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Who are the non-geriatric NZ Right thinkers?

datePosted on 15:01, January 27th, 2011 by Pablo

OK, you knew this was coming. In the interest of ideological balance, or better yet, just because I am curious, I would like to ask readers who the under-60 Right thinkers are. Given that the Left thinker thread spun off into tangents about age limits, outlets and who and what constitutes the “proper “Left (thereby confirming the view that Lefties would rather argue about ideological purity and how many Marxists can balance on the head of the pin than simply answer a straight-forward question), here the label “Right” includes anything that is not skinhead neo-Nazi holocaust denier (which means Ann Rand enthusiasts and those of religious inclinations are eligible). In order to avoid nomination of the fossilised architects of the neo-liberal destruction of NZ’s welfare state, I have placed an age limit of 60 so that we can see if there is new blood in the Right waters.

Please be nice. I was gratified to see that only one commentator on the Left Thinker thread engaged in trolling, and just once at that. Thus I ask that Lefties not engage in bad behaviour and either refrain from making nasty or derisive comments or be sincere in their choices. Of course the same applies for any Right-oriented readers. That means, among other things, that due to reason of probity Rick “I think that my argument is so powerful that it’s not necessary to talk about it” Giles is ineligible for nomination. Beyond that and within the guidelines mentioned above, the field is open.

Although the Left Thinker post elicited a spike in page reads and much commentary (still going), it only elicited a couple of consensus names and a few others, thereby falling short of the short list I had asked for (perhaps that was my mistake, as I figured that a short list would be somewhere between 5-10). Thus I wonder what the Right list will look like (should there be one) even if I have added 20 years to the upper age limit and made no negative editorial remarks about various Right factions in the post (except about skinheads, neo-Nazis and their ilk).

I yield the floor to you.

59 Responses to “Who are the non-geriatric NZ Right thinkers?”

  1. Joss on January 27th, 2011 at 15:46

    Bernard Hickey has huge media visibility. Despite a recent shift from a pure free market position (e.g. his comments that selling the remaining SOEs is a bad idea) I’d say he’s still firmly in the right camp.

  2. Bryce Edwards on January 27th, 2011 at 15:53

    Again, off the top of my head, I’d get the ball rolling by suggesting:

    Matthew Hooton
    Eric Crampton
    David Farrar
    Blaise Kevin Drinkwater
    Cactus Kate (aka Cathy Odgers)
    Deborah Hill Cone
    Claire Robinson (although I’m not so sure of her exact politics)
    Peter McCaffrey

  3. Danyl Mclauchlan on January 27th, 2011 at 15:59

    Fran O’Sullivan is the only credible name that springs to mind. I guess my problem with this question is that I don’t know what contemporary right-wingers think in intellectual terms.

    Ten, fifteen years ago the right had a much more robust intellectual framework than the left – but most of their ideas have moved to the centre (globalisation, investment liberalisation etc) or failed to work in the real world (deregulation, financialisation of capital, privatisation). Does the right still believe in public choice theory? Do any right-wingers in New Zealand even know what it is?

    You can point to some advocates of right-wing policies (Matthew Hooton, David Farrar) but they’re essentially just propagandists employed by the right to advocate for whatever pro-oligarchy policy their parties endorse. There’s no intellectual framework, and not even any consistency except for in a reactionary sense (they hate unions, environmentalists etc).

  4. SPC on January 27th, 2011 at 15:59

    It would seem that just about every economist at Infometrics is asked to right a column for the Dom Post. Too many names to remember …

  5. Bryce Edwards on January 27th, 2011 at 16:06

    I absolutely agree with Danyl about the lost ideological state of the rightwing at the moment – it’s really the only thing that stops the left from being totally irrelevant! Ever since neoliberalism lost its dynamism and credibility in the early 1990s the rightwight in New Zealand and abroad has been floundering around looking for a sense of purpose. This has been particularly apparent in the parties of the right throughout the West.

    And, yes, Fran O’Sullivan should be at the top of the list.

    Danyl’s point about Farrar and Hooton is a good one, but perhaps overstated in my opinion. They’re both incredibly smart guys who can be extremely insightful in their rightwing analysis. But, yes, it can certainly be diverted into propagandising.

  6. Eric Crampton on January 27th, 2011 at 16:14

    Liberty Scott is Kiwi but now UK based.
    Stephen Franks

    If we’re going to include journos, Karl du Fresne and perhaps Joe Bennett. Bennett’s more effective with satire than are most journalists who try to make the same point in serious tone. Acid pen – lovely.

    Second Farrar, Drinkwater, McCaffrey, Hooton.

    Peter Cresswell’s been fairly influential on the Randian/libertarian right.

  7. Eric Crampton on January 27th, 2011 at 16:21

    @Danyl: I’m doing my best to make sure that folks in NZ know about public choice. Took papers from each of Buchanan and Tullock at George Mason, fielded in Public Choice, dissertation in Public Choice, now at Canterbury teaching an undergrad course and grad course in public choice, the blog is generally public choice. I go and shout at the ACT party occasionally to remind them about public choice. Not sure what else I could be doing to remind folks on the right about public choice…..

