The Dim-Post

March 4, 2010

Garrettogenesis

Filed under: general idiocy — danylmc @ 8:50 am

At last the nation is having the debate about incentivized sterilisation we’ve been avoiding all these years:

ACT MP David Garrett has suggested offering abusive parents thousands of dollars in return for getting themselves sterilised.

He says this may be one way of preventing the birth of children who might otherwise be injured or killed through domestic violence.

Mr Garrett says one option would be to offer $5000 if the parent agreed to be sterilised.

He argues that some parents who abuse their children continue to have more, and that shouldn’t be allowed.

“That must be costing a huge amount of money and if we can incentivise people who, quite plainly, shouldn’t be having children to stop having them then … that’s something we should at least have a discussion about.”

David Garrett says this is not ACT Party policy, but his own personal view.

I always try to look for practical objections rather than ideological or historic (‘the Nazis!’) flaws. I suspect that the number of people who volunteered for sterilisation would be small to non-existant (it is a form of mutilation) and that no matter what the details of the policy it would be a public relations disaster for our country – the Third Reich in the South Pacific etc.

If you have sterilisation as part of the criminal justice system, either as an option – five grand cash, or two years off if you opt for sterilisation, or whatever – or coerced then you run into issues around over-representation of Maori and the mentally ill in the justice system, again a public relations disaster since it opens you to accusations of conducting a eugenics policy. Also issues of consent around people who are young, abusing drugs or alcohol or mentally ill opting for sterlisation and regretting it ten years down the track, all of which could lead to massive law suits for the government.

I wonder what the Catholic Church’s view on sterilisation – either forced or unforced – is?

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70 Comments »

  1. Given all the above objections it is clear that a far better course of action is that we should just continue to do nothing and let meal tickets be killed. Moping up the floor is only a minor public relations disaster, and in the long run we’re all dead, etc. etc.

    Comment by Berend de Boer — March 4, 2010 @ 8:59 am

  2. Yeah, it’s a shame that doing nothing and forced sterilisation are our only two choices.

    Comment by danylmc — March 4, 2010 @ 9:00 am

  3. We could try to discourage mass rooting, but that would clearly be a step change to our way of thinking.

    Or we keep paying kids, and criminals, to have more kids.

    Comment by Gooner — March 4, 2010 @ 9:11 am

  4. I love David Garrett, he shows the soul of ACT, he’s not afraid to say what the other 138 members of the party are saying behind closed doors.

    Comment by Michael Stevens — March 4, 2010 @ 9:22 am

  5. You clearly missed the decimal point Michael: 1.38.

    That’s forgetting the law that you need 500 to keep your registration as a political party.

    Comment by Gooner — March 4, 2010 @ 9:34 am

  6. Serious question – how are incentives for voluntary sterilisation different to incentives to use contraception any different? The outcome is the same (I acknowledge sterilisations are more permanent, but reversal is possible, just a bigger step in decisionmaking).

    I’m not for or against, just teasing out whether the debate is over the use of the word “sterilisation’ and its historical issues, versus the outcome (since contraception is ok)? If you take the catholic church perspective, bith are bad (at least they are being logically consistent), whereas maybe we are just fudging our perspectives based on tribal positions and nuances of language.

    Ideally there would be better options being presented by people rather than a simple binary choice of no babies (sterilisation) or no babies (contraception). To me if that is what we are debating, then the argument is already lost.

    Comment by WH — March 4, 2010 @ 9:38 am

  7. NZ men do have one of the highest vasectomy rates in the world. But it tends to be something that men who are already fathers choose to do.

    Comment by Deborah — March 4, 2010 @ 9:43 am

  8. “NZ men do have one of the highest vasectomy rates in the world. But it tends to be something that men who are already fathers choose to do. Comment by Deborah — March 4, 2010 @ 9:43 am”

    Thats true – but presumably an abusive parent is someone who is either a father or mother.

    I’m just trying to understand that people don’t like the sterilisation idea because they objective to the outcome or to the method? And is taking a pill every day semantically different to a vascetomy?

    Again – is the debate already lost due to a lack of alternatives?

    Comment by WH — March 4, 2010 @ 9:53 am

  9. WH: when considering how contraception is different from sterilisation, you may want to consider the term “irreversible.”

    Comment by Psycho Milt — March 4, 2010 @ 10:00 am

  10. Would this policy create an incentive for ‘normal’ dads to give their kids a clip around the ear just so they get $5,000 for a vasectomy they’d otherwise have to pay for?

    5k for giving a rugrat a kick up the jacksie sounds like a good deal to me

    Comment by deserthead — March 4, 2010 @ 10:05 am

  11. i can see that this debate has raised the “general crazification factor” from green to amber.

    Comment by Che Tibby — March 4, 2010 @ 10:21 am

  12. PM – I’m aware of the issue of irreversable, see comment at 6. This all misses this point, contraception and sterilisation have the same outcome – so why do we support one form for abusive parents but not another, when debating this issue?

