Month: February 2014

This talk about incest

Although the focus of Jamie Whyte’s comments about incest rapidly degenerated to his apparent advocacy for incestuous relationships and the open mocking of the very small minority of people who choose to enter incestuous relationships, the argument he was making was largely missed, that is,  whether the State should intervene in sexual or marital relationships between two consenting adults.

On The Ruminator website, Tim Batt asks a very provocative question, obviously to see how deep Whyte’s convictions are on freedom & liberty:

But what about incest – should the state intervene if adult siblings want to marry each other?

“Well personally, I don’t think they [the State] should. However, it’s a matter of almost no significance because it just doesn’t happen.”

Whyte then defended his comments in the NZH stating:

“I don’t think the state should intervene in consensual adult sex or marriage, but there are two very important elements here – consensual and adult”.

“I wonder who does believe the state should intervene in consensual adult acts?”

He said he was “very opposed” to incest.

“I find it very distasteful I don’t know why anybody would do it but it’s a question of principle about whether or not people ought to interfere with actions that do no harm to third parties just because they personally wouldn’t do it.”

The NZH have amended the previous article reporting that Whyte says:

“I regret the comments, mainly because I feel I let the party down,” he said.

Lets not beat around the bush, incest is morally repugnant to the vast majority of people. But do not forget that for many socially conservative types, homosexuality is also morally repugnant. Why do people feel justified in defending and actively seeking equality for consensual sexual and marital relationships between two consenting adults of the same-sex, but publicly ridicule a consensual adult relationship between two persons of the same biological family? I agree with Whyte, just because it’s not something we’d personally do, it doesn’t give us a right to ridicule those who do choose those relationships. Heterosexuals who support equality in LGBT relationships and who actively oppose bigoted statements against such relationships, should look at the arguments they use to justify one and vilify the other. I think the response has been largely vile from many (on the left) that attempt to marginalise a very small group of people who choose to enter incestuous relationships.

Arguments in favour of state intervention regarding incest, almost always revolve around the risk of sexual abuse. Whyte’s view on incest does not prevent criminal charges arising from sexual abuse. Where there is a lack of consent and/or where one (or both parties) are not ‘adults’, this abuse is already captured under the Crimes Act 1961. Many seem to conflate issues of rape, sexual assault and pedophilia with incest. It’s true that in many of those cases that incest occurs, but incest is not the violent act, it is the nature of the relationship between the two people. Moreover, he wasn’t even suggesting it become policy, he seemed to me to be addressing the principle behind why it ought not be illegal, rather than taking direct action to legalise it.

Whyte simply answered a question that to be fair, has not (as far as I know) been put to any other politician. In my opinion, he answered the question rationally, the way you’d probably expect from a Philosophy Professor.  However, rather than analysing the argument, it was a quick lurch into cousin f*king memes and conflating other sexual crimes with incest.

As a left identifying voter I hate that I feel compelled to defend Whyte’s comments.

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The predicament of the ACT Party

Richard Prebble proposes that with him as Campaign Director for ACT’s 2014 election campaign, that ACT can win both the Epsom seat and 9 MP seats in Parliament.

Sure its early days but given the latest Colmar Brunton poll which has ACT at only 0.4% of the Party vote, its an ambitious goal, to put it mildly.

In my view, ACT has 2 major limitations to overcome to pull a 7.5% share of the party vote out of the ballot boxes on Election Day:

  1. The perception that ACT is a radical far right party; and
  2. Attracting around 7 times the number of votes ACT won at the last election.

On point 1, New Zealander’s obviously have an aversion to far right politics. For instance, the deregistration of Libertarianz (laissez faire capitalists) and the persistently low polling of the ACT Party itself, suggest the majority of New Zealander’s are moderates. This is no surprise given the duopolistic characteristics of our electoral system despite MMP.

A similar aversion is obviously true about the far left, noting that the Mana Party weren’t even included in the latest Colmar Brunton poll.

Some might argue that ACT are not actually a far right party but are instead an obvious right wing choice as opposed to National who sit closer to the centre. I guess that is a matter of interpretation, but when a Party’s founding principles are grounded heavily in capitalist individualism, its difficult to deny the radicalism inherent in their philosophy.

On point 2, increasing the share of the party vote will not come easily for ACT. Firstly, for the reasons stated above, namely, New Zealander’s aversion to far right politics. Secondly, National and Labour dominate and frame the political debate around the issues that these two parties see as significant. This makes it difficult for any minor party to set itself apart from the major parties without being hit with allegations of radicalism. The main parties use the ‘radical’ phrase pejoratively against minor parties to preserve their own apparently moderate (yet highly statist) status and to maintain their respective majorities.

