De-Platforming Dissent

History shows us that lawyers have often been at the forefront of dissent. And on some occasions they have been punished or de-platformed for their dissent This may not seem unusual. The law is perceived as a conservative profession.

Three historical examples came to mind. There are plenty of others.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 – 43 BC), the Roman lawyer and Senator, spoke out against Gaius Julius Caesar and although he did not join the assassins was no great supporter of those who came after. His Phillipics aimed mainly at Marcus Antonius earned him the hatred of its subject and his wife Fulvia. When, as the Second Triumvirate,  Antonius, Gaius Octavius and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus sought to eliminate opposition by adopting the proscription – the tool of the former dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla – which put a price on the heads (literally) of opponents, Cicero was one of those named. He was executed by soldiers operating on behalf of the Triumvirs in 43 BC after having been intercepted during an attempted flight from the Italian peninsula. His severed hands and head were then, as a final revenge of Marcus Antonius, displayed on the Rostra. A very final form of de-platforming ending up with exposure on a platform.

John Stubbs (1544 – 1589) was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge and read law at Lincolns Inn. He was a committed Puritan and was opposed to the negotiations for a marriage between Queen Elizabeth I and the Duke of Alencon who was a Catholic. In 1579 he expressed his opinions in a pamphlet entitled “The Discovery of a Gaping Gulf whereunto England is like to be swallowed by another French Marriage, if the Lord forbid not the banns, by letting her Majesty see the sin and punishment thereo.”

Stubbs graphically characterised the proposed wedding as a “contrary coupling,” “an immoral union, an uneven yoking of the clean ox to the unclean ass, a thing forbidden in the law” as laid down by St. Paul, a “more foul and more gross” union that would draw the wrath of God on England and leave the English “pressed down with the heavy loins of a worse people and beaten as with scorpions by a more vile nation.”

Elizabeth and her Court were outraged. The publication was denounced by a specific proclamation of 27 September 1579.  The proclamation claimed that the pamphlet stirred up rebellion “on the part of the Queen’s subjects, to fear for their own utter ruin and change of government”.

Circulation of the pamphlet was prohibited and copies were burned at the headquarters of the printing trade – Stationers Hall. Stubbs and the publisher were tried and found guilty of seditious writing.

Stubbs’ de-platforming was especially horrific. He and the publisher were sentenced to have their right hands cut off by means of a cleaver driven through the wrist by a mallet. Initially Queen Elizabeth had favoured the death penalty but was persuaded to opt for the lesser sentence. The sentence was carried out and Stubbs’ right hand was cut off on 3 November 1579. At the time he protested his loyalty to the Crown, and immediately before the public dismemberment delivered a shocking pun: “Pray for me now my calamity is at hand.” His right hand having been cut off, he removed his hat with his left hand and cried “God Save the Queen!” before fainting. His fellow conspirator, the publisher William Page, lifted up his bleeding hand and said: “I left there a true Englishman’s hand.”

Stubbs was subsequently imprisoned for eighteen months. On being released in 1581 he continued to write, publishing, among other pamphlets, a reply to Cardinal Allen’s “Defence of the English Catholics”. Despite his punishment, he remained a loyal subject of Queen Elizabeth and later served in the House of Commons as MP for Great Yarmouth in the English Parliament of 1589

William Prynne (1600 – 1669) was a lawyer, author and polemicist and a Puritan opponent of the Anglican establishment He was a graduate of Oriel College, Oxford and was called to the Bar at Lincolns Inn in 1628.

Prynne did not set out to be popular. Many of his views, acerbically expressed, were very unpopular. He opposed religious feast days and their associated revelries. He thought men should not wear their hair long and opposed the custom of drinking to one’s health.  In 1632 had printed his Historiomastix in which he argued that stage plays were incentives to immorality and were prohibited by scripture. Shortly after the book was released, Charles I’s Queen Henrietta Maria took part in a play at Court. A passage in Historiomastix critical of the character of female actresses was interpreted as an attack on the Queen. Passages attacking the audiences of plays and the judges who failed to suppress them were taken as an attack on the King.

