Saturday, January 20, 2007

Public vs private charity

There is a debate going on at Cactus Kate's site about private vs public charity, charity being the giving of resources to the poor or needy. Some people want the government right out of it. Others want the government to continue on being the main provider through the welfare state.

There is risk in every life. Risk of sickness, disability, death of a partner, unemployment, etc. And so individuals feel they must make provision for these possibilities, even though the risks have lessened over time rather than increased.

In the early part of last century the debate was about whether the government should be the insurer. The 1938 Social Security Act developed a plethora of benefits which were all funded from one social security tax (absorbed into general taxation in the 60s). People were delighted with it. A great deal of suffering was alleviated. As there existed a commonality of values the scheme was appreciated, not abused. (Although there were problems with the then quite separate rural Maori society with benefits supposed to be for the indivual or children, being abused by the wider whanau).

But, as long as the numbers stayed low and the recipients were genuine, society was reasonably pleased with the set up. And government was just as suited to fill the role as any private charity or friendly society.

Unfortunately, as values changed, the permissive society evolved, sexual liberation proliferated, feminisim raged, non-judgementalism became the new religion, people demanded more rights, more welfare and the government had to loosen eligibility. For instance, before the sixties a person who had themselves caused the condition that prevented them from working eg an alcoholic, wasn't eligible for a sickness benefit. Before the sixties single mothers were helped by the state but didn't automatically qualify for a benefit.

So what we now have (as in all welfare states) is a group of people who have retained values like honesty, a work ethic, those sometimes called judeo-christian and they are clashing with others' values or lack of. The first no longer want to pay for the welfare of the second although they would still be happy to help the genuine.

So the question arises, is government the best agency to provide charity, given what has developed?

The answer as it stands is no. Not only because of the fact it takes money for welfare off people who no longer want to 'buy-in' but also because of the diversity of opinion about just who is deserving and who isn't.

Here's the thing though. As long as the government continues to insist on being the major player using taxpayer money, people are not inclined to further support private charities - and even some of those have become socialist enclaves constantly advocating for more government redistribution from 'rich' to 'poor' instead of doing the work of getting people back on their feet.

Ultimately the answer will have to come from government. It'll take a very brave one (and they aren't unheard of) prepared to do a number of things.

A/ Close down working-age welfare to newcomers except in a tightly specified cases eg people whose disabilies or illnesses genuinely prevent them from working and have no other source of income eg immediate family
B/ Allow people to opt-out of the existing welfare system. No tax - no benefits
C/ Make donations to private charities fully tax deductible
D/ Make insurance premiums for loss of earnings or loss of partner (including separation) policies tax deductible
E/ Put considerably more money into Law and Order
F/ Encourage adoption ahead of fostering

Unlike absolutist libertarians I am not overly concerned with banishing government from any charitable role or constantly focusing on it as the sole source of our social problems. Let those who can (most), make their own provisions and make it easier for them to support private organisations that will work with those the government no longer supports.

There is no utopia. Things will get worse before they get better. Society is constantly changing and policy causes those changes as well as responds to them. We are dynamic beings individually and collectively. And in states older than ours, historically, the provision of welfare has swung between public and private. We are merely repeating that pattern. The pendulum is possibly at the extreme point in its trajectory but will by necessity and nature soon change direction.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Not an isolated case

Through volunteer work I occasionally come across a woman like this. They are perfectly nice, well-meaning, sociable and reasonable beings until they start drinking and they they turn into nasty, brawling bingers who can stay drunk for days. And the trick with the beer bottle is pretty typical.


'Of course, a positive correlation by itself is not enough to deduce a causal relationship, but certainly one would be very foolish to conclude from the evidence that "the link between maltreatment and heart disease is NOT CAUSED by growing up in poorer families..."

This is a comment from Rose in response to a post yesterday. She admits not reading the newspaper report and then questions whether I have. Rose, I wouldn't write a post without checking my facts.

Are you saying the researchers are "very foolish"? Quote;

The study also showed that the link between maltreatment and inflammation was not caused by growing up in poorer families or with a less healthy lifestyle.

Do you know what that means? They controlled for those factors. They must have found the link existed even where families were more affluent and had healthier lifestyles.To me that is the most interesting aspect of this particular paper.

And it is notable that the Public Health Association chose to ignore this aspect and instead talk about child maltreatment and smacking (as if they are one and the same thing) in order to further promote Sue Bradford's bill.

