Quotes of the month

July 1, 2020

The government needed to go big, leaning on the government balance sheet is the best response in the near-term. I have two concerns. I don’t think we have a well thought out economic plan on the other side and I think people will get increasingly concerned about how we’ll get debt down – Cameron Bagrie

I was a good soldier under levels 4 and 3; I obeyed all the rules but now – there’s an oppositionally defiant child in me, screaming to be let out. – Kerre McIvor

Do you honestly think the bright and resourceful, the skilled and experienced, having lost their jobs in a fashion they could never see coming, are going to sit by and watch their prospects, futures and dreams be put on hold … or even worse … welfare? Especially when just three hours away is a country that offers work, a future, and an attitude to Covid and adversity that’s a lesson in balance, risk, common sense, and will ultimately pay greater economic dividends. – Mike Hosking

I think it is also important that farmers feel part of the nation’s family, that they are valued and are not ostracised. Not only for their own businesses, but also the downstream businesses that they support [with] their own farming and horticultural operations. David Bennett

Belonging is a fundamental human need. When this need is not met, it is hard to feel a sense of purpose. Right now, farmers and food producers are starting to feel they belong again; they have a clear sense of purpose – to feed the nation and deliver economic stability. – Lindy Nelson

The mixed messages of recent days notwithstanding, most New Zealanders will welcome and take in their stride the pending return to something approaching the normality they knew, albeit with a typically quiet sense of pride at what they have been able to achieve. They will be hoping Covid19 shows no sign of a significant return during the coming winter months, as we begin to reopen our border. So too will the government and the public health authorities. For they know only too well that the level of sudden public compliance and acquiescence achieved during the lockdowns was but a moment in time – a shocked reaction to what was happening overseas and the abrupt arrival of circumstances that no-one had properly anticipated. It is unlikely to be achievable to the same extent even if future circumstances warrant it. Peter Dunne

I believe the word success is so important and that word success covers winning or it covers growing. – Dame Lois Muir

After suffering a housefire, an underinsured household would likely need to take on debt to deal with the problem – and that could be fine. But if it then took the opportunity to add a swimming pool to the property, while pushing the mortgage amount to the upper limit, one might wonder about the household’s prudence.

Similarly, the elected Government has been adding metaphorical swimming pools to its shopping list by extending the 2020 Budget beyond what was necessary to deal with the Covid crisis. This raises sharp questions about the Government’s commitment both to fiscal prudence and the Public Finance Act.Eric Crampton

Changes in usage and semantics, when imposed, are usually exercises in power. These days, pressure for their adoption, like censorship, comes not from government but from pressure groups, small but well-organised and determined. Resistance in small things to monomania not being worth the effort among the better balance, the changes first go by default and then become habitual. – Theodore Dalrymple

Taking down statues and hiding our history is often not the answer to this problem. Instead, why not discuss moving statues to more appropriate locations? Why not add information around these monuments to present a more complete view of these figures? Take this opportunity to learn and understand the context in which the events commemorated by the monument occurred. . . Equally importantly, we must think and learn about the absent figures. Which people and events are not commemorated in public monuments and why is this the case? Absences can tell us as much about people’s understanding of history as the figures that were chosen. Absences can also show us where there are opportunities for future commemorations: to add these missing groups to our historical understanding as well as to our public record.  . . .

There is no right answer to how we should remember these figures – they come with significant achievements and often major failings. The only answer, for me, is that neither aspect of these figures should be forgotten. History must be allowed to be told in full – warts and all. Let discussion and debate take the place of anger and resentment. Let us use this opportunity as a time to change the way we view history; to shift our understanding of the past and to give future generations the opportunity to see history from a different perspective. . . Let our statues and monuments provoke debate and challenge us to think deeply about our past – let us not hide them all away to be forgotten. – Hayden Thorne

For most journalists, reporting the truth is an art form that leaves no margin for error. You either get it right the first time or your readers become confused about their own responsibilities when reacting to stories that must be taken at face value. Sadly, many in this ancient honourable profession have recently thrown in their lot with political forces that share their personal ideological persuasion with a result that truth is the casualty and the instability that is a consequence continues unchecked. – Clive Bibby

There is great danger in judging history by our standards, or rewriting it to modern tastes. It is simply bad history to morally look down on people who were not equipped to think differently. It’s our failure of imagination not to grasp this. It misses the really important question: why did those societies change? . . . The genius of Western civilisation is its progress through self-awareness and self-criticism. That created the endless debates that led to empirical science, protection under the rule of law, and self-rule through democracy. This allowed it to fix its errors and aberrations, ending slavery, propagating the ideas that undermined its own colonialism, making the sexes equal, and outlawing racial discrimination and intolerance. – AFR View

History, it is what it is. Good, bad and ugly, but I think it’s a good impetus for our country to learn our history. – Meng Foon

Once we stop laughing at ourselves we begin to lose our soulsPaddy Briggs

There is now an immediate need to assign accountability to the individuals or groups responsible for putting the community at risk. And this leads to the greater need for a royal commission to critically examine this current problem and many others, in the overall way that Covid-19 had been dealt with.

From the first national diagnosis of the Covid-19 crisis all the way to the recovery processes, a royal commission should be tasked with reviewing it all: the health, scientific, economic, constitutional, legal and cultural elements of the event.

This would provide a public record of what worked, what didn’t, what gaps were apparent and what could be improved next time. And it is the next time we have to be particularly worried about. Pandemics are an intergenerational problem, and what we are enduring will not be the last such experience. – Alexander Gillespie

The management of people arriving at the border has cost the government $81 million so far. That’s a lot of money to spend on a sieve when you needed – and thought you were buying – a top-quality bucket.  – Point of Order

Many people — and especially those who live in Bristol — have discovered Newton’s Third Law of Statues. Put crudely, it amounts to ‘you wreck one of ours, we wreck one of yours’. . . From the beginning, any protest outside the US reeked of entitlement and thrill-seeking. Everyone involved desperately needs to look up ‘negative externalities’ in the dictionary, although ‘doing something you like while shitting on other people’ is a useful definition. Antifa especially combines monstrous privilege with what philosopher John Gray calls ‘the problem of being lightly educated’.  Helen Dale

Kindness isn’t achievable without action.Andrea Vance

In saying, “we don’t want a witch hunt” what you’re really saying is: We expect you in the private sector to follow all the rules but we won’t. – Kate Hawkesby

Now when I feel sad, I’m gentle with myself, I don’t run from sadness.  I don’t seek to lift myself out of sadness. I have to sit with it. I think about self care, snuggly clothes, being kind to myself.I – Lotta Dann

Even if a prime minister is not technically responsible for the blunders of her ministries, the idea that someone can be in charge but not responsible will seem plainly wrong to most people. In fact, most people’s ideas about leadership can be summed up by the sign that US President Harry Truman’s kept on his desk in the Oval Office: “The buck stops here.” – Graham Adams

To reiterate, we believe in freedom of speech for all; these clients have decided to leave because we did not meet their demands to be re-educated to their point of view.  – Blair Partnership

“In light of the bungles at the border, it’s become abundantly clear that we didn’t beat Covid-19 with competence. . . But good luck won’t build smart borders, get the economy restarted, or pay back the debt. – David Seymour

I make mistakes at work too. And some mornings, around this time of year, after the weather’s changed and the city is wreathed in rain and drowned in mist and I have to commute to campus via a public transport system that’s a chaotic, unreliable mess, I try to persuade myself I should “work from home”. I generally force myself to go into work. But if I do stay home, then find myself making mistakes that might kill hundreds of people and cause billions of dollars damage to the economy, I like to think I’ll go back into the office. Even if it’s raining. – Danyl Mclauchlan 

“Operational matters” aren’t a get-out-of-responsibility-free card. “Operational matters” can be substituted in most sentences for “things that happened”. – Toby Manhire

Is there ever a time when the job of the media, the Opposition and academia should be diverted from the task of speaking truth to power? That’s debatable – but holding back is not what we need now. – Liam Hehir

I’m sick of these politicians making grand promises that we can all see are completely unachievable. Thinking we believe them means two things. They’re either deluded and incompetent. Or they think we’re all stupid and we’ll never notice. It’s probably a bit of both – Andrew Dickens

Holding the powerful to account is the cornerstone of journalism. It is not the only reason for our existence; I like to think we also contribute to the sense of community that binds us; I saw many lovely examples of that during the pandemic. And mostly we like to tell interesting stories about the people and places around us. But we also believe passionately in the power of the written word and its ability to challenge our assumptions. We need that during this election campaign more than any other, surely? – Tracy Watkins

You know, the 17-year-old solo mum who dropped out of school ended up being deputy prime minister of this country, and when I looked at that and what I’d achieve I knew that I could draw a line very proudly and comfortably under that and move on to my next challenge. – Paula Bennett

I set about reforming the welfare system, with more emphasis on what people could do, increasing our expectation on people to get work-ready and look for a job and changing the system so more help was available for them. . . I get that people won’t agree with everything that we did, but we were ambitious and I believed in people and their abilities, and I do despair at the moment that there’s an expectation that a lifetime on welfare can be an option for people and it almost feels encouraged, whereas I think it should be a backstop. – Paula Bennett

I was forced to think about what leadership means – what is the basic statement one can use to describe at a fundamental basis what leadership is. What I came up with, while not anything earth-shattering, was that “leadership is about giving the credit and taking the blame”. – Ben Kepes

She was the galah in a cage of budgies. Claire Trevett

Government essentially reinvented the wheel, and when the wheel eventually turned up, it was wonky. – Louis Houlbrooke

Too many politicians these days are too manufactured, too inauthentic, spend too much time on focus group research and advice on how to talk to people. Here’s a tip – just talk. Be yourself. – Kate Hawkesby


Importing indignation

June 11, 2020

The murder of George Floyd was heinous and the protests in his home state and home country are understandable.

But do those protesting understand what Theodore Dalrymple calls those pesky statistics?:

To the citizens of most Western countries, the numbers of people killed by the American police are rather surprising, to say the least, but so are the numbers of police killed.

