The Dim-Post

January 31, 2016

Notes on Labour’s free tertiary education policy

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 10:35 pm

The details are here.

  • Political parties love to launch education policies at this time of year: just around the time parents are sending their kids back to school, presumably because they think its an optimum time to play on their anxieties about their children’s futures. (Last year at this time National announced their ‘super-teacher/super-principal’ program.)
  • I’ve always thought free tertiary education makes economic sense. Workers with better skills/qualifications earn more, thus pay more in tax, usually far more so than the cost of their tertiary education. And they’re adding more value for their employers, who also pay tax. No doubt someone in the comments will explain to me why this isn’t so.
  • People are calling it a bribe. But it doesn’t kick in until 2019 (if Labour are elected) and it doesn’t take full effect until 2025! Most of the recipients of the free three years will be school leavers, so Labour is ‘bribing’ a cohort of New Zealanders currently aged 5-10.
  • I guess they could be seen to be ‘bribing’ their hard working kiwi mums and dads? A lot of people on twitter seem to feel that this policy will be popular with parents worried about their kids getting into debt. And sure, maybe – after all this time I’m not going to pretend I have any idea what large groups of swing voters think/feel. But ‘parents’ as an aggregate group didn’t vote for this policy when it was introduced by the Greens, or Internet/Mana, and don’t seem to care particularly about ‘their kids’ being shut out of the housing market in perpetuity.
  • I find the strategy here a bit surprising. I would have thought that one of the big negative impressions/barriers to voting that people have about the Labour Party is profligacy. ‘Borrow and spend’. All that core National messaging stuff. So launching a big ticket billion dollar policy right at the start of the years seems risky to me.
  • It will be wildly, insanely popular with the activist left though. Most of them were involved in student politics and student unions (like Andrew Little) and protested against the fees and loan policies in the 1990s (or subsequently) and for them free tertiary education is a defining political issue.

77 Comments »

  1. I’ve got a PhD in biochemistry, and I’ve just come off a shift of doing door-to-door surveys. I have no complaints, but I’m not really paying back the money the government spent on me, even without free university. It all depends on the job market. I do have a strong prospect for getting a more suitable, higher-paying job… in Australia. Make of that what you will.

    Comment by Gareth Wilson — January 31, 2016 @ 10:50 pm

  2. @danyl I’ve always thought free tertiary education makes economic sense.

    Perhaps, but that is a spurious argument. Free tertiary education is important because education is a good in and of itself. The fact that more people, from a broader cross-section of the community, will be educated is what matters.

    Whether or not there is any direct economic benefit to either the individual or community is irrelevant.

    Comment by RJL — January 31, 2016 @ 11:05 pm

  3. The attack strategy from National on this will be to attack the details such as the costings, which seem too low and to play on the potential resentment of those who have or have already paid off a student loan and gain no direct benefit from this policy. This policy and the line on the TPP will feed into a broader attack on Labour’s economic and fiscal credibility with the public which is already worse than it was under Shearer and will likely continue to sink further this year.
    The real problem with this policy though is it comes from a position of desperation rather than credibility and strength. Many media pundit types are drawing comparisons with interest free student loans, but that policy connected with a wider populace of current, past and future students, and more importantly it was launched by a strong government with a track record, so when Clark & Cullen said it would happen, the public believed it.
    David Cunliffe announced ‘lower class sizes’ in schools and ‘free GP visits’ for over 65s in the 2014 election campaign and those policies made no difference to the poll ratings because few believed he and the party could actually deliver it.

    Comment by Mike — January 31, 2016 @ 11:27 pm

  4. It says so much about the brainwashing power of Rogernomics (and the reporters/pollies/pundits who grew up under it and since) that cheaper (not-really-free) tertiary education is called a “bribe”.

    The development of this nation and numerous others, the reason the middle class expanded massively and we collectively got smarter and more prosperous … is apparently just a cartoon figure brandishing a fistful of dollars. I’d love to hear Jordan Williams’ “thoughts” about the GI Bill in the USA and its consequences. But to know about that he’d need to read some history books instead of Ayn Rand.

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — January 31, 2016 @ 11:40 pm

  5. Joyce is all up in the news saying they’re throwing round money “the country doesn’t have”. Surely the question is ‘why the hell not?’ I thought this was a rockstar economy? Weren’t we in surplus, why can’t we use that? Isn’t the TPPA going to make the country all rich?

    Comment by Roy — February 1, 2016 @ 12:51 am

  6. Why is this a bribe but tax cuts aren’t? This is all about framing. If National succeed in framing this policy as wasteful spending, then Labour won’t make any ground. Labour needs to frame it as investment in the country’s future.

    I think the media and the public will be more open to Labour’s framing (if they execute it competently) after seven years of National government.

    Comment by Seb Rattansen — February 1, 2016 @ 1:23 am

  7. I wish the collected hysterical cynics, small town snobs and apologists for entrenched privilege that collectively make up NZ’s pathetic media would once – just – discuss the policy. The key observation for me from Europe is this isn’t just (or even mainly) about three free years at university from 18 to 21. It is also about job skill retraining in a world where mist non professionals cannot expect to have the same career for life. It is as much for laid off IT staff to do 22 months retraining as a chippie at a polytech. As a policy it makes perfect sense as part of a coherent future of work strategy.

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 1, 2016 @ 2:08 am

  8. It’s not a bad idea but to be effective it would need to be followed up with reforms of tertiary institution governance. If you don’t trust Key then people like McCutcheon should be a big concern. He’ll game any new funding for his own ambitions.

