American psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg had a lifelong obsession with morality and moral reasoning, and the best-known result of his research was his six-point scale of moral reasoning. A continuation of the child development studies of Jean Piaget, the theory suggests that people develop through discrete stages of moral reasoning, with each stage more sophisticated, effective and enlightened than the previous ones. This article discusses the tremendous number of people trapped at stage 4 of the scale.
Kohlberg’s scale suggests that moral sophistication develops over the course of a person’s life, with entry into each new stage marked by a brand new perspective which is different to the old one but still a derivative of it, in the sense that the individual holding it has “grown up” and become more of a functioning adult.
Essentially, most people start out with a similar level of moral reasoning to that of a wild animal. Kohlberg euphemistically referred to this stage as “Pre-conventional” and it consists of the wretches who do nothing but try to avoid punishment in stage 1, and the narcissists and psychopaths who are only interested in personal advantage in stage 2.
Conventional reasoning is where most people are. In this stage, moral decisions are justified with reference to what other people in society do or believe. Stage 3 of this involves an effort to display good intentions as defined by social approval, and a person here tries to be good and be thought of as good, wanting to earn a pat on the head.
In stage 4, a person comes to appreciate the value of the law. In this stage it becomes possible for a person to reason to themselves the need to follow a law or social convention despite that the people around them are not doing so. Someone here is capable of overcoming being induced by peer pressure into doing something immoral or criminal.
This is not the most sophisticated stage of moral reasoning, but in the same way that most people are intellectually unremarkable they are also morally unremarkable. In other words, most people just follow the herd and are neither vicious nor Buddha-like, and so they develop to here and no further.
It is speculated that most people never reach stages 5 and 6 of moral reasoning – collectively known as “Post-conventional” reasoning – on account of that they have neither the courage to stand out from the herd nor the intelligence to determine when it might be correct to do so. At these stages a person is willing to break the law if doing so would uphold a higher moral principle.
Kohlberg used to test the participants in his studies with something called the Heinz dilemma. This is a thought experiment in which the participants are invited to ask themselves if they might consider it morally permissible to steal a medicine if this was necessary to afford the medical treatment of a loved one.
New Zealanders often find themselves faced with something that we might call the Renton dilemma, after Rose and Alex Renton, who faced it. The Renton dilemma could be described as whether or not to act in order to help a sick person get hold of medicinal cannabis despite that the medicine has been prohibited by whatever local ruling power has claimed the authority to do so.
If a person was stuck at stage 4 of Kohlberg’s scale of moral reasoning, at which point they put the importance of the law above everything else, they would argue that Rose Renton should not have tried to get hold of medicinal cannabis without the relevant government approval, because laws like this must be obeyed for the sake of social cohesion.
The reason why this is dilemma is because a person who follows the law would not help a sick person get hold of medicinal cannabis, ergo they would let a sick person suffer needlessly for the sake of upholding the law.
A person at stage 5 of Kohlberg’s scale might not reason in such a manner, perhaps deciding instead that acting to reduce the sum total of human suffering in the world was more important than mindless obedience to a law that the people never consented to, and which was forced upon them on false pretenses and supported by lies.
Anyone who can’t get their head around the idea that the law can be wrong is likely stuck at stage 4 of Kohlberg’s moral reasoning scale, and it’s on issues at the forefront of cultural change, like cannabis law reform, where they get the most confused. Unfortunately, these people are by far the majority and the herd rules under the laws of democracy.
New Zealanders have had a collective experience this year – 97.6% of us have seen Gareth Morgan on television or social media and thought to themselves “There’s something fucking wrong with that guy.” Even by the mediocre, ignorant, bombastic standards of the puffed-up pissants who comprise New Zealand’s political class, Morgan stands out as a particularly vile specimen. This article takes a psychological perspective to examine what might be wrong with the man.
Having a go at someone on the occasion of the sudden death of a beloved pet, as Morgan did upon the death of Jacinda Ardern’s cat this week, is about as worthy of admiration as having a go at someone on the occasion of the death of a grandparent. It’s a really low thing to do, and a person wouldn’t normally think to do it unless something was missing from their brain. After all, many pet owners consider their animal friends a legitimate part of the family.
