New Zealanders, at least those with a libertarian leaning, are faced with a familiar dilemma in next month's election - do we vote for socialists with odious principles or conservatives with none?
The current National-led government has been hopeless for those of us who value freedom. It has enacted a plethora of legislation and regulations that reduce our rights to privacy, free speech, equality under the law and even universal suffrage. The GCSB Amendment Act and the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act significantly increased the government's rights to intercept our private communications. The Harmful Digital Communications Act made it an offence to say or publish anything that is 'abusive' or 'insulting'. And the long-promised Resource Legislation Amendment Bill did nothing to lessen the bureaucratic barriers to development but gave unelected Maori tribal elites joint control over local government planning and consent processes. All of this from a party that is supposed to stand for equal citizenship, individual freedom and choice, personal responsibility and limited government. I have nothing but contempt for such hypocrites.
The Labour Party is at least a little more honest about its intentions, announcing increases in state spending across the board. It says it does not plan to increase income tax other than cancelling the derisory tax cuts National has promised for next year, but has said it will introduce new taxes on water (as if water is not already taxed through water rates), visitors to New Zealand, and to set up a tax working group (presumably to figure out how they can get more money out of us).
The Taxpayers Union rates New Zealand First the worst party for election bribes at a cost of more than $13,000 per household, ahead of Labour on more than $11,000, but National is making a late run by more than doubling its bribes in the last week alone. The National Party's lolly scramble is particularly hypocritical after they recast the Labour Party's new election slogan "Let's Do This" as "Let's Tax This."
The only vaguely libertarian party in this election is ACT, but with only one MP and polling under 1%, it is not going to have much influence even in a centre-right government. The best we can hope for is for its sole MP, David Seymour, to continue the sterling work he has been doing pushing for his End of Life Choice Bill allowing voluntary euthanasia.
The least bad option, much as it galls me to say it, is another National-led government tempered by a coalition partner that will constrain its big state ambitions. New Zealand First may be the best choice because it is opposed to the further expansion of Maori tribal privilege, which I think presents a greater long term threat to freedom in this country than that party's profligacy.
It's Hobson's choice.