Thursday, 4 September 2014

Why not a teal coalition?

After the Green's described themselves as more pro-market than National last week, I tweeted:
Will Taylor replied that he and Matt feel that NZ needs a real blue-green party.
I think they were thinking of a new party. But I don't see why it would not be feasible for the current Green party to enter into a governing coalition with National after the election this year. If National get enough seats to govern alone, the minor parties will have no bargaining power (although, I still think the Greens should try to form a coalition, for the reasons below). But if National falls short of that mark, they would likely be very open to a partnership with a single, stable, reasonably-non-crazy minor party. The Greens would just need to decide what are the one or two key issues that are really important to them and that are not unthinkable for a pragmatic centre-right party--e.g. 1. clean waterways and a serious policy on carbon emissions, and 2 funding for child-poverty initiatives--and then agree to throw away some of the minor stuff like their positions on monetary policy. The long-term advantages to the Greens would be enormous:

  • The alternative is likely to be not being in government at all, or being in government with a coalition with Mana, Internet, NZ First, and Labour, which is probably a brush a principled party would not want to get tarred with.
  • It would make credible for a long-time that the Greens are prepared to work with either major party to further environmental issues, and so give them much more bargaining power with Labour after future elections.
  • Any move on environmental policy achieved in a coalition with National, even if not as strong as could be agreed to by Labour, would be sustainable beyond the next election and could be strengthened then. In contrast, a strong ETS negotiated with Labour might not survive beyond the 2017 election. 
  • Where their policies are more market oriented than National's (pricing water appropriately for dairy farmers, not discouraging high-density living in Auckland), having the push come from the Greens would enable National to implement those policies without fear of a backlash from the left. 
I am deadly serious about this. Why not? 


  1. Why not? Could turn off a lot of Green voters, massively reducing their vote share in the future and making it more difficult to implement their policy agenda in the long-term?

    Is there data on voters second choices? Who they'd vote for if they had to vote for someone else? That could help us figure out how many Green voters could reasonably be called left-wing, and hence unlikely to look favourably on a coalition. If there's a party preference breakdown for any "country heading in the right direction" polls, that could work as well.

  2. It depends on what the Green's objective is. A small party can consider itself successful if it moves the policy positions of other parties, even if it doesn't get to be in power itself. And even if the objective is to implement (rather than see implemented by someone else), the key is not how many seats a party has, but how much influence it has in a coalition. So yes, a coalition wiht National would send some of their supporters--those who are not primarily environmentalists--back to Labour (or Internet?) but by credibly giving them options as to which major party they support, they would have more bargaining power in a future coalition with Labour even though they had fewer seats.

  3. I'd call myself a very left-wing Greens member/voter, and I would agree that Seamus's scenario would be a less-bad government than many, but I would be agin it for the same reason. The Green party relies on a large activist base, and my personal anecdata from around the last election is that a huge number of them would be turned off by even the suggestion of dealing with National, regardless of the actual policy outcomes.

  4. I know you're trying to make a rhetorical point, but the Greens don't really care about the environment (That's the point you're trying to make, if they DID care about the environment, then they'd think about this type of coalition). They're communists in disguise.

  5. I agree with Seamus. Both parties are equally economically literate in my view, the Greens with their $18 minimum wage and National with their universal super at 65 and road mania. Sure the base might not like it, but it's also not good to tie yourself to one of two very similar centrist parties, when it's the far less popular of the two.

    Remember, the Australian Greens scuttled carbon pricing when there was a bipartisan consensus for it, eventually killing off Malcolm Turnbull and Kevin Rudd, and now they have Tony Abbott and Clive Palmer running the show.

    The uncertainty would be whether we got the "good" green policies (moar cycleways/PT, denser cities, water pricing) or the "bad" ones (no GMOs, no drilling, no nukes). But I worry less about craziness from the Greens than from any other junior coalition partner.

    As for the argument it will never happen, I don't care. If we spend more time discussing things that will "never happen", some of them might happen.

