Friday, June 27, 2008

Do we really need selfish capitalism?

New Zealand -at the edge of great possibilities or a winner loser unsustainable society?

With the election coming up isn't it time to consider what kind of country we want to become before we actually vote?

What is needed is a 'national conversation' about future scenarios, or possibilities, or we will get what we are given. It would have been a great idea to bring together a wide range of respected non partisan citizen to consider issues facing our country. This is what happened in Australia, but after the election - a lite bit too late to help educate the people about the threats and possibilities that confronts their nation?

In New Zealand we have two choices it seems. To elect the current opposition, which seems to have no policies but in effect would reintroduce the 'Selfish Capitalism' of Market Forces, or to elect the current government, simplistically seen by many people as representing a 'nanny state'.

Is it too late to clarify what the real issues are and the consequence of electing a neo-conservative government?

People seem not to recognise the very real positive polices the current government has introduced, nor to remember the consequences of a 'winner loser' society that the current government has done its best to recover from. The issue is confused because it was the current government that originally introduced many of the failed privatisation policies!

People need to appreciate that the choice is between two easily understood alternatives: 'Selfish Capitalism' or 'Caring Capitalism'. Simplistically the 'look after me first' tax issue versus the 'nanny state'.

The issue facing the government is to redefine the unpopular phrase 'nanny state' and to highlight the consequences of a return to selfishness.

The derisionary 'nanny state' phrase needs to be seen positively as caring for all in society so all can contribute to developing New Zealand being recognised worldwide as a positive country fit for all.

A book worth reading by those who want to explore such issues is 'The Selfish Capitalist' by Oliver James
. 'Selfish Capitalism', introduced in the 70s, was based on the idea that privatisation would free initiative and enterprise and create wealth which would 'trickle down' to better the conditions of all. We all know the results - the rich got richer and the poor got poorer.

The book points out that in the countries that introduced such polices, and New Zealand was a leader in this development, have now the highest rates of emotional distress in their citizens caused by massive inequalities and insecure working conditions ( World Health Organisation research 2004). NZ is second only to the USA - and appallingly we are second only to the USA in incarceration rates. Is this the kind of country we want to be seen as?

'Selfish Capitalism' is an ideology based on materialism, consumerism and freedom from state interference for big business to focus on making money for their shareholders. Interestingly the countries that have avoided emotional distress are the 'Caring Capitalist' higher tax paying countries of Western Europe and Japan. Frighteningly our stress rates have doubled since the 70s!

Along with mental distress everyone must be aware of the breakdown in the fabric of society that is best seen in South Auckland. More needs to be done to provide equity in such communities but a return to self capitalism will provide few options, except 'boot camps' for offender and more gaols.

The book points out that individualism, materialism and consumerism has not provided, even for the so called successful, positive feelings. The books thesis is that 'Selfish Capitalism' encourages distress. The simple solution is to 'continue with the long journey towards societies that put well being of all before the wealth of a minority'. This is the truth hidden behind the derisionary use of the phrase 'nanny state' by those who are encouraged to see themselves as future 'winners' able to pursue more and more material things! Such pursuit of material status is associated with risks of depression, anxiety, substance abuse and obsessive self centeredness.

As a country we need to put the well being of all above individual greed
; healthy communities above the needs , or greeds, of short term individual wealth. This must be the new interpretation of 'nanny state' as Caring Capitalism'. An alternative that develops greater poverty for some families is creating future problems for all. Resentment and alienation, as we are all well aware, will aways find ways to be expressed.

That many of the problem we are suffering are not seen in the Western European democracies must be worth bringing to the attentions of all? These countries did not introduce 'me first' inequalities of free market 'Selfish Capitalism' holding to beliefs of the importance of the well being of all. In such successful countries 50% more is spent per capita on welfare and health - where they see the state as more than a safety net; where everybody has right to participate in the economy.

Once this 'Caring Capitalism' was the image many held of New Zealand.

Just as we are moving to recapture this image it is now to be put at risk in the coming election 'Caring Capitalism' being demeaned by the phrase 'nanny state!

Can we afford to return to pursuing an unequal society based on personal wealth sacrificing those unable to cope in 'uneven playing field' where 'trickle down' is a myth?

The solution is simple. As citezins we must becme aware of the real challenges we all face. The ideals of 'Caring Capitalism' needs to replace the unhelpful phrase 'nanny state'. 'Caring Capitalism' is the only real alternative to hollow materialism. Being rich, people need reminding, is not as important as developing a country that meets the needs of all its citizens.

People must be reminded of the consequences of electing toxic 'Selfish Capitalists'.

What kind of country we want to become is the important issue of the upcoming election.


Anonymous said...


What a wonderfully clear view of where we are at and where we are headed. If only the maintstream media in NZ would publish such views we might have some debate. Unfortunately we only get the "nanny state" type comment and promotion of the Opposition party. I cannot imagine Labour in Opposition being allowed to get away with a policy free run up to the election.
Can you not have this article published somewhere other than here where I fear you are only talking to the converted.

Bruce said...

Thanks for the feedback. The term 'nanny state' is tossed at every thing the current government does. Somehow it has to be seen in a more positive light? Do the critics really want to go total deregulation where big business presumes to know best what we need?