The future of the Greens

There is an op-ed in the Herald about the Greens this morning, which re-runs the tired argument that we should only talk about environmental stuff – we should leave everything else well enough alone. If we did this, and became a “centrist” Green party – which didn’t talk about social or moral issues – then we would be more popular. Why? Well, because everyone loves the environment.

The op-ed is by Daniel Batten, the chief executive of Auckland-based bioinformatics company Biomatters. It raises a number of interesting points worth responding to. The op-ed isn’t online, so I’ll reproduce the points I want to rebut below.

1. Why does the Green Party require that you also swallow the red social-engineering pill and the multi-coloured hallucinogenic pill? Would it not be better served by avoiding matters unrelated to the environment, and redefining itself as a party with a distinct focus: its raison d’etre, sustainability and the environment? By only identifying with left-wing economics, does the Green Party not substantially reduce its political influence in the New Zealand MMP environment by discouraging a large pool of environmentally concerned people who are economically right of centre from voting Green? Why on Earth are they saying anything about matters that do not relate to the environment?

There are several answers to these questions. In no particular order, they are as follows.

First: we are human beings, not environmental automatons who see ‘preserving the natural environment’ as the one and only goal of society. To say that the Greens should only talk about preserving the natural environment is to say that Green politicians and members should ignore wider society, and shut up when asked what they believe about it.

Second: everything is interconnected. Almost all of the policies that see the Greens written off as far left have as one of their goals the long-term preservation of our natural environment so that humanity can survive, and thrive, for generations. Our trade policy? Well, arguing for greater economic self-reliance is to argue that it makes little environmental sense to move goods around the world – at great cost to world’s CO2 emission levels – when more people could buy more of their stuff locally. That’s a simple environmental argument: buying local means the same amount of goods don’t have to be moved, which means you don’t have to burn as much unrenewable (and environmentally destructive) fuel to move them. Our view of international relations? Well, it’s based on the idea that war is the most environmentally destructive phenomenon that humanity has unleashed on this planet. If every state in the world pursued a foreign policy based on pacific resolution of disputes, on the principle of non-violence, then our natural environment would be in a much better state than it is now. Our health policy? Well, it’s premised on the idea that trying to prevent illness before they occur will lead to greater human wellbeing which, in turn, will put less of a strain on the planet’s resources. When many of our people are sick, there’s a greater incentive to rape and pillage the environment in order to provide them short-term comfort. I could do this for all Green policies.

Third: a great contributor to the Greens’ success – if you look at all the available polling and research – is its holistic view of the world which promotes ecological sustainability, social justice, non-violence, and appropriate decision-making. The Greens have a strong brand, which informs the great many issues we speak about. Those people who do vote for us do so for myriad reasons, and come to us because of our positions on all sorts of issues – there are the students who like the tertiary education policy; there are the human rights acolytes who like our strong stand against the state’s intrusions on civil liberties and our staunch opposition to war; there are the bike-to-workers who like our transport policy; there are the worried parents who like our campaigning for safe food; there are farmers who are support our advocacy of organics; there are young people who like a political party that uses a different kind of language to conventional political parties; etc. For every issue the Greens stay silent on, another part of the party’s support base will be peeled off.

2. What have they actually achieved since their entry in Parliament?

Well, we’ve achieved a great many things. Go and have a look at this page. Many of these things are not sexy, and do not get media coverage – but they are worthy accomplishments, which have done great environmental and social good for our country.

3. Have they successfully communicated to the public that global oil production has peaked? Are we better informed about global climate change? No – but we do know that Nandor rides a skateboard and Keith Locke likes body paint.

Well, the peak oil issue is an interesting one, because it is an issue that the Greens have been spectacularly successful in raising in the public consciousness. When Jeanette first asked Michael Cullen about peak oil last year, he didn’t know what it was. Now politicians across the political spectrum, the mainstream media, and the public are all coming to grips with the idea. Jeanette delivered a very eloquent “State of the Planet” speech in January, which led to a slew of features and editorials in the mainstream media about the issue of the end of cheap oil. Of all issues over the past few years, the end of cheap oil is the one which the Greens have had the most success in raising awareness.

