Saturday, July 10, 2010

Very sad news

Very sad news from Kismet Farm. Another treasure gone. I wish I had been paying better attention.

On the economy etc

A couple of interesting pieces from the US NCPA Daily Digest today;

This one describes another massive waste of money targeted at the poor - subsidies for energy use in low income homes (that'd be a favourite for the Greens on the back of the ETS no doubt).

And the second describes the obvious and less obvious effects of persistent unemployment.

Loosely related to the US service sector continuing to stumble along, have you noticed how many retailers here are literally giving stuff away? I ventured into a shop I normally wouldn't simply because they had a sign in the window that nothing was over $19-95 (and no, it wasn't the Two Dollar shop). Yesterday, at the Warehouse, I purchased a good quality (Wiltshire) can opener for less than half price and had a further item entered 'free'. I was expecting to pay full price for each.

Seems to me that many retailers are desperate to generate cash flow. Or the wholesalers are throwing stuff at them at ridiculous prices.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

A simplified world

(Arrived in my inbox yesterday. No idea who created it.)

Shadow welfare working group established

According to the NZ Herald;

The six-member alternative group has been set up by the Catholic aid and social justice agency Caritas, the Anglican Social Justice Commission and the Beneficiary Advocacy Federation.

Massey University social policy professor Mike O'Brien will chair it. Other members are Lincoln University economist Paul Dalziel, Victoria University welfare law lecturer Maamari Stephens, Anglican Bishop Muru Walters and Disabled Persons Assembly researcher Wendi Wicks.

Former Children's Commissioner Cindy Kiro and Child Poverty Action Group co-founder Susan St John will advise the group.

Dr O'Brien, who taught at Massey's Albany campus when Ms Bennett studied there in the 1990s, said he agreed with her that the welfare system needed wide debate.

"One of the really major aims for me is to make sure that those with knowledge and experience at the grassroots are really able to feed into that process," he said.

"The second thing is that the terms of reference that the welfare working group has been given, and therefore the Government's approach to thinking about welfare, is really tight and narrow.

"So we think there is a really important place to be had for trying to ensure that the wider questions about income distribution and jobs and the nature of work and the importance of caring work really get taken into the debate."

Interesting development. The church groups are showing their true colours now. So much for the separation of church and state. Some of the strongest advocates for the state to up the level of income redistribution are Christians. This has nothing to do with Christian teaching however, whereby people help each other willingly and because of a moral conviction that each man is his brothers keeper. Because to use the state as the furnisher of practical benevolence is to use force.

Take just one statement about the "importance of caring work". Caring for a child is an invaluable task. But it is for the parent (the individual) to value - not for the state. Because once the state (the collective) puts a value on it an obligation forms to define the parameters of care and payment required to fulfil them. Thus conflict is born. People will fight over - and do - how much care a child should receive and from who. 'Rights' expand to encompass propositions like a child has a right to have its mother at home when he or she gets home from school. Those who agree then want the money to allow this to happen from those who do not agree. The only fair solution to this conflict is to leave the parent free to make their own decision about care. Free to make it and free to fund it.

So the religionists are anti-freedom and hide behind a mask of benign intentions. The left-wing academics and politicians are more overt. They resent freedom from regulation, freedom to accumulate wealth (creating jobs and economic growth in the process) and unequal incomes (except their own of course).

The formation and work of the 'official' Welfare Working Group was always going to become highly political. The fight, because that's what it is, has just stepped up a notch. The idea of engaging and satisfying all parties is a naive pipe dream (originally misspelled as 'pope dream' which it may also well be.)

Perhaps a third welfare working group should be formed. One that advises on how to restore responsibility for the welfare of others back to the individual and any groupings those individuals wish to willingly make. That's what families, churches, and charities used to look like before they became agents and instruments of the state.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Honour and contempt

The 2010 Quaker lecture is being delivered by Professor Kevin Clements, a member of the Quakers and wearer of other assorted peace mantles.

Kevin Clements gives particular attention to the relationship between Maori and Pakeha, in both directions. “Who we choose to see and attend to are profoundly political acts. Very often Pakeha do not see and attend to Maori with reverence and respect. Many Maori in turn feel contempt for Pakeha,” he says. “We need to learn how to honour the other. We, i.e. Maori and Pakeha, need to work out how to develop a common vision of the future which provides space for all New Zealanders to realise their full potential.

