The story of this election

Well, if it’s frustrating to see major parties wrangle over spreadsheets it’s heartening to see someone try to unravel the narrative of each party’s campaign. Bill Kaye-Blake has laid out what he sees as the story of each party’s policies. He gives a nod to Deirdre McCloskey but I think Bill probably has a career in marketing with stories like this!

For National he thinks:

the hero is Government. Government starts as dissolute spendthrift and becomes a mate helping spruce the place up. But that’s a political story. The economic underpinning is of People and Businesses who are good-hearted and creative, who are sufficient unto the task but held back.

And for Labour:

Labour is saying that wages — the price of labour — are wrong; they don’t reflect that actual contribution of workers to the economy. Labour is also saying that asset prices are wrong. Whatever price we get for state assets won’t fairly compensate for the lost dividends. … So, the prices of both capital and labour are wrong.

The fascinating thing about these stories is that it is National who paint the government as the ones who can clean up the mess, and Labour who paint the system as the problem. Aren’t we more used to seeing that the other way around, with more libertarian types complaining about the system and progressives calling for more government intervention to save the day? So is the discordance in Bill’s perception of the narrative, or in the roles of the parties?

I think he’s right about National: we’ve seen the rise of John Key-as-CEO, managing the economy, used as a common rhetorical device over the past few years. Painting the government as a hero who can free us from our bonds fits in well with that narrative. But it seems that, in Bill’s narrative of National’s policies, the people are infants who need guidance and assistance rather than budding John Galts who wish only to be unshackled from government management.

Matt has previously agreed with Bill’s analysis of Labour, too: they think prices are wrong and they want to ‘fix’ them somehow. The problem Labour seem to have is that their rhetoric is about marching in the street and anger at corporate fat cats. In contrast, their policy of tweaking GST and superannuation schemes while maintaining the status quo on government asset ownership will change things very little. Bill has avoided talking about the role of government in changing the system, probably because Labour’s policies say little about it.

6 replies
  1. goonix
    goonix says:

    National are hardly ‘libertarian’. Conservative governments often don’t want major change to the ‘system’.

      • goonix
        goonix says:

        I’d say the Nats are going for step-change. They don’t want to make major changes to the system, as they know that wouldn’t provide them with the opportunity for a 9+ year rule. It’s a fairly conservative approach, although I’m quite happy for a significant libertarian agenda to be rolled out post Nov 26. 😉

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