Winston Churchill once said, “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” This quote has become very well-known and I’m sure most people living in a democracy will have some idea where Churchill was coming from—politicians bowing and scraping to fickle short-term public opinion; the inability of governments to tackle long-term problems; the child-like squabbling of political parties etc etc.

One consequence of the “worst form of government” that is less often mentioned, or at least thought about, by the average voter is its effects on minorities. Consider a simplistic democracy of three people. Two of these people always agree on everything—they call everything ‘black’. The other person completely disagrees with this—he calls everything ‘white’. Under this scenario ‘black’ always wins. In other words, what is agreed in this democracy is always the complete opposite to what one voter thinks. Nothing works they way he wants it to.

Obviously this is a completely fictitious and unrealistic illustration. In a democracy, each of us agrees with some decisions and disagrees with others. And, by and large, most of us think that the system is fair—if we compromise today, maybe we won’t have to tomorrow.

But what if there is a group in society that is always compromising? What if there is a group of people who have a coherent set of values, coherent set of priorities, and a coherent set of answers that are never given expression in the democracy? What if there is a group that wants ‘white’, whereas the outcome is always ‘black’?

Well, this is precisely the sort of thing that often happens with any group that forms a minority in society. But is this really fair?

The first reaction to this will be no, but… We can’t pander to every group under the sun—the Moonies, the monster raving loonies…

But what about Māori? Māori are a group of people in New Zealand society with a coherent set of values, coherent set of priorities, and a coherent set of answers that are often vastly different from the majority view—far more than most Pākehā can ever imagine. However, because they are a minority, they frequently have to forego these values/priorities/answers. They frequently want ‘white’ when the rest of society says, and gets, ‘black’. Is this fair for Māori?

Is this fair for a people who were once the sole inhabitants of Aotearoa? Is this fair for a people who form the bedrock of this land? Or failing that—since the rule of money seems to be what’s ‘black’ in New Zealand—is this fair for a people whose culture is exploited as a distinctive selling point for New Zealand overseas? Is it really fair that Māori ‘white’ is exploited to pay for New Zealand’s ‘black’?

Isn’t ‘user pays’ also ‘black’ in New Zealand?