    In terms of gaining votes I think Danyl’s last point hits the mark. Little’s political approach has struck me as what I saw in student uni politics. Kelsey goes down well with the Left but what good is that. Corbyn has Sean Milne as a senior adviser. I don’t think Obsma would know who Greenwald is. Which is a pretty good indicator of judgement and sucess. I don’t think Little is taking the lead from Obama.

    Comment by NeilM — February 1, 2016 @ 2:24 am

  9. Should be Seumas Milne.

    Comment by NeilM — February 1, 2016 @ 2:29 am

  10. Your second point is not necessarily wrong but it is contested in education/labour economics.

    Broadly, there are two theories. One is that education really does lift overall earnings and wealth and there for tax revenues in the way you surmise. The other says it works primarily as a drafting gate, working out who will take the high paid jobs and who will make the fries at McDonalds. In the second theory, a small group of highly talented inventors drive progress and wealth creation (like, in our era, the people who invented the Internet and smartphone etc) so it makes no sense to try to educate everyone to a high level – the focus should be on getting the top 10%?the very best education in the world.

    Seems to me that both theories are correct and reflect part of what happens in the real world.

    Comment by Matthew Hooton — February 1, 2016 @ 5:49 am

  11. Tim Berners-Lee invented the internet. His education was free.

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — February 1, 2016 @ 6:28 am

  12. If they play this right this could be a genius piece of strategy. No matter which way you look at it millions of jobs are going to be eliminated as robots and AI get better and are more able to perform human-like tasks with close-to-human accuracy. If they play to that fear and present this as an antidote to the upcoming jobpocalypes (fell free to use that one, guys…) then this must be a winner. It’s cynical as fuck – play to people’s existential fear of losing their livelihoods – but this is an issue that National are so unequipped to deal with it’s not funny. If they play this right it could be massive for them.

    Comment by Chris Bull — February 1, 2016 @ 6:53 am

  13. What I don’t understand was why it seems so poorly linked to the Future of Work effort.
    Linked to insecurities around robots taking jobs free education to retrain may have had an easier sell.
    Rather than three free years to get a Bachelor degree that allows you to flip burgers it would be three years to get a new degree so you don’t need to flip burgers.

    Comment by Vader — February 1, 2016 @ 7:27 am

  14. Tim Berners-Lee’s degree was in physics. Past high school, he doesn’t have any formal qualifications in computer science or programming.

    Comment by Gareth Wilson — February 1, 2016 @ 7:38 am

  15. In the second theory, a small group of highly talented inventors drive progress and wealth creation (like, in our era, the people who invented the Internet and smartphone etc) so it makes no sense to try to educate everyone to a high level – the focus should be on getting the top 10%?the very best education in the world.

    Problem is, even if this is true, how do we identify that “top 10%” to give the best education to? Secondary school achievement is not a perfect predictor of University success – they are different styles of education which don’t necessarily map on to each other. And that’s without getting into inequalities of opportunity at the secondary level.

    Plus, Labour’s policy is, as I read it, focused on two matters. One is immediate school leavers, allowing them to gain a basic tertiary qualification without fee debt (but living costs …?). The second is people who left schooling a while back, went straight into some job and developed a set of skills which are now becoming obsolete due to technological disruption (the thing you say drives progress). This gives them an avenue to retrain to adapt to that change, rather than being on the scrapheap of history. A system that only worries about the “top 10%” doesn’t.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — February 1, 2016 @ 7:46 am

  16. It’s cynical as fuck – play to people’s existential fear of losing their livelihoods – but this is an issue that National are so unequipped to deal with it’s not funny.

    In what way is it “cynical” to recognise a looming social problem (which you say is a real one), think about ways that society can respond to that problem and then propose a policy to try and ameliorate it?

    Or, to put it another way, given your reading of this matter are there any party policies that are not “cynical”?

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — February 1, 2016 @ 7:49 am

  17. In the second theory, a small group of highly talented inventors drive progress and wealth creation (like, in our era, the people who invented the Internet and smartphone etc)

    As various economists have pointed out, the effects of the digital revolution show up everywhere except in the productivity statistics I think having a big population of well trained doctors and engineers and scientists and architects and dentists and nurses and teachers etc creates far more value than Randian super-genius wealth creators.

    Comment by danylmc — February 1, 2016 @ 8:37 am

  18. @danylmc They do show up in productivity, but just not necessarily the way people expect – see this article http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-01-25/why-robots-mean-interest-rates-could-go-even-lower-in-the-future. The banks are predicting low inflation, primarily from wages being suppressed due to ‘increases in available labour’ – or some other economics euphemism.

    @Andrew. I guess ‘cynical’ might not be the right choice of words, but I’m living in the UK now and have just been through David Cameron’s ‘don’t put it all at risk’ show (and National’s previous campaign too…) and so would prefer to see a more positive approach to it, say ‘the world is changing, we need to change with it’, rather than ‘the robots are coming and you’re going to die poor’. The latter may well be more effective if past campaigns and the rise of Trump are indicative of anything, though.

    Comment by Chris Bull — February 1, 2016 @ 8:54 am

  19. I’ve got a PhD in biochemistry, and I’ve just come off a shift of doing door-to-door surveys. I have no complaints, but I’m not really paying back the money the government spent on me, even without free university. It all depends on the job market. I do have a strong prospect for getting a more suitable, higher-paying job… in Australia. Make of that what you will.

    There’s supposed to be all of this research money flooding around the economy but I can’t see much evidence of it, given that pretty much everyone in your position needs to leave the country to get work in their field.

