The Politically Incorrect Show - 18/12/2000
[Music - Die Fledermaus]
Good afternoon, Kaya Oraaa & welcome to the Politically Incorrect Show on the free speech network, Radio Pacific, for Monday December 18, proudly sponsored by Neanderton Nicotine Ltd., the show that says bugger the politicians & bureaucrats & all the other bossyboot busybodies who try to run our lives with our money; that stands tall for free enterprise, achievement, profit, & excellence, against the state-worshippers in our midst; that stands above all for the most sacred thing in the universe, the liberty of the human individual.
[Music up, music down!]
I have received the following letter from Roger Kerr, Executive Director of the New Zealand Business Roundtable:
"In your editorial on ENZA's export monopoly on today's programme, you made the following statement:
"'Unfortunately, the issue is usually presented as - Enza is doing a bad job, it's inefficient, & my returns are threatened. This is the ACT/Roundtable approach. The issue really is - these are MY bloody apples & I'll sell them to anyone I damn well please. Even if Enza were doing the best job in the world, growers shouldn't HAVE to sell through it, or seek a permit for exemption.'
"I cannot speak for ACT but as far as the Business Roundtable is concerned this is a complete misrepresentation. I have complained to you many times about your misrepresentations of various of our positions, & sent you material in support of my complaints, yet you continue the practice. In this particular case I sent you an article I wrote for Standards magazine, which appeared in the first issue this year. A copy is attached. The first paragraph of the article reads:
"'Trade in lawful articles of commerce is first & foremost a matter of freedom - if a government prevents its citizens buying goods from another country it infringes their liberty. We would think it outrageous if the government tried to stop South Islanders selling goods to willing buyers in Auckland. It is equally absurd that the producer board monopoly on the export of apples stops a Nelson grower from making a living by sending apples to a Sydney supermarket.'
"What part of this statement about freedom of commerce don't you understand? Either you are an incompetent journalist or you wilfully misrepresent the position of people or organisations for your own ends. I would not be writing to you in this vein were it not for the fact that this is a consistent pattern. I am considering making a formal complaint under the Broadcasting Act but am reluctant to do so as I believe the media should be capable of upholding ethical standards of journalism. You routinely make the same point yourself & profess a commitment to truth & objectivity. As a test of your commitment I ask you to read this letter out on your programme to set the record straight, & to desist from further misrepresentations of this kind.
R L Kerr, Executive Director."
My response after the break.
Now to Mr Kerr's letter.
If Roger is fully honest, with himself & others, he will acknowledge that he has been dragged kicking & screaming to a realisation, still incomplete, that individual freedom is not only an issue, it is THE issue; that the dragging has been done by me & Deborah over a period of years beginning in 1993. Hitherto that process has been good-humoured & enjoyable, & it saddens me to see Roger now resorting to abuse & threats.
Yes, it's true that Roger made the remarks he quotes about free trade being first & foremost a matter of freedom. It's also true that when I saw those remarks, I rang him to congratulate him, & tease him that he was getting somewhere at last. Roger wouldn't have said that a few years earlier. In preparing this response, I looked up a major speech of his in 1996 on producer board monopolies. It consisted entirely of variations on the theme of the inefficiency of such monopolies - the word "freedom," as in "commercial freedom" occurred just once, fleetingly, in seven & a half pages, near the end, almost as an afterthought. (Roundtable's efficiency fixation, incidentally, was famously commented upon by Sir Robert Jones years ago when he observed that the Roundtable would support SLAVERY if they thought it would lead to more efficient outcomes.) And it's also true that my characterisation of the ACT/Roundtable approach, as a generalisation, remains accurate. If, now, there are beginning to be exceptions to it, it's BECAUSE of my nagging, which ACT MP Owen Jennings had the good grace to acknowledge to me on air on Thursday, as he encouraged me to "keep firing those shots."
Now I hasten to add that I've nothing against "efficiency" arguments as far as they go, but they should never be treated as more important than the freedom argument - and they should never be presented in such a way as to UNDERMINE the freedom argument. This where Roger still needs work. He has argued, in my own magazine, that we have unchosen obligations to others. He has argued that compulsory taxation is not theft & that the state will always have a coercive role to play in charity. He has argued for the state's right to confiscate private property - with taxpayer or ratepayer-funded compensation, of course - "for the public good." He has, taking his cue from bizarre moral dilemmas beloved of university ethics classrooms, thrown at me the following:
"Suppose there were a person who had a rare gene that rendered him immune to cancer. Call him Mr X. If Mr X's gene were transferred into other members of society (through genetic engineering techniques), the people receiving the transfer would also be immune from cancer. Suppose further that all Mr X has to do in order to benefit mankind is to give away one strand of his hair or one drop of his saliva. Suppose we were willing to pay Mr X a large sum of money for his hair or saliva. Suppose that, in spite of our generous offer, Mr X refused to give us a sample of saliva or hair..."
... & suggested that it would be "absurd" NOT to force Mr X to surrender his hair or saliva. Now as far as I am concerned, while Roger continues in this vein, he is still a million miles from understanding & endorsing the moral case for freedom, & I will continue to goad him, publicly & privately, towards such an understanding.
I would hope that we could continue to have these arguments as good-humouredly as we have in the past. Roger, on the other hand, has a hankering to run off to one of Nanny State's censorship wings, the Broadcasting Standards Authority, to tell on me for being a naughty boy (I guess this further illustrates my point about him). Frankly, I hope he does. For all that they shouldn't exist, they're a pretty liberal bunch, who would probably advise him to lighten up & get a life.
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