Month: April 2013

Voluntary contributions – the answer to Aucklands transport issues?

Auckland transport issues. Sure, the rest of NZ probably don’t give a rats about Auckland congestion, but the Greens recently pointed out that improving the transport links within Auckland is beneficial for the economy on a national scale – relying on concepts of efficiency and productivity and so on. The usual political, score points, jargon. And while I think the particular model the Greens have come to rely on is flawed, they have a point. Congestion in Auckland really is a national issue. Why? Because it will continue to be reported on and pushed and shoved in the faces of even the most southern dwellers until some government one day gives in and forces the country to pay – probably through another tax.

I get that there are many people who consider taxes to be a fair way of distributing wealth. I used to think the same way.  I was convinced that if I were a true socialist then I would support higher taxes so that those less advantaged members of society have access to vital services – health, education, welfare and so on. But the tax system we have is a complex tangled web of state extortion.  It has failed to improve the outcomes of our most disadvantaged and incrementally increasing taxes through different mechanisms creates other issues. When we tax personal incomes and then start increasing the tax level, we actually work against what we are trying to achieve. You can quote your Scandinavian models all you like. But we cannot fix these issues by increasing personal income taxes to 50+%. In fact, I can see no reason why we should do so. Especially, because others are allowed to increase their capital simply because they own land without the same tax burden. I’m not talking about your average homeowner – I’m referring to your average property speculator whose behaviour creates the artificial scarcity that places stress on communities who cannot afford to pay the rents along with other vital services. Under this system the government must step in to assist, but can only obtain the finances required through increasing taxes. In effect, we increase personal income taxes to subsidise property speculators – which is actually now extending to food speculators (this requires far more discussion but this will suffice for the purposes of this post). Moving on.

I note that the only solutions I have heard for funding the proposed Inner City Rail Link (to help ease  congestion) in Auckland are either road tolls (essentially taxes packaged as quasi-voluntary contributions) or a regional rates increase (a compulsory payment – or a tax). I’m not adverse to homeowners paying rates, probably because I am supportive of a land tax (again discussion for another post). But isn’t it time we took a different approach given the cost of living in Auckland is already excessive, and to develop it in a way that  meets the needs of its ever-growing population is going to cost. Alot.

How about a true voluntary contribution scheme. The kind where the community set the target and work toward achieving that target. If members of the community can voluntarily make payments towards the costs of improving their community’s transit needs, then the community assumes responsibility for the cost of a transit system that meets their needs and can simultaneously avoid forcible deductions from their incomes.

A major is benefit is the ability of individuals to make contributions within their means rather than being forced to pay an amount outside what they can actually afford and without limiting their ability to access roads. Moreover, it not just individuals who can make voluntary contributions, but businesses – big or small. Of course, there will be some people or businesses who will contribute more than others, but because its voluntary those contributing more will be doing so because they want to rather than because the state or a local body demands it of them. SO the same class division we get from personal income taxes is absent in a voluntary scheme, Additionally, this means that taxes, levies, rates and so on currently collected can be diverted to appropriate channels such as health, education, environment, energy and so on.

We know from smaller scale fundraisers that voluntary contributions and a common goal can create a sense of community that is often lacking when costs continue to mount for those who cannot afford to meet those payments. My point is in short: set the target and get the community involved (and by community I do mean the entire region). If we can show that we can raise the money without raising rates for the inner city rail, then we can start looking creatively at ways of funding other areas of concern for our communities.

I feel like we need to start getting creative about how we get the things we want in our communities. How can we resolve the issue without forcing those both within and outside the region to contribute at an amount set by the state? Do we want governments and local councils to forcibly take from what we earn (remembering that rates are an indirect form of personal income tax, since they are typically paid out of the wages of wage earners) or do we want to voluntarily contribute within our means towards a common goal?

NB: If you haven’t read previous posts, I am not against all forms of tax but I’d like to see a more simple system that taxes land and not productivity.

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Update on transition of blog

This blog is not defunct, rather its in a state of contemplation!

So as a little teaser you can expect some posts in the near future discussing things such as state schools v charter schools (yes, I have more to say on this!), democracy, anarchism and a little something on Maori politics to name a few things.

Remember to update your feeds if you frequent my ellipsister.blogspot page. That one is defunct, and I will no longer post from there.

People in glass houses

This post may not resonate well with some readers, mostly because I am calling out someone well known and highly respected for her ‘progressive opinion shaping’ as an advocate for human rights in NZ and abroad.  
 
I’m not saying I’m perfect, nor that I expect anyone else to be. When we are so grossly offended, we often say or do irrational things. Its human nature.  
 
I’ve been chatting to some friends on Facebook – one in particular who was rightly upset by the comments made by Marie Kraup, the Danish Politician (reportedly a far right nationalist) who recently slandered Maori culture in an opinion piece in a Danish newspaper. I’m a little late and many have written on this topic already, but there is a different angle I want to take. 
 
An angle that brings to mind a heated twitter exchange I saw a few weeks ago where @ColeyTangerina went to town on @Kaupapa for referring to the careerist left women of Labour having more balls than the men and for saying that ‘ovaries’ don’t have the same linguistic currency as ‘balls’.
 
