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Liberal Democracy PAKEHA POLITICAL IDEOLOGY* WHETHER it be liberal democratic, or derived from any other tradition, the precise relation of political theory to political praciice remains a source of perplexity to political scientists. With respect to New Zealand, the problem is multiplied. Whatever is said about the subject is met by profound scepticism. New Zealanders with few exceptions tend to believe that theory or 'ideas' have no significant impact at all on political practice in 'God's Own Country'. According to Austin Mitchell, 'most New Zealanders wouldn't recognise an ideology if it accosted them in the TAB'.' And there is a long record of similar, albeit less vividly portrayed, claims made by others such as Albert MĂȘtin, Oliver Duff, and J. B. Condliffe.2 The more sophisticated exponents of the 'pragmatic' theory of New Zealand politics tend to acknowledge that 'principles' and 'philosophies' have not been absent; however, the influence of ideas has been slight, they claim, and politicians of an ideological or theoretical bent have rarely been successful. Yet in searching for obvious policy effects of the principles of politicians, they tend to ignore more important, if less precise, subliminal and subterranean theoretical influences.3 'Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist', Keynes wrote.4 In 1904 Andre Siegfried * This article was first delivered as a lecture in the 1986 Winter Lecture Series at the University of Auckland. Acknowledgements are due to John Hannan, simply because without his request for a lecture on the subject, it would not have been written. 1 A.V. Mitchell, 'Democratic Socialism in One Country', in P. Davis, ed., New Zealand Labour Perspectives I: The Challenge of the Third Depression, Auckland, 1981, p. 141. 2 For discussion and documentation of this tradition see R. Lyon, 'The Principles of New Zealand Liberal Political Thinking in the Late Nineteenth Century', PhD thesis, University of Auckland, 1982, pp.2-3. 3 Even in the case of specific and direct influence 'ideas' have had important practical implications : for example, with Reeves as Minister of Labour under the Liberals, and the establishment of certain basic principles of the welfare state under the first Labour government . On this see E. Hanson, The Politics of Social Security, Auckland, 1980, pp.108-16. 4 J.M. Keynes, The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, London, 1936, p.383. While repeated citation of this remark has made its use increasingly hackneyed, Bruce Jesson has used its major thrust to good effect in a brief analysis of New Zealand politics in the mid-1980s: see his' "Madmen in Authority, Who Hear Voices in the Air" ', Republican, 56 (October 1985), pp.2-3. 215 216 JACK VOWLES had applied a similar insight to New Zealanders: 'Like almost all men of action', the settlers had 'a contempt for theories; yet they are often captured by the first theory that turns up, if it is demonstrated to them with an appearance of logic sufficient to impose upon them'.3 Ideas and theories are not therefore irrelevant in New Zealand; indeed, the belief that they are is an idea itself worthy of examination and explanation . However one aspect of the traditional scepticism about ideas in New Zealand may be justified. As Keith Sinclair asked in the second series of the University of Auckland's Winter Lectures in 1961: 'Has anyone ever heard of an original New Zealand political idea?' There is no record of any reply.' New Zealand's isolation, the subject of that series of lectures, has never been so great as to prevent the importation of ideas. Indeed, the common heritage of the English language New Zealand has shared with the two successive dominant powers of the last century or so makes intellectual and cultural isolation even more unthinkable. Teaching a course on political ideas in New Zealand over four years, I failed to find evidence of original New Zealand political ideas, certainly not Pakeha ones.7 1 suspect the lack of originality in basic concepts and ideas is not due to isolation, nor even to the oft-claimed 'pragmatism' and anti-intellectualism of the Pakeha New Zealanders. Rather it...

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