  8. WH on January 27th, 2011 at 16:33

    Start for ten of bloggers

    Eric Crampton
    Paul Walker

    Non Academians (bloggers):
    Liberty Scott
    Matt Nolan (TVHE)
    Brad Taylor
    Progressive Turmoil
    Eye to the Long Run

    Possibles (according to the standard)
    Bryce Edwards
    Danyl McLauchlan

    Will some thinking about non bloggers.

  9. Paul on January 27th, 2011 at 16:43

    There are actually a few young guys connected to Maxim who might count, such as Steve Thomas, Roshan Allpress, Andrew Shamy and John Fox, but their profiles have diminshed greatly since the Bruce Logan plagiarism affair.

  10. Bryce Edwards on January 27th, 2011 at 16:44

    Sorry to go slightly off-topic, but one of the “left intellectuals” that I mentioned on the previous thread, Morgan Godfrey, has started a kind of similar blog post about “Maori who blog”:

    And of course Scott Yorke did a similarly interesting one recently on “Lawyers who blog”:

  11. Pablo on January 27th, 2011 at 16:51

    Dang! In less than an hour we have more people listed here than on the Left Thinker thread after nearly a week after the original posting. Perhaps that speaks to the issue of Righties getting to the point.

    WH: I deleted your first comment because it appears to be an initial effort at making the list in your second comment. The substance appears to be the same in both. I hope that is OK with you.

    Also, I am not sure that I deserve to be on any Right Thinker list. My views tend to be social democratic on domestic/social policy issues and realist/pragmatic on security issues (owing to inclination, training and experience in the latter field from both a conventional and unconventional standpoint). I tend to see myself more naturally situated on the Left (which is why I am part of KP), but have managed to keep it civil with most of the rational Rightwingers that I have encountered, and even have a few as friends. But personal friendship is not ideological kinship.

  12. WH on January 27th, 2011 at 16:57

    You were included along with Bryce and Danyl solely on the basis of the criteria of the Standard. please don’t mistake that as being the basis for whether your on the left or the right. Best to take it as a complement.

    Any thought on where people like James Belich and Peter Gluckman fit into the categories? or are the better considered “public intellectuals looking at the world at large”?

  13. Pablo on January 27th, 2011 at 17:12


    You have me intrigued. What is the criteria of the Standard? I assume you mean the Labour blog, which itself raises questions about objective criteria. In any event, let me know what/where it is and I shall go have a look.

    I know nothing about the ideological convictions of Belich and Gluckman but I would reckon that the former is left-centre and the latter right-oriented.

  14. Bryce Edwards on January 27th, 2011 at 17:20

    Yes, I thought about including Gluckman on my initial list too, but I’m not sure he’s really that rightwing or of much intellectual grunt outside of science issues.

    James Belich can be very interesting. I blogged here about the chapter/interview with him (and Marilyn Waring and Ranginui Walker) in the book Speaking Truth to Power:

    The Standard blog thinks that anyone who challenges a leftwing sacred cow – and the Labour Party, in particular – is an enemy of the left, or in my case, this morning their leading blogger called me “the righties lefty” for challenging the whole corporatist/SOE model of state ownership.

  15. WH on January 27th, 2011 at 17:22

    Pablo – the standard blog criteria is similar to the criteria of people like redbaiter, that is your not them therefore you are …

    Thanks re Belich and Gluckman. I think in the long run people like Belich and Gluckman are more influential, although would say Eric C and Matt Nolan may have similar impacts as translators between academia and the public.

    I do wonder if the left/right alignment is the best to use which in politics is mostly a tribal affiliation. You could lump yourself, Lew, Eric C and others together as a different group of informed knowledge seekers predominantely following the evidence and seeing where that leads to (setting aside the value judgements made subsequently on the analysis of the results).

    Also your quest for new thinkers also matches the pondering of Gideon Rachmann from the Finanacial Times

  16. Bruce Hamilton on January 27th, 2011 at 18:03

    I assumed that ACT represent the political right, and National was central ( along with Labour ).

    Many of the nominees above appear, to me, to be in the van rather than the wings, and many are simply repetitive propagandists ( agenda-driven bloggers ) rather than offering original perceptions.

    I wonder if the numbers of extremists on both sides have decreased, and the distribution curve is taller and narrower than 40 years ago.

    Maybe it’s difficult to survive as a 21st Century NZ political extremist, even though the Internet makes fellow travellers more accessible.

  17. Hugh on January 27th, 2011 at 18:49

    Hooton can be a propagandist but he is streets ahead of Farrar. I won’t challenge Farrar’s overall intelligence but when it comes to blogging he rarely rises above the 4th form debate club level and seems to mostly just be interested in carrying water for the Nats. If you really want evidence of his lack of intellectual caliber, remember the whole “dictatorship” thing where he attempted to use a Classics metaphor?

    Danyl may spend a lot of time criticising the government but he does so from a fairly centrist base, and sometimes his analysis is classic conservatism – read what he wrote about the whole Hobbit labour dispute.

    Pablo, I think there is some justice in identifying you as being on the right. It’s true your stance on non-foreign policy issues is mostly social democratic, but probably the majority of what you write involves foreign policy or security issues. While you might view your identification as a realist/pragmatist is at odds with being part of the right, most of the policies you advocate are broadly consistent with a right-oriented (not to say capital “R” Realist) stance on issues.

