Working group enlightenment
Published in Insights, The New Zealand Initiative’s newsletter, 9 October 2020
It took New Zealand to disprove the entire body of political science.
For millennia, political philosophy was thought to be about the dual question of who rules and for what purpose. Over this question, wars were fought, revolutions triggered and kings beheaded.
Not any longer. New Zealand politics reveals the essence of politics is not to rule while preventing anyone else from ruling.
To achieve this political enlightenment, one has to be elected … and then do nothing without anyone noticing.
New Zealand’s new political philosophy is diametrically opposed to everything that came before it. For Niccolo Machiavelli, politics was a brutal fight for dominance. For Karl Marx, all of history was a class struggle. For Friedrich Nietzsche, the “will to power” drove society’s development.
How wrong they all were. In 21st century New Zealand, the noblest political ambition is to run for office only to establish many working groups once elected. Whether you are a left-winger or a right-winger, the practical abdication of power is the cross-party panacea for every aspiring politician.
Working groups are the homeopathic equivalent of politics. They purport to tackle the same significant issues but they do so in a much gentler way. And just like homeopathy, they may not achieve anything, but they make the patient feel listened to.
The biggest advantage of working groups is that they do not consume many resources. A secretariat and a few million dollars are usually enough to keep them busy for 18 months.
Working groups are also inclusive. Since they never make hard decisions, it does not matter who is on them. It allows the ruler to demonstrate openness without committing to any course of action.
Finally, working groups show that something is being done. Of course, this is only a simulation of action but most voters would not know the difference anyway.
Since working groups never implement anything, they cannot be blamed if things go wrong later. And when that happens, one can still task a select committee or a Royal Commission with an investigation. A bigger working group, if you like.
New Zealand’s post-modern politicians have moved past the old power philosophy and found nirvana in a place where nothing ever happens and the rulers remain untouchable in power.
Nirvana is an eternal working group. Bliss.
Pity about house prices.