VJMP Reads: David Seymour’s Own Your Future X

This reading carries on from here.

The ninth chapter in Own Your Future is ‘Personal Responsibility’. Seymour opens here with a stark claim that ACT doesn’t believe in the nanny state or in a paternalistic government. Many of our laws are holdouts from an age of Victorian values, he states, and they are enforced by politicians who transparently do not have a deeper grasp on morality than anyone else.

Breaking rank with the other Parliamentarians, Seymour is willing to admit here that cannabis does less harm than alcohol and tobacco (although he points out that cannabis is not without its own harms). He also echoes a point often made by Kiwi cannabis law reform activists (such as here), that the burden of Police enforcement of cannabis prohibition falls mostly on Maori.

Seymour cites a Treasury study that estimated that cannabis prohibition costs the country $300,000,000 annually, as well as tying up 600,000 hours of Police time. Worst of all, the supposed criminal deterrence doesn’t even work – the overwhelming majority of people convicted for cannabis offences go on to use it. Moreover, the law is applied in a haphazard manner, as can be seen by the 26-month sentence initially handed down to Kelly van Gaalen.

In a distinct break from the right-wing that ACT is usually associated with, Seymour repudiates the moralising that is chiefly responsible for cannabis prohibition, pointing out that not only is there a heavy majority in favour of cannabis law reform, but that majority is steadily growing. This contrasts with the proportion of people who oppose actual crimes, such as murder – this proportion remains constant.

True to the libertarian image that Seymour is trying to stake out, he argues for legal recreational cannabis as well. However, true to the conservative streak that binds his party to National, he is torn, claiming that 80% of the New Zealand public opposes recreational cannabis. He does not cite a source here, and neither does he note that such opposition would be unusual in the context of places like Colorado and California voting by referendum to legalise medicinal cannabis.

Seymour takes pains to seat himself as immovably as possible, right in the middle of the fence. He is open to the possibility that countries that legalise cannabis might “lose their morality” and “become cesspits of unmotivated human squalor” (as if alcohol was not well capable of achieving both), and wants to have a Royal Commission that takes five years before he will consider that we have satisfactory evidence to make a decision.

He rightly pillories the Government for its sharp increase in the tobacco tax, pointing out that the people most sharply affected by this are those who can least afford it. Worst of all, it seems that raising the tax further will not help persuade people to give up smoking. Those who are still addicted are so addicted that they will do almost anything to get hold of tobacco. Sensibly, Seymour would legalise vaping and e-cigarettes.

Euthanasia is another thing that Seymour would legalise, promising an end to “morality-based harassment”. His reason for promoting this is to avoid the indignity of the last weeks of life. Having nursed elderly grandparents to the end of a terminal illness, I can commiserate with him in this regard. He is also in favour of abortion, which makes him less hypocritical than the old right. Seymour doesn’t want to pay for your kid either, but he’s happy to help you get it aborted.

It’s hard to find fault with any of Seymour’s proposals in this chapter. Even if the only right he champions with conviction is the right to die, it’s an excellent thing that these libertarian proposals are even being suggested. It is interesting to note how similar ACT is with the Greens on issues such as cannabis, especially if it is considered that being young is highly correlated with both voting ACT and Green.

*

If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

VJMP Reads: David Seymour’s Own Your Future VIII

A Liberal Vision for New Zealand in 2017

This reading carries on from here.

The seventh chapter in Own Your Future is ‘Public Safety’. Here Seymour opens the chapter with one of the non-sequiturs that seems to be characteristic of his style. He talks about visiting a prison, and seeing the downcast faces on the prisoners there. For some reason he lurches directly from this to stating his belief in deterrence being the primary solution to the crime problem.

It’s hard to believe that Seymour is writing this chapter with a straight face. He claims to be tough on the causes of crime – yet his party supports National every step of the way in ripping down the social welfare that people need to get out of the poverty that causes crime.

