I chose to post this for the record, as it clarifies my thinking on politics, well.
Also I hope ACT party members can take something out of it - as the party is dying, or virtually dead, they need to get their minds out of the bubble and look at doing a fundamental re-think.
Andrew Atkin's opinion on turning ACT into a 10% party:
[Originally posted: 7th August, 2015]
Hi Beth Houlbrooke + ACT board,
Make whatever you will of this, but be assured that my only motive in providing my opinions/suggestions is to be constructive. I'm quite comfortable with having been banned from the members forum for a month.
Feel free to forward the following on to whoever else you think it could concern.
ACT needs to change gear - and soon.
ACT is currently acting like a party working hard to protect a reputation that almost no longer exists, when really it needs to focus on relaunching itself onto the political scene. It needs to act like a party in the process of creating itself, not defending itself.
I believe that ACT today is now mostly a redundant option in the convertible voters eyes, and will continue to be so until it signals a real reason for people to get excited about voting ACT.
Otherwise, disappointed National voters will flow into NZ First, the Conservatives, or whoever else might want to launch a party that doesn't speak with complexities that mean next to nothing to the man on the street.
Quoting Jamie Whyte:
"[...] oddly enough, sometimes what you need to do is stick to your knitting - if we just keep doing what we believe in, I think we can earn the respect of the population."
I think that assumption has been proven wrong now. ACT needs to do a lot more than just that.
So, here is my "relaunch" suggestion:
Though ACT should have and promote all its policies, of course, I think the party should 'grandstand' on 2 major issues:
1. Declare war on unaffordable housing.
2. Declare war on child abuse (don't worry, I'm not talking about breeding licences).
Don't talk so much about releasing land supply or the RMA. It's all too worn out now and people won't react. They've been successfully confused on all of this (tragic - but true).
Instead declare a policy of "free to build" zones just outside of Auckland and other problematic areas. Zones where Auckland council (and other) have zero regulatory control.
Declare a war against Auckland councils "evil" planning regime (and yep - don't be afraid to use that kind of language. It doesn't matter if people think you're being a bit dramatic. What matters it that they think you mean what you say).
Start grandstanding with demands. Tell everyone that we won't be supporting National in the next election unless they accept free-to-build zones, because the housing crisis is, and must be treated as, a NATIONAL EMERGENCY.
(Punching above your weight? If you want to win you must first act like a winner).
The backdrop behind the introductory housing speech should be a modest but inviting new-build cottage, plus plants, with a loudly displayed price tag of, say, $250,000.
Effectively state that this is what ACT is offering New Zealanders. State that this is what you can buy in a free-to-build zone (which should actually be about realistic). Give people a REAL reason to vote ACT, that they can understand immediately.
If you're not hitting them between the eyes - then you're not hitting them at all.
State that this is the number 1 social problem of our time. Because it is.
Declare a policy for a public education programme on the issue.
State that we should be teaching kids about human development, and what can go wrong, at school. But have courses that don't patronise them with empty do's and don'ts - just give them the facts. Say to the public that it's better than having kids waste their time with advanced mathematics classes and the like, that only a tiny fraction of the population would ever use (think that's not going to resonate with people? It will!).
Also have a policy for investing in a documentary series to be broadcast on national television, and develop an internet site for research and education on human development, child abuse, and social pathology, etc. The focus should be for providing interesting material that is highly accessible for any interested person.
I don't know how ACT would feel about this, but if you introduced the policy of at least blocking already-convicted serious child abusers from having children, with forced contraception if need be, then it would be decisively welcomed by well over 90% of the population.
-Limitless freedom, surely, should not be awarded to those who have already demonstrated outright that they cannot be trusted with it, and in devastating ways?
However, this tricky policy movement would need a lot of refinement and work. Of course.
Pushing for research:
Another key idea I like, as a policy relating to child abuse, is doing a major health-based national census to develop a solid statistical foundation on child abuse (and other) so we can, as a nation, know exactly what we're dealing with.
It should ask questions relating to known problems in utero, birthing, infancy, etc, and other concerns such as early isolation from the mother and the emotional state of their parents when they were young, etc (really it's general 'damage' we're looking to identify, not just obvious child abuse). And also, in turn, ask about people's behavioral and academic/professional life outcomes, including personal life outcomes, and existing health problems.
It could be a powerful tool for finding precise correlations (between childhood damage and later life outcomes) to aid understanding, and likewise the development of effective solutions.