  18. Cactus Kate on January 27th, 2011 at 19:00

    Oh for heaven’s sake what a wank fest. Everyone on the right is too busy working in the private sector……I know a foreign concept to the left who have all day to sit and masturbate over academia.

    Being named on a list of right wing intellectuals is an insult to the very definition of what the right is about. To me those sorts are the ones who have failed.

  19. Hugh on January 27th, 2011 at 19:35

    Everyone on the right is too busy working in the private sector

    Quoted for humour. How is Whale these days, by the way?

  20. Pablo on January 27th, 2011 at 19:57

    Cathy: if it such a useless exercise why bother reading? The title of the post should have been enough to warn you off. Plus, did you read the post while at work? Naughty naughty you if you did. You see, even producers of value can find time to indulge in a little good natured speculation of this sort, but admitting that would undermine the producer/parasite dichotomy that fuels your approach to life.

    Hugh: I received my introduction to pragmatic/realist approaches to warfare and security from Marxist-Leninist, Trotskyite and Maoist guerrilla leaders during my teens in Latin America. They were later refined at university and during my work with and in the USG. The bottom line is that, contrary to armchair leftists and other more pacifist/idealist strands of the Left, the combat wings are fully cognizant that the stakes involved in the armed struggle require utterly, some might say ruthless pragmatism. That view is shared by conventional militaries as well, regardless of ideological persuasion of the regime that they are a part of. Thus it is the nature of the armed business rather than ideological preference that drives my, and other Left-oriented approaches to military-security issues.

    Note to all: as I said before, please try to refrain from being mean.

  21. Graeme Edgeler on January 27th, 2011 at 20:25

    Dang! In less than an hour we have more people listed here than on the Left Thinker thread after nearly a week after the original posting. Perhaps that speaks to the issue of Righties getting to the point.

    Of course.

    You limited Left Thinkers to “Under 40”. Right thinkers you limited to “Under 60”. If you’d used “under 60” for the left thinkers people would have suggested more names: Chris Trotter, Matt McCarten, and Laila Harre, for starters.

  22. Danyl Mclauchlan on January 27th, 2011 at 20:29

    Danyl may spend a lot of time criticising the government but he does so from a fairly centrist base, and sometimes his analysis is classic conservatism

    If forced I’d describe myself as a pluralist. I believe that many key values in our society are in conflict with each other (equality and freedom is the classic example) and the best we can hope for is a series of compromises, which are always subject to renegotiation as society changes. I trained as a scientist so I’m always more interested in practical solutions to these negotiations rather than ideological ones.

    I guess this all makes me a centrist (there may be some academic description that I’m not aware of), although in most of these debates I tend to come down on the side of the progressive left. I don’t think Marxists or their ideological ancestors have much to offer to contemporary political debate, just as geocentrists have little to offer contemporary physics.

  23. Pablo on January 27th, 2011 at 20:34


    If you notice many of the Right names are young, and the fact that so many came up so soon after the post went up was a surprise to me simply because I do not know many NZ Right thinkers, period. On the other hand, after much discussion and debate, the Left Thinker thread yielded far fewer names in total, much less by consensus.

    You can rest assured that in spite of your misgivings I do know the difference between 40 and 60 and did take that into account when I set my arbitrary age limit (which I did–as stated in the post–to remove Roger Douglas, Ruth Richardson, Bill Birch and their ilk from contention and thereby give a newer generation a chance).

  24. Bruce Hoult on January 27th, 2011 at 20:51

    Lindsay Perigo (born 14 December 1951) *just* squeaks in under the 60 years limit.

  25. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Paul Wiggins, Lew. Lew said: On KP: Who is the future of NZ Right intellectualism? Follow-up to the previous. Also robust. […]

  26. Scott on January 27th, 2011 at 22:06

    David Farrar might be a clever chap who makes a clear case for his chosen political team, but to call him an intellectual is surely a little like calling Dan Brown a novelist. The same goes for the most of the names bandied about here. How many of the people who have been nominated as intellectuals of the right in this thread have undertaken and published research, or coined a theoretical concept? Cactus Kate’s words speak volumes about the anti-intellectualism and philistinism of the contemporary New Zealand right. Let’s not try to make a silk purse out a sow’s arse.

    It’s interesting to look across the Tasman at the gaggle of right-wing intellectuals who publish Quadrant, and to contrast their work to the productions of the likes of David Farrar and Fran O’Sullivan. I have no sympathy at all for the conclusions of the work of Quadrant writers like Keith Windschuttle, but at least that work is based upon original research, rather than the latest party press release, and filled with arguments, however tendentious, rather than with sound bites and slogans.

    The Australian Spectator is another publication which combines some intellectual weight with right-wing politics, and there is the odd ‘independent’ right-wing intellectual – the outstanding example is Robert Manne, who resigned from his position as Quadrant’s editor over a matter of principle and wrote a superb book about the Helen Demidenko affair and contemporary forgetfulness of the Holocaust – also at work across the Tasman. The contrast with New Zealand is clear.