Indeed, the facade soon slips, and he openly admits that ACT Policy is based around “making the consequences of committing crimes sufficiently bad that people will decide not to do it in the first place.” Within the space of a few sentences he goes from complaining about the cost of prisons to crowing about ACT success in keeping people in prison for longer through their three strikes policy.

From there, Seymour launches into a rant against burglary. Fittingly for a party that values property more highly than people, he wants to add burglary to the list of crimes that involve the three strikes law, the third offence being punished by a minimum three years without parole. Helpfully, he informs us that “The aim [of burglary] is getting more money or goods without working for them or being given them.”

At this point, Seymour serves up a genuinely good idea. Prisoners often find it difficult to return to civilian life after their sentence on account of poor literacy and numeracy, so Seymour proposes that they can get time knocked off their sentences by completing adult reading and maths courses while in prison. Any prisoner who is already educated can get time off for helping to tutor the other prisoners.

This is actually a really good policy, but it’s incredible that Seymour, as a supposedly principled libertarian, doesn’t mention cannabis law reform here. If it costs $105,000 a year to keep a person in jail, we could save tens of millions immediately just by letting cannabis growers and dealers out. He doesn’t suggest this, even though it seems like such an obvious thing for a principled, libertarian party to suggest at this juncture.

This newspaper wondered some time ago if perhaps David Seymour is the biggest coward in the New Zealand Parliament. It’s astonishing that ACT, who barely get more votes than the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party, aren’t willing to support cannabis law reform as their libertarian counterparts everywhere else have done, when the entire country is crying out for it. They could take votes off the Greens and the Opportunity Party simply by offering a right-wing alternative to how to legalise cannabis.

*

If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

VJMP Reads: David Seymour’s Own Your Future VII

A Liberal Vision for New Zealand in 2017

This reading carries on from here.

The sixth chapter in Own Your Future is ‘Immigration’. It starts with an attack on Winston Peters’s “twenty year racist dogwhistling campaign”, in which Seymour takes the opportunity to position himself as a crusader against racism and bigotry. This is a wise strategic move on Seymour’s part, considering that his party gets more votes from the foreign-born than any other. The Greens are also accused of racism for wanting to lower immigration levels.

Astonishingly, Seymour makes a passionate appeal to New Zealand’s moral obligation to help displaced refugees – but at no point in this book so far has he made any appeal to New Zealand’s moral obligation to help its own people, especially its poorest and most disadvantaged. Here Seymour comes across as the out-of-touch, highly privileged urban dweller who is horrified by a tennis ball to the head.

Ironically, Seymour pillories those who cry “racist” at everyone who claims that we need some immigration restrictions, despite doing the same thing himself on the previous page. This he does in an attempt to position himself as the supporter of a “smart” immigration policy, pointing out that no-one wants no immigration and no-one wants open borders.

He lists at length what he perceives to be the good things about New Zealand, as a way of explaining why so many people want to come here. He claims that New Zealand has a “generous” welfare system, no doubt by way of comparison to Samoa or India. Noting that New Zealand would be swamped tomorrow if we decided to throw open our borders, he seems to think it’s good enough for New Zealand to be doing better than the global average. No word about our domestic violence, child abuse or teen suicide rates.

He also makes some fair criticisms of the current immigration system, such as the absurdity of getting an investment visa from buying and holding for a few years a couple of million dollars’ worth of Government bonds. He laments the shortage of workers at tech companies and hospitals, but manages to resist the temptation of arguing that we need to attract them through lower tax rates.

New Zealand First comes in for special criticism here, with Seymour going as far as to claim that their “poisonousness” is “intended to hurt those who want to bring their skills and settle in New Zealand”. Seymour might not be aware that Maoris vote New Zealand First much more often than white people, so one wonders what he makes of this. Are Maoris racist for not wanting mass immigration? No-one knows.

