The Dim-Post

May 22, 2015

Thoughts on budget 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 5:12 am
  • There’s a Herald summary here.
  • I’ve been saying for a while that ‘neoliberalism’ – ie a belief in the efficacy of free markets, the distortionary evil of taxes and benefits and the minimalisation of the state – is dead. There are still a few adherents drifting around the fringes of politics that truly believe, but this budget seems like a good time to mark that in National the doctrine is obsolete. National believes in massive intervention in the economy, mostly in favor of their political donors but also in response to signals from their polling and market research, and English has raised or introduced so many taxes I’ve lost count. I don’t know what we’re supposed to call this mode of government, exactly, but it ain’t ‘neoliberal’.
  • So, on one hand the opposition can put this budget down as a victory. They’ve made a big deal about the housing crisis and child poverty, and the government’s main policy changes have been the introduction of a capital gains tax and an increase in benefits to beneficiaries with families. Forcing your enemies to adopt your rhetoric and policies is a huge win.
  • On the other hand, the opposition looked like clueless losers yesterday. What kind of left-wing politician opposes the gutting of the KiwiSaver kickstarter – pretty much the definition of middle-class welfare – to tackle child poverty?
  • And I hate that Labour’s bought into National’s rhetoric about the cosmic importance of getting back to surplus. I get that they see it as a chance to damage Key and English on their economic credibility – but it totally buys into National’s framing of government as a small business where the critical thing is to balance the books. We just saw an election in the UK in which Labour became deficit hawks, because they thought the public would like it, and they still got utterly slaughtered.
  • And Little’s speech was just awful. ‘Gene Simmons’? ‘Fiscal gender reassignment’? Why did he think it was a good idea to reference a source of internal division within his own party? What a mess.
  • The kids on the social media like to use the phrase ‘hot take’ to describe commentary that is hysterical and uninformed, and that’s what we got from the opposition parties yesterday, gouging their own eyes out with horror at a budget filled with ideas they’ve been demanding for years. Ridiculous.

60 Comments »

  1. “I don’t know what we’re supposed to call this mode of government, exactly, but it ain’t ‘neoliberal’.”

    Maybe just ‘liberal’? (Apologies to those grounded in American political vocabulary)

    I thought the Greens’ response to the budget was, characteristically, light years ahead of Labours’.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — May 22, 2015 @ 5:16 am

  2. I am now too scared to listen to the debate. I feared they would react badly to getting outflanked on the left by a National Party that has returned to its raison d’etre – to keep the left out of government. Good analysis Danyl.

    Comment by RHT — May 22, 2015 @ 6:39 am

  3. You left out that a supposedly centrist pro-open-markets, pro-globalisation has just introduced a border tax!

    Comment by Matthew Hooton — May 22, 2015 @ 6:56 am

  4. Also, re the “neoliberal” question, the description you are looking for “corrupt corporatist in the best French and Italian tradition”.

    Comment by Matthew Hooton — May 22, 2015 @ 6:58 am

  5. I have to agree with you Danyl. The response from virtually all opponents was lamentable. I would have preferred something like:

    “It’s great to see this government adopt a weak tea, might-work-a-little version of the policies we’ve been promoting for years. So we’ve won the policy argument. National has done it because that had to, not because they wanted to. If voters want the real thing, they should be sure to vote for us (whoever ‘we ‘ are – Labour or Greens) next election.”

    Comment by truthseekernz — May 22, 2015 @ 7:02 am

  6. Having the hoardes of tourists that have been attracted here by the success of the Hobbit paying their own way is user pays and the cost should lie with them…3 odd million of them. Better them pay it than some poor buggar struggling on the minimum wage who may never be able afford to head off on a skiing holiday with Laila Harre.

    Comment by David — May 22, 2015 @ 7:14 am

  7. What kind of left-wing politician opposes the gutting of the KiwiSaver kickstarter – pretty much the definition of middle-class welfare – to tackle child poverty?

    You seem to think the two are mutually exclusive. You could just as easily say that the KiwiSaver kickstarter was axed so Bill English can finally say he achieved surplus.

    Will you say the KiwiSaver kickstarter is middle class welfare when the age of superannuation entitlement is raised? Probably not.

