Some critical votes around the world loom - the Voice referendum in Australia, the Presidential election in the States (ok, in dates, a long way off, but in candidates gearing up to trump one another, it is all happening now) - and here in NZ our triennial General Election.
Why "critical" here in the Blessed Isles?
My concern is the direction of travel our economy is travelling in. We don't seem to be in great shape. Perhaps we cannot do any better - it is always the case that we are somewhat subject to global winds etc (if so, let's vote for the incumbents). Perhaps we can - we are not completely powerless (if so, let's vote for change).
In my understanding of modern, Western, liberal democracies, the economy matters for any aspiration we have: improving housing, health, education, defence capabilities, welfare for the vulnerable, superannuation for the, ahem, older persons [I may be biased on this one!!] - all need $$$. And the basic question for any election is not whether Christchurch will host the Commonwealth Games in 2026 [nuts!!] or whether the Government should provide free (basic) dental care for all [actually a meritable, Green Party proposal], but how we produce $$$, how we should tax those $$$, and what is a wise, fair and fruitful distribution of those $$$ (i.e. when we cannot do everything we conceivably would like to do with taxed $$$, what is highest and best use for them)?
Should we change the Government? If so, to what party or combo of parties?
I don't want to answer that question here since that then becomes quite directive. But I am happy to make a few observations :)
1. I find each party has a policy or policies I could vote for AND a policy or policies I would prefer not to vote for [but I will vote, so I may have to swallow a dead policy rat].
Now, sure, that could be said pretty much every election, but this election my own assessment is that some policies are very objectional!
2. I am concerned about talk of a "wealth tax" (Greens, Te Pati Maori). In principle we who are not wealthy could warmly vote for such a policy. In practice, what would the effects of such a policy be? For example, if it drove wealthy NZers overseas, or to at least re-locate the headquarters of their businesses overseas (i.e. in a more friendly tax environment), would we damage our economy, not only resulting in fewer tax dollars than anticipated but also in fewer jobs?
For non-Down Under readers: there are always possibilities for Kiwis to re-locate to Australia when we don't like how things are here. We cannot operate an economy here which ignores Australian realities such as their housing affordability, wage rates and tax rates.
3. Shouldn't we put more (political) energy into growing our economy so the tax take grows with it in a natural way? Everyone benefits from a growing economy (even though, acknowledged, people will benefit in different ways and to different degrees).
4. Which party both addresses fundamental questions of education - we seem to have decreasing rather than increasing rates of literacy and numeracy - and proposes achievable answers to the questions?
Again, "it's the economy!" Economies grow with better education.
5. Is war looming in the Pacific? If so, which party is best geared to respond, whatever "respond" means or should mean? Are we too dependent economically on China? (The answer pretty much is "yes"!) Can we change that? What value do we place on human rights and freedom of speech - in China right now, and here if (or, as) China's influence grows?
It is not clear to me that any of our political parties is willing to engage with these questions with boldness and frankness.
6. In the plethora of talk about bicultural life here, and longings for or fears of "co-governance", we need to find a way to honour the Treaty of Waitangi, to improve the well-being of Maori in Aotearoa New Zealand today, and to work for justice.
All parties have something to say on this, but all parties are not united in what they are saying ...
For Christians, there are a number of issues touched on above (and other issues not touched on here) which invite us to consider what it means to be a society with each member a human being made in the image of God, with resources available to meet our material needs, and possibilities for providing opportunities for the flourishing of the human spirit.
Lord, guide us!