Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sam's sketching

Sam, my 12 year-old daughter, has been sketching. I like what she does. The combination of hatching and sureness of line. She is into stars of the past. Here's one of Audrey Hepburn.

And Robert has delighted me lately with his dedication to practising the piano, sometimes 3-4 hours a day. In the holidays he used some of a small inheritance from his Nana to buy a Gulbransen, built during the prohibition in Chicago (I wish it could talk) to play his ragtime and boogie on. It was built to be loud for entertainment pre-amplification. It is certainly that but I never tire of hearing him progressing.

His 'dignity' has been returned to him

Am I surprised?

Mr Wells, the 'artist' who promotes the dignity of using the dole to reduce consumption, has had his benefit re-instated. This will probably include late payment of any entitlement he missed.

He also has a partner whose benefit is being similarly re-instated.

Apparently the Ministry did not observe correct procedures.

Clearly it is OK to be receiving a fee from Creative New Zealand, Wellington City Council and collecting the dole.

By coincidence I had just been reading the MSD Annual Report released yesterday. In it they make a huge song and dance about performance integrity and meeting objectives;

It is important New Zealanders have trust and confidence in how we deliver income support to people.

Yeah right.

(Mr Wells and partner also refused to sign a privacy waiver which would allow Work and Income to discuss their case. He, however continues to exercise his freedom to say whatever he damn well likes. That is thoroughly inconsistent action from a man who promotes 'honour'.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Another parable worth recalling

A commentor yesterday didn't think the parable of the professor and his grading system bore "any relation to how socialism works."

So I dug up another one, also well known but worth remembering;

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for dinner. The bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men — the poorest — would pay nothing; the fifth would pay $1, the sixth would pay $3, the seventh $7, the eighth $12, the ninth $18, and the tenth man — the richest — would pay $59.

That's what they decided to do. The ten men ate dinner in the restaurant every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement — until one day, the owner threw them a curve (in tax language a tax cut).

"Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily meal by $20." So now dinner for the ten only cost $80.00.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes. So the first four men were unaffected. They would still eat for free. But what about the other six — the paying customers? How could they divvy up the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his "fair share?"

The six men realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, Then the fifth man and the sixth man would end up being PAID to eat their meal. So the restaurant owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so the fifth man paid nothing, the sixth pitched in $2, the seventh paid $5, the eighth paid $9, the ninth paid $12, leaving the tenth man with a bill of $52 instead of his earlier $59. Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to eat for free.

But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings. "I only got a dollar out of the $20," declared the sixth man who pointed to the tenth. "But he got $7!"

"Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man, "I only saved a dollar, too . . . It's unfair that he got seven times more than me!".

"That's true!" shouted the seventh man, "why should he get $7 back when I got only $2? The wealthy get all the breaks!"

"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison, "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up. The next night he didn't show up for dinner, so the nine sat down and ate without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered, a little late what was very important. They were FIFTY-TWO DOLLARS short of paying the bill! Imagine that!

And here are a couple of real-life illustrations to go with it;

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Reminders I have received

The following arrived by e-mail. It's a new one on me (although the wonderful quote at the end is not);

An economics professor at a local college made the statement that he had never failed a single student before but had once failed an entire class.

That class had insisted that socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.

The professor then said, "OK, we will have an experiment in this class on socialism. All grades would be averaged and everyone would receive the same grade so no one would fail and no one would receive an A.

After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B.

The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy.

As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.

The second test average was a D! No one was happy.

When the third test rolled around, the average was an F.

The scores never increased. Bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings. and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.

At the end of the experiment, to their great surprise, all failed.

The professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed.

It could not be any simpler than that.

"You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it."

Dr. Adrian Rogers, 1931

Also well worth a read is Leftists, Progressives and Socialists by Walter Williams. Lest we forget...

What goes unappreciated is that socialists and communists have produced the greatest evil in mankind's history. You say, "Williams, what in the world are you talking about? Socialists, communists and their fellow travelers care about the little guy in his struggle for a fair shake! They're trying to promote social justice." Let's look at some of the history of socialism and communism.

Read more

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Foreshore and Seabed showdown looms

National only needs 4 Maori Party MPs to pass the Marine and Coastal Area Bill. Which has left me wondering why it is conceding ACT's amendment. There was a thread at Kiwiblog about this a couple of days back, with contributions from Rodney Hide clarifying ACT's position but I am still unconvinced about motives on either side. That ACT aren't simply being populist and that the Maori Party don't want more than they are letting on.

