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An Abomination

Whatever you think of the democratic process there is no doubt that it produces a lot of entertainment, especially as an election approaches. The upcoming election here in New Zealand is already creating a lot of entertainment, especially from the more extreme parties involved. And who could be more extreme than the Act (libertarian) Party?

I find libertarianism very frustrating because I totally agree with many parts of its ideology from a philosophical perspective. But that is the problem: it is just an ideology and has none of the moderation which we would get from a more practical perspective.

The pursuit of ultimate freedom for individuals is always extended to companies and institutions as well which would inevitably result in the complete opposite of what is claimed is the bigger aim.

And no matter how many times the claims of libertarianism are shown to be false, or at least highly questionable, they still carry on as if nothing had happened. For example, they still think the trickle down theory actually works, they think greed is good, they think private enterprise is always the best solution, they think competition is always better than cooperation.

So no matter how appealing libertarian policies seem they are dangerous because most libertarians are fanatics with very little grounding in reality. And, of course, Act Party leader, Jamie Whyte, is the greatest fanatic of them all (at least in current New Zealand politics).

I listened to an interview with Whyte recently where his fanaticism soon became obvious. Here are a few of the points he made on the issue of race-based laws, and my counter-points to them…

Whyte thinks that there are laws in New Zealand which are intrinsically racist and give Maori (the original inhabitants of New Zealand) special privileges. These include the option of voting in a conventional or a special Maori seat, and special rights of consultation in management of natural resources.

Of course, he is right – those types of laws do exist – and in a perfect world we would prefer not to have them because they are racist. But the real world doesn’t work like libertarians imagine it does, and it is not as clear and simple as it is in Whyte’s philosophical musings (before entering politics he was a philosopher).

So why make a big point out of this issue just before an election? For most parties I would suggest political posturing and that could easily be the case here too, but I think it is possibly much worse than that because Act genuinely encompass this sort of pure ideology into their practical policies.

I do have to say that the reactions to these comments haven’t exactly been full of robust and rational logic either. Various Maori leaders have said Act’s ideas have no place in New Zealand politics (why not? aren’t they worth discussing in a reasonable way?), and that it is now election time so the old racist policies always appear (isn’t that the best time to get the most attention?), and he should be ashamed of himself (why? he’s just making a not unreasonable point about existing laws).

So there are a lot of silly nonsense on both sides and both sides sometimes take the discussion to ridiculous extremes. Whyte claims the race-based laws we have are an “abomination”. For a philosopher and someone who usually tries to look very rational that is a very emotive term. The definition of abomination includes: “a thing that causes disgust or hatred”, and synonyms include “atrocity, disgrace, horror, obscenity, outrage, evil, crime, monstrosity, anathema, bane.”

Honestly, is it really that bad?

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