    Again to reinforce – it looks like the debate is already lost since better alternatives are not being suggested (i.e. better schooling, CYF/baranados intervention etc).

    It just seems it is the degree of craziness that is being debated – i.e. he’s really really crazy with access to a typewriter whereas the rest of us are just paranoid crazy with access to a computer.

    Aren’t we all just equally insane – the logic of this debate suggests we are (hence it is appropriate for the DIMPOST) – we are all way beyond the looking glass.

    Comment by WH — March 4, 2010 @ 10:29 am

  13. Tibby, you mean it was only at “green” before? There’s been a bit of crazification inflation, if that’s so.

    L

    Comment by Lew — March 4, 2010 @ 10:53 am

  14. WH, you mention better schooling, CYF. Schooling is too late as the kids tend to be dead by that time. CYF: often things might be known or not, but CYF’s history isn’t one of success on this issue.

    Danyl won’t offer alternatives, this is a blog for satire, but perhaps some commentators can comment on why NON-COMPULSORY sterilisation is such a big deal.

    If you depend on the state for your income, why not let the state take over a few more decisions. You guys are all for more state control, so what exactly is the problem in this instance?

    In my opinion, if you start to depend on the state and you can work (healthy body/mind), the state can make the decisions for you as you obviously won’t take control of your own life.

    Comment by Berend de Boer — March 4, 2010 @ 11:02 am

  15. Berend, because there’s no such thing as non-coerced sterilisation except that which is freely chosen. The best you can do is make it gratis. If you offer money, it’s coercion for those who need money: trading off their human rights against their economic status. If you offer other sorts of contra, such as the reduced sentences Danyl mentioned, it’s coercion: trading off human rights against penal status. If you make it a condition of any sort of social “fitness” (to pervert the Darwinian term utterly) for welfare or other forms of official aid, then it’s coercion: trading off human rights against social status. All this is contra to the UDHR, which — although you might wish it were otherwise — we as a country are bound to uphold.

    I thought you liberthoritarians hated coercion?

    L

    Comment by Lew — March 4, 2010 @ 11:58 am

  16. Lew- I appreciate your viewpoint and its one of the better explainations out there. My question back to you is “if you offer money, its coercion for those who need money”. Does this mean that working for a salary/wage is coercion full stop (a potential logical implication of your argument)?

    Again – this is not about agreeing with Mr Garrett, just simply that when considering logic of the debate (voluntary sterilisation is bad vs voluntary contraception not bad, where both have an incentive – monetary or otherwise) is largely a through the looking glass moment for both debaters. I.e its in human to use an electric chair but death by injection is perfectly ok.

    Comment by WH — March 4, 2010 @ 12:09 pm

  17. Lew – we as a country are bound to uphold the ICCPR, but we are not bound to uphold the UDHR. The UDHR is non-binding.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — March 4, 2010 @ 12:14 pm

  18. WH, no, it’s not an absolute condition, it’s a relative condition which rests on the specifics. As I argued elsewhere, the proferred sum of $5k is trivial for most wealthy or middle-class people when weighed against their fertility, whereas for a poor person it’s very significant. So the impact of the condition changes as you change the amount of money. Make it $20k and you start to exclude people who aren’t poor. Make it $100k and you get something that looks a lot like an across-the-board population control incentive, where only the independently wealthy can afford to procreate. This is the very definition of the social engineering ACT and affiliated lunatics have spent the past decade braying about, and now that the boot is on the other foot, it’s different.

    (This is without getting into the fact that ANY meaningful amount of money for sterilisation will likely result in significant wealth-transfer to homosexuals, the middle-aged, and those who are single or simply don’t want kids. How do you think the SST reactionaries will like them particular apples?)

    L

    Comment by Lew — March 4, 2010 @ 12:17 pm

  19. you run into issues around over-representation of Maori

    Which could make it constitute genocide under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and Rome Statute of the ICC, which define genocide as:

    “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

    (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;”

    (My emphasis)

    We are parties to both treaties, and the Rome Statute has been incorporated into domestic law via the International Crimes and International Criminal Court Act 2000. Any policymakers who implement such a policy, from the politicians makign the decisions to the mooks carrying them out, could be exposing themselves to life imprisonment and a risk of arrest under an international warrant if they ever leave the country.

    Comment by Idiot/Savant — March 4, 2010 @ 12:19 pm

  20. Graeme, fair point, but I’m not talking about being bound in legal terms, so much as that being a signatory to the declaration, if we fail to uphold it in an egregious manner such as this, we risk losing our status as a member of the civilised world.

    In any case, as I recall, the text of the ICCPR is almost the same as the UDHR on this topic.

    L

    Comment by Lew — March 4, 2010 @ 12:21 pm

  21. … I mean an adopter of the declaration, not a signatory, since declarations don’t have signatories. Sigh.

