Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 33, No. 3 18 March 1970
The Economics of Sentimentality
The Economics of Sentimentality
The only good thing about a Royal Tour is the criticism it provokes. Unfortunately, much of the discussion is rather feeble. Critics tend to harp on the cost of the Tour (a point easily won, but scarcely worth the effort) or they get sidetracked into arguing about whether the Queen enjoys the sightseeing (she is probably bored stiff but that is her problem). Many critics implicitly accept the value of Royalty; it is simply the Tour they object to. Others concentrate on criticising Royalty.
The obvious point is seldom made that the worth of a Royal Tour depends on the worth of Royalty. If the Queen is to be Sovereign of New Zealand it is only reasonable that in fulfilling this function she should occasionally come here. Thus a consistent criticism of the Tour involves a rejection of Royalty.
Much of the confused nature of the criticism arises because the Monarchy is one of those institutions which are rarely explained—it is to be accepted, not defended. Possibly its supporters feel that it will lose its mystique if it is too closely examined.
The role which the Monarchy plays is uncertain. This wasn't so in the early years of British Settlement in New Zealand. Its role then was precise. The Governor, nominally the representative of the Queen, was an official of the British Colonial Office. During the period of limited self-government there was no pretence that the Governor represented New Zealand. In fact, he was often in conflict with the settlers' representatives. After 1856, he no longer ruled the Colony, but if he had chosen to he could have prevented anyone else from ruling it.
Constitutionally, the powers of the Governor haven't changed. For instance he can still veto legislation, declare war, dismiss ministers and pardon criminals, He is still appointed by the Queen. In appearance this is thoroughly undemocratic. In practice, however, the Queen appoints the man the New Zealand Government advises her to, and this appointee does as the Government directs. In this respect, the Monarchy is somewhat like Parliament-having the appearance of power but not the reality. In times of crisis the Governor-General's role could become crucial (in South Africa his role in such a crisis brought that country into the Second World War).
But in times of crisis normal democratic procedures are suspended anyway. From a functional viewpoint, the Monarchy is therefore unnecessary—and probably also inconvenient. If this were to be the only consideration in its favour the Government would undoubtedly quietly abolish it. However the Monarchy's influence in New Zealand is sustained by its strong emotional appeal. It is more than a relic of our colonial past; it is a symbol of our colonial present.
The basic cause of our dependence on Britain is economic. Economic subjects are rather unexciting, however—people aren't inclined to be loyal to what is solely an economic role. Consequently, it is the sentiment generated by Royalty which sustains our dependence.
Politicians and constitutional lawyers deny, of course, that the Queen being Head of State of New Zealand has anything to do with New Zealand being a de facto colony. Her role as monarch of England is supposed to have no connection with her role as monarch of New Zealand. This sort of objection can be ignored. The politicians and lawyers who pose it make a living out of raising frivolous arguments.
No-one is suggesting that the Queen rules here in her role as Queen of Britain. This doesn't alter the fact, however, that the Head-of-State of New Zealand is a British institution. Its history here derives from the British connection, and in conjunction with our other constitutional paraphernalia (New Zealand's status as a British Dominion, New Zealandcrs' status as British subjects, the Union Jack as our flag, and God Sore the Queen as our national anthem) identifies us as a "British" nation—officially anyway.
It is hard to tell how keen the average New Zealander is on this identification with the British because no-one has ever asked him. There has always been the inconsistency of our loyalty to Britain co-existing with a dislike of the British.
Added to this a New Zealand nationalism is now developing, but it is still adolescent. We are very concerned about proving ourselves to other people, whereas if we were genuinely nationalistic we wouldn't care what they thought of us. This sense of national identity is even developing in official circles. The Government is less inclined nowadays to rave on about tics of blood and the Commonwealth link (though doubtless we will get enough of this during the tour) and more inclined to talk about our national self-interest. Paradoxically the British are encouraging this. Even the Duke of Edinburgh when visiting here in 1967 advised us to develop our national identity.
Britain's concern for our independence is typically hypocritical. British capital developed a New Zealand economy dependent on the British market. Now that this no longer suits the British they are very eager that we develop new markets, probably to safeguard the capital they have invested here.
The British seem to want the best of both worlds. We are encouraged to find new markets for produce that Britain can no longer cope with, but aren't supposed to take our independence too seriously by ending preference for British goods, buying American aircraft, or swapping wool for Russian machinery.
Even New Zealanders think that independence means finding new markets. Finding new markets helps of course, but in itself it doesn't make us independent. The new markets are not really intended to replace the British market; they only take our production increase. We are selling more to the British than ever before-the future prosperity of our primary industry depends on this. In addition to this the new markets are for by-products of the dairy industry (for example milk powder) and only make sense if we continue selling butter to Britain.
The Government officially assumes that our relationship with Britain is one between equals. They are only using new jargon to cover the old colonial relationship. For instance if New Zealand is in "a weak bargaining position," this means that the British are dictating terms. By its nature the whole set-up is unequal. British manufacturers selling here state their price; in England our produce goes on the auction block. Although the British wouldn't be overjoyed to sec our economy crumble, they know how sensitive our government is to any suggestion that Britain might join the E.E.C. on unfavourable terms (for us).
The New Zealand Government's reason for turning down the wool deal with Russia in 1967 was that part of the price was to be paid in machine tools which we traditionally buy from Britain. Similarly in the dispute over whether N.A.C. should buy British or U.S. aircraft the main argument in favour of the British planes was that we couldn't afford to offend Britain; no-one was very worried about whether we offended America. The only argument in favour of the American plane was that it was more suitable. In this case commonsense prevailed. It very nearly didn't.
Concern for the British market even affects political decisions. The Government's attitude