Saturday, 2 March 2013

Indigenous Socialism

Lost Mana

New Zealand is in the invidious position of being caught in a pincer.  Government intrusion into commercial activities has historically been strong, underpinned by a persistent socialist instinct.  A significant segment of the population believes naively that if government is involved in commerce it is somehow freed from the animal instincts of rapacious capitalists.  These credulously choose to overlook the animal instincts of politicians and those who lust after power and riches on the public dime.

Successive governments in New Zealand have laid claim to a host of assets and commercial activities: telecommunications, electricity, education, health, welfare, energy, postal services, rail, shipping, road transport, and so on.  All of these were deemed "too big" and strategically important to leave to non-government sector commerce.  But eventually reality bit, hard.  The government ran out of money, having squandered vast amount on failed commercial enterprises.  The 1970's saw rapid privatisation coupled with a welcome to market forces as the most efficient distributor of capital and labour. 

Since that time, government has backed away from privatisation.  Until recently.  The government in New Zealand has retained (or secured) commercial ownership in an airline, in electricity companies, in a postal company, in an insignificant bank, in hospitals, in schools, in a vehicle inspection company, in a national lottery, and in welfare institutions.  But, as is the fate of all socialist dreams, New Zealand once again ran out of money--in 2009 to be precise. To restore some vestiges of fiscal prudence, the government decided to sell off some of its commercial investments: namely, power companies. Only 49 percent, mind you. 

This intention has been vehemently opposed by the Left ( government ownership is always qualitatively better, don't you know) and by some of the indigenous people (Maori) who have lustfully embraced the view that they are "owed" ownership in these "strategic", Crown owned assets.  Cynics have repeatedly observed that Maori appear to want to own the asset, but not the associated liabilities. Moreover they want to pay less than a commercial price. When they adopt this attitude they lose mana, big time. Some tribes want to own their traditional rivers and waterways, but don't want to know when the thing inundates contiguous land.

For our part, we have never opposed Maori or Samoan or any particular ethnic group owning any assets whatsoever--provided they pay the full and fair commercial, market price, and accept the risks and liabilities associated with ownership.  People who want all the upside but  perversely want someone else to pay for the downside are charlatans and should be publicly shamed as such. 

So today, we celebrate a small victory for equity and sanity.  The Supreme Court of New Zealand struck down an appeal by some Maori groups which asserted that the Crown had no legal right to sell off part of a state owned power company to reduce its deficit, without giving preferential treatment to Maori. 

Not only have these Maori lost in court, they have lost their mana--which would have been true, regardless of what decision the court made. 

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