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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 30, No. 1. 1967.

Dr Martyn Finlay sees democracy in decline — Report from Curious Cove Congress

Dr Martyn Finlay sees democracy in decline
Report from Curious Cove Congress

Curious Cove.—Democracy has become a form of mass entertainment, not representation, Dr. A. M. Finlay said at Congress. "The main consequence of this is that people do not care who governs but they do care who entertains."

One part of living was the necessity to exercise an intelligent decision on matters political as they come before the individual. Much of today's opinion came before the individual in an encapsuled form.

Examples of this were slogans such as "You've never had it so good" and "Steady does it."

Sloganised opinions led to a lack of penetration in national thought, one aspect of which could be seen during the last American presidential election where voters had the choice between Goldwaterism and anti-Goldwaterism.

It is in the area of conflict between a liberal democracy and a monolithic dictatorship that the limitations of a liberal democracy manifest themselves the most clearly.

One of these areas was Vietnam. Vietnam was the greatest confidence trick in history. "This project is allegedly to preserve the independence of a country but in fact what we are doing is following a line of policy developed in the mind of the late John Foster Dulles more than 10 years ago.

"One of the stated grounds for New Zealand's intervention is that the United States is our strongest and most faithful ally. We must help her now so that if we require her help in the future we will get it.

"This is the opposite of liberal thinking." he said. "The slogan 'My country right or wrong' has often been attacked by liberal thinking, but now it turns up again in an even more alarming form: 'Some other country right or wrong," said Dr. Finlay.

Vietnam illustrated only one example of shallow thinking. But what was the New Zealand public's knowledge of the real issues there? Was it in fact any better than that of the citizens of the so-called unfree world?

At the time of his retirement from the Department of External Affairs. the secretary (Mr. A. McIntosh) said: "Racial questions in their various forms are the most pressing of our problems. They pose a greater danger than the ideological conflict of five. 10 or even 20 years ago."

But racial questions were bound up with the economic situation. It took a full stomach to induce the contemplative spirit necessary to run a liberal democracy, said Dr. Findlay. "So what matters most to democracy is the levelling-out of the world's economic inequalities."

The West's only answer to this problem so far had been the European Economic Community, a rather inward-looking self-satisfied club Through the International Monetary Fund much more could be done to ensure the necessary capital for developing countries was made available at lower rates of interest, he added.

Dr. Finlay said that liberal democracy was digging its own grave and in New Zealand one of the best grave-diggers was Parliament itself.

In his observation over the last 30 years the public esteem in which Parliament had been held had never been so low. This was to some extent the fault of the members themselves.

However, the present Government has tended and was tending to treat Parliament with contempt and "it is little wonder that it behaves in a manner which is sometimes contemptible."

Dr. Martyn Finlay is the Labour MP for Waitakere. He was born in Dunedin, gained his LL.M. degree from Otago University, and his Ph.D. from London. He is at present a barrister and solicitor practising in Auckland.