In order for ACT to attract the votes it needs to get 9 MP’s, ACT will have to set itself apart from National in a way that puts it in competition with National. A fine balance is required to ensure that ACT isn’t viewed as toxic to the National brand. If ACT can’t moderate policies that National view as radical, this might negatively impact on their relationship. Remembering how Labour had a similar struggle with the Mana Party claiming the two parties could not work together (largely based on perceptions/public aversion to the Mana Party, especially at that time).

Of course, National would not want to be in a position where it had to rule out ACT, as ACT is really its safest bet as a coalition partner. Moreover, ACT have no chance of getting anywhere close to 7.5% if National ruled out working with them. Whether National want to see ACT attain that many seats is also questionable. This suggests to me that Prebble’s strategy to achieve the 9 MP’s in Parliament, is likely to involve casting aside ACT’s libertarian roots for a few seats in the plutocracy. Abandoning their principles, and making a hypocrite of Jamie Whyte in the process.

#Herecomesthesun: The Greens Solar Home project

Firstly, there is some magic in using a Beatles song as a hashtag to promote your policy on solar energy. On one hand, it will resonate with the diehard Green voter given that its a criticism of corporate life. On the other hand, one can’t help but smile when listening along given its folky beat. And its The Beatles, well, more correctly George Harrison. Maybe its just me, I don’t know. But I think that its use is some political psychology gold.

Secondly, the Greens Solar Home project is the kind of radical policy that the Greens need to reinvigorate their voting constituency. Its a bold move amid their neolibral-lite policies, to encourage consumers to ‘take the power back’. Another pun from a band also likely to resonate with the diehard Green voter and anti-state renegades. But pertinent since it implies that the consumer has the power both in terms of their energy source (no more bills to Mr Deep-pockets) and their choice on how best to manage their energy needs (self-determination).

BUT there is a ‘but’ when considering the specifics of this policy and I’m hoping my critique doesn’t minimise the clout of the overall message.

The thing about political parties is that they seem to abhor revision. In the face of criticism, parties often dig in their heels – even if that means advocating bad policy. I hope the Greens can internalise the feedback from Green voters and even non-Green voters and use it to show that they are open to revision where necessary, which is in itself conducive to participatory democracy, and in line with the underlying message of solar project – self-determination.

For ease of reference the Greens policy document can be located here.

In it you will see, that the Greens offer low interest loans to homeowners to install solar panels. The repayments are made through the homeowners council rates. That is, the loan is to be repaid at $900 per year on top of their rates. The interest on the loans is said to be about 4.1% p.a, although this interest figure is subject to change.

The Greens envision a savings of $100 per year for homeowners. Given interest must also be paid on that loan per year, its unclear if the Greens will require the interest on top of the $900 repayment, in which case, the savings figure of $100 is false. Or if the interest is included in the $900 per year, which means the term of the loan is longer.

Some argue that at least the repayments aren’t going to a foreign-owned company. But the loans are made through a foreign bank and provided to the consumer via the government. So in effect, the repayments go to the worst of them all. The Bankers.

What about the effect on homeowners? Its true that some homeowners will benefit from solar power, particularly those who live in the homes they own. Depending on social preferences, house prices may rise if solar is viewed as an improvement to the property. Which is fine for those who tenant their won properties.

What about the renters? landlords may decide to install solar to improve the value of their properties. The effect, is likely to see the rent increase for two reasons: the market rate for solar homes will increase if there is demand for solar powered homes, and the landlord will need to repay the loan for the installation of the solar panels. So for low income renters, this may be a negative, since renting can already place a large burden on those individuals or families. If landlords are prevented from passing on the costs of the loan to install solar, then fewer rental properties will have solar, which affects a large proportion of the lower socio-economic demographic who are the people who need access to soalr the most. Also, it diminishes the purpose of the Greens policy.

Also, the idea that excess power generated could provide a return to the homeowner is a bit disingenuous. If the uptake is significant then power prices will fall. This means that the price at which you can sell your excess power is probably negligible. In addition, the Greens NZ Power policy, intends to drive down the price of power!

This article by  George Monbiot  (h/t to @gtiso) suggests that solar panel installation ‘is the ideal modern status symbol, which signifies both wealth and moral superiority’ [in the middle class], ‘even if it’s perfectly useless’. The suggestion is that the policy either intentionally or inadvertently operates as a wealth transfer to the middle class. Similar could be said of the Greens policy.