    Comment by danylmc — February 1, 2016 @ 9:06 am

  20. The policy does seem to assume that there’s a shortage of university graduates in general, in the New Zealand economy. I’d love to know the basis of that assumption.

    Comment by Gareth Wilson — February 1, 2016 @ 9:24 am

  21. Drafting gate indeed! Disgusting. Matthew Hooton trots out the short sighted view – we should be talking about value of education in the broadest possible sense and thinking about economic and other costs to our society. An ignorant population brings all kinds of problems that ultimately cost us all – unemployment, crime, health, mental health, unstable democracy. Giving people the chance for education leads to them living better lives overall and being more resilient and independent. And the policy applies to all tertiary education – its plumbers as well as Phds and we sure as heck need them now and in the future. A better investment than roads, roads, roads and bridges, bridges, bridges – (oh where are those bridges)

    Comment by Marion — February 1, 2016 @ 9:26 am

  22. a small group of highly talented inventors drive progress and wealth creation….the focus should be on getting the top 10%?the very best education in the world.

    Except it doesn’t really work like this at all. But why quibble!

    Comment by Gregor W — February 1, 2016 @ 9:39 am

  23. The policy does seem to assume that there’s a shortage of university graduates in general, in the New Zealand economy. I’d love to know the basis of that assumption.

    It’s important to note that this policy doesn’t just apply to university programmes. Apprenticeships/ industry training, foundation & second chance education etc. are all forms of tertiary education and thus included.

    Comment by NBH — February 1, 2016 @ 9:47 am

  24. “…given that pretty much everyone in your position needs to leave the country to get work in their field…”

    Which is why I think this policy is more than just middle class welfare. After all, what we actually need is more bee keepers, not biochemists. This scheme is great news for polytechs, who already offer a full range of 6 month, year long or multi year certificates and diplomas. Not so much good news for universities, whose student bodies are bloated with an over-supply of law, accounting, marketing, HR and all the other degrees middle class kids get.

    Comment by Sanctary — February 1, 2016 @ 9:50 am

  25. Marion says “Giving people the chance for education leads to them living better lives overall and being more resilient and independent”

    Sure, except it is unlikely that this policy will lead to a higher rate of participation than the current one, so it won’t lead to the gains you rightly identify from education.

    Comment by Matthew Hooton — February 1, 2016 @ 10:11 am

  26. Grego W says: “Except it doesn’t really work like this at all. But why quibble!”

    It does to some extent though. There is no absolute link between educational levels and economic performance. The most highly educated populations were in the former Soviet bloc yet their top people weren’t of the quality of people in the West. And think of the NZ economy. Natural resource endowment is biggest driver of the structure of our economy, but its also possible to point growth in the wine industry, movies, even tourism and dairy and say that has come about because of a handful of very talented people. Meanwhile, forestry and meat just haven’t had productivity breakthroughs. The talent of the very best ag scientists at Massey and elsewhere is far more important to the future of the primary sectors than, say, the general education level of workers in that sector.

    Comment by Matthew Hooton — February 1, 2016 @ 10:36 am

  27. I like the approach of having a universal entitlement which places other forms of tertiary training on an equal footing with university education. All the discussion in the media appears to be about universities, but this policy is (sensibly) much broader.

    Comment by Dr Foster — February 1, 2016 @ 10:44 am

  28. I never knew Hooten had worked with so many Soviet scientists that he can pass judgement on their skills. On the other hand, acquiring a taste for vodka would explain why half the time he appears to be posting drunken bullshit.

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 1, 2016 @ 10:52 am

  29. I don’t like the idea. There will be too many restrictions on it, limiting those who don’t want a University education but instead want to get into work and work-based training. Besides, University fees are costly and the Government currently pays a large portion of it, so why should they have to pay the full cost for three years? You’ve also got to factor in the fact that most degrees last more than three years, and Labour’s target audience of people from underprivileged backgrounds, a lot of them still won’t want to go to Uni because they have to pay for two more years out of their own pocket and because there is no guarantee of getting a decent paying job out of it. You’ve also got to factor in a booming population, with seemingly everybody having children these days, and so this policy won’t necessarily be sustainable for very long. It would be better if it applied to current students and former students. Amend the policy idea, make it two years of free education for future tertiary students and then Labour will also be able to afford to wipe some of the debt off of our current and former tertiary students’ loans.

    Comment by Daniel Lang — February 1, 2016 @ 10:55 am

  30. @ Hooton: “Meanwhile, forestry and meat just haven’t had productivity breakthroughs.”

    And the people making decisions in those industries (the managers and so forth) are often surprisingly *uneducated*.

    Comment by RJL — February 1, 2016 @ 11:02 am

  31. Daniel Lang, the policy literally says it’s for all NZQA accredited forms of training.

    Comment by Chris Bull — February 1, 2016 @ 11:03 am

  32. I’m not sure we do need more beekeepers, or if we do I’m not sure that they need post-secondary education. How many New Zealanders want to be beekeepers should be factored in there too.

    Comment by Gareth Wilson — February 1, 2016 @ 11:25 am

  33. @Danyl the problem isn’t a lack of money for research, it’s only spending it where there is a guaranteed return. There’s very little funding for blue sky research, and funding a dead end is political suicide.

    Also Labour don’t have a good track record on Education policy, remember Goff having to climb out windows to escape universities? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJ0-fm2mpRg)

    Comment by Robert Singers — February 1, 2016 @ 11:32 am

  34. @Matthew Hooten
    The Soviets were leading in a lot of fields, they just didn’t publish in English language journals so their work never made it to the West. My understanding is that their maths, especially probability, was amongst the top in the world.

