Friday, February 01, 2013

The Easton Counterfactual

The Left is neatly divided into two insoluble groups; social democrats and neo-liberals. Social democrats are morally and intellectually superior to neo-liberals, who are anti-intellectual and stifle debate.

This is the smug and fabulist world according to Brian Easton, going by the speech he gave to this year's "Young" Labour Summer Camp (HT Bryce Edwards).

In fairness, for no short time I've been taunting members of the Left Intelligentsia for a counter-factual to Rogernomics. Easton's world is the closest I've seen to a theory to date.

The logic goes something like this: the social democrats would have thought of something to fix New Zealand's economy, if they hadn't been decimated and slaughtered by rampaging neo-liberal Visigoths in the party during the 1970s and 1980s.

It's rubbish, of course. The 'social democrats' Easton referred to had their chance in the Third Labour government. But, like the Second Labour government, shown to be rubbish at putting their theories into practice for public betterment and kicked out of power.

The only reason Norm Kirk is revered by Labour traditionalists is that he died in office. If he had lived, there's every chance Kirk's Labour would have destroyed the NZ Labour Party's spiraling Keynesian/socialist waffle like Callaghan's government did in the UK. Alas, Muldoon won 1975, and Labour's old socialists were never given enough time to finish their course of self-destruction.

For those of you too young to remember the 1970's or Life on Mars, it was an awful decade. I could go on, but let's keep things in economist-talk. Regardez:

Say hello to the 1970's. It wasn't all Dr Who and Tomorrow People. In the twelve years between 1970 and 1982, prices quadrupled (double doubled). Can any Young Labourite truly grasp what that meant? What it felt like, and why those who did feel it don't want to go back there?

No-one knew the price of anything, or what it would be in a year's time. Overseas shocks combined with the rolling domestic shocks in NZ of falling exports from 1967 onwards, that marked the end of the good times that NZers of a certain age still pine for.

The unions attempted to keep the manner to which they had become accustomed, and set about using NZ citizens as pawns; ruining school holidays, striking for the most trivial of reasons. The generation I grew up in had a distrust of unions built on all those interrupted childhoods, not neo-liberal ideology.

The Lange government had more intellectuals as MPs than at any other time in Labour Party history. Debate was welcomed, but wool gatherers weren't. Boo hoo. Easton neglects to point out how utterly broke the country was either.

Three decades later, there's no sign of neo-liberals within Labour, the Alliance people have taken their walkabout full circle and are back in the Labour fold,  and still the social democrats still can't think of a way ahead.

Yet they would tear out the foundations of the Reserve Bank Act out of spite. I cannot vote for a party of such wanton recklessness. Destruction is easy. Creation is hard. Do better.