Monday, September 18, 2017

The Politics of Jesus: who would Jesus vote for this election?

Crunch time. Votes to be cast by end of this Saturday 23rd September 2017. Who to vote for? Jacinda? Bill? Winston? James? Marama? Gareth? I'll concentrate here on the "party vote" but there is also the question of which local person to vote to become your local MP.*

If the criterion of your vote is voting for the winning side, well, good luck predicting that!

If the criterion of your vote is voting for a government which will keep NZ running well, planes flying, etc, then good luck with that!

If the criterion of your vote is voting for a government which has already informed you what their taxation policy is, then very good luck with that.

Perhaps you fancy gaining some insight from the partners of the prospective Prime Ministers? Then this article might help. But, then again, it might not, as each partner thinks their stumping partner is perfick!

If you do not fancy, as I do not, having Winston Peters being the queen or king maker, then, almost certainly, no predictions required, you and I will be disappointed!

But enough of secular political punditry (on which I fancy myself having some expertise :),) what would Jesus do?

Who would Jesus vote for this Saturday? (Well, okay, he was an observant Jew, so probably would cast an early vote so as not to do that sort of work on the Sabbath.)

It is tempting, incidentally, and I think some Christians will do this, to vote for Bill English (because a Christian, a married man and a family man) and not for Jacinda Ardern (because she is not married to her partner, not even engaged, and because she is not a committed Christian - she has distanced herself from her upbringing as a Mormon). Alongside that "moral approach" to voting decision-making, I would bring to bear this question: how honest is Bill English the politician? There are significant questions about his honesty in respect of the imbroglio over Todd Barclay and, more recently, a question about his continuing support for Murray McCully's shambolic if not dishonest performance explaining away an apparent bribe to a a Saudi sheikh.

What I think Jesus would do is to do what Jesus always did, which was to talk and act with a preference for the last, the least and the lost.

This election we are well aware that even if the country is working pretty well for many of us (who have jobs, who live in houses we can afford to rent or pay the mortgage for, who can pay our bills and buy good food for our families), it is not working well for all.

We have the last, the least and the lost among us - homeless, jobless, hungry, poor, waiting on hospital lists for treatment - to say nothing of those who feel hopeless and, perhaps, are turning to drugs as a result. Not all such situations can be fixed by government legislation and government department intervention. Some such situations could be helped significantly by the government governing better (e.g. using current tax revenue better) and by the government having more resources at its disposal (i.e. by raising more tax revenue).

But, just before we jump to the conclusion that Jesus would necessarily vote for one of our left-wing parties, it is worth remembering that Jesus was intelligent and wise. I think we could also assume that Jesus would not be so stupid as to vote for a solution to the problems of the last, the least and the lost which foreseeably would take us into a socialist world liable to become bankrupt (cf. Venezuela) or totalitarian (cf. anti-Christian Soviet Union, China).

In other words, Jesus would be a centrist like me!

OK, maybe not. But thinking like Jesus would think should bring into our minds both compassion and wisdom, both concern for people in need (think Parable of the Good Samaritan) and concern for society flourishing over the long-term in respect of freedom, sound economy, solid institutions (think Proverbs).

It might also be worth thinking about how Green Jesus would be, if voting in this election. As supreme Agent of Creation, I find it hard to think of Jesus as being unconcerned about how polluted our rivers, lakes and underground water supplies are becoming (think Genesis 1-2).

Trying to think Christianly in this way may or may not help us to finally determine which party we will vote for, because this way of thinking, leaves a number of options open to us. But it might also make us think a bit harder about which party we would vote for - it might make us pray more for good discernment.

I know which party I am voting for but won't say here. I am happy to say whom I am voting for in my intriguing local electorate, Ilam, where the incumbent National MP, Gerry Brownlee, is apparently being chased hard by a popular city councillor, Raf Manji, standing as an independent. My vote, however, is going to Tony Rimell, the Labour candidate and a Baptist minister here in Christchurch. In his favour is the fact that he is the only candidate I know personally!

*For overseas readers, NZ has a Mixed Member Proportional voting system in which each voter has two votes. One vote is for the local electorate MP, the other vote is for the preferred  party to govern. The latter vote determines, proportionally, the make-up of parliament with MPs being drawn in from party lists to make up the proportionality required after the electorate MPs are taken into account. Theoretically a party could score >50% of the votes and govern alone but in practice no government has been formed under MMP without either a formal coalition with one or more other parties and/or a confidence-and-supply agreement with one or more other parties.

A further point of history to bear in mind: not since 1969 has NZ elected a government for a fourth term. The present National-led government has governed for three terms. The arc of history bends against a return of a National-led government, but the arc of history is a quaint notion and not a law of the Medes and Persians.


Anonymous said...

"One vote is for the local electorate MP, the other vote is for the preferred party to govern."

Elegant. I like it.

"The latter vote determines, proportionally, the make-up of parliament with MPs being drawn in from party lists to make up the proportionality required..."

Fine. The Westminster system.

"...after the electorate MPs are taken into account."

What? I think that you are saying that the size of your parliament is elastic. If voters generally support the same party in both votes cast, the size of the parliament will approach its minimum. Conversely, if voters overwhelmingly vote to give power to parties that few choose to represent constituencies, then its size will approach its maximum. Or did you mean something else?