What about disposal? It was pointed out that solar panels are difficult to dispose of because they contain toxic materials. Solar panels are estimated to have a life span of about 25 years. The policy is unclear on how the Greens intend to dispose of the panels at the end of their life spans. If they will create landfills in NZ, then there are additional costs involved in setting up a land fill for this purpose, not to mention issues with dumping toxic materials into NZ soils. The alternative is to export the waste material and have some other community deal with the effects of solar panel pollution. Admittedly, I’m not very clued up on how to dispose of toxic materials or the extent of the toxicity in solar panels, so this worry of mine could be completely unfounded.

So I have outlined my gripes, so let me just reiterate that I wholeheartedly support initiatives to address climate change and moves towards decentralisation and clean energy. So  one way I see for improving the policy is implementing the combination of LVT and UBI (see my post on the benefits of UBI here).

LVT as mentioned multiple times in previous posts, brings land (broadly defined to include all natural phenomena not produced through human exertion) into common ownership – distinct from collective or private ownership. The economic rent collected is pooled and can be redistributed via a UBI. Income taxes are abolished (or significantly reduced during the transition) giving workers and non-workers (due to UBI) the ability to invest in their choice of clean energy (if that’s what they desire).  It might even be that communities decide to reduce the UBI for each person and use the remaining amount to invest in infrastructure and clean energy. Who knows. But that is self-determination. It extends this policy and makes it fair for all.

Why Ngāpuhi should reject the treaty settlement process

Some motivational words before I begin this post:

‘Renegades of Funk’ cover (2000)

by Rage Against the Machine

[original by Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force (1983)]

Now renegades are the people
With their own philosophies
They change the course of history
Everyday, people like you and me

We’re the renegades we’re the people
With our own philosophies
We change the course of history
Everyday, people like you and me

If you read my About page you will see that I am a Ngāpuhi descendent. Admittedly, I’ve had minimal exposure to my iwi and culture and identify more closely as an urban Māori of Ngāpuhi descent. I am nonetheless still extremely passionate about issues affecting Māori and in particular, my iwi.

For the record, I do not and have not lived in a predominantly Māori community at all in my lifetime, so my views arise from an external standpoint. Although, despite living in predominantly Pākehā communities, I have certainly felt and continue to feel the stigma of being Māori in NZ.

I’m well aware that I am susceptible to criticism from both iwi-connected Māori and non-Māori alike, in proposing to make claims against a process that many view as vital for improving relationships within NZ.  But either way, I am going to state my argument knowing the criticism I open myself up to.

Ngāpuhi must reject the treaty settlement process and advocate for real change, for the recognition of Tino Rangatiratanga.

For the regular reader of this blog, it’s of no surprise that I am deeply sympathetic to political anarchism. This is important to note because it helps contextualise why I think Ngāpuhi should reject the Treaty settlements process. Although my rejection of the State and hierarchies, and the treaty settlements process do correlate, the key reason for rejecting the latter is the settlements process closes the door on the fundamental issue of Tino Rangitiratanga and therefore Mana Motuhake.

The treaty settlements process is a vehicle for preserving the privilege of the ruling political elite. It does this by feigning to settle injustices through monetary compensation, knowing the sovereignty issues are ignored in this process. Moreover, when the State are faced with opposition from Māori for issues arising under the Treaty, these monetary payments are used by the State to build a narrative around Māori as a people who would sell out their principles for a few zero’s in their bank accounts.

Does the settlement process not strike anyone as the same tactic used to lure Māori into signing the Treaty in the first place? These settlements reinforce the master-slave relationship that locks iwi into a corporatocracy wedded to hierarchy and elitism.

Graham Cameron recently wrote that Māori fail to recognise the thing that infuriates us is ‘not the dogwhistler’s but the leash’. The metaphor is superb. He further writes:

…we have adhered to the oppressor through the Church, through business and profit, through co-operating with the councils in development of land, through having most of our tamariki in mainstream schools, through giving up our sovereignty for a treaty settlement. At each point we have hoped for liberation, but again we have mistaken the status quo for freedom. [Emphasis added]

The treaty settlements process claims to liberate Māori, instead it lengthens the leash. I appreciate that the monetary compensation has assisted certain iwi to become ‘profitable’ entities and improve the outcomes of members of their iwi. But with all due respect, this has put a handbrake on the real emancipation needed to improve social, economic and environmental outcomes for all Māori.

Hone Harawira recently wrote that Ngāpuhi provide the basis for our future understanding of Te Tiriti’ and that the government ‘can’t effectively claim to have settled the Treaty until they can bring the biggest tribe in the country to the table’.