There are many contradictions in this essay, many of them glaring. Possibly the most grievous encountered so far is when he complains that previous Governments have failed to make sure that the immigrants coming there are those who will integrate and contribute to economic growth, but in the very next sentence complains that those Governments only “reluctantly and begrudgingly” increase the refugee quota when concern about overseas suffering becomes “overwhelming”.

Anyone with the most passing familiarity with the situation in Europe knows that refugees are precisely the sort of person who are least likely to integrate, and who will offer negative economic growth. This contradiction is so glaringly incredible that it’s unclear if Seymour is being dishonest here or if this essay is simply poorly written.

Hilariously, Seymour is willing to grit his teeth and write that New Zealand doesn’t need “upper middle class foreign citizens flashing their bank accounts at us on their way through customs to get to a beach house” – when those people make up most of ACT’s voters. Also, we don’t need more Pacific Islanders “taking the piss” by using family migration to get their extended family “to come and live and take advantage of our generous welfare system”. Seymour writes this, apparently completely unaware that, earlier in the chapter, he pilloried New Zealand First and called them racist for saying much the same thing.

Seymour concludes this chapter with some virtue signalling about how our refugee quota is an “embarrassment”. He doesn’t appear to understand that keeping the number of Muslims and Africans low is the only way that the New Zealand population will remain favourable to immigration in general – this has been the lesson of the last twenty years in Europe. This contradiction is typical of what has so far been the most poorly written and argued essay in this book so far.

*

If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

VJMP Reads: David Seymour’s Own Your Future VI

A Liberal Vision for New Zealand in 2017

This reading carries on from here.

The fifth chapter in Own Your Future is ‘Welfare’. Here Seymour opens with what appears to be sympathy for the disadvantaged, telling a story about the children without shoes or food at Raumanga Middle School, before white flight took all the pakeha kids (including him) elsewhere. This doesn’t last long. Within a few paragraphs, he’s fuming about how welfare “saps the will to live”.

Seymour then tells a story about how Michael Joseph Savage, when he carried a table through the front door of the first state house in New Zealand, put that table down immediately after passing through that door. It’s not clear why this story is told here, because it doesn’t fit the rest of the section. It seems to simply fit Seymour’s narrative that anything done to help people is bad.

Like a 21st-century echo of Ebenezer Scrooge, Seymour decries the entire welfare system, going all the way back to 1937. The problem isn’t so much the usual right-wing canards of welfare queens and benefit fraudsters, the problem is that the welfare system is designed to “allow the disadvantaged to live full lives participating in equal footing in the community”.

In this section, the brutal and dishonest reasoning at the heart of neoliberalism is laid bare. Seymour makes a list of all of the problems in society and then blames them all on welfare, without providing any evidence or even so much as an argument that the two are connected. He lists a number of statistics about people on welfare, but provides no comparison to other times and places so that we can judge if those numbers are angstworthy.

Without a hint of irony, Seymour writes that “A Treasury report on life outcomes showed that at every stage of life, having parents relying on benefits predicted worse outcomes for children.” The fact that he conflates being on a benefit, rather than poverty, with being the cause of these poor outcomes, is the central error in Seymour’s reasoning, in the ACT Party’s reasoning, and is why the party can never and will never succeed electorally.

He talks about being on welfare as if it was a simple choice, and the man writing that is every bit the man writing about the horror of getting a tennis ball to the head. Seymour comes across as so out of touch that it’s almost comical, such as when he argues against the idea that “welfare is good for the people receiving it”.

The idea that welfare is bad because it makes people lazy is a fringe belief of the American Republican Party, considered gauche even by them, but it’s front-and-centre here. “Being out of work harms people, and more importantly it harms their children,” Seymour wails, crocodile tears spurting. One can easily imagine him as the overseer of a cotton plantation in the antebellum South, cracking the whip for his wealthy employers.

