What appears to be a difference of opinion between Simon Wilson and Auckland Mayoral Candidate Wayne Brown is more than that. It demonstrates a fundamental difference in the purpose of Government and Governmental organisations.
Brown is reported as saying “Auckland Transport should be told they are there to service the way we live, not change the way we live.”
Wilson, for his part, sees the issue differently and in doing so outlines his ideas about the function of Government. He says of Brown’s comment:
“That’s utterly wrong. Because of the climate crisis, behavioural change is the most fundamental task we face. And because of Covid, we know it’s possible. Consumers have a role and so do corporates. But governments, central and local, must provide the framework and the leadership.
In my view, a politician who doesn’t understand that is unfit for office.”
Simon Wilson is a regular opinion writer and columnist for the New Zealand Herald. He often espouses points of view which could be described as “left of centre”. He is entitled to do that and has the added advantage of having a platform in the shape of New Zealand’s largest daily newspaper.
But by the same token others have the right to disagree with his point of view and to debate it.
It seems to me that Wilson misunderstands the role of Government. His comments about “framework” and “leadership” suggest that people are to be taken often in directions in which they may not want to go, and to work within a governmentally designed framework as they travel to whatever destination or end the government decrees. That sounds to me like government by diktat.
I see the role of government through a different lens. Government and those who participate in it, whether elected or as bureaucrats, are the servants of the people. They are there to fulfil the will of the electorate.
For that reason, before elections, politicians should clearly state what they intend to do if elected by way of a manifesto. In that way their masters, those who elect and appoint them to their governance role, are able to see if those intentions accord with the views or wishes of those who elect them. Once elected, those occupying governance position should not then, as the present Government does, pursue ideological goals or policy objectives which have not been earlier disclosed to the electorate.
Auckland Transport, the target of Mr Brown’s comment, is an unelected body. But this does not give that organization or its executives, the power to do as they like – and they have certainly been doing that in pursuing an ideology that is not in the interests of allowing people to move efficiently about the City. Auckland Transport, a publicly funded Council controlled body, is the servant of the people. It is not the people’s master. Nor is government in any form.
The philosophy of Government that I favour is best expressed in the 1776 Declaration of Independence. We are endowed with certain inalienable rights and among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. To secure these rights
“Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
Clearly from these statements Governments are the servants of the people, and are there to ensure they can exercise their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
This would seem to me to be an admirable basis for Government, so what is it that attracts Mr Wilson to the statist collective Government that will “lead” (translation “order us”) us in a direction within a pre-determined framework.
Sadly the answer would seem to lie in the uniquely “Kiwi” attitude which briefly stated looks to the Government for every solution and is summed up in the statement “The Government must do something”.
This clearly is a complete abdication of responsibility for one’s own life; a surrendering of one’s individuality; a denial of the ability of the individual or group of individuals to develop their own solutions to problems. Sadly it is an attitude that has historical roots and where successive administrations, especially the First Labour Government, took control and instituted nationalized and subsidized industries and projects, thus diluting individual self-help solutions.
My position is that as far as possible Government should serve the people and not the other way round. For people to serve the Government is a step down the road to repression and the end of individualism. For the Government to dictate how individuals should live their lives is no more nor less than totalitarianism. Thus any politician who supports Mr. Wilson’s model does not understand the role of Government and is unfit for office.