Brian Edwards Media

Tribal Politics and the Death of Reason

armies-clash (1)

Since 1964, when I arrived in this country, I’ve mostly, though not always, voted for the Labour Party. My core political belief is that in a caring society the haves have a moral obligation to support the have-nots. I see progressive taxation as the only reliable mechanism for bringing this about. “Trickle Down” won’t cut it. Little or nothing “trickles down” and the concept smacks of charity. Nor can charity itself ensure social and economic justice for those at the bottom of the heap. Charity is capricious and unreliable. So the rich have to be compelled to do their part. That includes me.

If you want to give a name to it, I suppose you’d call this Socialism. I see myself as a Socialist. Not surprising, you might think, since I was an only child raised by a solo parent in a council flat in Belfast. Though John Key had  a not dissimilar background.

Bit different now. Judy and I have a nice house, a nice car, a bach up North and a few dollars in the bank. And of course we both get the pension. But I’m still a Socialist. That’s more about principles than party politics. And not complaining about paying tax.  

I was one of the first people to hear Labour’s policies for the 2011 election.  Judy and I were down in Wellington for a media-training session with Phil Goff and the party’s senior finance spokesmen. The policies included a capital gains tax to be implemented by 2013, a new marginal tax rate of 39% on incomes above $150,000,  a tax-free threshold of $5,000 and a plan to raise the age of entitlement for superannuation to 67 by 2033.  I remember leaving the session highly elated. These were sensible and courageous policies, in particular the capital gains tax, then widely considered to be political suicide. These were some of the policies I believed in.

I’m not entirely sure whether Labour still wholeheartedly supports these policies. Idealism has a tendency to give way to pragmatism in politics. Leaders, particularly in opposition, have a tendency to become followers of what is sellable rather than what is right. Labour Party leaders are no exception.

But, all things considered, I’m still a Labour voter with a greenish tinge. What I’m not is one-eyed. I don’t believe that everything about the Labour Party is good and everything about the National Party is bad. I’m simply not “tribal”.

Tribalism in politics is the death of reason. It involves seeing no good in the parties you oppose and no bad in the party you support. It involves blind admiration for the leader of your party and dismissive rejection of the leaders of opposing parties. It involves ascribing the worst motives to those on the other side of the fence and the best motives to those on your side. Tribal thinking can be bigoted, irrational and capable of real malice. To get a taste of this read some of the almost invariably anonymous comments about  my posts on this site or Twitter or the National Business Review which republishes what I write.

Tribal politics draws no distinction between the person and the party they support. It’s as if being Labour, National, Green, a follower of Winston or Colin Craig  was part of your DNA – permanent, irreversible and , perhaps worst, capable of explaining everything about you. “Typical Labour!” is the commonest term of disapproval I read about myself when I’ve written a post or left a comment on Twitter or Facebook. The words stick to me like the label on a supermarket apple.

But there’s nothing “typically Labour” about me. And the truth of the matter is that I could never join the Labour Party or any other party, because that would compel me to think  tribally rather than thinking for myself and saying what I thought.

Which is why I say that tribal politics inevitably involves the death of reason. If you really think that a political party, your political party, is the only viable option or can do no wrong, you’ve given up thinking.

On the other hand, it’s a very, very comfortable position to be in.

, , , , , , , , ,

66 Comments:

  1. Tribalism in politics is the death of reason. It involves seeing no good in the parties you oppose and no bad in the party you support.

    OK, that’s fair enough, but how would you apply this lesson to cases where political polarisation has increased as it has in many countries? There has been a marked shift to the radical right that has even alienated many former conservative politicians.

    For example, it is widely known that the US Republicans have tacked wildly to the right in the last 30 years to a degree that the Democrats haven’t really tacked to the left. I can’t say that I thought either Bob Dole or Bush pere were unreasonable people, but the current lot of Republican candidates are absolutely demented. Similarly, the famous “Red Tories” of Canada are now a largely extinct species, and in NZ the same sort of people have migrated to Winston’s party. And even Malcolm Fraser thinks that Tony Abbott is a dangerous bigot.

    I guess I am on the left, although I rarely vote, but even I can see a difference between NZ’s National government and the British Tories – the former just annoy me, the latter I can’t help seeing as deeply scary loons.