In an outburst of raw neoliberalism, Seymour quotes John Key when it comes to describing Working For Families as an example of “Communism by stealth”. Seymour goes as far as suggesting that not offering tax cuts when possible is equivalent to totalitarianism by stealth. Not ashamed of absurdity, he even accuses National, who slashed the welfare system so badly that we now have the developed world’s highest youth suicide rate, of not being opposed to Communism.

Laughably, Seymour claims here that ACT supports greater access to mental health care. Anyone who has been a mental health patient for long will know that the Fifth National Government slashed funding and access to mental health care, going as far as cutting benefits to severely mentally ill people – and the ACT Party supported them every step of the way. This is why there was a very strong correlation of -0.66 between voting ACT in 2017 and being on the invalid’s benefit (c.f. Dan McGlashan’s Understanding New Zealand).

It’s most notable that nowhere in this essay does Seymour mention the supply side of the welfare question. At no point does he touch on the poor wages in New Zealand, and at no point does he suggest that Kiwi employers ought to do their bit by offering a fair wage. Employers are completely exempt from playing any role in motivating workers to work by offering them a wage that they can live on or buy a house with.

*

If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

VJMP Reads: David Seymour’s Own Your Future V

A Liberal Vision for New Zealand in 2017

This reading carries on from here.

The fourth chapter in Own Your Future is ‘Education’. Seymour opens this essay with a mention of Vanguard Military School, the establishment of which he credits to ACT. This is an “exceptional” story because New Zealand’s education system is “a mess”. Although he writes that no-one begrudges the $12,000,000,000 yearly cost of educating New Zealand’s 800,000 students, many people have problems with the outcome.

New Zealand has a lot of problems because people aren’t literate enough, Seymour says. This is why employers “prefer a stream of immigrants”. There is a long, rambling passage here where Seymour touches on a variety of themes, including having a go at Hekia Parata. Apparently New Zealand is going backwards in PISA rankings. It’s hard to tell who Seymour is blaming for the mess in question.

Without a hint of irony, Seymour writes that “the outcomes have got worse for kids from poorer backgrounds”. Most Kiwis could tell him that the reason for these worsening outcomes were the policies of the Fifth National Government, which raised GST on those kids from poorer backgrounds while cutting other people’s taxes, and cutting services to those same poor.

What Seymour pushes here is the idea of a variety of schools with different cultures, which he believes will better suit the individual needs of the various students than the current “one size fits all” model. It follows from this that the Government is not the best provider of education services, because they don’t tend to tailor things to the individual needs of the citizens.

Much of this section reveals the specifically Auckland-centric focus that ACT has always had, and which leads it to get very, very few votes outside of that city. The logic behind the school zoning system is dissected at length, but this only really applies to Auckland and, to a small extent, Christchurch and Wellington. Perhaps Seymour is writing more as Epsom representative here.

True to form as a politician, Seymour demands that teachers be better trained and better resourced, but doesn’t explain where this money will come from. Despite this budget hole, it’s hard to deny that Seymour has several good points here. The cultures of individual schools are usually too sclerotic to adjust to the changing needs of pupils, so they could be supplemented by Partnership Schools that more specifically meet the needs of their students.

These Partnership Schools would be run more like private schools and could be easily closed down at any time if they were underperforming. Seymour touts this as a major feature, on account of the difficulty with doing so in the public sector. Students would be best served by flexibility in the educator sector, which is an intelligent way of increasing value without spending more money.

*

If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

VJMP Reads: David Seymour’s Own Your Future IV

A Liberal Vision for New Zealand in 2017

This reading carries on from here.

The third chapter in Own Your Future is ‘Superannuation and the Gold Card’. This essay starts with a dig at Winston Peters, who was once investigated by the Serious Fraud Office. Seymour doesn’t like the wasteful spending he sees in the Gold Card, especially as many of the recipients of the largesse of it are already millionaires.

Universal super is set to cost us around $20,000,000,000 per year by 2031, Seymour informs us. Here he makes a play for younger voters by having a go at the Baby Boomers. He references the suspicion of the younger generations that they aren’t going to get the same sweet pension deal that their parents got – after all, we didn’t get the same free tertiary education that they got.

