With the elections tomorrow, I thought I'd outline my reasons for voting Green. But to break the one-eyed partisan patterns one sees on most NZ blogs these days, I'm going to balance this with some criticism too.
Why the Greens suck:
My main problem with the Greens is their tendency to let ideology trump reality. Our aim should be to enable humanity, and we should do whatever the evidence suggests is the best way to achieve this. That means we must promote science and rational inquiry rather than hiding behind romantic appeals to "nature", hyperbolic fears of "playing God" through biotechnology, emotional opposition to all things nuclear, and so forth. That's not necessarily to say we should be building nuclear plants or employing genetic engineering. But these issues should be open to rational debate. The Green movement is far too prone to dogmatic romanticism, and this can only harm its chances of actually doing good in the world.
The Greens would do better to become hard-headed empiricists: remaining committed to their goal of enabling humanity (including future generations), but remaining open minded as to the question of how best to achieve it. If the evidence suggests that private prisons are better run than public ones, then take note! Don't keep pretending that the public sector must always be best. Such dogmatism simply shows that the Greens care more about their statist ideology than achieving what's really best for our country. It's despicable. (See also David Farrar's Ideology vs. Common Sense, condemning Labour for the same vice.)
I also strongly disagree with the Greens on minority issues relating to "positive discrimination", as explained in my recent posts: Why Discrimination is Wrong, and The Human Race. The latter post grants that, in the short term, National would be even worse for our race relations and national unity. But still, the Left needs to give up its racial separatism and recognize the goal of a colourblind future (even if they think it's too early to dispense with our concept of race quite yet).
Another general problem with the Greens is their paternalism. They are far too quick to impose coercive measures and regulations without adequate justification. As a general rule, we should trust individuals to make their own decisions about what's best for them. If smoking bans in bars are to be justified, proponents first need to explain: where, exactly, is the market failure? Are bar owners mistaken about what would best satisfy their customers? Have the workers been misinformed about the health risks, or not adequately compensated for them? Some explanation is required, at least, to justify such blatant paternalism. Many Leftists, in their arrogance, seem not to recognize this requirement.
My final complaint against the Greens is more specific, concerning the S59 "anti-smacking" bill. In what can only be described as an act of rank idiocy, the Greens want to shift discretionary powers from jurors to the police. (As always, click the link for details.) This really does seem transparently stupid. I just don't know what the Greens are thinking -- or, indeed, whether they're thinking at all. Bloody idiots.
Okay, so that's why the Greens suck. Most of those criticisms apply to Labour too, and indeed leftists generally. A bunch of unthinking, reflexive statists, the lot of them. (Hell, me too most of the time.) It's most unfortunate. So why am I voting for them? Simply enough, it's because the alternatives are so much worse.
Why the Greens rule:
As far as I'm aware, they're the only party to explicitly take well-being and quality of life (rather than GDP) as a primary goal. They may not be perfect utilitarians, but they're the closest thing on offer.
They have the best tax policy, which shows signs of putting market mechanisms to good use after all. (So, in fairness, they aren't always blinded by ideology.) They are serious about protecting the environment, promoting renewable energy sources, improving public transport, etc. The unprincipled right-wing parties will pollute and pillage for a quick buck. We need the Greens to keep New Zealand clean, and protect our future. This point alone is sufficiently important to outweigh all the criticisms noted above. The other parties are irredeemably irresponsible.
Further, the Greens are the only party with a remotely sensible drug policy. They recognize that the alcohol problem lies in our national culture, and is not liable to any 'quick fix' in the form of raising the drinking age. And Nandor's suggestion to make personal cannabis possession subject only to a minor fine, on a par with speeding and similarly trivial offenses, is eminently sensible.
The Greens were the only party to suggest that we modernize our sexist rape laws. I respect them a lot for that. All the other parties were too cowardly to talk about this uncomfortable issue.
While all the other parties are competing to see who can appear most "tough on crime", only the Greens can be relied upon to focus on the real issues, e.g. how to reduce crime in the first place. They recognize that prisons are inefficient and should be a last resort. They want to bring the victim back into the justice process, and promote restorative justice in appropriate circumstances.
Finally, the Greens have real family values. They support paid parental leave, greater flexibility in working hours for parents, and other such policies that will help enable parents to raise their children. They're supportive of all families, even those that don't fit the Church's restrictive mould, e.g. de facto couples, gay couples, etc. They're more interested in protecting prostitutes than condemning them. Unlike conservatives, they recognize that ethics and sexual prudishness are not the same thing.
There's a lot I don't like about the Greens. I wish they were more rational and less romantic. Nevertheless, on many of the most important issues, they show themselves to be the most rational party of them all. When conservatives discount the future, refuse to discuss uncomfortable issues, or care more about condemning people than helping them, the Greens can be relied upon to speak up for what really matters. And for that, they have my vote.