Saturday, December 24, 2005

Do life-improvers have value?

From the Adam Smith Institute, December 21;

The Times reports that "a hospital has drafted in a 'nicotine policeman' to patrol its grounds to catch rogue smokers." The official title is 'tobacco information officer,' and he is employed by Aberdeen Royal Infirmary to stop smokers congregating outside the hospital at entrances and car parks.

He joins real nappy officers, walking officers and five-a-day officers in helping to promote the kind of society which government wants us to live in. More to the point, he is one of several hundred thousand new public sector employees (the highest figure is 2m, but that includes all the state services as well). This has enabled Gordon Brown to boast about Britain's low unemployment compared with our partners. It has also diverted funds which other people have earned away from investment, savings, pensions and consumer spending.

It is possible that tobacco information officers and the others will help Britain's competitive position in the world, and participate in producing goods and services that people want and need. It is also possible that we value their services so highly that we will willingly pay the extra national and local taxes it takes to sustain this army of life-improvers. Then again, it could just prove that Groucho Marx was right when he said there ain't no sanity clause.

Footnote; notice that although our economy grew by a mere 0.2 percent in the September quarter, the government sector grew by 3. That's three too many.

Wayne's world

I confess to a masochistic streak. Most days I have a look at written Parliamentary questions, published daily. I wouldn't recommend it.

And to save you the trouble I will post noteworthy questions as I come across them (which isn't often.) Today's is chosen for its gravitas.

11031 (2005). Dr Wayne Mapp to the Minister of Transport (7 December 2005): Is the Ministry of Transport holding an end of year or Christmas function for staff during the month of December 2005; if so, are there to be any Christmas decorations at the function?

Friday, December 23, 2005

More on Local Govt

In my last post I said local government is getting out of hand. Here is why;

The Local Government Act 2002 (LGA 2002) requires local authorities to ‘play a broad role in promoting the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of their communities, taking a sustainable development approach.’

Coincidentally these are the words of Mike MacAvoy, CE of ALAC, who is reminding local govt that they "have legal obligations towards planning for alcohol in their communities."

To this end ALAC has produced a toolkit which includes information about the cost of alcohol-related harm for communities. I wonder if they include the cost of producing this toolkit in their calculations?

We should each individually take responsibility for planning for alcohol in our communities. Especially at this time of year. There is no need to spend over the odds on good bubbly but don't be stingy. If you are invited over to the neighbours make sure you take a bottle. But remember, if you are taking beer, one is not a good look.

Thank you Christchurch rate-payers

I find the salary of the Christchurch City Council Chief Executive absurd.

She has just had a 4.8 percent increase to $350,965.

Mayor Gary Moore says the increase is in line with the market range increase.

This isn't the market, it's public service. And local government is getting out of hand.

Oh, and she also received a bonus of $26,791. I hope she makes a point of thanking the ratepayers for this gift. Although "gift" is hardly the right word when the giver has no choice. My dictionary defines "gift" as "a voluntary transference of property with compensation." What is the word for "involuntary transference of property without compensation?"

Frederic Bastiat said, "The state is the great fiction by which everybody tries to live at the expense of everybody else."

Some are much better at it than others.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Why aren't we broke?

The DomPost features a large ALAC ad today which says alcohol harm is costing NZ $4 billion. That's interesting. ASH reckon that smoking is costing $22.5 billion. According to the Ministry of Health, obesity clocks in at $303 million and, if you've got any money left over from your trip to McDonalds then you might join the queue of problem gamblers who are losing almost $2 billion a year. Of course, you might live a much healthier lifestyle and still risk contributing to the $280 million that Water Safety NZ says drowning is costing each year.

Don't worry if your feeling left out. There are lots of other opportunities for you to contribute. The Maxim Institute reckons family breakdown costs us $5.7 billion and Amnesty International puts domestic violence at anywhere between $1.2 - 5.3 billion. National says crime comes in at a cool $7 billion. For those on the straight and narrow, even the workplace presents costly problems. WAVE claims that up to half of the working population is affected by workplace bullying which is costing the economy ..... millions. They mustn't have had a hat to pull a figure out of.

Don't let this drive you to despair or you risk adding to the cost of suicide, $1.4 billion.

How much so far? The running total is pushing $50 billion. Does that make any sense in an economy with a GDP of around $135 billion?

And I can think of at least one other item I've missed. The armies of busy-body, do-gooding, bossy-boots, parasitical, self-serving, victim-promoting, nose-in-the-trough, holier-than-thou hypocrites who spend your money telling you how to live your life.