However, partly the issue here is what the media are interested in talking about. In almost all cases, the media prefers the frivolous and the scandalous to the substantive and the policy-based. So, what people will remember about the Greens’ 2005 campaign will be the Exclusive Brethren smear and Keith‘s Newmarket walk because they are the things that got the greatest amount of media coverage.

However, they were absolutely not the issues that the Greens campaigned hard on. For example, we released some stellar policy documents – have a look at our toolbox to tackle the end of cheap oil, our Auckland and Wellington transport plans, and our energy policy. All of these were important policy releases on core, environmental issues. But they got next to no media coverage. Why? Well, because in a tight, two horse race, the third parties only got a look in when silly things happened: Winston’s bashing of Bob the Builder and Act’s dodgy billboard. However, we diligently tried to communicate with the voters directly on these issues, bypassing the media lens. Countless public screenings of two documentaries – one on peak oil, one on safe food – were held around the country, with impressive audiences turning up to hear about these issues. The Auckland and Wellington transport plans were distributed to houses around our two largest cities. Our campaign literature focused squarely on what one would probably call core, environmental issues: transport, energy, conservation, the end of cheap oil, safe food. The only campaign plank that didn’t fall under this rubric was our ‘fairer society’ platform.

4. Most New Zealanders were against native forest logging, most were against genetically modified food and most New Zealanders say the environment gives us our distinctive sense of identity, yet the Greens have almost no representation of the people who make up this majority. Where is the business community within the Green Party? The urban professionals? Or farmers? … There is a large community of people with a green agenda who are not catered for by any political party.

Well, first of all, the Green Party does have a diverse range of members, including farmers, businesspeople, and urban professionals. Have a look at our caucus, for starters: Jeanette is a farmer and business owner; Rod has set up and run various businesses since a young age; Sue K, Keith and Metiria can be described in their education and activities before Parliament as ‘urban professionals’. The question about where our ‘urban professionals’ are is particularly weird, because our support is greatest among urban professionals. Take a look at our best electorates in this year’s election, and you’ll find they’re basically a roll call of urban, highly-educated electorates: Wellington Central (15.7%), Auckland Central (13.1%), Rongotai (12.2%), Dunedin North (10.4), Banks Peninsula (10.2%), Christchurch Central (9.5%), and Mt Albert (8.9%). The next tranche could be described as environmentally conscious provincial/rural electorates: West Coast Tasman (8.5%), Nelson (7.3%), and Coromandel (7.2%).

The other mistake the author makes is in assuming that someone caring about something automatically means that they’ll vote on that basis. Yes, the vast majority of Kiwis care about the environment. Yes, the vast majority of Kiwis would probably like our environmental policies. However, that doesn’t mean that their votes will be determined by environmental issues.

There are two separate questions. Do you care about West Coast logging and climate change and peak oil and safe food? Will how you vote be determined by these issues? Many more people will answer yes to the first than to the second. You may care about the environment – but how much do you care? Is it a vote-determining thing? And that’s one of the many dangers with restricting the Greens to what many people call “core environmental issues”. In so doing, you may carve out a niche that doesn’t attract more than – say – 2 or 3% or New Zealanders.

5. A perfect example of how the party marginalises itself is its stance on the decriminalisation of marijuana. What does this have to do with Green politics or saving the environment? Nothing. Then why have an opinion on it, particularly if it is an opinion that distracts people from core environmental issues and is not a mainstream political view?

Well, because we believe it to be the right policy. The Greens are fundamentally a socially libertarian party – believing that if a crime is victimless, it shouldn’t be a crime. So, while the state should be very concerned about young people smoking cannabis, about the criminality associated with gangs’ drug dealing, and the health effects of particular addictions, it should not criminalise adults who choose to smoke cannabis. Now, given this belief among the caucus and the membership, two courses are possible. First: stick up for and defend the policy, and try to convince Parliament to take steps in the right direction. Second: ditch the policy for political expediency, and lie about the Green Party’s true beliefs. The second path is simply not credible for a self-respecting political party.

