I attended Rangiora High School from 1971 to 1975. In 1972 I was over the moon when the Kirk Labour government came to power. By my 5th form year,1973 I was a committed leftie, communist even. That was the year of the oil shock. I remember arguing with Chris Rowe that V8 cars should be banned because they used too much petrol.
My leftism was strengthened in my 6th form year when Mrs Stevenson, my very attractive Geography teacher, brought some socialist priest to talk to us about the horrors of Pinochet’s Chile, from which he had recently returned.
I was horrified and resolved to leave school at the end of the 6th form, work my passage to Chile and fight with the anti Pinochet resistance. That resolve lasted almost two weeks.
I became aware of Rodney Hide around that time. He was a year ahead and I don’t remember ever talking to him. I do have a vivid picture in my mind however of Rodney, green blazer, full head of combed forward near black hair animatedly talking to a taller pupil as they walked towards the library.
We did have some mutual friends and one mutual enemy who is now according to Rodney, a very fine man.
In my 7th form year I took Fine Arts prelim and economics. The economics was chosen so I could learn more about the world in order to more effectively change it.
My teacher was “Jason” McCord a hard swearing reprobate and certainly no socialist.
He taught us free market economics and I quickly grasped its beautiful logic. Supply and Demand, law of diminishing returns; it was clean, clear and logical. I was sold.
However “Jason” would always say “the free market is the most efficient system, but its not the moral system“
I couldn’t figure this out. How could something be efficient and logical, but not moral? It was a real dilemma for me. I reconciled it by advocating using the market to produce wealth for socialist redistribution.
During the holidays after leaving the 7th form, a friend of my Dad’s, “Brud” Edgar, left a copy of the Sunday News on our kitchen table.
I read it and inside was a two page centre piece article entitled something vaguely like ” “Capitalism the only moral system for the life of a rational being”.
The article was about Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism. I read it and re-read it. The author was the late Bill Weddell (brother of National Radio’s, Jessica Weddell). Bill later went on to convert another socialist to capitalism, that icon of Kiwi libertarianism, Lindsay Perigo.
The article’s impact faded a little. Then I was off work for a few days after initiating force against my brother and cutting my hand when breaking his glasses with a punch.(I was a convert enough by then, not to go on ACC).
I took the Midland bus into Christchurch and wandered into Summer’s second hand bookshop in Tuam Street.
There it was on a rack full of paperbacks. Ayn Rand’s “For the New Intellectual”-price $1.40. It was a dilemma. If I bought the book, I wouldn’t have enough for lunch. My stomach won. I walked down the stairs and 50 yards down the road.
My conscience fought back. I walked back to the shop and bought the book.
It was like being hit in the forehead with a cricket bat. The book contained all Rand’s key speeches from “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged” including 34 pages of “John Galt’s Speech”.
This was a huge struggle for an 18 year old recovering communist to absorb and digest. I did it though and it changed my life.
Around that time, our local MP, Derek Quigley, got offside with that appalling bloody socialist, Prime Minister, Rob Muldoon.
I wrote a letter to Quigley, whom I admired for his stand, outlining 20 or so points that National had to adopt to bring the country back to sanity. Low taxes, welfare reform etc. I knew exactly what had to be done. I had moved out of home but used my parents address on the letter.
My shocked mum, answered the door one day to find Derek Quigley standing on the doorstep wanting to talk to the young revolutionary. Unfortunately we have never have met to this day, though I know some of his family.
With this kind of early life, is it any wonder I’m now a proud member of ACT?