    L

    Comment by Lew — March 4, 2010 @ 12:31 pm

  22. In any case, as I recall, the text of the ICCPR is almost the same as the UDHR on this topic.

    Yes. I wasn’t suggesting there weren’t international law concerns, just a technical point about where they arise. I would note, however, that the family life guarantees in the ICCPR are among those we didn’t port over to the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — March 4, 2010 @ 12:45 pm

  23. Another practical problem that occurs to me is that females in abusive relationships might/would be coerced into volunteering for sterilisation to pass the gains onto their partner.

    Obviously there are ideological objections but the practical problems are also pretty huge.

    Comment by danylmc — March 4, 2010 @ 12:56 pm

  24. Lew, so a car dealer who offers a car now and you can pay it off later, is a form of coercion?

    Looks to me like a very similar case.

    Let me come up with another case: what about offering money if you have a child? Wouldn’t that be a form of coercion? If you have a child, you get money. Hmmmmmm.

    Danyl, you’re right on abusive relationships. Hadn’t thought about that one. That’s clearly a very big worry.

    I also think that female sterilisation is a fairly invasive procedure.

    Not sure if this could work if we only sterilise males though…

    Idiot/Savant doesn’t have a point I think: as I read the sentence he quotes, that’s about coercion.

    Comment by Berend de Boer — March 4, 2010 @ 1:11 pm

  25. This is why I love arguing with liberthoritarians. They think an incentive is just negative coercion. And that buying things is the same as chopping out internal organs, and that providing financial assistance to a young family so they can more easily bring up their kids well-fed and housed and healthy is the same as … eugenics! Except for bad people, not for good people.

    L

    Comment by Lew — March 4, 2010 @ 1:14 pm

  26. Lew, the evidence is abundant that there are indeed people who have children as meal tickets. Doesn’t that mean, according to your point, that giving money for something is coercion?

    That was the point you were making: if you were offering money for X, and the person was poor, it was coercion.

    Please read your own arguments carefully again. That’s your entire argumentation, suitably condensed into traditional format.

    You are arguing as the typical leftie: people who are poor are stupid and defenceless and can’t think for themselves, so the state must do it for them. Maybe give them a bit more credit to think through a decision, ok?

    Comment by Berend de Boer — March 4, 2010 @ 1:29 pm

  27. Lew – I like your statement “liberthoritarians”, I think its one of the better descriptions. I appreciate the point you make about relative condition, this makes for a very coherent rationale for the perils of incentive based sterilisation. So I agree with your position in this instance.

    Now yout point at 25 is understandable especially the word “liberthoritarians”. But the interesting thing is that we do have markets for chopping up organs (talk to poor Alistair Cookes family). This is not about the rights or wrongs, just that these things do exist (even if via a black market), which is sad, but we do need to recognise incentives, both negative and positive and the impact they have. However the rest of your comment about family assistance being equated with eugenics is fair enough – we are not on a slippery slope to oblivion but tinkering at the margin often with fairly large positive social and economic benefits that outweight the costs even including poroblems of fraud etc – known as the leaky bucket metaphor in economics.

    Comment by WH — March 4, 2010 @ 1:35 pm

  28. Berend, it’s simply aimless having this discussion.

    The point wasn’t so much that it was coercion but that it was selective coercion with the purpose and effect of only coercing the very poor.

    L

    Comment by Lew — March 4, 2010 @ 1:36 pm

  29. WH,

    I think it is important to look at incentives, but the notion that any significant number of poor people base the decision about whether to have another child on the amount of money they get is simply ludicrous. For one thing, it’s ridiculous to ascribe that level of cold calculation to people who are generally incapable of holding down a job, even an irregular one, and who, despite being evil welfare-exploiting geniuses, can’t figure out that there are sharply diminishing returns after the first child in both WFF and the ordinary benefit, and the marginal cost of each additional child is much greater than the marginal benefit received. A much more mundane set of explanations apply: poor people, even dysfunctional poor people, and those with drug and alcohol and problems, criminal records, histories of abuse and neglect and so on — want families, even if they haven’t the faintest idea how to raise them (or what “raising them” even means).

    L

    Comment by Lew — March 4, 2010 @ 1:55 pm

  30. Berend #14
    “If you depend on the state for your income, why not let the state take over a few more decisions”

    Berend #26
    “You are arguing as the typical leftie: people who are poor are stupid and defenceless and can’t think for themselves, so the state must do it for them”

    Gee Berend are your personalities not talking to each other today?

    Comment by nommopilot — March 4, 2010 @ 2:04 pm

  31. Lew: only coercing the very poor.

    What about offering it as an option to convicted persons? Or perhaps only those who CYF think would be offered this.

    normmopilot: there clearly is no contradiction. I’m not arguing they cannot think, they think, so I believe offering sterilisation is not, in itself, coercive in any shape or form. (there are other arguments though). But if you freely give up your ability to work to depend on the state, I see no reason why you shouldn’t give up some key decisions in your life as well. And you do already of course. If you depend on the state, the state requires you to give up your own time as you need to be available for work as some young man recently found out.