6. It needs to promote a new definition of family values that emphasises the hypocrisy of all socially conservative parties that promote (so-called) family values, while pursuing greed-based, shortsighted policies that guarantee that our children will inhabit a world worse than us.

Well, there have been previous attempts to come up with “centrist”/more socially conservative Green movements in New Zealand. Two such parties stood for the 1996 election: the Green Society and the Progressives Greens. They got 0.37% of the vote between them. National has had a green faction – the Blue Greens – but its views have been crushed in that party’s politically expedient moves to ditch Kyoto and the carbon tax, and to decrease petrol tax. Perhaps the reason that environmentalism and right-wing economics don’t mix is that the first opposes greed as being environmentally unsustainable while the second deifies greed as the solution to all humanity’s problems. Indeed, when environmental organisations run a ruler over parties’ environmental policies, it’s the New Right ones that invariably do the worst.

7. The Green Party remains the only party that is thinking about the sort of world our children will inherit – both major parties pay lip service to this while offering voters instant gratification. It is for this reason that the Green Party needs to do a better job of focusing on why it exists, and a better job of widening its support base.

Well, I agree with all of this, except that we probably have different views on what “widening its support base” means. Certainly, I’d like to see the Greens’ support widen from 5% to double-digits over the next few election cycles. In any case, a debate about the positioning and the future of a political party is always healthy and, as always, I’d welcome your feedback on where you think the Greens should be heading…

25 Comments Posted

  1. I have not seen didly from the Greens Conference of 2008 on Cannabis Law Reform.

    Has the following from the initial ‘answers’ been relegated to the politicaly expediency box.

    “5. A perfect example of how the party marginalises itself is its stance on the decriminalisation of marijuana. What does this have to do with Green politics or saving the environment? (snip)

    Well, because we believe it to be the right policy. The Greens are fundamentally a socially libertarian party – believing that if a crime is victimless, it shouldn’t be a crime.
    First: stick up for and defend the policy, and try to convince Parliament to take steps in the right direction. Second: ditch the policy for political expediency, and lie about the Green Party’s true beliefs. The second path is simply not credible for a self-respecting political party.
    (end snip)

    So is Green (philosophy) now following the First or Second choice?

  2. I think adding direct / indirect state involvement would be good.
    I want to toy with the idea of less govt departments. Ie small govt with very strong legislation that guides business so that a financially successful business is an ethical business (based on what we voters think is ethical).
    So that if everyone follows their best interests, everyone will be better off. (even those that don’t follow their own interests. – though they would be even better off if they did (follow their own interests) too).

  3. Wizban

    I reckon that the addition of the second dimension makes it far better than “left-right” measures. The clear implication is that for any n-dimensional test a larger n gives better discrimination… but there are limits to this too… at JPL we faced similar questions all the time. How wide is the digital bin for each spectral band we measure… does making it narrower increase the information content gathered? …. There isn’t a “right” answer.

    What other dimensions might we add? Then ask how we’d be able to represent them.


  4. thanks for the link bj,
    that was an intersting test.
    However, I fear the assumptions that the test makes, based on my answers, cause my result to be missenterpreted.
    For example
    Q:”do you think that what is best for big business, is best for people?”
    A: “Currently, no. But I think that things should be that way”

    Q:”do you think that trade, sometimes needs to be protected”
    A: “yes but it shouldn’t have to be this way.”
    (these aren’t the exact questions, I’m paraphrasing from memory)
    A problem with a test like this, is that it can cause one to buy into the concept that there are only variations of four political ideas. We can’t allow our veiws to be framed by others all the time. Having said that it was interesting to see what the test thought.
    libertarian – communist (economy)
    Anarchist – Authoritarian (society)

  5. Ari

    The wording is almost all that concerns me. The wording and the fact that those words, rather than yours, are representing our policy to the rest of New Zealand. The policy is largely fine and as YOU stated it, going to get us over 10% support. As stated in the policy, it loses us votes and mindshare.

    Polluter pays has never drawn any fire from me. I LIKE Kyoto. It is one of the reasons Brash never really had a chance to get mindshare from me at any price.