Prynne was taken before Star Chamber. After a year’s imprisonment in the Tower of London, he was sentenced on 17 February 1634 to life imprisonment, a fine of £5,000, expulsion from Lincoln’s Inn, deprival of his Oxford University degree, and amputation of both his ears in the pillory where he was held on 7–10 May 1634.

This did not silence Prynne. From the Tower he continued to write polemics against Archbishop Laud, whom he saw as his main persecutor, the Attorney-General William Noy who had prosecuted him before Star Chamber as well as other attacks on leading Anglican clergymen.

Once again he was brought before Star Chamber and on 14 June 1637 Prynne was sentenced once more to a fine of £5,000, to imprisonment for life, and to lose the rest of his ears. At the proposal of Chief-justice John Finch he was also to be branded on the cheeks with the letters S. L., signifying ‘seditious libeller’. Prynne was pilloried on 30 June. Prynne was handled brutally by the executioner. He made, as he returned to his prison, a couple of Latin verses explaining the ‘S. L.’ with which he was branded to mean ‘stigmata laudis’ (“sign of praise”, or “sign of Laud”). His following imprisonment harsh. He was allowed no pens nor ink, had few books and was removed to remote prisons in Wales and Jersey.

Prynne was released by the Long Parliament in 1640. His sentences were declared illegal. His ears could not be restored to him although his degree was along with his membership of Lincolns Inn.

It was not long before Prynne found himself in trouble with the supporters of Parliament and in 1647 he wrote a number of pamphlets against the army, and championed the cause of the eleven presbyterian leaders whom the army impeached.

n November 1648 Prynne was elected Member of Parliament.  As soon as he took his seat, he showed his opposition to the army. He urged the Commons to declare them rebels, and argued that concessions made by Charles in the recent treaty were a satisfactory basis for a peace.

Two days later Pride’s Purge took place. Prynne was arrested by Colonel Thomas Pride and Sir Hardress Waller, and kept prisoner first at an eating-house (called Hell), and then at the Swan and King’s Head inns in the Strand.

Released from custody some time in January 1649, Prynne retired to Swainswick, and began a paper war against the new government. He became a thorn in Cromwell’s side.

He wrote three pamphlets against the engagement to be faithful to the Commonwealth, and proved that neither in conscience, law, nor prudence was he bound to pay the taxes which it imposed.

The government retaliated by imprisoning him for nearly three years without a trial. On 30 June 1650 he was arrested and confined, and was finally offered his liberty on giving security to the amount of £1,000 that he would henceforward do nothing against the government; but, refusing to make any promise, he was released unconditionally on 18 February 1653.

Prynne continued his pamphleteering and supported the restoration of Charles II. He was rewarded with public office and once again elected to Parliamentand ended up as Keeper of Records in the Tower of London before his death in 1669.

Prynne was a gadfly who angered many who suffered at the tip of his pen. He is best known for his horrifying treatment in the 1630’s for publishing and expressing what were at the time unpopular views.

These three examples came to mind as I reflected on what appears to be a growing crackdown on dissent around the globe. De-platforming and cancelling seem to be common. Both are forms of silencing dissent.

Lawyers, as I said at the outset, have often headed dissenting movements. It was the dedication of lawyers who brought proceedings against the Rugby Union that halted an All Black’s tour of South Africa in 1985 – not a popular move in the temper of those times. It is commemorated in an article by Sam Bookman of 2018 and may be found on the New Zealand Law Society website here. And whilst I am on South Africa, Nelson Mandela was a lawyer and practiced in Johnannesburg before turning to anti-apartheid politics for which he was seriously de-platformed and like Stubbs was charged with sedition.