    If we’d been asked to nominate contemporary right-wing intellectuals of New Zealand, rather than folks who are alive and aged under sisxty, then I’d have thought that Dennis Dutton, CK Stead and Leigh Davis would have been worth mentions. Dutton, who had some connections with the Quadrant crowd, was probably the closest thing New Zealand had to a neoconservative. He had the peculiar mixture of fervent universalism and fervent imperialism which was such a feature of neoconservatism. Like Hitchens, Wolfowitz and the rest, he thought that all humans were equal, and that all deserved to live in the good society, which was a US-style free market bourgeois democracy. In order to hasten the final triumph of capitalism and the happy ‘end of history’ that Francis Fukuyama had proclaimed, the neocons believed that warfare against ‘backward’ regimes and cultures was necessary. ‘Swamps’ like the Middle East needed to be ‘drained’.

    The articles that Dutton produced in favour of Kiwi invovlement in the great wars to liberate Afghanistan and Iraq were extraordinarily crass, but they were consistent with his well-publicised activities as the founder of the Skeptics Society, as well as his broadsides against the supposed backwardness of Maori culture. Dutton saw himself as a crusader for the Englightenment. When the crusade turned to custard in the Middle East, he withdrew from overt political propaganda and produced a strange but – commercially, at least – hugely successful book which argued that art was fundamentally the same in every human society, and arose in the first place because it helped early humans adapt to and survive in their environments.

    Dutton’s book put him on the US talk show circle, where he rubbed shoulders with faded celebrities like John Cleese and relentessly plugged himself, but it bemused art critics and curators, because it seemed to be wildly speculative and to have no real relevance to the ways in which people actually view and use art in various societies today. I think it can be argued that Dutton’s book was actually a weird attempt to restate the universalism and rationalism which was such a feature of his thinking, and which drove him to support Bush’s wars. He wanted to show that art was rational, and that it was rooted in universal human traits, like a desire to adapt to and master the environment. In a sense Dutton’s book took the argument about universalism and economic utilitarianism from the twenty-first century, where it was manifestly collapsing, and relocated it in the distant past.

    I think Dutton was over-rated as a thinker, but he was nevertheless certainly in a different league from David Farrar and the other folks being nominated on this list.

    If we wanted to talk about studiously apolitical scholars who produce work which can be used to supports many right-wing positions, then I think Miles Fairburn deserves discussion. Fairburn doesn’t have the media profile of Michael King or James Belich, but he’s in all likelihood the greatest historian this country has produced. His early, polemical work The Ideal Society and Its Enemies demolished generations of arguments by Fabian socialist and liberal historians and commentators like Keith Sinclair and WB Sutch with extraordinary ease, by showing that nineteenth century Pakeha New Zealanders were an atomised, terribly lonely people, not the cosy little group of proto-Fabians determined to build a just society free of the iniquities of the mother country.

    Nearly out of Heart and hope, Fairburn’s monumental, relentlessly brilliant study of the diary of a fin de siecle agricultural labourer in the Wairarapa, showed how stubbornly many New Zealand workers refused to rebel against capitalism, even as it punished them again and again. Thanks to Fairburn’s example, many historians now look for signs of individualism and conservatism in New Zealand history.

    If the left in New Zealand was more tooled-up theoretically and less insular then it would sieze on Fairburn’s work and mine it for insights which could be incorporated into a new account of our nineteenth and early twentieth century history. But doing this would mean abandoning cosy old myths about an overhwelmingly revolutionary working class in the early twentieth century and a collectivist, anti-elitist colonial culture in the nineteenth century.

  27. Bryce Edwards on January 27th, 2011 at 22:27

    Scott makes some brilliant points in his very thoughtful and informative comment above. And there’s not much I’d disagree with – except his very narrow view on what is an intellectual and who can possibly be meet those very high standards.

    Part of the anti-intellectualism in New Zealand – and the left in the particular – arises from this very rarefied idea of what an intellectual is. There is this cliche that equates an “intellectual” with being an academic or at least someone who has, as Scott puts it, ‘undertaken and published research, or coined a theoretical concept’. This makes it almost impossible for most “thinkers” to consider themselves intellectual – which is a huge shame.

    And, yes, Dan Brown *is* a novelist. He might be a “good novelist” or a “bad novelist” depending on your point of view, but it seems to be just snobby or elitist to take this point of view.

    I’ve noticed that a lot of leftwing groups, similarly, are very down on “intellectuals”, yet that is exactly what they are themselves. Kind of ironic – but the error comes from that same misconception of an academic as a bookish non-activist who only studies esoteric theories.

  28. Pablo on January 27th, 2011 at 22:34


    That is where the concept of “organic” as opposed to “traditional” intellectual becomes handy. TBH, I was thinking more of thoughtful influence- or policy-shapers regardless of station or status. And yes, I purposefully excluded the dead as well as the elderly.

  29. Bryce Edwards on January 27th, 2011 at 22:44

    Yes, Pablo, I agree – good point. To me, both organics and traditionals are both legitimate “intellectuals”.

    I apologise if this is considered “link whoring”, but a few years ago a put together a series of blog posts about New Zealand intellectuals (based on the excellent book, Speaking Truth to Power). Here’s links to just two of them, which discuss the nature of intellectualism in NZ – especially definitions of intellectualism and questions about the problem of anti-intellectualism.