    Tribal thinking can be bigoted, irrational and capable of real malice. To get a taste of this read some of the almost invariably anonymous comments about my posts on this site or Twitter or the National Business Review which republishes what I write.

    Where is this malice coming from? There’s a lot of stuff thrown around in the blogosphere on all sides, but I’ve seen no evidence of this malice actually finding its way into Labour’s political strategy, whereas we all know what’s been going on elsewhere (even Colin Craig has had enough of it).

    I guess I’m asking whether yours is a “both sides are bad” post, in which case I would respectfully disagree.

  2. Politics is represented as a zero-sum game in the media, so it’s not surprising when people start believing it to be true.

  3. I’m kind of in the same boat, Brian, except that I come now from a position of realising that most socialist goals are unattainable by bureaucratic interventions and these usually do much more harm than good.

    So though I have never been a member of any political party since the Values Party and have voted against National more often than for it I find myself defending it often against the bitter and one-eyed party political attacks you describe. Ironically, if the attacks against it were less virulent and ill-founded there are plenty of good reasons to criticise it.

  4. I also consider the policies you describe above to be where I would like the world to be.I can never understand why people condem these policies.
    Alan you speak of Socialism as an absolute. As with many political ideologies, in practice it becomes a series of compromises.

    • 4.1

      Absolute? Brian described it as haves caring for have-nots implemented through taxation. However it goes much further than that into controlling every facet of our lives via an avalanche of legislation and regulation.

      • 4.1.1

        Now that last sentence is paranoid.

        • 4.1.1.1

          Really? Tell us something that is not regulated.

          • 4.1.1.1.1

            The fact that you are hysterically afraid of regulation is paranoid.
            Regulation is what keeps civilization from being uncivilized. Without some form of regulation the greedy and uncaring would rule.
            I assume that if you were robbed or assaulted you wouldn’t call the police because they enforce regulations.
            Perhaps you approve of limited regulation – just enough to suit you but not enough to help the have-nots. “Up ladder, Jack; I’m inboard.”

            • 4.1.1.1.1.1

              Oh, so you can’t think of any facet of our lives that is not regulated and therefore have to invent the straw man that I am afraid of regulation. Pathetic.

              • 4.1.1.1.1.1.1

                So you’re not afraid of regulation. At odds, however, with your 4.1 but I’m glad you’re seeing the light.
                Then you do “approve of limited regulation – just enough to suit you but not enough to help the have-nots. ‘Up ladder, Jack; I’m inboard.'”
                There are, as you well know, many examples of things which are not regulated but I’ll not be distracted by your silly game.
                Perhaps you’d care to comment on how much regulation you approve of. Just enough to make you rich and to Hell with the have-nots, I assume.
                Any “straw men” in the above? I’m sure you’ll find some to avoid answering.

                • 4.1.1.1.1.1.1.1

                  Straw men? Yep, full of them as usual. Your posts are brain dumps, irrelevant to reality.

                  How much regulation I approve of? Sufficient to provide security of life, property and freedom; and to ensure an informed community with optimum opportunity for all. No more than that.

        • Really?

          I shake my head in wonderment that you actually needed any elections in New Zealand from the 1950s to the end of the 1970s. There was a consensus in politics between the two major parties. Yet folks then were tribal, especially Labour folks. It IS a tribal party. Or at least as a former member and voter I see it that way. Talk of “Tories” and saints like MJ Savage!

          But looking back I think Rob Muldoon was the most capable administrator of the command economy and welfare state bequeathed to the two generations of Kiwis from 1935 onwards. If anyone could make it work, then Muldoon had the knowledge, skill, stamina and motivations.

          I’m not talking Muldoon and stuff like Springbok tours and what he described as the “fashionable/trendy” issues of the 1970s. Instead, at his core he WAS in many ways the archetypal Labour finance politician.

          Yet tribal Labour supporters (where is Kat, btw?) denigrate him as an economic bungler, or the devil incarnate. Probably because there were elements of his personal style, and also his policies (Universal National Super) that appealed to “working-class” voters who defected from Labour.

          But when you dig down, they have little basis on which to make that claim, when, even now, Labour folk still speak Muldoon’s language of progressive taxes, “regional development” (wasn’t ‘Think Big’ the ultimate example?) and government intervention in significant parts of national life (like building 100,000 houses in 10 years).