More on Child Support

Melanie Phillips hits the nail hard on the head in this piece about the British child support agency and why it should be "put out of its misery."

"It is women above all who should be made to take responsibility for their behaviour. If they choose to tear up a marriage contract or to have children without committing themselves to the father, they should bear the financial burden. Instead of being propped up with benefits or money extorted from rejected men, they should be expected to support themselves through work.

This may sound harsh. But if women were forced to recalibrate where their interests lie once they become mothers, the steam would go out of the lone motherhood industry almost overnight."

The situation in Great Britain mirror's NZ's almost exactly. Except that per capita we have double the number of sole parents on a benefit.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Advice given reluctantly

The UK Child Support Agency has had to repay one in five men who were paying child support but turned out not to be the fathers after DNA testing cleared them.

Could it happen here? To the best of my knowledge, not at the moment. Not that I don't doubt there aren't thousands of women who have 'stung' some poor sucker for her own ends (a lifestyle footed by him and the taxpayer). But I believe that a father can only get a DNA test done if the mother gives her consent (and at his expense of course). Some people 'nick' some testing material and ship it off to an Aussie lab for analysis. But then you face the problem of the result's legality in the NZ court system.

Anyway, guys. Never trust a woman who tells you she has it "sorted". Take responsibility for your own fertility - never mind her's.

This is a very sad state of affairs. Again the welfare state has distorted the incentives and people get hurt - not least of all the children who find out, sometimes after many years, that Dad isn't Dad after all.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

RIP George Best

I was just adding the Adam Smith Institute to my links and had a quick look at their Joke of the Day. I like it.

Police have admitted that George Best was not buried in Belfast as previously stated. They have also admitted it was probably a mistake to have him secretly cremated in Hemel Hemstead last week.

And I wonder, what's the point?

Last Thursday I attended the Roy McKenzie Annual Lecture given by Marcel Lauziere, Deputy CE of the Ministry of Social Development.
The subject - Strong Families.

Lauziere is a Canadian on a two-year leave of absence from the Canadian Council on Social Development. We seem fond of importing Canadians. I'm sure we'll have better luck this time than with John Davy (Maori TV CE who turned out to be a con-artist) and more recently Paula Tyler , CYF boss, who decided to return to Canada less than a year after taking the job and consuming tens of thousands in relocation expenses.

According to Roy McKenzie's Jan Pryor, who introduced Lauziere, he was somewhat uneasy about moving from an NGO to become a bureaucrat. I'm not sure why. His track record suggests he is simply making a temporary transition from lobbying for redistribution to administering it.

He might ordinarily work in the non-govt sector but his organisation is a left-wing lobby group. He is uppermost a statist prepared to make concessions to the voluntary sector. I was disappointed.

Why? Because his speech began with promise. He admitted the audience might be surprised that he chose to talk about the need for strong families if New Zealand is to compete globally. He described economic development as going hand-in-hand with social development; they form a "virtuous circle" he said. All well and good.

But when asked what a strong family is he reverted to the typical correctness shown by academics and government wallahs, studiously avoiding mention of two parents, marriage, or work.

His speciality appeared to be childcare. This would provide the key to strong families. He wants more universal services for children, more early intervention, more government investment in children.

Here's the thing. How are we going to have these high levels of state intervention, with the attendent costs, at the same time as the kind of economic growth we need to be truly globally competitive? To be able, in Lauziere's words, " attract and retain talent."

Empty words I'm afraid. Still, he's already half way through his contract. He's got nothing to prove and nothing to lose.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Daycare centres the new child abusers?

According to Frank Haden, writing in today's Sunday Star Times, they are. He says, "Government (effectively) wants kindergartens to become daycare centres, with extended hours making it possible for mothers to dump their kids in a secure environment while they go away, sometimes far away, to work."

"In plain terms, this is official child abuse."

Daycare centres are mostly bad. Not because they are private, you understand, but because they,"disregard the fact that no pre-school child should be away from its mother for more than 3 or 4 hours at a time." And, "look into the background of troubled teenagers and you'll find many have spent much of their pre-school life in unsatisfactory commercial daycare."

My children attended both private daycare and kindergarten. There was no discernable difference in the standard of care .

But where Haden really trips up is blaming daycare for producing a "drug-soaked violent teenage generation." The overwhelming evidence is that those who end up in the youth courts have grown up in welfare homes where the state replaced the father.

Strangely enough the word "father" doesn't appear once in Haden's column.