Roughly speaking, a policeman in the United States is about fifty times more likely to be killed than to kill, and this is without taking into consideration that the majority of the killings by the police are at least prima facie justified by self-defense or the interruption or prevention of a serious crime. Let us exclude only half of those killings on these grounds (probably a gross underestimate): This means that a policeman is 100 times more likely to be killed than to kill.

Let us also suppose that the police are killed by black and white in the same proportion as blacks and whites commit homicide in general (again, a generous, that is to say a conservative, assumption). This means that a policeman is about fifteen times more likely to be killed by a black man than to kill a black man, and again this is not to take into account the fact that many of the police killings would be at least prima facie justified.

A black man is about thirty times more likely to be killed by another black man than to be killed by a policeman (and some of the police are themselves black, of course). A white man is only fifteen times more likely to be killed by someone of any race than to be killed by a policeman. Are the police biased against whites? . . 

None of this alters the individual responsibility of the policeman who must surely have caused the death of George Floyd. (Would the latter have died anyway, even if not under arrest and treated in the way he was treated?) Nor does it alter the responsibility of the accessories before the fact. But it does cast a strange light on the rioters, and even on the peaceful demonstrators, most of whom seem to have expressed little concern, much less moral outrage, at the much more frequent murder of blacks by other blacks, or at the comparatively high rate of the murder of policemen. (The general homicide rate in the U.S. is about five per 100,000, that of policemen fifteen per 100,000.).

Now, it might be argued that an unjustified killing by an agent of the state is far worse than any other kind of killing, so raw statistics do not apply. I can see that this argument has a certain force. On the other hand, the killing of an agent of law and order also has a special seriousness, for it undermines law and order itself. And egalitarians who uphold the sanctity of (or at least the inalienable right to) human life are ill-placed to claim that one killing is worse than another. . . 

Black lives matter, all lives matter.

So why no marches for the persecution of Christians ‘at near genocide levels’?

Why no protests against all sorts of atrocities in many different countries?

Is there something about the USA that makes this crime much, much worse than many others committed in many other countries?

And why are we importing indignation anyway? Don’t we have more than enough to be protesting about here?

How about the death of one year-old Sofia Taueki-Jackson a couple of weeks ago?

Or the four year old Flaxmere boy who has been discharged from hospital where he was being treated for permanent and severe brain damage?

Perhaps it’s too soon to be indignant about the unexplained death of a young child in Palmerston North. It might have been the result of illness or accident.

Or it might have been yet another to add to the sorry toll of babies and children maltreated and killed far closer to home than Minneapolis.

Anna Leask wrote of the 61 little names on New Zealand’s roll of dishonour:

A child is killed every five weeks, putting us high on list of world’s worst offenders.

Sixty-one. It’s the number of children who have died as a result of non-accidental injuries in New Zealand in the last 10 years.

Their names are scars on a shameful landscape of child abuse – Chris and Cru Kahui who would have turned 10 today, Nia Glassie, JJ Ruhe-Lawrence, Jyniah Te Awa.

Thirty-one of those young ones were violently assaulted. They were kicked, punched, thrown, stomped or bashed to the point of death.

New Zealand has the fifth worst child abuse record out of 31 OECD countries and on average a child is killed here every five weeks. . . 

That was written four years ago. How many more little names have been added to that roll of dishonour since then?

The Child Matters website says:

Between 1 January 2019 and 30 November 2019, 11 children and young people have died as a result of homicide in New Zealand.

The Homicide Report

Released 13 May 2019

  • Every 8th homicide victim in New Zealand from 2004 to 31 March 2019 was a child
  • More than two thirds of the victims were aged 2 or under
  • Of the cases where the killer’s relationship to the victim was known, 27% were mothers, 24% were fathers, and 17% were de facto partners.

We don’t need to import indignation, there’s far too much here that ought to be raising anger and sorrow.

So why have the protests in the wake of Floyd’s death spread here?

Is it because it’s far easier to borrow another country’s ire than address the problems in our own?

Or is the murder just an excuse for protests that are really about thinly veiled anti-Americanism?


Quotes of the month

June 1, 2020

Our primary industries are the ones that have propped it [the economy] up. We can’t keep borrowing money. Money doesn’t come from out of thin air and if there are jobs there, let us work.

“Don’t give us job centres for queues of people lining up for jobs that aren’t there. We have these jobs sitting under our noses. – Tania Gibson

We need you to accept that there is a problem, see what the problem is, and fix the problem and make sure that the problem never happens again. – Dr Jan White

Vaccine shortages have dogged previous flu and measles campaigns, and doctors have called this year’s flu campaign a “complete debacle”.

It has become abundantly clear that despite the Government’s rejection of such an assertion, a debacle is exactly what it is.  Michael Morrah

The stakes are higher than any election since 1984 because a second-term Ardern Government will have a mandate and an appetite for the largest expansion of the state since Robert Muldoon’s Think Big schemes and endless tinkering beggared the country.  – Damien Grant

The public is putting an immense amount of trust in the Government as it circumvents the usual checks and balances to get us through this crisis. But trust is earned. It’s also key to maintaining social cohesion. – Jenée Tibshraeny

The calamitous way in which Parliament turned Inland Revenue into a small business lender , without a single MP realising they were doing so, is a sign that the time is well past for greater scrutiny to return.

The Government’s refusal to release the advice it used as the basis of its decision to place New Zealand into a highly restrictive lockdown is coming close to an abuse of the extraordinary trust the public has granted it.Hamish Rutherford

No policy decision is costless. Advocates of a longer extension expound the benefits of the approach they advocate; they often are less forthcoming on the costs. The costs of our lockdown could well be slower coming through than the corona virus itself, they are costs that we as the citizens will sooner or later have to bear. – Wyatt Creech

He turns being artless into an art form; he is a Picasso of pettiness; a Shakespeare of shit. His faults are fractal: even his flaws have flaws, and so on ad infinitum. Nate White

One of the worst effects of a lack of understanding of risk management is the precautionary principle. This is the belief that unless you have complete knowledge about the likelihood and impact of the risk, either you shouldn’t take any action at all (e.g. not allowing the trial of a new drug) or you should go all-out to prevent the risk eventuating (e.g. locking down the population in a pandemic). – Kiwiwit

We’ve elected politicians without enough prior life tests and career leadership experience  to exercise democratic control. Without authoritative experienced oversight, some official cultures will inevitably become immune to their own convenient cruelty. “Be kind” means nothing without the leadership diligence that makes it practical, everyday, and integrated among all the other demands of hard decision-making.  Stephen Franks

People talk a big game about moving away from eating meat, and no doubt tell researchers they are vegetarian when asked – but when they get home they are tucking into a big porterhouse. – Trent Thorne

We are very good at managing weeds and pests. Had the Department of Conservation taken it over I don’t know that the same standard of management would have been there to look after it. They don’t have the budget.

“And it would be devastating to watch it fill up with wildings and be overrun by rabbits again.

“They’re very complex places to run and if all of the high country farmers stopped farming it would be a huge burden on the taxpayer to actually manage that land.Andrew Simpson

A lot of farmers, particularly our young farmers, have found themselves in a very lonely place in the last five years.

“I like to think the understanding might shift as people get to understand where their food comes from.

“And it’s our interests to tell our story so that people do understand. We still grow food, and we love the land. The two can coexist. – Andrew Simpson

A human life, it will be said, is of incalculable value, and in some metaphysical sense this is so. Usually we do not value people’s lives in dollars and cents, and we would regard anyone who did so with horror or disgust. But at the same time, we know that in practice we do place a value on people’s lives. We would think it right to spend more on saving a child’s life at the age of 3 than to spend it on prolonging the life of a 95-year-old by five minutes. The relative values of human lives may not be calculable in any precise sense, but where choices have to be made and resources are scarce (as they always are), we make them.

Sacrificing life to maintain normal life may not therefore be a monstrous policy, though the question of how much life can be sacrificed for how much normality is very difficult to answer, because neither the quantity of life sacrificed nor the amount of normality preserved can be known, certainly not in advance, and perhaps not even in retrospect, for there are so many variables that might account for differences. Besides, the two—life lost and economic collapse—are incommensurable. – Theodore Dalrymple

The shackles should be discarded and ministers should be open to scrutiny. If they can’t be trusted to answer questions about their portfolios, they shouldn’t be ministers. – Derek Cheng

Fundamentally, this is a story of two governments and their differing response to the crisis. The Australian Government has committed to preserving jobs by keeping the economy going, no doubt aware that creating a job is so much harder than preserving one. On the other hand, the New Zealand Government chose instead to shut down the economy. As a result, I believe thousands of businesses will close or drastically shrink, and unemployment will grow significantly.

