When the International Monetary Fund says that our central bank should also focus on controlling the exchange rate and not just have a narrow monetarist focus on inflation, we know for sure that the so-called “best practice orthodoxy' of the last twenty years is now just another discredited dogma.
That “there is no alternative” in fiscal matters, stifling debate for so long, is no longer acceptable. That is why the New Zealand Fabian Society will launch a seminar and lecture series next month in the Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
There is a general consensus across all political parties and government bodies that New Zealand's economic future is precarious - our exports are low, our debt is high, our relative standard of living continues to decline. As a small, open trading economy with a heavily reliance on commodity exports, coupled with a volatile exchange rate, we are prone to “boom and bust” cycles.
But the public discourse for many years has been limited to the solutions of the neo-liberal right. They haven't worked. New Zealand Fabians believe that we need a wider debate, and a wider range of progressive options and solutions to consider and discuss.
The theme of the first seminar series will be around the theme of building a resilient economy – fit for 21st century scenarios, resistant to shocks, ecologically adaptable and responsive. Applied to economics it looks to retain the best features of 20th century capitalism – freedom and openness; and the best features of democratic socialism – a safety net and democratic oversight and planning.
The lecture series will focus on tax and budget issues. The Tax Working Group has run away from the problem of avoidance, proposing that there should be massive tax reductions at the top end paid for by an increase in GST, and asserting that equality is achieved by leaving 16% of our children in poverty. We have to be able to do better than that.
Fabian Societies have been established and been active in New Zealand from time to time – it is our view that it is time to become active again. Fabian Societies have helped develop an independent social-democratic tradition throughout the 20th century in English-speaking countries, particularly Britain and Australia. Although our output is thoroughly contemporary and relevant, it will never be rootless: by dint simply of who we are, it is organically connected to that history. In our view, New Zealand needs a progressive think tank to balance those on the right.
The New Zealand Fabian Society aims to generate and disseminate ideas that are original, meet the challenge of the times, and are of high quality. Our values are that we are independent of all political parties, open and progressive. We do not believe that “there is no alternative”; rather that there are not enough alternatives.
People interested may find out more about our seminars and lectures and register via our website.
Mike Smith, Chair NZ Fabian Society
Inciting debate – Wero o te ahi