          Sounds like legislation and regulation to me.

          • 4.1.1.2.1

            Do you know anything about how Muldoon worked? How New Zealand came to be bankrupted by his policies. He did not make judgements about the financial health of New Zealand because he was a good finance minister – he used Treasury money to win. Hence universal superannuation which won him the 1975 election (but of course there were many Labour blunders that helped). He kept the farmers vote with support payments for sheep – and even he groaned when he saw paddocks dotted with sheep all of which he had to make payouts. Most of his financial decisions were made to keep his party in power, including Think Big when he was getting desperate. And in the end we were bankrupt.
            Pragmatic tribal politics indeed.

            • 4.1.1.2.1.1

              And that is the standard critique from both

              1. Die hard Labour “socialists”, and also the Roger gnomes. And they give it for the same self-serving justifications.

              Yet if you think about it, Muldoon’s policies were all in keeping with what the 1935 Labour Government decreed was necessary for

              1. A cradle to the grave social welfare scheme, and

              2. the means to fund it with agricultural commodities, and

              3. an employment and public works infrastructure to deliver it.

              If you are the same Margaret Hayward who wrote the “Diary of the Kirk Years” (great book, btw, and it certainly had an influence on my early political thought and action), I realise that is a heresy to the basic premise of your work. Pity.

              As I posted below, Big Norm and Rob Muldoon, with the exception of Foreign Affairs and Kirk’s visionary capacity compared to Muldoon’s incurable pragmatism, were peas in a pod.

              For example, I remember reading in that book that Kirk considered Muldoon didn’t care for poor people. With respect for the good judgement Kirk otherwise demonstrated, that is so far from the truth as to be…rampant tribalism.

              But Labour folks at the time (and now) are usually too emotionally committed to the fantasy Muldoon was another Pinochet to see the truth. IMHO.

          • 4.1.1.2.2

            Isn’t that just saying that the areas of debate were different back then.

            Im reminded of Hunter S Thompson’s attitude towards Nixon. He loathed the man, but admitted late in life that were Nixon running with the same policies he would vote for him. I’d vote for Muldoon over any of the present bunglers, but Kirk over him.

            • 4.1.1.2.2.1

              I’d have Muldoon over Kirk, including when it came to running that command-style economy…except in the matter of Foreign Affairs.

              With the exception of Peter Fraser for a few days at the formation of the United Nations, Big Norm was our first genuine Minister of Foreign Affairs.

              But I look at the two and marvel they used to demonise one another, and their followers used to buy-in to the rgetoric. They were were so similar in many ways, be it up-bringing, personality, policies, conceptions of what the State could do – and had to do.

              But that is a good assessment of Nixon – set up the EPA, introduced a working-for-families-scheme years ahead of its time, was a genuine De-segregationist.

              And he was most certainly different from McGovern!

              • 4.1.1.2.2.1.1

                I’d vote for Pierre Trudeau over any of them.

              • 4.1.1.2.2.1.2

                I forgot to say that when I taught media ethics for a couple of years I would always play the Dancing Cossacks commercial to the students. What’s so interesting about it is that it is immediately followed by Muldoon sitting at a desk and patiently explaining in detail his super policy and why it is different from Labour’s. It puts the cartoon into context, but it’s just so weird by today’s standards. Imagine a current politician treating the public like adults.

                • 4.1.1.2.2.1.2.1

                  Careful, Lee.

                  Your dispassionate and astute analysis will have the likes of Kat having to forsake their legend of the stolen 1975 CIA-Hanna Barbera election!

                  Then again, some never forget…and never learn

  5. In general and over the long-haul the market economy delivers the greatest amount of wealth to the greatest number of people. There are some things where the market economy cannot, or at least SHOULD not be allowed free rein, and they properly belong in the domain of the state. e.g., waging a war.

    However, some people, due to circumstances, genetics, culture, whatever are incapable of consistently accessing via the free market certain goods and services. Or they take a lot of time and resources and remedial work to be brought up to speed. If that is one-off stuff like cell phones, well, no great loss. Which is why, when it comes to making our money in the world, we embraced Rogernomics.