    The pacifism thing… that tends to be a stopper. Like the wording of the prison policy, it alienates a huge percentage of the population and if fails utterly in terms of real world survival. I’ve seen the comments that dropping “pacifism”, which is not (I think) a formal policy of the Green Party, would lead to pacifists dropping out of the party. I don’t think that this is so, particularly if the defence policy leaned toward armed neutrality and foreign policy stuck closer to pacifism than even current practice.


  6. BJ- Green policy is a moratorium on new prisons, not a commitment to never build any new ones ever again. It’s saying that our sentencing is getting out of control as the radical right gets listened to the most on justice issues.

    I do agree though that the way this policy is worded SOUNDS stupid to many New Zealanders. A much better line would be “reduce our dependance on locking up non-violent criminals by putting a temporary moratorium on new prisons.” Doesn’t that sound more reasonable? It’s still describing the exact same policy.

    Again, on demand and supply for polluting goods: One of the reason demand is so high for these goods is that bussinesses are not forced to pay for cleaning up their own messes. Unclean industry IS inefficient, it’s just that we’ve been effectively subsidising it the whole time by considering pollution to be a social responsibility and not a business cost.

    Agreed that Kyoto is a step in the right direction. Businesses moaning about the unfeasability of Kyoto are actually moaning about the unfeasability of their businesses in a fair market where damage to the environment is valuated and paid for by businesses 🙂

    As for pacifism… well, I’d like a progressive approach to that. Let’s get LESS violent rather than just getting non-violent right off the bat. A good exmaple, not to mention a good place to start, is getting rid of nuclear weapons- Countries that support disarmament have done so gradually instead of immediately getting rid of their entire stocks. Let’s make sure that this approach becomes further supported and more global in nature, by requiring countires like the United States to join in.

  7. Alistair

    Take the number of people in NZ and apply ANY percent of committed violent nasty people needing imprisonment to protect society and you will find that population growth will require the building of more prisons. In other words, there is a provable mathematical falsity to the position.

    It may be that applying our policies to the current population of the prisons would give us a reduced percentage and some headroom for not building more prisons today, but the statement as it stands is arrant nonsense and needs one HELL of a lot of clarification or to simply be struck from the policy. If you front up to any 20 New Zealanders and handed them that line 19 of them would tell you to take a hike.

    That’s one of the things that keeps us hovering around 5%. I am not rejecting the principles of “restorative justice” and of decriminalizing victimless crimes. I am pointing out that neither of those principles say “build no new prisons” which is as a statement of policy:

    A. Mathematically untenable.
    B. Politically untenable.

    Wizban and all see:

    Interestingly, given my position to the RIGHT of many here, I landed roughly in the same place as Mohatma Ghandi.

    Who said this wasn’t an extreme party?

    If we want to get to 10% we HAVE to remove some of the worst offenses against reality. That’s all I am saying.

    I reiterate… on present form the ONLY reason this party survives is that the environment is in deep poo and there aren’t any other real choices for anyone committed to the environment. That is ALL that kept us in parliament.

    Incidentally, the “Values Party” manifesto lays a very similar egg in saying “discouraging energy intensive industry”. Like Aluminium smelting perhaps? The problem with this is that NZ is one of the few places on the planet where enough RENEWABLE resource exists to support a smelter. Perhaps we should just do without Aluminium? The policy steps over the line which says “make everyone pay for their use of the commons”… which is in some ways the “third way” that was alluded to earlier. The price might be high and discouraging to some, but if the demand for Al is high then people will pay that price and the value of the industry is real. Discouraging the energy intensive industry isn’t a proper form for the policy. Making industry pay fairly for the use of energy is the proper form.

    Harness capitalism to protect the environment. It is in principle, exactly what Kyoto hopes to achieve.


  8. Mr Batten has a point.

    What are all the “green” private members’ bills about? Flexible working hours? Animal welfare? Banning smacking? Clean slate? Decriminalisation? Republicanism?

    Why aren’t Green MPs putting green bills in the ballot? Every time one of these little vanities is pulled out of the box is a lost opportunity.

