Advances Kiwi Freedom
Conference MC Rodney Hide, MP (l) and Dave Henderson (r).
Photo by Jim Johnston
- Update on Elbegdorj Tsakhia
- How I Fought Inland Revenue – and ended up their landlord
- How To Avoid Being Intimidated by Experts
- The State of Kiwi Politics
- Free State or Free Nation?
- The Hobbiton Tour
- The True State of the Third World
- Private Education Around The World
- Business, Profits, and Economic Progress
- Ecomyths And Their Danger
- Welfarism And The Destruction of Values
- Austrian Economics and the Common Law
- The Origins of Liberalism
- Genetic Modification: A Future In New Zealand
- Conflict or Choice In Pro-Freedom Communication
- Having Your Kiwi And Eating It Too
- The Global Warming Delusion
- Ayn Rand’s Contribution To Liberal Thought
- The Globalization of Labor Markets
- Freedom’s Fringes
- Sir Roger Douglas on Market Reforms
- Feminism And Freedom
- A Student Network Formed
ISIL’s 2004 World Conference was held this past July in the picturesque resort town of Rotorua, in North Island, New Zealand.
Conference host was Jim Peron, a recent immigrant to New Zealand (from South Africa). Jim runs one of the few store-front libertarian bookstores in the world – (Aristotle’s Books) in Auckland. He also is founder and president of the Institute for Liberal Values(ILV) – a free-market public policy think tank also in Auckland.
In preparation for this year’s conference, we had collaborated with Jim and ILV in the funding and distributing of hundreds of copies of his book The Liberal Tide to all high-school libraries in New Zealand. There was also a student essay contest run by ILV – the winners of which received cash prizes (provided by ILV) – 1st Prize $2000, 2nd $1000, 3rd $500 and ten honorable mentions of $50 each. ISIL provided scholarships for the essay contest winners – plus a dozen others – to attend the ISIL conference. In all we ended up sponsoring 25 students to Rotorua – a move that will no doubt prove to have good consequences down the line.
Our interest in New Zealand, and one reason why this site was chosen for our conference, was the “New Zealand Miracle” of the 1980s in which, following a major fiscal crisis, an abrupt about-turn was engineered in New Zealand’s welfare state by Finance Minister Sir Roger Douglas. This move resulted in the New Zealand economy rebounding from near-collapse to the point where it is now rated by the Fraser Institute’sEconomic Freedom of the World Index as #2 in the world. We wanted to get the story first-hand from the architects of this revitalization, and see how it might apply to other countries around the world.
Of course in our secret hearts (the truth will out) we wanted to see first-hand some of the magnificent New Zealand scenery filmed in the epic Lord of The Ringsmovies. We were not disappointed.
So is New Zealand a libertarian paradise? Well, not exactly – although it is showing great promise. It is still a welfare state, but we witnessed some very strong libertarian trends and an equally strong interest in libertarian ideas (as you will see).
Our conference this year was unique in that we had attracted members of parliament from across the political spectrum. Among the speakers we had one Member of Parliament from the conservative National Party, two from the libertarian/conservative ACT (Alliance of Consumers and Taxpayers) Party, and one from the left-liberal ruling Labour Party. We also had two MPs from the Christian/populist United Future party. These people made up 5% of the entire New Zealand legislature!
Our master of ceremonies for the entire conference was Rodney Hide, a Member of Parliament and Leader of the ACT party. Some of you will be saying, “Good grief! Miller has lost his mind. A politician as MC for a libertarian conference?!” Well, not your average politician. Hide, and several other MPs in the NZ parliament have been described as a team of New Zealand “Ron Paul’s” – bucking the system at every turn and advocating libertarian solutions.
Fortunately, due to the small size of the New Zealand legislature and their system of mixed proportional representation, they have had considerably more voice – and impact – than America’s besieged Congressman Ron Paul with his many 434 to 1 votes in the US House of Representatives.