    Bruce Jesson and intellectualism:

    Laurence Simmons and intellectualism:

  30. tochigi on January 27th, 2011 at 23:18

    anyone who posts a link to something about Bruce Jesson gets my vote! (not that i have read the article yet)

  31. Pablo on January 27th, 2011 at 23:49


    That is shameless self-promotion indeed. But since there are no rules against here at KP, feel free. Scott did the same thing over on the Left Thinker thread (for a book of his), so I guess I shall take it as a complement that KP provides a good venue for marketing product to some elements of the NZ intelligentsia.

    Truth be told, I felt that the Speaking Truth to Power was good but incomplete in its lack of coverage of young and new immigrant intellectuals. Then again, that was not its focus.

  32. Scott on January 28th, 2011 at 00:09

    Hi Bryce,

    your comment reminds me of an e mail I got last night from Dorothy Thompson, the widow of EP and a significant historian and left-wing political figure in her own right. Dorothy has been following this debate (or some of it, at any rate) and she felt it was important to make a sharp distinction between on the one hand the Marxist activist who produces propaganda and gives speeches, yet doesn’t conduct research and develop theory, and on the other hand the intellectual who does research and produces theory.

    Dorothy was a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain for more than a decade before leaving along with many other intellectuals in 1956, and she felt that the party hacks, who churned out propaganda and make tubthumping speeches but never thought for themselves, were the most ruthless agents of Stalinism in Britain.

    Men like Arnold Kettle and James Klugmann, who turned out hundreds of articles and dozens of pamphlets and books for the party, but who are nowadays forgotten, were the means by which Moscow and party central at King St in London imposed the ‘correct line’ on an unhappy rank and file. These men stayed in the party in 1956, whilst virtually all of the generation of great intellectuals which the party had produced – people like the Thompsons, Christopher Hill, John Saville, Doris Lessing, Rodney Hilton, and so on – left.

    Dorothy’s suggestion seemed to be that the intellectuals who had been involved in ‘esoteric’ research were able to hold on to their critical faculties, while those like Kettle and Klugmann who gave themselves over to hackery succumbed to power and to the party line.

    I think that there is a qualitative difference between the type of thought that goes into the production of a piece of agitprop – a leaflet against the invasion of Iraq, say, or a speech against John Key’s 90 Day legislation – and the type of thinking involved in original research and in theorising. Both activities are important – and I have done a lot of leaflet-writing, though not much in recent years – but to skate over their differences does nobody any favours, and actually contributes to the climate of anti-intellectualism on the far left. It’s a bit like trying to compensate for the lamentable lack of interest of many Kiwis in literature by claiming that The Da Vinci Code is a work of literature, rather than a piece of hackery which will be unread in a couple of years.

  33. Phil Sage on January 28th, 2011 at 00:27

    Pablo – Did you feel dirtied by being included as an intellectual of the right?

    Peter Cresswell tops my list. He thinks and writes widely and cogently but works in the real world.
    Eric Crampton and Matt Nolan write accessibly and with structured and logical thought.
    Bernard Hickey has a prodigious output and thus the quality and incisiveness is blunted.
    Lindsay Mitchell is wonderful in her niche
    Cactus Kate does not make my list, despite obviously being ferociously intelligent and making very strong logical arguments. She is too specialist, angry and not yet presenting a coherent narrative.
    Lloyd Morrison is the opposite and his company lives the principles. He deserves a place, although most of you have probably never heard of him.
    David Farrar suffers the same problem as Bernard Hickey. He has a very busy life and a very high output but when he takes the time to write about an issue that is important to him you can see the clarity and reasonableness of thought that pulls it all together. On that basis both David and Bernard would make my list.
    Matthew Hooton is inflential

    What is interesting about this whole tangent is that Trotter was describing Bomber as an influential “commentator” on the whaleoil blog. On that basis Whale would also make the cut.

    For the left Jordan Carter, Lew, Anita, Keith Ng have impressed me over the last few years. I dont agree with much of what they write but they have coherence and clarity of thought.

    Inevitably the left thinkers thread got distracted by “wadaboutthewimmin”. Which is just an excuse to be patronised. The most hyprocritical “left” thing on earth is the extent to which islamist misogynism is given a pass whilst the unpatronised equality achieved by the likes of Thatcher, Rice, Angela Merkel, Theresa Gattung is criticised and dismissed. Western feminism is so last century. There is no intellectual coherence in blind support for left wing feminism whilst ignoring the oppression of women under islam.

  34. Pablo on January 28th, 2011 at 00:47


    I did not feel sullied because a) I thought the categorisation was misplaced; and b) I have nothing against thoughtful analysis of ay sort (a view that you seem to share as well, with the exception of Western feminism apparently). Contra your negative view, I would argue that thoughtful feminists and Islamic thinkers do in fact criticize Islam for its obvious flaws, as much as liberal female Catholics criticize the failures of the Vatican. So in my view your critique of feminism is a harsh. Lets face it: knee jerk shallow commentators with biases and blind spots are a dime a dozen no matter what their specific beliefs.

    In any event, it is good you showed up because I was wondering what your views were on both lists. Now I know.

