The Dim-Post

October 18, 2012

Today is disagree with DPF day

Filed under: blogging,economics,Politics — danylmc @ 5:20 pm

He links to a Stuff Nation – article? columns? story? blog? eh – suggesting that only people who pay positive tax should get to vote.

We should only count the votes of people who paid a positive amount of tax (less any cash benefits), and preferably weight them by that amount. This would skew the decision making in favour of productive, intelligent people, leading to much better outcomes for the nation as a whole.

This is such a weird idea, and it crops up all the time on right-wing blogs. But think about it for five seconds: you only get to vote if you paid a positive amount of tax. So all retired people would lose the right to vote. You take a year off work to have a baby you lose the right to vote. Want to start up a business and live off your savings for a year? You lose the right to vote!

Anyway, DPF also dismisses the idea, but then goes on to say:

I don’t support this, but the issues Connell touches on does go to the heart of politics. There are systemic problem when such a huge proportion of the voting population are dependent on the state.

In a very broad sense, the parties of the left that advocate higher taxes aim to get 51% of the country dependent on the state – either through welfare, state jobs, Working for Families, taxpayer funded NGOs, student support etc.  That is because it creates a voting constituency in favour of higher taxes, and hence them staying in power.

This is a reprise of Romney’s 47% argument. It’s a pretty common trope on the right, which buys into the Ayn Rand fantasy of a static society divided into productive workers and unproductive parasites, as opposed to, say, a society in which people are young, and don’t work, and then older, and work, and then even older when they retire and don’t work.

As many, many commentators pointed out when Romney made this arugment, the largest group of people ‘dependent on the state’ are the elderly, who skew towards the right when they vote. The second largest group are welfare beneficiaries, who don’t vote. How does that reality fit into this alleged left-wing strategy of electoral domination through state-dependency?

I guess you could argue that people employed in the state sector are ‘dependent on the state’ and thus left-wing. Nurses, teachers etc. Except that category includes police and military staff, who aren’t notoriously left-wing. How about the public-service? Well, they mostly live in Wellington which mostly party-voted National in the last election.

DPF goes onto say:

Likewise parties of the right try to reduce the number of people dependent on the state. They do stuff like promote asset sales, as the more voters who are private investors and the like, the more who support lower taxes etc.

I’m at a loss to see how the mixed-ownership model ‘reduces the number of people dependent on the state’. The New Zealand private sector seems completely dependent on the state and its ability to use taxpayer money to build profitable companies which can then be sold onto the private sector.

The solution isn’t to restrict voting rights, but to be aware of the dangers of getting a majority of the population dependent on taxpayer funding, because that is how you end up with say 55% receiving most of the taxes, demanding the 45% pay more and more.

Like I said, an increasing majority of those ‘dependent on taxpayer funding’ are going to be the elderly, without whom National would be unelectable, so I wish DPF good luck in convincing his party – its interventionist, authoritarian Economic Development Minister in particular – to implement the values he seems to think it should represent, but doesn’t actually deliver in any of its major policies.

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28 Comments »

  1. I don’t think DPF actually believes a lot of the nonsense he puts out there. I think with this one he’s just pandering to the sewer. Gotta keep those blog stats up.

    Comment by pete — October 18, 2012 @ 5:25 pm

  2. @pete, I do agree, it seems like that sometimes. I think David is pretty reasonable most of the times, but then he chucks out these really odd post now and again. I guess there are no current gay marriage, abortion, euthanasia and republicanism stories to rile up the commentariat.

    Comment by eszett — October 18, 2012 @ 5:43 pm

  3. What if it’s the other way round? What if he “chucks out” a reasonable post sometimes, but is in fact a full right wing zealot?

    Comment by David C — October 18, 2012 @ 5:53 pm

  4. The New Zealand private sector seems completely dependent on the state and its ability to use taxpayer money to build profitable companies which can then be sold onto the private sector.
    An example would be the NZ Stock Exchange — a limited-liability company — from which one often hears the argument that there are too few stocks being traded to keep it viable, so the government should subsidise it by transfering more public entities to private ownership.

    Comment by herr doktor bimler — October 18, 2012 @ 5:56 pm

  5. Of course Danyl is dependent on the state for his income, while consistantly voting for parties of the left. Mean while his property developer friend down the road gets on with it and earns the money that pays Danyl’s salary and other transfer payments. One day, possibly soon, the money is going to run out.

    Comment by OECD rank 22 kiwi — October 18, 2012 @ 6:07 pm

  6. “One day, possibly soon, the money is going to run out.”

    ROFL. Going to stop the engine of the world’s prosperity by going on strike pal?

