I had a wee think while returning from my haircut at Balliage, about my problems with this government. Employment law we have touched on and I heard one additional story about a petrol station owner in the South Island today, who was screwed by one of his employees (through theft—I know what that feels like). Labour has restricted what employers can do in this country, and we spend more time on red tape than leading. That needs to change, and there is no sign of change.
Secondly, Labour has supported the exporting of New Zealand jobs to Asia. The PM personally supported Icebreaker’s demands that ‘Made in New Zealand’ be extended to mean ‘Made in China’ (but designed domestically), and the last Foreign Minister-inside-Cabinet has been relentless in its free-trade deal with Red China.
Long-time readers, and that means people who have followed what I wrote in the pre-blog days, will know I have long espoused the ideas of moral globalization (a lot was in my book Typography and Branding), of doing right by a host country. I still buy in to a lot of that—that if you globalize well, you will get good karma. Consumers aren’t stupid, and they will ﬁnd out if you are having them on. I believe in the good side to globalization, while not ignoring that there are a lot of latter-day robber barons out there.
So how do I reconcile my beliefs in uniting a planet with Bush-era nationalism and patriotism? I suppose I am being exposed as a bit more Keynesian than some think. Maybe I am a Jerry Ford internationalist?
I was asked to comment, as part of a greater enquiry, on textiles and jobs in New Zealand not long ago. My answers had to be at a semi-political level. I felt we weren’t ready to lose jobs to Red China there, especially one with a dismal human rights’ record. Textile exports from New Zealand plateaued, if the 2005 ﬁgures are to be believed, a few years back.
Now, I am all for this outsourcing if we ourselves were competitive enough, following the old theory that if we are making high-tech wear where a premium can be charged, then the old stuff could be sent over to a foreign location. But the evidence is that we are not there. Outsourcing is being done for cost-cutting reasons, letting our intellectual capital go abroad without replacing it with anything new. And we Chinese are great copycats (after inventing the compass and gunpowder, it’s payback time). But we (New Zealanders) need to put ourselves ﬁrst, so that the jobs that are lost here are made up for by new industries and innovations.
This is surely the position that Labour needs to be in ﬁrst: securing domestic jobs, providing fair employment laws that balance the needs of all parties, and dealing with régimes based on humanness rather than dollars. But it is not. And the last seven years have shown that.
Not that there is an alternative under John Key’s National Party. I do not know what the Shadow Cabinet plans, but its monetarist-only ﬁnance policies of the early 1990s under Ruth Richardson do not give me much conﬁdence.
Rarely is the ﬂip side to Red China and the Communist Party exposed, with the exception of Triangle TV in Wellington, which recently broadcast the Nine Commentaries, a decidedly negative look at the policy of murder that Beijing has followed since 1949. To put it bluntly, the Chinese Communist Party has killed more people since ’49 than every single dynasty of every Chinese emperor put together. Oh, you can also add in any that Hitler or Pol Pot might have murdered. (The only issue I have with the Commentaries is that they are Falun Gong-linked, which means there is potential bias, but any overseas Chinese is familiar with the stories of Politburo-sanctioned murder.)
I am not saying that we should disengage with Red China, or that the economic miracle is a complete myth. Of course there are nuggets of truth in that, even if the growth ﬁgures are conveniently supplied by the Politburo and lapped up by the likes of our government.
But it is no time to be a Luddite, either. Education is the key to a global society, exposing young people not to fear-mongering nationalism, but open-mindedness, so they can take the best of each culture and incorporate it into their own mix. Let them ﬁnd the mixture that best expresses their soul in a free and open society. Through them, and their children, we will gradually bring things closer together where laissez-faire globalization can work—because they will have learned that their neighbour can be someone in Addis Ababa or Albany, New York.
We already saw how Generation X was reasonably global, united through musical tastes. It did not sound the death knell to local musicians or tastes. Generation Y is even more like that; Generation C shares on Flickr and YouTube as though it were second nature, regardless of where that sharing comes from.
Once we understand this unity, then we can safely globalize. When we can outsource without harming our domestic activities, and do so in a respectful way, then let the free trade ﬂow. It is the task of this government to get the majority of commerce to that point, something it has yet to do as it heads into its eighth anniversary in power. Failing them, it is up to those of us, who are already there, to lead the way.
We can then let the laws follow where the people are fundamentally: part of an embracing global society. When you think about it, we are all born global: nation states and fearmongering make us react differently. No child is born a racist, and likewise, no child is born with the sort of fundamentalist nationalism that starts wars.
Author’s note: IE7 crashed. I lost the original conclusion to this post. The heavens are telling me to stop blogging as nothing else I do encounters so many crashes. Posted by Jack Yan, 04:31
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