  35. Phil Sage on January 28th, 2011 at 02:11

    Pablo – The thought on feminism is not well expressed due to time and being off thread. I have three daughters and want nothing more for them than to confidently make their own informed choices, unhindered by preconceptions about why they might fail. I have worked with women and minorities my whole professional life and judge purely on competence and attitude. It is my experience that those who identify their particular gender or ethnicity as being a cause for non advancement are simply masking their own inadequacy. And that applies as well to fat middle aged white males as it does to historically disadvantaged people. But that is a thread jack. I should write a guest post on the subject some time but responsibilities will most likely intrude.

  36. pollywog on January 28th, 2011 at 08:34

    Lets face it: knee jerk shallow commentators with biases and blind spots are a dime a dozen no matter what their specific beliefs.

    …and with that i’d just like to say

    F*ck the intellectuals !… most i’ve met tend to be backasswards looking.

    Is the whole left/right thing reliant on adopting eurocentrism via capitalism or socialism and their underlying philosophies ?

    Where’s the visionaries and waddabouthepasifikans ?

  37. Eric Crampton on January 28th, 2011 at 09:38

    Summary thoughts:

    – Nobody mentioned measures up to Dutton. But he’s 1) over 60 and 2) dead.

    – The paucity of serious intellectuals in NZ, on both sides of the aisle, comes down to 1) the Universities putting zero or negative weight on that kind of work 2) the absence of serious think tanks because of thin markets (small population).

    – Because of the thinness of field, nobody at the top of the list, on either side, would hit the minimum threshold in any real market internationally (though Dutton did, so does Flynn from the other side but also over 60).

    – Kate was right that this is a wank fest. But unless you’re a Tea Party anti-masturbation activist (I don’t read Cactus, haven’t a clue), that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’ve liked getting the list of interesting folks on either side that I ought be reading. Had never heard of a couple.

  38. George D on January 28th, 2011 at 14:47

    I thank Scott for his contribution above.

    – The paucity of serious intellectuals in NZ, on both sides of the aisle, comes down to 1) the Universities putting zero or negative weight on that kind of work 2) the absence of serious think tanks because of thin markets (small population).

    Yes in the first case, to some extent in the second. To bang the same drum again, it comes down to a lack of forums. The economics of small publications just don’t work in NZ (hence decamping to the internet), and the larger publications (print and otherwise) have no commercial interest in an intellectually informed public. There are also social dynamics at play, where NZ being so small and comfortable that particular people get on the inside and stay there in perpetuity. They’re happy to toss out right-wing anti-intellectual dross in columns from week to week, and the occasional reactionary left-winger (who appeals sufficiently to their core audience (eg. Chris Trotter).

    There is scope for expanding public speech in New Zealand, but it will have to come through a concerted effort. The political parties are largely closed shops run on heirarchical lines, and think tanks are narrowly focused. Blogs have small self-selecting audiences, and New Zealand’s media aren’t worth even thinking about.

  39. Bryce Edwards on January 28th, 2011 at 15:06

    George D – why do you classify Chris Trotter as a “reactionary left-winger”? Simply because you disagree with him? I can imagine you probably felt the same about Bruce Jesson, who also liked to question some of the assumptions and ways of the operating on the left – and especially amongst liberals.

    As I’ve written elsewhere about Jesson, a major strength of his writings was the fact that he was a left dissident and not a left apologist; he believed strongly in the need for the left to be self-critical and to bravely and openly speak about where mistakes were being made. Hence he was a left ‘outsider’, never really part of the left ‘mainstream’ because he challenged the left orthodoxy and trends. Trotter, for all his faults – and the many things I disagree with him over – courageously falls into this category too.

  40. Hugh on January 28th, 2011 at 18:29

    You’re right Bryce that Chris certainly has no bones about attacking the left consensus, but he seems to want it to be replaced by a political direction which is no better and arguably a lot worse.

    For instance, he attacks – rightly, I think – the New Zealand left’s belief that empowering Maori will necessarily lead to a more equitable social order. But he does so from an equally parochial perspective. His beetle-browed unionist workmen and their rough-and-ready workplace democracy and common sense are just as much a noble savage ideal as any entertained by the people he argues with.

    I’ve got my problems with Jesson too. But he was about a million miles ahead of Trotter.

  41. Bryce Edwards on January 28th, 2011 at 18:42

    Hugh, I think I may have inadvertently thread-jacked this blog post by coming in to defend Chris Trotter. So perhaps any further discussion of this should shift over to the previous post on left thinkers. I’d certainly be interested – if you can be bothered – to read how/where exactly you think that Trotter wants to re-direct politics. (I’m not even sure that he knows that!) But I’m not engaging in a blanket defence of Trotter – I have plenty of disagreements with him – but against this idea that because he questions left orthodoxies that he’s some sort of “reactionary left-winger”, as was argued. In general I think that most of the left fail to understand/appreciate Trotter and what he’s about. The same with Jesson.

  42. George D on January 28th, 2011 at 19:12

    George D – why do you classify Chris Trotter as a “reactionary left-winger”? Simply because you disagree with him? I can imagine you probably felt the same about Bruce Jesson, who also liked to question some of the assumptions and ways of the operating on the left – and especially amongst liberals.

    Why? Because of his viturepative denunciations of those who struggle against some of the most significant forms of structural inequality in New Zealand.

    Also, what Hugh said.

    But then, I’m not a Marxist. I’m interested in class, but only _a_ function of power (which is distributed and multifacted), rather than seeing it as its singular manifestation.

