There is widespread community concern that the values of the market — individualism, selfishness, materialism, competition — are driving out the more desirable values of trust, self-restraint, mutual respect and generosity. Many people feel alienated from the political process; the main parties seem too alike and think of progress only in material terms.
The challenge of our age is to build a new politics that is committed, above all, to improving our wellbeing.
It goes on to detail nine policy proposals aimed at meeting this challenge (of which I will merely quote the headlines):
1. Provide fulfilling work
2. Reclaim our time
3. Protect the environment
4. Rethink education
5. Invest in early childhood
6. Discourage materialism and promote responsible advertising
7. Build communities and relationships
8. A fairer society
9. Measure what matters
#9 echoes my earlier complaint. #1 and 2 are also very important, I think. Many people spend the majority of their waking hours slugging away at dull or draining jobs, just so they can buy the latest superfluous gadgetry. (And then we wonder why depression and suicide are so prevalent in our culture.) Reclaiming and restraining the workplace could potentially make us all a lot happier. This of course ties in with #6 - so long as advertisers have free reign to manipulate children's desires, it will be difficult to restrain materialism and reform the broader culture.
#3 goes without saying - harming the environment harms humanity. We are sadly failing in our obligations here. Similarly for #8, particularly with regard to foreign aid.
#4 I'd cautious support. Introducing the Philosophy for Children programme into all our primary schools would be a good start. I've written more about my views on education (including my misgivings about some radical leftist approaches) here.
#5 sounds sensible. #7 is also important, though I'm not sure it's something that government can really do much about. It's up to us as individuals to develop civil society and contribute to our communities through volunteer and non-profit groups. But perhaps more could be done to engage the interest of young people, and let them learn how rewarding these sorts of projects can be. (I've really enjoyed mentoring, for example.) I don't really know about what sorts of civic opportunities are out there, and I imagine most other young people are similarly ignorant. So policies geared towards "lowering the barriers to entry" for civic engagement could, I think, do a lot of good.
I'm especially interested in the potential of the internet (through blogs, wikis, and so forth) to develop civic communities and enable the public exchange of ideas. It's not something I know much about, granted, but it seems to me there's an awful lot of potential here...
So, those are my thoughts on the nine theses. They're officially aimed at Australians, but seem to apply just as well to our situation here in NZ. So I endorse the manifesto, and encourage you to do likewise! :)
Update: There's also some discussion of this over at Frogblog.