Saturday, March 25, 2006

Cigarette banks

If you saw a bin at the supermarket labelled "Cigarette Bank donations" would you throw a packet of fags into it? You see, I sat outside a foodbank for over an hour recently and observed how many of the 'clients' smoked (no, I wasn't spying - just waiting for someone who I had given a lift to). People had money for cigarettes but not for food.

Now, given the logistics of packing and stacking food items, the difficulties of storing perishables, wouldn't it just be a damn sight easier and more efficient to have cigarette banks?

Not a soul in Christendom would support the idea.

And that's why we have state-funded welfare. Money to fund welfare would never be given over voluntarily if people saw directly how it was being used. So the money has to be forced out of people through taxation.

One child, two homes

The Families Commission funds research. One study has suggested we don't know enough about how children spend their time between two or more households. More information should be collected and we need new terminology to reflect changing family life - terms such as 'two-home child' and 'separated child'. NZ Herald social issues reporter, Simon Collins asked me what I thought about this proposal and has included part of my response in this piece.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Shane Jones

Interesting interview with Shane Jones here.

Admits to having a big ego. He didn't need to. Says he finds himself, "reaching for the cane whenever Rodney opens his mouth..... The only way to escape Rodney Hide's penchant for making mischief is to live a hermetically sealed life."

And much more about the Maori Party, National and Shane Jones, a self-described "larger than life personality."

"Economy stationary as Govt fails to prepare NZ"

I dyslexically misread this headline from John Key as
"Economy stationary as Govt prepares to fail NZ"
then I thought, it amounts to the same thing anyway.

stick friends

(Thanks James - he should have commissioned me instead :-))

Pooh Corner

Not what you think. Wonders will never cease. A city council with a sense of humour.


"Libertarianism does not require society saying 'Yes' to everything an individual wants to do. But libertarianism does require that the individual be allowed to say 'No' to anything."

I found this at
Very interesting blog about Libertarianism. Unfortunately it looks to be defunct but some of the archives are available.

Also; Libertarian Views of Government

There are three different "levels" of possible government compatible with libertarianism. Libertarians will usually be discovered arguing for one of these as "the" appropriate libertarian view, but all are compatible with self-ownership.

1. Anarchy. Zero. Government is evil. If less is better, none is best. Government commands are not voluntary suggestions; all government is the use of coercion, and all coercion is morally wrong or ineffective (zero or negative sum games as opposed to positive sum games in voluntary cooperation).

2. Minarchy. Government is a necessary evil. A monopoly on force is needed to protect individuals from violations of their rights by other individuals. In minarchy, the purpose of government is to prevent government.

3. A Rights-Respecting Government. Government can be good. There is no imposed limit on the size or functions of government, but it must respect the self-ownership rights of individuals just as any other entity. If I am forbidden from using a piece of property, it does not matter whether that property is owned by Bob Smith, Intel, or the government. Likewise, I cannot be abused, killed, enslaved, or deprived of my rightful property by either Bob Smith, Intel, or the government.

I hadn't considered 3. If self-ownership and property rights were strictly observed such a government would in any case be small because the private sector would crowd them out. No?

Tariana sounding tired on "gangs"

Maori Party co-leader, Tariana Turia, has got nothing new or original to say about gangs. She is no doubt right that banning patches in Wanganui won't make any difference but....

She said gang criminality and violence were linked to issues of unemployment, poverty, alcohol and drugs.

We aren't going to get employment any lower than it is; gangs are not poor and prohibition would play into gang hands. Which only leaves drugs. Legalise them and deprive the gangs of a major reason for their existence.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Part of the problem

This is part of the problem New Zealand is also experiencing. From Switzerland;

Mental health problems are driving increasing numbers of young people towards a lifestyle dependent on state benefits......The psychologist says it has become more acceptable to see problems in the individual, either in the form of a social phobia or panic attacks.

The government insists that much of the increase in incapacity benefits is due to the ageing population. It is more complex than that.

