By Eric Crampton
Jacqueline asks in the comments about restrictions on political speech in New Zealand.
First, nobody’s restricted against using the term argy-bargy. In fact, it’s used rather frequently. I heard it on the radio this morning driving into work. Strange place.
More seriously, while there are reasonably stringent campaign finance restrictions, they aren’t as strict as they’d look on first glance. Elections NZ lists maximum campaign spending of $1 million per party, plus $20K per electorate contested. So a party contesting all electorates could spend about $2.4 million NZ. Doesn’t sound like much. But, the US economy is (very roughly) 127 times as big as that in NZ. Adjust for exchange rates, PPP, size of the economy: each of the major parties could be seen as spending a bit shy of $200M in an American context. There are two main parties and several minor ones in NZ’s MMP electoral system. And, of course, NZ has similar problems to other places in enforcing campaign finance rules.
In terms of other restrictions on speech, the de facto rules seem much more liberal than in the US. Tame Iti was convicted for shooting the flag with a shotgun during a Waitangi Day protest against historic land confiscations; the charges focused on illegal discharge of a firearm rather than defiling the flag though. Tim Selwyn, in a more worrying case, was convicted of sedition for having put an axe through the window of the Prime Minister’s constituency office, leaving behind pamphlets calling on “like-minded New Zealanders to commit their own acts of civil disobedience”. Vandalism, yes, but sedition? On the other hand, I’m not at all convinced that he wouldn’t have been charged under anti-terrorism laws in the US.