  9. Batten should look around him and take a step back in time. Virtually every Green party in the world shares the same principles as the NZ Greens – sustainability, social justice, peace and democracy. And he should take a look at the 1975 Values Party manifesto. For those of you of youthful persuasion, Values was the first equal green party in the world and todays Greens are directly descended from it. That manifesto is, in some respects more comprehensive and coherant than today’s Green Party publications. It devoted four pages to Individual Freedom, including decriminalising cannabis, the same space it gave to Environment.

    Incidentally, on Energy, the manifesto says “the Values Party would expand the Ministry of Energy Resources to co-ordinate the use of all energy sources and to bring down a comprehensive energy policy aimed at: preventing further increase in per capita energy consumption, increasing the efficiency of energy use, minimising the consumption of non-renewable resources and environmental disturbance, and discouraging highly energy-intensive industries…Imagine what might have happened if we had had MMP in 1975 – when Values got 5.2% of the vote – and Jeanette had become Minster of Energy in 1978 in a Labour-Values government.

    Instead 100 years of Maui gas was squandered in 30 years, the CNG network was dismantled, there is $21,000,000 of incentives for the gas industry to “drill and hope” and $200,000 for solar heating interest rebates. Sigh, if only the Greens became centrist I’m sure the other parties would embrace all their sensible policies…crap.

    And besides, what’s the point of preserving some nice pocekts of nature if only the rich can afford to drive there in their SUV’s to enjoy them?

  10. Yes I agree that the left-right spectrum needs to be superseded by a new dimension to reflect the dynamics of modern politics.

    I do think though that the left-right classification, as over-simplified as it can be at times, is still relevant insofar as it allows for ‘convenience of identification’.

    On that note, has anyone done online questionnaires that attempt to chart your political leanings? Here’s one of the best out there: – some of you no doubt would have done this test already.

    Frog, feel free to start up another thread on this whole spectrum thing if you like ‘cos I don’t wanna stray *this* thread off topic. (Besides, I’ve been to forums where an entire thread is dedicated to this whole ‘spectrum dynamics’ debate, and it makes for interesting discussion.) Just a thought… 🙂

  11. Left / Right

    they’re such odd concepts. Then you have the “3rd way”. I love it a way of stopping other options. Don’t buy into left / right divisivness. Go the 3rd way. How liberating (“it goes up to 11”).

    It seems that left = big govt and socialist policies.
    right = small govt and capitalist policies.

    so where is the argument for a small govt with socialist policies. The idea being that you have lots of social and economic freedom / “liberty” . The govt does not control or transfer resources.
    But the make the rules of the capitalist game.
    Wouldn’t it be great if a persons wealth was an accurate measure of their contribution to the betterment of humanity ?

  12. alistair,

    …yea I know, I’m a lefty… but when a guy swings from act to green, there’s a little confusion …

    When it comes down to it, the center is prime realestate- everyone wants a share… If the Greens were to move towards the center, votes would go to other minors on the extreem left. And there would be little gain.

  13. BJC :
    I agree that a certain amount of policy gaps ought to be filled in, and there may be areas where unrealistic policy needs to be replaced. I disagree with you on prisons, I’m open to persuasion on defence, but there is something you need to realise : there is a cost involved in adopting positions which will be unacceptable to the “Green base”. There is a high proportion of pacifists in the party; adopting a “realistic” defence policy would attract little attention on the outside, but create merry hell within.

    I don’t consider there’s even a tradeoff involved. I believe the Greens have a role as a “voice of conscience”, in Parliament and in society. If you look at Keith Locke’s press releases on foreign affairs, he is very often taking “unrealistic” positions, but I’m damn glad he’s there to do it.

  14. Keptinacan:
    I’m right wing in that I’m against a lot of taxes.

    Sorry to disappoint you… but your ideas on tax aren’t right-wing at all… they are a pretty vivid illustration of the fundamental precept of Green Party tax policy : “tax bads, not goods”!

