ACT now!!

jamiewhyteIf you like The Big Questions, you really ought to know my brash and brilliant friend Jamie Whyte. After a brief but dazzling career as a philosopher at Cambridge university (he once won the prestigious Analysis prize for the best article by a philosopher under 30), Jamie distinguished himself as a management consultant, a foreign currency trader, and, via his frequent writing, an incisive and steadfast defender of rational thought and individual freedom. His little book on Crimes Against Logic delivers brilliantly on its promise to “expose the bogus arguments of politicians, priests, journalists and other serial offenders”, and his recent collection Free Thoughts (which, true to its title, you can read for free) is essential fare for anyone who cares about clarity of thought — or, because Jamie is as funny as he is brilliant, anyone who’s just looking for a good chuckle.

Now, in his most startling career twist yet, Jamie has become the leader of a political party in his native New Zealand — the ACT party, named for its forerunner, the Association of Consumers and Taxpayers. ACT stands unabashedly for individual liberty, the rule of law and the enforcement of well-defined property rights. It campaigns against corporate welfare. It’s even pro-immigration. And thanks to New Zealand’s system of proportional representation, it actually gets representatives into parliament.

After several years of turmoil, the party turned to Jamie’s leadership in February of this year. With the boundless energy that inspires awe in everyone he meets, Jamie is re-building the party and promoting a principled free-market agenda in the run-up to the September 20 general election.

actThe downside of being a principled politician — and the reason they’re almost vanishingly rare — is that it’s hard to raise funds when you won’t cater to special interests. ACT opposes both corporate welfare and legal favoritism for union members, which cuts out most of the usual big donors. Here’s where you can help, and I hope you will.

Never before (and, I expect, never again) have I encouraged my readers to support any political party with their votes, let alone their dollars. That’s because I’ve spent my adult life being seduced and abandoned by politicians who talked a good game and then caved in to expediency when the chips were down. But Jamie — and therefore ACT — is different. I know him as a friend, and I know that principles are his passion.

You can help make ACT’s vision a reality by visiting the donation page and giving generously. Remember that a New Zealand dollar is worth about 88 cents U.S., so if you’re an American, a “$100 donation” is actually $88.

A little more background on New Zealand:

New Zealand has often led the world in public policy. At the beginning of the 1980s, the New Zealand economy was far more socialized than the U.S. or British economies, but by the end of the decade, free market reforms had gone far beyond anything contemplated by Reagan or Thatcher. Newt Gingrich and his “Contract with America” colleagues visited New Zealand in the early-90s for inspiration.

Over the past decade, New Zealand’s public policy has slid sadly backward. Jamie and ACT are out to get it back on the right track. New Zealand is a small country (pop 4.5 million) but, because it is both developed and English-speaking, it gets a lot of international attention and can serve as a prominent good example for others to follow. Please help!!

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16 Responses to “ACT now!!”


  1. 1 1 Jeff S

    In general, the party seems to take a level-headed approach. Not sure why they want nuclear weapons, though. (New Zealand already has peaceful nuclear power.)

    ACT also recognises that, for a small country in a dangerous world, security means collective security. To this end, ACT sees the country’s anti-nuclear stance as an unjustifiable obstacle to better cooperation with our closest allies, and supports lifting this ban.

    http://www.act.org.nz/?q=policies/defence-0

  2. 2 2 Chris

    Jeff S, I can see why you would be confused by that paragraph, so as a New Zealander, please allow me to clarify.

    The Anti-Nuclear policy is one which is all-encompassing, including preventing nuclear-powered ships from entering NZ’s territorial waters. This meant that nuclear-powered US warships could not enter, which led to the US suspending its obligations under the ANZUS defense treaty.

    Nobody in New Zealand politics advocates that NZ should have nuclear weapons, simply that the absolutist anti-nuclear stance be altered to allow nuclear-powered warships into NZ waters, thereby allowing us to resume our participation in the ANZUS treaty.

  3. 3 3 CC

    Sounds like a good guy. Let me point out that while your readers, many of whom are Americans, are encouraged to donate money to his campaign, it would be the “worst thing in the world” if foreigners were able to influence U.S. elections! (SL, I know you don’t think that, but it’s taken for granted in a lot of discussions about money in politics.)

  4. 4 4 David Wallin

    Chris, is it not the case also that countries must certify their non-nuclear vessels are not carrying nuclear weapons to enter NZ waters (I think this would also apply to aircraft)?

  5. 5 5 Jeff S

    Chris, thank you for clarifying what “anti-nuclear” means in New Zealand. I see that I read that wrong.

    Living in Los Angeles, I have little contact with NZ politics. It is fascinating to read the ACT party platform. The concern about “lifestock theft” seems a little surreal to me, but I gather that’s an issue in rural New Zealand.

    Crimes Against Logic is a great book. Good luck to Jamie Whyte.