Hide, who was written up in the September 2004 issue of Liberty Magazine, was able to contribute a great deal to the event – including being able to provide informed input into the many discussions regarding loony Green politics. Hide, himself a scholar and environmentalist, earned a Bachelors degree in Zoology, a Masters in Natural Resource Management and then a MSc. degree in economics at Montana State University. He worked for the New Zealand Forest Service, on North Sea oil rigs, and drove a truck for his father’s company, so he is no ivory-tower intellectual – having gotten his hands dirty with real work – and experienced first-hand the deadening hand of government regulation.
Hide has also earned the title as New Zealand’s champion “perk-buster” and was recently immortalized in the New Zealand Oxford Dictionary where his term was recently incorporated.
Local papers are fond of Hide because of his wicked sense of humor. They paint him as cackling with delight as he exposes politicians who have been caught with their fingers in the public till.
Mongolian Prime Minister Elbegdorj Tsakhia
Unfortunately we had a last-minute cancellation by Mongolian Elbegdorj Tsakhia. Tsakhia (affectionately known as E.B.) was to be our banquet speaker. However, the Mongolian elections which occurred just prior to the New Zealand conference had resulted in an almost even split between the communists (36 seats) and his Motherland Coalition (34) with 2 seats under dispute – plus three Independents and one for a new (Republican) party. There were press reports of communist skullduggery at the polls – ballot box stuffing and intimidation of voters – and there were attempts by them to seize the radio station in Ulanbataar.
Quite a bit of turmoil ensued as the communists launched legal battles challenging the vote outcome of certain critical seats. The election count was delayed for a chaotic month.
Elbegdorj, as former Prime Minister and author of the massive Mongolian liberalization in recent years (and a highly-respected person of known integrity) was called upon to negotiate with the Independents regarding the formation of a coalition to hold the communists at bay.
E.B. apologized for having to cancel, but said that this was a time of serious crisis for his country and that he was urgently needed at home.
We certainly understood.
PS: E.B. was successful in building his coalition, and is once again Prime Minister of Mongolia. We wish him luck.
The conference activities began (informally) on the evening of July 21st with a luxury paddleboat cruise on Lake Rotorua, just adjacent to the conference hotel. This cruise, which included an elegant buffet and a chance to sample some of New Zealand’s excellent wines (we liked their Pinot Noir), provided an opportunity for conference attendees to meet in an informal environment before the conference began in earnest (the next morning).
The conference speakers are listed in the order they appeared over the period of four days. We also have on-line text versions of many of the speeches (as noted).
Ended Up Their Landlord
The conference began with a hilarious presentation by New Zealand real-estate developer Dave Henderson. Henderson had fought a long, bitter and costly battle with New Zealand’s Inland Revenue bureaucrats who claimed he owed them money (the IRD is the NZ equivalent of the IRS).
Henderson eventually won the battle (with assistance from Rodney Hide). The IRD backed down – and actually refunded some taxes. Unfortunately the fight ended up bankrupting Henderson, but he rallied, and currently owns the building in Christchurch where the IRD has their regional offices.
Manipulated, And Abused By
Experts And Authorities
Sharon Presley is co-founder of Laissez-Faire Books, current Executive Director of Resources for Independent Thinking in Oakland, California, and a social psychologist (currently teaching at Cal Hayward). Sharon discussed the nature of, and devices used by so-called experts to intimidate and “bamboozle.” She also pointed to psychology experiments which revealed how easily ordinary people can become tyrannical, especially the famous Dr. Stanley Milgram electric-shock torture experiment. Dr. Presley, who studied under Milgram, gave hints on how to know when you are being seduced by a situation and provided all kinds of advice on e.g. How not to be hoodwinked by credentials.
Dr. Presley is currently completing her book on how to stand up to authorities. Her most recent work on resisting authority, a co-edited anthology of the essays of anarchist feminist Voltairine de Cleyre, Exquisite Rebel, will be published in December 2004 by SUNY Press. Dr. Presley also maintains a Voltairine de Cleyre website
Dr. Smith has been an on-going member of the New Zealand Parliament since he was elected 20 years ago and has been a witness to the Rogernomics Revolution that occurred in his country.