  43. Bryce Edwards on January 28th, 2011 at 19:24

    Oh, I see – so it is indeed because you disagree with him.

  44. Hamish on January 28th, 2011 at 19:29

    Scott, Farrar is in my opinion an intellectual of the right. His NBR articles were well thought out on the whole, his blog is a quite different platform I would equate Farrar with Trotter. ( I think that picking him up to write would be a goal of any NZ publication and I am holding my breath ODT ). Honest. Very Smart.

    Catus Kate. An intellectual ? Shit no. Catus just smacks, something I enjoy. I watch her though and this is a very smart woman. Something Mr. Bradbury must be thinking about.

    Cameeron Slater probably the bravest right wing blogger no nothing on the intellectual side bu8t don’t give up.

  45. QoT on January 28th, 2011 at 19:40

    The most hyprocritical “left” thing on earth is the extent to which islamist misogynism is given a pass

    Phil, I think you’re confusing “giving Islamist misogyn[y] a pass” with “not jumping on the anti-Islam bandwagon just because Western capitalism has finally decided to pretend to give a crap for women in specific fundamentalist Islamic nations just because it’s convenient for the latest war / oil grab.”

    What’s especially hilarious with your “distraction” meme though is that the list of Right candidates pretty quickly threw up a woman’s name. We could have an interesting debate about whether the Right is more unified / less fractured than the Left in terms of intellectuals or academic thought, or whether being a rightwing woman inherently prevents one from being diverted / choosing to focus on not-strictly-economic-based theory … or you could keep whinging about bloody women expecting people to consider their contributions despite perceptions of women’s issues not being “serious” or “academic”.

  46. George D on January 28th, 2011 at 20:15

    Oh, I see – so it is indeed because you disagree with him.

    No, it is because his critique is reactionary, and does not engage with the substance of their argument.

  47. Bryce Edwards on January 28th, 2011 at 20:28

    George D – fair enough… although Trotter might also fairly think that *your* critique of him is “reactionary” and that you “don’t engage with the substance of his argument”.

    In the end it all just seems bit backward and anti-intellectual to throw around vituperative terms like “reactionary” over such political differences.

  48. Pablo on January 28th, 2011 at 20:43

    Errr, could we get back to the subject of the post?

  49. Pablo on January 28th, 2011 at 23:28

    Could I ask a simple question?

    Besides Bryce’s dreadful thread hijack (he must believe his own press), the very simple question I asked is who are the under 60 Right thinkers. I got an immediate list full of commentators and other less than salubrious individuals. Then things went off in another direction.

    If no one has something substantive to say about under-60 Right wing “thinkers,” lets just admit that there are few or none, and that the Labour Party hacks and other insipid Leftists do nothing more than bark on their side of the spectrum, To wit, NZ is an intellectual void.

    Which confirms my view that blog page reads are driven more by discussions/gossip about “us” rather than anything that is written about important issues. That is parochial and shameful. That, apparently, is NZ intellectual life.

  50. tochigi on January 29th, 2011 at 00:22

    if that’s a simple question, then i’m a budgerigar.

    but really, it would be nice if more nz-focused bloggers wrote about and discussed important issues. at least there are a few interesting specialised blogs, including this one!

  51. Monkey Boy on January 29th, 2011 at 07:17

    Theoretically, the MMP system was supposed to have delivered us from, or liberated us from the polarised left-versus-right mindsets that accompanied FPP. Even when people laud the system which gave us Georgina Beyer a transgender MP they fail to recall she was a member of one of the two monolithic parties (Labour) which have dominated the left/right divide for most of the twentieth century.

    We can propose that the two major parties have drifted into a more centrist position and some argue that they are esentially so similar as to be indistinguishable – this is clearly not true though is it? Recently there was a flurry of excitement at the prospect of a couple of new parties. One I would discount as is wasn’t even from New Zealand was still oviously ‘Right’ in its thinking. The other, was proposed as a ‘left’ coalition featuring Harawira, McCarten and Bradford (in fact ‘Far-Left’) and what a flutter it caused.

    I think part of the answer lies in our innate intellectual laziness. We have been successfully sold the idea that anyone who deals in ‘social justice’ is therefore ‘left’ and anyone who deals with the accumulation of capital is ‘right’. as if these exist in contradiction to each other. So we churn out the same hackneyed twentieth-century ‘left versus right’ frames of reference without really knowing or analysing what they represent much beyond that. The reason this represents us as intellectually lazy is because we illustrate how being successfully we have been sold a branding of political processes which subliminally promotes a fairy-tale about life that we can all be coralled into neat little areas and our assumed prejudices held up as ‘typical’.

    So even the question ‘Who are the non-geriatric NZ Right thinkers?’ subliminally promotes a mindset which betrays uncritical acceptance of a polarised and simplistic view of the political processes and the ‘real’ world we live in.

  52. Lew on January 29th, 2011 at 11:29

    Lee — no. Theoretically, MMP was supposed to distribute seats in parliament according to the proportion of electors who voted for them, rather than on the basis of pluralistic concentration in certain areas. The effect of this, as theorised and as demonstrated in early MMP elections in NZ, was to disaggregate the main parties, permitting their various factions to split off and go it alone if they chose. Nobody with a clue ever thought it’d result in ‘grand coalition’ style bipartisan/cross-ideological politics, because it hasn’t done so elsewhere (particularly not in Germany, the main example case). The key lesson from MMP thus far has been that electoral viability is not the same as political viability for minor parties, regardless of whether they work with their ideological brethren (as in the case of the Alliance or ACT) or with those not so closely aligned (such as the māori party).