Imagine if Sam Morgan suddenly died and Jacinda Ardern had a go at Gareth on social media, taunting him on account of the damage Sam did to the environment with frequent international air travel. It would be the most appallingly unprimeministerial conduct ever witnessed in the history of the country. The whole nation would be united in agreement that someone who behaved like that was not fit to run a pub, let alone lead a country, on account of lacking basic compassion.
That this sort of conduct is not beneath Morgan won’t surprise the large numbers of people who have observed him speak and got a creepy vibe from the man, as if he was someone who you wouldn’t leave alone in a room with a pet or a small child.
Probably the reason for this is that Morgan, like most individuals who give other people the creeps, has a very low opinion of the importance of other people. As evidenced by his proposal to buy a section of Awaroa Beach, Morgan considers other people lesser beings, their opinions less worthy, their feelings less valuable.
This is not news to anyone who criticised Morgan’s refugee policy on one of his billions of sponsored FaceBook threads, and was verbally abused as a consequence.
It is cause to believe that Morgan has utterly failed at what a psychologist would call the development of a Theory of Mind – in other words, Morgan has absolutely no idea what’s going on in other people’s heads.
This hypothesis is supported by Morgan’s rude, crude, almost autistic dismissals of other people’s viewpoints. Like most narcissists, Morgan responds firstly with disbelief and rage when people disagree with him, and then when this cools becomes snarky and contemptuous. No effort at creating a common understanding with another person is made – you agree with the truth as divined by Saint Gareth or you are simply subhuman.
No amount of explaining could get it into Morgan’s head that most people are appalled by a tax plan that calls for taxing the family home. For the vast majority of people, their tenure of dwelling is their basic security in life: their castle and their home base. Of course, someone with hundreds of millions who can buy a house with pocket change cannot understand these sentiments, but the telling thing is that Morgan made no effort to – anyone who disagreed was simply a misinformed idiot.
Neither does he seem to have the faintest idea how much joy people get out of cats, and therefore the great anti-depressant effect that cats have on the people that spend time around them. He seems to have completely failed to understand that most cat owners see their cats as fellow beings of a similar order of importance to other people. This is pretty weird, all things considered, because there are very few people who are mentally defective on such issues of empathy.
Probably the main reason for this failure is that Morgan just doesn’t care. Judging by his behaviour on the campaign circuit, other people are, for him, just tools to be used in the achievement of a greater objective.
In other words, Morgan shares a failure to develop a theory of mind with all manner of criminals, psychopaths and dictators, who, like him, are missing the basic empathy that makes people truly human.
It’s common for one side of an argument to demand from the other side a cold, logical, rational reason to justify their position, while at the same time decrying all appeals to emotion as fallacious. The problem with this line of reasoning is that there are no truly objective reasons to make moral judgments about anything. As this essay will investigate, all political motivations are based on emotion.
Usually the person dismissing an argument as emotional is the sort of person who is a bit autistic, perhaps themselves not really in touch with their own emotions. This sort of person has a tendency to dismiss the genuine outrage, horror or disgust of other people as illegitimate motivators. They also have a striking tendency to not realise how emotional their own arguments are.
For instance, on the question of taxation for the sake of paying for social services, many people on the left make the argument that the right are without emotion when it comes to child poverty, mental health services, rape crisis centres and the like. The usual rightist counter to this is to claim that them keeping the maximum amount of their own income is a moral imperative to oppose communism or the likes, and that left-wing “feels” about starving children etc. do not and cannot ever justify the government levying taxation upon people.
What these rightists usually miss when it comes to this line of reasoning are their own emotions that are tied up in the issue.
The government levying taxation upon people is not wrong by dint of some decree from God. It is usually only opposed by those who believe that their personal net return of government services received from this taxation is negative. For these people, a sense of anger arises from feelings of having one’s energy parasitised; a similar sort of anger arises in cases of property theft or gross disrespect.
It can thus be seen that the right wing opposes taxation for emotional reasons. In other words, “muh feels”.
Political questions, when it comes down to it, are all a matter of “muh feels”. Feelings of injustice motivate most of them, and for many people such feelings are unavoidable. After all, the feelings of the population about what is the optimum level of taxation fall along a bell curve with no taxation at one end and full communism at the other, but the actual overall level of taxation must fall on a point on that curve, meaning that many above it will be outraged that it isn’t higher and many below it will be outraged that it isn’t lower.