    Comment by Ross — May 22, 2015 @ 7:19 am

  8. “I don’t know what we’re supposed to call this mode of government, exactly, but it ain’t ‘neoliberal’.”

    How abut disguised neoliberalism?

    John Key’s hallmark of power is pragmatism and if that means that he has to give a little to the masses, he will, and did. But that does not change his wider agenda that has all the markings of seeking neoliberal outcomes.

    Comment by wjohnallen — May 22, 2015 @ 7:25 am

  9. @Hooton: That’s not what “corporatist” means, unless you think Key is going to start involving trade unions in governance.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — May 22, 2015 @ 7:40 am

  10. “, and they still got utterly slaughtered.” – in the UK

    Who had a greater increase in their share of the vote ? Tories or Labour.

    The number of Mps for labour decreased because of the SNP, a by product of the referendum, not because Labour was proposing a surplus.

    The previous coalition had 363 seats at the last election and the total for Tories and LD after was 339.

    Who was the one slaughtered ? The Tory press is making much of Camerons win, but it was purely at the expense of his coalition partner ( Ramsay MacDonald anyone

    Strangely the UK doesnt have an official government body that publishes results. The Election commission website is about pre and post election procedures

    Comment by dukeofurl — May 22, 2015 @ 8:40 am

  11. The loss of the $1,000 kickstarter is much more than a loss of middle class welfare. It is the loss of an opportunity to give poor children help along the lines of the Green’s recently announced policy.

    And so bloody short-sighted as well, given our aging population and the lack of contributions to the Cullen Fund.

    Finally it isn’t a case of $1,000 in kiwisaver or the $25 more in benefits. That is just part of the surplus framing which is so so false.

    Comment by Andrew R — May 22, 2015 @ 8:45 am

  12. Also, re the “neoliberal” question, the description you are looking for “corrupt corporatist in the best French and Italian tradition”.

    Dirigiste is the term, but that’ll never catch on with the press galley.

    Comment by danylmc — May 22, 2015 @ 9:59 am

  13. “I don’t know what we’re supposed to call this mode of government, exactly, but it ain’t ‘neoliberal’.”

    Neo-feudal, maybe?

    Comment by Kumara Republic (@kumararepublic) — May 22, 2015 @ 10:00 am

  14. Not sure dirigisme fully applies given the hands off attitude to infrastructure – going as far as to sell down SOEs – and promotion of the TPP.
    To that extent while there is definite evidence of crony capitalism a measured, consistent and economic planning is conspicuously absent.

    A new term is needed. Populist consumerism?

    Comment by Gregor W — May 22, 2015 @ 10:11 am

  15. National believes in massive intervention in the economy, mostly in favor of their political donors

    What are the examples of this?

    Comment by rickrowling — May 22, 2015 @ 10:12 am

  16. Labour keep playing to Key’s strengths.

    And Key’s opponents have developed a rather insular, self-reinforcing narrative about how Key hates the children etc which isn’t quite what National is. I’m not suggesting that National is the perfect social justice party but constantly making strategy on the basis that they’re corrupt liars out to destroy democrat and the planet has distracted from forming a strategy that deals with reality.

    Comment by NeilM — May 22, 2015 @ 10:55 am

  17. National have adopted the Tony Blair strategy of doing a little bit of what their opponent’s supporters want, and Labour (and many others on the left) have no idea what to do about it. They can’t process the idea that a National government might do something good, so they just mindlessly attack it, even if it means attacking something they’ve been in favour of for decades.

    The reaction of most of the left to the flag referendum has been beyond childish. If you asked nearly anyone on the left what they thought of changing the flag, from about the 1970s up until the second before Key spoke in favour of change, they would have said that the current flag is a relic of colonialism, an embarassment unpresentative of modern NZ, too much like Australia’s flag, etc. As soon as Key came on board suddenly changing the flag is a terrible idea, a total waste of money, and the existing flag is perfectly good and represents our heritage.

    They haven’t been quite as bad about the budget, at least.