    Comment by Berend de Boer — March 4, 2010 @ 2:10 pm

  32. Then you’re only coering those convicted of a crime. or those on the wrong side of CYF (who, last I checked, your lot didn’t think should even exist).

    The coercion is one thing; the social engineering is another.

    You can argue the merits all you like, but your side instantly loses on this topic because, on paper, it goes directly against everything you claim to stand for, and you end up tying yourselves in semantic knots trying to cynically justify an outcome in such a way as to distract attention from the fact that you’ve sold your principles down the river — or that your principles were, as many suspected, not what you’ve been claiming all this time.

    But if you want to try, be my guest. It’ll be a hell of a thing to watch.

    L

    Comment by Lew — March 4, 2010 @ 2:17 pm

  33. your side instantly loses on this topic because, on paper, it goes directly against everything you claim to stand for

    By way of analogy, it’s a bit like Labour popping up and suggesting that rich people shouldn’t be protected by the police or justice system because they should rely on the private sector for their safety. Such a policy would make no sense, be wildly at odds with the values of the Labour party and basically just be nasty – that’s pretty much where Garrett is coming from.

    Comment by danylmc — March 4, 2010 @ 2:54 pm

  34. but your side instantly loses on this topic because, on paper, it goes directly against everything you claim to stand for

    As neither a Leftie nor a Libertarian, I disagree.

    The one of the cornerstones of Libertarian methodology, as I see it, is that you’re free to interact with each other in whatever ways you see fit, within the bounds of the small number of laws the State puts forward. However, step outside those bounds and the State comes down on you like a ton/tonne of bricks.

    I don’t see an inconsistency there. In fact, from a practical point of view it’s a necessity. The opportunity for the State to incentivise ‘good’ behavior is limited by its lack of taxation revenue.

    Comment by Phil — March 4, 2010 @ 3:24 pm

  35. Lew/Danyl

    Very good points and thanks for the discussion, you both provide good coherent rationale that I am happy to accept. I appreciate the way you have responded to my question – it was useful (for me at least) as it helped walk me through something that at a surface level seemed inconsistent, but when discussed shows there is a significant difference and that difference matters.

    Thanks

    Comment by WH — March 4, 2010 @ 3:27 pm

  36. “But if you freely give up your ability to work to depend on the state,”

    Most unemployed people haven’t freely given up anything. They’ve been placed by their own choices and social circumstances in a situation where they are last cab off the rank. Free-market acolytes don’t want full employment because then the labour market will become a seller’s market instead of a buyer’s. They have an important role in keeping wages down. They’re doing you a favour.

    And as you point out the state already places a lot of limits on those receiving the UB…

    Comment by nommopilot — March 4, 2010 @ 3:30 pm

  37. I love this use of “methodology”. It’s like a portmanteau of “ideology” and “mythology” which perfectly described the mindset.

    That aside, where the contradiction comes in is not in the “coming down like a ton(ne) of bricks” part, but in the selective nature of the coercion/incentive/whatever applied, which has as its purposen the creation of an ideal society by the application of government policy. As I say, this is the very manifestation of “social engineering” by any reasonable definition of the term; it’s “nanny state in the bedroom” and all that these lot rail against in a thousand different ways, writ large; the ultimate imposition of the government preventing a person from perpetuating their line.

    That’s the contradiction. They want to employ state power in order to create a better society, while arguing that all that’s wrong with society is a result of the application of state power. I wish we could watch as Berend’s head explodes.

    L

    Comment by Lew — March 4, 2010 @ 3:32 pm

  38. I think we should sterilise all poor people. And restrict immigration to the rich only.

    Then in fifty years or so, there’ll be no poor people left at all. We’ll all be middle-class or better, and NZ will have the highest per-capita income in the world!

    Comment by Repton — March 4, 2010 @ 5:11 pm

  39. Danyl’s original post: ” … it would be a public relations disaster for our country – the Third Reich in the South Pacific etc.”

    It’s already crossed the Tasman.

    http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2010/s2836433.htm

    Stupidity doesn’t have to become government policy to do damage to a country’s reputation. In her heyday Pauline Hanson was never in power, but internationally she was the only Australian politician many people had heard of, apart from maybe John Howard (but certainly ahead of whoever it was taking turns to lead the ALP).

    Comment by sammy — March 4, 2010 @ 5:38 pm

  40. Lew: it goes directly against everything you claim to stand for

    You’re right, but the problem is one created by the state in the first place. By offering incentives for having kids, much of the blame can be put on the shoulders of the socialist state. Given the background of the people that are convicted of such crimes, it appears to me there would be less child abuse if we didn’t give them money in the first place.

    I see no difference between offering a higher guaranteed income if you have a child, then offering a one-off for not having one. I would say the first option is even more appealing.