The initial focus by Governments in both countries was quite rightly the health and well-being of the citizens. Australia and New Zealand have achieved admirable results compared to many other countries, particularly the comparatively low number and rate of deaths from COVID-19. The number of deaths per 100,000 population in both countries is much the same. However, the big difference is that Australia will emerge with their economy virtually intact, while we have done serious damage to ours. There is significant business failure happening now in New Zealand that could have been avoided, and still can be in my opinion. –  Lee Short

I see a stark difference between the wealth creators and those untouched and shielded from the impact on the business world. They are not having their pay slashed and are not suffering unemployment or the threat of it. Business owners and employees provide the wealth that funds those in the public service. They take risks, many borrowing substantial sums, some making sacrifices for years. The result is companies that pay tax and employ staff who pay tax. These taxes keep those in public service in employment.Lee Short

Those of us whose adult lives have largely played out over the last four decades should be grateful that we have lived through the best of times, but we owe it to our children and grandchildren to give them at least the same opportunities that we have had to enjoy happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. How we handle the recovery from Covid-19 will determine whether we do so.Kiwiwit

There is not one person in the Government that has a plan or can articulate a plan.  A plan has a start, a process and a goal….not one Minister can articulate what that plan is. Instead, it’s panic and continue to employ as many people as possible. That is not a plan’s arsehole. – Paul Henry

No opinion is worth expressing that is not also worth contradicting (except, perhaps, this one); nevertheless, clichés have their attraction. They are the teddy-bears of the mind, or, to change the metaphor slightly, the mental lifebuoys we cling to in times of stormy intellectual or political weather. They are the sovereign remedy for thought, which is always a rather painful activity. –  Theodore Dalrymple

 Is mastery of this kind of meaningless verbalisation, eloquently empty and passionately delivered, the key to political success? And if so what does it say of us, the citizens of democracies? – Theodore Dalrymple

As is quite often the case, hiding in the great mound of high-sounding bilge are quite nasty sentiments that would, if taken seriously (which thankfully they will not be), lead straight to a totalitarian society. . . It has long been my opinion that inside every sentimentalist there is a despot trying to get out. – Theodore Dalrymple

Except that people will remember the sectors that helped them get through – agriculture and horticulture. They might also remember that the air became cleaner during the pandemic, and that the rivers ran clear. The environmental impact of reduction in transport has been noticed globally. The clarity of waterways has featured on RNZ with commentators noting bird song and clear water… because building and roadworks had stopped. No mention was made of the fact that agriculture and horticulture continued, nor that there had been no reduction in animals. – Jacqueline Rowarth

I would go so far as to compare the Prime Minister to Rob Muldoon. She is Rob Muldoon with slogans and kindness. Michael Woodhouse

How have we got to a stage where we think this is fine. Where we accept rules that say only 10 people are allowed at funerals but 100 people can go to a pub? Where families can’t get out of quarantine to say goodbye to dying family members and people in hospitals die without any loved ones holding their hands? – Heather du Plessis-Allan

You can’t spend your way back to surplus. You can’t tax your back to surplus (without decreasing economic growth). You need to grow your way back to surplus. So most important of all we need policies that will not just get us through the recession but lead to a strong growing economy for the decade that follows. – David Farrar

The budget was heavy in numbers. A few hundred million here, a few billion here – there were big spending initiatives for everything.

But it was light on demonstrating how these programmes will help repair the country. As KiwiBuild showed, good intentions plus government money do not automatically equate to success. But that lesson appears to have been forgotten and Budget 2020 is just KiwiBuild on steroids. – Oliver Hartwich

It’s easy to get lost in all of the big numbers today. The four-year projections of spending, the extra of billions in debt, the debt-to-GDP ratio.

We forget that each of those numbers, all of the numbers in fact, represents a bigger challenge. The burden we place on New Zealanders and the responsibility we have to them.

We forget that a decade of deficits and debt means fewer choices for our kids down the road.

The obligation we as Parliamentarians have to make sure the next generation is better off than we were. That they have more choices, more opportunities, and more ability to succeed in the world because we back them, not burden them with debt.Simon Bridges

Next time, with substantial administrative improvement and a whole lot more political honesty (surely an oxymoron if ever there was one!), there may be some justification in claiming the government’s responses and directives as a  “masterclass of communication” – but definitely not this time. – Henry Armstrong

Whether the virus is quelled or not, in four months’ time the wreckage of New Zealand’s economy will be visible from space. Last week, leaked documents showed the Ministry of Social Development is preparing for an extra 300,000 benefit applications in response to mass unemployment generated by the pandemic.

You don’t have to be a seer to guess that material concerns and a desire for economic and logistical competence will likely trump all other considerations — including abstract notions of “wellbeing” and admonitions to “be kind” — in choosing the next government.Graham Adams

You have had the five million locked up in Cindy’s Kindy with a daily political party broadcast with an incredibly compliant media who have been in her bubble. – Michelle Boag

Our Prime Minister is daily lauded for her leadership in times of crisis.  In the immediate glare of publicity, kindness and empathy are endearing qualities.  The cold reality is that those qualities will not pay the bills.  Gestures of 20% pay cuts are welcomed but 20% of a heck of a lot is no real sacrifice.  Real leadership involves more than optics and safeguarding political gains. It requires tough and hurtful decisions.Owen Jennings

If ‘helicopter’ cash and ‘shovel ready’ projects are the best you can come up with, think again.  If dressing up green initiatives and sneaking through climate change penalties are on the menu, forget it.  If asking us to pay new taxes is in the budget, pull it out again.  Our burden is already too heavy.  Focus on what might hold back private sector initiatives, frustrate investors, limit progress and delay the recovery.  Prune such fearlessly.  Waiting seven years for a consent to increase a water take when your city is running dry isn’t helping anything – the environment, the economy, thirsty businesses or my vegetable garden. –  Owen Jennings

I would like to change the way we treated our farmers and our primary industries for the last while. ‘They are the heroes of our economy and I think they are being treated as though they were the villains.  It is really important to show how valuable the agriculture and primary industries are to New Zealand. They are the basis of our economy, and valuing that is really important to me.  – Penny Simmonds 

I’m afraid it’s too late to put Ardern’s debt genie back in the bottle. I apologise on behalf of my generation and older that you and your kids will carry this debt for all of us. My advice to you is to do what this government should have done. Cut costs and minimise your liabilities. Spend only on the essentials and invest in assets that will produce a safe dividend. Perhaps most important of all, stay engaged in our democracy and encourage your friends to do the same. If COVID-19 has taught the world anything it is this: politicians need to be closely scrutinised at all times but especially in crises like these. – Heather Roy

Australia is currently co-optimising the wellbeing of the Covid outbreak and the wellbeing consequences of the economy better than New Zealand.  If we don’t martial the best possible team for both recovery and reform, we will exacerbate the slide against our greatest comparator and lose even more of our most precious asset, our people.That risks a younger generation not only inheriting greater debt, but also makes Aotearoa a less desirable place to live with substantially less wellbeing. Fraser Whineray

I trust the prime minister a lot more than her critics do. But I also believe that a lot of her cabinet ministers are incompetent, and others are highly unscrupulous, and that this government makes operational and policy blunders on a scale we haven’t seen in our last few decades of technocratic centrism (as I was writing this the news broke that the entire lockdown may have been illegal). And they’re currently making huge decisions based on incomplete information because there is no expert consensus or reliable data available. – Danyl Mclauchlan

So I think there’s value to disrespectful questions and politicised critiques, and even some of the contrarianism, even if a lot of it is misguided or in bad faith, or simply wrong. And I think we need a space for those critiques in our mainstream politics and media instead of shouting it down and leaving it to circulate on the shadowy fringes of the internet. Because the experts are not always right and the government is not always trustworthy. If contrarians warn about the danger to our freedom in this moment, and it makes us more vigilant and we remain free, does it mean the contrarians were wrong? – Danyl Mclauchlan

What drives me is community – the people who help their elderly neighbours with the lawns on the weekend; The Dad who does the food stall at the annual school fair; The Mum who coaches a touch rugby team; This election will be about the economy, but not the economy the bureaucracy talks about. It’ll be about the economy that you live in – the economy in your community – your job, your main street, your marae, your tourism business, your local rugby league club, your local butcher, your kura, your netball courts, your farms, your shops and your families.  This is the economy National MPs are grounded in, and the one that matters most to New Zealand. Todd Muller

The problem with this government is they’ve two or three strong performers and 17 empty seats in CabinetTodd Muller

Poker machines are a de facto tax on the brain-dead. As a taxpayer I resent having to support no-hopers when in the case of these addictions, their problems are self-inflicted. – Bob Jones

A modern democracy, we should not forget, is a people of the government, by the government, and for the government.Theodore Dalrymple

What the “employed and unemployed workers” of 1935 would be scandalised by is being forced to support other people’s children whose father’s pay nothing. They would be outraged that someone who has committed a crime can come out of a prison and get immediate recourse to welfare – repeatedly! They would be angry that  entire isolated rural communities could turn their local economies on welfare. – Lindsay Mitchell

The world doesn’t need more examples of the progressive social direction of NZ so we can learn from their utter failure sad as it is. She’s all hat and no cattle, just a charismatic executioner of her country’s future prospects. Alfred

New Zealand’s economy is in strife. Without major change, our constitutional cousin is in decline. Its public finances are in tatters, its biggest export, tourism, has been obliterated — Air New Zealand announced 4000 job losses this week — and New Zealand police now can enter people’s homes without a warrant.Adam Creighton

In one year, New Zealand has blown 30 years of hard-fought ­fiscal rectitude. Its public debt will explode from the equivalent of 19 per cent of gross domestic product last year to 54 per cent by 2022, on the government’s own figures. – Adam Creighton

The Prime Minister and Finance Minister, who have not worked in the private sector, spruik the totems of modern left governments — renewable energy, trees, higher tax, equality — but without much to show for it. Plans for a billion trees and 100,000 houses have come close to almost naught, and a capital-gains tax was dumped. Labour made a song and dance about reducing child poverty too, but on six out of nine measures tracked by Statistics New Zealand it is unchanged or worse since 2017, including the share of children living in “material hardship”, which has risen to 13.4 per cent. – Adam Creighton

The real problem with the Ardern government is they have no idea whatsoever apart from how to throw money at things, – Roger Douglas

In any case, it wasn’t outsized compassion that drove the lockdown sledgehammer but the ­brutal reality of an underfunded health system. With about 140 intensive care unit beds and few ventilators — far fewer than Australia per capita — it was woefully underprepared. Ardern is more popular than ever, and by all accounts is a good person and a great communicator. But if a COVID-19 vaccine remains elusive, New Zealanders may come to question her wisdom as they fall further down the global pecking order. Without economic growth, there won’t be money for more ICU beds. – Adam Creighton

The world doesn’t need more examples of the progressive social direction of NZ so we can learn from their utter failure sad as it is. She’s all hat and no cattle, just a charismatic executioner of her country’s future prospects.  – Alfred

They’ll make excuses for her, that’s what left supporters and the media do to prop up failed politicians. It’s not about results, it’s about virtuous ideas and statements. The voters least affected – the latte sipping urbanites will keep supporting her, while the poorer people, whom she has vowed are the ones she’s trying to help, will suffer.Melanie

If you, as small business owners, give just one of your newly unemployed neighbours a job before Christmas, you will be the heroes of the economic crisis, the way that our nurses and doctors and all five million of us who stayed at home and washed our hands were the heroes of the health crisis, –  Todd Muller

National does not start by saying everything should be closed unless the Government says it can be open. Instead, our guiding principle is that everything should be open unless there is good reason for it to be closed.Todd Muller

Ethnic communities don’t want tokenism or special treatment; we simply want to be treated as equals and live in an inclusive society. We don’t wish to question or demonise anybody’s “whiteness”. We should all be able to celebrate who we are without fear or favour. – Gregory Fortuin

Muller is still an unknown quantity and has taken over National at the worst possible time for a prime ministerial aspirant. His best hope is that by the election on September 19, unemployment has rocketed, the cult of Winston has shattered, the economy has tanked and voters are starting to worry about how the country will ever pay the billions back.

