*Fairness and Freedom*

by on February 23, 2012 at 11:58 am in Books, History, Political Science | Permalink

The author is David Hackett Fischer and the subtitle is A History of Two Open Societies: New Zealand and the United States.  Excerpt:

They do not all climb mountains, play rugby, raise sheep, and consume large platters of Pavlova for dessert.

So far it is the best non-fiction book of the year, by a clear mark, I will read more of it soon.

kiwi dave February 23, 2012 at 12:07 pm

This is a must-read for me (being a Kiwi with strong associations with the US). It doesn’t hurt that David Hackett Fischer is one of my favourite historians — his Albion’s Seed is a work of phenomenal breadth and insight (and entertaining, too).

Urso February 23, 2012 at 3:01 pm

Albion’s Seed sounds like a romance novel. And not a particularly classy one.

WCOG February 27, 2012 at 12:02 am

Horrible (but appropriate) title, amazing work of historical analysis. As an American with roots in several of the colonial communities that Fischer details, it was eye opening, especially seeing the emergence of modern US cultural regions as far back as the 17th century.

Kingtoots February 23, 2012 at 12:14 pm

from the blurb it sounds as though you could replace New Zealand with Australia or Canada and have essentially the same book.

CBBB February 23, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Canada sucks

Ronald Brak February 23, 2012 at 11:08 pm

I imagine that’s what stops the United States from falling off.

msgkings February 23, 2012 at 11:43 pm

Boom. Nice repurposing of the Texas-Oklahoma joke.

Ryan February 23, 2012 at 4:28 pm

NZ introduced many of the civil liberties that are prequisite to a “free” society before Australia and Canada, e.g. women’s suffrage. I would guess this is why NZ was chosen over the other British colonies. More recently the economic deregulation of the 1980s in NZ was far more remarkable than the changes made in the Australian or Canadian (or US) economies for that matter. (Although I’m not sure what the time span is the book is looking at.) Nowdays NZ ranks higher than any of the Anglophone countries in the typical measures of economic freedom.

BTW the current conservative government re-instated kinghthoods after the previous liberal government had replaced them with an “Order of NZ”. It’s not really a hot button issue for most kiwis.

kiwi dave February 23, 2012 at 12:24 pm

I think the difference for Fischer is that European settlement in New Zealand didn’t start in earnest until the 1830s/1840s (Britain didn’t obtain effective sovereignty over NZ until 1840), and the changing intellectual fashions affected how the country grew up. This is different from Canada and Australia, both of which had been controlled by Britain for some time and had had substantial European immigration (not entirely voluntary in the case of Australia!) in the 18th Century.

kiwi dave February 23, 2012 at 12:24 pm

(this was meant to be a reply to Kingston)

Kingtoots February 23, 2012 at 12:54 pm

I know that is what is said in the blurb but I would say that the principles espoused that are supposed to make NZ and US different are practically the same ones that make A or C different from the US.

Kingtoots February 23, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Also, Last time I was in NZ for the RWC, I found NZ to be weirdly deferential to the UK. Much more so than A or C. A seems actively hostile to the UK and C seems indifferent.

For example, there was talk about the “minimum that they could do for the All Blacks was to knight them”. This was said by politicians, journalists and ex-All Blacks and people on the street so I would probably say this was a common thought. I found kind of laughable that the highest honour was to from a foreign government but it is your country and you can run it any way that you want to.

kiwi dave February 23, 2012 at 1:13 pm

I found kind of laughable that the highest honour was to from a foreign government

Except that knighthoods in NZ aren’t granted by a foreign government — they are granted by the monarch of New Zealand (I.e., Queen Elizabeth II in her capacity as Queen of New Zealand) on the advice of the New Zealand government. They have nothing to do with the UK government.

Kingtoots February 23, 2012 at 1:40 pm

You could argue the same thing about A and C as the Queen is “Queen of Canada”, etc. But I think the citizens of A and C know what’s up. Correct me if I’m wrong but neither A nor C give knighthoods.

Don’t get me wrong. I really love NZ. I have cousins there. But every time I go there I’m overwhelmed by the British Empire stuff that I don’t think would fly in either A or C. Heck your second largest city was named after the DUKE OF WELLINGTON for god’s sake and it seems that every second road was commemorating some battle in India/Pak/Afghan during the 1800’s. The major road in Napier was Hyderabad road. Ha! I would say that NZ is the most ENglish of english colonies.