I must say I find it interesting that the tide of history has not turned and that attempts at de-platforming lawyers expressing dissenting views are still occurring


Windows 11 and Continuing Disruptive Change

In the past as new communication technologies have become available, there has been a period where the new technology has an opportunity to “ bed in”  before the next significant change takes place.  For example the advent of the printing press in 1450 was followed by its spread through Europe, but, apart from improvements in the technology, no new communications technology was present until the development of the electrical telegraph system by Samuel Morse, Joseph Henry and Alfred Vail in 1836.  Effectively, there had been a period of almost 400 years for the printing press to become accepted as a new means of communication.  The telegraph system addressed the tyranny of distance and was followed by Marconi’ s long distance radio transmission in the last decade of the 19th century.  That was followed by developments in radio and within a short time thereafter, the development of television. 

It can be seen from this very brief overview that the time between new technological developments in communications has shortened.  Nevertheless, there has been a “ breathing space”  between each one.  The advent of digital technologies and particularly the rise of the Internet has meant effectively that breathing space has gone and continuing disruptive change is a reality.

The nature of this change has been described in another context as “ The Long Blur”[1] In the 1990’ s the United States economy, the most developed in the world, experienced the longest period of sustained growth for a generation possibly for the entire period of the twentieth century.  One of the characteristics of that period was extraordinary change.

Accompanying this economic change were changes in work habits and attitudes.  The concept of secure lifetime jobs vanished along with associated concepts of loyalty to an employer and a recognition of the loyal employee.  Although many new high paying jobs requiring exceptional skills and intelligence exist, most new jobs will be in what are effectively service industries of which, in some respects, the law may be considered one.

It has been suggested that the Information Revolution which began to become apparent through the 1990’ s is making the same difference to our society, institutions, professions and employment as the Industrial Revolution did over the last 200 years.  As a result, forms of employment such as stock brokers, insurance clerks, bank clerks, etc will look nothing like they did 30 years ago and may simply cease to exist (except in a minor marginalised sense) 30 years from now.  And the significantly disruptive change brought about as a result of Covid 19 has seen changes in the way that people work. Working from home rather than in the highrise office has become the norm and is encouraged. Even the Courts, reluctant to do away with “in person” hearings, has deployed technology to enable remote hearings.

Dealing with computers and software makes one aware of the reality of continuing disruptive change. Version 1.0 of software is rarely the only version. Software often goes through a number of iterations. Similarly with hardware. Software developers continually make demands upon hardware systems often necessitating necessitating upgrades to parts of the hardware configuration (a video card) or indeed a full motherboard replacement.

I have become used to these continual changes. I started my computing life with a TRS-80 Model 1 and taught myself to code, gradually upgraded as new models became available, developed programs and utilities to assist me in legal practice and finally shifted from the Z-80 environment to the Intel one with an IBM PC close and MS-DOS 6. Since then the operating system environment has changed with the introduction of Windows, first as an interface and later as an Operating System (OS). The hardware scene has developed as well to the point where my son and I used to build our own systems mainly because what we wanted was not available “off the shelf”.

This has continued through to today. I have a system which has the componentry I need. Because I enjoy gaming I have a high-spec video card. In fact when I decided to try out “Assassins Creed- Valhalla” I had to drop a new card into the system and found that the motherboard would not support it so I replaced the motherboard as well. Examples of the impact of continuing disruptive change.

I always thought that Windows XP was a stable and reliable OS. It was a bit sad that Microsoft decided on new flavours of Windows and I upgraded to Windows 7, avoided Windows and now have Windows 10 – again a stable and reliable OS. I have a subscription to Office 365 having started word processing with MS Word and have stuck with it. Once again, a reliable and highly useful suite of software tools coupled with a 1 tb Onedrive which allows me to put stuff in the Cloud.

That said I have a large quantities of research data accumulated from over 50 years in the law along with other materials both for my Masters and PhD together with the research for the various books that I have written. This material is available on my desktop system and easily located using Copernic Desktop Search or X-1 recommended by my good friend Jim McMillan of the National Centre for State Courts.

So now Windows 11 has come along and here is where the tyranny of “continuing disruptive change” manifests itself because to upgrade to Windows 11 – which looks like a pretty cool OS – I virtually have to replace my entire system. Now this is going to get a bit technical but bear with me because I hope to be able to send a warning to others who may be thinking of upgrading and I would like to send a message to Microsoft – can we have a flavour of Win 11 that does not require some of the significant hardware changes and consequential software and systems changes that the current flavour requires.

