Thursday, September 3, 2009

What he said

It's amazing--being out of politics has allowed former Prime Minister, WTO boffin and nine-day wonder Mike Moore to, you know, tell the truth.

Most people behave well, they are just sick of a political culture where you expect, at any moment, someone to intrude on your television set and tell you to sit up straight and not to eat too much meat.

He's right. There are too many laws, too many regulations, too many bossy bureaucrats, and too much tax collected to support all of the above--oh, and mayhap more on the way. There is something very wrong when the government has to tell you to snap your braces and tie your laces--when did we get to be so anaemic?

Eating vegetables, not smacking your children, not climbing trees, looking both ways, practicing sexual health, moderating alcohol consumption, not smoking, and other stuff, like phoning your parents regularly, might indeed be good ideas.

But do we really need to be bullied into them?

It's taken us roughly eight hundred years to make power accountable and limited. It's a precious and rare thing for an ordinary peasant to be able to tell the powerful, the smart and the expert to butt out, sod off, and go away.

We've got it. For now.


SubversNZ said...

You're not a libertarian, are you?

Where and how does one draw the line?

Swift said...

Good gracious, no.

I simply want the government to sort out its core priorities.

Things should be done by the institution closest to the problem--that's the basic principle of subsidiarity. When the government tries to do everything, it gets bloated and oppressive, and does horrible job.

SubversNZ said...

You sound like my least favourite NZ libertarian, Rodney Hide - "...government should stick to its core tasks..." ;)

I was at WINZ today with someone who came looking for help. I can't say their service does much to persuade anyone that it is an institution that helps and serves people, and neither was the service personal.

Private sector behemoths like corporations become bloated, oppressive and ineffective too. It's a problem with centralisation of power and human vulnerability to it, not with government per se.

Swift said...

I agree with you about that, which is why the checks and balances we don't have are so important.

Government is no more prone to original sin than anyone else. But it can do more damage.

And I do think the government should be taking a good hard look at the money it spends, and what we're getting for it.

SubversNZ said...

Yes, yes and yes. But, I would reiterate that we need to look at the power that corporations (and financial institutions) have, and that their power needs to be balanced by strong protections for society.

In NZ we desperately need checks on parliament's powers, like some sort of upper house (not hereditary) and a written constitution.

I also think we should check the power of concentrated wealth, so that economic wealth is distributed more broadly - not in the socialist sense, in the distributist sense.

Neil Welton said...

Government should butt out on climbing trees and phoning your parents. However, when it comes to sex and vegetables, not smacking your children, looking both ways, moderating alcohol consumption and not smoking, there is a role for Government - not in bullying, but in informing. Sane right of centre Governments would agree because such advertising campaigns work, they've saved millions of lives.

After all, not everybody can be or is as enlightened as you, Swift.


Let me give you another example.

Being in a car without a seatbelt. Thirty years ago, when the idea about compulsory seatbelt wearing was put forward, people moaned and complained about "loss of freedom" and the right to do what they want in their own car. Now you belt up in your car without thought. Like a good little boy. Saves your life.

Swift said...

I don't have a problem with information campaigns--but this isn't the 1950's. The information campaigns on, say, parenting, or sex, are deeply politicised. I don't see why I ought to pay for it.

Likewise, while, say there is evidence that drink driving campaigns work to save lives (and there are legit public health concerns about alcohol, as there are about seat belts, the road toll, cigarettes etc.), I'm not sure campaigns on obsesity, eating, safety and what not DO actually work. And even if they do, the fact that the government has to launch an ad campaign to state the obvious is profoundly worrying, not only for liberty (which it is) but for the community which ought to be educating its children and obviously isn't.

In neither case will more government alleviate the real problem.

Neil Welton said...

Nobody has suggested it would.

Swift said...

Except for the dear people at the link I cited in the substantive post, who do want the government to do more.

Mr Moore, a man with whom I have deep disagreements, is entirely right to say that this kind of interference is un-needed and irritating.

Neil Welton said...

Agreed. I was caned at school. Didn't do me any harm, I think. There is a debate to be had about that though. Perhaps there is a role for Government. To inform. Banning it does seem over the top but it could be a generation thing.

Child abuse is a worry though.

You do need to legislate on it and that can only be done by clearly defining it and drawing up clear boundaries. That unfortunately involves the definition of "abuse" or "hitting". Can't see a problem with having a public debate or a referendum about that. It depends on your view of politicians. For referendums can also be a good thing - they stop politicians.