    Comment by helenalex — May 22, 2015 @ 11:50 am

  18. Wow, Danyl, there are so many straw men in that post. The major two are the propositions that this government was a group of hairy chested economic fundamentalists and that effective social policy is entirely the preserve of the left. The first was flawed from the very beginning and was probably prompted by the bizarre and false idea that they had embraced austerity as a fiscal policy when their approach was classic Keynesian. This is just another case of the left and the commentariat looking to overseas political slogans for guidance rather than looking at what a government actually does. And they are now reducing the impact of government spending on the economy and hope to pay down the debt accumulated to provide the stimulus. One area in which they have gone more neoliberal is their tweaking of the settings for the existing property trading or capital gains tax. This is an attempt to reduce the distortionary impact of having a relatively ineffective capital gains tax. As for the big things – fiscal, monetary and general regulatory policy – there is no major change that I can see and the spending changes are pretty small in the context of both government spending and the economy. On social policy you underestimate the personal impact on government policy of growing up in a state house (Key) and the Catholic social conscience (English).

    Comment by Tinakori — May 22, 2015 @ 11:50 am

  19. Looks like Andrew Little is raising Don Brash’s old hobby horse, means testing super, today as well. Not sure how that’s going to go down with the Clark-era members of the caucus (badly, I suspect).
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11452961

    Comment by M_C — May 22, 2015 @ 11:52 am

  20. The reaction of most of the left to the flag referendum has been beyond childish.

    Dealing with our colonial past has been a primary left wing issue. To watch Labour and others ditch their principles for some cheap shot at Key is dispiriting.

    Comment by NeilM — May 22, 2015 @ 12:05 pm

  21. On social policy you underestimate the personal impact on government policy of growing up in a state house (Key) and the Catholic social conscience (English).

    Interesting notion, though I think the recent pitch to turf a bunch of State housing to private providers and English history of rorting accommodation perks without batting an eyelid might put paid to it.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 22, 2015 @ 12:07 pm

  22. It’s a strawman/myth that neoliberals oppose state intervention in markets. That belief is more of a ‘classical liberal’, libertarian kneejerk. Though I do agree that the phase of governmentality that began in the early 80s with the ‘Economic Management’ document from Treasury is over.

    Comment by Mark Rickerby (@maetl) — May 22, 2015 @ 12:11 pm

  23. >Labour keep playing to Key’s strengths.

    LOL, you say this on the day that Key just changed his entire government’s direction to follow Labour policy. Mmmmkay….

    Comment by Ben Wilson — May 22, 2015 @ 12:36 pm

  24. >Looks like Andrew Little is raising Don Brash’s old hobby horse, means testing super, today as well.

    That is foolish. Yes super costs a lot. But the only reason that is unfair is not because old people are more rich, but because no-one can help how old they are. It could be universalized. If they want to differentiate themselves (and I think that this has actually become unnecessary now, at least on major policy direction), then they could make our only universal benefit fairer by giving it to everyone, making tax neutral changes to pay for it, and entirely eliminating the hated WINZ from existence. Or they could just STFU and bask in the sense that the political wind shifted and now National is desperately tacking towards them, hoping to cast a wind-shadow.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — May 22, 2015 @ 12:41 pm

  25. “The first was flawed from the very beginning and was probably prompted by the bizarre and false idea that they had embraced austerity as a fiscal policy when their approach was classic Keynesian.”

    Yep. Am quite unhappy about current Left strategy of teasing English for not getting a surplus. Yes, I know the idea is to label Nats as hypocrites and promise-breakers, but actually, we would have done the same and will want to do the same in future. But meanwhile we are leaving the public with the idea that we too think surpluses are good and deficits are bad.

    Comment by Stephen J — May 22, 2015 @ 12:51 pm

  26. isn’t it ‘crony capitalism’?

    Comment by Can of Worms, Opened — May 22, 2015 @ 1:20 pm

  27. The “middle class welfare” concept is an artefact of neo-liberalism.

    It divides society into “hard working keewees” and “beneficiary scum” (Labour and National both love the former term, but Labour might be a bit softer on the latter. “Communities with needs”, maybe?)

    Benefits (apart from disguised ones like tax free capital gains) are denied the former and grudgingly meted out to the latter, accompanied by an appropriate degree of paternalism, like making them spend all day in a Winz office with no toilet – at least they can’t take drugs while they’re in there.

    Moving to a society where everyone gets helped appropriately by government: working for families, Kiwisaver incentives, UBI, state housing for anyone who wants it, free public transport, etc. paid for by progressive taxation would be a positive thing. Unless you feel it’s important that the SPPs know their place?

