Monday, March 21, 2011

"I do not choose to be a common man..."

I do not choose to be a common man,
It is my right to be uncommon … if I can,
I seek opportunity … not security.
I do not wish to be a kept citizen.
Humbled and dulled by having the
State look after me.
I want to take the calculated risk;
To dream and to build.
To fail and to succeed.
I refuse to barter incentive for a dole;
I prefer the challenges of life
To the guaranteed existence;
The thrill of fulfillment
To the stale calm of Utopia.
I will not trade freedom for beneficence
Nor my dignity for a handout
I will never cower before any master
Nor bend to any threat.
It is my heritage to stand erect.
Proud and unafraid;
To think and act for myself,
To enjoy the benefit of my creations
And to face the world boldly and say:
This, with God’s help, I have done
All this is what it means
To be an Entrepreneur.

~ Excerpt from Common Sense, written in 1776 by Thomas Paine

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Secret process is no way to select a head of state

Jerry Mateparae has been chosen as New Zealand's next governor general to replace Anand Satyanand. He is a former chief of NZ defence staff and is the current head of the NZ Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), our electronic spying agency.

By all accounts, Jerry Mateparae is an enormously capable man with a proven track record of good leadership. Not only that, he appears to be a thoroughly decent fellow. Everything a country would want in a head of state (actually, a proxy head of state because the person who actually holds that role doesn't even live in New Zealand - more on that later).

The first issue I have with his appointment is the appointment process itself. The process is secret, carried out by a small cabal of senior public servants under the direction of the Prime Minister. While in recent years under MMP, the PM has consulted leaders of other political parties, there is no requirement to do this. I find it incredible that in the 21st Century the people of New Zealand have no say directly in the selection of their head of state.

The second issue I have is Jerry Mateparae's current role. In his role as head of GCSB he is answerable to the Prime Minister as minister in charge of the security services. In a few months time, the Prime Minister technically will be answerable to Mataparae. The Queen's representative in New Zealand may be called upon to sack the PM at some point (as the person in this role in Australia did in respect of their PM in 1975 - and let's leave aside the issue of whether it was justified or not for the sack of the argument). What prospect is there of Mateparae sacking the man who appointed him and to whom he previously reported as a public servant? Also, the governor general fulfils another important constitutional role as the final signatory on all legislation. By convention this is seen as a rubber stamp to Parliament but there is always the prospect that the governor general might strike down a particularly odious piece of legislation. Such as the Search and Surveillance Bill currently before Parliament. Again, what prospect is there of the governor general taking the side of the people of New Zealand against the Prime Minister who appointed him. And bear in mind that Mateparae would have contributed to the Search and Surveillance Bill as head of GCSB.

All of this brings me to the real problem. New Zealand is still a monarchy with the actual role of head of state being a hereditary position held by a family living on the other side of the world. The current incumbent, Elizabeth Windsor, has done a pretty reasonable job as our head of state. Her son, Charles Windsor, who will be our next head of state, is a bumbling idiot who I am sure wouldn't be in any position of leadership if he was selected on his own merits. Under our current system, no New Zealander can serve as the actual head of state, no matter what the selection criteria.

In America, every child is taught that they could grow up to be President. In New Zealand, our own children are not deemed worthy to ever aspire to our highest office. As a New Zealander, I find that situation highly offensive.

It is high time we fixed this antiquated, feudal system of determining who the head of state of New Zealand should be. We must abolish the monarchy, become a republic, and allow ourselves to elect our head of state.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Economic Death Knell or the Catalyst for a Resurgent New Zealand?

Now that the dust is settling in Christchurch and the sad commemorations for those who died in it are being held, thoughts are turning to how to rebuild the city.

The debate has already divided into predictable political lines with the left and even some of those previously associated with the right advocating more centralised planning, Government intervention, and higher taxes and levies. A few lone voices are advocating letting Christchurch businesses and residents determine their own future in a more grassroots, privately led recovery.

This earthquake is probably the greatest economic calamity to befell New Zealand since World War 2. The timing could not be worse - we are at the bottom of a long downwards spiral in economic performance that has seen us drop from number 3 or 4 on the OECD table of GDP per capita in the 1950s to number 23 today. Our response to the earthquake will determine, as much as anything else, whether we climb back up the ladder or slip further down - being passed on the way by many third world nations on the ascendancy.

The last thing this country needs is more government intervention, more regulation, and more taxes and government charges. Such policies will spell the death knell of NZ's already strained economy. We need greater economic freedom and lower costs to enable our businesses and investors to build the recovery both in Christchurch and throughout the country. Any other approach will stymie the recovery in Christchurch and drag New Zealand further down to third world status.

I'm not saying there is no role for Government in the reconstruction - of course there is. But the best thing the Government can do is get out of the way and remove all impediments to investment in the new Christchurch. It should be cheerleading the recovery, not trying to control every aspect of it.