He raises the spectre of a Greece-style economic apocalypse happening as a result of a debt spiral triggered by having to pay these lavish pension funds up to and past 2060. It’s hard to deny Seymour’s maths, as it appears to be true that we will soon reach a point where there are only two workers for every pensioner (as opposed to today’s four).

The options, as he sees it, are: raising taxes by about a quarter or raising the retirement age, neither likely to happen because young people don’t vote. Seymour here criticises both John Key and Bill English for lacking the courage to deal with the issue, and makes an entreaty to the young to not become disengaged from politics.

This seems baldly hypocritical, considering that ACT spent all of the last nine years voting alongside the National Party, who are the party that represents all the Baby Boomers. As Dan McGlashan showed in Understanding New Zealand, the vast majority of Baby Boomers vote for National, whose efforts to fuck over the young were eagerly supported, for nine years straight, by all ACT MPs including David Seymour.

National closed down rape crisis centres and gutted mental health funding, leading to New Zealand having the developed world’s highest youth suicide rate, and Seymour supported them all the way, despite that many young people voted ACT in 2014. He does not acknowledge that this may have contributed to the low turnout rate among the young.

True to neoliberal form, Seymour’s solution to this looming pension crisis is to squeeze some extra labour out of the working class, by raising the age of retirement to 67, and soon. No means testing, despite that 25% of people claiming the pension are also either claiming a salary or run their own business (as admitted by Seymour himself) and at that point the chapter abruptly ends.

One realises here that Seymour is primarily trying to win votes from people too young to know anything other than neoliberalism. Old people are too conservative to vote anything other than National or sometimes New Zealand first, and it’s the young and well-heeled (who don’t expect to be reliant on a public pension in old age) who are the most amenable to Seymour’s suggestions here.

*

If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

VJMP Reads: David Seymour’s Own Your Future III

A Liberal Vision for New Zealand in 2017

This reading carries on from here.

The second chapter of Own Your Future is titled ‘Tax’. Seymour opens with a complaint about wasteful government spending, citing the example of Gerry Brownlee flying to San Francisco on the taypayer’s dollar for a photo op. Indeed this was an appalling waste of money for no benefit to the nation, but Seymour leaps from this fact to the tacit assumption that all tax money is likewise wasted.

Seymour is right when he says it’s stupid that the Government is running surpluses while the average New Zealand household is at record levels of debt. The solution is, naturally, lower taxes. Here Seymour makes a sharp distinction between “our own” money, and “another person’s” money. Not for him the interdependence of all things. In Seymour’s world, there are very clear lines over who owns what.

Government takes in taxes equal to 40% of GDP, Seymour notes – “exclusively” another person’s money. Seymour doesn’t agree with the idea that the state is the most efficient provider of many services on account of the economies of scale afforded by its unique size. For him, the Government is merely a parasitic entity that sucks tax money out of hard-working Kiwis and wastes it frivolously.

Breaking step with the usual neoliberal choice of target, Seymour points out that there is a tremendous amount of corporate welfare in New Zealand as well. This only lasts for a few sentences, because he’s soon back to crying about taxation. Bracket creep comes in for particular ire – for Seymour, the wealthy aren’t getting a big enough share of the spoils of economic growth.

True to being a politician, he is dishonest. He claims that bracket creep happens because wages rise (which is true) but he also claims that wages rise to meet the increase in the price of consumer goods. The truth is that wages are not linked to the inflation of consumer goods – they are a function of the relative leverage that the employer has over the employee. When consumer goods become more expensive, this gives the employee absolutely no additional leverage through which they can negotiate a higher wage with their employer. If anything, it gives them less leverage because the lower standard of living makes them more desperate to settle.