Then voters might start to think empathy is all very well, but we need a leader capable of some hard- headed decisions that look beyond the lens of political correctness.Martin van Beynen

Don’t be fooled, Winston Peters declarations are not about principle. His game is political expediency. . . Will Winston Peters last the distance or are we seeing the tactic that’s been so successful in the past being reeled out for a third time? Peters shows yet again he will call the shots and for a party polling well below the 5 percent threshold he has nothing to lose. – Heather Roy

Months of monotony, with nothing to look forward to and nothing to distinguish one day from another, is an experience which fundamentally conflicts with most of the ways societies throughout history have found to give structure to the passage of time. Most religions recognise the importance of marking time: celebrating rites of passage, appointing seasons for feasting and fasting, getting together at set times to celebrate, pray, or mourn. As religious holidays die away, secular society invents its own alternatives.

Over the past few months, we’ve been stripped of all that. Those keeping Easter, Passover, Ramadan or other commemorations have had to do so at home and online, for many a very imperfect substitute, and non-believers have lost their rituals too: no birthday parties, no graduations, not even the weekly trip to a favourite coffee shop. We’ve been deprived of almost every conceivable form of public, shared experience — perhaps most painfully of all, with restrictions on funerals, the rituals of grieving. These are anchors, and without them we drift.Eleanor Parker

We’re all hypocrites. Outrage is selective. Personally I’m much more concerned with the fact we’re staring down mass unemployment and a generation-defining economic crisis than the fact Todd Muller has a Trump hat. – Jack Tame

In the face of soaring unemployment and plummeting house prices, middle voters may pause for thought. People who care passionately about inequality, over-tourism and climate change in the good times, tend to be less progressive when their personal economic circumstances are shaken.Andrea Vance


So much for rights and freedoms

May 14, 2020

The government gave in to public pressure and raised the number of people permitted at a funeral from 10 to 50.

However only 10 are permitted to attend a wedding, go to church or gather in a private home yet 100 are permitted in a restaurant, bar, casino or strip club.

Making it worse are the new powers the police have to ensure we all adhere to this.

The government has had nearly two months to work out legislation to cover Level 2 alert level and had it gone about it the right way the Opposition would have worked with it and supported it.

Instead they’ve rushed through legislation about which the Human Rights Commission is deeply concerned.

“For weeks the Government has known that we would be moving to alert level 2. It has not allowed enough time for careful public democratic consideration of this level 2 legislation. There has been no input from ordinary New Zealanders which is deeply regrettable,” said Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt. 

“This is a great failure of our democratic process. The new legislation, if passed in its current state, will result in sweeping police powers unseen in this country for many years.” . . .

“In times of national emergency sweeping powers are granted. There is a risk of overreach. Mistakes are made and later regretted. This is precisely when our national and international human rights, and Te Tiriti, commitments must be taken into account.” 

“Human rights can help to ensure all measures are effective, balanced, fair, reasonable, non-discriminatory, proportionate and subject to independent review. If the Government wishes to retain the public’s trust and confidence, it must honour human rights and Te Tiriti.”  

“A process of regular review by Parliament is needed. If passed in its current form, the Bill should be reviewed by select committee at regular terms and the Government should be open to any recommended changes.”   . . 

The rushed legislation is even worse when it gives police more powers at Level 2 than they had at Levels 4 and 3.

Heather du Plessis-Allan reckons the government has lost perspective:

Look at the powers the Government is giving police today and tell me they haven’t lost perspective over Covid-19.

Because it looks a lot like they have.

From today on – once this legislation passes – police will be able to come into your house without a warrant if they think there is a party going on inside. A party. Of more than 10 people. Not a murder scene, not drug-cooking, a gathering of more than 10 people.

That’s a family of two parents, four children and one grandchild.

Is that proportionate under level 2?

You could perhaps make excuses for the East German police approach under levels 3 or 4 when health authorities were worried about silent community transmission, but under level 2 this is overkill.

We have 74 people with Covid-19 in this country and yet the Government believes it’s fine to allow police unfettered access into the homes of 5 million people.

Because that’s what this means: warrantless entry means no one checks that the officers are doing the right thing … it is entirely up to them. . . 

Under normal circumstances a warrant from the court or a JP would be required and police would have to have reasonable grounds for requesting one.

How have we got to a stage where we think this is fine. Where we accept rules that say only 10 people are allowed at funerals but 100 people can go to a pub? Where families can’t get out of quarantine to say goodbye to dying family members and people in hospitals die without any loved ones holding their hands?

This all feels like a blinkered, mono-focused, perfectionist approach to get zero zero zero and to hell with the sadness and loss of human rights.

Politically the law passing today is not a good for the Government but especially bad for the Attorney General, David Parker. This is the same guy responsible for the stuff-up over whether the lockdown was legal or not. He has high regard for his own abilities and yet created far too many legal headaches for the Government thus far.

Perspective has been lost here.

So have rights and freedoms.

An observation by Theodore Dalrymple is apropos here:

It has long been my opinion that inside every sentimentalist there is a despot trying to get out. 

This government is becoming more despotic by the day and Labour’s coalition partners New Zealand First and the Green Party should be ashamed of their silent acquiescence to these new draconian powers which have been seized under urgency.


Quotes of the month

May 1, 2020

The most galling aspect of the current lock down is that we could’ve prevented it. If we had introduced strict quarantine at the border and made provision for widespread testing much earlier, like South Korea and others, we probably wouldn’t be in the situation we now find ourselves. We all have to pay a high price to bring this disease under control and that cost is now as much in our liberty as our wallets. I don’t think there is anything to be gained at this time in castigating the Government for their earlier inaction, but let’s not give them undue credit either. Hopefully there will be a reckoning after all this is over. – Kiwiwit

One should never underestimate the power of amnesia in human affairs. Even catastrophes on a vast scale are often soon forgotten, at least by those who were not directly affected by them. The young in Eastern Europe, it is said, know nothing of the ravages of communism, though they lasted decades and still exert an influence, and quite a lot think that socialism might be a good thing to try, as if it had never been tried before. Moreover, no memory exerts a salutary effect by itself unaided by thought and reflection: memory (even where accurate) has to be interpreted, and where there is interpretation there is the possibility of error and disagreement. – Theodore Dalrymple

With a full belly, everyone knows better than farmers how to manage land, and how to care for the countryside. – James Rebanks

This is our wake-up call to respect farming once more — not uncritically: we have an absolute right to want more nature on farmland, high welfare standards for farm animals, and safe and healthy food. –James Rebanks

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column in the Listener in which I was too dismissive of the health risks of the Covid-19 threat. The reaction was furious and often vituperative – which is another thing we have all become accustomed to these days. My column that would normally be spinning off the printing press right now, said, “I got it wrong”.

I did get it wrong, but our job is to scrutinise, and I remain more afraid of the economic fallout of New Zealand’s response to Covid-19 than I am of the virus itself. – Joanne Black

I don’t jeer at smokers, though. Nicotine is a drug, you get hooked on it, and it takes a lot of effort to stop – I had someone doing it with me and we could console and help each other when it got too hard. It was also a time when I didn’t have any money worries, but really, in the end I kept it up because I was determined I wasn’t going through withdrawal symptoms ever again. I hated that I couldn’t just stop without enduring what seemed like punishment instead of the congratulations I deserved. Renée

That cast iron aversion to enforcing personal responsibility is baked in to our law in numerous areas. . . Shame (whakaama) is the mechanism at the cultural heart of nearly all successful systems for control of anti-social behaviour.  – Stephen Franks

It is as if the government is afraid of confronting and dealing with real hard choices –  and being honest on what they value, what they don’t –  and just prefers now to deal in simplistic rhetorical absolutes, when not much is very absolute at all.Michael Reddell

 Bauer’s exit is further evidence that foreign control of New Zealand media is generally ruinous. Australian ownership did grave – some would say irreparable – damage to both our major print media companies and it seems the Germans are no better. Overseas owners have no emotional stake in the country and no long-term commitment to our wellbeing. They don’t understand our culture and ethos and are largely indifferent to New Zealand affairs. They are interested in us only for as long as they can make a profit, and when that ceases, they cut and run. – Karl du Fresne

Many politicians and voters don’t seem to appreciate the reality that every dollar spent by the government needs to come from taxpayers, who need to earn that dollar in order for the government to take and spend it. Even when the government borrows money to fund its splurge, it is just postponing the bill to future taxpayers. Kiwiwit

We will decide to end social isolation and take to the cafes (those that have survived) with gusto. It will be our duty to support what is left of the economy and keep people employed. We will rush to businesses that the COVID-19 Czars deemed non-essential and hope we have the cash to spend and hope they survived. – Judith Collins

Consistency, at least in matters of public policy, is no doubt the hobgoblin of little minds, and not every argument has to be followed to its logical conclusion. Philosophical abstractions cannot be the sole guide to our political actions, though neither can they be entirely disregarded. The man with no principles is a scoundrel; the man with only principles is a fanatic.Theodore Dalrymple

The feminization of society isn’t  the overlay of feminist values. No. It’s the overlay of natural feminine tendencies. Don’t tell me they don’t exist. Most females become mothers. They are biologically designed to nurture. To bond through touch and soft murmurs. To provide their bodies to their babies (and lovers) as cushions and warmth. They placate, they adjudicate. They practice kindness with reasonable ease because that is at the core of the jigsaw puzzle piece they are.

