Friday, December 21, 2007


Liberation offers a different sort of socialist take on NZ politics.

For example, Bryce Edwards, it's author, argues against the electoral finance bill and against the state funding of political parties. He musters a lot of evidence - some of it intriguing but, to be honest, his key arguments don't make much sense to me.

Edwards is opposed to state funding of political parties, in part, because - in his opinion - it divorces parties from their grass routes membership leaving us with a professionalised political class. As evidence for this he notes that active party membership for many New Zealand political parties has declined in recent years. The trouble with this argument is that he doesn't - as far as I can see (and I haven't read everything he has written) - provide much evidence other than hearsay that one has lead to the other. There is certainly not enough evidence to convince me that the decline in political party membership is not just a reflection in the general decline in traditional associational life occurring in developed nations. And if this is the case, then state funding has filled an important vacuum - which otherwise might have been filled by business money.

Edwards also argues that money doesn't buy elections, citing amongst other examples the case of ACT who have spent a lot only to see this not reflected in electoral results. This is enough to convince me that money certainly isn't the sole factor in determining outcomes. But it's not enough to convince me that it isn't a factor. What we really need to know is how ACT would have done in those same years with funding levels similar to the Greens - rather less well I suspect.

Edwards also points out that plenty of business money goes to Labour as well. This is a good point to make. But - to me at least - this just strengthens the for regulation on private donations. If both parties are reliant on business donations is this cause for complacency?

There is some other interesting stuff in there but, overall, Edwards just doesn't convince me that we need regulations and the like to ensure a transparent democratic process.

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