There's that 'common vision' thing again. If we honoured property rights and individual freedom our cultural differences wouldn't matter. A great deal of the lack of "respect" and feelings of "contempt" described can be laid directly at the feet of the state. From a historical viewpoint the state interfered big time in property rights, from preventing Maori dealing with individual and private buyers to its confiscation of Maori land. But instead of rejecting the (Pakeha) state, Maori came to embrace it as their best shot at aiding their recovery. When the state is embraced the natural consequence is an ongoing fight over the resources it commands and apportions - assets, cash and services.

The speaker focuses overly on cultural difference as the source of conflict when it is actually the method and degree of political governance that generates the rift.

Disappearing comments

Two posts from the last two days have comments that have vanished. There is no remaining 'deleted' message showing who deleted the comment - the author or blog administrator. Mysterious. Happening to anyone else using blogger?

Convicted female offenders - more Maori than European

I have been playing with Statistics NZ's table builder and the conviction and sentencing statistics released Monday. Table builder allows you to instantly compare trends across crime types, ethnicity, age, type of sentence, region, etc.

The following told me something I didn't know. That of all female convicted offenders, Maori form a small majority whereas for all male convicted offenders Maori form a large minority. (Click on image to enlarge. The years read 2009 on the left through to 1990 on the right.)

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

NZ tops OECD in partner assault

Just released from the OECD database (despite the data being 5 years-old):

The data is sourced from the International Crime and Victim Survey (2004-2005) and European Crime and Safety Survey (2005) so the measures should be reasonably comparable.

NZ isn't just top - but top by a good margin.

In the following tables NZ = selection. The bottom and top values are displayed and the OECD average.

Our ranking for children in jobless homes is second only to the UK (17.6%) NZ (17.5%);

And finally, of the statistics where NZ deviates most from the average, NZ ranks 2nd = with Norway (10.0) in the gender pay gap for full-time employees.(The lowest value of 9.3 doesn't appear on the excel table.)

Strange picture.

Monday, July 05, 2010

It always comes back to philosophy

A presenter at the Welfare Working Group forum last month was Donna Matahaere-Atariki. Her subject;

What sort of society do we want? And how might a collective vision contribute to reducing long-term benefit receipt?

She starts to get my attention right here;

It is incredibly frustrating for me to note, that successive generations of our youth have come to believe that benefit receipt is a career choice.

Who tells them this stuff? Who gets them to believe that this is all they can aspire to?

Good question. Is it the likes of me, because I talk about welfare being a lifestyle choice, not necessarily an active choice but an easy default? I wonder because the next thing I get to is what looks like a criticism of a paper I wrote last year about Maori and welfare.

Last year I read a paper that focused on the legacy of Maori benefit receipt and the contribution of the welfare state to this unprecedented dependency.

While there were many aspects of the paper that I could agree with I felt that essentially it lacked a much broader analyses of the political economy.

It did not even begin to analyse the root cause that underpinned the level of benefit passivity that I perceive among some of our most gifted youth.

In short, the paper failed to define the collective problem to be solved.

Similar to other analyses that focuses only on the subjects of long-term benefit receipt the paper overlooked the context that produced the human experience under scrutiny.

Unable to resolve the issue of so-called ‘Maori benefit receipt’, it collapsed back onto its subject where individual pathology or effect is a shallow proxy for cause.

A sure sign that we have yet to define the problem is to confuse effect with cause.

I know this blog has some very sharp readers so anyone want to have a go at translating that passage for me? Is it any more than the philosophy of determinism being asserted as more powerful than free-will? And if so, isn't that belief the answer to Donna's question, Who tells them this stuff?

Changing attitude to child support?

Radio Live asked for comment on the perennial child support debt problem canvassed again yesterday in the Sunday Star Times. The typical response is that fathers are absconding - as per the headline here. Yet nearly one in five liable parents is the mother.

The child support system is flawed and it will be impossible to 'fix' it without changing the DPB system. I also made the point that the way payments are calculated exploits some fathers. Those are the soundbites they are using anyway. Interestingly the other viewpoint they are airing is from the Father's Union who explain that a great part of the 'debt' is formed from penalties and that the IRD is more usurious than some shark loans.

The population caught up with child support liabilities is diverse but most custodial mothers are on welfare. There is frequently fault, failure and resentment about perceived unfairness on both sides of the equation.

This time around the 'deadbeat dads' angle isn't dominating the discussion. Progress.