Now Turia is starting to hint at pulling their support.

Even if my limited capacity to grasp the legal nuances involved leaves me frustrated, watching this political stand-off develop is fascinating.

Presently National needs either ACT or the Maori Party to govern. But only for a few more months.

One of those parties is looking rather precarious. ACT is in danger of losing parliamentary representation next year. The Maori Party will almost certainly bring at least the same number of seats. Who is Key going to placate?

So naturally ACT needs to rouse public opposition to such a degree that Key daren't concede to the Maori Party demands which, all the while, Hone Harawira, now calling Hide "a little fat redneck", is furiously lobbying to ramp up.

But if National just pull the plug on the bill, do they pull the plug on post election support from the Maori Party? Tariana Turia has walked away from a major party before over the very same issue. They won't want to get to the end of this innings with no progress on the very issue the party was formed to resolve.

Perhaps Key could rethink his position on the Urewera demands. Would that be enough to keep the Maori Party on board? That would seriously endanger core National support but might bolster ACT (or NZ First). Or perhaps he could pull the plug on it, make more noise about the shortcomings of MMP, major parties being held to ransom by minor parties, the old ' tale wagging the dog' catchcry thereby priming people to vote in a FPP manner allowing National to go it alone.

Whatever develops, ACT is fighting for its life and the showdown is set to escalate.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

On jockeys and second chances

Tragically top Australian jockey, set to ride champion racehorse Shoot Out in the upcoming Cox Plate has been found dead at his Brisbane home. The 31 year-old father of one young son was found by his wife. He has had drug problems in the past but was apparently very fit and mentally well of recent times.

On a happier note I see that Lisa Cropp, ace New Zealand jockey who lost her licence due to P use, resumed riding on Saturday. Not in New Zealand however. She rode in Victoria. I wish her well and will be following her career.

Unlike Trevor Mallard who obviously doesn't believe in second chances.

Quote of the Day

"Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule — and both commonly succeed, and are right."

— H.L. Mencken

Some (I will link to this morning's DomPost editorial, Labour shift offers voters a clear choice when it is on-line) are celebrating Labour's move to the left because it will strengthen the difference between National and Labour. I am not. As Labour moves economically left, National can stay firmly where it is. And that isn't a good place.

Conservatives, liberals and libertarians

This is a fascinating WSJ article (hat tip Welfare State We're In) about the contrast between social conservatives, liberals and libertarians. The writer explains it in terms of 'karma'. The feeling that what goes around comes around. I think of it more simply as believing in whether or not people are deserving.

The notion of karma comes with lots of new-age baggage, but it is an old and very conservative idea. It is the Sanskrit word for "deed" or "action," and the law of karma says that for every action, there is an equal and morally commensurate reaction. Kindness, honesty and hard work will (eventually) bring good fortune; cruelty, deceit and laziness will (eventually) bring suffering. No divine intervention is required; it's just a law of the universe, like gravity.

Karma is not an exclusively Hindu idea. It combines the universal human desire that moral accounts should be balanced with a belief that, somehow or other, they will be balanced....

Liberals in the 1960s and 1970s seemed intent on protecting people from the punitive side of karma. Premarital sex was separated from its consequences (by birth control, abortion and more permissive norms); bearing children out of wedlock was made affordable (by passing costs on to taxpayers); even violent crime was partially shielded from punishment (by liberal reforms that aimed to protect defendants and limit the powers of the police).

Now jump ahead to today's ongoing financial and economic crisis. Again, those guilty of corruption and irresponsibility have escaped the consequences of their wrongdoing, rescued first by President Bush and then by President Obama. Bailouts and bonuses sent unimaginable sums of the taxpayers' money to the very people who brought calamity upon the rest of us. Where is punishment for the wicked?

...One of the biggest disagreements between the political left and right is their conflicting notions of fairness. Across many surveys and experiments, we find that liberals think about fairness in terms of equality, whereas conservatives think of it in terms of karma. In our survey for, we asked Americans how much they agreed with a variety of statements about fairness and liberty, including this one: "Ideally, everyone in society would end up with roughly the same amount of money." Liberals were evenly divided on it, but conservatives and libertarians firmly rejected it.

On more karmic notions of fairness, however, conservatives and libertarians begin to split apart. Here's a statement about the positive side of karma: "Employees who work the hardest should be paid the most." Everyone agrees, but conservatives agree more enthusiastically than liberals and libertarians, whose responses were identical.

