Confessions of a former ACT Party member

I admit, I used to be an ACT Party member – call it a phase but I joined up whilst I was studying at University of Canterbury and I ran as candidate in Wigram (Jim Anderton’s seat). My philosophical outlook was one of social libertarianism and economically moderate (middle of the road mixed market approach) where I found National were overly conservative, Greens were non-existent and I found Labour overly stuffy when compared to the fun that ACT on campus had – booze, food and philosophical discussions with the odd fleeting reference to Ayn Rand for good luck (yes, I read her non-fiction work, I never really did get into her fictional work but then again I tend to prefer reading non-fiction). During my time in the party I found it transform from a neo-classical liberal party into one that was dominated post-John Key with ex-National Party exiles which is where the whole ‘hard on crime’ rhetoric started to creep in. The reality is that as time went a long I found myself in much the same situation that Roger Douglas and Heather Roy found themselves in – the mismatch between their own personal philosophy and where the party was at in terms of the policies being pursued and outreach to build up the party base into a viable long term party akin to ACT’s sister party in Germany called the ‘Free Democratic Party’ which achieves 10-14% simply by being ‘sane’ (you’d think that is a rather easy concept for the big wigs in the party to grasp but alas such a simplistic strategy is out of reach).

When everything imploded there was much soul searching and questions whether the ACT Party brand had been damaged beyond repair and it would be for all concerned. On Facebook there was much discussion – maybe a ‘Liberal Democratic’ Party to go back to the roots of what the ACT Party was able: social liberalism, economically free market along with the non-aggression principle. Unfortunately it never got off the ground and thus turned into a circle jerk rather than an incubator of good ideas so I decided to leave the party. Looking back at where ACT is today I am happy I made decision to leave. In those elections afterwards I voted Labour for the electorate and Green’s for my party vote. I saw the Green Party serving the same function in much the same way that I saw the purpose of the ACT Party – to give the major party some spine so that they wouldn’t whimper out when it came to making the tough decisions. I voted for them but then I eventually grew a spine myself and joined the party. That isn’t to say that I agree with everything the Green Party stand for – any organisation that has more than one will always end up with disagreements over big issues as well as the small minutia of policy details but in the grand scheme of things it is the party that I have most in common with.

I found that as I have gotten older my social liberalism as only strengthened but economically I have moved from being free market orientated to more a centre left outline having realised with age, experience and knowledge that what works great on paper tends to fall apart when applied to the real world. A good example of that would be housing when viewed in the larger context of regional planning to ensure that you don’t end up with Texas style chaos with houses being built on a flood plain, concreting left, right and centre then wondering why the place is flooded out with no natural drainage or storm water drains to at least deal with the bulk of what came down thus turning a manageable situation into a clusterfuck. The net result of poor or absence of planning was a situation that could have been manageable had been made a whole lot worse than it needed to be. Same can be said regarding the housing market and the over dependence on the private sector to provide rental accommodation at an affordable price (the accommodation supplement is effectively subsidising private landlord profits). The private sector lean towards keeping supply as tight as possible to ensure profit maximisation due to the higher borrowing costs that the private sector face when compared to the interest a government would pay when issuing bonds meaning the return in the form of rents not to mention economies of scales result in lower overhead.

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