  6. 6 6 Roger

    On immigration, it says:
    “ACT also believes that government policy should seek to ensure that immigration remains a good deal for the domestic population.”
    http://www.act.org.nz/?q=policies/immigration-0

  7. 7 7 Harold

    “ACT is also committed to monitoring the emerging literature that suggests immigration may make the domestic population poorer through a process of capital widening.”

    Any clarification here? It seems likely that whilst overall immigration will benefit more people than it harms, this includes the immigrants. Is this rather like saying that opening up a closed shop union will make the current workers worse off through a process of wage widening?

  8. 8 8 Jonathan Kariv

    Steve (and anyone else) just curious and only marginally relevant. Do you have any thoughts on the “pros and cons” of proportional representation (as we have in sa and nz has) vs the
    winner take all” system in the us?

  9. 9 9 Gareth

    Thanks for this Steven. The ACT party, like NZ public policy in general, had really lost it’s way over the last decade – tending to stray into populism rather than stick to it’s original vision. Now that Jamie has taken over as leader, it has the potential to really put my wonderful country back on track. Jamie has a lot of work to do to rebuild the party’s reputation but with endorsements like yours I’m feeling fairly upbeat about our upcoming elections. Cheers!

  10. 10 10 Harold

    #8 The UK had a referendum on changing to a “alternative vote” recently. This entailed ranking you preferences instead of just putting a cross. It was defeated. All voting systems have problems – the first past the post included. However, we have got used to the iniquities of the current system. When the problems of a different system are pointed they appear obvious, whereas the problems with the current system seem normal.

  11. 11 11 Jonathan Kariv

    @Harold #10, interesting. What was the kind of rhetoric people where giving for the two systems? It’s certainly true that all voting systems have problems (see arrow’s theorem and related), I guess I’m asking for some way to think about which problems occur where, and to what extent. I don’t have any concrete ideas on how to approach it.

  12. 12 12 Ted Levy

    I seem to recall that, even with the backwards slide you mention, NZ still ranks significantly above the USA in the Fraser Institute Index of Economic Freedom.

  13. 13 13 Harold

    Jonathan: I think it may be summed up by prime minister Cameron’s quote “when it comes to our democracy, Britain shouldn’t have to settle for anyone’s second choice.”

    The No (to AV) campaign used lots of made up figures about costs and sometimes out and out lies and scare tactics – such as AV would give more votes to fringe parties, some people would have more than one vote and AV would require expensive voting machines.

    The Yes campaign tried to point out that AV would better represent the desires of the people, but got a bit drowned out by the noise from the other side.

    The Liberal Democrats who proposed the change were not too popular at the time, having just gone into coalition with the conservatives. A no vote was portrayed as a slap in the face for Nick Clegg, the Lib Dems leader.

  14. 14 14 GregS

    I’ve finished reading Free Thoughts, and I’ve started reading Crimes Against Logic, too. That’s right, your short post managed to sell a book. Quite a bit of his reasoning is very familiar. I have four possible theories.
    1) Jamie Whyte has had an enormous influence on Steven Landsburg.
    2) Steven Landsburg has had an enormous influence on Jamie Whyte.
    3) People who are dedicated to honest truth-seeking and coherent, logical argumentation tend to reach similar conclusions and speak in the same terms.
    4) All of the above are true.
    I’m guessing it’s 4). I’d put you both in a category that also includes David Friedman. You’re all very different, but you have similar styles and a dedication to taking logic where it leads you. You don’t balk when you reach an unpleasant/unauthorized conclusion. Keep it up.

  15. 15 15 Frosty

    Can anyone defend or elaborate on Mr. Whyte’s claim that …the costs of alcohol consumption are borne entirely by the drinker. If there is a correlation between drunkenness and unpleasant events such as traffic accidents, assaults, child/spouse abuse, aren’t the others involved paying a cost? More specifically, if a pedestrian is struck by a vehicle and the primary factor is determined to be the driver’s drunkenness, hasn’t the pedestrian borne some of the cost of the driver’s alcohol consumption?

  16. 16 16 Frosty

    As of yet, nobody wishes to defend or elaborate on Mr. Whyte’s claim that …the costs of alcohol consumption are borne entirely by the drinker.. For those thinking this statement might be defensible, but needed more context, the statement comes from the “Adults of the world, unite!” article which can be found in the referenced collection Free Thoughts.

    Earlier in the same article, Mr. Whyte also claims By imposing artificial costs on drinkers in an attempt to make them drink less than they otherwise would, Dr. Gilmore can only be harming them. Is anyone able to defend or elaborate on this claim. Does Mr. Whyte believe nobody voluntarily drinks more than he should? An alcoholic, perhaps? Does Mr. Whyte conclude a person’s voluntary choice must have been best simply because it was chosen?

  1. 1 “Crimes Against Logic” | prior probability
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