I happened to agree with him – yet I could also see @ColeyTangerina’s point. So long as we believe ‘balls’ have more linguistic currency than ‘ovaries’, is as long as that will remain the status quo.
 
It also brings to mind the case of John Key’s ‘gay red shirt’ comment, since he got slammed for using the term ‘gay’ derogatorily notwithstanding that he attends gay pride shows – which he wouldn’t if he were homophobic. Not defending John Key, just saying that some terms are used in ways that we often take for granted as being derogatory or offensive to others.
 
So what does this have to do with Marama Davidson? This:
 
 
The part I refer to is line 5 beginning ‘upholding Danish racist pastry woman’s comments’. And when asked if ‘pastry’ was a typo, she replied: 
 
Marama is usually an amazing advocate and her writing and comments are usually well considered. But referring to Marie Kraup as a Danish racist  pastry is not the conduct one has come to expect of a progressive opinion shaper, especially when the point of the status update is to call out our Race Relations Commissioner for failing to provide guidance on this issue.  
 
I wholeheartedly agree that Susan Devoy should be making some comment to send a global message that we are united against cultural intolerance. I suspect that most readers of this blog will agree that what Marie Krarupsaid was abhorrent and her own intolerance was the most primitive thing about the whole situation. 
 
But is this a justifiable response given it is in the context of criticising the lack of commentary from the Race Relations Commissioner? 
 
Surely the message could have been conveyed without resorting to her own ill-considered comments?Many Danish people will take offense to the petty name calling and derogatory reference to their nationality as pastries. Maybe some of my readers will think what she said wasn’t offensive in the context of what was said about Maori culture, but in my view, this was a bit of people in glass houses. Not particularly conducive to improving race relations nor promoting tolerance. 
 
What I will say, is that I agree if you are reading this and upset that Dame Susan Devoy has not made any comment, then do call or email the Human Rights Commission and demand a response. 
 
Note: these comments from Marama are made publicly on Facebook, so are easily accessible by any person. I haven’t covertly extracted them. 
 
*I get that the word ‘pastry’ is not offensive on its own. Its the use of pastry as a way of belittling that could be deemed offensive to the people of Denmark.

Indoctrination of the brazilian wax

I was recently enlightened about a generational shift to hairless vagina’s. Yes. Men with young daughter’s this is probably an uncomfortable, but necessary post for you to read.
The conversation begins by TP, SI and SP discussing the NZ Herald article on the susceptibility of sexually transmitted infections for those who wax their pubic hair. (Note: the particular study in question acknowledged the results were inconclusive because there was not a control group). This transpired into a discussion on the all faous full brazilian wax.
We were told by SP that in her view, females under 25 years old are predominantly foregoing their pubic hair. For clarity, this is not at all a problem, a woman is free to choose to do as she pleases with her pubic hair.
Why am I talking about hairless vagina’s? Because the subject both fascinates and terrifies me. You will see why by the end of this post.
SP is a 24 year old female who is considering IPL (permanent removal) and regularly waxes the lot.She made some interesting points that I want to discuss. Firstly, that she is insulted that (some) feminists consider her choice for a hairless vagina as submitting to the desires of men and secondly, that hairless vagina’s are a ‘generational thing’.
I can appreciate where those feminists are coming from when they make such remarks. They may have had wider issues in their minds but transfixed the idea onto an individuals choice. So the remarks were probably made without context and unfortunately relayed in way that demeaned SP as a woman capable of making her own choices. The problem SP raised about those feminists is similar to my own experiences of some self-proclaimed feminists – that all the decisions I make that benefit males are are not free choices but rather kowtowing to conform to the needs and/or desires of men. Note, that its a very small minority of feminists that fall into this experience for me. Although it highlights the importance for feminists to make clear that they are not judging the individual but instead considering the wider issues and implications of such choices (if that is the intention of course).
So I’ve established that I do not consider having a hairless vagina anti-feminist. Women of all generations have taken the brazen step to wax the lot.  I do believe, if it is true that as a generational thing young women are opting for hairless vagina’s, we should be concerned.
Intuition tells me that when there is a preference for female body appearance, that the element of conformity is in play. This suggests to me that not all women who choose the full Brazilian wax or IPL are doing so as a free choice. I accept that they are actively making the decision and this is a choice, but I worry that the reasons for those choices derive from a fear of being different or being ostracised for having what SP referred to as a ‘bush’ or a ‘beard’. I also worry that shame or repulsion of pubic hair is being indoctrinated within this generation not just for young women, but to their young male counterparts as well. I’m also concerned that if there really is a generation of young women who are opting out of having any pubic hair, then this could have unintended consequences. I worry that the depiction of a hairless vagina as preferable could adversely affect the sexual safety of our pre-pubescent females.
Obviously, my concerns derive from a single conversation and I do not have the resources to verify the views expressed by SP, but I do think it worthwhile considering in the wider context especially given the prevalence of rape culture  in our society.