I have often thought that each of our two parties should control each house of our Congress for a proportion of time equal to its share of the aggregate vote for all members of the respective house. Neither party would control either house all of the time. Presently, most Americans vote for Democrats for the lower house, but it is still controlled by the Republicans. This is because we only have single member districts, and the distributions of voters into districts ensures that more districts lean Republican.

Under either system, our two parties could campaign for and against starting the Third World War in the North Pacific. If we had your system, the voters would get what they (think they) want. If we had my system, then the voters would get debate about what they (think they) want, but not necessarily action.

Alas, a war there that could touch all of our lives is very likely no matter how voters there or here feel about that. Praying matters more than voting.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
Whoops, I forgot to say, the "ideal" parliament for our system is 120 seats (minimum).

Also forgotten was to mention that if a party wins no electorate seats it must win 5% of the total votes cast to gain members in parliament from its list. Conversely if a party wins at least one electorate seat then it is entitled to its proportion of members according to vote whether or not it reaches the 5% threshold, i.e. at around 1.2% of the vote, such a party would achieve a second member of parliament.

[The 5% minimum or 1 electorate seat minimum is designed to keep out extremist parties which have tiny voting adherence. No early 1930s National Socialism allowed ... I think we are copying the German parliament of today at this point.]

What this means, however, is that a party which wins no electorate seats but, say, wins 4.9% of the vote leads to a situation in which those votes are discarded in terms of making up the proportionality of parliament so that a party achieving 47% of the total vote might then garner 61 of 120 seats. Also, an overhang can occur if a party wins more electorate seats than its share of the total party votes cast. This is most likely to happy with our Maori seats because a party focused on Maori issues might pick up two of these seats while only gaining 1% of the total party votes. In that situation parliament can expand to 121+ seats in order for the proportionality requirement to be met.

I suppose mathematicians somewhere are working out the theoretical maximum size of our parliament :)

Brendan McNeill said...

New Zealand is a socialist leaning democracy. Think health, education, accident, sickness, retirement, single parenting, unemployment, and even middle class welfare via ‘working for families’ all subsidized or paid for completely by the tax payer.

In addition, we have a highly graduated and redistributive taxation system. Last year from a Stuff article:
“40% of working age New Zealanders receive more in tax credits and other benefits than they pay in tax. Thousands more are neutral contributors or are very close to it. 3% of the top income earners pay 24% of personal income tax.”

We cannot borrow our way to prosperity, we cannot tax our way to prosperity, we can only work, compete and trade our way to prosperity. The Kiwi businesses that generate wealth and employment compete in an international environment that does not care about equality of outcomes, social justice, or New Zealand’s commitment to the welfare state. This is the fruit of globalism writ large in our local economy. It determines how much you pay for milk, meat and a block of cheese at the supermarket.

Sadly, our democracy contains the seeds of its own destruction. Former US President John Adams said “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

We are rapidly becoming ‘the secular other’. Consequently, any political party that offers to rob Peter to pay Paul is assured of Paul’s vote. When we have more Paul’s than Peter’s the party is over for everyone.

Consequently, if we value democracy, we should vote for the mainstream party that seeks to preserve democracy by placing Paul on a diet. We need a nation of Peter's or we are nothing.

Andrei said...

“40% of working age New Zealanders receive more in tax credits and other benefits than they pay in tax. Thousands more are neutral contributors or are very close to it. 3% of the top income earners pay 24% of personal income tax.

Do you see the self serving sophistry at play here Brendan?

It ignores GST, it ignores all the hidden taxes and excises that go into everything we buy and that also attract GST

When a poor man goes to the supermarket and buys a loaf a bread upon which he subsists probably more than half of what he pays ends up in Big Government hands - it would be an interesting exercise to work out how much the real tax component of the cost a loaf of bread is

There is not too much difference between the Government and " he Godfather" when it comes down to it

At least the original " Godfather " in the book put a premium on family unlike the hopefuls who would lead us - only one of whom is in a regular marital relationship

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrei and Brendan
It would be interesting to know if statisticians working on the concept of net tax contributors include payment of GST in their calculations.

Either way, a point you are making between you is that we all pay tax, quite a bit of tax and there is quite a lot of redistribution of that tax take.

So, National or Labour led, we are quite a socialist country.

A question before us is whether we want to become more socialist ... personally, I am uneasy about the imposition of new taxes. (Though I don't mind a CGT where that is designed, not to change the price of houses, but to make investment in housing on a similar taxation regime to investing in, say, the share market. To a degree we already have that with the "brightline" approach.)

Andrei said...

" It would be interesting to know if statisticians working on the concept of net tax contributors include payment of GST in their calculations."

The answer is in Brendan's statement "Personal Income Tax" - that is the PAYE extracted from the pay packet of the guy holding the stop/go sign and not the money the Government takes from him when he relieves the monotony of his job with a cigarette and a cup of tea during "smoko" with their outrageous tobacco excise duty

But the stop/go man is just a serf of course, a pampered one to be sure when compared to those of equivalent status who are citizens of Burkina Faso but a serf who has to do what he is told never the less.

Under your definition of socialism the Roman Empire at its height was socialistic with the peasantry kept docile with "bread and circuses" and the slaves kept in line with the threat of violence - the whole thing paid for by tribute flowing in to the masters, who fought among themselves for wealth and power

Nothing has changed - the raw materials for the battery of your cell phone were mined by kids working naked for 12 hours a day in the Congo

Father Ron Smith said...

I leave this question to the politicians among you. I have cast my vote(s).