    Comment by mjpledger — February 1, 2016 @ 11:44 am

  35. @Matthew Hooton said
    “the focus should be on getting the top 10%?the very best education in the world”

    Well, National aren’t even doing that. I doubt whether NZ PhD students make up 10% of the student population even before National cut student loans for post-graduate education.

    Comment by mjpledger — February 1, 2016 @ 11:55 am

  36. The talent of the very best ag scientists at Massey and elsewhere is far more important to the future of the primary sectors than, say, the general education level of workers in that sector.

    Matthew; a few points.

    Firstly, my initial comment was a dig at your examples which weren’t very good for reasons pointed out by others.

    Also, your pretty large omission that State funding has an enormous part to play in creating ‘wealth creators’, either directly by picking winners/subsidies etc. or indirectly by spending bucket-loads on R&D and infrastructure. Google and Facebook didn’t spawn from nothing. It was primarily on the back of massive multi-generational expenditure strongly influenced by govt. priorities.

    Lastly, while I agree that it’s important to create expertise predicated on education to drive future development, education clearly this isn’t necessarily broadly seen as a good in of itself (which as other have pointed out, it probably should be).
    It’s a view that education equals success, which is clearly not the case. It also ascribes the role of education as purely functional, which it clearly isn’t.

    Also, to your Ag Research example, if this were to hold true, then why isn’t our ostensibly growth driven and prudent government shoving enormous wads of cash towards Ag Research rather than firing scientists and technicians because they don’t meet a narrow, short-term economic return criteria that seems to be MPI’s priority? Doesn’t that seem counter-intuitive?

    Comment by Gregor W — February 1, 2016 @ 1:42 pm

  37. “the focus should be on getting the top 10%?the very best education in the world.”

    Haven’t we found that most entrepreneurs lack a tertiary qualification? So that tertiary education seems to be a way of training technicians: accountants, lawyers, doctors, programmers, etc., who are mostly then employed on salary by entrepreneurs (or the govt)?

    If we don’t ask students to contribute towards the cost of their education, then they may choose the easy or interesting ones, rather than the ones that will change their employment prospects?
    And is “free” tertiary education just a form of CORPORATE welfare? There’s more than a few people who fail to see any advantage to employers, employees and the community for a lot of the unit standards that institutions (e.g. ITOs) create.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — February 1, 2016 @ 4:37 pm

  38. Hooton is, as usual, full of shit. One of the few things the USSR could do was churn out top level scientists. In addition to probability math the USSR produced very talented theoretical physicists and chemists. Soviet scientists discovered several new elements before 1991.

    Comment by Ortvin Sarapuu — February 1, 2016 @ 5:46 pm

  39. One of the few things the USSR could do was churn out top level scientists.

    They had the second highest GDP growth in the world under Khrushchev! (Japan was number one)

    Comment by danylmc — February 1, 2016 @ 6:33 pm

  40. “They had the second highest GDP growth in the world under Khrushchev! (Japan was number one)”

    Old Soviet joke:

    Soviet General – “Our soldiers are the best fed in the world. They receive XXXXXX calories a day”
    French General – That’s nothing, our soldiers receive >XXXXX calories a day”
    US General – “You boys are full of it, our soldiers get >>XXXXX calories a day”
    Soviet General – “That’s preposterous! Nobody can eat that many potatoes.”

    While the Soviets were world leaders in the STEM subjects throughout their tenure they made little contribution to living standards. It wasn’t jokingly called Upper Volta with rockets for nothing. Governments totalitarian and liberal can fund ground breaking scientific research. Turning it into innovative stuff that people want is best left to individuals and companies operating in competitive markets.The Soviet state’s discrimination against Jews was a major benefit for Israel because some many smart well educated scientists ended up migrating there after the Soviets eased migration controls and within a much freer economy have made great contributions to Israeli living standards.

    By the way, Sanctuary what are you doing in Europe? I thought you were off to Venezuela to help them with their toilet paper shortage. Where’s your solidarity with the revolution?

    I think one thing left wingers, right wingers and liberals can all agree on is that an education at any University in the world is no guarantee whatsoever that you will be well educated.

    Comment by Tinakori — February 1, 2016 @ 7:10 pm

  41. There’s another joke about the Soviets I can’t quite remember. Something about having the greatest University on Earth but with only a goat track leading out of it. It’s the same idea, all that education didn’t do anything for the common good.

    Comment by Gareth Wilson — February 1, 2016 @ 7:41 pm

  42. What partial-cost university fees actually mean in practice is a progressive tax on graduates. So there is no access issue here – we already have access to student loans. So it is mainly a transfer to graduates. Insofar as it encourages more people to study, it is basically encouraging people who have very low expectations as to the return on their study. Do we want to encourage those people to study more than we do already at a high cost to taxpayers? I am not so sure.

    Comment by Matthew W — February 1, 2016 @ 9:11 pm

  43. I’m not trying to apologise for the Soviet system (my username should show that!) But if there’s one thing the Soviet experience shows it’s that even with a lot of other things potentially holding the field back, simply plowing money into education -does- produce scientific achievements (even if, as Tinakori points out, those achievements alone don’t necessarily translate into any improvements for the wider community).

    As a meta point, I have noted that Hooton shares with DPF and several other aspiring middlebrow right wing commentators a very deep belief in the applicability of the field of Soviet history to contemporary politics, coupled with a very low level of knowledge of knowledge in said field.