Even murder fulfills this criteria. After all, what’s wrong with murder other than that it makes us feel bad? If it wasn’t for the fact that a person likely feels terrified when they’re being murdered, or the fact that the people left behind feel bereaved when someone they love is murdered, or the fact that the people in the neighbourhood feel afraid by murders in case they are next, or the fact that other citizens feel disgusted by murder because they consider it a bestial act of brutality, then there would be no reason to even make murder illegal, much less anything else.
Indeed, it could even be argued that, without feels, none of us would be capable of feeling motivated to do anything, and we would simply lie about until we died of metabolic failure.
Although it’s often true that a person does not examine their own emotional impulses and makes political decisions by just lurching from one burst of neurotransmitters to the next, this does not by itself mean that emotional input into decision making is necessarily undesirable, or that a line of reasoning appealing to an emotion is necessarily fallacious.
It could even be that, for a social species, correct decisions cannot be made without some accounting for how people will emotionally react to them. If one drills deep enough, there may not be much more to life than “muh feels”.
Even though the Internet has led to a sharing of shamanic knowledge completely unprecedented (and impossible) for any other point in the world’s history, it hasn’t filtered down to the mass consciousness yet. Probably it never will – the men of silver and iron and clay cannot be expected to concern themselves with what lies beyond this veil. This essay gives some tips for talking to them about the world beyond without sounding insane.
The most important thing is to have a feel for what the person you are talking to is likely to be able to handle. This means that you have to look for clues from what you already know about them to give hints about what they already believe.
The easiest way to sound crazy is to express a belief that does not accord with consensual reality of the mass consciousness of the people around you. This is true whether you are in meatspace or cyberspace. The lower the intelligence of the person you are speaking to, the less likely it is that they will have challenged any belief widely-held by the people around them.
It is in this will to challenge consensual reality that most people judge sane from insane. All you have to do is to assert that things are not as they are commonly believed to be, and some people will start to consider you crazy. Essentially you only have to contradict the television, or in other cases the radio or FaceBook.
You might start a conversation with a suspected normie by questioning the narrative that you are fed by the network news, or by the broadsheet papers. Even that is enough to sound pretty crazy to most people, who are on the level of “they couldn’t say it if it wasn’t true.” If a person is on this level they are in no way ready to handle the idea that the government has lied to them about psychedelics for the sake of making them easier to control.
A useful tactic here is to point out how the governments and mainstream media of Anglosphere countries colluded to sell the lie that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction in order to manufacture consent for the Iraq War. It’s possible now, though, that a person remembers those times differently and will choose to remember it in a way that denies this collusion.
It pays to be wary of the fact that most people are materialists, which implies that they believe that the brain generates consciousness, and that upon the death of the physical body this consciousness somehow “disappears”. These people consider all kinds of religious ideas like karma and God to be superstitions, and the bitterest contempt is reserved for those religious who believe that the consciousness survives the death of the physical body.
Unfortunately, this belief is also one of the major insights of psychedelics – perhaps it is this psychedelic insight that forms the foundation of most religious beliefs.
Mathematics is the way to get at people who are the hardest to reach. Expressing a sense of awe and wonder at how, for example, the Fibonacci sequence reoccurs in the state of Nature is a good way of getting a person to ask themselves whether there’s something other than sheer chance going on. Other ways are to express similar sentiments about the non-reoccurring nature of pi or the import of Goedel’s Incompleteness Theorem.
The way to talk about it so that it makes sense is by talking about previous beliefs that you once held that you either questioned or abandoned after taking a psychedelic. Usually this makes it possible to apply logic to dismantle one erroneous idea after the other, and it’s seldom necessary to mention that this destruction of illusion was achieved by means of psychedelics (any insight that psychedelics have brought you can be plausibly credited to either meditation or a near death experience as well).
For example, a psychedelicised person might be able to conduct a conversation with a normie about the boundaries of the human body, and how it’s not clear where inside ends and where outside begins. The very idea of selfishness starts to unravel if the idea of what it is that one might be selfish about is challenged, and by such means light can shine through.
This column believes that the ultimate goal of consciousness expansion is apotheosis, where an individual consciousness reunites themselves with the universal consciousness and becomes privy to certain mysteries, such as that there is no such thing as time and that the death of the physical body does not impact the true self.