As for Canada I would say that the people who were most responsible for building the country were not the english but the scottish. They have a province called Nova Scotia. Every time I’m in C (doesn’t matter which province, except Quebec) all the people, rivers and landmarks seem to have scottish names if they aren’t local indian names or transliterations thereof. Even in Quebec the N.Irish/scottish are thick on the ground even if the french call them “English”.

As for Australia, I think it is pretty well documented that the Irish are the most influential in building the country and I would also say that even now when I’m in the country. Just about every Australian I know, talks about the inevitability of becoming a republic.

But I’ve wasted enough time. I’d expound more on the differences between the countries but I’m even boring myself at this point.

Warmest regards,

CBBB February 23, 2012 at 1:45 pm

How long does it take you to type out AUSTRALIA and CANADA? What is it with people on this blog and using the first letter as a shorthand?

CBBB February 23, 2012 at 1:49 pm

There’s been some kind of bizarre renaissance of the monarchy in Canada recently. Well, renaissance might be too strong a term but the government has decided to change the name of the military from the Canadian Forces back to the “Royal Canadian Navy” and “Royal Canadian Air Force” – the army stays as the “Canadian Army” as the UK army is also simply known as the “British Army”.
I’m somewhat in favour of this – not at all because I’m pro-monarchy but because I don’t think Canada is a real country – it should either embrace it’s colonial heritage or lobby for annexation by the USA.

Paul Johnson February 23, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Putting the “Royal” back in – I had no idea. Sounds interesting. Getting back in touch with their proud military history? The Australian navy and air force still have the “Royal” and it’s not nostalgia for the UK. It’s definitely more euphonic – because three words sounds better?

forty degrees south February 23, 2012 at 4:56 pm

Kingtoots

Heck your second largest city was named after the DUKE OF WELLINGTON for god’s sake and it seems that every second road was commemorating some battle in India/Pak/Afghan during the 1800′s. … Ha! I would say that NZ is the most ENglish of english colonies.

Wellington was named around 1840 by a group of arriving settlers – the alternative choice was Brittania! It is hardly surprising that settlers freely used the names of people and places they were familar with. Hence New York, Georgia etc in the USA.

Your point about NZ being the most English of the former colonies is still accurate. Part of it is a result of scale and climate – England doesn’t have vast deserts or a frozen North. More relevant is that both Canda and Australia have traditionally drawn far more migrants than NZ from non-English backgrounds. NZ and Australia diverged sharply in the aftermath of WW2, when Australia encouraged mass migration from southern and central Europe – Melbourne was (and may still be) the worlds second-largest Greek city after Athens. Up until the 1970’s the only significant postwar migration to NZ from outside UK/Ireland was the Dutch, who largely spoke English and assimilated very quickly.

NZ experienced a major wave of polynessian migrants in the 1970s/80s, and like Australia has had a colourblind ‘points’ system for ranking and accepting migrants since the 1990s. But until the 70’s an overwhelming majority of the NZ population originated from the UK, and consciously or otherwise modelled NZ society along similar lines.

JonF311 February 23, 2012 at 6:13 pm

Re: Heck your second largest city was named after the DUKE OF WELLINGTON for god’s sake

And you largest city was named by and for the Duke of York. We also have cities named for William Pitt, Lord Baltimore and King Charles II.

JonF311 February 23, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Erratum: I meant “our” largest city as I writing this from the USA, that very city name for Lord Baltimore.

CBBB February 23, 2012 at 7:01 pm

They changed the names back in timing with the honeymoon of William and Kate to Canada so it was an obvious attempt of the government to try and tie themselves in with the celebrity of the couple.

msgkings February 23, 2012 at 11:46 pm

@ CBBB: How long does it take you to type out UNITED KINGDOM and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA?

Wanker.

CBBB February 24, 2012 at 12:20 pm

UK and USA are commonly used and agree upon acronyms. You cannot abbreviate a single-word name with just a letter it’s unacceptable. I think Tyler should delete comments where the commenter does that.

msgkings February 24, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Fortunately no one cares what you think, including Tyler.

Fred February 23, 2012 at 12:30 pm

What happened to the series of volumes he was going to write for which Albion’s Seed was going to be only the first installment?

dearieme February 23, 2012 at 1:11 pm

“They do not all climb mountains, play rugby, raise sheep, and consume large platters of Pavlova for dessert.” But, by God, many of them do. At least on the South Island.

JohnGalt February 23, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Just looked through description and review on Amazon.

There is no such thing as “liberty and freedom” vs. “fairness and social justice.”

First, liberty and freedom are the same thing, why does the USA only get one?

More seriously, there is no “fairness” outside of freedom, freedom is fairness. If you pervert the word “fair” to mean “equal outcome” then they differ, like for instance good and evil.