In one paragraph, Seymour abandons even the pretense of reasoning and simply lists American libertarian slogans: “High tax rates… drag the economy down”, “people spend their money better than governments do”, “Money goes more good in the private sector than in the public sector.” Again one senses the cold shadow of the millions starved to death by Communism.

Seymour makes some good and fair points when he talks about the bureaucratic waste in the system. The problem is that this waste is the only thing he sees – all Government spending is hip-hop tours and junkets to San Francisco. He will not acknowledge that tax money is used for anything good, or that taxpayers get anything back for their tax money. National are the good guys because they levy less tax; Labour are bad and the Greens are the worst of all.

It’s hard to disagree, however, when he complains about the top tax bracket being $70,000. One doesn’t have to be wealthy to concede that someone earning $70,000 a year is far from loaded.

In all, one feels that Seymour is capable of making some good points but has a dishonest method for selecting and presenting them to the reader. Despite that, it’s easily arguable that Seymour and his party are tasked with playing an important role in New Zealand politics – that of keeping a check on Government waste – even though they are apologists for neoliberalism.

*

If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

VJMP Reads: David Seymour’s Own Your Future II

A Liberal Vision for New Zealand in 2017

This reading carries on from here.

The first real chapter of Own Your Future is titled ‘Housing’. The degree to which Seymour is out of touch comes through again immediately, when he states a belief that an “ordinary” New Zealand family is one that owns 50ha of land. His maths seems fair when he calculates the deficit of new houses, but it is notable where he lays the blame.

Seymour is willing to appeal to “basic economics” when he points out the factors restricting the supply of housing – in particular red tape – but basic economics does not seem to apply to the demand side of the equation. Following the neoliberal playbook closely, Seymour dismisses entirely the idea that migration could make a contribution to the increase in house prices.

His logic here is curious. New Zealand’s waves of migration “have not caused food prices to double, for example”. He is comfortable with concluding therefore that “there is no evidence that immigration has increased the price of commodities”. It’s certainly an unusually high standard for a variable to need to double a second variable before it can be said to have caused it to increase.

This line of reasoning can be explained by a study conducted by Dan McGlashan, in which he found that Asians voted for the ACT Party at higher rates than anyone else. No doubt Seymour is wary of placing any blame on immigration because that’s how most of his voters got here.

Perhaps through some effort of will, Seymour holds off on mentioning the Resource Management Act until the sixth page of the essay. This is invoked to take all the blame for rising house prices. He points out that, 30 years ago, the bottom 20% of the population paid 27% of their income in rent, whereas now they pay 54%. This is a fair comment but it’s not clear that all of the blame for this necessarily lies with the RMA.

Seymour repeats the claim that only 0.8% of the land area of New Zealand is urbanised, but doesn’t mention how this compares to other countries or who benefits from raising this percentage. How does the average Kiwi benefit from urbanising more of the country for the sake of letting in more immigrants? It isn’t said.

He goes further, pillorying the Greens’ proposal to limit immigration to an increase of 1% of the population every year. Even an immigration rate of 1% is enough to double the population of the country before the end of the century. This is very interesting if one considers that the people of New Zealand have never asked for the Government to increase the population at all, much less double it.

The most striking thing about this essay on housing is that Seymour never refers to the experience of overseas countries that have had similar housing crises. Housing in Sydney, Melbourne and London has increased in price much like Auckland – do they have RMAs constricting the supply of housing? Seymour doesn’t say. What has happened in other jurisdictions that have implemented his suggestions? He doesn’t say.

One gets the feeling from this essay that Seymour is a dedicated supporter of neoliberalism, but does not feel the need to back up his assertions with real-world examples, preferring instead to use rhetoric.

*

If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

VJMP Reads: David Seymour’s Own Your Future I

A Liberal Vision for New Zealand in 2017

Today, VJMP Reads has a look at Own Your Future, by ACT Party Leader David Seymour. This is a 192-page book of essays published by the ACT Party along the lines of previous ACT Party efforts such as Closing the Gaps and I’ve Been Thinking.