Benson-Pope and creative statistics

Mr Benson-Pope said New Zealand has seen a steep decline in the growth rate of Sickness and Invalid’s Benefits, but there is always more work to be done.

“Under the National government the Sickness and Invalid’s Benefits grew at a rate of 69 percent and 84 percent respectively. Under the Labour-led government this rate has dropped right down to 2.7 per cent in the latest year to December.”

Combined total for invalid and sickness benefits;
1993 63,686
1999 84,836
2005 121,366

Put any spin on it you like but the numbers speak for themselves.

Impotence good - impotence bad

The drug-buying monopoly Pharmac isn't very keen on the 'medicalisation of ageing'. The advertising of drugs like viagra, direct to the public, isn't very helpful. Too much consumer encouragement of unneccessary treatments that keep you young might raise expectations about government subsidies. Impotence is not life-threatening. Get over it.

Umm. But another arm of the state, the Ministry of Health says impotence is awful. It's the worst thing that can happen to a man. And given that smoking can cause it, cigarette manufacturers should put impotence warnings on packets (Don't anybody mention brewer's droop, for heaven sake).

Initially I thought the state was confused but now I see this strategy makes perfect sense.

John Key - Jim's man

Yesterday Kiwibank bought a controlling stake in New Zealand Home Loans. Here's John Key using strange logic to justify National's support for state-owned banks.

National Party finance spokesman John Key said the deal appeared to be an extension of a strategic plan by New Zealand Post to engage in joint ventures with private companies.

National supported joint ventures between the public and private sectors, he said.

"It makes sense for Kiwibank to engage in that way."

Getting private sector provision into an area which has been monopolised by the state is good. The state extending itself into areas to compete with the private sector is bad. Key's equivocation must be an anathema to Don Brash.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

ID cards continue to be resisted

According to the Scotsman, The House of Lords once again defeated the government last night. Peers backed a joint Conservative and Liberal Democrat amendment that would prevent ministers making identity cards compulsory until at least 2011.

(A)former MI6 agent will be a key part of that resistance.

Baroness Park, who was made a peer by Margaret Thatcher, passed a withering verdict on the proposed cards, ridiculing ministers' suggestions that the system will make people safer. In fact, she said, the complete opposite is true.

"The very creation of such an enormous national identity register will be a present to terrorists; it will be a splendid thing for them to disrupt and blow up," she said.

On the back of the proposal to tag and number children earlier this week I could not believe the clamour from callers to NewstalkZB for an ID card for everybody! Lambs to the slaughter.

Public education

Bill Steigerwald, from the Pittsburgh Tribune says, Being forced to buy food in a depressing, pathetically understocked East Berlin government supermarket was a bit like being forced to buy public education in America.

Most people don't question our system of public education. But it's not only absurd and consumer-unfriendly, it's creepily un-American. Imagine if we had to get our groceries this way. Imagine a state Department of Groceries. Imagine a public food system where citizens are assigned defined grocery districts.

No thanks. Real estate agents might like the idea but nobody else would. Why we put up with it when it comes to our children's education I will never understand.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Standing ovation

It says a lot about parliament that "Labour MP David Parker got a standing ovation from his colleagues in Parliament today after explaining to the House why he had decided to quit Cabinet altogether."

I'm surprised they didn't haka.

Seriously - standards must be pretty low when doing the only decent thing merits rapturous applause.

Opting out of fatherhood

A US Men’s group is calling the feminist bluff with regard to “reproductive choice”. They say that if women have the “right” to abort any pregnancy without a man’s consent, the same right should exist for men who want to opt out of fatherhood.

This case is attracting a lot of attention but nowhere have I seen mention of the role of the welfare state in creating this dilemma. And it is a dilemma. What say should a male have in whether or not the female progresses with a pregnancy by him?

Most will disagree with me but as long as the state is going to fund single child-rearing, as of right, the father should be able to opt out. Having said that, it would be far better to just avoid the situation by taking responsibility for his own fertility.