    Comment by richdrich — May 22, 2015 @ 1:22 pm

  28. Also, what Ben said.

    Comment by richdrich — May 22, 2015 @ 1:23 pm

  29. The real issue isn’t so much about surpluses and deficits. The real issue is that the apparatus designed to help those in the bottom half make it in life have been hijacked by the already loaded for their own ends. That’s basically how corporate welfare works – the Wall St bailouts and farm subsidies in the G8 are a case in point.

    Comment by Kumara Republic (@kumararepublic) — May 22, 2015 @ 1:46 pm

  30. “What kind of left-wing politician opposes the gutting of the KiwiSaver kickstarter – pretty much the definition of middle-class welfare – to tackle child poverty?”
    Is tackling child poverty some kind of historical preserve of the left? I recall it went to record highs under Clark’s stewardship – roughly one election prior to kiwisaver was being initially floated, from memory.

    Comment by Lee Clark — May 22, 2015 @ 2:12 pm

  31. It’s weird that noone seems to be looking at the numbers. Job Seeker support and Emergency Benefit down 5.7%, Supported Living Payment down 1.1%, Sole Parent Support down 1.5%, Accommodation assistance down 0.8%, Hardship assistance down 1%.

    The message should squarely be: It’s good that National has increased benefits + support for those with kids by taking opposition policy. Claim credit. Point out where it’s not enough, as all major benefits with the exception of NZ super (up 4.1%) have actually reduced in this budget.

    Comment by jmarshall — May 22, 2015 @ 3:31 pm

  32. Richdrich wrote: “The “middle class welfare” concept is an artefact of neo-liberalism.

    It divides society into “hard working keewees” and “beneficiary scum” (Labour and National both love the former term, but Labour might be a bit softer on the latter. “Communities with needs”, maybe?)

    actually, no. This idea of dividing people up like that is common to a lot of right-wing ideologies. It can be tacked on to neo-liberalism, but is also found in such non-neoliberal ideologies as Muldoonism, fascism or christian fundamentalism.

    Comment by Can of Worms, Opened — May 22, 2015 @ 4:01 pm

  33. This idea of dividing people up like that is common to a lot of right-wing ideologies.

    How about bourgeoisie and proletariat?

    Comment by Gregor W — May 22, 2015 @ 4:08 pm

  34. In the Keynesian approach you run a surplus when the economy is growing (and government revenue is increasing) to pay down the debt you accumulated in the down part of the cycle when you were sustaining demand with borrowed money and running deficits. It doesn’t work if you just accumulate debt without paying it back or continue to run deficits in good times and bad. That’s why a surplus is important.

    Labour had almost nothing to do with making poverty, particularly child poverty, an issue. It was most effectively placed on the political agenda by NGOs and researchers. Not to mention the efforts of Campbell Live and other journalists. Remember when the Labour Party in Napier had to advertise to find some poor people?

    Gregor there is nothing necessarily contradictory between having third party providers and effective housing policy for the poor nor does English’s former housing allowance preclude an interest in social policy generated by his religious beliefs. He’s been talking about social policy for a long time from both an investment and a social justice viewpoint and developed a rather more well thought out approach than any of his opposition counterparts in either finance or social policy roles.

    Comment by Tinakori — May 22, 2015 @ 4:16 pm

  35. A fantastic summary. Especially the final paragraph.

    Comment by artcroft — May 22, 2015 @ 4:22 pm

  36. Reblogged this on Talking Auckland and commented:
    “I don’t know what we’re supposed to call this mode of government,”

    The term is Social Conservative which where Labour and New Zealand First usually sit.

    We had a Social Conservative Budget passed and one indeed the Greens should have claimed as a victory even if a minor one (on lifting core benefits and getting Government to just even talk poverty).

    Labour had a shocker over the last 24 hours and only got their collective s$%& together a few hours ago by announcing the resumption of the Kickstart for KiwiSaver which National have dropped.

    All in all with the Budget?
    Yep an English Social Conservative Budget demonstrating the Social Conservative Faction well in control on contrast to the Collins/Slater/DPF faction.

    English has always earned my admiration and respect whether I like his policies or not. Given that I have had a few cups of teas and the odd hot breakfast over time with English.

