Baehler, Karen
July 2007
Social Policy Journal of New Zealand;Jul2007, Issue 31, p22
Academic Journal
The 19th century French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville described democracy as a two-edged sword, noble in its embrace of equal human dignity but always in danger of descending into ignoble servitude when the rigours of liberal egalitarianism became too great. This paper draws on Tocqueville's scenarios of democratic deterioration to formulate a model of unsustainable social and political life. It then considers some distinctive and enduring features of New Zealand political culture and social practice that have protected this country from the perils of unsustainability, including a compound idea of equality, a willingness to subordinate private property arrangements to the goal of social harmony, and an unwillingness to succumb to mediocrity. These features begin to sketch a New Zealand model of social and democratic sustainability that social policy analysts can use to guide their advice to government.


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