Should we pretend voting matters?
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With the parliamentary election now scheduled for September 20, there is no better time to discuss voter apathy among the youth.
As a paid-up member of Gen Y, I thought I would share my personal position on apathy, and how I've come to my voting decision.
The relevance of the existing nationalist style of governance is eroding significantly. Modern problems are beginning to outgrow the scope of the nation state, particularly a nation state as insignificant as New Zealand.
Further, we as people are beginning to develop an internationalist consciousness that had previously been impossible.
The mass media, the internet, immigration, regional integration, the predominance of market economics - these factors are all drawing people together culturally, and we are seeing this in the way international pressure is coming to bear on governments in their policy decisions.
An example is Live8, which was an international mobilisation that pressured the G8 group of economically advanced nations to relieve the Third World debt burden.
This is active democracy which bypasses national state legislatures.
Recent responses from national governments on topics such as homosexual and drug law reform are further examples of responses to international generational pressures.
It is also becoming clear that the most important issues that we are facing as a society today are best dealt with on an international consensus basis, notably inequality and environmental degradation.
The most stark issue facing humanity today must be the wildly divergent standard of life between the rich and poor. I don't mean between rich and poor in the industrialised west, but even more obviously, between the west and the impoverished masses trapped outside the OECD.
While we in New Zealand critique gourmet food on Masterchef, those in Africa pick through waste, searching for items to barter for food.
A conservative estimate for 2010 finds that at least 84 per cent of all wealth is owned by 8.5 million people - 0.14 per cent of the world's population.
Many of the rich avoid income and estate taxes, and those that do pay taxes, pay it at a lower rate than most taxpayers worldwide. Google, Amazon and Starbucks paid no tax in the UK last year.
Warner Brothers told New Zealand legislators to change their labour laws or the Hobbit films would not have been made here.
French movie stars are leaving France because the people voted for a high taxation government.
Removing the ability of wealth to play one sovereign country off against another for benefits would give people much greater power to influence the world through democratic means, and would return the purpose of government to serving their constituents, rather than how best to entice global capital.
If the world operated under one fiscal system, the argument that if taxes rise, rich people leave, thereby decreasing the tax base, could no longer exist in concept.
The same prisoners dilemma is at play in the repeat attemps to have all 200-plus countries sign the Kyoto protocal.
Neither of the two largest carbon emitters, USA and China, have ever signed the protocol, as they have both been unwilling to harm their national corporate profit. Australia's new Prime Minister is opposed to the carbon tax, as it is hurting Australian mining interests.
This is in spite of the effects of climate change becoming clearer in our everyday lives and the scientific evidence of man made climate change becoming more certain with every passing day.
How have national governments been able to make policy decisions in their own country's interests when the effects of their policy are felt internationally?
An international dialogue must be opened up to mitigate the effects of climate change in the long term, and to ensure the ongoing sustainability of our relationship with the environment.
National governments are at best toothless, and at worst dangerous, in their dealings in this matter.
Governments are so constrained by the flexibility of labour and capital markets, specifically the desire to entice people and investment into their realms, that they cannot be properly answerable to democratic pressure.
Whoever wins the next election will have their hands tied to the extent that there is only one practicable economic policy option available to them. Our fate is in the hands of tides much more powerful than the limp touch of the New Zealand state.
I do not hold our politicians accountable for this - their job is to try to win national elections. It is the framework of our society at present that is to blame.
While faith in state institutions is eroding, it's important that we advance this process. We should not tacitly propagate the existing paradigm by mindlessly voting for who we think the least bad option is.
We're only encouraging them by doing so. It's the people that vote that don't care.
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