If a female wants all the control over becoming a mother and the future of the child she should also have all the responsibility. That's tough on the child but it is the only way forward I can see.

If the state wasn't paying welfare then, on proof that the male is the biological father, the court should order he pay realistic child support, not simply a percentage of his earnings. In any case, the incidence of this happening would greatly reduce once the welfare incentive was removed.

My argument has always been that subsidised single-parenthood has lessened people's committment to each other and their children. It has made moving in and out relationships that have produced children, far too easy. It has created far more problems than it ever solved. Problems like this.

UPDATE; Cathy Young has written a column about this subject at Reason. She says, Sometimes, male complaints about women who get pregnant and ensnare men have strong overtones of misogyny—just as female tirades about men who cut and run easily turn to male-bashing. But not all women, and not all feminists, think alike. Feminist attorney Karen DeCrow, a former president of the National Organization for Women, has written that "autonomous women making independent decisions about their lives should not expect men to finance their choice."

One can hardly castigate men for treating an unwanted child as a burden to be avoided unless one recognizes that prochoice feminism has fostered such a mentality. Given the biological differences between the sexes, there may be no way to find a balanced approach to reproductive rights that would be equally fair to women and men. But the issues raised by Feit's lawsuit deserve consideration.

PM scoffs at charge of political bias

This headline, from the ODT, caught my attention. I had to think about why. Then it came to me that "scoff" is the perfect word for Helen Clark's attitude. There is none better. We are seeing her "scoff" more and more and nobody likes it. Even Labour supporters. In this respect Don Brash is the perfect foil for Clark. Mr Brash never "scoffs". With Don we are "scoff-free". Hang in there Dr Brash because the PM's star is on the wane.

Once a Meathead....

Remember the character who played Meathead, Archie bunker's son-in-law? The Wall St Journal has a good piece on his political "robin hood-type" campaign to get the taxpayer to fund universal pre-school for all Californian children, regardless of whether that is actually a desirable thing.

Mr. Reiner's ad campaign mentions neither the indifferent results of universal preschool nor its budgetary consequences. This, in itself, would not be a problem, because a democracy counts not on any one person's script, but many partial ones from numerous interested parties, to get the full story across to voters. But there is a problem when someone has unfair access to taxpayer dollars to bankroll his script over others.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Don't believe everything you read

Callers to NewstalkZB today were aghast that Nelson, coined the stress capital of New Zealand by Judith Collins, has 15.6 percent of its working-age people receiving a sickness benefit because of stress. Host Tim Dower said he didn't believe it.

He's right. The NZPA had somewhat mangled Judith Collin's press release which actually said, "15.6% of working age people receiving a sickness benefit in Nelson are on that benefit because of stress."

In fact the Nelson region has a lower beneficiary to working-age population ratio than the national average. ONLY one in ten of their working-age population (15-64) is on some sort of benefit.

GP workforce in "crisis"

Newstalk ZB reports, Alarming signs are emerging that New Zealand's GP workforce is aging, stressed and diminishing. A study released today by the Royal New Zealand College of Practitioners says 30 percent of GPs intend to change their work arrangements in the next five years.

The Health Minister believes the Government can stop the nation's GPs from burning out as its Primary Healthcare Strategy will ease the workload of GPs. (GP Council Chair) Dr Foley is unconvinced by the Government's assertions its Primary Healthcare Strategy will ease the problem.

Let me quote two GPs in my electorate who gave up their practices;
Dr Wijewickrama, in the face of advancing PHOs, "politicians don't generally improve things - they generally mess things up."

Dr Yeen Chan, "Every few months we have changes coming our way from different sources. You are so busy but it's not related to patient care." Dr Chan had seen the bureaucracy sponging health dollars skyrocket.

I'm from the government and I'm here to help you. I don't think so.

"Plan to give kids ID numbers"

The Government is examining a proposal to have all children tagged and numbered in a central database to stem abuse and failure at school.

