Flag The Referendum!

If we get nothing out of the whole “flag debate”, hopefully we get to learn something again about our system, and just how messed up it is.flagquestionmark

Scrolling through your Facebook feed, it is hard to escape angsty posts about the terrible quality of the alternative flags, how much the referendum process costs, how the current flag is colonialist and racist, why we should boycott the referendum, and eventually (once the results come out) how unfair the result was. But what is hilarious in spite of this all, is how reminiscent the attacks on the referendum are of critiques of democracy!

I can say that I sympathise with a lot of these angsty statuses, some are real concerns. The fact that $26 million is being spent on this, with $6.73 million being spent on the “public consultation process” (i.e. bureaucracy, bureaucracy, bureaucracy, which attempts to ensure that the referendum is up to scratch so democracy can work) just shows us the nature of government spending, and how much is wasted on every single project, on petty “engagement”. If you want to follow what the panel actually did, it wandered the country, talking to people about their values and attending meetings and workshops. This is what millions has been poured into. And if you think that $26 million is not actually that much in the larger scheme of things, you can look at the larger scheme of things – total government spending for 2015/16 is $88.6 billion, and GDP is $240 billion – in other words, government spending is 36.7% of GDP. This is all just a reminder that our markets are not so free, after all.

I really dislike the current flag. If you study its origins, the reason we have the Southern Cross on the flag is because of its naval significance, and the Union Jack of course, because of the monarchy. But what does that mean to us? The everyday Kiwi in a pluralistic, individualist society, now pretty divorced from the United Kingdom? Very little. Our current flag is a simple reminder that our culture is built on the back of colonial expansion. There is no recognition or acknowledgement of the tangata whenua and Māori society, but simply the image of a constellation which guided colonists, and the Union Jack to remind us that we started off as a part of the British Empire. In essence, it is a spitting image of statism and the destruction of Indigenous culture. Just a subtle reminder too, that flag burning is illegal because it hurts the government’s feelings.

Its royal blue background is reminiscent of the blue sea and sky surrounding us, and the stars of the Southern Cross signify our place in the South Pacific Ocean. The Union Flag recognises our historical foundations and that New Zealand was once a British colony and dominion. – Ministry of Culture and Heritage.

The current flag was not chosen by the people, but was chosen by the government, and yet we are told to identify with it and be proud of it. And now we get a “choice” – five other alternative flags, chosen from a forty others, by a group of temporary bureaucrats, which no one actually wants. Again, sounds just like democracy. Every election we turn up to the polls, and pick from a load of options which are not perfect, but feel are the best of the worst, and then get told afterwards how empowering democracy is and how accountable the government is. If things do not work well, just vote harder! Here we get given five half-class alternative, chosen by a taxpayer funded round table, and get told that we have a voice and are so lucky – it is laughable. If you are up in arms about this referendum, check out our democratic system – the difference is one of the two bears more significance on our lives, and costs us a hell of a lot more.

No matter what flag we get after this, the minority will complain about the result. Classic. Majority tyranny. Whatever flag is chosen will not be representative of the country, but representative of the majority. The will of the people is not a thing in democracy, only the will of the majority, and the permission to oppress the minority. And this is an important thing about the flag – be it chosen by the government (as the current one is) or chosen by the majority in a referendum, the flag cannot represent the people of a nation, and so the flag is pointless.

The alternative is that well… we do not have a flag. As controversial as this may sound, we are not defined by our birthplace within artificial borders – or at least should not be. If the referendum campaign is about standing up for our values, then a flag is the wrong way to go about it. Values are not collectivist but individualist, and it is wild to assume that you can display the distinct and diverse values of some four million people on a piece of flying fabric.

In fact a flag is only an extension of the contradictory idea of patriotism – that for some reason because we live within the same borders, we can take pride or share shame of the achievements of others born within the same borders. It all forms a part of the socialisation we are given by governments and reinforces social contract theory, that we exist as a collective, as a nation, with identical values and duties towards the state, and the progress of the nation  – which is plain wrong, and edging on fascism.

