- Jeremy Agar

by Peter Franks and Jim McAloon, Victoria University Press, Wellington, 2016

Peter Franks and Jim McAloon have similar backgrounds as Labour Party members and historians. They are clear in their enthusiasm for the Party but say this is not an “official” history. It is, though, very much an orthodox history. Given the careers of the authors, this is not surprising. They point out that, while political biographies are relatively common in New Zealand, there have been virtually no accounts of political parties, so for that reason alone this one will be welcomed.

Of course, these days, as we all keep moaning, political history is very much a minority interest. Likely readers will be broadly familiar with events since 1935, but few are likely to know as much about the origins of Labour as is on show here. It’s an intriguing, thoroughly researched story. The Party was launched in 1916, largely from trade union and Christian roots, having emerged from within the Liberals.

Labour loyalists will certainly enjoy this read, as should all those interested in the country’s history. The openly declared partisanship of the authors is actually a virtue in that the reader is forewarned to watch for bias. It’s popularly, but unhelpfully, often thought that writers should pretend to be “neutral” by hiding their assumptions. This often makes them bland. Readers deserve to know where their information is coming from. Of course, we all have our quibbles about this or that detail, but we’re not likely to come across a fuller or more reliable account of the topic.  

Labour was first in power in 1935, following the Depression-era rule of Reform. In retrospect it might seem to have been an inevitable win, given Reform’s insistence on impoverishing working people through what we now call “austerity”, but the authors point out that it came about because the Rightists were divided. For one of the few times in NZ’s history, tactical nimbleness and circumstance favoured progressive forces.

The first Labour Prime Minister, Michael Joseph Savage, became very popular, his portrait gracing the walls of many a home, in many cases no doubt because of his Government’s policy of building State houses. Labour brought in systematic social security, entrenching the impulses that had been introduced by “King Dick” Seddon’s Liberals in the 1890s. Savage called it “applied Christianity”. Sounding very much like his successors such as Steven Joyce and Bill English, the Opposition leader called it “applied lunacy”.

Was Peter Fraser Really NZ’s “Greatest” PM?

But the lunacy went feral anyway and – by today’s standards – huge crowds turned out for rallies as Labour won re-election in 1938 with 46% of the votes. When Savage died in 1940 an estimated 200,000 people met the train that brought his body to Auckland. From 1940 until 1949, when Labour was supplanted by the first National government, Peter Fraser was PM. Like several other historians our authors consider him NZ’s “greatest” PM. It’s generally thought that Fraser was a capable chair, hard-working and dedicated. But great? Doesn’t that quality require what George Bush calls “the vision thing”?

It’s been frequently remarked that during World War 1 Fraser was a pacifist, whereas as PM during World War 2, he was firmly in the camp of the belligerents, and after the war he talked of holding a referendum on peacetime conscription, an idea which Norman Kirk was rightly to consider a “mistake”. The Party even imposed a ban on dissent on the matter. The authors remark that at the time war with the Soviet Union seemed “likely”.

It did? Should not a great Prime Minister seek more measured advice? As the authors remind us, New Zealand was part of an Anglo-American alliance, but this factor surely confirms an interpretation of Fraser having been caught up in an irrational Cold War hysteria. They back their view by suggesting that the First World War was a senseless bloodbath while the Second was a necessary rejection of Nazi mass murders. That’s true enough, a quite valid distinction, but the argument is made here in the form of a footnote from a subsequent academic. There’s nothing in the record to let us suppose that Fraser himself made such a distinction.

Like all its successors, the first Labour government was conservative, seeking small incremental changes that wouldn’t give the Opposition reason to attack more lunacy. Finance policy was left to Walter Nash, whose political career was one long tremble in the face of the banks. John A Lee, perhaps Labour’s most talented politician, pressed for the Bank of New Zealand to be nationalised, a position that caucus backed unanimously, only to be stonewalled by Nash and Fraser.

Curiously our authors dismiss Lee with an offhand comment suggesting nationalisation was “unrealistic”. “Reluctantly”, Nash introduced legislation in 1946, after 10,000 demonstrated in favour of nationalisation by marching through Wellington (Lee was never in the Cabinet, his resulting frustration going some way to explain his cruelty to a dying Savage. This earned him expulsion from the Party).

In the days of ship travel the leaders were often out of the country for long periods (one occasion when both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance were overseas was used by caucus to hold its vote on nationalising the BNZ). Nash’s trips were often to unsuccessfully beg the City of London for loans to diversify the economy and generate jobs by investing in manufacturing. The last thing the UK wanted was for its colony (as it saw the matter) to compete with British industry.

In this context a passing detail mentioned by the authors is instructive. Apparently, around this time, Nash suggested that, to save on travel, NZ could be represented at a conference by Winston Churchill, the same Winston Churchill who regarded his colony as a farm that existed to send butter and wool to the Mother Country, the same Winston Churchill who was about to be tossed out of office by an electorate looking for the sort of new deal that Savage had brought to NZ.

To guide him on policy towards trade unions Fraser relied on the vicious and reactionary FP Walsh, another bit of information that’s inserted without elaboration. The authors claim that Labour lost out in 1949 because the post-war mood was conservative, rejecting the exiled Lee’s claim that it fell out of favour because it was not bold enough to retain its supporters. The case that the times were inauspicious can certainly be made. After all, the same pattern is discernible in the other “Anglo” countries, but in each case the same Lee-type argument could be made. It’s a variant of a permanent debate within social democracy.

Certainly, the incoming Nationalists were reactionary, attacking progressive ideals as ruthlessly as they thought they could get away with. The word “fascist” often gets tossed around too loosely when such matters are discussed, but PM Sid Holland’s war on human rights during the 1951 waterfront lockout merits the epithet. Would Holland have thought himself so empowered had it not been for his prior observing of Fraser and Walsh?

Nash, Nordmeyer, Kirk

Savage, Fraser and Nash – Lee called them the “triumvirate” - dominated Labour for a generation until Nash’s Second Labour government was defeated in 1960 after one term. The authors endorse the general view that Nash and his Cabinet were too old and tired to attract enthusiasm and undone by the “Black Budget” of 1958 – as National’s “Kiwi Keith” Holyoake delighted in chortling. The new Finance Minister, Arnold Nordmeyer, formerly a Methodist minister in rural Otago, had brought in taxes on cars, beer and cigarettes (at this stage the convention is to sigh about “those innocent times”). He did so on the advice of Treasury, as on major financial decisions all Governments have done.

