Blog Link: On conceptualising democracy in Aotearoa.

For those who may be interested, I have updated, expanded and integrated the deconstructing democracy posts into a single essay that is this month’s “A Word from Afar” column over at Scoop.

Thanks to John Ward Knox for prompting me to turn the “Deconstructing Democracy” series into one read.

5 thoughts on “Blog Link: On conceptualising democracy in Aotearoa.

  1. Enjoyed the article on Scoop. The best concise summation of democracy I have read. I feel that although New Zealand is way ahead of most, this is not by design, merely that we are a relatively placid liberal lot who don’t like to protest or rock the status quo too much. Also we are economically diminutive and the vast sums of corporate money that breed endemic corruption elsewhere are relatively absent. I am sure given the same conditions many kiwis would be as corrupt as the best of them.
    What concerns me most is the lack of transparency in the dealings of our political and finacial elites – what you refer to as institutional democracy. While we perhaps do not have the same level of revolving door conflict of interest as say the Rumsfelds or Cheneys as they move between the private sector, bureaucracy and executive – we are well on the way, and only the Green Party seems to have any issue with it. Don Brash springs to mind as the best example here. Do you think a 5 year moratorium on politicians becoming SOE/corporate CEO/directors or lobbyists would help in this ie you can only go one way.
    Also how can we properly judge the present when so much of the past is still secret. If only the most sensitive current operational secrets were kept and the rest of the national archives, of every department and government, every document, was open to the public, academics and journalists, past conflicts of interest, internal and external pressure, could be bought to light, a national “picking off the scabs”.
    I think until this happens distrust will continue to build not only with the politicians but also the institutions they are part of.

  2. Thanks Stephen, much appreciated.

    It is not too late to enact legislation that restricts the “revolving” door syndrome between lobbyists, politicians and corporate shills. The same is true for increased transparency of the security and intelligence services (along with several dozen other academics and concerned citizens I signed an open letter to PM Helen Clark in 2000 asking pretty much what you have said in your penulitimate paragraph. We were ignored and in fact the security legislation and restrictions on what can be made public increased under her rule).

    The problem is that politicians have no incentive, other than principle, to retrict their pre- or post-political options (as well as their perks while in office!). Only the Greens resist the trend. Thus the push to get a measure of transparency has to come from the informed public, which requires an interested and critical media, which in turn presumes public interest in policy issues rather than celebrity, scandal and sports. That is a big ask given that corporate interests determine what passes for news, and the acceptance of market logics by public broadcasters requires them to cater to those interests rather than adopt the “neutral but skeptical” tone that is essential for journalistic integrity in a democracy (I expect nothing of private broadcasters or print anymore, so it is left to bloggers and alternative print media to fill in the gaps, which limits their appeal and influence).

    In bye-gone days the rallying cry of journalists used to be “keep the bastards honest!” Now it is “keep the bastards happy!” –Said to the clink of white wine glasses. The good news, as you noted, is that NZ is still some ways from turning into a US-style lobbyocracy, and perhaps its unqie national character mitigates it ever becoming one (Mr. Brash notwithstanding).

  3. Paul,

    I found the ‘big picture’ perspective of your contribution on scoop very refresing and informative. Its greatest attribute to me: The intention to bypass the day-to-day workings (or not-workings) of domestic politics and to improve on the superficial ‘why and how’ academic analysis of NZ democracy.

    A ‘view from afar’ on democracy in New Zealand is important to be able to assess its state honestly and accurately. Your column was a good first step in this direction.

  4. Cheers Henry. The idea is to contribute to the debate about NZ democracy, from my particular vantage point. You will note that Anita has kindly listed your fine blog on our Blogroll.

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