Just for good measure here is what the actual paper says (with my emphasis).

Stress in early life has been associated with insufficient glucocorticoid signaling in adulthood, possibly affecting inflammation processes. Childhood maltreatment has been linked to increased risk of adult disease with potential inflammatory origin. However, the impact of early life stress on adult inflammation is not known in humans. We tested the life-course association between childhood maltreatment and adult inflammation in a birth cohort followed to age 32 years as part of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study. Regression models were used to estimate the effect of maltreatment on inflammation, adjusting for co-occurring risk factors and potential mediating variables. Maltreated children showed a significant and graded increase in the risk for clinically relevant C-reactive protein levels 20 years later, in adulthood [risk ratio (RR) = 1.80, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.26-2.58]. The effect of childhood maltreatment on adult inflammation was independent of the influence of co-occurring early life risks (RR = 1.58, 95% CI = 1.08-2.31), stress in adulthood (RR = 1.64, 95% CI = 1.12-2.39), and adult health and health behavior (RR = 1.76, 95% CI = 1.23-2.51). More than 10% of cases of low-grade inflammation in the population, as indexed by high C-reactive protein, may be attributable to childhood maltreatment. The association between maltreatment and adult inflammation also generalizes to fibrinogen and white blood cell count. Childhood maltreatment is a previously undescribed, independent, and preventable risk factor for inflammation in adulthood. Inflammation may be an important developmental mediator linking adverse experiences in early life to poor adult health.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Dunne in high dudgeon

If there is a politician that can elicit a laugh completely devoid of humour it is Peter Dunne. Here he is today sanctimoniously upbraiding the Greens;

"In my opinion it is extremely short-sighted of the Greens to criticise others and take the moral high ground when the fact of the matter is that the only way they will be able to significantly contribute to future solutions will be to work alongside other parties......scorecards are not the way to foster cooperation"

Hilarious. From the man who keeps a scorecard on the behaviour of his fellow MPs like, as the Waikato Times once pointed out, a "school boy snitch."

This is also the man who vowed not to be part of any coalition Government if a Green MP held a cabinet post.

Personally I would take the Greens over United Future any day of the week.

"Kia kaha, stay strong"

According to a NewstalkZB reporter those were the words called out to the 15 year-old accused killer of 77-year-old Doreen Reed. The family stood for the duration of his appearance and while there was much expression of sorrow from both parties there was seemingly none of shame.

Perhaps they do not believe their kid did it. Maybe he didn't. But is this how you would behave in their position?

Last night I heard he was out on bail and under curfew when he allegedly committed the crime. I see no reports confirming this. But if it is true, and he is the killer, then I can only go back to my post of just two days ago. Build the facilities. Lock them up. Stop the leniency. The first duty of a government is to protect its citizens. They are failing miserably. And it isn't just the direct victims and their families who suffer. There will be elderly people living alone unable to sleep at night. We can't keep on accepting the further erosion of our quality of life.

Spin by ommission

Yesterday newspapers reported the release of another paper from the ongoing Dunedin Multi-disciplinary Health and Development Study. It found that child maltreatment was linked to heart disaese in later life due to the body's inflammatory reaction to stress. Here is one response from the Public Health Association, who spin it as another reason to ban smacking;

"Gay Keating of the Public Health Association says the report is a wake-up call for families, politicians, health services and society in general. She says it highlights the impact hitting children as a form of discipline can have. Ms Keating says the law regarding smacking needs to be changed and parents must learn how to exercise discipline without causing damage."

Of course one couldn't expect Gay Keating to put out the following;

"A new report shows that the link between maltreatment and heart disease is not caused by growing up in poorer families or with less healthy lifestyles therefore the policies we have been promoting, increasing benefit levels for example, are not the answer after all."

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Fewer husbands in situ


For what experts say is probably the first time, more American women are living without a husband than with one, according to a New York Times analysis of census results.

* In 2005, 51 percent of women said they were living without a spouse, up from 35 percent in 1950 and 49 percent in 2000.
* In 2005 married couples became a minority of all American households for the first time.

The above is from the US National Center for Policy Analysis (sorry, links down again). In NZ the single person household is the fastest growing type. In 2006 51.5 people (15 years+) were never married or separated.

