John Key is Irrelevant


“When the member says that he wants to have discussion and consultation with the Government, what he really means is that he wants the Government to see it the Greens’ way, and, in my view, that would be disastrous for the economy.”

John Key, Question Time, 2 June 2015

One thing that is increasingly clear to me is that John Key is irrelevant.

The world is awakening out of a deep sleep into a cold sweat on climate change while John Key is planning golfing holidays with the Obamas in Hawaii, and thinking how nice his name will sound with Sir as a prefix.  When the main political party in parliament which is best informed and most committed to strong leadership on climate change says “let’s talk” the correct response is “yes, please”.

As the IPCC points out:

Effective decision making to limit climate change and its effects can be informed by a wide range of analytical approaches for evaluating expected risks and benefits, recognizing the importance of governance, ethical dimensions, equity, value judgments, economic assessments and diverse perceptions and responses to risk and uncertainty.

Finding 3.1, IPCC Fifth Assessment Synthesis Report

You might also note that what we are supposed to be weighing in our minds as we do this is a long list of factors of which one is economics.  You might also note that John Key only talks about economics and cost when he talks about climate change.  John Key says a reduction of 40% on 1990 levels would be disastrous for New Zealand’s economy, and yet the IPCC report states keeping temperatures within a 2°C rise: “require[s] substantial emissions reductions over the next few decades and near zero emissions of CO2 and other long-lived GHGs by the end of the century” (Finding 3.4).


It is probably not surprising that a government led by a man with such a narrow grasp of complex problems and such a limited set of life experiences is approaching the global challenge of our generation from the perspective of the solitary thing he claims to understand: economics.  It is also not surprising that the main advise his government seems to be receiving on this issue is from Treasury.  Considering the massive impacts of climate change on all aspects of life it might seem relevant to have all ministries report on climate change.  Then again this government has a long record of giving people the finger in its ministerial appointments: Tim Groser as Minister for Trade and for Climate Change.  FFS.  We may as well have a minister for human rights and the promotion of slavery.

Treasury, by the way, suggests:

New Zealand’s objective should be to take a target that reflects our “fair share” of global mitigation effort.

“Fair share” is a calculation against our GDP because this is how the idealogs of capitalism think: percentage points of GDP.  Once the global economy begins to fall apart under the pressures of environmental catastrophe I wonder what our “fair share” will be?

You might say, “hang on, isn’t he the Prime Minister?  How can John be irrelevant if he actually has all that power?”  Which is a fair point.  However, when everyone wants to talk about actual reality and the Prime Minister wants to talk about which fabric would look nice at the top of a pole so that we can sing songs to it and give it a salute then they have proven themselves totally irrelevant, and – unfortunately – we are going to have to talk past them.  “Them” in this case is these people:


Even though I would fit into this picture perfectly well I still find it offensive.  What kind of diversity does this represent?  A bunch of wealthy white men in uniform in a house so large it seems to have two living rooms in its living room.  Remember the IPCC report suggesting that we tackle problems using a wide range of analytical approaches?  I look at this photo and question their ability to do anything other than agree with each other over what “sensible” and “normal” is.  Sensible and normal for them is called asking an orthodox economist.

Frankly, who gives a stuff what most economic “experts” think.  They are almost all drones spouting orthodoxy completely detached from reality in their own countries never mind how life is lived for the bulk of the planet.

Economic experts of Britain in the 18th century reported that an end to the slave trade would be disastrous to the British and the African economy.  Imagine the harm done to Africa if the African war lords stopped getting Western goods in exchange for human beings.  Imagine the harm done to Britain if their unpaid labour source dried up.  Furthermore, imagine how other countries like France would take advantage of the vacuum left by Britain.  Indeed, economists lamented the increasing French market domination due to their ability to undercut British commodity prices, thanks to their enthusiastic embrace of slavery “negro husbandmen”.

Is that what you want?  More expensive tea, and sugar and the ending of the gainful employment of millions of grateful labourers in the developing world?  Think of the cost!  Think of our economy!  Disastrous, disastrous.

Try and guess what this “expert” is talking about:

“their current lack of a track record makes predicting their potential growth, and their risk/return profile, difficult for institutional investors”

Amazingly, they are talking about organisations helping the mentally ill in New Zealand.  It’s tough for these massive financial organisations.  If they get it wrong their wealthy stockholders will hold them to account.  Of course if they get it wrong it also means that somebody has screwed up helping the mentally ill in New Zealand.  The National government has a good track record on getting private providers to do work.  Novopay was really well implemented.

So, to be clear, John can think of ways to try new economic models on very vulnerable members of society, but he can’t think of anything creative to trial economically with climate change.  I suppose it’s not too surprising.  After all he’s not actually an economist.  John was a foreign exchange manager: someone who makes money out of money by moving it at the right time.  Let’s keep that in mind every time someone bows to his supposed brilliant economic mind.

Of course if John and Bill can’t think of any ideas they could ask the Green Party.  What economic lunacy do they refer to?  Russel Norman refers to this bunch of crazies:


These cowboys are talking this kind of hippy-dippy idiocy:

Low-carbon and climate-resilient growth is possible.  The capital for the necessary investment is available, and the potential for innovation is vast.  What is needed is strong political leadership and credible, consistent policies.

Imagine if we shredded all Treasury reports that suggested “fair share” policies on climate change, and we went for strong political leadership focused on gaining investment in innovation that confronted climate change.  Imagine if we put New Zealand at the forefront of that change and were able to shift our economy out of farming and tourism alone as sources of income.

We could look to that, or we could help rich people build farms in the desert.

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I wrote a book called Kaitiaki o te Pō