Mine is a traditional but organic view of what a women is. She is not less than a man. And she is not more. – Lindsay Mitchell

When the New Zealand public looks back on the response to Covid-19 they won’t be judging success by whether we went ‘faster’ or ‘harder’ than other governments. Instead, we will want to know whether the Government’s response was balanced and proportionate.

Specifically, was the response proportionate to the risks posed to the citizenry from the virus? Were the short-term and long-term consequences to health and wellbeing appropriately balanced? Were the impacts on younger members of society who bear the brunt of the financial consequences appropriately weighed against the interests of the elderly members who carry the highest health risks? And were the impacts on low-paid wage earners and disadvantaged communities who will fall deeper into poverty appropriately considered and compensated?

Certainly, extending the lockdown beyond four weeks and prolonging border closures would be the right thing to do only if it saves more lives than it costs. Grant Guilford

 I get home and just try to catch up on all the news I missed while I was writing it. As with March 15, I find filtering the horrible events through the filter of a news story that I am writing the best way to numb myself to their power. If you have to sit back and think about the world shutting all its borders for years to come, of a recession deeper than any we’ve felt in a century, of needless deaths if we don’t resist all the things that make us feel alive, then it all gets a bit much. When you get to write it out as a news story its just data to feed into a well-worn formula, a coping mechanism that also happens to be your job. – Henry Cooke

 The best battery of all is a lake. Water management allows more investment in plant based proteins, better management of waterways, and more green industry. If we want this renewable future then as a country we need to have a mature discussion about water storage which must be, and will be, a net positive for the environment. – Rod Drury

One of the lessons from the animal world, is that every disease has its unique characteristics that determine the specific strategy. But every time, one way or another, it requires a track and trace that is carried out with speed and rigour. – Keith Woodford

I write my way into a story, a poem, a play and I write my way out. One thing I know for sure – there’ll be sticking points, hurdles. Writing that flows like it was effortless and easy to write comes only after hard work. Renée

There must be many other people in these strange times who find that having the time, no longer trying to stuff too many duties and activities into their day, they can now discover the world of small things around them, and find it utterly loveable. Birds singing, leaves unfolding, spiders spinning their miraculous webs – all these things can be food for the soul and can remind us of the goodness of life even in ‘these interesting times’, in the words of the Chinese proverb. –  Valerie Davies

What other industry is allowed to steal the product of another industry’s endeavour and pay nothing for it, while at the same time steal their livelihood through advertising? Because that’s what social media does. They pay absolutely nothing for the product that is the lifeblood of their operation and that is the news content made and paid for by news media organisations.

“I know of no other industry where you can steal something and not only get paid for it through advertising but get the government’s backing for it as well. – Gavin Ellis

So let’s use every nuanced tool we have available to us. Let’s protect the vulnerable, require businesses to prove they can operate safely before reopening, seriously consider regional alert levels, and continue with our physical distancing and virus hygiene protocols. But let’s also move quickly to staunch the bleeding of our troubled economy. Otherwise, we may need to start including suicide statistics, domestic violence call-outs and bankruptcy numbers in our daily briefings. – Lizzie Marvelly

My mum has probably never shown up in the GDP. Men can be pretty shit with a tape measure when it comes to women. No offence. But she could help you with that. Run it down your arm. Around the cuff. Calculate costs in an instant. Show you where you went wrong. Pins askew in her mouth. Glen Colquhoun

We’ve been bemoaning the fact that no one wants to listen to the good stories for years. Who would have thought it would take a global pandemic to give us a window to be able to have that voice again? It seems bad taste to be observing silver linings and opportunities whilst so many are suffering however, an opportunity to connect and support our country can only be a positive for everyone in my books. The primary sector’s social licence and our economy depends on it.  – Penny Clark-Hall

The people that we are talking about now are not the sports stars, not the celebrities, they are the people at the front line -the health workers – the Jenny’s from Invercargill, they are the special people. – Sean Fitzpatrick

One of the problems with Government money is that it always feels like other people’s money, doesn’t it? At the end of the day it’s ours or at least future generations’, who will have to pay it back in some way. We ought to be just as cautious with that money as we would be in our own businesses.

If you give cheap or free Government money to enable businesses to continue, in doing so you may be destroying the very thing that is valuable in business, which is the ability to evaluate risks and to take risk where the benefits that flow are greater than the costs. – Rob Campbell

Not all deaths have the same social cost. The death of a 90 year old can be sad, but the death of a child or young adult is almost always a tragedy. Burden of disease estimates often adjust for the number of life years lost and this adjustment should be made in assessments of the benefits of intervention options.Ian Harrison

Is there any rail network in a sparsely populated narrow and skinny country like ours that has ever paid its way? Perhaps the Greens can enlighten us if there is. The Greens will probably say that there is a financial cost to an economy where climate change is front and centre, but we already know what a carbon-free economy in the year 2020 is like – we just have to reflect on the economic destruction that has taken place during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Rail is not an asset – it’s a liability. And it’s not a stimulus package, any more than spending money on people digging holes in the ground is. Stimulus money should be spent on work that will facilitate commerce and enhance the economy in the long-term, not destroy it, which is what the Greens are proposing. – Frank Newman

If the government wants to build on its success so far and continue running an effective public health campaign against Covid-19 at minimal cost to the economy, it needs a robust decision-making framework that will allow rapid response to changing circumstances and reflect a broad range of health, social and economic considerations. – Sarah Hogan

The more the government can show it is learning and carefully considering the complex sectoral, health, social and economic trade-offs at each alert level – most likely by comparison with a ‘no intervention’ alternative – the more likely it is that decisions will prove durable.

Without more structure, rigour and intense communication effort, the gains won so far against the virus risk unravelling if public scepticism and weariness combine to thwart the battle in the months ahead. – Pattrick Smellie

We shouldn’t take our culture and heritage for granted because it has helped us to strengthen our resolve and courage in such an uncertain time.

I have found that looking out for each other and valuing our culture makes us stronger and although it has been tough we will come out stronger as a community. – Hana Halalele

It does stick in my craw that even the most self-reliant of us have all become dependent on the state. I can’t help thinking that this is seen by those in power as a useful by-product of their Covid-19 response. The metaphysical basis of almost all political belief today is social, cultural and economic collectivism. We are all just part of one big, global village, and, as in any village, every person should be concerned with everyone else’s business. Self-reliance is seen as selfishness and is not to be tolerated, and if you think you know what is best for your own life, you simply don’t know what is good for you. – Kiwiwit

As leader of the nation, Ardern is unparalleled. But her performance as leader of the government is less flash. – Matthew Hooton

Amid the coronavirus implosion I’m guessing productivity failures won’t even get much attention this election.  But they should, and any serious recovery plan should go hand in hand with a strategy that has some credible chance of finally beginning to reverse decades of failure.  Turning inwards and looking more heavily to the state is most unlikely to be such an answer. – Michael Reddell

Any one country trying them will quickly find that tariffs meant to protect domestic steel producers, for example, ruin domestic industries that use steel. And when everyone turns protectionist, the complex international supply networks that deliver us everything from cars to phones seize up. –Eric Crampton

Given that a supply chain these days can take in the entire globe, how is the official to know whose making “essential” parts and who’s not? How, even, are manufacturer’s to know, if the screws they’re making are just the ones that are needed to hold together this machine that when running properly makes thatmachine, and that machine is the one that makes ventilators, say. – Peter Cresswell

Here’s what politicians don’t understand: The economy isn’t a lightswitch that can be turned off quickly, then turned back on without consequence. Economic freedom isn’t just an integral part of the American dream, it’s a prerequisite for prosperity.

Most importantly right now? Everyone’s livelihood is essential to them.

Economic activity is, at its heart, a human activity. To disregard some as non-essential is a mistake with heavy consequences. – Amanda Snell

I find myself wondering if people can identify with what I have written about how it feels to be diagnosed with cancer and whether they have found themselves glimpsing the world I live in. In some strange way it could be possible that people are experiencing to one degree or another, what it feels like to have the rug abruptly pulled from under their feet and to wonder if they are going to die. Right now, people are facing one of the greatest challenges in life that they could ever imagine, just as I and many like me faced when we were given our cancer diagnosis. No words can ever describe what it’s like living with cancer but maybe an experience such as what we’re currently living through might provide a glimpse. Like with a cancer diagnosis, this pandemic will change lives and for many life will never return to what they have always known. It will change the way they view their lives and the world, perhaps even their priorities so post-pandemic life becomes a new normal for them. That phrase is one that everyone who has experienced cancer will have heard at some point because life post-cancer is never the same again, it actually does become a “new normal”.  – Diane Evans-Wood

You know, the theatre has kept going through the plague in the 1600s and it has a 2000 year-old history. Performers are part of that whakapapa and there will always be a need for human beings to connect…and, of course, that is what the arts does for us. – Jennifer Ward-Lealand

We need to balance the ability to be financially sustainable while being environmentally sustainable, not be expected to reach lofty targets set when the world was burning more fossil fuels and living beyond its means before the pandemic.

For NZ those targets need to be readdressed as soon as possible. We must lift the lid on the pressure cooker the primary industries have been under as we look to the future. – Craig Wiggins

One thing I do know is that what has become important now has always been important – food, shelter and good company – Craig Wiggins

Everyone who has a job in this economy is an essential worker. Every single job that is being done in our economy with these severe restrictions that are taking place is essential. . . People stacking shelves, that is essential. People earning money in their family when another member of their family may have lost their job and can no longer earn, that’s an essential job. Jobs are essential – Scott Morrison

Merit of action should be based on decisions made (or not made), the application of reason and science, and of course, the final results. Merit and accolade should never be given simply because of person’s age, gender, belief system, or political leanings. Sadly, we are seeing a commentariat very willing to continue its pursuit of identity politics where the ‘who’ is more important than the ‘what’ and ‘how’.  Simon O’Connor

Whether a farmer, café owner or self-employed plumber, the driving force behind most small businesses is the dignity of self-employment. For some people (me for starters) that’s a huge factor overwhelming any other consideration. – Sir Bob Jones

And yet, if there are any two countries that could pull off a clear if hermetically sealed victory — offering a model of recovery that elevates competence over ego and restores some confidence in democratic government — it may be these two Pacific neighbors with their sparsely populated islands, history of pragmatism and underdogs’ craving for recognition.Damien Cave

You are going to be part of a team facing tradeoffs.  Will we cancel the upgrading of the Tauranga to Katikati highway where there are too many road deaths so we can plant trees on good farm land to suck up CO2?  Will we delay buying equipment for an isolation strategy in a probable flu epidemic or build a cycleway on the Auckland harbour bridge?  Should we introduce tough new water quality measures while farmers are struggling and suiciding?  Will Pharmac get more money for new drugs to save five to ten lives or will we build a tramline to the airport?  Can we afford to close maternity hospitals in Southland risking mothers and babies lives so we can shift the Port of Auckland to Whangarei? – Owen Jennings

I have been alarmed to see that disdain for the mainstream media has spread to the mainstream media itself. Recently I was contacted by people who should know better, asking me to send them a copy of my column because they refused to fork out the readies to breach this paper’s paywall. The total required at the time was $1 a week. This much they would not sacrifice because of their aversion to one columnist. They would forgo the fine work produced by many excellent writers who did not have that columnist’s attention-grabbing profile and gift for alienating readers. . . .

