lost control of the levers of climate change, or the then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s warning that the planet had fifty days in which to avoid an environmental disaster, have come to pass. But that does not deter the warmers. They have become like those men who carried placards around Hyde Park in the nineteen fifties calling on the world to repent because “the end is nigh”. They really have more in common with those religious sects who commit mass suicide rather than face Armageddon than they do with science.
So tenuous have the warmists theories become that the priesthood found it necessary to change the label from global warming to climate change. A meaningless description of something that occurs both daily and over geological time. There are in excess of two thousand peer reviewed scientific papers debunking the warmists theories, but none are reported in the media or read by those who peddle this pernicious theory which we now know from our Prime Minister is our “Nuclear moment”, (whatever that means). The theory which underpins this attack is so transparently tenuous that no sentient person could believe it can support the warmers apocalyptic pronouncements of the end of the world as we know it or justify the vast amounts they want spending on its mitigation. There must be another agenda; and there is.
To attack carbon dioxide (the tiny amount of which is contained in our atmosphere and which makes all life possible on earth) is to attack the free market economy based as it currently is on the extraction and use of carbon products, principally coal, oil and gas. There is no reliable alternative to the use of these energy sources and without them the market economy would collapse. None of the other possibilities much promoted by warmers including wind, and solar energy have any prospect of providing the base load capacity for a reliable energy system-something which South Australia has found to its cost. Similarly, with transport fuels there is no suitable substitute for carbon-based fuels; petrol, diesel, aviation fuel and oil used as a lubricant. Electric vehicles will have a place for short haul domestic use (to my knowledge they were used in milk floats in England in the nineteen fifties) but that is all. It is not suggested even by the most ardent warmers that electric vehicles will replace the heavy haulage fleets, or the energy inputs needed for shipping and aviation. Neither is any thought given to where the supplies of alternative energy will come from to charge billions of electric vehicles touted as the future worldwide, or the carbon footprint of the production and disposal of the batteries. In New Zealand we are fortunate in having abundant sources of hydroelectricity (although trenchantly resisted by the Green movement over the years); many countries are hopelessly energy deficient, absent oil and coal, and for them alternative energy is a cruel joke.
All of this is so well understood that adopting the warmers prescriptions can only lead to the demise of the free market economy, ergo that must be the intention. Quite what these myopic clowns intend to replace markets with is never articulated, but there can only be one answer and they know it – Socialism, in which the state allocates all of the resources as it sees fit, private property ownership disappears, and democracy becomes irrelevant. The poverty and hardship which will result from the Warmers having their way is unimaginable and brings to mind the words of Christ on the Cross except these fanatics do know exactly what they are doing and merit no forgiveness; and MMP is allowing it to happen in New Zealand with the modest beginning of a moratorium on future off shore drilling for oil.
There may be some sort of deranged case to be made for the Warmers prescriptions if they practiced what they preached; but they do not. With mendacious hypocrisy they continue to enjoy all of the benefits that carbon based free markets and private property ownership confer. Their entire life style from: the building, heating and cooling of their homes, offices, schools and hospitals, to the private vehicle ownership, freely available air travel, and the Lattes over which they plan their next assault on the existing order, to name but a few of the many benefits which they disparage. Of these perhaps the most breath-taking is their reliance on air travel both for leisure and to participate in the periodic Warmers jamborees. They tell us that the carbon footprint of the ever-expanding fleets of international aircraft is huge and doing irreparable harm to the biosphere but in the past few years they have flown in their thousands to conferences of Warmers in: Kyoto, Copenhagen, Paris, Bonn (this year and barely noticed by the media), and upcoming in December 2018 at Katowice in Poland. Well, good luck there the Polish being so heavily dependent on coal of which they have vast reserves in order to avoid becoming energy vassals of Russian oil. Significantly all of these conferences so far have been held in the most attractive tourist meccas. Not for the Warmers a meeting in Ethiopia or Sudan where they might see what energy deficits actual mean to the poorest of peoples. A stroll along the Champs Elysees after the draining effort of saving the world is much to be preferred.