He told of just how socialist New Zealand had been around the time the economy crumbled.
“There were only two TV channels and the Government owned them both. The Government also owned pop-music radio stations, the telephone system, the railways, the airline, a fertilizer factory, hotels, banks, insurance companies, a shipping line and a steel mill.”
He admitted that his views on freedom hadn’t been based on philosophical convictions. “(At that time) I certainly wasn’t a disciple of Hayek and hadn’t even read The Constitution of Liberty,” he said.
Rather his views were driven by hard experience as a Cabinet Minister – observing first-hand what kind of policies work and what kind don’t. Smith’s work as Deputy Finance Minister and International Trade Minister also meant he spent time at the OECD as well as the World Trade Organisation and saw firsthand the impact of government policies around much of the world.
Smith went on at some length about the disastrous trends of western nations banning trade (while giving aid) to 3rd World countries – and how trade barriers erected by (e.g. Japan) have hurt New Zealand agricultural exports.
Smith concluded: “If there’s one thing my 20 years in Parliament and many years as a Minister have taught me, it is that despite all the best intentions and all the political goodwill behind so much government intervention, much of it fails to deliver the benefits hoped for, and too often ends up standing in the way of our people achieving the things they’ve dreamed of.”
“And since this is a world forum,” he added, “this is where I want to challenge my fellow politicians internationally. The protectionist policies of so many politicians in the developed world are a stain on the morality of the world.”
Jim Peron presented a critique of the Free State project in the USA and instead argued for a Free Nation Project. The Free Nation, of course, being New Zealand. He argued that the conditions set by the Free State people were easily met in New Zealand and gave the example of his small think tank which has been able to exert considerable influence in this small country.
“Libertopia,” Peron remarked, “requires a geographical area that is small enough to influence, large enough to be economically viable, but one that also has political sovereignty. The area must have jobs which already exist and it must have the amenities of life that most urban libertarians want. In other words it must have a developed and thriving economy.
Kim Saull, who runs a NZ immigration business, discussed immigration possibilities in New Zealand – and later held private consultations with those interested in moving there. Kim Saull may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
We will post contact information on the ISIL website – for those interested in moving.
Jim Peron delivered a similar speech at the Freedom Summit conference in Phoenix, Arizona in October 2004. In this speech, Peron extols the virtues of New Zealand and provides considerable information regarding immigration procedures.
We always knew that Hubert Jongen was a Hobbit.
photo by Stefan Metzeler
On the afternoon of Thursday the 22nd of July, a group of us took off on a bus tour to the famed Hobbiton – one of many movie sets from the Lord of the Ringsmovie. Here we drank in the spectacular scenery seen in the movie. There were breathtaking vistas and vast plains with Mt. Doom in the background. We almost expected malevolent Orks to come leaping out of the shadows.
Our host, the owner of the sheep farm where this part of the movie was filmed, was well-versed on the “Ring” story and on the inside stories of the shoot. He showed us around the site – to the village square with the enormous tree in the middle – to the pond where the fireworks dragon exploded, and the Hobbit dwellings in the hillside.
Luckily the farmer had been able to stop the film producers from completely dismantling the set at the end of the shoot – but unfortunately he was not allowed to restore the Hobbit dwellings to their original state. He informed us that the interior shots of the Hobbit houses were shot in a studio in Auckland – but nonetheless many libertarians ducked into them for photo ops.
Later we enjoyed a dinner of lamb chops with New Zealand wine and beer at the Shire’s Inn (a converted barn). Great fun for an international crowd – and an unforgettable experience for fans of the “Lord of the Rings”.
In his presentation, Jim Peron reported on encouraging developments in the 3rd world.
He stated that by most objective standards the Third World today is a much improved place. Birth rates are down. Incomes are up. Life spans have increased. Infant mortality rates have dropped. Educational levels are up, and there is wider access to clean water and health care than at any time in history.
And starvation is down. The numbers of undernourished people in the developing world fell by 40 million between 1990-92 and 1996-99. This fall in absolute numbers was in spite of high population growth rates.