  6. FYI, this was the key post Will was getting at when talking about the idea - if you'd like to see some of the justifications we had, and the comments we heard from people about it:

  7. Hmm. Steven Landsburg seems to assume that the economy is a fixed pie, and if someone consumes more then someone else must consume less. That may be true in the short run, but I think is a bad model of the economy long-term. Particularly in the US economy at the moment where it appears there is unused capacity.

    What I struggle with is that ACC levies have recently been reducing on the basis that the fully funded liabilities mean we no longer need to build up reserves. Presumably if these reserves were taken then ACC levies would rise again? So isn't this really another way of saying that they're going to put up taxes to pay for their boondoggle?

    The bit where they have no plausible plan to actually create jobs is an entirely different problem that we all seem to be ignoring.

  8. I don't think Landsburg assumes that. This came up at the time of his "man who can't be taxed" post. You can build a model where government expenditure causes an increase in output (say a simple traditional Keynesian view), but you could achieve the same effect by just spending with printed money. His point is that taxing someone (or some organisation) who is not othewise spending the money does not mean that resources are being *transferred* to the government at no opportunity cost.

  9. His post seems to clearly describe a situation where any consumption by govt must necessarily displace consumption by someone else. But the other possible option is that the overall production level in the economy increases.

    Don't get me wrong, I think it would be a bad idea to tax someone just because it offends you that they have money. But that's different from arguing that taxing them won't actually impact their consumption, and therefore must impact someone else in the economies consumption due to a zero sum game.

    Am I misreading that logic chain?

  10. Somewhere in the comments to that post, he noted that if government expenditure creates output (either as a Keynesian effect, or by providing public infrastructure), then the expenditure doesn't crowd out private expenditure by the same amount; but that is an effect of the expenditure, not the tax. Given the expenditure, taxing a non-consumer does not come at zero opportunity cost.

  11. Grendel_from_the_deadFri Sep 05, 09:58:00 am GMT+12

    You keep calling the greens principled. compared to what?

    they are a party that has never really be called on their apparent principles by the media, where other parties have every single comment analysed and argued against ad nauseum.

    I know their marketing and image (again never challenged) tries to claim they are soft and fluffy etc, but their background is a huge activist base of people with no issues with damaging private property (greenpeace people, waihopi lot, occupy, last elections vandalism campaign). Principled? doubtful (unless you agree with what they call their principles), better at hiding their 'dirty politics' (or never having it questions by a compliant media)? absolutely.

    the desperation in meterias voice as she gagging for the power she seeks and beleives she is so close to, makes it clear that power not principles is their focus.

  12. Grendel_from_the_deadFri Sep 05, 09:59:00 am GMT+12

    they have confirmed this as such. they said that the two ministerial roles they wanted were for their key focus - monetary policy and eradicating poverty.

    you would have thought a green party would have had environment in their top 2 (or top 1), but no it was tax and spend.

  13. Actually, I didn't call them principled. I said that a principled party would not want to get into a grand coalition with NZ First, Internet, Mana. Whether they are a principled party is an open question. if they are, they should consider a coalition with National.

  14. National will not work with the Greens again, and too much of the Greens power base and at least half the current co-leadership defines itself as anti-National and anti-capitalist, as opposed to pro-environment. That makes a National-Green coalition unworkable. The Greens did not operate in good faith or constructively in 2008-2009 working with National. There is no chance of any arrangement like that repeating under the current Green leadership.

  15. In principle a Green party should be centrist on most issues, and focus on adding a bit of Green to whomever is in power. So in principle this should work.

    In practice:
    1. The Greens focus on policies that have not much to do with the environment, and most of those policies wouldn't fly with that Nats
    2. Even those polices they have that are Green seem to have their priorities wrong - for example global warming policies are largely a waste of space (NZ has no influence on global warming, what we do has no impact other than on NZ)
    3. Politically speaking, it'd be a disaster for the Greens. They have no electorate seat, they cannot afford the risk of dipping below 5%

  16. True, but very much a side point and it felt like "I know some people think this, and I don't myself, but if you did think that it still wouldn't change my conclusion".

  17. So they would rather agitate than co-operate. 100% of nothing is still nothing.

  18. Absolutely. He doesn't believe there is Keynesian underemployment in the US. But rejecting that view doesn't invalidate his argument.