VJMP Reads: David Seymour’s Own Your Future XI

This reading carries on from here.

The tenth chapter in Own Your Future is ‘Environment’. Seymour begins with an anecdote that gives us an idea of the moral sentiments that led Seymour to the ACT Party. The child Seymour didn’t like the moralistic implication of the Captain Planet writers that humanity was inherently evil on account of our environmental impact.

Seymour soon has a go at the Greens, who he labels hypocrites. He does make an excellent point: none of the Greens have any scientific background. This is certainly very curious for a party that makes such a point of having scientific backing for their policies. They also waste an incredible amount of money on junkets, especially when climate change is the excuse.

Another fair point he makes is that the price distorting effects of Big Government intervention often have environmental consequences. This is especially noticeable in the case of agricultural subsidies, which tend to lead to overproduction and exploitation of land. Much better to let the market solve such questions, as with water rights.

When talking about the importance of property rights, he unwittingly reveals the secret logic behind much of ACT Party thinking, when he says “pricing and property rights go together”. In the ACT mindset, wealth equals rights. The more money you have, the more rights you have to do things, including doing things to the land and to other people. The RMA gets attacked here again as a quasi-communist institution.

Seymour makes a very clever point when he says that productivity growth is the basis of prosperity. ACT have been heavily criticised in the past for taking a “rape and pillage” approach to New Zealand’s native areas, in which everything can be sold off for money. In this essay, Seymour switches focus to productivity gains from technology and software.

However, he doesn’t stray far from the general neoliberal path. Globalisation is good, and signing the TPP is a good thing. Not for Seymour any sympathy for those who have lost out from neoliberalism. The wealthy benefit from it, and ACT is fundamentally a party for the rich.

Noting that the left/right political divide correlates strongly with alarmist and sceptical positions (respectively) on the issue of global climate change, Seymour declares himself a “luke-warmist” who agrees that some degree of climate change is man-made but does not agree that it will necessarily have devastating effects.

The environmental idea that seems to appeal the most is the idea of having inland sanctuaries, naturally run by private investors. This, Seymour believes, is the only way that New Zealand has a chance of bringing back the dawn chorus that was sung by our birdlife several hundred years ago. Curiously, he wants to have a large trust to dole out grants for these sanctuaries, which, along with his support for foreign refugees, makes one wonder if working-class Kiwis are the only people he doesn’t care about.

It is interesting that ACT might have so detailed an environmental policy, because it seems like an attempt to attract alt-centrist voters. Both ACT and Green voters are young. Indeed, ACT and the Greens could be considered the alt-right and alt-left of a new paradigm of politics, or at least one that has been remodelled to appeal to the young.

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