Harawira also writes that:

Once Ngapuhi’s signature is on the Deed of Settlement, the Crown will have achieved “full and final” settlement of all major iwi claims, at which point the Treaty will have finally achieved the status conferred upon it by Chief Justice Prendergast in 1877[1] … it will to all intents and purposes finally be “null and void”

This is the reality if Ngāpuhi choose to settle under the conditions predetermined by the Crown. If this is our last opportunity to fight for Tino Rangitiratanga, then we need to make sure that it is not an opportunity wasted. Any settlement under the current framework will waste this opportunity. As the only iwi yet to settle and complete the Crowns colonisation project, Ngāpuhi have the final opportunity to fight for Tino Rangitiratanga. Not just for Ngāpuhi, or for Māori but for all New Zealanderr’s.

We wont achieve Mana Motuhake if we continue to visualise Tino Rangitiratanga as exclusively for Māori.  I do not here assert that Tino Rangitiratanga should represent a departure from our Māoritanga. Rather that it must reflect the inclusive qualities that form its core.

We must create a vision for New Zealander’s illustrating as Cameron points out, that Tino Rangitiratanga is an alternative to the abysmal corporatocracy that we presently endure.

Like anarchism, Mana Motuhake and Tino Rangitiratanga are practices not theories. The practice of self-determination, the realisation of freedom. Self-determination and freedom are about enabling communities to decide how best to meet their needs – they do not privilege one person over another. Moreover, self-determination and freedom enables people to decide how they want to organise their communities. It does not mean that we devlove into separate warring communities rather that we develop co-operative communities that ensure everyones needs are met.

And so what if the liberals bleat that its a utopian dream. So what if change doesn’t happen immediately. Shouldn’t we at lest try to change the course of history?

I don’t presume any resistance would be simple or without its own opposition, but I do think Ngāpuhi can build momentum for a shared vision by rejecting the settlements process. Ngāpuhi must see through the divide and conquer strategy foisted upon them, and take this opportunity to liberate Māori and Pākehā alike from the corporatocracy that keeps us divided for its own preservation.


[1] Wi Parata v Bishop of Wellington (1877) 3 NZ Jur (NS) SC 72.

Collective violence

On Venezuela.

Caracas Chronicles

Tupamaros in Caracas Tupamaros in Caracas

As I left yesterday’s march, having reached our announced endpoint in front of the Fiscalía (the Prosecutor General’s headquarters), I made a point to note the total absence of law enforcement personnel in the area. There had not been a single policeman in sight for the entire route of the protest.

I started my subway ride back home acutely worried for those who remained gathered in front of the Fiscalía, since I know that, while there is safety in numbers, once these start to dwindle, smaller groups become a prime target for armed government vigilante thugs, locally known as colectivos.

I know this because I was victim of a colectivo attack while protesting a few months back, in Plaza Venezuela.

Back then we held a small street rally of no more than 200 attendees. All of the sudden, in a violent frenzy of motorcycle roars, dozens of male…

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Reviving Georgism: George was a root hacker not a branch wriggler

Universal Basic Income vs Minimum/Living Wage

Bryce Edwards compiled a round-up of the inequality debates regarding NZ’s 2014 Election. I suppose, whether the motivation to focus on inequality is well-intentioned or a vote grabbing exercise is yet to be determined.

My issue with the inequality debate is that it is most often framed in terms of whether we should (a) increase the minimum wage, (b) legislate for a living wage, or (c) target assistance through wages subsidies like Working for Families. Not really root hacking stuff.

The presumption from those advocating increasing the minimum wage or having a living wage is that it will improve outcomes for the working poor.

Minimum or Living wage (MLW)[1] proponents also tend to argue that it is unfair that government subsidises businesses through the various welfare packages made available to low-income earners absolving businesses of the responsibility to pay fair wages to its workers.

In fact, I have made this argument myself and while I have revised my views on MLW strategies, I do think it has some merit. But whether MLW strategies address the issue of economic inequality is a different story.  In my view, part of the remedy to overcoming economic inequality is to implement a Universal Basic Income (UBI).[2]

I have posted this particular piece in my Reviving Georgism series because like many Georgists,[3] I think UBI and Land Value Tax (or land rent, land fees etc) are complementary policies for tackling inequality.

I do not necessarily oppose a MLW, in fact, a living wage is precisely what I advocate. I’m just not convinced that state regulating private enterprise to pay a particular minimum amount will necessarily have the effects intended. I think that UBI is a better goal because it benefits all society, not just one group, i.e. low skilled, low-income ‘workers’.

