Narratives of minor parties

10/11/2011 Comments Off on Narratives of minor parties

I’ve looked at National and Labour and the stories they tell about how the economy works. What about the minor parties?

Greens: I was struck by how technocratic they are. They take the economy as a given, and then make suggestions for how to push or pull it in the ‘right’ way. It is a partial equilibrium view, admittedly — the feedbacks and general equilibrium effects are missing. They also try to broaden the discussion: we shouldn’t look just at the market outcomes, but at the wider economic effects. To do this, we should measure the ‘right’ things. The focus on measurement signals acceptance. They aren’t trying to say that the market system failed; it isn’t a systemic critique. Instead, they are saying, ‘Look, when we measure and aim for growth, we get it. Now, let’s do the same for the things that really matter: the environment, society, families, etc.’ This is economics as the operating system for humanity.

Act: It is hard to separate Act 2011 from Hide, Brash, and classical liberalism generally. I won’t really try. Brash was on Close Up on Monday, and repeated the Taskforce 2025 prescription that NZ needs world-leading regulation. That brought to mind, ‘That government is best which governs least’. This is the reasoning behind Hide’s Regulatory Standards Bill. The underlying narrative reminds me of Rousseau: man starts in a state of nature, and then is corrupted. The economy starts off in a state of natural function, and then is corrupted by government.

Maori: Much of the party policy focuses, not surprisingly, on the tangata whenua. The party talks about how outcomes are different for Maori. A lot of the discussion is supply-side: producing more young people with education and training, making better use of the resource base, understanding Maori IP. The demand side is less visible: what skills will be demanded, or why demand for Maori-owned resources aren’t as high. The implication is that the economy works, it just doesn’t work well for Maori. They need to get in there and participate.

A different narrative, one that isn’t used, is that the market produces winners and losers. The poor and dispossessed are as integral to the system as the wealthy. Such as system is unjust, and must be replaced. Instead, the Maori party seems to say that the economy generally works, but Maori need better participation.

I may be reading this wrong, but all three of these parties seem to believe that the economy generally works well. It may need some refocusing (Greens) or relaxing of controls (Act), or we may want a bigger piece of it (Maori), but its centrality and functioning are taken as given. These narratives parallel the political fortunes. They can’t change the essential nature of the Government. Instead, they can alter its trajectory a bit towards their own goals.

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