“Waiheke needs the double-deckers like the dolphins need the jet skis”, says this week’s bumper sticker on the island. It comes with a few variations and the concept is easy to expand on in idle moments. “Waiheke needs the double-deckers like polar bears need Trump” for example. Or “Waiheke needs the double-deckers like whales need Exxon”.
By now, the whole planet is catching on to the obvious truth that the 1980s concept of growth at all costs is overstated to the point of being plain wrong. And that GDP does not deliver a measure of anything, least of all social equity, fairness of distribution or measurable improvement in the pressing matters of real life – housing, poverty, jobs and a liveable and educated society.
The focus should be on prosperity and opportunity, not growth per se.
– Economist Shamubeel Eaqub
“Even in fiscal management, performance should be judged for the quality of decisions and how they align with our values, not merely aggregates of deficits and surpluses, or debt,” commentator and former principal economist at the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, Shamubeel Eaqub said this week. He was critiquing Prime Minister Bill English’s Key-esque summary of government policy as ‘growth’.
“The role of government is not to manage the economic and fiscal cycle. Government should be in the business of making long term investments, not spending, on social and physical capital.
“The focus should be on prosperity and opportunity, not growth per se,” said Eaqub.
After this (meteorologically disappointing) summer on Waiheke, the fallacies of “growth” are equally and vividly obvious.
Long before summer came, it was plain that city-side advertising for the island was going to create logistical problems over the holiday season.
Nose-to-tail cars on our arterial road to the shambolic ferries have highlighted the inappropriateness of two-storey buses domineering the grossly overcrowded Matiatia ‘keyhole’ and lumbering around the island as if it is a theme park, tacky signwriting and all.
The supermarket’s ill-considered traffic flows may have been the least of our problems. Getting out of any side road is now a matter of strategy and frustration.
One, if not the only, reason Waiheke has remained such a delightful destination is that it has carefully managed this sort of crass opportunism over decades.
One of the underlying generalisations of our now functionally obsolete and polarized political vocabulary is, as someone pointed out to me a few years ago, that the Left is right at all costs (and thereby easily wronged, but still holding the high moral ground). Those on the Right, by comparison, win at all costs.
Predictably, at the more extreme ends of capitalism through which we are passing, it hasn’t gone well for the Left.
Proved right – and wronged again – American Democrats are being lumbered with blame for the rise and rise of Trump’s demagogic rampage across the rust-belts.
Even though a few minutes of consideration would indicate that the GOP itself was, at the very least, materially negligent to endorse a candidate without so much as a check of his missing tax records. It also held its electoral college members to endorse (yet again) a candidate despite glaring holes in common decency that would have seen any previous president impeached with howls of derision.
Howzat for a win at any cost?
The Free World under US leadership gave us McCarthyism, more dictators in South America than you can shake a stick at and the Middle East in flames. Now civilization has to survive a president who almost certainly tweets his many displeasures from the john.
In this war, truth is the first casualty and damage to the moderating forces of the judiciary and surviving media is already hydra-headed.
However, the ground is unlikely to stay steady under anyone’s feet as a vocal pushback also emerges – from the remaining neutral checks and balances, enlightened business and angry populaces. The drums of women marching up Queen Street in rejection of the mysogenist rantings of the soon-to-be-inaugurated president were repeated round the world.
Everything is ripe for a rethink, which is, in a way, a relief.
Locally or globally – and in the midst of paradise – it’s been no fun to see us all being frogmarched towards a dystopia of impenetrable global financial hegemony and its unattractive beneficiaries.