Is life too safe?

April 28, 2008

Bill Ralston writes in this week’s Listener about keeping kids safe and says: Kids do face a larger array of hazards than their parents did. But the biggest problem they face is not being armed with the fundamentals of life – a set of core values.


His view is reinforced by this true story: A university student told her mother that she had been talking to her friends and they’d all concluded how lucky they were to have been brought up in families where their parents loved each other and their children; set them boundaries and made them face consequences when they breached them; modelled work ethics, taught them the value of money and the importance of  values including honesty, kindness, consideration and respect for themselves and others. The mother was touched but she was also saddened because when she’d been 21 she’d have taken these things for granted because they would have been normal; obviously her daughter and her friends didn’t because they no longer are.


There are many reasons for this, one of which is the intrusion of the state into people’s lives. Of course there must be some rules and safeguards, but those who try to make the world really safe, not just for children but for all of us, actually make it more dangerous because we stop taking responsibility for ourselves.


Personal responsibility is one of the core values, like the others the students recognised, that used to be common place, but isn’t so common anymore. Bill refers to Principal Youth Court Judge, Andrew Becroft’s appeal for schools to help those kids whose families don’t teach them personal values. I am wary of putting more on to already over-loaded teachers and I also wonder how much can be taught at school if it’s not being modelled at home and in society at large.


The following verse is supposedly written on the tomb of a bishop in the crypts of Westminster Abby:


Start with yourself


When I was young and free and my imagination

had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As

I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world

would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat

and decided to change only my country.


But it too seemed immovable.


As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate

attempt, I settled for changing only my family,

those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it.


And now as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realise:

If I had only changed myself first, then by example

I would have changed my family.


From their inspiration and encouragement, I would

then have been able to better my country and,

who knows, I may have even changed the world.



GST on food

April 28, 2008

A good tax may be an oxymoron but a simple tax is better and GST is simple.


Sharp increases in the price of groceries have resulted in calls for food to be exempt from GST and now the Herald reports a petition has been launched: 


But making exemptions to GST would create complications, making it more difficult and expensive to administer and operate; and it would mask the symptoms rather than solving the problem.


It would be extremely difficult to justify exempting luxury food from GST, but how do you draw the line between luxury and necessity? In Australia that has led to a confusing judgements: bread and lettuce are exempt from GST but a salad sandwich isn’t; a raw chicken is GST free but the same bird would incur the tax if sold cooked.


The problem of affordability of food is not GST. It is partly a result of global influences one of which is that vast areas of land which were producing food are now growing crops for bio-fuels.


It is also because we are a relatively low waged, high taxed economy. Both those problems would be better addressed by lowering income taxes rather than by tinkering with GST.

%d bloggers like this: