Imagine that, for once, powerful government agencies are more competent than we give them credit for. Having devised a plan to take care of a certain individual, they produce a backup plan, one which can be easily put into effect should the first plan fail. So, for example, Kim Dotcom, who is currently being sought for extradition turns out to now be eligible for deportation, having failed to declare a dangerous driving conviction in his application for permanent residency.1 A suspicious person would say “Hmm… That’s convenient. The U.S. wants his extradited and now the New Zealand Government is in the position to deport him anyway. Hmm…”
Now, I’m not saying or even suggesting anyone thinks that Kim Dotcom-cum-Schimdt’s dangerous driving conviction is being put forward as a literal backup plan for deporting New Zealand’s favoured yet most feared German. Rather, I think it’s interesting that Dotcom, a man so wealthy and extravagant that even John Banks and the Prime Minister have a hard time keeping details of his existence in their mind, seems to have been spectacularly unvetted by the Establishment of Aotearoa. It does not seem unreasonable to think either our immigration systems are spectacularly incompetent or that someone has ensured that Dotcom or Schimdt could be forced to leave New Zealand.
Herein lies the issue, at least for me: just how much do we trust the establishment? This is a live issue, because choosing between incompetence and distrust affects our judgement about just what kind of society we live in. An incompetent establishment might be one that acts for the good but doesn’t do a very good of it: you might trust e intentions of he establishment even if you distrust the products of the processes of the establishment. Think of it as an issue about sincerity: sincere people might be incompetent but at least they intend to do good even if they don’t. However, an establishment which lacks integrity is one which you don’t trust the intentions (although you might trust the outcomes, even knowing that they will be malign in nature: better the Devil you know, et cetera et cetera).
So, for example, I think the behaviour of the New Zealand Police with regards to the Louise Nicholas case, the Urewera Raids, the Roastbusters scandal and the like, show the police to lack integrity and thus I have little trust in that particular establishment (even though I am sure there are good police officers). So, what to make of Immigration NZ failing to properly vet Kim Dotcom, despite discouraging noises by various other agencies? Is this incompetence or something else?
Of course, you could say the problem is entirely the making of Kim Dotcom: he was the one who decided that it would be Kim Schimdt who would convicted of dangerous driving, rather than Kim Dotcom. Indeed, no matter what we think of the government of Aotearoa, people who make false representations, like, say, John Banks, ought to suffer opprobrium. It’s not even clear that Schmidt’s offence would necessarily stopped Dotcom from gaining permanent residency, especially since Immigration New Zealand seemed to think that the less vetting of the millionaire the better.
Whatever the case, Kim Dotcom’s presence in New Zealand is an interesting case study in what trust in the establishment means. I just wish I didn’t live in this particular case study, because experiments might be fun, but life outside a test tube is always going to be preferable.
- Let’s also be clear: Schmidt was caught driving 100 kilometres an hour over the limit, which is the kind of driving offence that should not just be dismissed lightly out of hand. This is not a minor infraction. I, personally, think that anyone – resident, citizen or alien – should get deported for such an offence. That’s presumably why I’ll never get to take public office…