The Me generation is usually identified as the one born after us. But no matter what the pundits say there is no Me generation. There are only Me people and, as each elections cycle shows, the Me people always have a winning vote.
We focus on political parties, their policies and their representatives, and, of course, speculate about who is going to win, as if the outcome is unpredictable. Yet we know beyond doubt who is going to win. Apart from the democratic socialism era, roughly between 1935 and 1984, when the middle and working class joined together to vote for economic and social security, elections have consistently been won by the Me Party.
A definition is called for here. The Me Party is not a political party. It consists of unconnected individuals who share certain views about government size and tax contribution. In general terms here are some important characteristics of the hugely influential Me Party person:
The Me Party person (Joe Kiwi) is personally generous and quick to respond to sudden tragedies suffered by individuals. When the ‘give a little’ call goes out, Joe Kiwi is likely to give a lot. He is also likely to donate to food banks and to the occasional homeless person. And yet this keen believer in charity is mean spirited in the communal sense. For instance, if a business lays off half the staff or moves the factory offshore, far from being moved by the plight of the workers he is more likely to celebrate the consequent rise in value of his shares.
The same Joe Kiwi who gives a little to the homeless, resents laws that improve conditions for rental housing tenants, he begrudges ‘living wage’ legislation and is dismissive of fairer tax suggestions. He supports private health insurance, griping at the tax spend on public health, until he is threatened by a life threatening disease and is successfully treated in a public hospital. Then he is effusive in praise of public hospitals. But he does not see the connection between the growth of the private health industry and the difficult financial state of the public health service.
Joe Kiwi has a scornful attitude to young people on welfare but relaxed about excepting retirement welfare payments for decades of his own life.
In other words, he is opposed to any kind of formalised, communal sharing that seeks to narrow the gap between the rich and poor.
To Joe Kiwi, his children’s inability to afford a home is an unfortunate fact, as inevitable as wind and rain. If he can, he will help them out and move on. The notion of government intervention in the out-of-control housing market is unthinkable. Yet he sees nothing wrong in governments pandering to investors while house prices continue to soar. Anyway, surely class divisions motivate people to move out of poverty.
Joe Kiwi belongs to by far the biggest party. Political parties either respond to Me Party demands or fail in their efforts to become government. The Prime Minister’s announcement that capital gains tax would not be introduced under her watch amounted to a bended knee in acknowledgment to the Me Party’s power and influence. So too, the government’s recent timorous tax reforms. Joe Kiwi knows he is fortunate and he is damn well not going to share his good fortune, not now, not ever. Unless, of course, the pandemic brings on another ‘Great Depression.’
As history has shown, even the Me Party is open to change when fear takes a hand.