Second, there is literally no such thing as “social” justice. There is justice, and that’s it, nothing “social” about it. Social justice means you have to give something to someone who looks like me and shares extra DNA with me but isn’t me, because you’ve harmed me. That helps someone else, but not me, and helps them for a ridiculous reason. In other words, it’s a goddamn lying scam argument for every piece of thievery going on today.

CBBB February 23, 2012 at 5:45 pm

You really got your panties in a bunch

Test February 23, 2012 at 7:15 pm

Civilization destroying PC socialist crap will do that to a man.

CBBB February 23, 2012 at 7:22 pm

It Will?

Doc Merlin February 23, 2012 at 9:15 pm

“Social justice means you have to give something to someone who looks like me and shares extra DNA with me but isn’t me, because you’ve harmed me. That helps someone else, but not me, and helps them for a ridiculous reason. In other words, it’s a goddamn lying scam argument for every piece of thievery going on today.”

+10000

JohnGalt February 24, 2012 at 11:02 am

+10000 is good right?

I’m unfamiliar with the system, but it sounds good :)

CBBB February 24, 2012 at 12:17 pm

Depends who it comes from. In this case it’s probably bad.

JohnGalt February 24, 2012 at 11:07 am

Oh, and BTW, my ranting aside, the book may still be excellent.

Test February 24, 2012 at 12:36 pm

CBBB, not funny, not useful, go away Internet coward.

WCOG February 27, 2012 at 12:09 am

I bet if you read this book the differences will become clear to you, or else you will understand where the people who disagree with you are coming from.

Kingtoots February 24, 2012 at 4:30 am

Ok,

Undoubtedly, this thread is dead but for my own satisfaction or for posterity sake, I’d just like to say the following:

After reading the thread, I think that I messed up a bit about what I wanted to say.

Perhaps what illustrates my point better is, I remember listening to a couple of ad executives talking on a dreary NPR radio program about the differences in advertising to Canadians and Americans. They literally said, “to sell to Canadians emphasize fairness and to sell to Americans tell them that they are smarter than everyone else”. So people who make a living trying to exploit national psychology to make money think that Canadians value fairness. BTW, anecdotally, I would say the same from dealing with Australians though I’ve never heard ad execs say that but I wouldn’t be surprised. This is why I am a little cynical about NZ being UNIQUELY concerned about fairness in the commonwealth. So while the book may get the author a couple of trips to NZ (a very nice place to visit, kind of like Northern California/Oregon) and some mutual back patting amongst Americans and Kiwis about how wonderful they are, I don’t think this is much of a scholarly work.

Or perhaps I am wrong and I should look forward to his next work “Genocidal Tyranny vs. Freedom” in which he compares Australia vs. the US in which case he explains how the way that Australia was colonized, it values genocidal tyranny. As far as I can see, this makes about as much sense.

As far as my comments about naming things, I guess I should be more charitable. In the case of the US/CAN/AUS they are much larger countries so after naming initial landing sites after your old country, as there are more things, it is more likely that you can name things after the people who discovered them whereas with NZ, pretty much what is there is there, so once you have named your landing sites after your old country you have run the course of naming things. I hope you understand what I mean by that. I don’t want to waste more time on this.

Warmest REgards,

forty degrees south February 24, 2012 at 5:48 am

Kingtoots

I think your fundamental point is right – there are some significant diferences in public mentality between the USA and Aust/Canada/NZ. There are also differences between these three Commonwealth countries, but suspect they are more similar to each other than they are to the US. Talking to advertising agencies is an intriguing way of exploring those differences.

No offence taken re naming. I’ve always enjoyed the incongruous mix of very English and traditional Maori names here.

Glad you made it down for the RWC. If you were the American guy I spilt beer on at the USA-Australia game in Wellington, I’m really really sorry – I was pretty drunk at the time.

Cheers

Ryan February 24, 2012 at 11:01 am

I would be surprised if the author states that NZ is *uniquely* concerned with fairness; this would be a rookie mistake, and the guy clearly isn’t a rookie. So why did he choose NZ? What’s clear from the first few chapters is that the guy has spent a lot of time in NZ (going back to the early 90s), and thus may feel more confident about making the sweeping generalizations necessary to summarize a public mentality.

Incidentally, your thesis that A/C/NZ are all similar gives more weight to any global generalizations the author may attempt to make in this topic. Essentially, if I understood correctly, you’re saying NZ is not some strange outlier of 4 million people, but rather it is a fairly representative part of this larger commonwealth counterpoint to the US.

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