I also think we overlook that a MLW is a legal privilege that favours business and is therefore out of step with the objectives of the Unions and campaigns who typically lobby for MLW. I set out my argument below.

MLW as legal privilege

A MLW is a legal privilege weighted in favour of business because it removes the negotiating power of the worker to obtain a higher wage. It does this by legally entitling businesses to pay workers less (the minimum) than they might otherwise be willing to pay. Moreover, businesses are likely to choose to pay the legal minimum required simply because the law says they can.

Robert J Murphy adds another dimension where he argues that:

“Raising the minimum wage might represent a drastic harm to the most vulnerable and desperate workers…What could happen is that the higher wage would attract new workers into the labor pool, allowing firms to become pickier and, thus, to overlook the least-productive workers, who would remain unemployed or lose their jobs to more-highly-skilled workers”

I agree that MLW increases could represent a harm to low-income earners and I think that Murphy’s point reinforces my argument about privileging business. Additionally, MLW strategies might attract those who are unemployed but looking for work, to take on low skilled jobs in the interim, thereby potentially increasing unemployment for low skilled workers – an unintended consequence.

I’m not ignoring the fact that in non-minimum wage societies businesses can (and do) exploit workers.  My criticism is not that MLW strategies are inherently bad for all workers, indeed they probably do have some positive short-term effects for some but as Fred Foldvary points out [Henry] George would argue that minimum wage simply treats the effects [of poverty] not the symptoms, and that it distracts and appeases to avoid confronting the remedy.

Wages increase when rent decreases

George argues that ‘the line of rent is the necessary measure of the line of wages’.[4] He thinks that under free conditions, no-one would work for someone else if they could make the same amount working for themselves.[5] He argues its only when land is monopolised that individuals are forced to compete for work.[6]

George’s theory argues that wages are determined by what is left after rent is taken out.[7] Rent being that which is paid for using land.[8] He further argues that:[9]

“No matter how much they might actually produce, they receive only what they could get on land available without rent—on the least productive land in use. Landowners take everything else. Hence, no matter how much productive power increases, neither wages nor interest can rise if the increase in rent keeps pace with it”

He also proposes that:[10]

“Where land is subject to ownership and rent arises, wages will be fixed by what labor could secure from the highest natural opportunities open to it without paying rent (i.e., the margin of production). Where all natural opportunities are monopolized, wages may be forced by competition among laborers to the minimum at which they will consent to reproduce. Clearly, the margin cannot fall below the point of survival”

At first glance, this quote seems to support having a MLW, but in context George would say MLW is not conducive to solving inequality – it simply ‘appeases’ the workers to avoid dealing with the free lunch income enjoyed by land owners at the expense of workers who are forced to compete for a minimum wage. Noting, a minimum wage could never be lower than the margin or landowners would risk an uprising that could threaten their privilege. So even without a MLW setting, landowners will always have a minimum at which they can charge rent, and businesses would have a minimum at which workers would consent to work or they risk workplace strikes.

On this basis, I think a MLW plays right into the hands of the landowners and businesses to the detriment of the most vulnerable members of our society because it provides a sense of certainty around rents i.e. a MLW provides a legally specified minimum wage that must be paid to workers (by businesses)  on which land owners can base their rents.

Importantly, as Nate Blair points out minimum wages in the long-run can only shift economic rent to different locations or decrease aggregate wages. And while a minimum wage can benefit labour in the short-run, including labourers who also happen to be landlords,  the long term impact on real wages is negligible.

Arguably, UBI is no different than MLW because it too provides everyone with a specified minimum amount of income. However, this is why I think in order for UBI to be effective it must be accompanied by a LVT and because it focuses on long term outcomes.

Another benefit of UBI is that it provides a mechanism for recognising and rewarding our currently economically invisible members i.e. those who carry out valuable but unpaid work such as stay at home parents, or volunteers.

The UBI and LVT combination also provides a foundation for setting up a participatory democracy framework which would enable individuals to voluntarily take part in public decision-making forums (e.g. multi-body sortition etc) without the stress of having no income. But that is a discussion for another post.

To conclude, if the politicians aren’t going to address the root of inequality by looking at tax evolution and a UBI, then we deserve an answer as to why. This is what I believe we ought to challenge our politicians on this year to determine if their policies are simply vote grabbing or genuine. How we decide the amount, or the age, or the frequency at which individuals receive a UBI (or the rate or measure for determining LVT) is beyond the scope of this particular post but I think what we should be focusing on (as the title of this post suggests), is hacking at the roots instead of simply wriggling the branches of the failed system we have inherited.

