17 April 2005

Ideology = Intellectual Bankruptcy

The New Zealand opposition National Party decries the increasing size of the state sector, saying it would conduct a thorough review of all state spending and "identify waste" if it returned to power. Fine, and it is true that after five years of Labour (to September 2004) total state sector staff numbers had grown by 33 630 to 278 831. In core government departments, staffing has risen from 30 702 to 38 270.

But the selection of 'cutting back the state sector' as a policy goal is, I believe, a symptom of intellectual bankruptcy. In this respect the New Zealand National Party is no worse than the New Zealand Labour Party or virtually any other political party in the world. Driven by ideology, they fail to target outcomes that are meaningful to the people they want to represent.

Cutting back on the numbers employed by the state is not valid as an end in itself. It might be a means to certain ends, but these ends should be explicit and transparent, and people should be given a chance to vote on them. The size of the state sector should be a result of decisions made about what social and environmental outcomes people want, not a matter of blind ideology. If political parties treated the electorate as adults, and gave us choices about meaningful outcomes, we might take politics more seriously and even participate in it. Perhaps that’s what they’re afraid of.


ZenTiger said...

Good point. However, I sometimes wonder if people can see things are wrong on an instinctual level, and react on the basis that doing something is often better than doing nothing (even if that turns out not to be the case)

It may not reflect intellectual bankruptcy, but a kind of intellectual deficiency that just needs some guidance?

Ronnie Horesh said...

Thanks ZenTiger. I agree: my aspersions are directed at policy specialists and politicians, rather than ordinary folk who can be excused an instinctive reaction. The politicos know, or should know, that targeting agency funding levels, activities, inputs and outputs is inefficient, prone to corruption, and no substitute for targeting meaningful outcomes. The world is too complex for simple ideological 'solutions'. Policymakers should know that by now.