    The fact that such choices shouldn’t exist in the first place is a rather different discussion.

    Lew: They want to employ state power in order to create a better society

    That’s a very false summary of what Garrett was saying, because he wanted NOT to use the power of the state as it was not compulsory. You and others are arguing that it was still compulsory because those eligible can’t make a choice. But supposedly they can make the right choice in having children and receiving quite a higher weekly income. Yes, my head explodes when exposed to such arguments.

    nommopilot: Free-market acolytes don’t want full employment because then the labour market will become a seller’s market instead of a buyer’s. They have an important role in keeping wages down. They’re doing you a favour.

    Eh, only employers can be free market acolytes? I love full employment and a seller’s market, let me assure you of that. And keeping wages down? Don’t you worry about that, minimum wage laws and other socialist restrictions do plenty of that.

    Danyl: it’s a bit like Labour popping up and suggesting that rich people shouldn’t be protected by the police or justice system because they should rely on the private sector for their safety.

    Well, the rich have to pay more to get protection by the police do they? Labour is nasty. For the same services, the rich have to pay a whole lot more. Thank you for pointing out such a policy is nasty.

    Comment by Berend de Boer — March 4, 2010 @ 5:53 pm

  41. @ 40 “it appears to me there would be less child abuse if we didn’t give them money in the first place”

    We provide support so that children don’t suffer “abuse” through the absence of essentials.

    Comment by cj_nza — March 4, 2010 @ 6:11 pm

  42. cj_nza, why do people have kids if they cannot provide the essentials? Isn’t having a kid a choice these days? At least that’s the public schools are telling the kids.

    And ever heard of adoption?

    Comment by Berend de Boer — March 4, 2010 @ 6:18 pm

  43. “only employers can be free market acolytes?”

    no pretty much anyone making piles of money…

    “keeping wages down? minimum wage laws and other socialist restrictions do plenty of that”

    Yes the minimum wage would shoot up if only we left it to employers to decide what to pay? seriously, are you getting enough oxygen in your bunker?

    anyway, back to the topic: You’re assuming that only those who are poor hurt their kids, and while it’s true that abuse may be more pervasive in amongst the poor (amazing what having no money can do for stress levels) $5000 for your fertility is only going to be an incentive for the poor (someone earning a hundred k is not likely to be so into it) so the policy automatically discriminates against the poor.

    Comment by nommopilot — March 4, 2010 @ 6:20 pm

  44. the policy automatically discriminates against the poor.

    Or in favour of the poor =)

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — March 4, 2010 @ 6:54 pm

  45. You asked what the Catholic Churches’ stance was.

    It’s pretty much that sterilization is another form of contraception and the same arguments hold:

    * Taking the possibility of creating life out of the picture tends to lead to an objectification of the act and the persons involved in the act. That in term degrades the depth and intimacy of the relationship, and new life is treated as an inconvenient “disease” rather than a product of love.

    * It could lead to governments forcing (or encouraging in a forceful way) sterilization on people. It’s happened all over the place, with bad outcomes: Sweden, from the wiki: The eugenistic legislation was enacted in 1934 and was formally abolished in 1976. According to the 2000 governmental report, 21,000 were estimated to have been forcibly sterilized, 6,000 were coerced into a ‘voluntary’ sterilization while the nature of a further 4,000 cases could not be determined.[17] The Swedish state subsequently paid out damages to many of the victims.

    Hows that for starters?

    I personally think it’s a very bad idea.

    Comment by ZenTiger — March 4, 2010 @ 6:58 pm

  46. “why do people have kids if they cannot provide the essentials?”

    because not everybody have to pay for sex.

    Comment by cj_nza — March 4, 2010 @ 7:06 pm

  47. nommopilot: You’re assuming that only those who are poor hurt their kids,

    I don’t assume that. See above, where I’m asking what a socialist would say if this would only be offered to convicted criminals. And when I talk about it being offered to those who don’t want to work, well, they rely on the government anyway, so I don’t see a big issue with the government deciding a few more things. But that’s somewhat beside the point. Garrett’s tried to achieve two things:

    1. Save kids.
    2. Save taxpayers money.

    Both laudable goals in my opinion, if you think that the government should interfere in your life.

    One more: The government funds almost every health operation in this country, so why not vasectomies? I simply don’t understand why you guys are going nuts while you want to determine almost every other thing people do with their live and money.

    Comment by Berend de Boer — March 4, 2010 @ 7:39 pm

  48. @42: Because of course (to point out just one gaping hole in Berend’s logic) no one could possibly have chosen to have kids and then lost their jobs or house or ability to work.

    Comment by QoT — March 4, 2010 @ 7:43 pm

  49. “while you want to determine almost every other thing people do with their live and money”

    That’s right Berend you’ve summed up my stance in a nutshell. Now stop blogging and get back to work.