That of course didn’t stop National from gloating, Nordy’s Budget having handed them the opportunity to trot out their perennial tags. Labour were killjoys, taxers; Labour wanted another Depression. A more accurate view is the one the authors offer: National were into instant gratification and had run up the deficit to an unsustainable level.

Norman Kirk presided over another one term Government between 1972 and 1975, a time when the declining relative importance of the union movement, then based on industries exploiting natural resources and agriculture, began their downhill slide. Kirk, enlightened on foreign policy and socially conservative, began to appeal to urban liberals. He, too, was the victim of unlucky timing and seductive Nationalist rhetoric.

And So, To Jacinda

Of the last two Labour governments the authors’ account is thorough and as positive as objectivity allows. On policies not directly enmeshed by neo-liberalism there is much good to report. As they move closer to the present the authors lighten up, with some cheerful swipes at recent life. They allow themselves a rare criticism of Labour when they argue that it retreated from an accurate and responsible critique of economic policy through a fear that the master distorter John Key would reverse facts by saying that it was being reckless and didn’t know how to handle money while National was always sound. Yes, that’s right, Labour missed an opportunity, but that has always been the tendency, dating back to Walter Nash.

The conclusion suggests that the future Labour will increasingly devote attention to environmental matters. That’s almost certainly the case, raising the possibility of some sort of real alliance with the Greens. We’ll see how that works out with Winston Peters and his distaste for a sustainable economy. When matters economic and environmental converge, the degree of success of Jacinda Ardern’s Government could well be decided. On the evidence so far, Ardern might just turn out to be Labour’s most capable leader of all. Let’s hope she has the vision thing too. Jacinda, let’s do this.

The Life And Times Of Sue Bradford
by Jenny Chamberlain, Fraser Books, Masterton, 2017

This biography of one of New Zealand’s most consistent and honest politicians comes across as a labour of love. Jenny Chamberlain, for many years a writer with North & South, clearly admires Bradford. “Constant Radical” has emerged from an article Chamberlain wrote in 2006 on child welfare, which won her an award as European Journalist of the Year. Unlike the majority of books discussed in these pages with the name of a public figure in the title, it’s not a political bio. It’s a story of Bradford’s life, with plenty of family history.

As such it’s very full, with a mass of detail and background. “Constant” is an appropriate word, Bradford’s lobbying for the disadvantaged in society being both principled and tireless. As a result of the author’s deep research and her subject’s active life, the index and the bibliography are massive affairs. We’re also given a list of acronyms, mostly identifying radical movements in Auckland and Northland; there are over a hundred of them.

Bradford’s career as a politician on the national stage dates from 1989 when she had a brief flirtation with New Labour. It didn’t last long because Bradford saw the Leader, Jim Anderton, as very much the big man type of boss. The next year she looked at the Greens. In one of her many interviews Bradford told the author that they didn’t work out either:

“They were organisationally completely the opposite (from New Labour). They were not good on clear structures, or at facilitating meetings, which went on for hours in a meandering, unstructured way. It was as if people had all the time in the world with no particular purpose and it was quite hard to take, given the hyper-organised way I ran the rest of my life. A lot of focus went on food and drink – very little on making things happen”.

A Red Green

In 1998 in Christchurch, at the Taking Control Conference (organised by CAFCA), she told Chamberlain, she was approached by the late Rod Donald*, then Co-Leader of the Greens, and this time it worked out. Bradford entered Parliament the next year as fourth of six MPs on the Party list. The Greens gave the Helen Clark government “confidence and supply”- the Greens weren’t a part of the Cabinet, and, unlike the present situation, were not given Ministerial roles outside Cabinet either. * Murray Horton’s obituary of Rod Donald is in Watchdog 110, December 2005, Ed.

Even more than now, the Greens “were variously conceived as fringy, edgy, dangerous, radical, anti-business, unreconstructed hippies and communists, unionists, anarchists, feminists. Many were red-greens – the ACT term is ‘watermelons’ – green skin, pink insides”. ACT’s jibe is instructive, implying as it does that there is something underhanded about a party having a name signalling an interest in the environment that also emphasised social justice issues. How can a person possibly walk and chew gum at the same time? Enmeshed in the dogma of neo-liberalism, ACT simply doesn’t understand that you can’t really be green without being red, or red without being green.

Why Can’t The Woman Shut Up?

And of course, back in 1999, Winston was Winston, finding the Greens too touchy-feely, too feminine, to take seriously. In this he was joined by the pompous and opportunist Peter Dunne, who always said he would refuse to work with Greens. To such lumbering male egos no-one could be quite as unacceptable as Sue Bradford. Constant? That’s the trouble. Why can’t the woman shut up? What’s more noteworthy from this account is that Bradford thinks her fellow Greens were intimidated into putting the watermelon back on the shelf.

Bradford was understandably miffed when, following the retirement of Jeanette Fitzsimons, she was rejected as Co-Leader. Both she and Chamberlain echo the usual view that’s expressed that sees this as a move to the Right, but Metiria Turei, who decisively won the caucus vote, never came across as a conservative, calling herself an “anarcho-feminist”. That doesn’t sound mainstream.

Turei campaigned on the same social justice issues as Bradford. Rather than a substantive difference, the choice appears to have been based more on imagery. Bradford’s obvious refusal to compromise her principles made her “unelectable”. Or so it’s said. Turei’s public persona was less defined – though Chamberlain does say that in 2006 she, along with then Co-Leaders Russel Norman and Fitzsimons, was open to negotiating with National “in the right circumstances”.

This impression would have been reinforced by Bradford’s closeness to fellow Green MP, Nandor Tanczos, a dreadlocked Rastafarian who skateboarded around Wellington. Yet it was Tanczos who has been identified (but not in these pages) as another advocate of the Greens becoming open to working with National, and that’s always seen as being the defining stance of the Rightwing of the party. In a similar vein, when the present Leader, James Shaw, was elected the pundits claimed this as evidence of a Right turn. But would they say this if Shaw was dreadlocked?

Such questions, we can agree, never arose when Bradford was in the news. What we saw was what we got, and in an age when easy cynicism about politicians is epidemic that surely is a virtue. At one stage around 1997 Bradford says she considered finding a home in Labour, to which an (unidentified) Labour MP gave “a categorical no. They… said: ‘We need you outside Parliament.’ … But it is really annoying being told to keep battering at the doors…”  Yeah, right. It’s safe to say that Labour and Sue would never have hitched up.

Talk of a universal basic income is becoming mainstream, but when Bradford advocated the concept in one of her first public policy stands the idea was associated with only one other politician, one from the extreme opposite end of the spectrum in the person of Roger Douglas. The resulting schemes each envisaged could hardly have been similar.