Now more than ever, mainstream media which, for all its flaws, continues to uphold basic journalistic standards has a vital role to play in society.

As I explained at the time, refusing to share my column with my stingy friends, if you think life without magazines is bad, wait until you live in a world without newspapers.Paul Little

We must never again allow a situation where the law allows a young woman with much charm and little real world experience, to legally take such dictatorial powers.

The current legislation needs to be reconsidered in Parliament. While it’s conceivable such situations could arise in the future requiring such a heavy-handed approach, the supporting legislation should require say a 75% Parliamentary vote. Sir Bob Jones

There are two clear dangers for New Zealand.

The first is the virus – or more specifically, the prime minister’s strategy of eliminating the virus; how many lockdowns can we endure?

And the second is our prime minister, who fundamentally believes in state control, and is being given a free rein to embed her agenda deep into the heart of our democracy.  – Muriel Newman

Instead of adding to the deficit by throwing expensive shovels at projects, and thereby taking the public sector’s share of total spending up even further than its current, very high, level of 40 per cent of GDP, let’s hold the line on spending and cut tax revenues for a while, and let the households and the business sector sort out the shovelling for themselves. – Tim Hazeldine

For a Government, public confidence is the most precious of commodities. In ordinary times, it allows businesspeople to take more risks, invest in plant and technology, open new markets, start new ventures, employ more staff. It allows householders to decide yes, we will buy the new fridge, take a bigger holiday, eat out more often. Confidence turns the wheels of the economy. Simon Wilson

We are right to take a strong stand to value life and be against premature death. What we should now ask of our leaders is that they be consistent and place equal value on the risks, both physical and mental, for all people. One of the important roles of teachers in a crisis situation is to hear students’ questions and concerns with an open mind and allow them to work their way through things. Suppressing this process can only lead to conformity for the sake of it and a deep sense of helplessness. – Alwyn Poole

We’ve flattened the curve; we don’t need to flatten our country. Indeed, we now need another curve, an upward growth curve – growth, jobs, and a track back to normality.Simon Bridges

 The instinct of the Labour/ New Zealand First government will be to assume that a committee of Wellington politicians and officials, with a couple of business folk, a union rep and two iwi leaders should steer our path into the new economy. The likes of Shane Jones and Phil Twyford will implement it. . .

But the core engine of growth will always be private sector investment – men, women and their businesses taking on new ventures, rebuilding their businesses, expanding, hiring people – taking mad risks. No committee would have thought Kiwis should get into rockets, or into online accounting systems.

The recipe hasn’t changed. Successful economies make it easy for the investment to flow to more productive activities – they welcome investment, they don’t over regulate or over tax, they provide clear and consistent rules, properly enforced, and don’t go changing them all the time. – Paul Goldsmith

This is not a time to panic or point fingers. It is time for us to reveal our true character. Sir Don McKinnon

We need to speak very plainly about this: these three career politicians have absolutely no idea what sectors of the economy are doomed, which have a future, and whether any particular commercial proposal makes sense. Add Economic Development Phil Twyford to the mix, and it risks the appearance of a circus run by clowns. . .

Free-market capitalism works not because it is individualistic — although it is — but because it collectivises everyone’s best guesses and analysis. In contrast, collectivist economic systems reply on the brilliance of individuals or, worse, committees. Again, we should speak plainly: central planners are not just often wrong, but invariably wrong, just like most of us. – Matthew Hooton 

If you have one tenth the number of intensive care beds per capita that Germany does, if you don’t have contact tracing in place, then if you don’t have that level of resourcing available, you’ve got to focus very hard on the keep-it-out strategy. The fact that we’ve had to work so hard to stamp it out can only mean we’ve failed to keep it out. – Des Gorman


Quotes of the month

April 1, 2020

NZ is the Possible. We care equally about our environment, our consumers, our people, our animals and hope to make enough profit to keep going again next year. We are genuinely world leading in our approach. – Trish Rankin

So one way to think about Covid-19 is as a test of various systems around the world — political, medical and economic. Markets believe those systems are failing that test. – Tyler Cowen

A coalition government that struggles to implement meaningful policies. A prime minister at ease schmoozing with other leaders amid the glitz and glamour of the world stage. A second-in-charge who clearly sees himself as a co-prime minister. – Liam Hehir

There are far fewer people out there celebrating the real, powerful stories of Indian migrants. Like my sister-in-law, who moved to South Auckland from India as a kid, won top of the year at Auckland Uni, won a full PhD scholarship to Cambridge University, was awarded a Leader of Tomorrow at the Gellen Symposium of Switzerland, and is currently lecturing at Harvard while running a start-up. She’s probably the best poster girl you could possibly find for everything New Zealanders want to be known as: smart, determined, ballsy … and proudly Kiwi. – Verity Johnson

We were focused on being statistically safe, rather than being actually safe, which is a trap we are all guilty of falling into. . . They all said we put far too much focus on paperwork and forms and controls and not enough on engagement with people.  Jono Brent

After three years, we have books of inquiries and less than a pamphlet of implementation. Richard Prebble

But the epidemic might well have effects far beyond any that its death rate could account for. The world has suddenly woken up to the dangers of allowing China to be the workshop of the world and of relying on it as the ultimate source for supply chains for almost everything, from cars to medicines, from computers to telephones. No doubt normal service will soon resume once the epidemic is over, even if at a lower level, but at the very least supply chains should be diversified politically and perhaps geographically; dependence on a single country is to industry what dependence on monoculture is to agriculture. And just as the heart has its reasons that reason knows not of, so countries may have strategic reasons that economic reasons know not of.

The danger is that the epidemic will be used as a justification for beggar-my-neighbour protectionism, and for zero-sum game economics, to the great impoverishment of the world. Judgment, that mysterious faculty that is so difficult to define or quantify, but which undoubtedly exists, will be needed to adjudicate the claims of strategic security and economic efficiency. Even in situations in which there is hard scientific evidence to guide us, such as the present epidemic, judgment is still required. The present highly-charged political atmosphere, in which opponents can hardly bear the sight of one another, or conceded any value to their ideas, is not conducive to its exercise.- Theodore Dalrymple

Remember what they’ve suffered and don’t make other people suffer the way some of them have been suffering because they are no different, while they may look different and they may sound different but we’re all the same. – John Sato

Donald Trump takes comfort from the fact that it has killed only a handful of Americans so far. He forgets that the chart of an epidemic is exponential, as each person infects several people, and the power of such compound interest is, as Albert Einstein supposedly said, the eighth wonder of the world. The economist Tyler Cowan points out that it’s hard to beat an exponential process once a certain point has passed.

Last week Greta Thunberg was still telling the European Parliament that climate change is the greatest threat humanity faces. This week Extinction Rebellion’s upper-class twits were baring their breasts on Waterloo bridge in protest at the billions of people who they wrongly think may die from global warming in the next decade. These people are demonstrating their insensitivity. They are spooked by a spaniel when there’s a wolf on the loose. – Matt Ridley

Dairying was an economic sword for New Zealand against the GFC. Now we will be looking to exporter Fonterra and the dairy industry it leads to wield that sword again against a pandemic scourge.Andrea Fox

Clearly,  however  much  New Zealanders  might  believe  there is  much to gain  from a united  front  in this  time of  crisis,  the  role of a  vigilant   Opposition   is  perhaps  just  as  vital. – tutere44

He waka eke noa – the canoe which we are all in without exception. We are all in this together. – Simon Bridges

Farming has been unloved and beaten up by the Government for the last two or three years but the Government is going to need farmers for the next few years. Cameron Bagrie

The world has not “completely changed.” What was good economics last month is good economic policy today. To come out of this recession we need to reform the Resource Management Act, have more flexible and less onerous employment laws. We need a welfare system that discourages dependence and an education system that does not turn out one in five functionally illiterate. We desperately need a health system that is not crippled with deficits. Richard Prebble

I also expect to see increasing but at times grudging acknowledgement over the next six months that agriculture and food are the fundamentals of the economy that provide the funds for most of the items we have to import. Further, within agriculture, it is our pastoral products that are the products with most reliable international demand. Unfortunately, there will still be some who remain unwilling to acknowledge that reality. – Keith Woodford

The size of a bureaucracy is not necessarily a sign of its strength or efficiency, any more than the swelling of an oedematous leg is a sign of its strength and efficiency; rather the reverse. A small bureaucracy concentrates intelligence, while a large one disperses it. Theodore Dalrymple

Farmers are an optimistic bunch. We’re used to things going in cycles: weather patterns, commodity prices, market demand … but we also know that sometimes the wheel doesn’t turn the whole way round, sometimes the change is permanent.Philip Todhunter

We who are adults need to be exactly that: adults. Not spread panic or rumours. No one is alone in this crisis, but each person has a heavy responsibility. – Stefan Löfven

I have long thought that if it were not for complaint, we should have very little to talk about. Complaint is like crime in the theories of the first real sociologist, Émile Durkheim: It is the glue of society. Without opposition to crime, society would fall apart. Without complaint, most of us would remain silent and have no relations with others at all. – Theodore Dalrymple

But the fact is that writing helps one to endure what might otherwise be unendurable. I suppose I should know exactly why, but I don’t, except to say that the knowledge that you are going to write about something unpleasant puts a screen between yourself and your own experience.Theodore Dalrymple

Laughing together is as close as you can get without touching. – Gina Barreca

Humour rewards originality, offers diversion, enhances intellectual functioning, encourages emotional endurance, promotes a sense of alliance and releases tension without dismissing the seriousness of the situation.