UPDATE:

Its been brought to my attention that I have probably been a bit presumptuous in assuming that readers would take into account the current wage subsidies and welfare packages already available in NZ.

Its important because this is the context within which I base my argument. Here are a few sites to help get your head around NZ minimum wage and the government transfers available:

In NZ there are two predominant broad views about how to improve poverty. The first broadly subscribes to the Scandinavian model – progressive taxation and increasing the top marginal rate to increase revenue to provide free core public services. Critics of the welfare system and of those advocating for a Scandinavian model in NZ argue that welfare creates dependency and this dependency causes the poverty and wage gaps we see in our country.  The critics are the second group who typically subscribe to the neoliberal model – lower taxes, privatisation, user pays services, the free market. Scandinavian model advocates usually argue that if the wealthy paid more taxes on their productive incomes that we could afford to provide core public services to those most in need.

There is a strong tension between these two groups. As a relatively recent subscriber to Georgism, I think that both models are flawed because unlike Georgism, they ignore the role that speculative behaviour plays in creating inequalities.

In this post, I tried to clarify that I didn’t think a MLW was inherently bad, just that UBI with LVT was better overall.

The reason most often cited for pursuing a MW is ‘fair pay for a fair days work’ and I agree with the sentiment. However, I don’t think ‘fair pay’ and ‘minimum wage’ are the same, but this is how MW proponents often frame their arguments.

In fact, MW’s often aren’t ‘fair’ for the work carried out. If they were then government transfers i.e wage subsidies wouldn’t be necessary. No matter how little a worker is paid by their employer, the wage subsidies supplement those incomes enough so that supplemented income makes working more attractive than just receiving jobseeker support (a welfare payment).

So if we had no MW (in NZ), and some workers were to receive less from an employer than they might currently get those low-income earners would have their incomes supplemented by wage subsidies.

Additionally, no business could pay below the maximum someone could get on welfare because most workers would choose not to work for less than what they could get for not working. This would apply in any country who has a welfare system. In effect, even if there was no legally specified MW there is actually already a minimum in place i.e. more than a worker could receive as their maximum on welfare. Admittedly, in NZ this rate would probably change depending on the region a person lives, because the accommodation supplement is location based.

Aside from the arguments set out in this post, MW also has the effect of forcing workers to compete for jobs, which gives business the upper hand to choose the person willing to accept the least amount in wages i.e. the minimum legal amount.

I reiterate, I don’t disagree that MW’s can have short term benefits. However, I think that focusing on MLW prolongs getting to the real remedy because it appeases workers, which means the more vulnerable members of our society – those who are unable to work for whatever reason, only receive welfare payments, which are necessarily less than those who earn any productive wage with additional government transfers (wage subsidies). A UBI and LVT combo would iron out this inequality and ensure even those who were unable to work had access to a living wage, not a bare minimum.


[1] For ease of reference, I use MLW to include those who advocate:

  1. a minimum wage; and or
  2. increasing the minimum wage; and or
  3. a living wage.

[2] Others refer to this is Guaranteed Minimum Income or Guaranteed Basic Income.

[3] I have resolved to use the term ‘Georgism’ (as the title of each post suggests) to reinvigorate interest in Henry George’s economic theory. However, in doing so I think I may have inadvertently neglected the preferences of some who prefer ‘Geoism’ and others who reject describing themselves under an ‘-ism’, such as Martin Adam’s who writes at Land, A Humaniteer Project. Adam’s proposes that while Henry George’s economic theory is traditionally understood as Georgism, a more accurate term is ‘Geoism’ because it ‘contains the prefix Geo, from the Greek word γαια, meaning ground or earth’ and because George’s philosophy advocates the sharing of nature. Please note that I use the term ‘Georgism’ broadly to include any persons who share in advocating the fundamentals of George’s economic theory.

[4] Henry George and B. Drake (ed.) Progress and Poverty (2006, Robert Schalkenbach Foundation, New York) available online: http://www.henrygeorge.org/pdfs/PandP_Drake.pdf  at 117.

[5] Ibid at 116.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid at 93.

[8] Ibid at 89.

[9] Ibid at 93.

[10] Ibid at 116.

Credit for the title of this post belongs to Adam John Monroe

Thanks to all those in the LVT Facebook group that helped me get my head around this and directed me to relevant chapters!