    Comment by Ortvin Sarapuu — February 2, 2016 @ 2:16 am

  44. “Upper Volta with rockets” is just the sort of glib nonsense you come to expect from the right.

    It is impossible to consider Soviet achievement in science without remembering that in 1916 Russia was a decadent, autocratic and despotic reactionary state that was hopelessly economically under developed, culturally backward, corrupt and cruel. It barely lasted two years in WW1 when it’s main opponent was the equally clapped out Austro-Hungarian empire. The Soviets only came to power after another brutal five years of civil war (which featured significant Western interventions) the left the place shattered.

    Yet less than 19 years later the Soviet state was called upon to resist an unprovoked and genocidal invasion by Nazi, something it managed to do almost singlehandedly. As it turned out the cost of that war, on top of the implacable cold war waged against it by the capitalist countries from 1917-90, mortally wounded the USSR. But against that background the achievements of Soviet engineers and scientists were staggering. It is an historical fact that without Stalin’s forced industrialisation – which was driven largely by the entirely rational fear of capitalist and fascist aggression – the USSR would not have defeated Germany. It is also increasingly clear that one if the main reasons we are all so rich today is the capitalist class and its lackeys in the west were so petrified of Soviet military, scientific and industrial power they thought it prudent to share the wealth around a bit more than they were inclined to do before Marxist-Leninism came to power in the USSR.

    Rather than sneering at the achievements of Soviet scientists and engineers, we ought to fall on our knees and thank them for the countless lives they saved in the western armies in WW2 and the free education and welfare state they forced the capitalist class in the west to concede to us all.

    Comment by Sanctary — February 2, 2016 @ 4:05 am

  45. @Sanctuary: Not gonna go into your analysis, but your facts are wrong. When the Russians fought mainly Austro-Hungarian (or Ottoman) forces they almost always defeated them, notably in the initial occupation of Galicia. Failure to progress on the Eastern front was chiefly due to the large numbers of German troops deployed to prop up their allies, especially Austria-Hungary.

    Comment by Ortvin Sarapuu — February 2, 2016 @ 5:36 am

  46. So I said their main opponent was the Austro-Hungarian empire, but I am wrong because they mainly fought Austro-Hungarian forces? The German effort was quite small in the East – the numbers of German soldiers in the east looked impressive on paper, but they were mainly the old men and other third rate occupation forces. That the Germans with so few decent soldiers were able to basically single handedly destroy the Russian empire inside two years is an extraordinary testament to the incompetence of the Russian nobility and their army.

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 2, 2016 @ 7:44 am

  47. @Tinakori – Google Marinaleda, Andalucia.

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 2, 2016 @ 8:18 am

  48. @Sanc: You’re wrong that the Russians were outclassed militarily by the Austro-Hungarians. You’re also wrong about the Germans on the Eastern Front being third rate – elite divisions like the 1st cavalry and 1st guards spent all their time on the Eastern Front, and the 10th Bavarians, 19th Infantry, 4th Guards and Alpenkorps were there for about half of the war. All top flight German units.

    Your insistence that Germany’s main military effort was in France and that the Eastern front was a sideshow is, ironically, an example of the same kind of Occidentocentrism that you’re accusing Hooton of pursuing.

    As for the causes of Russia’s military collapse, have you read Andrew Verner’s ‘The Crisis of Russian Autocracy’?

    Comment by Ortvin Sarapuu — February 2, 2016 @ 8:53 am

  49. …and don’t seem to care particularly about ‘their kids’ being shut out of the housing market in perpetuity.

    I suspect this may play some part in local body elections.

    Comment by unaha-closp — February 2, 2016 @ 9:54 am

  50. Dude, you need a course in reading comprehension. I never said the Russians were outclassed by the KK. And I never said the Germans didn’t deploy good troops in the east (BTW – anoyone who starts quoting specific units like you have automatically sets off my “opinionated reenactor with a goatee” alert).

    The Great War’s decisive theatre was the western front. The main German effort was always in the west, from Verdun to the Somme to Ypres. Any other theory is the stuff of the “what if” brigade and historical fringe merchants.

    I am not sure of the relevance of the Verner study here.

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 2, 2016 @ 9:57 am

  51. I think your knowledge of Russian history might be tainted somewhat by Soviet propaganda Sanctuary.

    Russia fought very well against Austria-Hungary. The Brusilov offensive is one of the best planned, best executed attacks in modern history and set the template for Germany’s 1918 offensive and blitzkrieg tactics in the following war. It absolutely shattered the Austro-Hungarian army.

    Prior to the Bolshevik coup, in fact, Russia was on track to become a liberal and prosperous nation. It sustained stunning economic growth in the decade before 1914 and its productive output in things like steel had started to exceed parts of the West.

    It is interesting to ponder what the world would be like if Russia managed to survive the war intact. Maybe Nicholas II would have been able to hold the forces of constitutionalism and liberalism at bay but maybe not. Of course, either outcome would have been preferable to the horrors that followed.

    Comment by Liam H — February 2, 2016 @ 10:17 am

  52. @Sanctuary: I presume you mean the K.u.K? I’m also surprised that you are willing to discuss the quality of individual soldiers, but consider discussing divisions to be finicky and irrelevant.

    The Verner study is relevant because it attempts to explain the failures of the Russian regime both prior to and during the Bolshevik revolution.

