Bread, circuses, flags, etcetera

I still can’t believe the flag change brain fart has gotten this far. A national road tour, a working party, a well financed $26 million dollar distraction. The #redpeak reaction is even worse. Who really cares?

What the whole fiasco highlights is that there is a reality gap between how a lot of people in New Zealand think how the machinery of democracy works as opposed to how it functions in practice.

This reality gap is an important mental model. Shades of it come through when you read about agencies using the Official Information Act processes to shape the narrative about their mistakes or omissions.

At the end of the day, voting is basically participating in the delusion that anyone in power actually cares about what your opinion is. If they have the ability to act in a way that better reflects the outcome they want to achieve, they will.

Protesting is also a sympton of this reality gap delusion shared by many people. It hardly ever achieves anything, it’s not a median voter friendly way to go about making change happen. When it does work, it’s sometimes useful for “stopping” something as opposed to “achieving” something.

The final outcome of this flag project will be interesting. It’s not even a partisan thing. Rugby, racing and beer. Or, alternatively, things that the government should probably care about more, like keeping the NGO sector funded appropriately if they are going to be the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.

The reality of the exercise of power in New Zealand is on full display – what the Prime Minister wants, he or she will almost always be able to deploy political capital to achieve this, it’s even easier if you have a regular slot on most breakfast television and radio programmes in the country.