Friday, 30 September 2011

When consent of the governed cannot exist

The very basis of democracy is that the government is by the people, for the people, of the people. The government is supposed to act in the name of the people, with their consent - that's what the whole voting process is about. When a significant enough portion of the population votes for a party, it indicates that they approve of their policies.

But for this relationship to have any real meaning, the people must know what the government is doing. Not necessarily detailed information that is highly sensitive, but at least an overall idea - they should know what those secret parts of the government are doing, in general. A government that deliberately hides its actions from the voters cannot have consent, because the voters do not have the knowledge required to form consent.

Which is a problem for National. They have just - finally - admitted that the SAS are in a combat role in Afghanistan, which I suspect quite a lot of people were pretty sure of anyway (I was). But we weren't told. Instead we were fed the lie that they were "mentoring" and "giving aid". In the meantime, there are families in New Zealand who've had members in combat situations while the government lied about it, and presumably the SAS were not allowed to admit this.

And of course, they're still hiding the ACTA and TPPA negotiations. The only information we have on either of these treaties has been leaked, not released officially, and all of it looks bad for us. Yet, if the government signs these treaties (and they look set to sign ACTA this weekend), we will be contractually obliged to follow them, severely limiting the laws we can set in several different areas - for example, one provision that has been partially revealed could well prevent us from enacting laws to protect against the evergreening of medical patents (such as those in India).

America is a bully when it comes to copyrights. It is utterly ridiculous that an easy way to guess whether a book or movie is in copyright is to check whether it came out before Walt Disney's work, yet media corporations like Disney are essentially setting copyright laws for much of the world because of the broken political system in the US and the sycopancy of other governments.

America is a bully when it comes to medicine, too. It's a huge industry over there, with drug companies and insurance providers essentially running the entire show, and the fact that medicines can be bought here for far cheaper than they can in the US upsets them terribly. That's possible because we have Pharmac which can negotiate a decent deal for us, so they'd love for National to agree to anything that would weaken Pharmac's position - another thing rumoured to play a big part in TPPA.

And especially, America is a bully in the Middle East. At this point there are no good guys in this conflict - every side is supporting or has supported or will support at least one dictatorial regime willing to inflict horrors on its people for militarial or financial gain. We should absolutely not be encouraging it, let alone participating, yet National has put us in that situation and refuses to bring us back out of it. To suggest that it would be dishonorable to withdraw is utterly ludicrous and downright offensive. If they had any respect for the dead they would bring the still living home.

If we lived in a fair world, more voters would take National's admission of the true nature of the SAS' mission, as well as the credit rating downgrade we've just received, as reason to not re-elect them. Not that Labour is the best alternative, having just caved on the video surveillance bill, but three more years of National will only increase the death toll - not just for our soldiers, but for those driven into poverty by their failed economic policies.

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