I shall step through the story.

I though I would look into upgrading to Windows 11 and it was suggested that I check my system for compatibility issues using a tool called PC Health which is available here.

I felt pretty comfortable. I have a fairly high-spec machine – an Intel i9 3.6ghz processor with 48 GB RAM and a Nvidia GEForce RTX 2060 Super graphics card.  The motherboard is a Gigabyte Z390 UD. I thought running a check like this would be a formality and I could start to think about moving to Win 11. It was not to be.

The PC Health program advised that my system did not meet Windows 11 system requirements. I was advised that my machine had to support secure boot and that TPM 2.0 had to be supported and enabled on the machine.

What did this mean.

Secure Boot. Most modern PCs are capable of Secure Boot, but in some instances, there may be settings that cause the PC to appear to not be capable of Secure Boot.

These settings can be changed in the PC firmware. Firmware, often called BIOS (Basic Input/Output System), is the software that starts up before Windows when you first turn on your PC.

In essence I needed to change my PC boot mode from “Legacy” or CSM BIOS to UEFI/BIOS (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface). This meant drilling down into the BIOS system before I could execute any changes in the software.

That did not seem to be a problem and I had a look at the BIOS settings by interrupting the Boot sequence by holding down the <DELETE> key while starting. Sure enough the Boot system was a “Legacy” one but that could be turned off and the UEFI system could be enabled. That did not seem to be too hard.

But I did not save the settings and it is just as well. Before making any changes as significant as a Boot system I thought I would do a bit of background and I found some really helpful explanations and guides for achieving what I wanted to do.

There was one problem. If I changed from the CSM BIOS to UEFI then the machine would not boot. This is because the disk is what is called an MBR (Master Boot Record) disk and when Windows boots fin UEFI it must have a GPT (GUID Partition Table) disk.

The changeover from an MBR to GPT disk is complicated. There are a number of ways of doing it and they can be found here but whatever way it is done requires deleting a removing data or backing it up so that it can be restored to the GPT disk.

This is really complicated because my boot drive contains Windows 10 and all of the settings and other data that I need to run my operation. It all seems to me to be a bit too much to try and accomplish on my own because it will involve using boot systems from other media and so on during the conversion process and a restoration of the backup and a clean install of Windows 10 and upgrade to Win 11 from there.

The TPM system in the BIOS seemed relatively simple to enable but it would require either enabling before a clean install of Win 11 or after a reinstall of Win 10 before the upgrade to Win 11.

I thought about all of this and a handy guide of steps and enquiries BEFORE trying to upgrade to Win 11 might be helpful. I am assuming that you are using Win 10 as the OS.

  1. Download PC Health available here
  2. Run PC Health.
  3. It may be that your machine is UEFI capable. You can ascertain this by Run Settings > Update & Security > Recovery and select Restart now under Advanced startup.  From the next screen, select Troubleshoot > Advanced options > UEFI Firmware Settings > Restart to make changes.  

It may still be necessary to access the BIOS and check if you are running Legacy CSM or UEFI

  • Assuming that your machine is NOT UEFI capable, check the BIOS and ascertain if you can switch off CSM and enable UEFI.
  • Exit the BIOS but DO NOT SAVE any changes you may have made while carrying out your checks.
  • If UEFI is NOT available you may need to think about another machine if you are going to upgrade to Win 11 or at least get a new motherboard (if you have a desktop)
  • The next thing is to check the status of your disks. There are a number of ways of doing this.  One way involves using the Command screen. Press the Windows Key + R and type “diskpart” in the box (no inverted commas) and hit ok. At the diskpart command line that will appear type “list disk” (no inverted commas) and hit <ENTER>. You will get a list of your drives. On the far right will be a column headed GPT. If there is a * next to your boot drive then GPT is already enabled. If there is NOT a * then your disk is an MBR disk.
  • If your disk is a GPT disk then you can go and make your alterations to the BIOS settings and there should be no problem.
  • Once the setting have been changed if you run PC Health again you should find you are OK for Win 11.
  • HOWEVER if your boot drive is MBR you should give some thought to having the changeover and accompanying data management done by a professional

I emphasise – these are my own thoughts and analysis. If you have any better solutions please post them as comments. I should be very grateful.