    Comment by Judge Holden — October 18, 2012 @ 6:10 pm

  7. Ah yes property developers, they have never let us down

    Comment by max — October 18, 2012 @ 6:43 pm

  8. Yes – thank goodness we have property developers borrowing money from Australia to buy properties off each other at ever-inflating prices and not paying any tax on the gains; without productive workers like that, parasites who carry out worthless, unproductive work like biochemistry research will be lost.

    Comment by danylmc — October 18, 2012 @ 7:11 pm

  9. thank goodness we have property developers borrowing money from Australia to buy properties off each other at ever-inflating prices…

    you might be confusing property developers with property investors and/or people who want to live in Grey Lynn.

    not paying any tax on the gains

    property speculation is taxed, on the other hand capital gain for an individual selling shares in a productive export firm isn’t.

    Comment by NeilM — October 18, 2012 @ 7:34 pm

  10. Life in New Keyland: the highlights …

    The Hobbit – dependent on the state
    Rugby World Cup – dependent on the state
    Shiny new stadium for Christchurch – dependent on the state

    Cycleways, loans to media companies, bailouts, ultra-fast broadband, herceptin and much more.

    Anyone care to provide a list of National’s “achievements” in office that didn’t require the taxpayers’ compulsory generosity?

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — October 18, 2012 @ 8:00 pm

  11. There’s so many discrepancies here. There are unemployed people out there who are genuine and have foregone having children so as to take the least amount of taypayers money as possible without starving to death. Would they still be able to vote? Sickness and invalids beneficiaries?

    What about the owners of businesses and companies that have paid a positive amount of tax but have also cooked their books so as to avoid their actual full share of taxation?

    Comment by Dan — October 18, 2012 @ 8:17 pm

  12. Charter schools – dependent on the state

    Comment by Laura — October 18, 2012 @ 8:27 pm

  13. There’s so many discrepancies here.
    Well yes; the initial suggestion — weighting people’s votes by the taxes they pay — is the proverbial perverse incentive that encourages a situation whereby some people would pay high taxes but make up for it by paying themselves even more money from the public purse.

    You will also note the conflation of “tax” with “income tax”.. only the latter counts in this context, for consumption taxes like GST are hard to measure for the purposes of quantifying one’s level of citizenship,

    DPF finds it convenient to equate “paying little tax” with “receiving lots of direct taxpayer assistance”, when the two are logically independent.

    Comment by herr doktor bimler — October 18, 2012 @ 8:35 pm

  14. I tire of people bringing up censitary suffrage as though it’s this bold new idea that hasn’t been tried before. It was established in Belgium, Britain, France, Japan, New Zealand, Prussia, the United States and rather a few other places in the 19th century.

    Comment by **** — October 18, 2012 @ 9:36 pm

  15. Quite. So why is DPF so well known?

    Comment by Dan — October 19, 2012 @ 12:15 am

  16. In the Roman republic voting rights were determined by the level of military service. The more expensive the panoply you could afford the greater your voting rights. Hey that worked for nearly 500 years lets try that. I wonder if DPF would be willing to fight in the front line for the right to vote. (And yes the Romans and Greeks thought of it before Heinlein.)

    Comment by Doug — October 19, 2012 @ 8:37 am

  17. “How about the public-service? Well, they mostly live in Wellington which mostly party-voted National in the last election.”

    In my experience most Wellington based public servants vote Labour or Green. Admittedly my anecdota is just that. But you could use the same rationale Danyl just used to show that Pacific Islanders (mostly living in National voting Greater Auckland) are also National supporters.

    Comment by Hugh — October 19, 2012 @ 8:51 am

  18. If you look at the south Auckland electorates then you see a really huge majority for Labour. If you look at the ‘public service electorates’ in west Wellington (like Ohariu) then you see a huge majority for National.

    Comment by danylmc — October 19, 2012 @ 8:54 am

  19. I think DPF is so far in the neoliberal closet he has had tea with a faun. He reminds me of someone who is into kinky stuff in his private life, but keeps it to himself and respects others’ right not to have it in their faces – one who for the most part is perfectly affable and a real pillar of society, but every so often makes the odd innuendo or joke which we may laugh at to be polite, but really makes our collective antennae twitch in disturbed manner.

    Comment by Eric Blair — October 19, 2012 @ 9:15 am

  20. So why is DPF so well known?

    Because he’s an insider, and everyone loves hearing from insiders.

    Comment by James Butler (@j20r) — October 19, 2012 @ 9:41 am

  21. As someone who would quite like some kind of revolution, I’m all for this idea.

    Letting the proletards vote is one of the main ways that global capitalism dodged the bullet of revolution. Give people the erroneous idea that they are in control, and they’ll stay docile and not make trouble. Convincing our rulers to remove votes from a large chunk of the population would be a huge win – there’d be a ready made mass of disgruntled ex-voters ready to join the mob.