Previous VJM Publishing publications, such as Dan McGlashan’s Understanding New Zealand, tells us some basic facts about the ACT-voting demographic. Although few in number (a mere 13,075 in 2017), they were the wealthiest voter base of any party, as well as the most likely to be born overseas and one of the best educated (along with the Greens). Asians like them the most, white people the next most, and Maoris the least.

We have also seen that people who donate to the ACT Party get the worst return on their investment, with the party gaining 22 votes per $1,000 spent on the 2017 campaign. This compares to 388 votes per $1,000 for Labour, 452 for National and 4,761 for the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party (even the vanity project that was The Opportunities Party managed 62 votes per $1,000 spent).

So who are ACT, in the words of their own leader?

The Introduction runs to sixteen pages, and is worth studying on its own. It starts off by telling the story of the struggles of a wealthy couple to subdivide their land. Hilariously, by the third page there’s already a reference to how, under communism, “people starved by the million”, so it’s already a fair bet at this early stage that the book will be full of far-right-wing American-style libertarianism.

On page 12, Seymour states that he grew up “not rich”, and also states that the first time he realised that the Government might not have our best interests at heart was at age sixteen. Seymour was born in 1983, which would make him around 8 years old at the time of Ruth Richardson’s infamous 1991 Budget, which ripped the heart out of the New Zealand poor. Had it not occurred to him in the aftermath of the social destruction wrought by this that the Government is not on the people’s side, then it can fairly be said that he was unusually privileged, if not actually sheltered.

In fact, the truly sheltered nature of Seymour’s life comes through in lines that would be comic genius in any other context. How else to read “Auckland Grammar is a particularly barbaric place for some kids. I vividly remember one kid getting a tennis ball to the head, it bounced lightly but its power was symbolic”?

Like most men of his time, Seymour is a materialist. He is proud to have supported liberalising the abortion laws. ACT wanted to introduce laws that would make New Zealand a better place, in Seymour’s estimation, hence his support for them. This is stated very matter-of-factly, with no explanation as to why he thought that ACT in particular were best suited to make New Zealand a better place.

Inevitably, Seymour has a go here at the eternal ACT bugbear, the Resource Management Act. He writes that the poorest fifth of New Zealanders spend almost half of their income on housing today, compared to only a quarter of their income 26 years ago. All of the blame for this can be laid at the feet of the RMA, which has strangled the rate of house building. “That’s why people are living in cars and garages.”

The obvious rejoinder to this claim is to point out that New Zealand has the highest rate of immigration of any OECD country. Seymour anticipates this, and writes of the immigration question that opinion is divided between “National’s naivete vs. the racism of New Zealand First.” Like many middle-class white people, Seymour appears to be unaware that New Zealand First’s strongest supporters are Maoris.

Seymour generally doesn’t seem bothered by anti-Maori racism, as shown by his rant about “million after million for various Maori centric projects and separatist legislation”. Racism is, perhaps, only real to Seymour when it prevents wealthy foreigners from immigrating here (after all, as noted above, Maoris don’t vote for the ACT Party).

Going by the introduction, this book seems like the closest thing to a neoliberalist manifesto New Zealand has seen recently. What Seymour appears to be about, fittingly for someone who represents foreign wealth, is freedom for money. He’s not interested in freedom for people. Freedom for people comes incidentally, in so far as those people have money.

One gets the impression that if Seymour could stuff the entire South Island into a giant machine that sorted it out into its constituent minerals for the sake of most efficiently selling it all off to foreign speculators, he would be happy to do so. This book, therefore, promises to be a journey into the mind of an absolutely fanatical die-hard neoliberal.

*

If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

VJMP Reads: Julius Evola’s Ride the Tiger X

This reading continues on from here.

The 27th essay in Ride the Tiger is called ‘Relations Between the Sexes’ and seeks to cover a different range to the essay about marriage. When the order of the world is dissolving, men and women are naturally separated. Our sexual prejudices have contaminated our ethics. Nowhere is this more evident that in the idea of sexual revolution.