  15. The Greens are, ideologically and in policy terms, pretty much exactly where I am, and oddly enough, I’m happy with that. For me (as for most politically aware people!) , the most important thing is to get more people to think like me!

    OK, we came uncomfortably close to the cutoff this time. But this was a worst-case scenario. Normally, in the next election, Labour will bleed votes both to the right (to the centrist parties no doubt) and to the left — that’s us. Green ministers, as long as they stick to Green subjects, and score some successes, will not necessarily drag the party down (but they need to be extremely vigilant!)

    What I’m saying is that we are not doing anything fundamentally wrong — there’s always immense room for improvement — but watering down policies to end up with stuff that members of the party no longer agree with, as Batten is advocating (and BJC too, it sometimes seems) is certainly not any sort of “improvement”.

    I believe that the Greens, as currently constituted, are capable of getting more than 10% of votes, in a sustainable manner… this will come as voters become more aware of “our issues”, and as the importance of these issues climbs up the agenda.

  16. I think Batten’s way off base. I gave you guys my party vote this time because it seemed like you might not make the threshold, and I’d hate to see another left-wing party disappear from Parliament. If you weren’t a bunch of lefty social libertarians, I probably wouldn’t have done it. Does Batten really think there are middle-of-the-road people out there who might have voted Green, if not for their scary Marijuana policy? And if so, can I have some of what he’s smoking?

  17. Well,

    …I’m a greenie- and I’m quite right wing in some respects.

    Background info:
    I live in a housetruck- I see no need cut down tree’s to make a box, coat in chemicals in which I can sleep, put it on land that can grow things, and build a garage in which I can park a vehicle…. that I can drive from my house, to “destinations” and back again. I see no need to burn fuel in a lawnmower etc… etc…

    I’m right wing in that I’m against a lot of taxes.
    I am against a lot of taxes, simply because they have no agenda. They are not there to dissuade people from doing things that cost society as a whole They do not transfer the costs that society incurs back onto the person who made those bad decisions.

    Quite simply:

    Tax should be justified.

    It should not be and information gathering tool… GST is nothing else! How much did you buy, how much did you sell, and please pay the government for disclosing this information.

    Road tax is fine, but as I drive a diesel I pay the same per km as the overpowered rigs that rip past me billowing most of their fuel into the air. If I was to repower my vehicle and run it on an alternative fuel, I would pay the same per km- that’s not right.
    Petrol is taxed correctly as less efficient vehicles use more fuel and pay more tax as a result.

    The tax on cigarettes. Good. I do smoke. But I am aware of the costs that this causes and I am quite happy to pay for the privilege.

    “User pays” is not a bad approach to taxation, and if the cumulative costs of your actions are tacked on as tax, as left as that may seem…. it’s still user pays.

    I think tax should have been more of an issue this election. And it should have been a GREEN issue!

    …back to the article…. you can’t have a policy about anything unless you have a whole policy.
    You can’t speak out about fuel unless you can show a way for the economy to go on and for people to prosper without the fuel being used.
    No matter what if you say “green” people picture hippies round a campfire on some rundown commune. I think having a range of intelligent policies on all sorts of things shows that the party is not just Rainbow Worrier radicals… it is an actual political party capable of running the country and worthy of my vote.

    Post Script:
    I think any “Rainbow Worrier Radicals” are a valuable part of the Green party, but the article is talking about catching votes, not actually solving problems.

  18. What I see as your biggest problem with your current stance is being able to survive long term. You’re not that far over the threshold and seem to be about to get involved in a third term Government in some form. Seeing from past elections, especially if you get into a formal coalition, you’ll likely be kicked out of Parliament altogether with a losing Government. It’s far too optimistic to assume Labour has a shot at a 4th term… the Nats would need to collapse considerably for that to happen. This will be the last term for Labour in a while, so you have a couple of options. One is the “last ditch” effort where you try to put as much influence into the Government as possible, and potentially lose representation at the next election. The other is a more moderate, long term approach that has a much larger chance of surviving.

  19. Tochigi

    I did NOT say “lock everyone up and kill a few of them” … I didn’t ask for “harsh prison sentences” II very EXPLICITLY pointed out some very WRONG policy moves which take our desire to ameliorate the social ills caused by that policy over the line of reason, and take our desire for a peaceful society out of the realm of real world survival.