[1] Jim Dator, Futures Volume 33 No. 2 March 2000 page 181 – 197

The State in the Time of Covid-19

The first part of this piece was written last year. I was hesitant to
post it and then it seemed that events had overtaken it. In the considerable
amount of time has elapsed New Zealand fell into a state of complacency as far
as the effects of Covid-19 were concerned.  There was even a “travel
bubble” – quarantineless travel – to and from certain parts of Australia.
Then the Delta variant arrived. And that changed everything. I commence this
post with my observations “then” – in May of 2020 and then review the
situation as at “now” – being October 2021. Whether or not, in the
light of recent events, the State is likely ever to get out of the way seems
very unlikely.


May 2020


Simon Wilson ended his pandemic diary once the lockdown levels and
restrictions had been reduced. He
concluded his diary with some 15 observations which he described as things we
know now that we hardly ever dreamed of before.

Some of his observations are quite reasonable. One of them, however, is the
sort of thing that I would expect from Mr. Wilson’s collectivist and Statist
world-view. At item number 8 he claims “The State Should Not Get Out of the
Way”. To expand on the proposition he suggests “The state is the principal
organising tool for society. The job is not to eviscerate it, but to make it
work better for us.”

That the State should work better for us is something with which most would
agree. It is a pretty clunky and unresponsive beast at the best of times and
the solutions offered are blunt rather than nuanced and often involve, as Mr
Oliver Christiansen found to his dismay
, a box ticking approach to what
should be a careful, sympathetic and balanced consideration of factors in the
exercise of a discretion in decision-making.

Certainly the State claimed and exercised extraordinary powers following the
onset of the Covid-19 crisis. The State had to, as Mark Zuckerberg advocated in
another context, move fast and break things. And that is what they did.

One of the things that was “broken” or at least turned on its head was a
basic principle of liberty that we enjoy in a free society. I am not talking
about manifestations of interference with liberties like that of freedom of
movement or the right to refuse medical treatment. Rather I am thinking about
the basic principle that underpins law in a free society which is that everything
is permitted that is not specifically prohibited. This was completely reversed
especially in Alert Levels 3 and 4 to the point where everything was forbidden
unless it was permitted.

This led to another difficulty. Exactly what was permitted? Despite the
existence of a Covid 19 website with some very useful resources, without some
inkling of how the law worked in an emergency situation, the primary materials
were difficult for an ordinary person to work through.

And it is a fundamental aspect of the Rule of Law that the law must be
accessible, intelligible, clear and predictable. That is because – and this is
a second feature of the Rule of Law – the exercise of all powers by the State
must be authorized properly by law.

The problem is that the law lacked precision and its interpretation was
often faulty, summarized in newspapers, which merely reprinted press releases,
or the promulgation or proclamation of the rules – or an interpretation of them
–  came by way of a press conference. Thus, we had vagueness in the
concepts of “staying local”. And how far could one go on a walk for the
purposes of exercise. And if one went too far – and how far was too far – would
one be subject to intervention from enforcement authorities and an even greater
restriction on an already severely restricted liberty.

One interesting aspect of the way in which the powers of the State could be
misinterpreted was in relation to those over the age of 70. It is acknowledged
that those in that cohort were at greater risk of severe consequences if
infected with Covid 19. But they were told to stay at home. By what authority?
There was none. Yet thousands of over-70’s were deprived of work, family
contact and the freedom of movement by this diktat which, as it turns out, was
advisory only and did not have the force of law.

These concerns are not mine alone. They are shared by a number of
individuals and are eloquently articulated by former Attorney-General Mr Chris
Finlayson QC in an op-ed piece entitled Coronavirus:
Lockdown was vague and threatening says former Attorney General.

