Saturday, 26 August 2017

The Three Best Reasons to Not Vote Labour

I cannot sit by and say nothing about Jacinda Ardern's Labour, but I am too tired to write up everything that needs to be said. What I can do is quickly bang out a list. The internet likes lists. I like lists. I don't really write them.

#1 Labour's Stance on Immigration

Back in the heady days of March when everyone was wondering why exactly Labour had stuck with Andrew Little, I watched a debate over whether or not the Labour Party should go with Jacinda Ardern instead. The opposing side ran a practical case as I remember it (too tired to look at my notes) so they were clearly wrong. After all, no-one even remembers who Andrew Little is now, except if they want to talk about the Jacinda Effect. But the supporting side were wrong too.

The principled reasons to switch from Little to Ardern were that Little's Labour, despite his always talked about union links, were never really a Labour party. One of the big foundations of that case was on immigration. There was nothing fair or worker friendly about Little's immigration policies. There was nothing socially just about them either. Coming or going (old or new style leftism) Labour just wasn't lefty. Hence, if you scapegoated Little, policy changed could happen no worries. The problem is that Ardern's keeping Little's immigration stances. Boo! Hiss! Vote Greens!

(There was also the practical argument of being youth adjacent but, hey, 37 is pretty ancient when you think about.)

#2 Labour's Solution to Auckland's Housing Problems

Look, we absolutely do need to build more houses and we absolutely do need to go back to having a proper welfare state. In the very simplest terms, it is difficult to play cricket without wickets, a pitch, cricket bats and a ball. Sure, you can make do. I've played my fair share of rubbish bin cricket. I've bowled with rocks and even flowers in desperation. I've run from horizontally laid stick to crack in ground, and tried to stump an imaginary jumper. I've had fun with these variants, but none of them are cricket at their best. Hell, some just plain don't work (lookin' at you flower bowling). More than three people also helps enormously.

Similarly, having a welfare state, a bureaucracy, the rule of law and a tax system are all necessary to get the best out of private existence. Whether I want to be a 9-5 office slave, run a multi-national company or just play cricket, the best way of doing these things is if there's a stable base. If I can have secure housing, if my employees can have secure housing and if I can live near enough people who'll turn out to play, I can do all these things better. To be clear, better than if everyone is slipping into homelessness, being turfed about by capricious landlords or succumbing to a stress spiral caused by overdue bills. This is logical. And Labour will solve it to some extent with their proposals to build more houses.

The problem is that building houses always requires a where. For Labour, that's beyond the current urban limits of Auckland. I've mentioned before that development moving out of existing infrastructure areas is problematic but I think Labour would just build the infrastructure. The problem is more that places like Pukekohe exist. That is to say, for every house you build from Drury and Runciman towards Ramarama and Pukekohe, you take up that much more fertile land. That is, land whose best use is agricultural. This is not sustainable development. Indeed, if you look at places like Portland in the US, strict urban boundaries have stimulated superior urban forms. Or, at least, that's what everyone says. (I've never been.) We should emulate that and build out on pain of death... because that's ultimately what sprawling means.

#3 Another National Term Would Be A Disaster

I'm one of those people who think National has managed to pull off the most incredible of electoral feats. They have shown literally 0 evidence of sound economic or political management in nearly ten years but have managed to position themselves as the only steady hand. Even better, they've been sued for how they tried to do this (the Eminem thing) and the brand hasn't been dented, not one little bit. Indeed, the whole reason Labour thinks it can win votes by selling anti-immigrant narratives is because of the failures of National. Ultimately, it's a mentality problem.

When it comes down to it, National ultimately prefers to take away your cricket bat (interest accruing student loans for NZers overseas) rather than make sure where they want you to play actually has a pitch to play on. As a result of this mentality, when we needed the government to build urban amenities, encourage dense development, improve urban infrastructure and stimulate construction through intervention the government didn't do anything. In fact, it made a Super City to look after this stuff in Auckland, but then failed to give it abilities that would let it actually do this. That's a moral hazard. Councillors have the risk of not providing amenities to Auckland voters in local elections but central government is still the one with the power. Anyway, the point is, in the brain drain days of 2008, these developments would have kept NZers in-country, and provided housing now.

Which is to say, National's having another term would be a disaster. So, why does that mean you shouldn't vote for Labour? There's a simple answer: the Greens.

I can't remember why I didn't like Labour last election, but for whatever reason they sat ill with me so I went for the Greens instead. I will do so again, in about a month. The trouble is that if you vote for Labour to get rid of National, you vote for the above two problematic issues. But if you vote for the Greens, you vote against National and simultaneously temper the above policy positions. You see, the Greens have a more sane "leave it as it is" approach to immigration and, naturally, are keen on sustainable development. Hence, every extra seat they have means that they can act to avoid both kinds of disaster: National's badly guided tour of hell or Labour's garden of xenophobia. Hence, you can't vote Labour. (Or NZ First.)

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