Out of emotional chaos, humour devises a form and crafts a meaningful sense of control.

Humour insists on the most significant forms of freedom of assembly: the assembly of souls and minds, the community of the anxious and the brave (all of us at different moments), the gathering of storytellers, truth-tellers and eager listeners. – Gina Barreca

  Do you really need to drown those people in red tape and bureaucracy? I think we’re going t ave to look to lighten the load on them and let business start to flourish a bit. These aren’t normal times – John Key


Disease shows need to diversify markets

March 12, 2020

Theodore Dalrymples writes on the longer term economic impact of coronavirus Covid-19:

But the epidemic might well have effects far beyond any that its death rate could account for. The world has suddenly woken up to the dangers of allowing China to be the workshop of the world and of relying on it as the ultimate source for supply chains for almost everything, from cars to medicines, from computers to telephones. No doubt normal service will soon resume once the epidemic is over, even if at a lower level, but at the very least supply chains should be diversified politically and perhaps geographically; dependence on a single country is to industry what dependence on monoculture is to agriculture. And just as the heart has its reasons that reason knows not of, so countries may have strategic reasons that economic reasons know not of.

China has been our biggest market for good reasons – it has wanted to buy our products and produce, especially food, and it has been willing to pay well for it.

It has also been a major source of imports of finished goods and components and packaging for goods produced here.

The shutdown caused by attempts to contain Covid-19 has shown that while returns from exports have been higher, and cost of imports often lower, than if we were trading with other countries, there are risks in over reliance on one market.

The economic impact from the spread of the disease has reinforced the need to diversify markets.

The danger is that the epidemic will be used as a justification for beggar-my-neighbour protectionism, and for zero-sum game economics, to the great impoverishment of the world. Judgment, that mysterious faculty that is so difficult to define or quantify, but which undoubtedly exists, will be needed to adjudicate the claims of strategic security and economic efficiency. Even in situations in which there is hard scientific evidence to guide us, such as the present epidemic, judgment is still required. The present highly-charged political atmosphere, in which opponents can hardly bear the sight of one another, or conceded any value to their ideas, is not conducive to its exercise.

As a small nation, producing far more food than we can consume domestically, New Zealand has a lot to gain from free trade and stands to lose a lot if other countries use the disease as an excuse to implement protectionist policies.


Quotes of the month

January 31, 2020

Work without hope is as bad as hope without work. We need both the shovel and the inspiration. –Nikki Verbeet

At heart, both the excessive respect and disrespect for Nature are the products of sentimentality, a sentimentality that leads to a failure to make proper distinctions. Both the excessively respectful and the disrespectful suppose that Nature has intentions toward us, good or evil as the case may be. Excessive respect supposes that Nature is so benevolent that nothing in it can harm Man, provided only that he is worshipful toward it; disrespect supposes that Man knows best and can perfect not only himself but the universe. Theodore Dalrymple

But, on the Left, casting our adversaries as stupid bigots strikes me as obviously misguided. Likewise, our tendency to lord it over others with a hyper-abundance of certainty in our superior virtue is obnoxious; our refusal to contemplate the possibility of good faith among those with whom we disagree, alienating. Liberal condescension, paired with an unforgiving approach to ideological purity, risks sending perfectly well-meaning people into the arms of our adversaries or to retreat from politics altogether. – Phil Quinn

So if you do win an award tonight, don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech. You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg. So, if you win, come up, accept your little award, thank your agent and your god, and fuck off.Ricky Gervais

It’s easy to understand how expensive gift bags and millions of dollars would make anyone feel qualified to lecture other people on public policy, private morality, global warming, or the complex geopolitical issues in the Middle East. – Bridget Phetasy

We are cautious around the bereaved, as though pain is contagious, as though keeping a distance will make the loss smaller. Yet again, I find the opposite to be true – the nearness of things, the nearness of others, is really all that matters for now. We move from numbness to the littleness of the everyday, knowing that this is life going on, that no grand gestures are needed, that compassion is in a nod, a wave, a smile, all the gentle tokens. I count my blessings. Suzanne Moore

Freedom of opinion is a very good thing, but so is freedom from opinion—since a very high proportion of opinions, especially among publicly funded academic intellectuals, do not even rise to the value of drunken barroom talk. Oh for a world free from opinion!—or at least freer from opinion.

Alas, the social media have provided an echo chamber for cranks, monomaniacs, extremists, psychotics, enthusiasts of every stripe, the unheard whose prior muteness was their greatest virtue and highest quality, the echo chamber being the whole world. – Theodore Dalrymple

There are a range of ways that have always been used to hold people to account. We’ve now added these extra dimension where some people actually want the total destruction of that person.Russell Blackford

Nevertheless there’s been no wars between nations this century. The last was in the 1990s between Armenia and Azerbaijan over a disputed territory. Knowing each country I’d heavily back the Dannevirke rugby club against both their armies. – Sir Bob Jones

In other words: all knowledge has a hierarchy. Inversion of this hierarchy turns children who were ready to begin learning “into passive parrots able to recite – and unable to think.” Teaching conclusions about complex processes without the platform of knowledge to understand or assess how those conclusions were derived violates that hierarchy, rendering students able to repeat the propaganda those conclusions, but not able to understand how they were arrived at. They become simply Pavlovian puppets. Peter Cresswell 

There is an insidious crusade afoot aiming at controlling what the public sees, hears, thinks and believes. This project, which seeks hegemony in various Western cultures, is no less pervasive and thoroughgoing than previous attempts at thought control by totalitarian and theocratic regimes.

But since this campaign to control the narrative has no name, and does not promote an explicit ideology, its significance tends to be underestimated, even by those who oppose the many attempts to police language and thought. – Frank Furedi

The paradox is that while an increasing number of people reject the idea of the Christian God in favour of a range of secular belief systems, Christian values still underpin Western concepts of justice, freedom, human rights, democracy and the rule of law. It’s no coincidence that the world’s freest, fairest and most prosperous countries all have Christian roots.

Granted, Christian teaching has been twisted and corrupted for reasons that have little to do with God and a lot to do with human vanity, greed and the desire to exercise power and control. But although no longer a Christian myself, I don’t think we should discount the possibility that our God-fearing forebears recognised transcendental truths that we, the best-educated generations in human history, are too myopic or conceited to see. – Karl du Fresne

For those New Zealanders not lucky enough to earn a politician’s salary, a five dollar note represents a meal, or the bus fare for a job interview. That small sheet of polypropylene can be the difference between hunger and happiness, poverty and opportunity. – Louis Houlbrooke

If climate change alarmism is the new religion, then scepticism – or denialism, to use the more damning term favoured by climate-change activists – is the new heresy.

There’s a disturbing whiff of totalitarianism in the way this secular religion permits no dissent. If you believe that it’s dangerous in a democracy to allow one view to hold complete and unchallenged sway, denialism starts to look like an honourable stance, purely on principle.Karl du Fresne

Environmental problems are certainly real, but alarmists do a disservice to the cause of tackling those challenges when they use cataclysmic language to describe the near future. . . . Environmental challenges should be taken seriously. And just as with so many other problems humanity has faced, environmental problems should be solvable given the right technology and spreading prosperity. The world will still exist a dozen years from now. – Chelsea Follett

Americans wrongly think the rest of the world is hurting us with unfair trade practices, but New Zealand really is hurt badly by the unfair trade practices of others (which protect farmers in rich countries.) – Scott Sumner

Sir, Simon Pegg states that he and other well-paid people should pay more tax (Thunderer, Jan 23). Fine and dandy, but he should do it first. Whether in the US or the UK, it is possible to pay more than the legal minimum in tax. Both countries will send thank-you letters. When Pegg shows us his, perhaps we’ll listen to his calls. Until then, I’m not bothering. –Tim Worstall

Who cares about being accurate. The point of being a journalist is to tell people what to do. But after twenty years of propaganda the punters are still not getting the message, so Faye Flam (her real name) thinks it’s time to stop using “climate change” and switch back to “global warming”. Apparently a five year old Yale Study suggests that it’s more scary, and Flam has discovered it just in time to wring a bit more propaganda value out of the Australian fires. “Lucky”. eh? –  Jo Nova (Hat Tip Not PC)

To make housing affordable, we need to liberalise our planning regime, incentivise councils for housing development and, if privately, fund new infrastructure. If we don’t implement these reforms, Demographia’s future reports will continue to document our housing crisis. – Oliver Hartwich

I knew what I wanted and I knew that you’ve got to do a bit of work to get there. – Paul Whakatutu 

So is it time to write Peters off?  Peters has cleverly played up his part as Labour’s handbrake, just as he once pitched himself as a bulwark against National’s extremes.  It’s how he has survived so long in politics – even after the “baubles of office'” fiasco, or Owen Glenn donations scandal.

But you can only play one side against the other for so long and it feels like Peters has played one too many hands. – Tracy Watkins

Rapidly expanding welfare is Labour’s record. It flies in the face of all of the posturing on well-being. Hard metrics don’t lie. Entrenching dependence and sapping the will to work by surrendering on sanctions and failing to enforce work-test obligations is simply indefensible. Mike Yardley

There is something speech restrictions can do; in fact, it’s the only thing they can do. They can help you win political arguments by limiting the parameters of discussion. That’s assuming the argument is able to take place at all.