    Maybe next year Bill we can get the Auckland Transit Link (CRL) going and split KiwiRail into two. The freight side handled by KR and the tracks passed over to NZTA.

    Comment by Ben Ross - Talking Auckland — May 22, 2015 @ 4:52 pm

  37. I thought that what distinguished liberalism from neoliberalism, at least according to David Harvey, was that while both argued for free markets, small government etc, neoliberalism was when the state actively used its power to create markets where markets didn’t exist previously (ie private prisons, privatised water).

    Comment by Opi Toli — May 22, 2015 @ 5:04 pm

  38. Neoliberalism isn’t just about unabashed worship of free markets. That’s part of it, but the belief in market naturalism isn’t exclusive with the economic intervention which is necessary to “stabilize” the market economy. It’s bordering on incoherent to state it that way, and that may be part of the problem, but the mere fact of pushing for state intervention in the economy isn’t enough to say that “neoliberalism” is a dead policy.

    Comment by chaosmogony — May 22, 2015 @ 5:09 pm

  39. @Can of Worms: Muldoonism was the opposite of neo-liberalism. The idea of a wage and price freeze is abhorent to neoliberals.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — May 22, 2015 @ 6:17 pm

  40. Re the neoliberalism, in my mind that was always about removing barriers to capital: reducing corporate taxation and taxes on the rich, removing tariffs, removing constraints on foreign investment, privatisation, changing the role of the state from being a direct provider of services to being a purchaser of services. In that sense, little has changed.

    Comment by Stephen J — May 22, 2015 @ 7:01 pm

  41. Agree with Stephen.

    Gramsci’s concept of hegemony is a good way to understand neoliberalism. Hegemony in Gramsci’s view isn’t based on coercive control by a small elite, but by a “historical bloc” made up of coalitions between political actors and underpinned by a shared ideology. In my view the current historical bloc is made up of a coalition between industry, business, elites, and the middle class who all share an ideology of neoliberalism (using the definition Stephen provided). I can’t think of a western country that doesn’t have this kind of bloc in place. Perhaps the northern Europeans? But even Sweden has started dismantling its welfare state. This bloc has become so widespread that is almost impossible to stand outside it or “think outside the box” so to speak. When I contemplated to my friend, who is a Green party member, that perhaps we should tax all income over $200k at 100%, he looked at me like I was crazy (I’m sure many people here would agree). Neoliberalism makes some ideas impossible to even contemplate. It’s kind of an intellectual straitjacket that has synthesised the dominant parties into one, so that they’re now shades of the same colour.

    Key’s child poverty policy backs this argument up in my view: both parties more and more resemble each other. I used to mock people who said we lived in a sham democracy because the main parties are so similar, but now I’m not so sure.

    Comment by Seb Rattansen — May 22, 2015 @ 7:52 pm

  42. @tinkaori – I wrote a big response that got eaten, but I’ll summarise.

    Your examples of ethical influence over policy seemed incongruous to me.

    Wrt Key, the natural assumption I would make is that, as a result of a State house upbringing, he would either reject the premise of State intervention in housing or embrace it on an ethical basis. Instead he promotes the idea of private intervention to supply a public good. On the face of it, to me at least, this supports a notion of ideology over ethics as the motivating factor.

    Same with English. Surely it’s not the Christian thing to knowingly rort the taxpayer. Even though it was ‘within the rules’ it was wrong and one would think his Catholic guilt would get the better of him. Apparently not, as he continued in this behaviour for years. Unless of course, you are citing acceptance of personal hypocrisy as a Christian moral lesson?

    Comment by Gregor W — May 22, 2015 @ 8:00 pm

  43. “Am quite unhappy about current Left strategy of teasing English for not getting a surplus.”
    Sometimes feels like the strategy bone is missing. A long patient game is what it takes. Flailing in the wild hope you’ll not just connect but land a knockout punch looks desperate.

    Comment by rob — May 22, 2015 @ 8:43 pm

  44. To paraphrase David Graeber there is no market without government; the constant harping on of the [so called] left about neo-libs and neo-cons is generally misguided.