    Comment by nommopilot — March 4, 2010 @ 8:46 pm

  50. Berend, bless you for fighting a position so ludicrous that even its inventor has now abandoned in shame. I expect nothing less.

    You’re right

    I know, but it’s nice that you know, too.

    but the problem is one created by the state in the first place.

    Right. So the solution to problems caused by flawed state intervention is … more state intervention? Excellent. Here’s a Social Democratic League* membership form. You sign it, I’ll pay the membership fee. How’s it feel to finally join civilised society?

    it appears to me there would be less child abuse if we didn’t give them money in the first place.

    Two things here. This bit in bold is a Randian marker for fuzzy subjectivist thinking. In Atlas Shrugged it’s employed frequently to mark out things that muggles like James Taggart say from things that heroic wizards like Dagny and Francisco say. You, as a good lilberthoritarian, would know this and so I’m shocked to see such a self-styled wizard take the muggle role. Not only are you defending an position which is indefensible to those against whom you’re arguing it, but between this and the “more state intervention” thing, you’re doing so in such a way that it’s also indefensible among your natural allies. That takes real talent.

    Second, something which can be expressed in half a dozen words which “appears to you” to solve a complex and intractable problem which has plagued the world’s greatest minds for centuries ought to set a few alarm bells a-ringing. That it doesn’t in this case says more about you than it does about the policy. So permit me to refuse your “seems to me” the status of a robust argument. One specific counter: you think that people who, according to all the research there is, abuse their kids due to the pressures of being poor, will be less likely to abuse their kids if we make them more poor? Which way does gravity pull in your world?

    I see no difference between offering a higher guaranteed income if you have a child, then offering a one-off for not having one. I would say the first option is even more appealing.

    Well, look at that. Not only do you say there’s no difference between two things, but you say that one is preferable to the other. A is A, and yet, also, A > A. That’s some serious wizardry.

    Anyway, the first bit I disagree with (there is a difference, even if you claim you don’t see it); but the the second bit I can get right in behind: guaranteeing a higher income for those who have a child, so they may better look after that child, is a superior plan to offering them money to not have said child, all else being equal. Welcome, again, to the civilised world.

    he wanted NOT to use the power of the state as it was not compulsory

    He just wanted to use the state’s money, then, not it’s coercive power? I can see how that would be just fine for someone of your ideological persuasions. More on this shortly.

    Aside from which, I disagree. There are two matters in play: whether the proposed policy has merit (which it doesn’t), and whether the agents behind it can be trusted to implement it as stated, rather than in some other way which hugely advantages them or their backers at the expense of everyone else (which they can’t). I don’t trust an authoritarian like Garrett with a fucking chopstick, let alone a baton, and there’s no way in hell I’d trust him to write a dog control policy, let alone anything to do with children.

    Garrett’s tried to achieve two things:
    1. Save kids.
    2. Save taxpayers money.
    Both laudable goals in my opinion, if you think that the government should interfere in your life.

    First, see above re chopstick and dog control. Second, if child abuse is such a major problem, how on the green fucking earth is the state giving every abuser a big chunk o’ cash, stumping for a bunch of operations, and holding all the liability associated with them going to result in less expenditure? You realise it’s your Atlases who’ll be paying for it, right?

    Second, you don’t believe the government should interfere in peoples’ lives, or at least you claim not to. Same with Garrett. At least, that’s true when it’s the sort of interference you don’t like, and you both try to make angels dance on pinheads in order to justify some sorts of intervention and exclude others.

    My advice: be honest, and say you want a certain sort of government interference, rather than pretending that you want none at all. At least then it’s an argument on the merits, and you can check your principles at the door, rather than have them forcibly extracted from you, torn to shreds and ridiculed because you weren’t able to defend them.

    Cheers again, Berend, and thanks for playing.

    L

    * I just made this up now.

    Comment by Lew — March 4, 2010 @ 9:00 pm

  51. 27.Lew – I like your statement “liberthoritarians”

    So offering money to the poor to modify their behaviour is “coersion”?

    What is it called when you forcebly take money from the poor in order to modify their behaviour? I.e. (effectively) carbon taxes via ETS and their electricity bills?

    (Oh, and Lew said “penal status” at 15! What?)

    Comment by Clunking Fist — March 4, 2010 @ 10:55 pm

  52. CF,

    So offering money to the poor to modify their behaviour is “coersion”?

    In case you skipped third-form biology, surgical sterilisation is not “behaviour modification”. And yes; when someone is sufficiently poor, inducing them to a certain course of action with money can be coercive. If you don’t get that, substitute “hungry” and “food”, or “in pain” and “analgesics”, or whatever.

    You’ll also note that I’m not decrying the Garrett Solution on the ground that it’s coercive — but on the grounds that 1. it contravenes universally-recognised human rights, and 2. it’s unduly selective in its coercion. This doesn’t hold for your complaint about carbon taxes and such, which (in principle) will not have a substantially higher impact on one group than on others (except inasmuch as they are responsible for more pollution, etc.)