Also it should help drive the issue into the public arena, demonstrating that we're dealing with a mass and not just a minority problem (as we are), which should hopefully lead to the development of a more sophisticated and rational public opinion on the issue.
Maybe pay people $20 each to complete the online survey? $60m (or so) would be a chump-change pay-out relative to the far-reaching social value of the research.
There is everything to like about David Seymour, and frankly I hope he keeps Epsom forever, but he lacks charisma (I'm not saying that to be mean! I just think it needs to be said). He doesn't enthuse people except his inherently supportive inside-group.
ACT needs to bring forward 1 or 2 other key spokespeople who are strong and pro-active to champion those "grandstanding" issues, be what they may.
I'm not sure about housing, but I think someone like Dasha Kovalenko could be great for the child abuse issue. She's youthful, inherently positive, looks pretty good, and there is nothing "bitch" about her in the way she comes across. The latter is vital for the child abuse issue. People must believe you're pushing tough policies, if you are, for the right reasons.
A final note:
I remember Richard Prebble saying that ACT needs to stop being a party of just middle-class white people (or something to that effect?). I don't think that's the concern.
What ACT really needs is to stop being a party of people who come off as a certain type of middle-class white people. The party needs to avoid putting people into the public eye who come off as joyless elitists (basically). It needs to promote forward more people who come off as having an 'innocent spirit'. I really do think it's more important for ACT (in particular) to be 'personable' than 'authoritative'. ACT has people like that I believe - use them if you can!
I believe ACT needs to staunchly define itself, otherwise the media will define ACT for us. And the way to do that is to pick a couple of major issues that resonate directly with the 'real world' people live in and see, and grandstand with those issues. And offer something intriguing and different, if possible.
I also get the impression that ACT generally has the assumption that most social problems can be solved with economic growth, and so ACT doesn't so much focus on social problems (directly), but growth problems.
In my opinion that's probably a plausible position to take for the non-industrialised world, but not the industrialised world. Our social problems, at heart, are not about money (though our housing disaster is fast changing that, I will admit). They are different, and are primarily about child abuse most importantly, and also parasitic social engineering, I believe, making child-rearing much harder than it should be.
I think ACT would gain a lot more broad attention if it got into social problems more directly (like I have previously suggested), and related the meaning of good economic policy more in that context.
So that's my bit. I hope you guys can take something out of it :)
The very best,
Open resignation from the party:
[Originally posted: 3rd September, 2015]
I will be withdrawing my membership with ACT because it is not the right party for me.
Though I have great respect for the classic-liberal position and consider myself a classical-liberal, the concern I have with ACT is its priories.
Before anything human prosperity is the name of the game, and the biggest issue of our time is child abuse (for those of us who understand it). ACT's recent members survey did not even ask people what they thought of the issue. To ACT child abuse hardly even exists.
I have great respect for ACT's positions on:
But these things are trivial compared to child abuse.
Another thing that makes ACT an inappropriate fit for me, is it is not classical-liberal enough where it matters the most - in education.
Charter schools are basically a pathetic policy position to take to the end of achieving learning freedom, and just life freedom for a child. The party could and should be FAR more aggressive in its policy stance on liberalizing education. It should be pushing for things like putting homeschooling on a level financial playing field as the institutional option. But ACT doesn't - and won't.
Forced schooling as we know it is the most anti classic-liberal reality our country has, and we still do next to nothing about it. In fact we indirectly reaffirm our support for the default format of education, by celebrating charter schools as though they are an ideal in themselves.
Classical-liberal might be the ideology, the intellectual belief, but conservatism I believe is at the heart of the party - or at least at the heart of the people who currently control it.
The party also lacks "street level" political instinct. I don't like the decisions it makes in trying to win votes. In my opinion ACT shows weak perspective. I don't have faith in ACT's current leadership, and I wouldn't want to put any serious energy behind what I now think is going to be a dead horse (John Ansell keeps telling me it is a dead horse, and has been for years. Maybe he's right).
Personally, I think ACT is mostly now a National party coattail/Alan Gibb's pet party, and I see no serious change to that coming down the line. It's just got the wrong mentality in the drivers seat.
So again I will remove my membership with the party. It has my vote because ACT is still the best option with the best policies; but it lacks guts, a true instinct for freedom, and proper prioritization coming from a willful blindness to certain deep and pervasive social problems.
I will look for alternative opportunities in helping to drive forward what I consider to be the most important issues/policies of our time.
Best of luck, and especially to the 'better half' of the people who make up ACT, who I sincerely respect.