Contemplation of this alone is liable to induce a psychiatric breakdown in a lot of people. Most people are so utterly terrified of the concept of their future death that they have pushed the very idea of it into a deep, dark part of the mind, only to be ventured into in an emergency. Even fewer people have looked deeply enough into their own minds to have made a surgically precise distinction between consciousness and the content of consciousness.
Starting with such subjects is probably too much. Most people will declare you crazy for talking about them rather than risk psychosis by dwelling on them.
Questioning the materialist dogma that the brain generates consciousness is the quickest way to be seen as crazy. This dogma is taken by many to be the absolute, inviolable and axiomatic truth of reality and conversation along these lines is likely to make materialists fear or despise you.
The best thing is probably to declare skepticism of the claims of a mutual enemy. The Government, the Church or Big Business can all serve as excellent mutual enemies. Skepticism of the claims of these mutual enemies might then be generalised into skepticism about other claims and dogmas.
“That person must have been on drugs” is a common response to observing all kinds of wacked-out behaviour, as if taking a psychoactive drug inevitably brings about false kinds of thinking – a cognitive bias this column has previously described as Sobriety Bias Syndrome. But if we look around the world that sober people built, and the moral values agreed upon by sober people, things really didn’t turn out that great.
It was pious and sober people who decided, a few thousand years ago, that mutilating the genitals of baby boys was a legitimate expression of God’s will. It was sober people who decided to adopt this tradition from the foreigners who practiced it, and people are sober when they argue for the “health benefits” of the mutilation.
George W. Bush, completely sober, decided that sending the firepower of the US military after Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was a great idea, even though it led directly to the deaths of over a million people. The US Congress, elected to represent the American people, also soberly decided that this was a great idea.
In the 1930s we created and watched “documentaries” such as Reefer Madness, which exhorted us to tell our children that smoking cannabis will turn them into murderers; a dozen years later, with god-fearing sobriety, we built nuclear weapons and dropped them on Japanese civilians, killing hundreds of thousands in one hit.
These are the actions of sober minds. So clearly a person doesn’t have to be intoxicated in order to do terrible things to someone else.
Far from it. In many ways, sobriety can be seen as a kind of virus. Its presence in a person’s mind tends to work to drive out periods of non-sobriety, usually because of egoistic religious delusions about achieving purity of thought. The sober mind tends to have thoughts repeating in it over and over again, and this repetition can lead to a powerful commitment to some ideas.
This is a fact long understood by television programmers, who appreciate how repeated exposure to a short, powerful stimulus is more likely to induce purchasing behaviour in a potential consumer than a single exposure to e.g. a lecture about the qualities of a product.
Because novel psychoactive experiences tend to destroy this conditioning by allowing the conditioned person to see things from new perspectives, if you want to get everyone marching in lockstep then these psychoactive experiences need to be either discouraged or made illegal.
Consequently, entirely sober people have decided, presumably using sober logic, that putting another human being in a cage is a fair punishment for being caught growing a medicinal plant without permission.
Maybe there’s an argument that too much sobriety makes an individual mean from a lack of levity, and a society dumb from a lack of questioning?
After all, the mass shooters making the front pages recently are definitely not smoking weed, taking ecstasy or tripping on mushrooms or LSD, and neither are the genital mutilators, military warhawks and brainwashers that are responsible for most of the world’s evil.
The truth is that the world needs a diversity of ideas if humans are to survive the challenges of coming years. Never mind a diversity of skin colour – such superficial qualities do not constitute real diversity. Real diversity is diversity of ideas, even outlandish ones, even crazy ones, because that is the kind of diversity that saves us from groupthink and prevents us from making the kind of error that arises from self-righteous conviction about one’s correctness.
To that end, sobriety is our enemy and getting wasted is our friend.
The Big Lie of our age is that the brain generates consciousness. It’s a lie characteristic of our exceptionally materialistic age, because in most other times in human history people have retained their intuitive awareness of the primacy of consciousness. In the modern West, however, it’s simply taken for granted that the brain generates consciousness, and the deleterious consequences of this belief are denied or explained away.
This Big Lie has come about as a result of a reasoning error that became fashionable in the wake of the Enlightenment. The idea was that religion had held humanity back during the Dark Ages by making scientific research impractical, and therefore religious dogma had to be discarded from the scientific reasoning process, and therefore all talk of a world beyond the material had to be abandoned, and therefore consciousness simply had to be a material property.