“Anti-Smacking Bill”

In the public mind Bradford is most remembered for her successful Private Member’s Bill to repeal Section 59 of Crimes Act, the one that was widely and inaccurately known as the “anti-smacking Bill” – just as the unsuccessful attempt to reduce methane belching from cows was dubbed the “fart tax”. The notion that violence against children might be as unacceptable as violence against adults was alarming to many. Bradford says that when she spoke on a panel organised by Warkworth Grey Power “[t]he candidates on the platform began outbidding each other on how much they supported the smacking of children, how much they’d been beaten themselves, and how much they believed in beating their own children”.

Fighting For “The Other New Zealand”

When she retired, Bradford was widely lauded by MPs from all corners of the House. Like the anonymous Labour MP, the more progressive members knew that without her outside battering down the door the whole centre of political gravity would have edged further to the Right, while those who were Rightists must have respected her. Chamberlain quotes columnist Jane Clifton, a close observer of life around the Beehive: “Bradford seems to be that rare creature: the ego-free politician. She really is in it for the cause and gets no obvious jollies from being famous”.

For those interested in the campaign for the rights of the poor or the marginalised, this is essential reading. There’s plenty here too about the ever-shifting sands of the NZ Left, where Bradford has always been a central figure. Another unusual feature is Bradford’s openness to revealing personal details, sometimes raw, sometimes sad, which most public figures would bury from our view. It’s the reflections of a brave fighter. Politicians always say that they want a full and open conversation so that the possibility of developing a consensus exists. Bradford meant it, and the passing of her “anti-smacking bill” confirmed her determination.

Bradford’s public career has fulfilled the observation she made during her maiden speech in Parliament, delivered in 2000: “There are two New Zealands living side by side right now – one of poverty and addictions, unemployment, guns, alcohol, abuse, sickness, despair and suicide - the other of people who have nice clothes and high-paid jobs and cars and know little and care less about the rest…. Is this NZ the way we want it?” To that question, entirely rhetorical in her case, no politician has done more to give a resounding: “No”.

Defeating The New Shock Politics
by Naomi Klein, Allen Lane, UK, 2017

In October 2017, as the puerile insults flew between Washington and Pyongyang, the Commander in Chief of the United States stood before a massed formation of military personnel and told the TV cameras that, while life might be quiet that day, it was just “the calm before the storm” (Trump finds it hard to express himself other than in clichés). The reporters’ questions, of course, were shouted. Was he referring to North Korea? No. Iran? No. Tricked into an episode of a reality TV show rather than a press conference, we were left with a cliffhanger. We were meant to wait for the next episode.

Had the year been 1941 and the President been Roosevelt announcing the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, or had it been JFK or LBJ announcing a new policy over Vietnam, the cameras would have caught a moment that changed the world. But this President was Trump and the year was 2017, and as soon as the next day the remarks were ignored, even on the 24-hour TV channels like CNN, where the talking heads mull over trivia all day. Everyone knew that Trump hadn’t been the centre of attention for a few hours and needed to invent that day’s fake news and look good in front of America’s idols, the generals and admirals. It was all about looking like a tough guy. It was a show.

The loss of all dignity and honesty – the lack of normal adult behavior – in the US President has been astonishing. Trump has embarrassed his country with his excesses on virtually every day since he first began his then-unlikely quest for the Presidency. The world’s heard all about it, which is one good reason that, in this essential analysis of what Trumpery is all about, Naomi Klein ignores pretty much all of the antics. She wants to get beyond the vulgarity to find an essence. Is Trump acceptable? No, she says, in big letters, on her front cover, of course not. We reject Trump.

Trump Epitomises “Brand” Culture

As this has long been obvious to anyone with an interest in civilisation, Klein’s right not to bother with the daily chaos. That’s a journalist’s beat. Her intent is to show that behind the apparently random indiscipline of the Trump team, there is in fact a consistent theme. Trump’s rants might be spontaneous and petty, but they reinforce a larger and more sinister purpose. Trump wants his country – and the world - to collapse into a capitalist dystopia of chaos. In that sense, his debased personality is ideally suited to the project. The man and the policy are a stylistic match.

Klein is the perfect critic for this analysis because Trumpery is the culmination of the themes she has long pursued. Her first important book, “No Logo”*, looked at the “brand” culture which emerged along with the triumph of neo-liberal hegemony in the US and its mates. No to Trump and no to logos. It’s the same thing. *Jeremy reviewed “No Logo” in Watchdog 98. December 2001, Ed.

The present obsession with brands was fuelled from about the 1980s by the need of manufacturers to differentiate their more or less identical products, as customers were buying on the basis of price. The big corporations came up with a new ploy to disadvantage smaller competitors. The emphasis on the brand – which does not necessarily have any relationship to quality – came out of the need to “create a transcendent idea or brand surrounding your company. Use it to connect to customers who share its values. Then charge a steep premium for products that are less about the objects themselves than about the profound human desire to be part of a tribe, a circle of belonging”.

“No Logo” showed how this creation of images and emotions replaced reality, an example being the marketing of gym shoes, whereby Nike, for instance, could sell a shoe that was made for a few cents for many dollars. It was all about the creation of a brand. Trump, Klein says, is a “megabrand” (and his “tribe” is his “base”). His aspiration is to be not a man or a President but a brand. Klein looks at Mar-a Lago, his Florida resort, whose “aesthetics are Dynasty-meets-Louis XIV”, where it’s like “going to Disneyland and knowing Mickey Mouse will be there all day long”.

The point of belonging being an association with the brand, the cost of membership went from $US100,000 a year to $US200,000 as Trump’s notoriety increased. In the real world, if it’s still out there, it would be noted that the Trump brand is not enough for its hotels to be listed in the top ten luxury hotel groups. Mar-a-Lago itself was cited for at least ten food safety violations in January 2017

Trump let it be known that Mar-a-Lago is his “Winter White House” but, in fact, the resort is his private property, and millions of public funds are thereby diverted into the billionaire’s bank when he uses his role as President to entertain there. Trump has said that the actual White House, the building in Washington, is a “dump”, a verdict motivated by his need to assert yet again that he’s better and richer than everyone, and that his private interest will always Trump the best that the Government can manage.

Klein reports that some time ago Trump told Playboy that “the show is Trump and it is sold-out performances everywhere”. His whole life has been an act. He’s long had an association with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), the show biz fakery that has nothing to do with the sport of wrestling, just as Trump’s press conferences, another branded entertainment, might have nothing to do with governing the country. The Donald featured at the WWF in a “Battle of the Billionaires”. Everyone knows the fights are faked but no-one minds.