    Comment by rsmsingers — May 22, 2015 @ 8:59 pm

  45. Ultimately if corporate welfare indicates an absence of neoliberalism, we’d have to not only conclude that it doesn’t exist now, but that it never existed.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — May 22, 2015 @ 11:39 pm

  46. – trading goods restricted on social welfare grounds for civic projects (convention centre)
    – taxing movement in and out of the country
    – negotiating on behalf of Fonterra & effectively subsidising them by ignoring the dairy industry’s externalities.
    – Dragnet collection of citizen communications
    – spying on foreign nations for economic gain

    neomercantilism?

    Comment by Ryan G — May 23, 2015 @ 12:46 pm

  47. “Instead he promotes the idea of private intervention to supply a public good. On the face of it, to me at least, this supports a notion of ideology over ethics as the motivating factor.”

    Or he says who cares who provides it as long as they do it well.

    “Apparently not, as he continued in this behaviour for years. Unless of course, you are citing acceptance of personal hypocrisy as a Christian moral lesson?”

    No, but you would have to be exceedingly puritanical to suggest that it excluded someone thinking well about other related issues.

    Comment by Tinakori — May 23, 2015 @ 12:52 pm

  48. @tinakori – if Key is taking that position as a result of upbringing, i.e a pragmatic one of promoting PPPs to serve public housing, why havn’t we seen it as a matter of record previously? Surely if he felt that strongly about it, say for instance like asset sales, it would have featured in his manifesto some time over the last 2 electoral cycles?

    Re English, I don’t think it’s particularly puritanical to suggest that someone who is happy to enrich themselves in a public role at the taxpayers expense is probably only paying lip service to Christian values when it suits them wrt social justice issues.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 24, 2015 @ 10:05 am

  49. Though time has thinned their numbers, no doubt one can still find Party members of long standing in the Lumsden district who’ll attest how the birds fell silent at the hour of Bill English’s birth.

    Comment by Joe W — May 24, 2015 @ 4:20 pm

  50. Nobody seriously believes the “state house” nonsense, do they? I thought the “log cabin” line had long since passed through the bowels of satire and out the other end.

    History is full of right-wing politicians running from their origins as fast as they could. Empathy is for social workers, not alphas who trample over enemies and friends alike to get to the top.

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — May 24, 2015 @ 9:16 pm

  51. My biggest take out from the budget? The complete lack (well, there was a single ten minute segment on RNZ) of meaningful analysis in the broadcast media about it. Pro-National braying bumper stickers yelled parisan slogans at us. The government media – by which I mean the plutocrat talking heads and all the rest of the corporate media – accepted it uncritically (how could they not? For plutocrats the poor might as well live on Mars for all they know about them) and dutifully repeated the party line about the deficit. The last remnant of mainstream opposition media was brazenly killed off by government cronies Julie Christie and Mark Weldon before it could get a word in edgeways.

    Comment by Sanctuary — May 25, 2015 @ 7:34 am

  52. If the MSM was responsible for the current failure of the Left and of the social justice movement as a whole then how come the new devolved social media hadn’t lead to a mass organised grassroots Left movement?

    Twitter and blogs are full of calls for heated action against neoliberal crony capitalism etc but the results are just people tapping away at keyboards. It’s not like they can blame the lack of opportunity to communicate and organise.

    Comment by NeilM — May 25, 2015 @ 8:21 am

  53. …how come the new devolved social media hadn’t lead to a mass organised grassroots Left movement?

    @NeilM – Three reasons of the top of my head.

    Historically, mass movements aren’t created by the “chattering classes”. Social media can no more create a grass roots movement than letters to the editor can. It might act as a catalyst but nothing more. Movements are sustained by actual people doing actual things (like Unions).

    Secondly, creation of an opposition movement tends to require a catalysing event or a sustained crisis. Unless people are starving or being actively oppressed by those higher up the food chain, it’s pretty hard to galvanise them. Our lords and masters realised some time ago that for most people, just enough is good enough.

    Thirdly, unlike TV/radio mass media which is essentially free, access to social media requires money – unless of course you intend on spending the precious free time that have when not sleeping or working on minimum wage at the public library reading through blog rants.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 25, 2015 @ 9:30 am

  54. Our lords and masters realised some time ago that for most people, just enough is good enough.

    I agree, but this cynical take seems somewhat at odds with what you said on the Anglo-sphere elections thread:
    … rather than categorising is as a “buying off” of the proles, I prefer to think of it as progressive measures to better society as a whole, including the wealthy.