Processes have worked towards a freeing of sex, but not a freeing from sex. The sexual revolution has not liberated us from the suffering caused by sexual desire; to the contrary, we are now intoxicated by it. This is contributing to the collapse of society, but we can use the space afforded by the chaos to assert higher values. Bourgeoisie values, being materialistic, cannot conceive of woman in anything more than her anatomical capacity as instrument of reproduction – in reality, she has a spiritual value.

Sexual liberty therefore leads to materialism, and thereby away from spirituality. Incredibly for the 1960s, Evola is already able to anticipate how widespread pornography has affected the “polarity” between men and women. Nowadays a naked woman doesn’t stir much more interest than the sight of a cat. This is a tragedy because the sexual union is capable of acting as a bridge to higher consciousness via “an existential rupture of planes”. Making love can be Dionysian.

Part Eight of Ride the Tiger is where Evola finally gets to the spiritual side of things. This final section is titled ‘The Spiritual Problem’, and consists of two essays. The first of these is called ‘The “Second Religiosity”‘.

In this essay Evola decries what he calls “neospiritualism”, which he describes as an attempt to lead people beyond the material without giving any credence to the old, dogmatic religious movements. He has no time for the “movements, cults, sects, lodges, and conventicles” of the modern day, and considers them also a phenomenon of dissolution. In fact, things have gone so far that we are now in the rigor mortis stage, and all that awaits is the decomposition of the corpse.

When man closed himself off to the higher, transcendent world in the 19th century, this did not liberate him from superstition but merely opened him up to the lower, primitive emotional world in the 20th. We are now in the “soulless, collectivistic and materialistic phase corresponding to the closing of a cycle of civilisation”. All of these neospiritual movements thus represent an excess of the feminine. Evola is highly cynical and dismissive of these movements.

It’s difficult to correctly discriminate between all the garbage thrown up by neospirituality and the wisdom of genuine value. The emphasis ought to go on the deconditioning of the spirit. Here, Evola is at pains to emphasise that a person cannot achieve initiation by themselves, in contrast to the belief espoused by many. One is either born initiated, or one achieves initiation by way of spiritual emergency or ordeal, or one is initiated deliberately by someone who is part of a tradition and who knows what they’re doing. This is hard to achieve because the organisations that do so hardly exist any more.

The 30th and final essay is titled ‘Death – The Right Over Life’. Evola begins here by talking about the common belief, held by Heidegger (as well as by Socrates) that life is in some way a preparation for death. Death appears to be the end of the “person”, and atheism and materialism have made this simpler to deal with. Contemplation of death is a noble endeavour, as it can lead to a heightened state of appreciation of one’s life.

The traditional doctrines had the correct approach to death. The truly differentiated man cannot believe that his being began with the beginning of his physical body. He must solve the problem of nihilism by “displacing the I towards the centre of ‘being'”. Here Evola is talking about consciousness: “the human condition οf earthly existence is only a restricted section in a continuum, in a current that traverses many other states.” This eternal truth is not easy to grasp in an age of dissolution like ours, but it is much better than the lies of theistic creation myths.

A truly differentiated man, much like the Stoics and the Pythagoreans, could never take his own life, no matter how poor his conditions. This is because to do so would acknowledge that he was not strong enough to overcome the irrational part of his being. However, one always has the moral right to exit the world, should one decide that remaining ordeals are not meaningful. The differentiated man would be extremely disinclined to take this option in any case, right or otherwise. This is because of the possibility that one has chosen and said yes to – whether before or beyond this life – all of the ordeals in it.

In the final analysis, one can say that, no matter how degenerate and dissolute the world, it can still have value. It might be that, in order to achieve the highest state of being, consciousness must challenge itself as intensely as possible. To that end, there’s little more challenging than existing in a world where everything is contrary to one’s nature.

*

If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).