From this Big Lie a number of falsehoods arise. Many of these falsehoods are encouraged by the ruling classes because they make the plebs easier to rule.
For instance, the belief that the brain generates consciousness leads immediately to the belief that the death of the brain (alongside the inevitable death of the physical body) must inevitably mean the “end” of consciousness. Because if the body dies, and the brain dies with it, then the brain must logically lose its capacity for ‘generating’ or ‘maintaining’ consciousness and thus that consciousness must disappear.
This belief, while predicated entirely on a falsehood, leads to a number of other beliefs.
The most powerful of these is the belief that this life is all that there is. If the death of this physical body means the death of consciousness, then I cannot be held responsible for anything I do while in this place (i.e. Earth, more or less). Therefore, if I take money now in exchange for attacking another person, or if I murder, rob or rape, then I only have to get away with it for as long as this physical life endures.
Another odd idea that follows naturally from the Big Lie is that only creatures with brain structures similar to that which knows itself to be conscious can also be conscious. If the brain generates consciousness by means of some property inherent to it (such as a critical mass of complexity) then other creatures can only be considered conscious to the degree that they share these brain structures with the person thinking up the consciousness theory (after all, that person knows themselves 100% to be conscious).
One delusion is that mortal terror is an appropriately dignified response to mortal threats for a civilised human. It is if you believe that the brain generates consciousness, but if you don’t believe this it becomes possible to be genuinely courageous. After all, why subject yourself to mortal terror if you know that the contents of consciousness are ephemeral and transient?
Of course, the ruling classes are generally happy to have people believe that this life is all there is, for a variety of reasons. Not least of these reasons are because it discourages anarcho-homicidalist action by making people afraid of execution, and because it makes people greedy, aggressive and acquisitive as they try to cram an eternity’s worth of pleasures into one mortal incarnation.
It is ultimately because of this Big Lie that cannabis and the psychedelics are illegal. These drugs modify behaviour by making the user aware, however fleetingly, of a world beyond the material. In this world beyond are immutable moral principles, and it’s harder to pull the strings of people who are aware of these principles and believe in them. Such people tend to make their own decisions.
A common experience on psychedelics is to feel the material world slipping out of consciousness and to become aware of an entirely different world as seen through an entirely different set of eyes, but which is ultimately comprehended by the same consciousness. This often results in the tripper learning the lesson of the primacy of consciousness and how conceptions of time and space are illusions brought about by temporary separation from God.
It is because of the Big Lie that people who become privy to such revelations about the true nature of reality – whether by taking psychedelic drugs or through other means – are seen as having gone insane, and their revelations seen as chaotic nonsense of no value. After all, if a psychonaut comes to realise that the Big Lie is a big lie, then that psychonaut must be dismissed as a space cadet or schizophrenic lest this realisation catch on.
All regular readers of this column will be familiar with four temperaments theory, which is the idea that humans fall into four psychological groups that correspond to the four feminine elements of earth, water, air and fire. As a previous essay discussed, these four elements could be considered to be the four feminine elements of equal value, in contrast to the four masculine elements of varying value. This essay looks at the four temperaments according to the four masculine elements.
The most elementary sort of person is the one that exists in the state of nature. This corresponds to the man of clay. This is how people are when we’re not significantly distinguished from the rest of the animal kingdom – in other words, when we’re just a third chimpanzee.
In esoteric terms, this is a person with no divine inspiration. Such a person will not feel any reason to question the various animal impulses that come through their mind, and consequently they will behave much like an animal. They will be aggressive, vicious, spiteful, brutal, jealous and envious.
Divine inspiration manifests in the man of iron as someone with a concept of discipline. At the most primitive level, this means someone who is able to overcome their fear of physical suffering in order to hold fast and resist an enemy, usually in the form of another man or a predatory animal.
At the most primitive level of humanity, this is how people came to distinguish themselves from the ordinary ape-man, and this is therefore how humanity began to evolve into something higher. Tuning into this frequency of iron meant learning the virtues of bravery and courage which, when applied to death, allow a person to act as something more than just a fear, hunger and sex-based animal.
After a certain critical mass of iron was reached, some of it began, like fusion in the heart of a star, to brighten into silver. This was when people came to learn that intelligent application of discipline was better than discipline for the sake of discipline.