    But if we are talking housing, education, health services and social assistance for the “vagaries of life”, then I’m a socialist. As are most Kiwis. So too, judging by their record is the current government. Maybe not to the extent that their critics would have it.

    There may be attempts to nibble around the edges (e.g., charter schools), but the big rocks are in place for at least the next generation.

    Only ACT, the Greens, and Mana (not currently in Parliament) classify as true ideological “tribes”. Attempts by politicians to rally their base by demonising their opponents is simply a ploy to increase their “market share”.

    • 5.1

      In general and over the long-haul the market economy delivers the greatest amount of wealth to the greatest number of people.

      From what you’ve said, don’t you mean the mixed economy? If so, sure.

      • Yeah, Ok.

        But for the paradigm from 1935-84, and since 1984 the political debate is about what do we tinker at the margins.

        Tax rate cuts would be an example. The changes made since 2008 are relatively negligible, and like most Kiwis, I fail see to see why folks get real upset about them. Those who do are tribalists – IMHO

        • 5.1.1.1

          But for the paradigm from 1935-84, and since 1984 the political debate is about what do we tinker at the margins.

          Sure, we still have a welfare state, but in the western world real wages have supposedly been falling or stagnant for decades, and inequality has been rising since the so called “great compression” of the mid 20th century. Much of this has been disguised with easy credit and cheap goods from China.

          Tax rate cuts would be an example. The changes made since 2008 are relatively negligible, and like most Kiwis, I fail see to see why folks get real upset about them.

          That’s true. I think it is pointless to quibble about those differences as they are relatively small. The real changes came much earlier with radical lowering of top income tax rates and the imposition of the regressive GST. I don’t see that much difference between Labour and National to be honest – they’re all bloody useless IMHO. The true differences are between people who would like to see the equivalent of Nordic social democracy and those who are happy with the current state of affairs.

          On the other hand, the hysterical response in Britain to the candidacy of Jeremy Corbyn demonstrates how weak the current system is. I actually agree with David Graeber about this: the current politico-economic system isn’t really designed with economic efficiency in mind – it’s a wholly political project. It hasn’t really produced spectacular growth and it hasn’t actually done much to shrink the size of the state or promote worthwhile free enterprise. What it has done is neuter the ability of poor and regular folk to get a bigger slice of the pie.

  6. Well Brian how about the notion we get rid of the oppositional political party structure the suffocating stigma of ‘left’ or ‘right’ do away with tribalism and all the inherent sub-factions and just run the country with an elected executive scrutinised by a wider elected body made up of people of various backgrounds and differing minds all gathered together under a common roof with a common purpose.

    Crikey, we could even use the existing parliament buildings.

    Consensus democracy anyone?

    • Isn’t that what India had for over a generation with the Congress Party? They didn’t stand for anything in particular, but everyone just joined?

      Adversarial politics (or at least the form of it) has served our form of government well for over two centuries. Plus the only time anyone acts like they are reaching across the aisle for a grand consensus to “bring the nation together” (Lange in 1984) is to sell us moon beams and monkey shit.

      Politicians are politicians. Always will be.

      • “A policy is a temporary creed liable to be changed, but while it holds good it has got to be pursued with apostolic zeal.” Mahatma Gandhi.

        David Lange had great respect for Mahatma Gandhi.

  7. I see where you’re coming from—I think—but I don’t entirely agree.

    I am a “card carrying” member of a political party and have wherever I’ve lived. IN Canada it was the New Democratic Party; here it’s Labour. Both are social democratic, though the policies put forth by either have occilated along the spectrum of policy ideas.

    Under the Westminster system (and its bastard children), parties and their leadership drive policy. I am entirely prepared to quit Labour and join another party of I find they’ve lost their way entirely. But I’d much rather engage from within and challenge ideas I think are problematic. Which happens rather often.

    Not through seeking influence; with other party members. When those sorts of exchanges of ideas are missing, I’ll be gone.

    Sample size n=1, mind you.

  8. I’m an expat Kiwi who was a kid in shorts before I started a decades-long career in journalism. You are one of the reasons for that.

  9. An admitted socialist, but of the chardonnay variety?

    I’m reminded of the saying “My country, right or wrong” – extreme loyalty is always looked upon more favourably when its about nationalism, not party politics.

