We keep hearing the repeated emptiness that New Zealand has a "strong economy". It has become a cliche, a sound bite that has become unthinkingly repeated, a lie that is now absorbed into the national psyche.
I had intended to write something on the stupid economics of poverty. But more and more this Government's denials and obfuscations came up. Apparently, everything is fine. These are the smoke and mirrors deceit we keep hearing; "wadeable" becomes "swimmable" overnight to great fanfare.
Crises in housing, homelessness and child poverty; what crises? Hell, we don't even measure some of them because it's too inconvenient, and we're here to sell, not to solve. We are told we have a "strong economy", look at our GDP growth of 3 per cent!
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Meanwhile, back on planet earth ... New Zealand's economy is a cocaine-fueled rush on a base without a future. The corporations and the National Party keep encouraging a low wage, low value economy.
We have a low diversity, short value-chain, socially and environmentally degrading extractive economy where small local creative enterprise comes a distant second.
We sycophantically cater to the colonial/corporate model endorsed by Cecil Rhodes. Rhodes was quite keen on that word "take". Take the cheap resources using slave labour, leave the environmental and social costs in the colony, and take the money and multiply it back "home" to a country or a disconnected gated community far, far away.
No one who knows the history of colonisation would ever encourage such an economic strategy. Yet we have done exactly that since 1984. And the symptoms of our lack of deep thought are here today.
There are serious disconnects between the sobering stories of poverty, inequality, housing and child deaths from Third World diseases, and those who stand on podiums in suits claiming we have a "strong" economy. How can both coexist? Isn't an economy there to serve the wellbeing of us all?
These social costs associated with poverty and deaths indicate that the economy is clearly not working as it should. It self-evidently no longer serves us all; it serves the few who are increasingly disconnected, both geographically and psychologically. Claims of merit rising and the poor "choosing" their own poverty are arrant nonsense, much like "trickle down".
Most of us have become increasingly subservient servants to the economic beast. It is also self-evident from the smoke and mirrors and the denials of various problems that the current Government does not care.
And all to further a frankly dumb economics of poverty and environmental degradation that only serve those interests of the international corporate elite who emulate a form of latter-day colonisation - cheap resources and slave wages. Take it. Annex the stars if you can. Cecil Rhodes will be cheering from his Zimbabwean crypt.
In making these claims of a "strong" economy, the Government hopes that people will look away. It hopes that their cynical - even deceitful - use of smoke and mirrors will work.
There is a danger in that approach. The right wing propaganda machine of Lynton Crosby has already faltered. People began to laugh at Theresa May's "strong and stable" political tag line as it was increasingly exposed as empty blather.
And it is empty blather in New Zealand as well. What growth we've had is due to immigration, house price rises and earthquake rebuilds, while the current direction of our low wage, low value colonial and increasingly corporate-dominated economy continues. In that context, our economic performance has been worse than ordinary.
But on top of that mediocrity have come our social costs, including child mortality. Some of us are involved in politics because we are determined that we have to change from our vicious cycle of mediocrity.
Similarly, the smoke and mirrors of "job growth" ignore inconvenient definitions. A one-hour, casual, temporary "job" so common amongst the under-employed "precariat" is markedly different than a permanent fulltime position.
But the spin-doctors hope that the public will interpret "jobs" as fulltime equivalents. Meanwhile, under-employment has tripled since 2008, and the precariat grows and grows.
Perhaps the most ludicrous claim is the right's non-inflation indexed wage growth that takes no account of the massive increase in top salaries and the static or decreased bottom. On "average", we're told it's all fine when it patently is not.
It really is time we looked deeper at where New Zealand's economy is going.
You cannot look at our extractive increasingly outside corporate-owned and directed economy without hearing the distant echo of Cecil Rhodes. We are heading into a new colonialism.
There is another way, and it involves building start-ups and value-chains that multiply and retain value within our regions. It involves shifting from the centralised assembly line economies of scale ideals of last century to all the exemplars of diverse, high value, high wage producing clusters, green-technologies, batch processing, economies of synergy and scope, where creativity and dynamism trumps the cheapness of treating people and land as colonial "resources" in an ever-bigger factory. The life-as-factory idea is robber baron madness.
And we need a government who is interested in truth, thinking and solving, not selling us the myth that our insane current economy is in any way "strong".
Chris Perley has a background in the field, in management, policy, consulting and research relating to land use, the environment, provincial economies and communities. He is an affiliated researcher at Otago University's Centre for Sustainability. He is the Green Party candidate for the Tukituki Electorate. Views expressed here are the writer's opinion and not the newspaper's. Email: email@example.com