I’d be prepared to pay a bit more tax for . . .

August 19, 2014

About half the people polled in Britain say they would be prepared to pay a bit more tax if it went directly to the health service.

That is what they say but Tim Worstall points out what people say is not the same as what they do.

. . .The reason it’s not true is our old friend revealed preferences. We should never try to divine what people really want from what they say: we should instead look at what they do. And we do have a method of being able to pay extra tax: simply send the cheque to “The Accountant, 2 Horse Guards Road, London SW1″ and they’re absolutely delighted to apply it to whatever area of public spending you wish to inform them you favour. Admittedly it’s a few years since I looked into this but in that year an entire 5 people had actually done so and four of them were dead, leaving bequests.

So revealed preferences tells us that exactly one live person was actually willing to pay higher taxes for any reason at all, not just for the NHS. . .

Would a poll in New Zealand have a similar result?

Probably, but anyone in New Zealand could send money to Treasury or the ministry or department of their choice now but how many do?

I suspect it is very, very few.

I used to be deputy chair of a health board and we often got donations from grateful patients and their families.

A whole range of charities which work in areas where the government provides services survive on donations from thousands of people.

Would those people give as much if they paid more tax?

Would they prefer to pay more tax than to keep more of their own money to do with it what they wished?

They might say yes would but their actions suggest a very strong no.

Government services need our tax revenue but it takes more than a dollar in tax to provide a dollar of services.

Most of us would prefer to keep more of our own money and be free to donate directly to organisations where every cent gets to the destination we choose.

Every organisation has administration costs but with some administration costs are covered by local committee fund raising, and donations all go to projects. Save the Children is one which operates in this way.


NZ 4th best place for mothers but . . .

May 9, 2012

New Zealand is 4th best in Save the Children’s State of the World’s Mother’s report.

European countries – along with Australia and New Zealand – dominate the top positions while countries in sub-Saharan Africa dominate the lowest tier. The United States places 25th this year.

Most industrialized countries cluster tightly at the top of the  Index – with the majority of these countries performing well on all indicators – the highest ranking countries attain very high scores for mothers’ and children’s health, educational and economic status.

The 10 bottom-ranked countries in this year’s  Mother’s Index are a reverse image of the top 10, performing poorly on all indicators. Conditions for mothers and their children in these countries are devastating.

The top 10 places to be a mother are: Norway, Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand, Denmark, Finland, Australia, Belgium, Ireland and Netherlands/ United Kingdon.

The worst 10 are: ( from 156 to 165) DR Congo, South Sudan, Sudan, Chad, Eritrea, Mali, Guinea-Bissau, Yemen, Afghanistan and Niger.

 . . .The contrast between the top-ranked country, Norway, and the lowest ranked country, Niger, is striking. Skilled health personnel are present at virtually every birth in Norway, while only 1 in 3 births are attended in Niger.

In Norway, nearly 40 percent of parliamentary seats are held by women; in Niger only 13 percent are. A typical Norwegian girl can expect to receive 18 years of formal education and will live to be over 83 years old. Eighty-two percent of women are using some modern method of contraception, and only 1 mother in 175 is likely to lose a child before his or her fifth birthday. At the opposite end of the spectrum, in Niger, a typical girl receives only 4 years of education and lives to only 56. Only 5 percent of women are using modern contraception, and 1 child in 7 dies before his or her fifth birthday. This means that every mother in Niger is likely to suffer the loss of a child. . .

The report recommends increased funding to improve education for women and girls, provide access to maternal and child health and advance women’s economic opportunities.

It also recommends improving current research and conducting new studies that focus on mothers’ and children’s well-being and for governments and communities in developed countries to work together to improved education and health care for disadvantaged mothers and children.

Save the Children says simple measures could save lives:

In new research for the report, Save the Children found that the simple measure of supporting mothers to breastfeed could save one million children’s lives a year. Yet the report also shows that less than 40% of all infants in developing countries receive the full benefits of exclusive breastfeeding. This is due, in part, to countries lacking strong commitment and complimentary programs that enable mothers to breastfeed. When the two do combine, the report shows that it can have success even in low-income countries, as it has done in Malawi and Madagascar.

“Our research shows that a mother’s breast milk — one single nutrition intervention — can save a million children’s lives each year,” said Miles. “All mothers should have the support they need to choose to breastfeed if they want to. Breastfeeding is good for babies no matter where they live, but in developing countries, especially those without access to clean water, breastfeeding can be a matter of life or death.”