This was also the point at which humans started to use their brains and intellects to secure survival and reproductive advantages. A crucial stage in this process was the invention of the spear. The application of intellect necessary to first realise that a spear is a more effective weapon than a club, and second to improve it by hardening the tip in fire, catapulted humanity forward.
The value of silver is in that it is softer than iron and can therefore be used to direct iron in subtler ways. When humanity started to appreciate this value, then iron was consciously polished into silver for the first time.
This led to a third type of person, one who was neither animal nor knight but somewhere in between. This person carved a niche for themselves out of reality primarily through their minds, i.e. through the application of intelligence. On an alchemical level, this sort of person corresponds to the element of silver.
Music began to develop at this point, as did language more complicated than the growls and hisses that we shared with other mammals like cats and monkeys. Evidently, people decided that they naturally liked that sort of thing because all cultures developed a musical tradition and a tradition of singing.
The real development of silver, however, wasn’t in levity but in lying and cheating and scheming and plotting, either against other people or other animals in hunting or nature itself in agriculture. Silver is not gold, and intelligence is entirely separate from morality.
Most humans don’t develop much past this stage of silver, if they even get that far. But for those who did, the next step was the advent of philosophy, and alongside that came the ritual use of psychoactive drugs.
The first of these drugs to be used ritually was probably psilocybin mushrooms or amanita muscaria, followed by ayahuasca, alcohol and then cannabis. Mushrooms are the obvious choice for ritual use because they require no real preparation (although ought to be dried for reasons of palatability) and because they spring up at at a regular and predictable point in the seasonal cycle.
Once this started to happen, humans started to develop a sense of spirituality. The broader perspectives offered by the altered states of consciousness that were deliberately entered into, often enough for a shaman to learn to navigate in them, allowed for an appreciation of something much greater than oneself, an insight into higher levels of the Great Fractal.
Once insights like this were reached, it became possible for consciousness to affect reality on the level of gold, which is to say, the level of correct conduct.
This led to a fourth sort of person, one who is capable of guiding and influencing all of the other elements despite being soft like the clay. This person was able to lead by example, and therefore did not need to be strong like iron or quick-thinking like silver. This sort of person is rare enough that they are like the gold.
This sort of person took the role of the shaman in ancient society, in that they were a person who experimented with altered states of consciousness for the sake of maximising the breadth of their perspective on reality. This path requires both the courage of iron and the cunning of silver, and in this manner is like a synthesis of the two.
There are many competing reasons for thinking that Winston Peters ought to go with one or the other of Labour or National in the post-election negotiations to form a Government. Some say that any arrangement with the Greens involved will not be stable enough, some say that the Opposition parties won a clear majority and therefore a mandate for change, some say that Winston will go with whoever he feels like going with. This article, by Understanding New Zealand author Dan McGlashan, looks at things another way.
We will follow here the argument that Peters ought to side with whichever out of Labour and National represents the people most similar to their own, and to that end this article will make a judgment using six major demographic categories, viz. age, ethnicity, education, income level, gender and homeownership rates.
The correlation between voting National in 2017 and median age was a very strong 0.77, which represents the old people who own everything, and between voting Labour in 2017 and median age it was -0.66, which represents the people who are yet to become financially established and are living primarily on their wages.
The correlation between voting New Zealand First in 2014 and median age was negative, at -0.08, but by 2017 it had become significantly positive, at 0.24. This is primarily because of a large number of young, working-class Maoris shifting to Labour.
Young people drifted away from New Zealand First this election, and old people drifted in. The correlation between being aged 20-29 and voting New Zealand First was -0.38 in 2014 but had become -0.60 by 2017, whereas the correlation between being aged 65+ and voting New Zealand First was 0.10 in 2014 and had become 0.36 by 2017.
Young voters tend to not like either National or New Zealand First, whereas elderly voters like both, so that suggests a greater age overlap with the National Party. Decisively, the correlation of 0.24 between voting New Zealand First in 2017 and median age is 90 basis points away from the Labour figure, and only 53 basis points away from the National figure, so National win this one.
National 1, Labour 0
The stereotype is of New Zealand First as an old, white, racist’s party, which is a very odd perception when it’s led by someone who played for the Auckland Maori rugby team. The truth is much more complex.