What I want to know is, will the tags go through their noses or ears? And why not microchip them while they're at it.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Government mouthpiece

Came across a letter in the Sunday Times Magazine which entertained me no end. It was entitled "You can't choose your family" and written by Nick Hill, CEO of SPARC, in response to an article by his sister, Deborah Hill-Cone, published in an earlier edition.

As far as I can ascertain she had written about how hateful and humiliating PE was at school. He says he "fought a number of emotions" when he read it and she shouldn't let her experience put her off an "important part of being a human being." Eeeek.

I couldn't resist and sent the following;

Nick Hill wrote, March 19, "Sport - love it or hate it - binds this nation together and is at the heart of our identity."

As the CEO for Sport and Recreation New Zealand, a Crown agency, sport is at the heart of Mr Hill's identity. He makes a living being paid, in part, by those who couldn't care less about sport, to persuade them otherwise.

The thing is, thousands of New Zealanders are individuals seeking their own identity and meaning which may or may not lie in sport. They couldn't give a monkey's about collective identity. (I could go further and suggest that some athletes at the Commonwealth games get heartily sick of nationalists riding on their success.)

Using his letter to run the gamut of the government's current 'nation-building' kick through to the 'fight obesity' offensive, Hill finishes by nagging us yet again to, PushPlay for 30 minutes a day.

Some quiet time spent thinking for ourselves might be more useful.

NZQA - more problems

This report poses more questions than it answers.

The Qualifications Authority admits last year's calculus scholarship exam was far too difficult. Nearly a quarter of all students who sat the exam got zero, and a mark of only 18 percent was considered a pass.

Why is the exam setter so out-of-sync with the syllabus, and if he or she isn't, is the problem student ineptitude? Whatever the answer(s), parent's confidence is undermined yet again. These kids don't deserve to be mucked about like this.

Greens pleased with school walk-out

A group calling itself "Radical Youth" is organising a school walk-out tomorrow to support Sue Bradford's youth rate bill. They describe themselves as "anti-capitalist".

They believe,"The government should be working to end child poverty in New Zealand. Welfare benefits should be raised, as since the heartless 1991 benefit cuts they have been at a level unfit to survive on. Forget about ‘free trade agreements’, we should be trying to create decent jobs for people in New Zealand. In the past we used to employ people making things, not stacking the shelves of the Warehouse."

We need to get through to these kids that at the heart of the socialist alternative is force and compulsion. I tried explaining this to a bunch of students last year. Capitalism equals the voluntary redistribution of wealth whereby both parties benefit. Forced redistribution by governments will always disadvantage one party, very often, both. It appeared to go over their heads I'm afraid. Partly because my powers of verbal communication are not that hot. But partly, I suspect, because they can't conceptualise. And, not to be discounted or under-estimated, being "anti-capitalist" is cool.

But I still feel this message, govts = force and compulsion, is the best way to combat their left-wing delusions. Kids hate being made to do anything.

The truth about student loans

The Sunday Star Times has a good piece by Ruth Laugensen "dispelling myths about student loans". In summary;

1/ There is no obligation to pay back a loan until your earnings get above $16,500

2/ New information reveals women repay their loans a bit quicker than men.

3/ Higher education is not necessarily the path to riches. Of 20,000 who left tertiary study in 1994, by 2000 a quarter were earning less than $10,000 a year.

4/ Students aren't all slack about money. Of any group there tends to be two extremes. One large block will have make no progress on repaying and the other will clear their loan quickly.

5/ The poor do not have the biggest loans. Those coming from high decile homes tend to enter the "expensive" fields of study.

6/ It doesn't take most students decades to repay their loans. The median time taken is 6 years and 7 months.

7/ The interest-free policy will be open to exploitation with some planning and where students have wealthier parents.

(My comment) It's quite obvious that the current scheme, combined with the benefit system, produces the worst of incentives. These will be exacerbated when people don't have to pay any interest.