People who enjoy waving flags don’t deserve to have one. – Banksy

If this is true, then we should oppose even having a flag. Rather than considering what flag is the prettiest, we should consider what the flag actually means, and what the process signifies. What I have learned from all this, is that because our next one is being chosen by the majority, and we all have varying values and individuals, the flag serves little purpose. But that’s just me.


Intersectional Feminism is a Libertarian Cause

Yeah well that sounds ridiculous doesn’t it. Feminism, a social justice movement being paired with individualism? Crazy

right? But hear me out – even a free society needs feminism. And I’m not talking quotas, affirmative action and legislation – I’m talking about changing our attitudes, and our culture to ensure everyone gets a shot.

My train of thought starts here – freedom is about being able to make free choices – controlling your destiny, being yourself, and living to your utmost potential. Decisions are based on value – economically, on utility – and so individuals demand products and do things which are the most useful to them, or make them the happiest. This makes complete sense, but it is quite different when it comes to people.

Ideally, a free society would be meritocratic. People are hired based on skill, and so employers sign contracts with workers who are the most productive, the nicest, and best for the company, and employers would pay higher wages for those who are more skillful. Assuming that employers act within their self-interest, that should happen. And it would be beneficial. Free, voluntary exchanges would allow talent to be rewarded through price mechanisms.

When in public spaces, networking would be same from one person to the next – discrimination wouldn’t change the way someone approached situations and dealt with others. Where you come from, what you look like,

But that doesn’t happen. We do not have a meritocracy, and even if we were to intensely deregulate the market right here, right now, it still would not exist.

The question isn’t who is going to let me, it’s who is going to stop me. – Ayn Rand

Even humans with equal skill, nowadays, are not treated treated equally. Despite being in the 21st century, discrimination still manifests itself in so many corners of our lives, albeit casual and subtle. The world is built around corporate “professional” environments, where eurocentric dresscodes (like suits) are only permitted, cisheteronormative assumptions (i.e. you are either a straight, cis man or a straight cis woman), casual to outright skepticism of women in leadership (as only men are perceived as ‘strong’), elitist language codes and damaging racial stereotypes. This is not an exhaustive list, but some examples of sociological issues which get in the way of achieving a meritocracy, and lead to the isolation of individuals in certain scenarios.

Being born a certain way means you can be automatically worse off, and for some, discriminatory attitudes can get in the way of high skill or good character, stopping individuals from pursuing their own destiny. And while we like to ignore this when dreaming up a free society, it’s a reality which needs to be confronted. If libertarians believe in the aspirational elements of liberty – being able to progress off the back of your own work, and being valued for who you are – then libertarians should fight discrimination and marginalisation within their own lives. That way, anyone can profit from personal, and more importantly, economic liberty.

Sexism, classism, racism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, ableism and other forms of bigotry are also collectivist in nature, and therefore anti-libertarian. Discrimination, ranging from the casual and microaggressive to the blunt and indiscreet, results mostly from a false assumption of someone’s character based on a stereotype of a group they belong to. It allows a collective stereotype to come before individual qualities, and so is inherently anti-individualist. If we, as libertarians, are going to fight “groupthink” and collectivist ideas, we have a duty to fight against discrimination.

Racism is simply an ugly form of collectivism, the mindset that views humans strictly as members of groups rather than individuals. – Former Republican congressman Ron Paul

If another reason is needed to adopt intersectional feminism, it is that many forms of oppression that feminists protest have their origins in the theocratic/nationalist/corporatist history of the state. The treatment of people of colour as lesser than “superior” Europeans can be easily traced back to colonialism – the expansion of Western governments at the expense of indigenous peoples, years and years of slavery (the denial of a person’s individual sovereignty) and the prohibition and destruction of non-European cultures, justified by Darwinism. Oppression of women and queer people can partially be traced back to religious fundamentalism. Classism has over time been reinforced by corporate elites and dynasties, which are secured by government regulation and favours. What I’m trying to say is that historically, oppression is a statist trend.

If we are wanting to make a free society from a free market of ideas, we need to fight discrimination and casual phobias, so that everyone is able to profit from that. Free markets can work for people of all demographics, but only if everyone can access them – if we are to talk about regulatory barriers to freedom, we need to also look at sociological barriers. If we listen onto the experiences of marginalised people and change our attitudes, we can make it work – this is why we libertarians may well need feminism too.