    @Liam H: I think that’s kind of optimistic. There were liberal currents in Russia and it’s tempting to dismiss their strength in retrospective, but on the other hand the forces of autocracy and non-autocratic conservatism were also quite strong. The great Russian democratic reformation was something that was periodically predicted every 10-15 years beginning with the Napoleonic era but never eventuated despite a few false starts. Ironically, the only major liberalisation – the emancipation of the serfs – lead to a groundswell of neo-conservatism. It’s quite possible Russia would have just rocked along indefinitely under some form of autocratic Imperialist regime.

    Comment by Ortvin Sarapuu — February 2, 2016 @ 11:14 am

  53. Bourgeois, land-owning rugby nut, big fan of Soviet Union. Big lolz.
    If only those 5-year plans were better executed, rather than folk who disagreed with comrade Trofim, eh?

    But don’t despair about tertiary training in the West: we are creating the best climate scientists that politicians (with taxpayer money) can buy. Our knowledge of how the climate works is the best it’s ever been: we’ve cracked the key on the non-linear, chaotic system that is our climate. Next: taming stock markets.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — February 2, 2016 @ 11:30 am

  54. CF – time you took your one-trick pony outside and shot it.
    Dull, dull, dull.

    Comment by Gregor W — February 2, 2016 @ 11:46 am

  55. No doubt there’s some alternate universe out there where Sanctuary sings the praises of the Kolchak-Denikin-Kornilov clique for restoring true autocratic Orthodoxy to Russia and making her strong enough to defeat invasion by the German People’s Republic in 1941.

    Comment by Trouble Man — February 2, 2016 @ 3:19 pm

  56. History schmistery.

    It’s funny, arguing about the future is largely what politics is about – bring down house prices, increase our health and education, etc.

    If we can’t even agree on things that have actually happened what makes us think there’s any logic to debating things that haven’t.

    Comment by NeilM — February 2, 2016 @ 7:57 pm

  57. Mind you, what actually happened at Marienbad last year?

    Comment by NeilM — February 2, 2016 @ 8:32 pm

  58. I got my degree courtesy of a Student Grant back in the day. Given my background, it would have been pretty unthinkable for me to do so as at the time I was too young and lacking in mental resolve to countenance relocating, supporting myself and studying. But I really did the student thing so I could form a band. Fact is the Degree afforded me access to a career in teaching and social work and such which means hand-on-heart, I can attest that it has proven to provide socially and economically beneficial to the societies I have lived in.

    My view is, that IF the Labour Party is seriously offering ‘free’ education it needs to go further. It needs to offer living costs and fees payment. And IF it is serious it needs to do this at the next election, not in some fairy-tale date in the future IF all the planets line up ok-ish. Otherwise the proposal appears to i) be an attractive promise that will not be followed up on, ii) a retread of age-targeted provision which excludes people over 21 iii) a great way for the middle classes to save on education-fees so they can bankroll r the kids’ living costs and iv) something the actual poor and gifted student may still be unable to access.

    Comment by leeharmanclark — February 3, 2016 @ 7:20 am

  59. Problem is, even if this is true, how do we identify that “top 10%” to give the best education to?

    Check who their parents are.

    Comment by herr doktor bimler — February 3, 2016 @ 10:58 am

  60. Is there a form of Godwin’s law that says that all discussions of economics will eventually raise Stalinism?

    FFS we’re talking about 3 years free tertiary in a developed nation at the opposite end of the world, that isn’t under any major military threats, with a highly educated and well-off population and a long history of democracy. We even USED to have free tertiary education, so it’s not like we can’t see that the country didn’t end up like Communist Russia, and that the Reds were never even under the bed in the first place. EVEN IF we don’t get Labour and this policy, we’re still going to have 80ish% free tertiary education under National. It’s a choice between free tertiary or not-quite free tertiary in NZ. Not a choice between Stalinist Russia or Laissez Faire USA.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — February 3, 2016 @ 12:51 pm

  61. “I’ve always thought free tertiary education makes economic sense. Workers with better skills/qualifications earn more, thus pay more in tax, usually far more so than the cost of their tertiary education.”

    A statement that is far removed from commercial reality. What happens to the price of lemons when they’re for sale everywhere?

    Just as people who are not sick are cluttering the EDs of most of our hospitals, and making it almost impossible to treat those really in need of emergency treatment, so will people unworthy of tertiary education make it impossible to deliver to deserving recipients. And even when they do, they qualification will be worthless because everyone from the dumbest to the Mensa club members will have a degree, and it will be worth as much as an ice machine in an igloo.

    Comment by Redbaiter — February 3, 2016 @ 1:15 pm

  62. People clutter ED’s because doctors visits aren’t free.

    Comment by Adrian — February 3, 2016 @ 4:47 pm

  63. I thought it was because they were out of their skulls on alcohol.

    Comment by leeharmanclark — February 3, 2016 @ 9:51 pm

  64. will people unworthy of tertiary education make it impossible to deliver to deserving recipients.

    You might want to ask Alive Cooper about worthiness.

    I doubt you have actually worked in ED or anywhere else that requires immediate life and death decision making.

    So you remind me of every lefty blogger safe behind their keyboard who slags off at the police.

    It’s a bit difficult to judge who is and who isn’t deserving in the few moments that might be available.

    Also, in the long run, who really knows what the right decision should have been. If there was ever a right one.

    Comment by NeilM — February 4, 2016 @ 1:36 am

  65. Be mindful now, Neil… mindful….

    Comment by leeharmanclark — February 4, 2016 @ 7:11 am

  66. “54.CF – time you took your one-trick pony outside and shot it.”