It is the style of WWF nicknames that inspires Trump’s tags for his opponents in public life: there’s Lyin’ Ted Cruz, Crooked Hillary Clinton, Little Marco Rubio, Liddle Bob Corker, Little Rocket Man… The Trump Towers around the world are free brand advertising, his name having been sold to developers. Trump’s aim is to create a single global luxury brand, based around apartments, golf courses and holiday resorts. Other Trumped up products include cologne, water, eyewear, mattresses and a fake “university”.

The brand is to associate “Trump” with money and power, to be expressed with the grossest vulgarity and publicity. Separated from his branding exercises the man cannot exist. This was seen in August 2017, the traditional holiday month in the US, when the President had a “vacation” – it’s meant to be when you “vacate” but Trump can’t let go - at Mar-a-Lago, where he seemed to spend his time tweeting insults and playing golf in front of the inevitable cameras. As Klein notes: “Trump crumples when he’s more than three feet away from something big and shiny”.

Klein thinks that, for the man at the Winter White House, the Presidency is but “a short-term investment to enormously swell the value of (his) commercial brand in the long run”. We’ll possibly find out how much it was all about Russia, and we might get to know why he won’t reveal his tax records, and it’ll be bad. But what we can already deduce is bad enough.

Oil Is A Big Part Of Trumpery

“Team Exxon Mobil”, America’s champion polluter, needs the price and use of oil to rise. So, Trump has passed Executive Orders eliminating a rule mandating fuel efficiency, and refused to invest in public transit or long-distance trains. He has ordered State violence to push a pipeline from the Canadian tar sands against the protests of environmentalists and Native Americans, despite the project being unviable even on crudely financial grounds. The oil has to gush. As Trump’s ideological soulmate, Sarah Palin, from Alaska, put it: “Pump, baby, pump”.

That’s why climate change has to be denied, and the more certain the evidence has become that fossil fuels (and cows and sheep) are a main cause of an impending ecological collapse, the greater the need to deny. Here Klein gets to a vitally important conclusion, the topic of her brilliant analysis of the essential link between neo-liberalism and environmental degradation: “This Changes Everything”*.

Everything has changed because neo-liberalism needs to deny the reality that it has put the planet in mortal peril. Opposing the agenda of death demands more of us than traditional politics. It’s a moral demand to the better angels of our nature: * Jeremy reviewed “This Changes Everything: Capitalism Versus The Climate” in Watchdog 138, April 2015, Ed.

“To admit that the climate crisis is real is to admit the end of the neo-liberal project. That’s why the Right is in a rebellion against the physical world, against science…. But there is a reason science has become such a battle zone – because it is revealing again and again that neo-liberal business as usual leads to a species-threatening catastrophe”.

Neo-liberalism is there to protect the greed of the 1%, and in the engine room of neo-liberalism is the American President and Rex Tillerson, his Secretary of State, the former Chief Executive Officer of Exxon-Mobil. When Tillerson quit the company in order to oversee America’s global empire he got exit pay of $US180,000,000. Big Oil wanted to be sure that their man wouldn’t forget them. Big Oil might still need him.

Then there’s Big Finance. The 2008 financial collapse, which has come to be called the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), was a predictable, even necessary, consequence of rampant neo-liberalism. You’d think that even in the American government they’d want to work towards reining in the speculators so it doesn’t happen again. Trump wants to make sure they’re still empowered. One of his Executive Orders was aimed at a Congressional Bill that sought a measure of control over Big Finance.

Called Dodd-Frank, after the two politicians who sponsored it, the Bill had a clause whose purpose was to avoid a repeat of the “too big to fail” situation, through which the biggest banks were bailed out because if they went under, they would have dragged the whole economy down with them. The persons, that is, who did most to cause the GFC and the persons who would be shielded from its losses were the same people. Trump’s worry was that his billionaire manipulators might be curbed.

Trump’s whole routine is his swaggering “art of the deal” logic, which is always about winners and losers. As he likes to remind us every day, as long as he’s a winner, he’s happy, and if he’s not out there “winning”, he sulks. So just as it’s OK, even a great thing, for the economy to go down the gurgler if he comes out a “winner”, it’ll be OK – even admirable - for the globe to fry as long as his winning property is protected.

Looming disaster is a great business opportunity. Klein anticipated this development in “The Shock Doctrine”*, where she showed that “disaster capitalism” thrived on social, financial or natural events like hurricanes (Katrina), or tsunamis (Sri Lanka). In West Palm Beach, appropriately near Mar-A-Lago, a company called Help Jet offers a service to the one per centers in their luxury resorts, contracting to pick up members when hurricanes are on the way to the beach.

Promotional literature promises to the wise who signed up with Help Jet that there need be “(n)o standing in lines, no hassle with crowds, just a first-class experience that turns a problem into a vacation…Enjoy the feeling of avoiding the usual hurricane evacuation nightmare”. *Jeremy reviewed “The Shock Doctrine” in Watchdog 117, April 2008, Ed.

New Zealand – Bolt Hole For The 1%

Who cares about the losers like the poor morons in New Orleans in 2005 (Hurricane Katrina) or – 2017’s losers - the not-really-American types in Puerto Rico. They should have signed up with Help Jet. Since Hurricane Sandy hit Trump’s New York in 2012 rich listers have been offered condominiums in the city with watertight utility rooms, but the safest alternative is to flee the USA for some remote spot that the headlines have forgotten. Klein mentions only one such refuge and one refugee: Peter Thiel of PayPal fame has built on “high ground” in New Zealand.

We’ve heard locally that traditional access through Thiel’s land at the head of Lake Hawea to the mountains beyond is to be denied, unsurprising news since Thiel founded an outfit called the Seasteading Institute in order to build private nation states floating in international waters to avoid the rising seas that climate change brings and the taxes and regulations that are the basis of any civilised society. The 2008-17 National government fast tracked Thiel’s citizenship. They made him a New Zealander; Thiel has bought in Otago because, for him, it’s just high ground where tax collectors, terrorists, rising waters and governments can’t interfere.

Klein suggests that behind the anti-social extremism of the world’s Thiels are the Western religions with their narratives of great floods washing away sin, leaving only a virtuous few to be saved to rebuild a better world. She’s probably right: there’s always been an apocalyptic strain running through American culture. It’s a pattern shared by cults, like Jonestown in Guyana, where the leader, Jim Jones, induced more than 900 believers to fatally take poison, in 1978 (and there’s a “Left” strand of this millennialism).