    Fewer people would agree with “My party, right or wrong” without the later addition “when right to be kept right, when wrong to be set right”.

    The main political issues of today are about the extent of socialism, not whether it should be removed entirely. eg the parties disagree about the size of welfare payments, not their existence, or the generosity of the public health system and the required tax rates to pay for it, not whether it should be replaced with a fully private system.

    This is actually a good thing – politicians may seem a bit ridiculous having heated squabbles about minor differences when what they are really arguing about is whose nose will get to be in the trough – but the alternative of having much larger differences in policy and philosophy would be much more disconcerting whatever side you were on.

    • I agree with your analysis Steve. The differences are fairly clear though, one tribe subscribes to the ‘trickle down’ theory as BE puts it and the other a more evenly distributed share of the nations wealth.

      As long as we have a political system that requires the nailing of colours to the mast we will have tribal politics and all the accompanying discourse.

      • 9.1.1

        The trickle down theory is a Lefty myth of the same veracity as the holiday highway.

        My tribe believes in social and economic freedom and opportunity – and looks for ways to increase that for everyone. That is a philosophical position, not a political party one.

        • Alan, I can always rely on you to give weight to my words, albeit, sometimes unwittingly on your part.

          • 9.1.1.1.1

            Since you calibrate your own scales, Kat, you will always be happy with their readout.

            • Thank you for the compliment, Alan, accuracy is always important no matter how it is achieved.

        • 9.1.1.2

          My tribe believes in social and economic freedom and opportunity – and looks for ways to increase that for everyone.

          Your kind of freedom has proven incompatible with modernity.

          • 9.1.1.2.1

            I disagree, Lee. If there are two characteristics of modernity they are surely both increasing personal freedom and increasing bureaucratic control. That is the tension and conflict.

            • 9.1.1.2.1.1

              It’s a different kind of freedom. Classical liberals value negative freedom, or non-interference. Modern societies have somewhat dumped that in favour of positive freedom – the power to actually get stuff you want done.

              Hence, every citizen of a modern society submits to a great deal of regulation and interference, in exchange for which they receive first world healthcare, education and opportunities and freedoms that dwarf anything the 18th and 19th century offered. Yet some people constantly complain about big government, when big government is what allows this to happen.

              • 9.1.1.2.1.1.1

                The Left’s notion of freedom is where the state defines and regulates everything you are allowed to do and how to do it. That will never be mine. I will be glad to die before it is achieved.

                • 9.1.1.2.1.1.1.1

                  So Alan, from what you say does that mean National are now ‘left’?

                • 9.1.1.2.1.1.1.2

                  Frequently, Kat. However, less so than the alternatives.

                • 9.1.1.2.1.1.1.3

                  The Left’s notion of freedom is where the state defines and regulates everything you are allowed to do and how to do it. That will never be mine. I will be glad to die before it is achieved.

                  Then I’m afraid you’ve missed your date with the Grim Reaper by about 70 years.

                  Modern capitalism requires heavy regulation to work. For example, when the communist countries converted to capitalist societies, they had to pass mountains of law. The task of working out rules for who rightfully owns what is a fiendishly complex task given the vast variety of things that can be owned as well as the arrangements people want to make.

                  Similarly, by using its power to correct for market failures, the state is able to provide every citizen with first world health insurance at a price far cheaper than the market can do (and which in NZ you can supplement if you want to) and a first world education too. Simply having health insurance and being literate opens up vast opportunities for people. Why complain about the slight loss of negative freedoms when the gain in terms of positive freedoms is colossal?

                  What you want to do is take us back to a past of poverty and diminished opportunities for most people.

                • 9.1.1.2.1.1.1.4

                  “The task of working out rules for who rightfully owns what is a fiendishly complex task given the vast variety of things that can be owned as well as the arrangements people want to make.”

                  No, the Common Law evolved over centuries of judicial decisions to establish property and contract law and we inherited it.

                  The vast proportion of legislation and regulation concerns what you are allowed to do and how the state will tax it, not contract and property law.

                  State provided health care is a basic safety net but at the higher end leaves the bureaucracy deciding who will live and who will die; who will be repaired and who will be left to suffer.