So what does this have to do with Mr Wilson’s contention that the “State
Should Not Get Out of the Way.” Given the way in which the State has acted, and
the significant interference with civil liberties – for example the freedom
from arbitrary search – that is contained in validly enacted legislation (which
itself was subject to roll-backs and last minute changes) I would contest Mr
Wilson’s reliance upon the State.

I assume that he is referring to the way in which the State has intervened
to address problems within the economy. So it should if only because the damage
to the economy has been solely as a result of State action in the first place.
It is right and proper that assistance and compensation should be provided to
those who have been affected by this extraordinary use of State power. And then
the State should get out of the way and let the people, who have suffered at
its hands, get on with their lives.

It would be fair to ask “what was the Government meant to do” and the vast
majority of the citizenry approved the steps that were taken. But by the same token
in the lead-up to the lockdown there were some very dire predictions of what
might happen if determined steps were not taken. A climate of fear of Covid 19
developed that allowed the public to willingly and complacently accept
significant restrictions on the liberty of the individual.

It may well be when the dust settles that the reality will dawn that
governments in many countries were themselves panicked by the potential
reputational damage to them of health systems being overwhelmed. To avoid that reputational
damage they were prepared to take extreme steps that have had significant
deleterious economic effects as well as trashing the lives of citizens and
their expectations and in doing so seriously infringed civil liberties without
a careful and considered application of clear, intelligible law. This is the
State that Mr. Wilson considers is society’s principal organizing tool.

There can be no doubt that swift and determined action was required to
address the problems posed by Covid 19, but there seems to be a lack of
recognition that the State, or the Government if you prefer, is not our Master.
The State is the servant of the people. Rather than require, demand, order or
dictate – acting as if it were the Master and we were the servants – it should
recognize that in fact the people are the Masters and it is Government that is
the servant of the people.

It should always be remembered that there will be a tension between
authority on the one hand – represented in this case by the State – and liberty
on the other. John Stuart Mill was of the view that the potential tyranny of
government – an ever-present threat – could only be controlled by the
protection of the liberty of the citizenry. This was based upon the
Enlightenment view that liberty was a right – what today we would call a human

This liberty is protected by the establishment of constitutional safeguards.
These safeguards are made with the consent of the governed and provides
limitation upon the exercise of power by the governing body.

The purpose of the power of the State, according to Mill, can only
rightfully be exercised over a member of the community against his will to
prevent harm to others. That the exercise of power may be for his or her own
good is not sufficient. The individual is sovereign determiner of him or her
self, body and mind.

Mr Wilson puts forward a pithy and somewhat reasonless argument for the
State or Big Government which ignores aspects of what the State is meant to do
within Mill’s balance between the purpose of the power of the State and the
rights of the individual.

We have seen what Big Government can do. It is the best course now that
Government or the State with its collectivist and regimented methods step back
and allow individuals to make their way.

October 2021

We are seeing now, as at October 2021, the real power of Big Government. It
seems that consensus has gone out the window. The “Three Waters
Initiative” involving the amalgamation and centralisation of local body
water resources was originally to have been a consensus “buy in”
project by local bodies. Today (27 October) it was announced that it would be

The approach to vaccination and the restoration of civil liberties provides
an interesting yet concerning approach to the exercise of power. That as many
people as possible should be vaccinated against Covid 19 is plain. I have no
difficulty with that.  But the reasoning for this is as yet not entirely
clear. One would expect that the policy would be driven by altruism, especially
from a Left-leaning Government, But the concern seems to be more about the
ability of the Government to continue to deliver a health system. Some of the
messages tell us that vaccination is important for our own safety and for that
of our families and those around us. I have no difficulty with that. 

It is the follow-up messaging that is of concern. Get vaccinated and we will
return some of your freedoms to you. Given that the State took those freedoms
away in one sweeping act in the first place that is a truly magnanimous
gesture. But the messaging has been going through a number of adaptations – all
of which indicate a growing arrogation of power by the State and a benevolent
attitude towards the exercise of civil liberties. They are no longer rights.
They are privileges.