Waitangi Day blues

Waitangi Day is difficult for Māori and Pākehā alike, although often for very different reasons.  It’s not even the day itself, rather, the Waitangi Day period involving the lead up, the day, and the aftermath.  It’s that time when we disclose what most of us probably repress for most the year without nearly the level of reflection required when we are feeling hypersensitive, which perhaps leads to less tolerance of those with opposing attitudes.  For me personally, it’s a time where I experience multiple feelings, often sadness and anger, and very rarely hope. Although, I’m not one to consider it a day to celebrate, well, not yet anyhow.

So while our newspapers and media channels are more often than not littered with stories depicting Māori as greedy or savages against their more civilised and generous counterparts, its hugely refreshing to read a post written by Andrew Robertson on his Grumpollie blog on Pākehā attitudes to bi-cultural policy.

Robertson writes that a couple of studies (by Chris Silby) that he contributed to found that:

Pakeha tend to embrace the symbolic aspects of bicultural policy (ie, it’s good to incorporate Māori culture and values into mainstream NZ culture), but oppose its resource specific aspects (for example, Māori claims to the seabed and foreshore, and affirmative action policies). The few Pakeha who do embrace the resource specific aspects of bicultural policy are those who experience a sense of responsibility (termed collective guilt) for historical injustices.

I have engaged with many Pākehā who are wholly supportive of Tino Rangitiratanga, often expressing their regret over the actions of their colonial predecessors and committed to the full healing process, that goes beyond the monetary settlements that the Government consider sufficient.

But more often than not (including some in my own close group of friends) I’ve encountered Pākehā who insist that Māori ought to just get over the past, because they (Pākehā) are not responsible for the wrongs committed by their colonial ancestors.

It is this attitude that I believe is the most damaging to the Waitangi Day period, because it denies Māori the freedom to express their grievances both historical and contemporary without being re-victimised.

Confession: my main weakness is in failing to find the courage to confront the attitudes of those closest to me because I worry about offending them with my apparent ‘radicalism’, despite the intentional insults directed at my culture.

This is why I find Robertson’s post very relevant and refreshing. It provides an interesting angle on which to confront those attitudes.

Robertson writes that:

the second study illustrates two theorised psychological processes that operate to produce prejudice

and that the study found

Pakeha attitudes towards the resource specific aspects of bicultural policy were based more in the psychological ‘competition/group superiority process’ than the ‘danger/cohesion process’…

Which supports the theory that:

…refuting collective guilt (ie, it happened so long ago, it’s not our fault anymore!) helps Pakeha to justify (feel better about) the expression of negative views on the resource specific aspects of bicultural policy

I think this study illustrates that it is not Māori holding up the process to a unified NZ, it is Pākehā who refuse to acknowledge and abdicate their prejudices. This is further evidenced by the highly contentious symbol displayed on the front page of the New Zealand Herald today, a symbol generally associated with ‘white power movements’ (white, clenched, raised fist h/t @AniOBrien). Additionally, the message implied that Waitangi Day is ‘typically’ marred by Māori protest, yet as I see it, the NZH highlighted the deeply ingrained prejudices that actually exist to mar the day.

I expect over the coming days an eruption of stories in the media and on blogs claiming oversensitive Maori playing the race card  (in relation to the NZH front page), Ngapuhi acting like a bunch of savages (because there is division over who has the mandate to negotiate any settlement with the Crown), Proof Maori are greedy (in relation to John Key’s monetary incentive to get Ngapuhi to unify & settle, and the $500-600 million figure stated by Sonny Tau), all grounded in the psychological processes illustrated in the findings of the studies by Silby and Robertson et al.

Observations on Jamie Whyte and the ACT Party

actLike many in NZ, I didn’t (and probably still don’t) really know much about Jamie Whyte, the newly elected ACT Party leader.

On hearing Whyte was a Philosophy Lecturer at Cambridge, I did a quick search of the internet to find out what I could about Whyte’s ideological stance. In doing so, I found a 5 min clip of Whyte discussing the State of Left Wing Politics, where he proclaims that the left have won shown by the deeply ingrained social expectation of state supplied services. Whyte also criticises the left as impossible to satisfy leading him to conclude that totalitarianism is the only way to achieve a socialists utopia.

Despite disagreeing with pretty much everything Whyte argued, I was pleasantly surprised at his impeccable delivery. So much so, that I actually found myself wanting to listen and learn more about Whyte. Sure I experienced pangs of frustration at his arguments, but unlike some right-wing libertarians, not once did I find him intolerable (obviously this could change).

