26 June 2011

Harawira has reason to worry

After Saturday's by-election in Te Tai Tokerau, Hone Harawira can rightly claim that he - and his new party - 'have the mandate' to be sitting in the House (see nzherald). After all, 48.5% of the vote in an electorate isn't bad at all...
But wait... Back in 2008, Harawira got 60% of the electorate vote. Even allowing for the much lower turn-out last Saturday, that's still a huge loss of personal support for him. In other words, as a Maori Party member in 2008, he received a much stronger mandate from his constituency than he seems to have right now.
And let's not forget that Labour received a much larger party vote in that same electorate in 2008 than did the Maori Party (for which Hone was then standing). It now looks like a large number of Maori Party supporters have forsaken their party last Saturday in order to try to prevent Hone from winning. So, the results show that they weren't successful (this time) in keeping him out, but the warning-message for Harawira and the new Mana Party is loud enough.
Labour must be thinking that Te Tai Tokerau is now winnable in November. Looking at the polling-booth results, Harawira has stronger backing in the obvious places, like Ahipara, Kaitaia and most of Kaikohe. Davis, the Labour candidate, has some wins in urban booths and in (I don't know why) Kawakawa.
More fundamentally, then, Harawira has not nailed down the urban working/beneficiary sections of the electorate that he needs if he is to firmly establish himself (and his party) as a working-class and beneficiary advocate. Labour still has a strong footing there.
But there must be personal loyalties at work too. Much of the voter support on Saturday for Harawira surely came from whanau and wider tribal loyalties to him and his family, especially in Whangarei and points further north. On the other hand, many voters would have been turned off by Hone's frequent gaffes, and many urban Maori voters won't have the same kinship connections.
My diagnosis? That Harawira and the Mana Party have only a thin mandate now in one Maori electorate, but they do not yet have a mandate to represent wider Maori or working-class New Zealand. If they can't win such support in the near future, their tenure in the House will be limited.

20 June 2011

Is there government on Mars?

For some reason, my stats counter shows me that this is the most popular topic of searches linking to this blog, so I may as well satisfy those curious people out there with some more thoughts on this.
But, first, can someone please enlighten me on the reason for the interest in this topic. Is it because there is a band of conspiracy-theory cum alien-abduction types out there, or has some law or politics professor set this as an assignment...? Leave a comment, below!
Anyway, I confidently say that there is no government on Mars, for the simple reason that there is no human (or similarly intelligent) life there. That makes me sound like Aristotle: to have a civil government, you need intelligent animals. Hives of bees and herds of buffalo are not signs of government. You need to have beings who are capable of speech, and hence capable of conceiving and debating the question of justice. In post-linguistic-turn times, that means that the subject that speaks is the subject that is already governed.
But, it is trivial and obvious to conclude that, if humans colonised Mars, they would need to form a government there. The reason for posing the question may be to create a hypothetical case for considering the old 'state of nature' situation and the Lockean social-contract theory of civil government.
But the question is a trivial one because the very process of getting humans on to Mars would require from the beginning the initiatives of a government. People don't just migrate there of their own accord. So, the colonisers of Mars would be an already-governed community, and would remain as such for the sake of their own survival there.
This illustrates the fundamentally tautological nature of social-contract theory: i.e., that the rational and sociable qualities of people under civil government are the very qualities that would be required of a race of humans in a hypothetical state of nature if they were to consent to being governed. The conclusion, in short, has to be assumed in the premise.
This is not a new observation, as even Rousseau had noticed it. But it spells death to social contract theory, in my opinion. Quite aside from the fact that one has to go to great lengths (even to Mars!) in order to postulate a state of nature - which is surely an exception and not the historical (or pre-historical) norm for the origins of human civilization.
So, the idea of the state of exception - as distinct from the old-fashioned idea of the state of nature - has more interest. But more on that another day maybe.

13 June 2011

The latest trivia leaks

I notice that the celebrated 'Palin emails' - which were not really leaked, I admit - have gone rapidly lower down the columns of grauniad.co.uk. They have found one interesting revelation, though: As Governor of Alaska, Palin "held private discussions with Tony Hayward, the discredited BP chief executive, to win his support for a 1,700-mile gas pipeline across North America a year after his company's failure to maintain another pipeline saw it blamed for the biggest oil spill in the state's history."
It's bigger than - but morally the same as - John Key offering to review the gambling moratorium in return for Sky City investing in a convention centre. Never mind the social and environmental consequences, government is up for sale, so long as it brings in the dollars.
Otherwise, the Palin emails appear to be as banal as the woman herself.
This of course brings me to the real leek du jour: the Labour Party files. Once the complaints about the breach of privacy and the questions about what Parliamentary staffers are really up to have all settled down, these files will quickly be consigned to the dustbin of boring information.
In the information age we learn that there really is such a thing as 'too much information.' And, just because it was supposed to be private doesn't make it interesting, let alone controversial. I guess it's helped a blogger or two get some hits. That's all that can be said for it.