It’s not surprising that Thiel was part of the Trump inner circle planning the new Administration. They would have discussed the perils of rising sea levels and extreme weather events - and then, as Trump ordered soon after his inauguration – deleted scientific information from Federal Websites. Trump’s manipulation of events and other people is the single most obvious feature of his brand, whether it’s the daily creation of crises to negotiate his “deals” (if without closing any since he took over) or whether it’s his one big idea: to close down American democracy. If there’s a natural disaster or an economic meltdown or some sort of 9/11 while he’s still the President, the consequences could be horrific.

“The Leap Manifesto”

Klein points out what should be the one obvious conclusion: disliking and ridiculing the man is not enough. Trump and Trumpism must be stopped. As an epilogue she reproduces “The Leap Manifesto”, so named because incremental tinkering is not going to do the job. Canada (her country) needs to think big. Progressive Canadians got together and came up with “A Call for a Canada Based on Caring for the Earth and One Another”.

Two principles were agreed before the statement could be successfully written up. There would be no posturing that insisted “my crisis is bigger than your crisis” and there would be no ranking of issues: “We started from the premise that we live in a time of multiple, intersecting crises … (requiring) integrated solutions, (including) concrete ideas for how to radically bring down emissions while creating huge numbers of unionised jobs and delivering meaningful justice to those who have been abused and excluded under the current extractive economy”.

The vision had to be saying “yes” to a better world rather than “no” to Trumpism and neo-liberalism. And it had to be bold “(relentlessly positive”?). Of course, the conventional wisdom asserts that it’s all too hard and it will frighten respectable opinion but Klein says that a poll showed that the demands of “The Leap Manifesto” were supported by a majority of respondents who identified with Canada’s three biggest centrist parties and 20% of Conservatives.

The status quo of timid little adjustments to neo-liberal hegemony will always fail as playing within the enemy’s rules “does not have nearly enough to offer. It does nothing to address the real and legitimate grievances that supercharge the search for scapegoats, nor does it give the people most endangered by the rising Right enough hope for a better future”.

It’s surprising what happens when people are allowed to get past the defeatist generalisations and look at specifics. Klein notes that before the recent Canadian federal election the New Democratic Party (think Labour) had been leading in the polls but, trying to appear “responsible”, allowed itself to be outflanked on the Left by the Liberals (think the socially liberal wing of National) and handed the election to Justin Trudeau, who seemed like a hip new version of his father, the man who inspired Trudeaumania. But Trudeau supports the oil pipeline to North Dakota, Klein’s prime example of a policy that combines all that’s wrong with modern capitalism.

Make The Rich Pay

It’s always said that money is the problem - and it will always be said, no matter how much money is available. When governments say they have no money it means that they prefer other uses for it. Klein suggests where money could come from. Fossil fuel is subsidised globally with $US775 billion. Cancel that. The European Parliament estimates a financial transaction tax could muster $US650 billion; the UN says that a 1% tax on billionaires would reach another $US45 billion, and a progressive carbon tax would add $US450 billion. That’s for starters. It gets us near $US2 trillion.

Klein says she wrote the book in a hurry (which might be why it lacks an index) and, in her haste, she forgot to add one very obvious candidate that she had mentioned earlier. Closing tax havens for money launderers and the 0.1 per centers would render more trillions of dollars. In other words, a rational and just dispensation could fund a clean, green, peaceful and just global society with ease. Which is why the topic will never be allowed to surface in the extractors’ boardrooms or in the US Congress.

“The Leap Manifesto”, calling for an integrated, communal transformation, is the opposite of the chaotic, zero sum “deals” at the core of Trumpism. Trump says he wants to build “beautiful” walls to keep out bad hombres and tariff walls to keep out cheap foreign goods but these were opportunistic gambits to get the “base” on side. What he really wants is a world with no barriers to impede the flow of money to him and his billionaire mates. When every major city and resort sprouts its Trump Tower and State power has withered away into a privatised globe, the President will be happy. He won’t achieve his nightmare, but he’ll keep trying.

How Can So Many Americans Be So Credulous?

From afar it might seem odd that so many people could still support such a clearly awful President, a would-be tyrant with no intention of helping them. How can so many Americans be so credulous? There are two plausible explanations. The first is that the billionaire class and the bigots, the two foundations of Trumpery, have no reason not to support their man. They care only that he represents their interests.

Remember how, after he first announced his candidacy, we all thought each excess would render him unviable. Now it’s clear that none will. The other factor is the very tribal nature of modern life. The “base” don’t know how bad their man really is because they get their information from social media or Fox, both of which lie to them and invent absurd alternative facts.

A Film by John Pilger

In the aftermath of World War 2, which ended with the two atomic bombs on Japan, US power, whether military, economic or cultural, was unmatched, and the Government immediately exploited its advantage, embedding the power relationships which essentially still remain. As John Pilger shows, the stark truth of America’s imperial reach is perhaps best exemplified by the appalling events at the Bikini Atoll in the north-west Pacific.

From 1946 until 1958 Bikini was the testing ground for US atomic bombs, its powerless inhabitants treated with contempt. Several times in this powerful indictment, islanders and its US sympathisers refer to the people of Bikini as “guinea pigs”. It’s not just that the US knew of the effects of radiation; they wanted to observe the effects on people. Yes, that’s not too far removed from the Nazis and Josef Mengele’s human experiments, which had only recently been stopped.

Pilger gives a figure: he says that nuke testing around the Marshall Islands released poison equivalent to that of a Hiroshima-sized bomb being detonated every day for twelve years. Throughout, Uncle Sam has posed as the benevolent nurturer, leading to some grotesque ironies. We’re shown an abandoned bunker adorned with a notice: “Please leave this property as you found it. Thank you for your kindness and understanding”.

No Mention Of “Who Lost China?” Or Korean War

Just three years after Bikini was introduced to its role as hellhole, Mao’s communists took power in China. This ignited frenzy in Washington. “Who lost China?” Who was to blame? It wasn’t long since that other godless Asian bully had bombed Pearl Harbor. Would Mao’s millions invade Hawaii? California? At least, as far as the US saw matters, a chastened Japan would be as unhappy as the US with China’s new rulers. China needed to be stopped before it got in the way of US hegemony.

Surprisingly, Pilger does not go into this period of political and military panic, from which opportunistic warmongers hoped to exploit the mood and take down the new regime before it could establish itself. Instead we’re given a brief summary of historic anti-Chinese racism, but fear of the “Yellow Peril”, as it was known - in NZ too - was aimed at a domestic audience. It was about wages and immigration.