There may be something to be said for this globe trotting if it produced any tangible outcome. It does not because the poorer countries faced with no alternative to coal and oil will only reduce their consumption if the “wealthier” countries pay them stupendous sums of money measured in billions of US dollars annually, Copenhagen for example proposed one hundred billons annually be paid by the “wealthy countries” from 2020. Similar sums were bandied about at the Paris conference. In fact, apart from the annual aid budgets of the free market countries nothing has been paid. The so called “Paris accord” from which the Americans have sensibly withdrawn, is not binding on any of the signatories so unsurprisingly nothing has been paid nor will it. In the result India, China, Japan and Germany are increasing their use of coal and oil on a massive scale. The charade becomes apparent when one considers that America has not only withdrawn from the Paris “accord” but has significantly reduced its carbon footprint by developing fracking, and that England, but not Scotland, will follow now that fracking has become a central government decision rather than left in the hands of NIMBY local authorities. Europe will continue to rely on oil products sourced from Russia and the Middle East, and France is heavily dependent on nuclear energy much of which is exported to the United Kingdom. Something our Prime Minister in her nuclear moment no doubt omitted to discuss with President Macron and Mrs May when they had their love in recently in Paris and London. Neither for that matter is there any record of her castigating the Liberal poster boy Premier of Canada about his countries massive production of oil and gas when they exchanged hugs.
Although the sinister intent of Environmentalism is to destroy the existing free market economy based as it is on carbon products and along with it the personal freedom and prosperity that the market confers on society it is unlikely to happen in any of the free market democracies or indeed the dictatorships which abound. This for the simple reason that as Margret Thatcher was fond of saying “TINA”. There is no alternative to reliance on the current energy sources neither will there be until the commercialisation of nuclear fusion.
Charles Moore writing in the Spectator recently made these prescient observations about the global warmers: “Priesthoods usually find ways to survive longer than the belief systems they represent. But the recognition is now dawning that, if the planet needs saving, it will not be achieved by these means.” In fact, of course that recognition is to be found in the common sense of ordinary men and women as they go about their daily lives observing that the seasons come and go much as they always have, and life goes on but with the increasing health, wealth and happiness most of which flow from the benefits of individual liberty, private property ownership, and free markets secured under the umbrella of the Rule of law.
A final word.
We need to stop describing our political arrangements as if they were some sort of dance, or parade ground step (Military two step perhaps?): left, right, centre, far left, far right, centre left, centre right etc. Not only are these terms descriptive of nothing but they are even by their own definitions hopelessly inaccurate. Thus, for example The National Socialist German Workers Party, or Nazi Party as it is better known could not by these definitions be more “far left wing” but it is routinely described as being “far right wing. Similarly, with the German Democratic Peoples Republic a police state which was they plaything of the “Stazi” and knew nothing of Democracy. This is the land of Alice and wonderland and the Mad Hatter where words mean what I say they mean. The only purpose such meaningless classification serve is to enable the vacuous to characterise ideas with which they disagree as being “left” or “right”. Anything they do agree with is “centre.” In fact, what we must endeavour to describe is the difference between a society based on freedom of the individual and the right to own private property, compared with one in which there is no individual liberty or private property only the diktats of the State. No matter how benign a socialist party appears to be for the time being State control is always the goal.
Similarly, with the use of the term “Capitalism” the pejorative term coined by Karl Marx as being descriptive of market economies. Certainly, capital and property are necessary to the functioning of free market economies but without the labour to make the capital work there can be no economy. It should be plain to any person who values individual liberty that the only accurate way of describing the economies of the prosperous countries is to call it for what it is a free market economy.
In the result a country is not governed by left, right or centre governments rather it’s political arrangements either protect the right to private property and individual liberty within the embrace of a free market economy, and the Rule of Law or they do not. The unbridgeable divide is between those who think they know best how you should lead your life and will ensure you follow their advice to the Gulag if necessarily; and those who leave you to make your own decisions, within the law. It matters not that those who interfere do so professing the best of intentions. It was ever true that the way to hell is paved with good intentions. The result is the same; freedom is eroded albeit gradually for example through a punitive taxation regime, or quickly by revolution, but the gates of hell eventually open. There is nothing new in any of this George Orwell described it in unambiguous terms in in 1948 in his now little read book “1984” written from the tranquillity of the Isle of Jura. The current vacuous labels are not serviceable as describing anything occurring in the real world where the unbridgeable divide is between the Conservatives who nurture and conserve the rights of others but decline to interfere in how they are exercised, and the Socialists who sooner or later would destroy those rights and freedoms.