None of this means that more can’t be done or that further progress can’t be made. But the idea that conditions in the Third World have been deteriorating is unfounded. Peron asserted that many claims to the contrary tend towards political propaganda – not scholarship – and should be evaluated as such.
Peron also noted that the integration of individual economies into a global free-trade regime has dramatically changed the world and that this improvement is most obviously seen in the standard of living in globalized Third World nations.
Hunger, he noted, is routinely caused by bad economic policies, armed political conflict and tyrannical political leadership.
Norman Laroque is an advisor to the Education Forum and a member of the Advisory Council of the EG West Center for Market Solutionsat the University of Newcastle, UK. He showed numerous examples of the rise of private schooling around the world – including in 3rd World countries.
He showed how 113 million children worldwide have no access to primary education – a figure that is expected to reach 160 million by 2025. This, he said, provides opportunities for alternatives to government-run education. Indeed there is a growing demand for private education because of the poor performance of government schools, and the demand for relevant job-market skills. He discussed various methods of funding of schools – from the use of vouchers to contracting out to private contractors – as with the Edison Schools in the USA.
A former senior official with the New Zealand Treasury, Roger is now the Executive Director of the New Zealand Business Roundtable, a free-market think tank.
In Kerr’s speech, he gave a good overview of the virtues of the free market and the many blessings it provides. He also spent some time extolling the virtues of free trade and globalization.
He dealt too with business ethics and the responsibilities of the business community – ideals promoted by his Business Roundtable.
“The NZBR,” he said, “endorses the concepts of corporate responsibility, integrity, self-reliance, and open and fair conduct in business practices.”
He stated that Peruvian author and one-time presidential candidate Mario Vargas Llosa remarked during a recent visit to New Zealand that he had never encountered a country where the business community had done so much to help eliminate privilege and support competition and openness.
In closing, Kerr expressed concern that increased regulation under the current government has caused New Zealand’s ranking among free countries to decline in recent years.
Overall an excellent defence of the practical and moral aspects of free markets.
Lance Kennedy (New Zealand), author of Ecomyth, spoke on exposing junk science(the disinformation and myths perpetrated by the radical Green movement).
Kennedy began his discussion by defining the scientific method – the Art and Practice of Testing. “Part and parcel of the scientist’s work,” he said, “is measuring, and obtaining results in the form of hard, unambiguous numbers.
“Respect for research results, when testing is done correctly, is a mark of a good scientist. But the irrational environmental belief we see so much of these days is characterized by a lack of skepticism, and a lack of proper testing and such measuring.” The word, Ecomyth, refers to errors of this type, where a dogma arises among the less- scientifically exact activists.
Mr. Kennedy dealt with many examples of junk science and tactics of the Greens. One was “catastrophism – the idea that disaster is looming everywhere. Ideas such as the so-called population explosion (which didn’t occur) and other green scare tactics such as the supposed elimination of wild habitats and mass extinctions (not true, according to Kennedy – there’s still more relatively untouched wilderness than there is land exploited by people – and that doesn’t count polar regions). He noted that most extinctions are caused by the introduction of species alien to a habitat (like e.g. rats or stoats).
Here we see how Green junk science can have deadly consequences. For example, there was the hysteria aroused by Rachel Carson’s influential book Silent Spring in which she declared (using extremely weak evidence) that DDT killed wild birds by thinning egg shells, and that it caused cancer in humans. Both claims have since been proved fallacious. DDT kills the Anopheles mosquito which spreads malaria.
By 1964 malaria had been all but eradicated. It is estimated that close to 60 million people have died from the reemergence of malaria as a result of the DDT ban.
Lindsay Mitchell, a research fellow at the Institute for Liberal Values, New Zealand, delivered a blistering indictment of welfare states around the world. She reported on massive abuses of the state welfare system in New Zealand and how it nurtured epidemic levels of child abuse and resulted in women living in violent relationships. It also results in rampant alcoholism and wrecked lives.
“My tax dollars have been supporting a badly dysfunctional system. A system so dysfunctional it has to be stopped” she stated.