A century ago, and indeed until recently, China was desperately poor, chaotic, and with neither the thought nor the capacity to affect life beyond its borders. For policy elites in the West (but mainly in Britain) demonising Chinese culture helped force it into economic dependence, most inexcusably by forcing upon it opium addiction. Unlike the situation now, the primitive methods of the past weren’t based on worries, whether genuine or contrived, over Chinese military capability. It needs also to be remembered that in the immediate years after 1945 the obsessive threat as seen by American policy was the global threat of the (then) Soviet Union.

Neither does Pilger mention the war in Korea that followed China’s revolution, when the People’s Liberation Army intervened to repel the Americans – nominally, the United Nations – back to the middle of the peninsula where, as the daily news reminds us, North and South Korea remain staring at each other to this day. A renegade US commander had to be sacked because he was about to disregard orders from President Truman and take the fighting into China itself. A more disciplined look at the chances of the Americans and Chinese actually coming to blows would surely have considered this history.

More relevant to its stated theme – the likelihood of war in east Asia – is the film’s glancing look at current US “defence” policy. To welcome the new millennium the US announced in 2000 its Vision For 2020, a sci-fi sounding policy called “Full Spectrum Dominance”. As the Department of Defence [sic] noted, no enemy in the foreseeable future will match US military power, so it will use “asymmetric” means to defend potential “vulnerabilities”.

US Is The One Big Superpower

At least this is honest. The US is the one big superpower. For all its huge population and sizzling economy, China is militarily powerful only in comparison with its neighbours. Sino-American relations are not a repeat of the Cold War, when both sides based policy on Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). China poses no threat such as the Soviet Union was said to pose. The purpose of all the US bases is not to deter a real threat; it’s to remind the world who’s in charge.

When the communists entered Beijing after a long civil war, the peril to America became as much red as yellow and for decades after 1949 Washington warned of Mao Zedong’s mischief. He was manipulating Malaya, forcing NZ into a defensive war. He was the real force behind the commies in Vietnam, fooling them into enabling his march into Australia and then NZ. He was threatening Taiwan. He was about to subvert Indonesia.

It was all fake news: none of the accusations was ever justified by the facts. Yet Mao enters the film only when a talking head tells us that some time before he won his civil war, Mao approached some American economists with the news that, if it were to succeed, his China would have to adopt capitalism. Could they give him some tips? Or so we’re told by one of the often-random commentators Pilger has selected.

What point is being made? The implication is that the failure of some unnamed US citizens to write back to the Great Helmsman explains why China never became capitalist after 1949, with the implication that, had they done so, Mao would not have written his Little Red Book and present misunderstandings need not have arisen. Just how is this surprising, eccentric and condescending opinion relevant? 

Another commentator opines that US policy makers have “wilfully misunderstood” China as Beijing is driven to “matching America and that is unforgiveable”. The US, that is, needs an excuse to keep upping the ante and needs to overlook the more probable interpretation of China’s goals as being defensive. That’s part of the story, but if the perennial debate is along the lines of conspiracy-or-cockup, another experienced US observer notes that, when responses to China were being formulated, the US Central Intelligence Agency had no Chinese-speaking agents. American ignorance of the rest of the world, even within intelligence circles, has been permanent. There are conspiracies no doubt but cock-ups are always around.

Pilger makes brief forays into the usual territory to ask about human rights, but it’s probably because some audiences would expect it and he wants to show he’s not anti-China. He’s right not to linger. His main Chinese observer, who is necessarily politically correct on the matter, suggests that, unlike the US, his country is not capitalist. This is because in China capital is not allowed to be more powerful than the State, whereas in the US it is. What he should have said is that, yes of course China is capitalist, but it’s not neo-liberal.

In a similar vein, Pilger feels obliged to ask if cheap labour - sweated by “migrants” – is exploited. The response, again, is perforce PC. Is dissent tolerated? His commentator goes vague. Wisely there are no diversions into Tibet or any of the usual topics that excite some Westerners. Neither Washington nor Beijing are talking about good manners or morality. Because Pilger’s real motive is to convince us that America is the world’s villain, he wants to absolve China of any wrong. It would have been better to omit all references to internal Chinese affairs unless they were shown to help an understanding of why there might be a “war on China”.

Anyway, the indications are that China is becoming more like a rich world place and the conversation could evolve into a tone less alarmist than it can tend to be. The Chinese government is steering the economy from crude and cheap exports to a more consumer driven society catering to a new middle class. That will require some liberalisation.

What about Tiananmen Square in 1989, when tanks rolled through the capital? The demonstrating students, it’s suggested, were inspired by Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union and his “glasnost” (openness) policy, which co-existed with “perestroika” (restructuring). China reversed matters, opening up the economy without loosening State control, and thus the Party has survived. One of the sharper insights comes from the Chinese observer, who suggests pithily that the US changes parties but not policies, while China changes policies but not the Party. Western default responses to concepts like choice and democracy need to be seen in this light.

Pilger, who’s Australian, asks why the US has not included some bases in Aussie, only to be told by a US government official that the missing bases are in fact (nominally) Australian. Had Five Eyes been mentioned – which it isn’t – the same answer would have been given. We see Pilger and the Government hack in front of a map bristling hedgehog-like with pins identifying Yank bases. Yet, despite Pilger wanting to fill his map with quills, New Zealand is untouched. He could have included Waihopai and Tangimoana, Five Eyes enablers, and Harewood, from where the US military flies to Antarctica. They’re all US bases (how Australian is that omission).

Pilger starts and ends with images of the Spratlies, the tiny islands which the Chinese military has appropriated, asserting that it’s no big deal to have one or two offshore installations when the Yanks have surrounded China with multiple bases. Perhaps that’s how China would see matters but Pilger doesn’t point out that China’s reach is outrageous and for its much smaller neighbours around the South China Sea, it’s China that is the threatening superpower. There are two of them doing the tango, and in the island countries in an arc between Japan and Indonesia and on the mainland in Vietnam the posturing between China and the US could have the perverse effect of making the US more welcome.

Distaste For American Policy

Pilger’s theme is his distaste for American policy and he’s done us a great service for many years by documenting why that is. In this context it means a sometimes-misleading emphasis. In his section on Okinawa, for instance, we follow locals in their long resistance to their island’s role as an outpost of American arrogance, with only cursory mention that it is their own Japanese government that allows it. And when we are given a primer on the background of anti-Chinese racism that informed earlier Western imperialism only scant mention is made of Britain’s primary role in degrading Asia.

