Why join the Civilian Party?

I am going to take a brief break from my intense political neutrality, and current unbearably heavy workload, to make the case for people to join (and not necessarily vote for) the Civilian Party.

On Facebook I noticed that the Civilian Party is 55 members short of the 500 it requires to get media funding/time for the 2014 New Zealand general elections.  Without this time, it would be difficult to individuals to make a considered choice about voting for a satire party this election.

At first brush this may seem like no small concern.  We will all sit down and choose the party we are the most comfortable with, or deliver a protest vote to some party that will “never get in”, or even just not vote if we feel disenfranchised.

However, this choice is not sufficient – a satirical party can fill an important role in the political spectrum.  Specifically, a satire party allows us to deliver a true protest vote about the direction ALL political parties are taking.  This thereby promoting entry and competition in the political space, and can help point out that a given governments mandate is weaker than meets the eye.

Think of it this way – without a satire party we have two ways to deliver a “protest vote”, not voting or voting for a party we don’t think will get in (eg Legalise Cannabis).  However, how do people read those two vote types:

  1. If we don’t vote, people just assume we were “too lazy”, so it doesn’t matter.
  2. If we vote for an irrelevant party with actual policies, people assume that we actually supported those policies.

The only way we can show that we are willing to incur the cost of voting (and so are not lazy) and that our views about politics are not being represented by the parties currently wrestling for our vote is through a vote to a satirical party.  There is no “vote of no confidence”, instead within the current system this is as close as we can get.

In that way, I hope you will consider spending the $1 to become a member of the party in order to ensure that this choice is available to people when they are thinking about who they may vote for.  Even if you are happy with the space the political parties hold, and you have a clear preference for one party, the existence of a satire party has value overall.  This isn’t just about entertainment value, it is about having a true protest vote – one that doesn’t involve rubbing the egos of people like Bob Jones, by letting them confuse the idea that people are voting for them out of frustration rather than agreeing with a single thing they have to say.

For way of transparency, I paid to be a member early on, but at present I’m not sure whether I’d vote for them – I need to look at party platforms more closely near the election, and figure out if I’m disenfranchised enough to protest.  I’d say my voting preference currently is (out of the parties that enter my head – not if the parties are together they are currently tied):

  1. Civilian, National, Greens.
  2. Maori
  3. Labour
  4. Internet-Mana, United
  5. NZ First, ACT
  6. Conservative

However, this changes all the time, and any party within the first three tiers could easily end up with my vote.

On free-riders and externalities

Today I wrote a brief post on the Green announcement of a carbon tax.  I do support the carbon tax, but just wanted to raise some specific issues to think about.

However, a number of people on twitter were unhappy with me saying that, without Kyoto, we didn’t have an externality here – and I think their point is worth discussing.  I think a key issue here is the “group” involved and how we think of policy.  Hopefully by having a brief discussion here I can help to clarify what I was talking about in the prior post.

If this brief rundown isn’t sufficient, I don’t have anything more to say unless you add a comment here with a new framework – I’ve been as clear about my framework as I can be and really need to get back to work 😉

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Greens carbon tax

I see that the Greens have announced a carbon tax to replace the emissions trading scheme (with details and analysis by BERL here).  The authors of TVHE have long been a fan of  this type of switch when discussing the issue (eg here and here).  And the idea of pricing an externality and using it to lower other tax burdens is a good one.  Note:  John Small also discusses here, with specific discussion about dairy.  Aaron Schiff discusses here.

So it should be unsurprising that I broadly agree with the aim Green party policy here, and this should be kept in mind while reading my post.

However, TVHE isn’t about saying what policies I think are good or bad – it is about considering trade-offs and thinking about the details of policy when we can.  In that context, there are a few points I must raise.

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VSR: Very silly regulation?

When discussing it’s new monetary policy Labour was keen to explain why they felt a change was necessary, and why a variable Kiwisaver contribution rate should be investigated.  However, to investigate such a policy it is important to ask some specific questions – this is what Gareth Kiernan did in this article (Infometrics link).

In announcing its new monetary policy proposals, Labour has shown an admirable ability to think outside the square. …. Unfortunately, there are a lot of problems with Labour’s idea and the assumptions behind it.

His list of 10 questions are:

  1. Should KiwiSaver be compulsory?
  2. Does New Zealand really have a savings problem?
  3. How good is Australia’s compulsory savings scheme for their economy?
  4. Do compulsory savings programmes actually increase savings anyway? 
  5. What effect do compulsory and limited-access savings have on the robustness of financing decisions?
  6. Is New Zealand’s permanent current account deficit really a problem?
  7. Are our ‘high’ interest rates really caused by our rigid monetary policy framework?
  8. How much of our mortgage interest payments go overseas?
  9. Does the export sector really need a lower exchange rate?
  10. What about compliance costs for businesses?

His answers to these questions give a case for why the VSR may not be good policy at all.  What are your thoughts?




National’s not alternative budget: Budget 2014

There is excellent commentary on the Budget here (Kiwiblog, Economics NZ) and really cool visualisations by Keith Ng here (his post here).  I suggest looking at those, it is much better than anything I can offer here.

However, I can’t help talking.  And looking through the budget documents I felt that something has been confirmed for me:  The National party has a stronger focus on social justice, equality of opportunity, and outcomes for the ‘worst off’ than either Labour or the Greens.  This came out here:

While the Labour and Greens alternative budgets were focused on industrial subsides (the “Green energy bank” is a form of industrial subsidy) – subsides that will benefit those who have the money to invest in the first place – National has come out with a budget focused on families/parenting, and a sixth budget that boosts real expenditure on education and health (at a time when the government was generally hesitant to spend).

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Budget day warmup

I realise people are probably pretty excited about the Budget later today – as that is something some people tend to get excited about.  I remember my family used to buy copies of the Budget documents, and go on and on about them – although I’m fairly sure I never saw them actually read them 😉

Still, to have you prepare here is my ‘policy platform’ from 2011 – not sure it would be too different today.  Also, here is Brennan McDonald making the argument for incrementalism – which is probably more sensible than my policy platform 😉

Update:  Just saw an article by the NBR about my post on the ACT Budget.  Was good fun, I’m happy with the quotes they took – as I do want to point out that there is space for the types of policies they are discussing, the GDP justification was just such misinformation it vexed me.  More importantly though, I see they are still using my Google+ photo instead of my work photo in their articles – that is hilarity.