Voting New Zealand First in 2014 and being a Kiwi of European descent was perfectly uncorrelated, at 0.00. Between voting New Zealand First in 2014 and being Maori the correlation was a strongly positive 0.66. That means that at the time of the last election, the stereotype of New Zealand First voters was entirely false.
Some truth crept into it in 2017, however. By 2017 the correlation between being a Kiwi of European descent and voting New Zealand First had risen to 0.19, whereas the correlation between being Maori and voting New Zealand First had fallen to 0.40. This means that New Zealand First is still more of a Maori party than it is anything else, but that sentiments of white Kiwis are also well represented.
The correlation between being a Kiwi of European descent and voting National in 2017 was a strong 0.51, and for voting Labour it was correspondingly weak, at -0.56.
This means that New Zealand First is slightly more like National when it comes to whiteness, but far more like Labour when it comes to Maoriness. The correlation between being Maori and voting National in 2017 was a strongly negative -0.68, whereas the figure for voting Labour in 2017 was, at 0.57, very close to the New Zealand First figure.
New Zealand First was fairly to similar to National in that their party was mildly disfavoured by Pacific Islanders, in contrast to Labour. The correlations between being a Pacific Islander and voting National or New Zealand First in 2017 were -0.35 and -0.17 respectively, very different to the correlation between being a Pacific Islander and voting Labour, which was, at 0.57, as strong as the one with being Maori and voting Labour in 2017.
This is unlike the case of Asians, who were moderately more likely to prefer National to Labour, and who despise New Zealand First. The correlation between being Asian and voting National in 2017 was 0.10, only a smidgen stronger than what it was in 2014. Between being Asian and voting Labour in 2017 it was -0.09, but between being Asian and voting New Zealand First in 2017 it was -0.58.
All in all, if you weight each ethnicity by the number of Kiwis belonging to it, it’s more or less a draw.
National 1.5, Labour 0.5
Labour shares with New Zealand First an affinity from those with few NZQA qualifications. New Zealand First was by far the most poorly educated voting bloc in 2014, and, although it’s true that they still are, the margins became smaller.
The correlations between having no NZQA qualifications and voting New Zealand First or Labour in 2017 were similar, at 0.69 and 0.45 respectively, and very different to that of having no NZQA qualifications and voting National in 2017, which was -0.32.
This isn’t really surprising because someone with no NZQA qualifications is not likely to have a large income or a number of rental houses, and so will not benefit from National’s refusal to institute a capital gains tax, and they are very likely to be living hand to mouth or close to it, which means they lost out from the rise in GST to 15%.
Some will be very surprised by the voting patterns of the highly educated, though. On the one hand, it might not be surprising that the university educated were mildly disinclined to vote Labour in 2017. The correlations with doing so were -0.32 for people with a Bachelor’s degree, -0.28 for people with an Honours degree, -0.27 for people with a Master’s degree, and -0.21 for people with a doctorate.
But neither were they particularly inclined to vote National. The correlations with voting National in 2017 were 0.15 for having a Bachelor’s degree, 0.10 for having an Honours degree, and 0.09 for having either of the two highest degrees. As it turns out, a large number of these people voted TOP, ACT or Green.
Compared to their sentiments towards Labour and National, university graduates are extremely disinclined to support New Zealand First. The correlations between voting New Zealand First in 2017 and having a university education was -0.73 in the case of having a Bachelor’s degree, -0.69 for an Honours degree, -0.74 for a Master’s degree and -0.60 for a doctorate.
This suggests that neither Labour or National have much in common with New Zealand First educationally, but Labour does share with New Zealand First a supporter base of very uneducated people. This is worth three-quarters of a point to Labour and one quarter to National.
National 1.75, Labour 1.25
Leaving aside the truly broke, who know that their bread is buttered with Labour, not National, and who are indifferent to New Zealand First, voters in every income band are about equally likely to prefer Labour and New Zealand First to National.
The most wealthy Kiwis dislike New Zealand First even more than they dislike the Labour Party, which is perhaps a commentary on how the Labour Party supports the wealthy by way of supporting neoliberalism.
People with an income of $150K+ had a correlation of 0.24 with voting National in 2017, -0.43 with voting Labour in 2017 and -0.51 with voting New Zealand First in 2017, and those with an income of $100-150K had a correlation of 0.26 with voting National in 2017, -0.40 with voting Labour in 2017 and -0.54 with voting New Zealand First in 2017.