Of course there is more behind this than women simply rejecting men (or vice versa) although I seem to know truckloads who have. Now that females are no longer necessarily economically dependent on males it would appear many are staying out or getting out of marriages. The article cites women marrying later and living longer as factors. Low marriage rates amongst Blacks and Hispanics (and here, Maori) are also adding to the trend.

Perhaps this trend is merely a reflection of less permanence in our lives. In partnerships, jobs and homes. As one who values security I don't think it is a positive trend. But then I am probably just an old fuddy-duddy (a word I heard Richard Branson using the other day but have forgotten in what context.)

Good on Rodney Hide

"And I'm buggered if I know what the Nats stand for other than doing whatever Labour does but promising to do it better."

Good to see the gloves off.

Apparently Bill English thinks ACT are now irrelevant. There was discussion of this on Radio Live yesterday after an interview with English appeared in Investigate.

Under Don Brash and pushing ACT policies National did manage to make ACT irrelevant.

Under English ACT was relevant.

He can't now swan back onto the stage with the same centrist agenda and hope that ACT will stay irrelvant. Saying it will not make it so.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The rapist

After some further thought, the rapist already referred to said he "just wanted to have sex". Pretty much like he just wanted pizza except he didn't steal that.

People like this are emotionally stunted. They have the thought processes of very young children but the needs and drives of adults, which makes them unpredictable and dangerous.

Beyond the remand facilities being full, I cannot understand why he was granted bail. Add to that, he has now seen himself portrayed in the media being 'staunch' (making foul gestures) and with his severely limited moral capacities is probably feeling quite pleased with himself. Soon he will be wanting more attention.

It seems to me that justice officials are constantly taking unacceptable risks with public safety. The unavoidable conclusion is we must build more lock- up facilities, especially for young offenders. Whatever follows that is a secondary consideration.

Work-testing "draconian"

The following are excerpts from an article about Australian welfare reform posted at the World Socialist Web Site;

The new, far more draconian, system also affects single parents and the disabled, many of whom have been placed on Newstart Allowances (unemployment benefits), rather than Parenting Payments or Disability Support Pensions, for the first time from July 1. Those now being subjected to the “work test” include single parents whose youngest child has turned eight, partnered parents when their youngest child turns six, and disabled people deemed able to work between 15 and 29 hours per week.

...In addition to these measures, Family Services Minister Mal Brough recently unveiled a planned voucher scheme to restrict welfare benefits where the government alleges that children are being neglected.

Up to 40 percent of payments will be denied to drug and alcohol addicted parents, parents who allegedly gamble and parents whose children regularly skip school. Instead they will receive vouchers that can be used only on food, rent, clothing and essential bills. Brough said discussions with retailers and software companies had come up with a plan to issue a debit card that could not be used to buy certain items such as junk food or cigarettes.

This system will lead to discrimination and public humiliation, with those on vouchers assumed to be neglectful or drug-addicted.

By now I should be used to socialist views but ...I'm not. They don't accept any obligation on the behalf of people on benefits, they reject any kind of alternative work as demeaning, they express no concern about children having drug and alcohol-addicted parents but worse, all the usual suspects come out supporting them. Many of today's charities have lost their way. Traditionally charity theorists understood the principles of helping people help themselves and the value of reciprocity. Now they just indulge and manage and demand the government funds them to do it. And I could say something platitudinous about being part of the problem...

Updated blog

Just updated my artist blog. I was going to post my gorgeous niece here but didn't want to put her on the same page as below scumbag.

It was dashed off as a last minute Xmas present for my brother. The other painting is of my friends daughter, the enigmatic Katie, also a present.

Senator's small-mindedness

The suggestion that Condoleezza Rice is incapable of understanding the anguish caused by American losses in Iraq because she has never had children has triggered a feminist firestorm.

Having to put up with this sort of waspishness at least means Condoleezza Rice and our PM have something in common.

I wonder what box Senator Barbara Boxer would put Helen Clark in?

This is rape

This is rape.

Monday, January 15, 2007

So many murders

Does anyone know how many murders there have been in 2007? If the Christchurch child is included, 6.

A woman was heard on the TV saying when she was a child one could recite the names of all the people murdered in a year. Some skepticism was expressed about this but I countered, she is right. In the sixties you could count the murders on one hand. As it stands we have already equalled the total for 1968 and 69 combined.