Speech restrictions aren’t a solution to racism. What they are is an expression of reactionary tribal politics, and a solution to dissenting thought.  – Dane Giraud

Capitalism is the best system for creating wealth we’ve been able to find in the last 300 to 400 years, and we should want to create wealth. But it has no regard for how that wealth is created, so for instance it can be created by children going up chimneys and working in factories. Nor does it care how wealth is distributed. So we’ve always known that there needs to be other systems that deal with those two issues. – David Kirk


Dalrymple deliberates

April 19, 2019


Dalrymple deliberates

April 16, 2019


Dalrymple deliberates

April 13, 2019


Blind means don’t see differences

January 8, 2013

Quote of the day:

Anti-racists collect statistics about race with a celerity and obsessional intrusiveness that would have put the apartheid regime to shame. The opposite of a racist is not an anti-racist but someone who does not think in racial categories at all. Theodore Dalrypmple

This also applies to gender, age and any other difference some people consider more important than our common humanity.

Those who regard all people as equal see them as people first and foremost, not as a member of a sub-group.

Positive discrimination can sometimes be a force for good but it is still discrimination which focusses on a difference.

Being blind to colour, gender,age or any other difference means you don’t see those things, you simply see the people inside because that is what really matters.


Taking the waiting out of wanting

November 4, 2012

Listening to pop songs in taxis led Theodore Dalrymple to an explanation for one of the causes of the global financial crisis:

. . . For is it not the case that one of those causes is that, on a gargantuan scale, we took the waiting out of wanting? Not only consumer credit but government deficit spending, largely to underwrite a standard of living that we did not go to the trouble of having earned, is at the root of our financial difficulties. . .

The protestant work ethic with which I was brought up taught me about delayed gratification.

You worked and you saved and you waited and eventually you’d get what you wanted because you’d earned it.

Easy credit changed that by taking the waiting out of wanting and now we’re all paying for it.


Politics of envy

October 28, 2012

Theodore Dalrymple notes a cultural change in the USA:

. . . Now American society has many faults, no doubt, as all things human do; but the one sin of which it was traditionally freest, by comparison with all other societies, was envy. More people wished good luck to the successful in America than in any other society, though of course not all; fewer people were bitten by envy, and more people impelled by emulation, than anywhere else in the world. Indeed, there was a time, and not so long ago, when to display or appeal to envy would have been regarded as un-American, a virtual repudiation of the American dream. Mr Nixon despised Mr Kennedy as a pseudo-aristocratic spoilt brat, but didn’t dare say so in public in case it sounded envious.

So Mr Obama’s appeal to envy is a symptom, and perhaps a reinforcement, of a cultural change. It goes without saying that his own financial position is one which 99.9 per cent of the enviously-inclined might envy; but an appeal to that envy, to suggest even subliminally that a man with a large fortune is in some way existentially less suited ipso facto to the highest office than a man with less money, is no more traditionally American than would be a sneer at a man’s humble beginnings.

The excitation or exploitation of envy is wrong, even where the fortunate do not deserve their good fortune.

Politics of envy is not unknown here too.

It is part of what drives the left’s obsession with inequality.

The real economic and social problem is not that some people have a lot more than others but that some don’t have enough.

If inequality was the real problem it could be solved by dragging down those with more and making people equally poor.

That would not however, do anything to help those who don’t have enough, whatever enough is.

 


Economic crisis a moral crisis

October 27, 2012

The experience of the Depression influenced my parents for life.

They spent moderately and saved well.

The idea of borrowing for something that wasn’t an absolute necessity or incurring a debt they couldn’t repay would have been anathema too them.

There was nothing unusual in that for them or their contemporaries.

It is no longer the norm, for many individuals and countries as Theodore Dalrymple ruminates:

. . .But to call the attempt to balance a budget ‘austerity,’ in other words to say living within your means implies ‘rigorous abstinence, asceticism,’ a kind of killjoy puritanism, is to suggest that it is both honest, just and decent to do otherwise. And this is indicative of a revolution in our sensibilities.

In fact, it is grossly dishonorable to live beyond your means, at least when you transfer to the cost to others, as is inevitable when borrowing becomes an entire, chronic way of life – as it has in many countries. Then repayment becomes impossible and is known in advance to be impossible; you continue to borrow so that you may continue to live at a higher standard of living than your earnings justify, in the full knowledge that you will either eventually default or, metaphorically speaking, pay back in tin the weight of what you borrowed in gold. Perhaps those foolish enough to lend to you in these circumstances deserve to lose some or all their money; but there is no disguising the fact that, at least according to traditional standards of morality, your conduct has been dishonorable, immoral and fraudulent.

If an individual owes money, the honorable thing for him to do is to restrict his spending in order to repay it, and not to borrow more merely so that he may maintain his current standard of living until such time comes when he must declare his bankruptcy. And I am old enough to remember the time when poor people refrained from borrowing for fear of not being able to repay the debt, and thus lose their self-respect. Their self-respect was more important to them than their level of consumption of inessentials. . .

 Of course, countries are not individuals. . .  Our individual sense on honor is not engaged when the borrowing is done by the government and the proceeds trickle down into our pockets.

It is in these circumstances that the moral corruption of living permanently on borrowed money that will never be paid back can be hidden from those who do so, though only vicariously. Their sense of responsibility is attenuated to the degree that they do not realize that they have any. The people in Greece, understandably but nevertheless wrongly, experience the lowering of their standard of living as unjust; they do not see it as a consequence of their undeservedly high previous standard of living, because that undeservedly high standard of living came to them via what for them was an abstraction, the government. In Spain, by contrast, it was private debt that was the culprit; but the population did not experience their high standard of living as economically unjustified either.

The idea that living within your means is a form of austerity, and not (other than in exceptional circumstances) the elementary moral duty of people of honor, shows that, underlying the economic crisis is a profound moral crisis in western society.

Living within your means was not just normal but right for my parents and their generation.

They endured an economic depression but not a moral one.


The ideology of drunkenness

October 26, 2012

As the Alcohol Reform Bill wends its way through parliament, Theodore Dalrymple’s observations are appropriate:

Britain is the only country known to me in which drunkenness is an ideology: that is to say in which people believe in an abstract way that, in getting drunk, they are doing good to themselves and performing an almost philanthropic service. The mass public drunkenness that appals foreigners when they come to our shores is actually thought by young drunks to be a form individual therapy and social prophylaxis rolled into one.  . .

Britain isn’t alone in this immature attitude to alcohol consumption.

Drunkenness might not be an ideology but there are too many people who regard it as a requirement for enjoying a social occasion and a measure of enjoyment.

 


Easier to level down than up

October 3, 2012

Quote of the day:

. . . Social reformers have always found it easier to level down than to level up. The former can be done by simple and purely administrative means, whereas the latter requires long, persistent and wise effort, not necessarily by the bureaucrats, without much assurance of success in the long run because such factors as genetic endowment are likely to interfere with the outcome. It is far easier to make allowances for children of disadvantaged homes than to arrange for them to have a decent education in the first place, which among other things would require good teachers using proper pedagogical methods teaching subject matter that is worthwhile in itself. The procedural measure of success – equality of rates of admission to university – is admirably suited to a world in which appearance is often confounded with reality, a world of spin-doctoring, a world in fact in which such things as the Olympic Games can be taken seriously. Theodore Dalrymple


More equal not always better

September 4, 2012

Growing inequality has become another cause of the left, but being more equal doesn’t necessarily make anything better.

Theodore Dalrymple illustrates this in a column on Britain’s National Health System:

. . . equality in health is not necessarily desirable in itself. Suppose that the infant-mortality rate in the highest social class is three per 1,000 live births, while that in the lowest is six per 1,000 (approximately the case in Britain today). Then suppose that we could reduce the rate by one death per 1,000 births in each social class, yielding two per 1,000 in the highest class and five per 1,000 in the lowest. A cause for rejoicing, certainly—but not from the point of view of equality, for the ratio of deaths in the lowest class to deaths in the highest class would widen from 6:3 to 5:2—that is, from 2.0 to 2.5. Surely, however, only a latter-day Lenin would reject such an improvement because it increased inequality. Similarly, an increase in the infant-mortality rate of the highest social class, to six per 1,000, would represent an advance to complete equality; but again, no one but a Lenin would wish it. . . .

The easiest way to improve inequality is to drag the top down but that would make things worse for those people without doing anything at all to improve matters for those at the bottom.

A wide gap between rich and poor might increase envy from those at the bottom but the real problem isn’t how much those at the top have.  It’s that those at the bottom don’t have enough, although how much is enough is open to debate.

Helping those in greatest need get enough ought to be the goal even though that might not close the gap between them and those who are better off.


Riots caused by rotten culture

April 11, 2012

A government commission into the cause of last year’s riots in Britain has come to several conclusions, most of which don’t impress Theodore Dalrymple who says:

. . . It is true, however, that a combination of consumerism and utter economic dependence on the state is, like the lot of the policeman, not a happy one. The dependence is (admittedly at some remove) a corollary of the theory of entitlement, and a belief in one’s own entitlement is a belief as destructive of the human personality as it is possible to envisage. It precludes gratitude for what one has, encourages resentment over what one does not have, and discourages personal effort except to obtain things at other people’s expense. At the same time consumerism, by offering the mirage of personal fulfilment through the possession of trifles, lends an urgency to possession that it might not otherwise have, thus adding to or catalysing to the resentments of entitlement. I might add that in a world in which income is in essence pocket money (everything else having been taken care of, albeit at a level less than that desired) consumer choice becomes the only choice that is ever exercised, and thus the model for the whole of human life.

The rioters, then, were (and still are, of course) victims, not of injustice or poverty, but of bad ideas and a rotten culture that, alas, have become truly their own. And the first idea they ought to be disabused of is that there is someone who is either able or willing to come to their rescue.  


Poor more likely to be perpetrators and victims

March 12, 2012

Quote of the day:

One cannot say often enough that the victims of crime are, like the perpetrators, more likely to be poor than rich. For example, single-parent households in Britain have a more than one-in-20 chance of being burgled in any given year; and since most burglars are recidivists, indeed multiply so, it follows that the class of victim is much larger than the class of perpetrator. Leniency toward criminals is not therefore a form of sympathy for the poor, but a failure to take either their lives or their property seriously. Theodore Dalrymple


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