                  Good education was provided long before the state found it necessary to micromanage our lives. Your examples are nonsense.

      • …which is why Key and English retained Working for Families, Kiwisaver, and interest-free student loans – all of them the big ticket new social initiatives of the previous Clark/Cullen administration?!

        The truth is, as they always have, both National and Labour adhere to the mixed economy.

        National is happy to put its emphasis on the lot of business people in the belief that you can’t meet social unless you have the economy to deliver it.

        In contrast Labour is happy to put its emphasis on those who struggle to access the full opportunities and benefits of the economy. Oh, yes – and to give credit where it is due, they do pursue a more independent foreign policy…or at least one that goes beyond the almost purely pragmatic (“how does this benefit us economically”) of the Nats.

        But that is IT. Statements to the contrary confirm your incurable tribalism, Kat.

        The reason elections get nasty is not because of the differences (why bother when voters can easily distinguish from one another?), but because of the similarities of the two main parties.

        Despite what every Labour tribalist would like to believe (including those foolishly predicting victory just before the Hager-hijacked fiasco last year), no post-war election has ever been won by veering left.

        Instead, the middle is where you win.

        • You don’t have a clue about me Kimbo. Your ramblings are way off the mark and I don’t belong to the ‘tribe’ you think I do. In fact I don’t belong to or are a member of any political tribe. I just can’t tolerate bad govt like the one we have at present.

          I do agree though that the middle is where its at in this country and it could equally be argued no post war election has ever been won by veering right.

          • 9.1.2.1.1

            1987? 1951?

            • Alan, neither of those elections were a significant veer in any direction? The difference in the popular vote in 1951 and 1987 was minimal.

              • 9.1.2.1.1.1.1

                Hardly.

                The 1951 election followed the hard-line conservative action against the waterfront strikers.

                “The 1951 election saw the governing National Party re-elected with a twenty-seat margin, a substantial improvement on the twelve-seat margin it previously held. This was the last New Zealand general election in which any party has ever captured a majority of the popular vote.”

                The 1987 election followed the revolutionary economic liberalisation driven by Roger Douglas. His Labour party increased its share of the vote from 43% to 48% despite Bob Jones’ right wing NZ Party falling from 12% to near zero as its founder pulled out having got rid of Muldoon.

                • 9.1.2.1.1.1.1.1

                  Alan, this is where accuracy is important. In 1951 National won 54% of the popular vote to Labour’s 46%. Thats 8% difference. In 1987 there was a 4% difference in the popular vote in Labours favour. In both elections the gap between ‘left’ and ‘right’ closed by a larger extent than the seat count would indicate. Fairly middling I would say.

                  Hardly a veering left or right then, but it depends what tent you are in I guess.

        • 9.1.2.2

          The truth is, as they always have, both National and Labour adhere to the mixed economy.

          That’s no longer really enough. Sure, there’s a general consensus on how to run a more or less prosperous society, although neither side can stop itself from unwarranted giveaways to its own partisans (National being worse than Labour at this in recent times). It seems that MMP is doing a good job of insulating NZ from the current insane level of cuts in the UK, and there’s limits to what any government of such a small country can do.

          However, if we don’t seriously address our environmental externalities, we really are screwed, or at least our kids are. It’s not even that hard to do.

          • 9.1.2.2.1

            Most urban dwellers wouldn’t have a clue about “environmental externalities” since their “knowledge” would be entirely second-hand. And none of us have a clue about what knowledge and technologies will be available to our coming generations to deal with their future problems. We do best to deal with our own.

            • 9.1.2.2.1.1

              Most urban dwellers wouldn’t have a clue about “environmental externalities” since their “knowledge” would be entirely second-hand.

              That’s entirely true and is the reason why, if our society is to manage them, it will have to deal with environmental issues the same way we deal with medicines – heavily regulating them through scientific consensus and marginalising public debate on it.

              And none of us have a clue about what knowledge and technologies will be available to our coming generations to deal with their future problems.

              That looks like a version of the argument from ignorance, which is fallacious. The rational response is, instead, to rely upon our best, educated guess given the information we have. For example, it would be foolish to take up smoking thinking that there might be a cure for lung cancer in 20 years, knowing what we know about that kind of cancer.