My main criticism is that Whyte (like most right-wing commentators) conflated the left with statism and this is an approach that disregards an entire branch of anti-state leftists, i.e. Left Libertarians and Anarchists.

Despite it being wrong, it is a clever strategy because it allows ACT to downplay or ignore that the one party ACT would need to collaborate with, i.e. the National Party, is outrageously statist.

It is also odd to me that commentators and journalists alike have labeled Whyte a far right neoliberal, despite Whyte considering his views most closely aligned to John Stuart Mill – a classical liberal.

Of course, classical liberalism is a free market doctrine based on self-regulation, which is distinct from the neo-liberal free market based on deregulation. The neo-liberal free market, is not actually free at all, it requires state intervention to regulate in favour of corporate interests. A deregulated market is simply one that enables monopolisation. A self-regulated market on the other hand, encourages competition and so works against monopolisation. Neo-liberalism is effectively feudalism in drag – the very thing that repulsed classical liberals like John Stuart Mill and Adam Smith.

Because neo-liberalism is a highly statist doctrine, I think Whyte made an error in arguing the left has won.  I think the error derives from his presumption that statism is leftism, when in fact neo-liberalism is state capitalism and as such, he wrongly describes the political-economic system we have as socialism, attributing the failings under state capitalism, or neo-liberalism to socialism.

Nonetheless, I think Whyte’s classical liberal views could be just what we need to broaden economic discussion in NZ. It might enable parties to challenge the neoliberal vanguard and to consider heterodox approaches.

While I cannot comment on ACT policy at this stage due to the formal announcement not occurring until 1 March 2014, I will comment on some of Whyte’s  responses to questions he answered on The NBR website yesterday (before it was pay walled).

Firstly, in response to whether ACT would campaign on legalising cannabis, Whyte appeared to concede that in some instances, individual autonomy was in fact subordinate to the will of the majority, by arguing that it was an issue the public should lead on. I found his response interesting given right libertarians are often the most vociferous voices on anti-majoritarianism. Although, this could be linked to Whyte’s stance on utilitarianism.

Secondly, Whyte also indicated his support for abolishing the Māori electorate seats because he considered them an offence to principles of equal treatment (implying Māori are treated favourably), stating that the law should be blind to race. While I think the Māori electoral seats are a farce, it’s for very different reasons than Whyte. I see them as extensions of our colonising past designed to assimilate Māori into the dominant Westminster system so that decision-making occurs on terms predetermined by the political elite. In claiming that the law should be blind to race, Whyte perpetuates the myth that the legal system favours Māori. He neglects to mention that the ‘law’, the system he favours, systematically subjugated Māori rights.

But Whyte will appeal to some Māori, since he thinks Treaty claims are property rights issues and any person wrongly deprived of their property should receive restitution. I may discuss this particular issue in a later post, once I see a more robust statement from Whyte.

A further obervation, ACT appears to be home to Libertarian Pro-Lifers, with one member suggesting that being pro-life is wholly consistent with libertarianism because libertarianism is against murder, violence and force. An interesting line of argument I thought, since pro-life is most often doublespeak for anti-abortion. I would have thought that mandating the state to restrict or even criminalise the choice of a woman over her body was not very libertarian at all. I found it amusing that even the most vocal right-wing libertarian that I’ve interacted with was in shock and  disbelief at the thought of pro-lifers being (a) libertarians and (b) members of the ACT Party. However, ACT might be able to draw on this pro-life aspect to extract would be Conservative Party votes.

Its possible also that Whyte’s academic proficiency may throw a few left-wing politicians who’ve become stale in their ideology. I think ideology is important because it tells us what motivates the politician to be in Parliament and allows us to assess their policies against their values. I expect the NZ Greens to be very proficient in explicating their ideology, mostly because they are consistently challenged on this issue. My worry relates to the career politicians in Labour who have habituated expressing platitudes.

On a different note,  Boscawen effectively giving the party an ultimatum based on monetary incentive is as crony as it gets. I had seen a tweet (a day or so before leadership was announced) from an ACT member stating: We need to decide if we are a Libertarian or Authoritarian Party. I wasn’t sure of the context at the time; however, it now occurs to me it was probably in relation to Boscawen’s ultimatum.

In conclusion, I may not agree with most (possibly all) ACT policy and at times some of the rhetoric from the party hacks is extremely frustrating for my left-wing sensitivities. Whyte as leader was probably ACT’s best choice and if he brings unorthodox or radical reform ideas into the public domain, well, in my opinion, that’s good for everyone, we get to start talking beyond the incremental solutions currently on offer.