The most concerning message delivered recently surrounds vaccination, the
use of vaccination passports (or some other form of proof) and the
differentiated (some might call it discriminatory) treatment of those who for whatever
reason are unvaccinated. We have been told that businesses may have an
opportunity to determine whether or not their staff should be vaccinated. And
if that is the case those availing themselves of the benefits of the business
must be vaccinated as well. And those who are unvaccinated will be unable to
access the benefits of the business.

This approach to what in the past were largely looked upon as human rights
now appear to be conditional privileges. If you have a vaccination then you
will be able to enjoy a range of activities that you previously could enjoy as
a a matter of course. And we, as the State will ALLOW you to do that. And if
you are unvaccinated you will be able to purchase food, avail yourself of
health and other government services but all the other rights that you formerly
enjoyed will be denied to you, not on the basis of your race or religion but on
your status as a vaccinated or unvaccinated person.

It reminds me of the Dr Seuss story of the Sneetches, yellow bird-like
creatures , some of whom have a green star on their bellies. At the beginning
of the story, Sneetches with stars discriminate against and shun those without.
Is this sounding familiar? There are other examples from the
“real-life” world that are too awful to record. But like it or not a
two-tier society is being brought into effect by a social democrat government.
Who would have thought it.

The second exercise of power by the State is the “granting” of
added liberties by means of the traffic light system. This proposal is designed
to obviate the need for lockdowns, allow businesses to operate (saving the Government
large sums of money in business support programmes that have developed over the
lockdowns) and allow citizens some movement as far as their liberties and
activities are concerned. Once again, an exercise in magnanimity. The red
setting is the most restrictive. The orange setting allows a little more
liberty. The green setting is as close as we can expect to get to “the way
we were.”

We have been told by our benevolent government that the traffic light system
will come into effect when DHBs have achieved a certain vaccination target.
What we haven’t been told is how long this form of restrictive activity –
because even the green setting contains restrictions – will last. My sense is
that the traffic light settings will be with us indefinitely. It is very
unlikely that a Government as inured to control as the present one is going to
take its hands of the levers of power and allow the full and unrestricted
exercise of civil liberties. 

Of course all the above may be interpreted as an example of Simon Wilson’s covid
shouty blowhardness
– ironic that criticism of people exercising their
freedom of expression should be so denigrated by a journalist of all people –
but he is entitled to his opinion as the covid shouty blowhards are to theirs.
But there are a couple of things that need to be remembered.

The first is that those who are elected to Parliament may be our
representatives in the House but they are also, as I have already noted, our servants – something that
seems to have been forgotten over the last 18 months. Edmund
Burke’s description of the role of the MP articulated in 1774
was developed
in a context vastly different from that of today where we have a (largely)
educated electorate and a much more sophisticated communications system – and
indeed society – from that of Eighteenth Century England. It would seem,
however, that his view still haunts the corridors of power.

The second point is that in the absence of an ability to communicate meaningfully
with our representatives and seek explanations from them we rely on the Fourth
Estate to attend to that as our proxies. And associated with that is the duty
on the Fourth Estate to hold our representatives to account and seek out full
and transparent explanations of their actions and policies.

So if demanding a slightly better performance from the Fourth Estate is
shouty blowhardness perhaps Mr Wilson at the moment seems, rather than holding
Government to account and asking the hard questions, to be no more than a
cheer-leader for the State. Ronald Regan expressed a different view when he said “Government is not the solution to our problem; Government is the problem”.

I will conclude by noting that some of the concerns that I have expressed in
this post have been very coherently articulated by Karl du Fresne is his piece “The
Cabal that controls the national conversation”
. Du Fresne also wrote a
piece which was published in Spectator Australia and is also available in the
Otago Daily Times entitled “NZ
is being transformed, but not in a good way”.
He eloquently expresses a
position in his conclusion which sums the problem up so much better than I can.

“The danger is that most New Zealanders, being
essentially passive, easy-going and good-natured, will ignore the tumult and
just try to get on with lives – until they wake up one morning and realise that
the open, tolerant and fair-minded society they grew up in has irrevocably