Mitchell emphasized that the welfare system corrupts the very soul of individuals who have ceased to be self-reliant and who have no understanding that the money they receive is the product of somebody else’s labors – not a gift from some giant government “cookie jar” from which endless funding is dispensed.
The welfare system also corrupts social workers and administrators. She quoted James Payne and his book Overcoming Welfare.
“Today’s social workers have genuinely internalized a value-free approach. Instead of guiding clients away from foolish choices, they set up systems that reinforce them.”
Mitchell quoted from Theodore Dalrymple’s book Life at the Bottom in which doctors arriving from countries like the Philippines and India to England expressed disillusionment with the British welfare state.
“By the end of three months my doctors have without exception, reversed their original opinion that the welfare state, as exemplified by England, represents the acme of civilization. On the contrary, they see it now as creating a miasma of subsidized apathy that blights the lives of its supposed beneficiaries. They came to realize that a system of welfare that makes no moral judgments in allocating economic rewards promotes anti- social egotism. The spiritual impoverishment of the population seems to them worse than anything they have ever known in their own countries.”
Quoting again from James Payne, Mitchell closed with a note that should resonate with libertarians:
“We have to expect more, not only from the poor, but from ourselves. Our own compunction to be actively and voluntarily generous is reduced when the government steps in to do it on our behalf. And a tendency towards apathy, because the mess we have created, is so overwhelming that it represents a lost value. If we don’t want government to be involved in welfare, we must work towards or support alternatives.”
Dr. Sudha Shenoy, a native of India, teaches Economic History at the University of Newcastle, Australia. She has also taught at California State University, Ohio University, George Mason University and the Mises Institute. She is author of India: Progress or Poverty?, Underdevelopment and Economic Growth and A Tiger by the Tail: The Keynesian Legacy of Inflationa book that describes the difference between Keynes and Hayek’s view of inflation.
Sudha discussed the evolution of societies both from the viewpoint of material production and legal systems – simple to complex – all evolving via spontaneous order.
“The developed countries” she explained, “are those that have historically-developed systems of case-law such as e.g. the (English) common law in the Anglophone countries; Roman law in Western Europe and Scotland; and ‘merchants’ law” in Japan. “Case-law,” she added “grows through time, in response to people’s practices, and in changes in these practices”.
After rules are so developed, and as they change – judges articulate these rules, as needed, in cases they settle. Thus such legal rules are instrumental: they help people in achieving their diverse, ‘several’, and changing ends. Case-law rules also cannot be designed; they develop historically, in people’s actions, over centuries. She further explained that legislation is an instrument of government officials. It authorizes the regulations, orders, directives they issue to subjects. Thus a legislature is needed to pass such legislation and give it political acceptability.
Legislation is always directed to the specific purposes of particular government officials, or particular groups. As Hayek points out, it is in the rulers’ interest to assimilate their decrees to ‘the rules of just conduct’ found in the law and claim the same respect and dignity for mere legislative diktats. Legislation, as he says repeatedly, is more dangerous than gunpowder.
Dr. Shenoy’s speech was extremely well-received and as a result, a spontaneous meeting was arranged that evening in which Dr. Shenoy and George H. Smith engaged in an extended dialogue with the students. The meeting room was packed to overflowing with students and other interested persons – to the extent that many had to sit on the floor or stand in the doorway.
George H. Smith
George H. Smith presented two lectures on “The Origins of Classical Liberalism.” The first talk discussed the meanings of “liberalism” and “laissez-faire” and how classical (or libertarian) liberalism was rooted in early theories about the rights of conscience.
Smith also discussed the myth of Social Darwinism, explaining that liberals such as Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sumner did not hold the views commonly attributed to them. The second lecture covered Lord Acton’s theory of why individual freedom developed in Western thinking but noting other cultures. It also discussed the oppressive nature of mercantilist regulations, against which free-trade advocates waged political campaigns that were largely successful. Smith closed with a survey of the “voluntaryists,” or those nineteenth-century British liberals who opposed state education.