    Left and right retain considerable salience as ideological shorthands for what are in fact complext political and philosophical positions. You know this, of course, and your whole argument — particularly the bit about intellectual laziness — is disingenuous given your fierce, if deluded, critique of the notion that there might be ‘left thinkers’ on the other thread.


  53. Monkey Boy on January 29th, 2011 at 12:27

    not really if I recall ‘intellectual laziness’ of the same ilk was part of my ‘fierce deluded critique’ on the other end. This is part of the same argument. And if these argument retain salience to my mind this merely reflects how deluded many have become and remain. Interestingly for me the ‘branding’ of left win v. right wing often has its strongest market presence, when the society it happens in is at its least intellectually vibrant. Perhaps this is because ‘intellectual laziness’ might better be described as being suppressed by overbearing orthodoxy – poerhaps even ‘deluded’. Now if delusion is the tendency to believe false things, I can’t accept that accusation as I like to think I’m willing to learn even to be taught. Fierce? Moi? why thenkyu.

  54. Monkey Boy on January 29th, 2011 at 12:47

    I’ll add this quote if I may –

    Left-wing politicians take away your liberty in the name of children and of fighting poverty, while right-wing politicians do it in the name of family values and fighting drugs. Either way, government gets bigger and you become less free. Harry Browne

    Ok we have the labels – but looking beyond those the net result appears to be the same for you and I regardless of the ‘brand’. I put it to you to continue to subscribe to these archaic notions of ‘left and right’ perpetuates a sort of tribalism of thought, which in turn perpetuates the sort of specialised political practices which appear designed to marginalise citizens’ direct participation in their political systems I liked this., Lew : ‘Nobody with a clue ever thought it’d result in ‘grand coalition’ style bipartisan/cross-ideological politics, because it hasn’t done so elsewhere (particularly not in Germany, the main example case).’ I have to ponder at which stage the lack of forethought was replaced with the relisation of what was occurring. Fo when that moment occurred the old axiom ‘power corrupts’ reasserted itself. And no one, left or right of the divide seemed particularly willing to review, revise or remedy the encroaching abuse. No. Cheerleaders of each political persuasion were only too happy to acquiece in the process because it benefitted ‘their team’.
    Can I put it to you that by buying into the ‘considerable salience as ideological shorthands’ line people are actually handing over their ability to think outside of a rather ornate, beautifully polished but essentially 19th century-designed box of tricks?

    I’m left wing in some things and right wing in others. And so are you. And You. And You . . . .To pretend otherwise is horse pooky. This left/right thing is petty political (fa)nationalism. Why promote such an evidently false premise as ‘left versus right’ unless you are seeking to dupe the gullible?

  55. Bruce Hamilton on January 29th, 2011 at 13:48

    I think we have struggled for valid names for both extremes for the reasons Monkeyboy clearly gives above.

    I’d also suggest that the Internet gives us more lazy choices now, compared to several decades ago. No need to attend meetings with fellow travellers who appear to share similar views on one common topic, but who also have different views on other issues.

    We have no need to be associated with the other interests of fellow travellers – we can even express our deeply-felt opinions anonymously. Some blogs ( eg Kiwiblog ) have attracted more extreme commentators, but a good percentange are afraid of their own names, merely making the blog comments sections entertaining, rather than attractive or informative.

    We can pick and choose causes with so much ease, simply researching any background on-line. No need to drag a book from the library, attend an educational institution, or ask activists. Google now thrives because of our curiousity. Google also allows prospective employers/patrons to review all our on-line behavior and attitudes, even from decades ago. One post might negate provided references and referees.

    Social Justice, Conservation, and the Environment ( to name a few issues ) have become issues for some people at both ends of the political spectrum. Maybe the absence of obvious extreme NZ thinkers from the last decade is because they became lonely or bored with the echo and moved more towards the centre, or fell silent.

    All this assumes that 30 – 60 years ago, NZ had more extremist thinkers, but perhaps they had been shaped by global events such as WWII and the great depression?.

  56. Adolf Fiinkensein on January 30th, 2011 at 02:18

    Can we look forward to your next treatise entitled ‘Who are the non juvenile NZ`Left thinkers?’

  57. Graeme Edgeler on January 30th, 2011 at 10:45

    Errr, could we get back to the subject of the post?


    Madeleine Flannagan.
    Matthew Flannagan.

    Politics is not always the focus (more usually religion, especially from Matt), but they both easily qualify.

    Paul Moon.

    As a historian, he’s not always easy to place – facts are stubborn things – but I’d hazard he was more “right” than most.

  58. Pablo on January 30th, 2011 at 14:08


    You are a little late getting up with the play. Sorry that you were not on the list. Besides you being too old, racists and bigots are specifically excluded from consideration, which makes you ineligible on both counts.

  59. […] a few months back tried to put together a list of the “coming generation” of left and right public intellectuals in New Zealand. The lists are embarrassingly thin, with minimum standards for […]

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