And here's a statement about the negative side of karma: "Whenever possible, a criminal should be made to suffer in the same way that his victim suffered." Liberals reject this harsh notion, and libertarians mildly reject it. But conservatives are slightly positive about it....

Libertarians are closer to conservatives on two of the five main psychological "foundations" of morality that we study—concerns about care and fairness (as described above). But on the other three psychological foundations—group loyalty, respect for authority and spiritual sanctity—libertarians are indistinguishable from liberals and far apart from conservatives. We call these the three "binding" foundations because they are the psychological systems used by groups—including religious groups, the military and even college fraternities—to bind people together into tight communities of trust, cooperation and shared identity. When you think about morality as a way of binding individuals together, it's no wonder that libertarians (who prize individual liberty above all else) part company with conservatives.

All of this makes imminent good sense to me. I can see myself in there as a conservative in some ways. Let me illustrate that. I recently visited a home with children. I knew it would be a reasonably poor home. I wasn't there on volunteer business. It was a private matter. We have lots of toys the children have now grown out of. A particular toy would make a great gift I thought. But I left it in the boot of my car. If the home was looked after, if the kids were looked after, I would leave the gift. If the property was a mess with broken toys strewn all over the section (not uncommon in my experience) I would not leave the truck. There is my sense of deserving. Happily I was able to leave the children falling all over the gift.

Certainly for me fairness is about deserving, not about divvying up regardless.

On the other hand I am not a believer in punishment. If I was volunteering my job would be to help the family establish some routine and order and posivity which I would take on with gusto and cheerfulness which sometimes diminishes after a few visits. But I believe in everyone having a chance, everyone having potential. So there I am closer to the liberal.

The idea of having to conform to group-think or behaviour however leaves me cold and I move rapidly away from the conservative. Politically I am neither right nor left.

Can you recognise yourself in this article?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Wells: "...we are collectively being ripped off"

Tao Wells, advocate for arsing about, is not at all bright. Having provoked an angry reaction he refuses to recognise the substance of it;

Wells said the anger prompted by his argument was a response to the issues he raised, not an attack on him. "The anger is very real and it's not about me. It's about feeling ripped off – we are collectively being ripped off."

My anger is most definitely directed at you Mr Wells. Then at Creative New Zealand. Then at the socialist condition of New Zealand. I am not part of any 'we' you belong to. You are the rip-off merchant.

He was not advocating for people living off the state but "living for the state". However, he did not have any ideas on how this would be achieved, admitting "we're making this up as we go".

Translated: People should be communists but as communism doesn't work I have to make stuff up.

Look. It is simple. Find some fool who wants to part with their money to keep you fed, watered and intellectually indulged. Taking money from those who do not is theft. It is not art.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Labour promises built on faulty premises

Media Release


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Addressing this weekend's Labour Party Conference, Deputy Leader and Welfare Spokesperson, Annette King, singled out the domestic purposes benefit as a policy that would change under their new 'putting children first' philosophy.

"Unfortunately Ms King doesn't properly understand the dimensions of existing DPB dependence and its effect on children, "said welfare commentator Lindsay Mitchell.

"Ms King claimed that, 'Around 70% of people on the DPB move off the benefit in 4 years, it's used as a family transition.'

In striking contrast recent Ministry of Social Development research found that:

On average, sole parents receiving main benefits had more disadvantaged backgrounds than might have been expected:
· just over half had spent at least 80% of the history period observed (the previous 10 years in most cases) supported by main benefits[1]

Ms King went on to criticise National for cutting training support for sole parents yet a Treasury Report to the Welfare Working Group found that the Training Incentive Allowance may have actually resulted in beneficiaries staying on welfare for longer;

Fifty-one percent of DPB recipients participating in an intervention took the Training Incentive Allowance, which MSD found to have no effect on the time a beneficiary was likely to spend off benefit – in fact the study found there was a chance TIA slightly increased the average time spent on benefit. MSD did note there was a chance that TIA may have an unobserved long-term impact (after seven years) on time spent off benefit.[2]

The speech also claims that the DPB does not provide an adequate income. Yet a typical DPB recipient with two children living in Auckland receives $580 per week [3], significantly more than someone working full-time on the minimum wage earns. Hence the incentive to move off a benefit is reduced. International research shows that the higher benefit payments are, the more workless households result."

Mitchell says that starting from so many faulty premises does not bode well for the potential of Labour's promises to improve the prospects of children on welfare.