Dr. William Rolleston is Director of the Life Science Network in New Zealand.
Dr. Rolleston spoke on the difficulties facing the new science of Genetic Modification in New Zealand. “Negative views on the subject,” he said, “have threatened to seriously undermine developments in this area.” Additionally, an overwhelming majority of scientists and organizations involved in the adoption of new biological technologies have been frustrated at the lack of balance in the public debate – especially the misrepresentation of the science involved and by the creation of fear in the public mind by opponents of GM. The formation of Life Science Network was a direct result of that frustration.
“Our cautious system of evaluation and considered approval will, in time, assure the public that approved use of GM is safe,” concluded Dr Rolleston.
Click here for more information of the Life Science Network and Genetic Modification.
Conflict or Choice in Pro-Freedom Communication
Michael Cloud is well-known in America as being by far the most effective communicator of libertarian ideas. His “Art of Political Persuasion” tapes have become classics. Michael is currently working with our friends at the Advocates for Self Government.
Michael conducted two full sessions on effective communication techniques. Among his many devices he included the idea of the metaphorical “Freedom Store” where one can sample the delights of free societies. You don’t have to buy everything at once, but are encouraged to shop around – and come back if you like the “product.” To say that this powerful presentation was well-received would be a great understatement.
The “Freedom Store” metaphor was brought up by Rodney Hide when he remarked humorously that one MP from the left was, “still in the confectionary department of the Freedom Store.”
Gerry Eckhoff, an ACT MP in the New Zealand parliament, expressed his disapproval of the patronizing attitudes of so many politicians. He exclaimed, “They micromanage our lives – and not from any sense of duty or selfless sacrifice. They gouge billions of dollars out of their fellow citizens and rule every action of every waking hour simply so that they can ingratiate themselves to the voters and thereby get back into office.”
He elaborated on numerous government boondoggles. “Health and education are wonderful examples of centralized bureaucratic failures,” he said. “The fact that private participation almost assures success seems to have escaped their attention.”
“And this,” he said, “applies especially to government’s wildlife management – which is openly hostile to private initiatives.”
For government and socialists, “It’s better for (wild creatures) to be dead than privately bred,” he said.
He gave the example of domesticated livestock (which are never in danger of extinction) vs wildlife in the public domain.
Regarding the natural order the political establishment seems so intent upon maintaining, he stated that the balance in nature was lost in New Zealand many years ago with the introduction of mastilids, possums and rabbits; and that the battle to redress their devastating impact on their biodiversity is never-ending – and is now possible only with the help of human intervention.
And environment legislation often has unintended consequences.
He reported that his colleague, Stephen Franks, received a letter informing him of an “extinct” bird living on private land.
The landowner, fearing actions by the Department of Conservation, remained silent, as the Minister would give no assurances as to the future consequences of the discovery on his farming operation. No assurance – no information. The Americans call it, “Shoot, shovel, and shut up”.
Eckhoff went on to say, “I would further suggest that the politics of the environment matters more to some people than the environment itself. Julian Simon, at an Earth Day Conference, said that he once hoped that ‘intellectual error accounted for the politics of the environmental establishment’ but that he could no longer accept such an assessment. These people, he concluded, ‘were the enemies of humanity’.”
Eckhoff reported that in South Africa, where full rights and control over wildlife have been granted to landowners, biodiversity has been better served in areas surrounding national parks, than in the parks themselves.
“The crux of the matter,” he said, “is this: freedom breeds success in every sphere – and that if you and I were free to raise wildlife in humane conditions, then there would be no shortages. We would strive to care for our flocks as we do our sheep. We would see they were healthy, and breeding to their potential.”
Dr. Vincent Gray (New Zealand) has a PhD from Cambridge University and is an Expert Reviewer for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Dr. Gray began, “I try to convince people that the global warming scare is a delusion. That carbon dioxide is a welcome organic fertilizer, and that a full understanding of what changes our climate is very far from having been achieved.”
