by Geoffrey Churchman
One of the books I bought in 1979 was the first edition of law professor, then MP Geoffrey Palmer’s Unbridled Power, a scholarly examination of NZ’s government and constitution — it can be downloaded as a free pdf here. On the cover was the above Tom Scott cartoon showing the Beehive as a shark about to chomp a citizen. A decade later, Geoffrey Palmer was Prime Minister after succeeding David Lange, but because he didn’t indulge in demagogy, he only lasted a year.
Two other books I bought in 1979 were George Orwell’s 1984 and The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek — which together turned me into a Liberterian.
The following year I headed off to Los Angeles for the big Overseas Experience or OE as Kiwis do, and was particularly pleased to be leaving behind the daily dose of Prime Minister Muldoon in the media whose autocratic style was divisive and polarising: it was hard to be neutral, people either loved or loathed him, and I was in the latter camp. Four decades later, that is the case again with PM Jacinda, who happens to have been born in 1980.
In America in 1980 the big development, apart from the American hostages in Iran crisis, was the ascendency of Ronald Reagan as the challenger to President Jimmy Carter, and his intentions of reducing the strangulation of the economy caused by excessive government. Although the U.S. was a predominately private enterprise economy, government at both the federal and state levels controlled it tightly. One example was the rule that banks could not set up branches in more than one state. The result was America had over 5,000 banks.
Once in office, dealing to excessive government was pretty much what Reagan achieved. One example of the benefit was the hitherto huge cost to the railroads of the government telling them how much they could charge their customers and much else. Under Reagan they started making profits again and were able to invest in new infrastructure to offer better freight transport services to reduce transport needs by trucks.
It all improved the American economy — in 1980 a U.S. dollar was worth 43 British pence; by 1985 it was over twice that.
When I eventually came back to NZ because of homesickness — and I’d had enough of L.A. smog — it was also unfortunately a return to the Muldoon command economy where everything was regulated, licensed or tariffed or subsidized, resulting in a ‘little monopoly for everybody’ — but they were little monopolies with low productivity. The consequence was described as ‘stagflation” — simultaneous stagnation and inflation.
It reinforced the resonance of Reagan’s statement about government being the problem, not the solution.
It was further reinforced with a 3-month trip through western and eastern Europe in 1986; capitalist West Germany was affluent with good infrastructure and high quality manufacturing — in contrast, communist East Germany was characterised by queues for shoddy consumer goods, shabby buildings and crumbling infrastructure — and a huge amount of overt and secret government surveillance of what people did.
At that time in NZ in contrast the Lange government with Roger Douglas as Finance Minister was going cold turkey on the regulated economy along with PM Hawke in Australia.
Fast forward to NZ in 2019 and rather than communist-style government ownership in the economy, Jacinda and her acolytes seized a serendipitous opportunity to embark upon attacks on various sections of society — in particular, so-labelled ‘Right Wing Extremists’ (individuals and groups opposed to her Hard-Left ideology), the confiscation of law-abiding citizens’ firearms, and the ominous although not yet fully achieved curtailment of Freedom of Speech and Expression.
It became even worse last year because of another serendipitous event: the China virus pandemic. On live TV Jacinda happily announced draconian clampdowns on people’s liberities and bestowed on the Police hitherto unknown powers in this country. ‘Just a Communist following her ideology’, say many, and there plenty of memes on the Internet depicting her as one. Since the 2000s she’s probably realised that the government doesn’t need to own all the components of the economy to control them. But cultural Marxism features much more than economic and the traditional dogma of Communists: “Workers struggle is the only answer to the general Crisis of Capitalism” — not that even Stuff — the most committed of Jacinda’s paid Legacy Media — would risk alienating people with that mantra.
It’s clear that Jacinda thrives on power — being a quasi-dictator feels good.
But Jacinda & Co.’s dealing to ideological enemies — supporters of Liberal Democracy — isn’t enough to explain the disciples that have developed and the hagiography in the Legacy Media. It must be more about what she is rather than who she is. Her poor grasp of how the real world works, in particular the limitations on what governments, even autocratic ones, can achieve, is less important to her followers than what she presents and represents — a youngish woman who is simultaneously feminine (not butch) and assertive, a good communicator, has a good memory of what advisors (good and bad) tell her and has at least some empathy with those those she perceives as disadvantaged, whatever the reasons for it. Those who identify with all that are likely to be uncritical followers.
But being at the top of the power pyramid doesn’t obviate the need to have not only good Ministers, but good top public servants and there are clearly some who don’t measure up, Dr Bloomfield being an obvious example.
It’s not only Pakeha who are concerned about the authoritarian abuse of power — the Maori-orientated waateanews.com had this post last year: Dear Labour — keep the Police on a short leash or the people will turn on Jacinda. And that is now happening.
Do Jacinda’s disciples constitute a Cult?
The most common features of a Cult are:
1. A charismatic leader who is above criticism.
2. Control of information.
3. Control of behavior using both guilt and fear.
4. Demonizing all outside of the cult — creating a “them v us” mentality.
5. Emotional manipulation / threat of doom.
6. Jargon exclusive to the group.
7. False promise of reward.
I don’t think the answer to that question is hard.