    I certainly appreciate being able to get richer without having to worry about being put up against a wall and shot. Perhaps we should modify an old quotation:
    the art of public welfare consists in so feeding the sheep as to obtain the largest possible amount of wool while keeping them on the most marginal land.’

    Comment by Tom Hunter — May 25, 2015 @ 11:10 am

  55. Backslash hates me.
    I certainly appreciate being able to get richer without having to worry about being put up against a wall and shot. Perhaps we should modify an old quotation:

    the art of public welfare consists in so feeding the sheep as to obtain the largest possible amount of wool while keeping them on the most marginal land.

    Comment by Tom Hunter — May 25, 2015 @ 11:11 am

  56. @Tom – those comments aren’t really at odds.

    The original point was specifically talking about the whether the Left was unable to gain traction because a reasonable baseline had been achieved.
    “Reasonable baseline” I would think intersects quite nicely with “just enough”. The proof would be that there is no public movement to run around attaching plutocrats heads to pikes.

    Whether you consider that bribery or progressive politics is merely just a matter of perspective.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 25, 2015 @ 12:12 pm

  57. Adding to this, I think of ‘Reasonable baseline / just enough’ as the movement of a point along a rights continuum – rights, in both an economic and political sense – from most regressive to most progressive.

    Over time those that control the commanding heights systematically apply regressive pressure to lower the baseline in order to exact profit. They do this via legislation and the state monopoly on violence. Sometimes because the pressure gets to much, the grip has to be loosened for fear of revolt from below, which results in the an enaction of progressive measures in order to dissipate the discontent.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 25, 2015 @ 7:41 pm

  58. Ah, Gregor, I guess that counts the Greens out for their purchase of a house in one of Wellington’s best streets after Matt McCarten required all the out of town MPs to stay there so they could pool the money and build up party funds through real estate investment. By your standards pretty much every party would be ruled out of doing anything. But I guess you only apply it to liberal parties like National so it just a way of buttressing your existing political convictions

    Why does Key have to telegraph everything two terms before he does it? It was part of their pre-election policy. So far as I can see this is a government that, like the last, does things incrementally, the Labour government of the 80s having turned a big chunk of the electorate off dramatic change. Again, the barriers you place on parties that are not on your side of politics doing anything that can be regarded as legitimate are pretty much insurmountable.

    Comment by Tinakori — May 25, 2015 @ 11:36 pm

  59. Wow Tinakori, they must have you working overtime at the straw-man factory.

    I guess that counts the Greens out for their purchase of a house in one of Wellington’s best streets…

    I agree. Completely unethical.

    By your standards pretty much every party would be ruled out of doing anything….so it just a way of buttressing your existing political convictions.

    Sure. Your argument is so powerful it’s not necessary to talk about it, or something.

    It [offloading state houses to alternate providers] was part of their pre-election policy.

    Really? The closest I recall was some vague notion of Housing NZ ‘reconfiguring’ their portfolio to allow focus on high demand areas.

    But none of the above really address the point at hand.
    To recap, your original premise was English and Key’s socio / religious grounding affects their worldview and thus policy thinking – Key being brought up in a State house, English being a devout Catholic.
    While I think you are right to a certain extent, I think your examples are poor for the reasons I laid out and succinctly expanded upon by Sammy 3.0.

    Rather than looking at what these Key and English say, wouldn’t it just be easier to look at a record of their actions?
    Simply, in order to support up your premise, what have Key and English done to address social justice issues over their two terms in power that you would suggest is rooted in their worldview, rather than in response to polling?

    Comment by Gregor W — May 26, 2015 @ 9:35 am

  60. I was markedly impressed with Budget 2015. There was provision in it for our Armed Forces and this bodes well not just for New Zealand but also for some of our major trading partners, especially the UK, where military budgets have been scaled back or are about to be scaled back beyond the minimum requirement of NATO countries of 2%.

    I was disappointed that the $1,000 Government Kickstart to KiwiSaver is being scrapped because it doesn’t cost much money from the Government but it has actually encouraged many young people to save. National didn’t need t do this. They could have got the savings somewhere else. Scrapping sporting endorsements, anyone?

    Comment by Daniel Lang — June 3, 2015 @ 2:38 pm


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