    Penal status; that is: if you target those in prison, you are engaging in the same sort of selective coercion as above, just against a different group (prisoners, rather than the poor). Defend it if you want to stand behind social engineering.

    L

    Comment by Lew — March 4, 2010 @ 11:09 pm

  53. “That must be costing a huge amount of money and if we can incentivise people who, quite plainly, shouldn’t be having children to stop having them then … that’s something we should at least have a discussion about.”

    I wonder if Mr. Garrett and his party would like to have a discussion about “incentivising” the elderly to volunteer to be put down like unwanted animals? After all they, quite plainly, are a massive drain on health and welfare budgets that will continue to make up a huge proportion of government spending for the forseeable future, to allow themselves to be put down.

    Ditto for the mentally-ill, physically disabled and people with conditions requiring costly and ongoing medical interventions like cancer, diabetes, heart disease etc.? (They should also get themselves fixed, since there is strong evidence that these conditions often come with genetic predispositions and hereditary risks attached.)

    Or is that taking chequebook eugenics too far?

    Comment by Craig Ranapia — March 5, 2010 @ 1:02 am

  54. Yeah, great debate Craig and others. How we ever got from trying to prevent child abusers to have access to more children to this is just a stepping stone to killing old folks is beyond me.

    Comment by Berend de Boer — March 5, 2010 @ 6:29 am

  55. “How we ever got from trying to prevent child abusers to have access to more children to this is just a stepping stone to killing old folks is beyond me.”

    Tell you what, why don’t you just go back a few steps and respond to Lew’s comments instead?

    And while I’m at it – what makes you think that sterilising abusers will prevent them from abusing other children who aren’t theirs? For starters, Nia Glassie, Lillybing, and James Whakaruru were abused variously through the actions of aunts, uncles, cousins and live-in boyfriends, none of whom wouldn’t have had ‘access’ to the victims if they themselves were sterilised.

    So, unless you’d like to argue for the incentivised sterilisation of convicted abusers’ entire families and their future partners and associates… you wouldn’t, would you?

    Comment by Sam Finnemore — March 5, 2010 @ 8:27 am

  56. Berend:

    Sorry, I can’t believe we’re even having a “discussion” about the state getting into the sterilization business — and it was Garrett who introduced the whole ‘cost effective’ line of argument.

    So, why do you so obviously find it unacceptable to even discuss an admittedly radical way of addressing a brutal demographic and political timebomb: Our population is ageing, living longer and their claims on public health and welfare are only going to increase.

    Comment by Craig Ranapia — March 5, 2010 @ 9:55 am

  57. [...] which allowed him to attain such a position. The Garrett Solution, as I’ve argued elsewhere, contradicts almost everything the small-government right claims to stand for. After a decade of howling about [...]

    Pingback by Kiwipolitico » Blog Archive » Let it burn — March 5, 2010 @ 9:59 am

  58. Sam, I’m not arguing for sterilisation. I’m trying to understand why people who like the state to run every health care decision for someone, find this step somehow not palatable. Why is it not wrong to offer an incentive for having children, but wrong to offer an incentive for not having children. I just can’t get my head around why this is really such a big deal.

    Clearly not doing both is my preferred option. We’re not living in that fantasy land and we won’t for a long time to come. And I’m fairly sure that if Labour had come up with this option it would have been defended by those now arguing against it (except probably Danyl, and some others, whose arguments depend on effectiveness).

    Craig, we can address claims on public health care really quickly by abolishing it. No need to murder anyone. It’s just unhinged to see any similarities between offering $5000 for getting sterilised and marching someone into a gas chamber.

    Comment by Berend de Boer — March 5, 2010 @ 10:16 am

  59. BTW, Danyl’s argument on forced sterilisation in abusive relationships fails for child benefits as well: why wouldn’t an abusive man not get a woman pregnant in order to claim additional money? Works both ways.

    Comment by Berend de Boer — March 5, 2010 @ 10:18 am

  60. Berend,

    Clearly not doing both is my preferred option.

    That’s not clear at all from where you said:

    “If you depend on the state for your income, why not let the state take over a few more decisions. You guys are all for more state control, so what exactly is the problem in this instance?”

    and

    “In my opinion, if you start to depend on the state and you can work (healthy body/mind), the state can make the decisions for you as you obviously won’t take control of your own life.”

    and

    “What about offering it as an option to convicted persons? Or perhaps only those who CYF think would be offered this.”

    and so on.

    Seriously, do you just get reset to defaults every morning, with no knowledge of what went before?

    L

    Comment by Lew — March 5, 2010 @ 10:34 am

  61. Lew, really, how can you turn “What about …” to “It is my belief that….” ????

    And I see no contradiction that if you believe the state can make decisions for you, there is really no limit. And there will be no limit as 100 years of socialism has proved. How much is the state already involved in reproductive issues? Yeah, I know, the state is just trying to help!

