What values are NZ political parties appealing to? Party one: National

It is less than a month before the general election in New Zealand, so I decided to take a look at the websites of the three main political parties and analyse the extent to which they are appealing to infinite and finite values.  I looked only at the messages that were instantly visible on the homepage of each party. This blog extends over three days. Today, it features the ruling National Party, currently 50% in the polls. (Note: I worked from screenshots taken on August 19, 2014).

National’s main heading is Good progress on Better Public Service targets. Now, unless you know that National has targets for Better Public Service, you would find this heading extremely difficult to follow. The fact that you need to be in the know to understand National’s stand-out message is a major clue that it is a finite appeal. That is, it refers to something that is valuable because of what it signifies, not something that is valuable in and of itself. If it was an infinite appeal, anyone could understand its merits. Under this heading is some elaboration: Long-term welfare dependency is reducing and more young people are achieving higher qualifications under the Government’s Better Public Services initiative, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English and State Services Minister Jonathan Coleman say. It is still hard to find much of infinite value here. If welfare dependency is decreasing because more people are in jobs, then why wasn’t it phrased in this more positive way? As for young people getting higher qualifications; this is again a relatively finite appeal.  Qualifications may lead to something of infinite value, but we are not told what this is.

Under this are three sub-headings. The first is: $212 million for regional state highway projects.  Given that the number one finite value elicited when playing the Infinite Game is money, and that this is simply a statement of expenditure, then this, too is a purely finite appeal. It assumes we already agree that state highway expenditure is an excellent move. Then comes: NZ among better performers on inequality - OECD. Now, I assume this means that NZ has less inequality relative to other nations, not that it has more. So, finally, the infinite has appeared, as most of us would agree that today’s levels of inequality are intrinsically problematic. But, what is notable about this phrasing is that it is hard to tell if we are meant to be pleased because inequality is reducing or because we are scoring well in the race to do so. The final sub-heading is: Supporting families and returning to surplus. Every time I start to write about this one, my mind hurts. The statement starts in an infinite spirit with supporting families and then, with no transition, brings us back to earth with a claim about the state of the economy. 

In summary, National is appealing dominantly to finite values, and even when infinite values appear they are coupled with, or embedded in a finite context. This leads me to wonder if people who vote National feel we are inevitably caught in a finite game, and this is the party that will make sure we win. The infinite is either too remote or too obvious to be given much mention.  Alternatively, perhaps when you are in power, you start to refer more and more to the structures you have put in place, as if meeting your self-imposed goals is somehow the same as creating a vibrant, liveable society. Has National forgotten the point? Or is it simply using short-cuts that point to a genuine vision for a better society?

If you'd like to sign up for blog posts via email, click here