Dita De Boni 's Opinion

Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Dita De Boni: Tin Man needs to find a heart

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Logic is one thing - the reality of human existence is quite another.

Illustration / Anna Crichton
Illustration / Anna Crichton

To some, he is the leader of a marginal political party representing business interests. To Richard Prebble, he is the second coming of Jesus Christ (literally, it seems: Prebble said the atmosphere at Act HQ was "like Christmas" since he appeared).

To much of the rest of New Zealand, Dr Jamie Whyte, Act party leader, is the man who inadvertently stumbled into admitting that he thought incest between consenting adults was something the state should turn a blind eye to. Backtrack, regret and wiffle away from the comment as he did, he will still be known as Jamie "Uncle Cousin" Whyte by many people.

Not that this is likely to stop the people of Epsom ensuring he is able to attach himself to a National-led Government and slip into Parliament through the back door. Like John Banks before him, he will also be able to slip through radical, untested policy, like Charter Schools. Which is good reason to pay attention to what Jamie Whyte says now.

One thing Whyte seems to ignore, despite his huge intelligence, is that some ideas which sound perfectly rational on paper bear no resemblance to human existence as we know it.

Yes, perhaps the Government shouldn't be coming between amorous siblings, for example, but in real life, humans have a resistance to such relationships in their very bones, because they are detrimental to human society and the common good.

Jamie's most recent pearler is that government departments and agencies should be required to declare on their home webpage, "but for this agency, your income tax rate would be X per cent lower". This, says Jamie, is an idea so good that every other political party will oppose it.

The problem with this - apart from the fact that it would require even more Treasury turks to calculate what X is - is that it asks the reader to ask just one question: "how much does this cost me?". It's a simplistic and meaningless calculation, based on a mildly sociopathic outlook on life that rejects "society" and wants to be free to operate with the least regulation possible, while denying the inevitable power imbalances and other coercive constraints that act on every and all systems.

All this makes the green-lighting of incest seem almost harmless by comparison. But Dr Whyte goes further, suggesting a civic mind is basically "morally self-indulgent posturing".

I know this because I have read his piece in the Wall Street Journal, published just last week, called "Political Virtue as a Fashion Accessory". In it, he says "moral exhibitionism" is the reason why people look for political solutions to the problems of our time: minimum wages, the RMA, the "rich prick" tax, resource management and the lowering of greenhouse gas emissions, for example. All things that morally bankrupt show-offs care about, apparently. All of this written as if the author is channelling the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz.

Where I agree with Dr Whyte is that I do think there is a solid constituency of New Zealanders, perhaps as many as 10 per cent, who believe that paying almost no tax (legally) while also maintaining all the hallmarks of a functioning society is an entirely workable proposal. My suggestion is that ultimately, even incest is a more palatable idea than that.

- NZ Herald

Dita De Boni

Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Dita De Boni is a columnist, commentator and TV producer/journalist. She first wrote columns for the NZ Herald in 1995, moving to daily business news in 1999 for four years, and then to TVNZ in Business, News and Current Affairs. After tiring of the parenting/blogging beat for the Herald Online she moved back to her first love, business (with a politics chaser), writing a column for Friday Business since 2012.

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