              • 9.1.2.2.1.1.1

                Depends on the timescale. A decade is partly foreseeable. A generation less so. Three generations and we have no idea. That is why investments are measured against a discount rate that devalues their future value.

                (And why Lord Stern’s argument for prevention of climate change was unmitigated nonsense since he used an absurdly low discount rate to claim it was economic and affordable. It was neither.)

                • 9.1.2.2.1.1.1.1

                  That is why investments are measured against a discount rate that devalues their future value.

                  That’s not the appropriate way for looking at the issue. The costs of failure are fairly well known and catastrophic to boot. We’re dealing with a much longer timescale here, much like that of the people who constructed the great cathedrals of mediaeval Europe. We need to make the most informed guess that we can and use our best guess making social institution (the natural sciences) to do so. Even if it is wrong, it is our duty to do so. It so happens that the basic science of the issue is quite clear. The history is even clearer with the wreckage of civilisations that couldn’t manage their environments.

                  Your solution is like the person who keeps smoking because they will have found a cure by the time he gets lung cancer.

                • 9.1.2.2.1.1.1.2

                  Wrong on many counts. The costs are not well known. The physical consequences are not well known. The basic science is exceptionally complex. The discount rate is an essential factor in comparing mitigation versus prevention strategies. We have no duty to kill people now by misallocation of resources on far fetched presumptions we are going to save lives in the distant future.

  10. Brian, I’m bemused. You say you’re not tribal, yet you must have been perceived to be so once, because you were accepted by the Labour Party as a candidate. Have you shed tribalism as part of the aging process, a consequence of maturity and a dulling of the flames, a diminution of the blind passion that presumably drives people to do such daft things as standing for Parliament. You are far too seasoned and reasonable to be a politician now, more is the pity.

    • Well, the truth of the matter is that I had no particular yen to be an MP. What happened was that the good Labour people of Miramar came to me and asked me to stand for them. I was unemployed and penniless at the time and it was in part a kindness on their part. They were also keen to get rid of the National Party incumbent, Bill Young, the ultimate parish pump politician, and thought that a formerly famous TV interviewer might just do the trick. I have great admiration for those lovely people who kept the wolf from the door throughout and after my (failed) campaign. They also had to deal with the fact that Norman Kirk was implacably opposed to my candidature. Anyway, these were the days before de facto relationships were the norm and Truth was instrumental in putting a full stop to my chances of winning the seat. It was close though. 1972 was a huge year for Labour, as you know, and I admit I shed a few tears on the morning after the election not to be part of that groundswell. It was over it by lunchtime though. I recall strongly advising Simon Walker not to make the same mistake as me. Cheers Jim!

  11. 11

    I agree that blind following and thoughtless opposition are not conducive to a healthy democracy.

    On the other hand …
    Being righteously non-tribal could be fence-sitting and/or sitting on the sidelines and critiquing rather than participating.

    Those of us who choose a tribe do so because of shared values. Once ‘in the tent’ it is possible to influence the policy development and the choice of leaders, reprsentatives and office holders.

    A healthy democracy requires good people to become active participants.

    • Participation is just as valid by actively critiquing the incumbent govt and opposition parties and voting every three years. That doesn’t necessitate being inside tribal tents.

  12. There is something unreasonable about the warring bodies facing death as depicted in your picture, Brian.

    No, I refer not to what appears the forces of St. George vs the hot cross buns :-).

    Tis the fact of war by horsemen(the women had more sense back then) + archers. The latter seldom face-to-face, as shown. Most often archers fired into the air thus bringing down a rain of death upon the enemy.

    Of course, showing the arrows in flight is more difficult for such a frame. But who would really care? Bows means arrows.. and a shimmering shadow overhead would convey deployment.

    What has this to do with politics? Fair question. Lest we forget: politics has been defined as war by any other means. Accuracy, historical and/or otherwise, aids both such a definition, and the distinctions between winners and losers.

    Commendable, too, for those practising non-tribal preferences. Let us hope that the media, for one, not lose sight of this.

  13. 13

    In reply to 4.1.1.1.1.1.1.1
    No coherent answers, just insults. Ah, well . . .

  14. 14

    Your delusions and illusions remain divorced from reality and you epitomize Brian’s thesis.