This pre-supposes the mother has sufficient nutrition to breast feed and sadly this will not always be the case in the worst performing countries.

There is no comparison between conditions for those at the bottom and those at the top of this list but there is no room for complacency here.

The release today of the coroner’s report on the death of a new born boy is a sad reminder of that.


Laugh for peace

September 21, 2011

Three years ago I did a bungy jump from the bridge across the Kawarau River.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I enjoyed the experience but it has had a positive impact on my life.

Now when I am faced with something challenging I think, if I can throw myself off a bridge then  I can do this.

What’s more as a result of that jump I now deliberately do something outside my comfort zone at least once a year because I know I can and feel better for it.

I tackled this year’s challenge last weekend. It was a Laughter Yoga workshop which though challenging in anticipation was not at all challenging in the doing.

The premise behind Laughter Yoga is that anyone can laugh for no reason without relying on or resorting to comedy, humour or jokes.

In a LY session laughter is initiated through laughter exercises then with eye contact and childlike (but not childish) playfulness it soon turns into real and contagious laughter.

Its called LY because laughter exercises are combined with yoga breathing, bringing more oxygen into the body and brain which boosts energy, health and well being.

LY is backed up by science, including the fact that the body can’t differentiate between fake and real laughter if it’s done willingly. Whether you’re faking it or laughing for real you get the same physiological and psychological benefits.

LY was started by a medical doctor, Dr Madan Kataria, with just five people in a Mumbai park. There are now thousands of laughter clubs in more than 65 countries.

Last weekend a dozen learners and two facilitators of us gathered in the Otago Pioneer Women’s hall (a gem of a building in Moray Place which I must have passed by hundreds of times without ever noticing).

We learned about the four stages of LY through doing – starting with clapping, then deep breathing and stretching followed by laughter exercises and relaxation/meditation.

I did a short session by myself on Monday which wasn’t as much fun as the groups ones had been, but still gave similar benefits afterwards and I went down to Dunedin for a Laughter Yoga session  last night.

It didn’t feel physically demanding at the time but I’m noticing stomach muscles I obviously hadn’t used for a long time.

I’m also feeling more relaxed, energised and in control than I have for longer than I can remember.

Laughter Yoga isn’t magic but it’s cast a spell over me and I’m loving it.

One of the exercises you can do is laughter arguing. You sit in pairs back to back, tell each other exactly what you think – at the same time, in gibberish with an Italian accent.

I defy you to stay angry after that which shows that LY isn’t only good for individuals but for relationships.

A smile is the shortest bridge between two people, if smiling and laughing work between individuals why not groups, communities and even countries?

Why not laugh for peace?

Today is the International Day of Peace (Facebook page here) and this post is a contribution to Save the Children’s blog for peace. There is more on their Facebook page.

Blog for Peace website badge

You can read more about LY at Laughteryoga.org on Facebook and YouTube.

Other blog posts for peace:

(I’ll update this as I come across them, please feel free to leave links in the comments).

My blog for Peace: From Battle Parent to Peace Parent in the Autism World at Autism and Oughtisms.


Children are dying

November 5, 2009

The headlines says: Climate change could kill 250,000 children.

The story quotes Save the Children saying climate change could kill that many children next year and the death toll could rise to 400,000 by 2030.

In a new report Save the Children claims that climate change is the biggest global health threat to children in the 21st century as droughts and floods force families to leave their homes and children to drop out of school. Starvation and economic collapse caused by natural disasters could even lead to more child trafficking and child labour.

Let’s not get into whether or not the climate is changing and if it is whether or not human activity is responsible for it.

Let’s ask instead is the study which resulted in this conclusion the best use of the charity’s limited funds and resources?

I have a lot of respect for Save the Children and donate to it. I particularly like the way money donated for a purpose goes to that purpose and that the bulk of head office overheads, in New Zealand at least, is paid for by branch fund raising.

In North Otago this is done by a small group of volunteers whose activities include running a shop and contributing to its stock with home made jam and other produce. (It’s worth a stop if you’re passing through Oamaru).

They do so because they want to help the millions of children in need today and that’s where the charity should direct its resources.

Save the Children should stick to saving the children who are dying now as the result of natural and political disasters. There are plenty of others with less pressing immediate needs who can campaign over what could cause children to die in the future.


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