Dr. Gray dwelt on the matter of measurement. That measurement of temperatures are usually taken near heat islands (cities & heavily-populated areas) which gives distorted results. Also that there is a complete lack of temperature data over any significant historical period. We do know that a steady temperature is not guaranteed and that there have been ice ages and cooling periods and warm periods – all independent of human action.
“Support for environmentalist dogma,” he remarked “has depended on a low level of scientific knowledge on the part of the public, and the ease with which phony science can appear convincing.”
In fact, he reported that the most important greenhouse gas is water vapor. If one were serious about studying “radiative forcing”, the first priority should be to study changes in water vapor. However, its concentration is so variable that there are no figures for its average value in the atmosphere – either now or in the past.
There’s also the matter of clouds, another important contributor to “radiative forcing.” Their effect cannot be measured either.
Robert White is currently lecturing at the University of Auckland and finishing a doctoral thesis on Ayn Rand’s political views.
In his presentation, Robert gave an excellent overview of Ayn Rand’s novels, the historical evolution of her work, and the essential elements of her philosophy.
He stated, “Whatever issues Rand scholars still need to deal with, the fact remains that there are many ideas within Rand’s work that are of value to libertarians. There is Rand’s dramatization of the failure of socialism; there is Rand’s belief that technological advancement is incompatible with collectivism; there is Rand’s emphasis on the needs of the creators and producers; there is Rand’s heroic view of business and earning a living; and there is Rand’s grounding of individual freedom and laissez-faire capitalism in the need for human beings to survive and flourish by thinking for themselves.
“If it still usually begins with Ayn Rand, as Tuccille claims,” he said, “then I think the libertarian movement is better for it.”
Jan Narveson is a professor of Philosophy at the University of Waterloo, Canada, a member of the Royal Society of Canada, and an Officer of the Order of Canada. He is also author of numerous books, including the classic The Libertarian Idea.
Prof. Narveson began, “Free trade in the labor market brings benefits to the lowly and downtrodden at the same time that it benefits consumers and the many business persons who get into the export/import business. If there are persons temporarily unemployed, the solution is the same as it always is everywhere: someone out there somewhere is ready to use your services. We are all of value to others, and in the free-market society, we can hang out our shingles. In the global village, there are going to be a lot of potential readers of those shingles – and the less restrictions on trade, the more readers there will be, and so the more potential employers.”
“And of course, there is the important and very basic point that a person’s “income”is a function of two things, not just one: the size of his paycheck, in whatever units of money apply in that case, and the costs of the things you can buy with it. Protesters against meetings to promote the freeing of trade show up in inexpensive sneakers made by girls in countries half-way around the globe, eat hamburgers made by low-paid workers at the fast-food places, and organize the whole thing with computers that get rapidly cheaper (per unit of computing power) every year, partly by courtesy of the hard-working people in Singapore, Rawalpindi, and so on. If trade is free, then we all gain more than we lose – we gain a lot more than we lose. And while we are at it, we also are being fair to those many lesser-privileged people in the world who, after all, deserve to be on the road to prosperity just as much as we do, and whose road there is paved with the same thing that ours is: the paving of freedom.”
A one-time local council member in England and now a New Zealand Labour Party MP, Tim Barnett was instrumental in passing the Prostitution Reform bill and is involved in the Civil Unions legislation. Together with Rodney Hide MP, he discussed the advancement of social freedoms in New Zealand. He also talked about the different motivations for libertarians and for left-liberals like himself, and the need for libertarians to adjust how they communicate with others. The fact that ACT people like Rodney Hide are working with the left on these issues shows that ACT is not strictly a free-enterprise conservative party and does take civil-liberties issues seriously.
And the fact that individuals like Barnett were attending a libertarian conference seemed to us a good sign.
Sir Roger Douglas
Sir Roger Douglas spoke on the history of his free-market reforms and how they turned New Zealand away of the brink of economic disaster to become of one of the world’s top performing economies.
In the early 1980s the New Zealand government had taxed and borrowed to the point where their credit in international markets had essentially dropped to zero. Their economy hit a brick wall. The “Miracle” initiated by Finance Minister Douglas consisted of massive privatizations and across-the-board slashing of pork – including farm subsidies and welfare. You can only imagine the howls of protest from those whose oxes were being gored. One official stated flatly, “We told all the vested interest groups to go to hell.”