    Do not assume that I am criticizing from the viewpoint of a Nat or worse. I am simply pointing out that we do have some problems. They are caused by over-enthusiastic application of some of those principles, and they are really pretty easily fixed without compromise of core tenets of the party.

    Your knee jerked quite predictably, but I am nowhere near what you’re kicking about.

    Icehawk – those specific exceptions are the important ones in those policy areas and while I might find a couple more in other areas, they are very important factors in our “marginal” status. I don’t envisage a “general shift” towards the center, just a little less naive rhetoric in our policy positions.

    I am actually pretty comfortable with MOST of our substance and I don’t think that what needs doing is that hard to accept.

    It takes a committed pacifist to lie down in front of a tank. It takes a civilized world to keep the tank from running him over. The world is not (in general) very civilized. I suspect that even the committed pacifists in the party recognize that truth…

    It isn’t hard to work for peace from a position of armed neutrality, and it would make it much easier to have double digit support in the electorate.


  20. Greens are seen as social radicals, with radical social policies. But the actual Green policies that I have read tend much more towards common sense, realistic and practical. Decriminalizing marijuana, rather than legalising it, for example.

    (here I respectfully disagree with BJ’s comments above, despite the few exceptions that BJ points to)

    There are reasons as to why this is so. Radicalism is news, and boring, sensible policies are not. Painting your political opponent as having a more radical view than they do in order to cost them votes is a democratic tactic that’s over 2000 years old (Socrates accusers in the Athenian democracy did it – and so did Cicero in the odd democracy that made up Roman courts)

    One option to counter this tendency is to start a long, slow, steady campaign of having the Greens continually emphasise words and phrases like “sensible” and “common sense”. A “family values” policy platform wouldn’t hurt either.

    Oh dear, I’m having to suppress the phrase “coopt the terms of the dominant paradigm”, so I think I’d better stop…

  21. BJ,

    so countries that choose to deal with crime by locking up a lot of people for a long time (or killing some too) have better societies as a result?

    try looking at the evidence across a range of countries and approaches before deciding that harsh prison sentences are the best solution.

    i would suggest looking through russell brown’s archives ( he’s written extensively on this topic.

  22. Frog –

    The place where we go off the rails is not where we swallow the red pill, it is where we follow it with the infra-red pill and the ultraviolet pill. The author has a point with point one (though not any of the others IMHO).

    Take the REALISM of adopting “pacifist” policies in the real world. I apologize for any offense I give here, but this is NOT going to contribute to our survival. Pacifism is an admirable philosophy and going to war is one of the least desireable outcomes in any ecological or societal sense, but it is NOT a choice. Well-armed neutrality is a choice. Disarmed helplessness is not. It works for Quakers in Pennsylvania because they are tolerated and protected by everyone else in the USA. Transplant them to Zimbabwe and you wouldn’t see anything but fossil remains in 2 generations.

    Similarly we have a “No More Prisons” policy… and that means what? That we will simply keep increasing the population of New Zealanders but an ever decreasing percentage of New Zealanders will ever commit crimes and need to be locked up? It is such nonsense as to be laughable, and it costs us a LOT.

    That’s what I mean when I talk about those other pills. Tempering our message with realism is not the same as abandoning the social justice center of our beliefs.


  23. Uh huh. So, Daniel Batten decides what he thinks the Green’s brand stands for, then spews on at great lengths about why they should measure up to this view and only this view.

    Sounds like he wants the entire environmentalist movement to be marginalised. Vote the Environment Party if you care about the environment, vote the others if you think other things are “more important”. Then mob rule can make sure nothing good the environment is ever done.

  24. Exactly. People aren’t willing to make the sacrifices (and in the Greens case, the right vote) that will mean a better environment for the future, I think its human nature, however some humans are more attuned to this, and aim to rectify it, than others.

  25. Everyone says they love the environment (including Rodney Hide) the fact is people do not have a realistic idea of what protection means.

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