This suggests that the people who are creaming it the most look at Labour and New Zealand First with a similar level of disdain.
People in the $50-60K income band were almost perfectly indifferent to all three parties. The correlation between being in this income band and voting National in 2017 was 0.01, with voting Labour in 2017 it was -0.03 and with voting New Zealand First in 2017 it was 0.04.
This tells us that people in the middle – either the young, poor, ambitious and going up or the old, middle-class, satisfied and looking to hang on – wouldn’t really mind which way Peters went.
The people in the working-class income bands between $25 and $40K, in contrast to those in the $100K+ income bands, look at Labour and New Zealand First with a similar level of approval.
Kiwis earning $35-40K had a correlation of 0.49 with voting New Zealand First in 2017, which is much closer to the correlation between being in this income band and voting Labour in 2017 (0.38) than it is to the one between being in this income band and voting National in 2017 (-0.37).
In the income bands lower than this, people tended to support New Zealand First all the more. To the poorest New Zealanders, there is no apparent difference between National and Labour, and such a mindset seems to find a home in New Zealand First.
Ultimately, wealthy Kiwis like National and dislike Labour and New Zealand First, and poor Kiwis dislike National and like Labour and New Zealand First, so this one goes to Labour.
National 1.75, Labour 2.25
The correlation between voting National in 2017 and being male was 0.23, understandable as men earn more money than women and are therefore relatively likely to lose from the balance of taxation and welfare spending.
The correlation between voting Labour in 2017 and being female was 0.40, also understandable for the opposite reasons to why the men vote National – women earn less money and therefore benefit more from a party that raises taxes for the sake of social spending.
New Zealand First voters fell right in the middle. The correlation between voting New Zealand First in 2017 and being female was 0.10, which placed it almost exactly as far away from the National figure as from the Labour one.
In other words, New Zealand First voters were slightly more likely to be female, which fell in between National’s moderately more likely to be male and Labour’s strongly more likely to be female.
National 2.25, Labour 2.75
Curiously, the correlations between living in a mortgaged house and voting in 2017 for any of the three parties under discussion were basically identical. For National and Labour it was both 0.16, and for New Zealand First it was 0.14.
For living in a freehold house, things were a bit different. Predictably, people who lived in freehold houses were much more likely to vote National than Labour. The correlation between living in a freehold house and voting for National in 2017 was 0.65, and with voting for Labour in 2017 it was -0.51.
But people who voted New Zealand First fell almost right in the middle – the correlation between living in a freehold house and voting New Zealand First in 2017 was 0.22. This might be marginally closer to National but this was not the case in 2014. At that election, voting for New Zealand First had a correlation of -0.05 with living in a freehold house.
A similar pattern presented itself for those who were renters. The correlation between living in a rented house and voting for National in 2017 was a very strong -0.79, and with voting for Labour in 2017 it was also fairly strong, but in the other direction, at 0.56.
Again, New Zealand First voters fell in the middle. The correlation between living in a rented house and voting Nw Zealand First in 2017 was -0.26, which again falls right in between Labour and National. This one has to be another tie, at half a point each.
Final score: National 2.75, Labour 3.25
In the final analysis, it would be far from easy for Peters to choose between Labour and National on the basis of demographic similarities. Age would push him towards National, income towards Labour, and gender and homeownership rates would be even.
This makes for a very strong negotiating position in one sense. Unlike the Green Party – who cannot support National without committing suicide in the manner of the Maori Party and the British Liberal Democrats – New Zealand First could plausibly support either Labour or National, meaning that either side has an incentive to offer as much as it can to them.
However, Winston Peters has also been forked. He has to make one group of committed New Zealand First supporters unhappy. Either he makes the elderly European contingent unhappy by going with the Green Party, or he makes the working-class Maori contingent unhappy by going with National.
No doubt this calculus means that Peters will take his sweet time, and consider every possibility, before deciding on whose head he will place the crown.
This article is an excerpt from the 2nd Edition of Understanding New Zealand, which Dan McGlashan and VJM Publishing will have ready for sale at the end of October 2017. This will contain statistics calculated according to the official final vote counts and will be freshly updated with data from the 2017 General Election.