    But I suggest you take a few courses in logic. Your conclusions don’t follow from the premises at all if you just would care to actually look for 1 second at the sentences you quoted.

    Comment by Berend de Boer — March 5, 2010 @ 10:48 am

  62. Of course there is a limit, Berend. because I give you one beer doesn’t mean you have permission to drink all my beer.

    Though it sounds rather like you did drink plenty of it, anyhow.

    L

    Comment by Lew — March 5, 2010 @ 10:57 am

  63. … and the “aww, I was just joshing with yous!” line you’re using now, having argued to a virtual standstill yesterday, is so endearing.

    L

    Comment by Lew — March 5, 2010 @ 11:04 am

  64. Lew @ 52
    You say surgical sterilisation is not “behaviour modification”. I have seriously considered it, but an IUD turned out to be much cheaper option.

    “And yes; when someone is sufficiently poor, inducing them to a certain course of action with money can be coercive. If you don’t get that, substitute “hungry” and “food”…”
    As WH @16 has already pointed out, by that definition, all employment contracts are “coercive”.

    “I’m… decrying the Garrett Solution on the ground that it contravenes universally-recognised human rights”
    Well you may well say “universal”, but I was never asked if I believe it’s my “right” to pay for the housing and food for those who choose not to work, or who choose to have babies when they know they cannot provide for them.

    ”This doesn’t hold for your complaint about carbon taxes and such, which (in principle) will not have a substantially higher impact on one group than on others (except inasmuch as they are responsible for more pollution, etc.)”
    Either you don’t care that the poor cannot modify or manage their carbon needs as easily as “rich” folk, or you think only one class or group of person beats their children. Or both?

    Oh, I’m not defending sterilisation for prisoners in return for tariff or parole reduction. I was simply pointing out a double entendre: “penal status” in a discussion about sterilisation!

    And yes, I’m not REALLY saying the state should pay people to do what they should be doing already, but one unintended consequences of incentivising reproduction, is unwanted children who may end up being abused. Just look at the studies out of the States that indicate the implementation of abortion on demand resulted in reductions of crime 18-25 years later. So the answer is NOT sterilisation, but, surely, welfare reform.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — March 5, 2010 @ 1:36 pm

  65. CF, sigh.

    If you’d read my response to WH you’d see why that reading is incorrect — at least according to how I framed it. The point is that things like this aren’t either/or, as you seem to imply — they’re sliding scales.

    Also, your conception of what constitutes a “universally-recognised human right” needs some work. I dislike stooping to this level, but if you feel that strongly about being exploited by other peoples’ rights being secured and safeguarded, you’re free to fuck off to a country which doesn’t recognise them. Make sure you take your Kalashnikov; chances are you’ll need it, because rights tend to come in packages; you don’t get to pick ‘em and choose ‘em like sweets at the supermarket.

    The crack about “penal” status was a sly one, though. You’ve got that going for you.

    L

    Comment by Lew — March 5, 2010 @ 1:49 pm

  66. “Also, your conception of what constitutes a “universally-recognised human right” needs some work.”

    Well Article 8 of the ICCPR states:
    1. No one shall be held in slavery; slavery and the slave-trade in all their forms shall be prohibited.
    2. No one shall be held in servitude.

    Yet when I pay for a drug baron to have his pool fenced, what am I if not a slave?

    Comment by Clunking Fist — March 5, 2010 @ 2:34 pm

  67. CF, you’re a member of a flawed but generally better-than-the-alternative society. One drug baron’s pool does not a nation of slaves make.

    Sliding scales, see. It’s not all black and white.

    L

    Comment by Lew — March 5, 2010 @ 3:18 pm

  68. Actually, I think it very black and white. It’s the difference between charity and “entitlements”.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — March 5, 2010 @ 7:53 pm

  69. CF, that difference in principle I can agree with. Principles can be black and white.

    But the extension from that to “I’m a slave because there are an extremely small number of benefit fraudsters!” in the real-live messy old world of imperfect implementation is what makes you seem like a wild-eyed paranoiac with a very tenuous grip on actual factual reality.

    After I hit “post” on the previous comment I wished I’d appended the words “get some fucking perspective”, and — look, now I can.

    Cheers, and don’t let the manacles ruin your weekend.

    L

    Comment by Lew — March 5, 2010 @ 8:24 pm

  70. :^)
    “don’t let the manacles ruin your weekend” tax-free day, the day you start working for yourself*, comes sometime in June I believe, so the manacles remain on until then.

    * I acknowledge that a certain amount of the tax I pay is given back to me in the form of kiwisaver subsidies, 20-free ECE for my youngest, “free” education for my eldest, etc.

    Isn’t it funny that we are all marching towards a tax-increase under a “right-wing” government. It will affect us all, but the poor disproportionately.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — March 5, 2010 @ 11:12 pm


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