    Not so good for Farrar though – he doesn’t look able to run fast, and I doubt he’s enough of an insider to get on the helicopter to John Key’s private island.

    Comment by richdrich — October 19, 2012 @ 10:31 am

  22. Not a new idea as has been pointed out. Back in the 80s Thatcher used to bang on about a “Property owning democracy” which immediately brought to my mind images of Forty Shilling Freeholders and Ten Pound Leaseholders and of course Rotten Boroughs Old Sarum anyone? I am a bit disconcerted to hear the phrase emerge again here and in an identical context.

    There is actually an interesting discourse to be had about what obligations voters/citizens should expect/have under the social contract. The Stuff Article isn’t that discourse.

    Comment by TerryB — October 19, 2012 @ 1:09 pm

  23. ‘I think DPF is so far in the neoliberal closet he has had tea with a faun’.

    I’d pick DPF as more of a Turkish delight with the Witch kind of guy.

    Comment by rocketboy2007 — October 19, 2012 @ 3:31 pm

  24. “It’s a pretty common trope on the right,”
    And it doesn’t bear out in reality. That’s why National & Key didn’t swallow any dead-rats like interest free student loans, WFF, 20 hours free-ECE, national super, etc. Oh, wait: they did.
    But I still agree that it is a dumb idea: either we are all equal in the eyes of the law, or we are rich and poor. (It’s also why I think taking the vote from prisoners is immoral: why take their vote but not their food?)(

    “The New Zealand private sector seems completely dependent on the state and its ability to use taxpayer money to build profitable companies which can then be sold onto the private sector.”
    Wha..? Like Xero, Fonterra, Fisher & Paykel?
    Oh, you mean companies like Kordia, that are STILL looking for a purpose (and a profit).

    “Ah yes property developers, they have never let us down”
    Unlike those hardworking council employed building inspectors? Really, do you all think “private sector BAD” and think that we think “public system BAD”? Where do you think most of the homes, office and factories we work in come from, max?

    “Yes – thank goodness we have property developers borrowing money from Australia to buy properties off each other at ever-inflating prices”
    There you go again, Danyl, confusing (a) developers, (b) speculators and (c) investors. A hint: the first group, (a) build things. (b) & (c) don’t.

    “If you look at the ‘public service electorates’ in west Wellington (like Ohariu) then you see a huge majority for National.” Hmm, I live in that electorate and many of my neighbours are not in the public service, although one is a beneficiary. She forgets to put her rubbish out so I’m not confident that she remembers to vote. Maybe the public servants refrain from voting due to their legendary impartiality? Or they forget to vote?

    Comment by Clunking Fist — October 19, 2012 @ 4:04 pm

  25. @Danyl: Wellington Central and Rongotai are also full of public servants, and solidly Labour – in fact those are two of the most heavily Green voting electorates in the country.

    In my time within the public service, most people are fairly pro-Labour in their personal lives. There is an element of self-interest in this – given that National is quite suspicious of the need for a large public service, its hard to imagine somebody who seeks a career in that service supporting National.

    Comment by Hugh — October 19, 2012 @ 5:10 pm

  26. Wouldn’t sole traders and partnerships miss out on the vote under this Farrar approved voting scheme? Given that they pay company tax rather than PAYE. Or are we letting company tax count towards the positive tax rating? In which case, wouldn’t Fonterra and Fletchers outvote all the rest of us?

    Another hare brained tory scheme to punish the poor, for being poor. Bring on the revolution…

    Comment by bob — October 19, 2012 @ 7:19 pm

  27. @CF

    A couple of comments on your company examples:

    Xero hasn’t made a profit and they received about $4m in corporate welfare via tech grants.
    Kordia is an SOE and turned in a $12m profit this FY.

    Comment by Gregor W — October 19, 2012 @ 8:46 pm

  28. I know Kordia is an SOE, that was my point. To be honest, I hadn’t caught up with the fact that they’d made a profit (or discovered a niche!) so thanks.
    Good point about Xero and the corporate welfare: I’m with you on being angry about this use of taxpayers funds (you ARE angry about corporate welfare, aren’t you? I certainly am. Nothing makes me angrier than things like the RWC. Even fellow righties tire of me pointing out how that little piss up was paid for.)
    Quite why an organisation without a unique premise thinks it can compete with a half-finished product, I don’t know. But while they merrily are throwing their own money at the scheme, I’d say good luck to them.

    But my point was that DM’s comment “The New Zealand private sector seems completely dependent on the state and its ability to use taxpayer money to build profitable companies which can then be sold onto the private sector.” is rubbish, as we have many, many companies, on and off the NZX, that aren’t “gummint start-ups”.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — October 20, 2012 @ 10:23 am


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