Righting the Nats may require pitching to voters in the centre – but that need not mean dumping free-enterprise principles

 

National’s   new  leadership   team had  no  need  to  worry  that, as  they stepped  into  office and into campaigning to replace the Ardern government at the next election, they  would suffer  from a shortage of  advice.  Wherever  they looked   they  could  see mountains  of  it.  

There  was  this  kind (from  a  newspaper  columnist) :

“ In short, new National leader Chris Luxon will likely have to come up with policies and strategies to tackle immediate economic headwinds in five areas: a slow economic bounceback, immigration, a slowing China, tourism, and inflation.”

Or this  kind  (from former National Prime  Minister  Jim  Bolger) who said a “disappointing”  National  has  to  reimagine capitalism because   social  inequality is  pushing  countries to  revolution.

Bolger said the dominant global economic model was dividing society.

“Some are getting obscenely rich and others are going to food kitchens.”  Bolger said Labour was not seriously addressing social inequality.”

Parliamentary veteran Winston Peters, once a National Party deputy leader and MP before forming NZ First,  weighed in. What is  needed, most importantly, is a real vision for NZ, he opined from his (somewhat lonely these days) pulpit.

The Dominion-Post  was  at  its most  omniscient:  NZ  needs  Luxon  to  right   the  Nats.

And  to  make  it  plain exactly  where  it  stood,  the  next  days’ edition  carried  as  a  lead  story the  revelation that

“.. soaring  prices  mean new  National  Party  leader  Christopher Luxon  is  effectively  earning about $90,000  a  week  in capita; gains  from his 7 properties which give him the biggest property portfolio of  any  sitting  MP”.

Point of  Order  resists  the  temptation   to  join  the throng in  offering  advice to the  new  leaders.  But we wonder  whether  Chris Luxon and Nicola Willis are  as convinced  as  the  would-be  advisers appear to  be  that the original  principles  of  the  National Party are  so  shop-worn   they  should be discarded.

It  is  true,  of  course,  that  Labour  has  long departed  from the  principles  on which  it  was  founded (remember   the  “socialisation  of  the means  of production, distribution   and  exchange”)  which it  found both unpopular  and, more  to  the point,  unworkable.

That  doesn’t  mean to say that  some  people don’t believe this system   is  superior  to capitalism.  Yet  it  was  clear  that,  in  an  imperfect  world, most  people  given   the  choice  in the days  when Communist Russia espoused the Leninist philosophy preferred  to  live   in the  West.  The Iron Curtain was designed to keep Soviet-bloc people in, not to keep the capitalists out.

Returning to  modern-day NZ, the  question is  about how to win the  middle  ground  in NZ  politics, which – thanks to Geoffrey  Palmer’s  adoption  of the MMP electoral system – a party must do to win  enough seats to govern at general elections.)  National may well be tempted to at least take a hard look at its original  founding principles  of free-market  capitalism  in a property owning democracy.

Critics  may  argue (as   Bolger  does) that some  people  are  becoming  obscenely rich  and  others  are  going to food  kitchens, but  one  may also look to  the  farming  industry as  it  has evolved  in  NZ  for another example  of the operation of  the free enterprise  system.  It  is  proving  not only  to be the backbone of  the  NZ  economy, but  it is a virtual saviour in  terms  of  export earnings  as  Covid-19 renders  others  like the tourist industry  almost  impotent in  terms  of earning  overseas exchange.

And  now  there  is  evolving an equally  successful outcome   for the  capitalist structure to farming  in  the  hi-tech  industry. As   Southland-born Peter  Beck, founder of the spectacularly successful RocketLab, said this week:

“Right now  the tech  sector in NZ  is  raging…I have a lot to do with the venture capital, it’s  the  best I’ve  ever  seen it and  funding a  lot  of  startups. And  I have to  say that the  quality  and  quantity of  startups  now  is the  best I’ve  ever  seen  it”.    

It’s  no surprise  that “obscenely rich” individuals like  Peter  Beck are backers of new  hi-tech  ventures — this  is  what  capitalists  do — and  they  encourage  others  to  do  the  same. The  theory  is  that  it is  better  to  aim at lifting  all boats.   

Point  of  Order suspects  that’s what  Luxon and  Willis want  to  do.

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