Curiously these free-market reforms occurred under a Labour government – and the policies were completely at odds with the official left wing welfare-state ideology of the party. Indeed the policies were hated by the traditionalist leftists of the party who regarded them as treasonous.
Despite this, Douglas and his supporters managed to continue the policies by convincing the party leader and Prime Minister David Lange of the necessary of cleaning up the mess left behind by the previous government.
In 1987, the Labour Party under Lange was re-elected and attempts began to dismantle Douglas’s reforms. Douglas left the parliament at the election of 1990, an election the Labour party lost. Despite this, the primary framework of Douglas’s reforms has remained intact.
In 1993 Douglas participated in the founding of an organization called the Association of Consumers and Taxpayers (ACT) which had as its goal the promotion of the economic policies he had begun as Minister of Finance back in 1984. Since New Zealand at this time had adopted a new election system that made it much easier for new parties to enter parliament, ACT was transformed into a new political party.
Roger Douglas has since left politics and turned over the leadership of ACT to others.
Wendy McElroy is author of several books on individualist feminism. She is also editor of the ifeminists website and a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute. In her speech she addressed feminism’s impact on individual liberty.
It is no coincidence that feminism in America arose from the 19th-century anti-slavery movement called “abolitionism,” which actively welcomed women to write and lecture and politically campaign against slavery. In fighting for the rights of slaves, abolitionist women began to ask themselves a question: “do we not have these rights as well?”
The abolitionist Abbie Kelley observed, “we have good cause to be grateful to the slave … in striving to strike his irons off, we found most surely that we were manacled ourselves.”
The work of individualist feminism is far from complete. There are still issues where women’s freedom and women’s rights are being infringed by the state. Moreover, individualist feminism must work to reverse the damage that gender feminism has done to liberty by instigating class warfare between the sexes. The schism is beginning to heal. Perhaps individualist feminism can still give to liberty what Mary Wollstonecraft intended long ago … “Equal rights for women and men, equal dignity and good will.”
The World Freedom Summit helped inspire a lot of local people in New Zealand to work more closely together – across party lines.
As already noted, MPs from several parties attended Rotorua, and there are coalitions of different make-ups working on various issues, especially social issues. There has also been publicly-expressed hope by the new, highly-libertarian National Party leader Donald Brash that they could form a coalition with ACT to win next year’s election.
One of the more exciting developments for the future that emanated directly from this conference was the formation of the Free Student Network – founded by 25 students who attended the conference. A special workshop was convened during the conference in which some of the conference speakers and movement people were able to jam with the students and tell of their experiences in movement-building. As ISIL president, I told of the founding of the original SIL back in 1969 and the importance of having a non-partisan, non-political educational group – one that was non-threatening and made the acceptance of new ideas easy. Jim Peron, chatted with them – as did Rodney Hide, Michael Cloud and others. Several spontaneous evening jam sessions were organized by the students during the conference at a local pub.
The students, who came from various political parties, agreed to work together to promote libertarian ideas – independent of party affiliations. They are currently forming a website and have had several meeting to iron out strategies.
We will keep you posted on their progress. We also would like to thank those of you who supported the student scholarship program. You can see that your donations have been of immense value in promoting the ideas of liberty in many places around the world.
All in all it was a most satisfying conference – an event that we expect will have far-reaching consequences down the road. Many people, including one lady who had attended conferences going back to the 1960s, exclaimed that this was the best conference of any kind that they had attended in their lives.
We always include a post-conference tour with ISIL events. It provides extra time to both see more of the host country and to jam with other attendees. This year the tour took us for visits to the Art Deco town of Napier, then to Taupo and a thermal area with geysers, steaming pools, bubbling mud pits. We then visited the sensational, other-worldly glow-worm caves of Waitomo. We ended up in Auckland where we visited the Sky Tower for a spectacular view and had a farewell dinner at a local restaurant.