    Many people consider that Paris delivered that shot to that pony. Yet still the scare still seems to dominate science “learning” at my son’s schools. It’s a bit galling, since there’s been no warming in their lifetime. And every time something happens in nature, we are told it is linked to global warming. If the science is so settled, why can’t scientist’s agree on an explanation for the pause?
    Why do I bang on about it so much? Because concern for cAGW informs nearly everything happening in the world, adding cost and complexity to everything humans set out to achieve. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a degree of slacker culture seep into teenager attitude, a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness due to the number of times we’ve been told something along the lines of “this is the last chance to save the planet”. When I was a teen, we were all bussed off to see The Day After, by our schools. A degree of malaise seeped in to our attitude towards our school work.
    One day, a teacher confronted us about the slack attitude of our year. We all looked at her with surprise, and one of our number piped up “But we’re all going to die in a nuclear war, our school work seems a bit irrelevant”. The look on that hippy teacher’s face was priceless.

    “Man has to suffer. When he has no real afflictions, he invents some.”
    Jose Marti
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”
    Mencken
    “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”
    Helen Keller

    “Pseudoscience-driven fascism will run its course, just as its previous forms always have. Based on how long it took for eugenics to go from being fringe lunacy to accepted consensus science to public policy and back again, however, we are probably about half way through this fad cycle, with Al Gore’s movie being the equivalent of the Reichstag fire.
    The worrying thing is that it took WW2 to expose and end eugenics, not least because it was generally uncontroversial across the whole political spectrum – from Hampstead socialists like H G Wells to the postwar government of Sweden to Heinrich Himmler. One worries what sort of comparable apocalyptic shambles will be required to ring down the curtain on [AGW].”
    Justice4Rinka

    Comment by Clunking Fist — February 4, 2016 @ 8:18 am

  67. “@Tinakori – Google Marinaleda, Andalucía.”

    Very impressive, but also wholly voluntary with people able to exit if they wish. Plenty of co-ops in NZ. Fonterra, Silver Fern Farms (mostly) and lots and lots of Maori businesses. Of the latter probably Ngata Whatua o Orakei has the best chance of providing comparable support to its members because much of its income will be based on the Auckland commercial property market.

    On the Soviets, there’s no denying its citizens sacrificed greatly in WW2 but we also need to remember that the Soviets secretly allowed the Germans to rearm using their production facilities, were German allies and co-operated to carve up Poland. Nor was that sacrifice carried out particularly willingly with an estimated 30,000 Soviet solders executed to encourage their comrades to remain steadfast. And one of the other reasons they were able to remain steadfast – other than the knowledge of what the Germans did to those they conquered – was the vast amount of aid supplied by the US (mostly) under lend lease. Remember the famous Low cartoon after the Nazi-Soviet pact?https://www.cartoons.ac.uk/record/LSE2692

    Comment by Tinakori — February 4, 2016 @ 12:46 pm

  68. The thing is, it may be for all NZQA approved forms of education, including many qualifications to be gotten outside of University, but these things are always skewed towards Uni students, for the simple fact that they have more resources and media attention than most other tertiary education providers. Coupled with the fact that it won’t apply to those of us who have been students and are currently in debt and could do with some alleviation of that debt, it is sizing up to be rather an elitist policy. Many poor people won’t go for it because they need to work for a living more than they need to gain qualifications. They have young children so they need to work, or sick parents, or other such obligations. It’s certainly not going to be how we are now imagining it.

    Why don’t Labour raise the threshold at which you have to start paying back your student loan? I have previously worked full-time, anywhere from 35 hours to 45 hours per week, normally 42 or 43 hours, at the minimum wage rate which was then a measly $12.00 per hour. I was working with a lot of people who got paid 20 to 30 percent more than me, were worse workers than me by far, and didn’t have a student loan to repay, so I felt insulted that I had to pay $15.00 to $25.00 per week back to clear my student loan. It may not seem like much to repay each week, but when you are on minimum wage, and have to pay at-market prices for groceries and accommodation, it is actually a lot. On the plus side, I managed to clear sixty percent of my student loan within two years.

    But I just think that Labour should concentrate instead on increasing the repayment threshold for student loans, for both current and future tertiary students, instead of worrying about this three free years of tertiary study policy. It makes more sense to me, and I’m sure a lot of other people as well. To me, it isn’t right that people who are working for the minimum wage and have one full-time job as their only source of income, should have to make student loan repayments. The whole idea of people going into tertiary study in the first place is to get a decent paying job and contribute to society as much as they are possible to do so (hello, graduated personal income taxation system), so the Government of the day should honour that concept through their policies.

    Comment by Daniel Lang — February 4, 2016 @ 12:49 pm

  69. I was working with a lot of people who got paid 20 to 30 percent more than me, were worse workers than me by far, and didn’t have a student loan to repay, so I felt insulted that I had to pay $15.00 to $25.00 per week back to clear my student loan.

    Welcome to the real world, Daniel!
    Surprisingly, you’ll find yourself working with people you are think of as idiots who get paid more than you. Rest assured there is always someone below you on the ladder who bitches about you in exactly the same manner.

    FYI, in grown-up land, if you take out a loan under an entirely voluntary contract, you pay it back, even if in hindsight it was a silly idea! These are also sometimes known as personal loans, credit cards bills and mortgages.
    Taking it as an “insult” is generally regarded as woe-is-me whinging.

    I would recommend you take take a concrete pill and harden the fuck up, or this life will sorely disappoint you.

    Comment by Gregor W — February 4, 2016 @ 2:02 pm

  70. I would say that swearing in response to a comment as mild as mine is inappropriate, plus the point was not that I was not willing to pay it back (“on the plus side, I was able to pay back sixty percent of it within two years”), but rather that I was only paid minimum wage and the point of taking on tertiary study is to obtain decent paying employment.

