A long and largely futile discussion has been running in response to my latest post about the Treaty, and the responsibility that PÄkehÄ have to honour it, according to our own standards of conduct.
This post is nothing more than a formal clarification of the argument. There are really only two contentious points of principle in my case, and they are the following:
(1) Whether the Treaty was materially breached.
(2) Whether honouring one’s agreements in good faith is, in fact, a philosophical baseline of PÄkehÄ culture.
The first premise is the subject of a very considerable literature. The legal weight of the Treaty and its breaches have been exhaustively documented: authoritative accounts have been written by (at least) Walker; King; Belich; Kawharu (junior and senior); Durie (two of) and Orange; not to mention the reams and reams of material deliberated upon by the MÄori Land Court and the Waitangi Tribunal. Treaty breaches are simply a matter of historical reality. Anyone who denies them is ignorant of the facts of the country’s history; is at odds with the views of every qualified expert in the field; the courts, and the official position of the Crown. If you don’t believe the Treaty exists in force and has been materially breached, you quite literally don’t know what you’re talking about.
The second premise is also the subject of a very considerable literature from within the European enlightenment tradition which also gave us the philosophy of liberalism which underpins most of our society — Locke, Mill, Smith, many others. Strong contracts are at the foundation of our pluralist-capitalist society, and in this system, strict enforcement of contracts is a fallback position when good faith and the honour of the two parties fails. Since there is no ultimate authority to enforce the Treaty of Waitangi and to compel the Crown to make good its breaches, as a matter of practicality it falls to the Crown’s adherence to its own stated principles.
If (1) and (2) are both true, PÄkehÄ have a responsibility to negotiate with MÄori in good faith to achieve a mutually satisfactory resolution of the breaches. This is my argument. It is not, contrary to the beliefs of those who appear to accept neither of these propositions, a very contentious one.