Wednesday 11 January 2012


If I told you that I'm prepared to sacrifice long-held positions on things like privatizing the police force, legalizing all drugs, and moving copyright down to a 10-year window to negotiate a National Freedom Strategy with the government, you'd rightly wonder if I were some kind of lunatic. Perhaps a lunatic for seriously considering those positions, but more likely a lunatic for thinking that the government might be happy to see me, the weirdo academic, back down from these positions if only they'd negotiate some compromise strategy with me.

Run the Nash Bargaining calculus when one player has no threat point.  Heck, my three year old has a better bargaining position when he insists that he doesn't want to have a nap than I'd have on insisting that the government enter into negotiations with me on a National Freedom Strategy. At least the three year old has a threat point.

And so the news this morning on Radio New Zealand was mildly amusing:

Professor Jim Mann from Otago University says while diabetes management is a national health target, there is no overarching programme to battle its cause - obesity.
He says one of the reasons for that is the short-term mentality of politicians.
"Doing something about reducing the risk of obesity and its consequences is not something that anybody is going to see in a single electoral cycle."
Professor Mann says he would be willing to sacrifice long-held positions on things like taxes on unhealthy food and social marketing, to negotiate a national obesity strategy with the government.

How many divisions does Professor Mann have?


  1. You could, however, team up with some mates, call yourselves The National Council for the Protection of Freedom, massage a few stats and publish a report. That might be a start.

  2. Or form a new Libertarian political party and try to get some gains from inside the system. I buy the copyright and drug changes, although I doubt the great unwashed would accept legalising all drugs; imagine the wailing and gnashing of teeth over that one, I can hear the hand-wringing on talkback radio already, we must think of the children! I'd need some convincing on the merits of a privatised police force, but I'd still happily endorse your leadership :)

    As for Mann, I have to say the guy doesn't have a leg to stand on.

  3. @Lats: Like I said, I'm willing to compromise on those more hard-line positions. So long as they set up a National Strategy that lets me achieve those goals through incrementalist moves over time.

  4. Should you decide to form said party I'll volunteer to be your spokesperson for science/tech or the environment. I think I could pull off either. And I think Stu would be an excellent Defense spokesperson :)

  5. I would be willing to compromise on my ambition of becoming a dictator if, and only if, I am installed as a Monarch with largely ceremonial powers (but plush palace). Who's listening?

  6. It's just as well. I'm afraid if he was negotiating he'd sell us all off to government-run fat farms, where he would gladly exchange freedom for thinness. And the promise of forswearing taxes isn't credible. There would be a bill to be paid.

  7. @Lats: Hmm... Not so sure. I'd largely abolish the armed forces. Clark was right about the benign strategic environment.

    @Swan: Excellent.

    @BreedNZ: BreedNZ? I'm a bit confused by the handle. Agreed that forswearing taxes isn't credible. They'd be back as something recommended by the National Strategic Task Force a year down the line. That's the worry with this kind of nonsense - it's agreed to by the govt as a cheap way of shutting up the shouters in the short term, but then they come back a year later with a pile of reports and demand stuff.

  8. @Eric - I agree our current environment is pretty benign, but the armed forces play a mainly civil defense/emergency response role anyway, and are very useful in that regard. I don't see a need to abolish them, and from an international relations point of view I think it is useful to have a small elite force (SAS, engineers, medics) to assist in a supporting role in conflict areas. As Clark quite correctly surmised we don't need an air combat wing, but retaining transport and maritime patrol wings is very useful from a troop support / search and rescue / emergency response perspective. We also probably don't really need a blue-water navy, we should (IMO) have bought a bunch of patrol craft rather than the Anzac frigates. And for fishery / economic zone patrol I always liked the idea of a couple of diesel-electric subs, but that would probably not have cost any less than the frigates, and would have required extensive retraining for naval staff.