Despite its title this doco is not really an analysis of the likelihood of conflict between the US and China. It’s really about why Pilger doesn’t like US policy and here it’s both powerful and important. But as history it’s shaky, ignoring some key historical factors which shaped the earlier relationship between the US and China and he never makes a case for seeing a war now as likely. As one of Pilger’s interviewees puts it, no two countries have ever been more inter-dependent. Through trade, in whatever form it takes, the prosperity of both is at stake. Any overt military action would mean the death of millions. If it went nuclear, that could be curtains for the planet.

The catch is that it could happen by accident or miscalculation, but that, too, is not Pilger’s topic. We know now that on several occasions during the Cold War between the US and Russia, when the same logic held, nukes were on several occasions almost launched by accident. In some ways the present standoff is riskier. The Cold War was a simple duality. Now, there are wild cards in play - North Korea, for instance (which does not feature here). Then there’s Taiwan, whose independence from mainland China is not recognised by Beijing. Could something spark from Hong Kong?

The permanent question remains:  Why does the US keep adding more bases and bombs when they can’t be used?  One (American) possibility, expressed early in the piece, is to the effect that “we need an enemy for all this money”. The military hunger to swallow all resources and dictate policy will not be satisfied in the foreseeable future. For any president and senator appeasing the “defence” lobby is axiomatic.

An aspect of this played out when Trump launched his diatribes against the US National Football League (because many of the footballers are black). He knew that in the eyes of the “base” the word “patriotism” is equated with military salutes and jets flying over packed football stadiums. Trump wants the world to suffer from missile envy as they marvel at his potency, each erection costing $US100,000,000. It could be as simple as that.

The usual explanation of the US buildup is that it’s an aspect of Obama’s “Pivot To Asia”. The conventional wisdom always assumes that there is a logic to such trends, that if someone builds a stronger military they’re going to get favourable trade deals, but why that is thought to be the case remains a mystery to us common folk. Pilger mentions Obama but – again – there’s no analysis.

Film Is A Mixed Bag

Pilger himself would dismiss all the carping in this review and point out that his film was about the coming war “on China”, not “with China”. This compounds the problems because while his account of American policy is inconsistent and sketchy, of the two nouns in his title he has nothing to say. China does have policies about its relations with the world but we hear nothing about them. We don’t need to assume that just because America is its enemy that China is OK. That’s sentimental.


- Greg Waite

An Introduction
by Stephan Kaufmann and Ingo Stutzle, Verso 2017

This book, billed as a short introduction to Piketty's supersized bestseller* on rising inequality, is itself an important step forward in the debate to understand rising inequality. The authors start by explaining why Piketty's book was so popular with mainstream economists (he includes clear evidence of rising inequality but still supports free markets), then provide a balanced summary of the book's strengths and weaknesses, and outline a fuller explanation of inequality which highlights the key policy options.

* Piketty’s book was analysed in detail by Bryan Gould in his article “Capitalism Produces Greater And Greater Inequality: Ever Increasing Concentration Of Wealth Among Owners Of Capital”, in Watchdog 136, September 2014,, and reviewed by Jeremy Agar in Watchdog 137, December 2014, Ed.

First things first; here's their short version of Piketty's 685-page epic. His central proposition is that since returns on capital are consistently higher than rates of economic growth, over time capital income and wealth will rise faster than waged income. Inequality and the political power of the rich will inevitably rise, excepting major crises (the Great Depression), wars (WW2) and social upheavals (revolution).

Piketty and others developed a large European dataset covering over 100 years to support this analysis, and his book included striking charts showing today's inequality approaching levels last seen in the 1920s and still rising rapidly. So far so good, but using the ratio of two major economic outcomes (r > g, r being the rate of return on capital and g being economic growth) and asserting an inevitable trend doesn't tell us anything about how and why this comes about, or how social struggle sometimes reverse the trend. Should we all sit around waiting for the next war to push politics back towards greater inequality, or perhaps plot another doomed revolution?

Policy Dilemmas Of Modern Capitalism

Before we come to these two reviewers' suggested improvements though, Piketty deserves more credit for his sharp observations about the policy dilemmas of modern capitalism, and his advocacy for various taxes to redistribute capital incomes. Here's the authors' summary of Picketty: "Due to weak economic growth, it will become increasingly difficult to 'grow out of' the debts accumulated in the last few years, that is to say, it will be increasingly difficult to contrast increasing debt with a corresponding growth in economic performance from which the debts can be serviced. The credit worthiness of states - that is, the trust of financiers in the financial solidity of governments - is thus also permanently endangered".

"The growth of financial wealth has increased, along with the debts of states, businesses and households. This wealth - as credits, bonds and securities - represents claims worth billions upon yields that must be produced in the future. If these claims are not redeemed, a further financial crash threatens. There is too much capital, measured in terms of profitable possibilities for investment". So, you can see why it was Piketty who triggered a wider public debate about inequality which had been rising for decades. His central conclusion from this trend analysis is that inequality is now an urgent problem for legitimacy and stability of capitalist economies.

But "he regards the dominant economic system completely positively. The ideal condition he strives for is a prosperous capitalism characterised by economic growth. And he only criticises inequality to the extent that it could damage growth and the legitimacy of capitalism. He wants to protect capitalism from the poor - not the other way around".

Inherited Wealth Is Critical

"According to Piketty, in the phase of the 1950s to the 1970s, the central bourgeois promise - that effort is rewarded - was redeemed. Modern societies were based upon the assumption of the equality of individuals. Material inequality could thus only be explained in terms of the inequality in the abilities of individuals. In the future, however, says Piketty, it is not so much effort that will determine prosperity, but rather background and family, that is to say: inheritance. Western societies are moving towards a state of affairs in which those who receive their wealth in the cradle 'call the shots'".

"The quintessence of Piketty's analysis of inequality and its development is: with the increasing division of society, inheritances become increasingly important, and this is becoming a problem. With that - and only with that - inequality becomes injustice and thus a problem for Piketty, since inheritance is a way of transmitting wealth that is not mediated by the market, which he regards as scandalous. His demand is that only the market should decide the distribution of income. The market is for him the central entity of justice: market results are fair results".

Still, credit where credit is due. His work "has led to a debate among social elites (encouraging) a split between an old 'orthodoxy' and those demanding a moderate turnaround". We need this debate at all levels of society to have any prospect of new policy responses in future crises. And he argues that inequality is bad for economic growth, against the current orthodoxy of market efficiency.

On the policy side, Piketty advocates taxes on capital to rebalance the economy, and this is clearly the right response. But since he doesn't question free capital markets he is forced to admit that in this environment this redistribution is likely to have limited impact: "attempts at taxing capital always run up against the same limit: the competition between states for investors".