    Many people, especially those on the activist left, would opine that tertiary education should be free. I feel that it should not be free. I believe in paying for my tertiary education. However, I feel that the income threshold with which you have to start making student loan repayments is artificially low and should be increased. I feel that Labour should focus on increasing this threshold, instead of making tertiary education free for three years for our next generations. Otherwise, my generation will be known as the ‘lost generation’ and the economic and social impacts of this policy on New Zealand society will result in my generation being even older than the average age is now with which to start having children, and the upcoming generations will have the advantage of free tertiary education for three years and will, in all likelihood, start having children at an artificially low wage.

    The impact of many people having children when they are young is that they are likely to depend on the Government for the partial or full living expenses of their children, even if they do receive free tertiary education for three years; and it is likely to place a burden on superannuation. So it creates another baby-boomer situation, and we do not need another one of those.

    Also, I know of people who work for minimum wage for only 30 – 35 hours per week who have to repay their student loan, and this isn’t right. They are, for all intents and purposes, living in poverty. And they have to pay back their student loan when they can ill afford it? When they got tertiary education to better themselves? When they could have just gone on a benefit and had no burden of debt? No way! That is unacceptable, in my humble opinion.

    I do agree with you about the ‘envy ladder’, although that is a societal phenomenon that has nothing to do with my opinion about the tertiary education policy. My idea makes more sense than Labour’s. Simple.

    I also have had the privilege to have my attitude and views without life sorely disappointing me. I can roll with the punches as well as anyone. Lord knows there’s certainly been enough of them. But this isn’t about my personal life, so I’ll excuse you for making it seem that way. It is about policy.

    Comment by Daniel Lang — February 4, 2016 @ 2:35 pm

  71. Wages in NZ are pitiful. This is in some regard due to unions that have become a glorified finishing school for people who have few ambitions beyond lining their own pockets with a life-long sinecure as a ‘public servant’ (or MP), WFF subsidising businesses and incentivising them to pay less than they should because the taxpayer is picking up the slack and businesses unable to compete with (subsidized) overseas producers or low-wage economies. So free education won’t automatically result in a better wage not in NZ, ot unless one can get into the ‘let them eat cake’ end of the market as a plutocrat, diplomat politician or at the upper-end of Public Service, or take the ‘free’ education and then sell it overseas. Recent example – people I know who are going to London to teach for a couple of years so they can save for a deposit on a house in NZ, because the wages for teachers (like for like) here, are shit.

    Comment by leeharmanclark — February 4, 2016 @ 8:31 pm

  72. @leeharmanclark – I have to say I agree. I too have heard about people going overseas to teach because the pay is better. Some of that is due to the exchange rate though. Anyway, although people are generally paid poorly in New Zealand, it’s not all about wages. The Government lets landlords charge whatever they want and this has had a detrimental effect on tenants in Christchurch since the Earthquakes. The rise in GST from 12.5% under Labour to 15% under National has put red meat and dairy items out of the reach of low-income families. There’s certainly a broad range of issues which need to be dealth with, as I’m sure you’ll agree.

    Comment by Daniel Lang — February 5, 2016 @ 1:16 pm

  73. The Government lets landlords charge whatever they want and this has had a detrimental effect on tenants in Christchurch since the Earthquakes.

    They went up after the earthquake, but last year rent in Christchurch fell by 8%. You want to stop this movement and have the government set rental pricing?

    http://www.trademe.co.nz/property/price-index/for-rent/

    Comment by unaha-closp — February 5, 2016 @ 2:12 pm

  74. The rise in GST from 12.5% under Labour to 15% under National has put red meat and dairy items out of the reach of low-income families

    Sure, because there were plenty of low-income families buying Rump Steak for dinner 3 nights a week at $21.30/kg, but it’s far too expensive now that it’s $21.80/kg (assuming $19/kg excl GST)

    Comment by Phil — February 5, 2016 @ 2:47 pm

  75. Sorry to keep riding my one-trick pony through this thread, but I thought I should share this with you:
    http://pus.sagepub.com/content/25/1/61.abstract
    Communicating science in public controversies: Strategic considerations of the German climate scientists

    Abstract
    In public controversies on scientific issues, scientists likely consider the effects of their findings on journalists and on the public debate. A representative survey of 123 German climate scientists (42%) finds that although most climate scientists think that uncertainties about climate change should be made clearer in public they do not actively communicate this to journalists. Moreover, the climate scientists fear that their results could be misinterpreted in public or exploited by interest groups. Asking scientists about their readiness to publish one of two versions of a fictitious research finding shows that their concerns weigh heavier when a result implies that climate change will proceed slowly than when it implies that climate change will proceed fast.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — February 13, 2016 @ 12:53 pm

  76. “If a scientist is given a grant from the public purse to research if A affects B and then suppresses the results because she finds out it does not (or might not) [accord with current narrative] then she is guilty of misconduct.

    If the grant making authority allows the scientist to simply drop the research without publishing the negative results then they are guilty of wasting public money.”

    Comment by Clunking Fist — February 13, 2016 @ 12:55 pm

  77. A warning to “our kids” (TM liberals):
    Don’t study climate science: there’s no jobs in it anymore.

    http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/climate-will-be-all-gone-as-csiro-swings-jobs-axe-scientists-say-20160203-gml7jy.html

    Comment by Clunking Fist — February 13, 2016 @ 4:05 pm


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