This is where Kaufmann and Stutzle add their own insights, highlighting some critical errors and omissions in Piketty's work:

- accepts the market ideology of performance-linked income, where economic failures can be attributed to poor performance and further anti-labour reforms prescribed;

- accepts growth as the primary economic goal;

- omits the rise and power of financial capital;

- ignores the rising influence of housing wealth (capital) and debt in legitimising free markets among home owners while raising their vulnerability to crises;

- analysis is too Eurocentric, ignoring alternative economic models in Asia and the role of colonialism in capital accumulation;

- omits the importance of protecting natural resources and equitably distributing resource income in developing nations;

- ignores the role of structural transformation and social struggles in moderating inequality.

Class Analysis Vital

In conclusion, the authors support a class analysis of power and inequality, arguing that social struggles are essential to wring concessions from the State, otherwise politics remains the politics of capital - and modest goals like a tax on wealth remain an illusion. Informed by this more realistic critique of modern capitalism, we are challenged to develop social movements which can provide realistic prospects of countering the rise in inequality which Piketty has so clearly identified.

How Britain Left Europe
by Denis Macshane (2015, revised 2016) IBTaurus

Britain's exit highlights a lot of the really big questions which are unanswered by modern politicians and economists. Are referenda more or less democratic? Do free trade and free financial markets really have net benefits for nations and populations in the long run? Would reinstating national tariffs and reducing internal labour migration create healthier working lives and communities? Is the European Union (EU) essential to ensure future stability and peace in Europe?

How could the EU be modified to make it more democratic, participative and popular in Europe? Britain's story to date is medium-term, so there are no definitive answers in Macshane's book, but as one of the most active and objective participants in the debate, he fills in a lot of information about the British experience, and highlights the vested interests which promoted this 2016 referendum and the exit vote.

A Book That Speaks For Itself

It’s very well written and based on first-hand experience - so here are some key quotes from Macshane:

"Rich Rightwing businessmen had amassed fortunes in the Thatcher era".

"Fifty-two per cent of (post-Thatcher) British households are net recipients of State handouts - pensions, child benefits, disability allowances, working tax credits, social service care and so on".

"British productivity is 30% lower than France"

"The key to (US-based UK media owner) Murdoch's line on Europe is not hostility to the EU so much as blind pro-Americanism. One of the consistent themes in the political line which he encouraged on the Times was that he saw the EU as a rival to the US. He bitterly opposed those Conservatives who wanted Britain to have a degree of independence and some critical distance from the US" (Macshane quoting Rupert Murdoch’s biographer David McKnight).

"The anti-European campaigns had not only the resources of the EU-hostile press that daily printed propaganda against Europe, but also some of the richest businessmen in Britain and the speculators of the hedge funds, derivative trading and spread-betting industries who saw Europe as a threat to their view of how a market economy should be organised".

"Of great concern to the City's financial services sector, too many proposals that appeared to hinder rather than help the City (of London) in its new role as a global financial hub no longer moored in a national, let alone a European framework of rules and obligations".

"(London) lectured the rest of the EU on why the euro was a bad project and why a return to francs and deutschmarks to rejoin the pound in a paradise for money traders and speculators was better for Europe".

"When the then Polish Foreign Minister, the Oxford-educated Radek Sikorski, and the then German Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle, published their joint article under the headline 'New Vision of Europe' in September 2012, the New York Times gave them star billing on the paper's comment pages. The idea of a British Foreign Secretary writing in visionary terms about Europe is unthinkable. In Britain, politicians do not do vision".

"The classic social democratic reformism of northern Europe had little purchase on the British Left".

"Referenda are the nuclear weapons of democracy. In parliamentary systems they are redundant. Seeking a simplistic binary yes/no answer to complex questions, they succumb to emotion and run amok. Their destructive aftermath lasts for generations" (Macshane quoting Jeremy Kinsman, former Canadian High Commissioner in London).

And one more key story. After Thatcher's war on unions, Macshane recalls the rapturous response at the 1988 Congress of Trade Unions, when European Commission President Jacques Delors advocated a Europe with guaranteed worker rights, education and participation in companies. This was the point where the Conservative Party realised Europe was a social package, not just free markets and trade, and they did not like it.

Single Free Market A Very American Concept

Summing up, Macshane describes British politicians as inward looking and unrealistic, industry and agriculture as less efficient, the financial sector as self-serving and anti-regulation, the mass media as unaccountable liars. For him, Brexit was no surprise. This very British Brexit debate also highlights many questions New Zealanders need to ask, and answer. Europeans' wish to prevent future wars was the single biggest underlying motivation for starting the EU project. How can all nations best provide for defence and security in the modern world, while avoiding the destructive consequences of the armaments trade and wars?

Do regional free trade and financial agreements really benefit citizens? Do we really want to follow this European path where millions leave home to become migrant workers in Germany? And if you answered no, what are our alternatives? Could the EU introduce a system which allows national variants of the euro as suggested by Joseph Stiglitz? Should nations retain some level of tariff within regional markets to protect local production? How can we ensure transnational companies pay national taxes which match their earnings? How to reduce abuse of market monopolies? Should we mandate worker participation on boards to rein in executive excess? What about a right to work, not just income?

Beyond economics, all nations can learn a lot from following the debate about Europe's future, the strengths and weaknesses of current European political structures, and particularly the broader European debate about what "Social Europe" should look like in the future (see Reading about the differences between European and British views of the EU highlighted for me that despite all the lofty intentions in Europe, and even with all the regulation of the EU, the single free market remains a very American concept.

"Free" movement of labour looks pretty forced in reality, when youth unemployment in France and Spain is still over 30%. The other side of that is lost capital. Human capital in lost skills. National capital in old ways of production completely wiped out. Do we really want to become nations of specialists? What exactly will be left for those nations with few national resource advantages?

director Hugh Macdonald, producer Christine Dann

An independent Aotearoa is a central goal of CAFCA. But where does that independent vision come from? What do we value in our past and want in our future? This diverse and charming documentary tells the story of just one New Zealand woman, Sheila Natusch, but along the way it evokes so many themes which are central to our national story.

Starting with her family on Rakiura (Stewart Island) where her love for both nature and adventure were born, Sheila's story intertwines with those of her friend Janet Frame, psychiatric control of women and patriarchal education, the origins of our tramping culture, conservation and naturalism, all illuminated by Sheila's paintings and readings of her writing - and her sense of humour and simple enthusiasm for getting the most out of life!

The film's many interesting guest interviewers and fascinating archival material are bound together by a long conversation with Kim Hill about her life. Watching the story of this inspiring woman, you can't help but feel inspired to do more in your own life. There's still time, so start by seeing this film - you won't regret it.


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