Kiwi Polemicist

July 31, 2009

• Update: Govt makes it harder for beneficiaries to get off the benefit (Bennett releases income info)

The comments button is at the bottom right of this post.

This is an update to my earlier post Govt makes it harder for beneficiaries to get off the benefit.

The story so far:

  1. Two women went public, complaining about cuts in the Training Incentive Allowance that supposedly helps beneficiaries get off welfare by gaining qualifications (details in my earlier post).
  2. Minister of Social Development Destruction Paula Bennett released details of the income of those two beneficiaries, citing advice from the Privacy Commissioner which, she claims, allowed her to release the information.

This post has five sections:

  • Did Bennett comply with the Privacy Act (as interpreted by the Privacy Czar)?
  • Is the income information actually relevant information?
  • Is this governmental bullying?
  • The Privacy Act is dangerous and this case sets a precedent
  • Conclusions

Did Bennett comply with the Privacy Act (as interpreted by the Privacy Czar)?

The Privacy Czar’s advice to ministers says in part:

[Example #]8. In making allegations against a Department, an individual has released considerable personal detail to the news media. The Minister wishes to respond to the allegations using those details, but wants to add some further detail in order to answer specific allegations.

By releasing a large amount of personal information to the media, the individual is taking the risk that unfavourable publicity could result. If the Minister releases only information which is relevant to the issues raised by the individual, that person may not be able to claim that any particular harm was caused by the Minister’s disclosure rather than by the individual’s own disclosure. If the individual is not harmed, there would not be an interference with the individual’s privacy under section 66 of the Privacy Act.

In my humble opinion, using this as justification for releasing income details is marginal at best. I would not have said that these two released “considerable personal detail” (judging by this article).

Did Bennett release “only information which is relevant to the issues raised by the individual”? The NZ Herald quotes Jennifer Johnston as saying

“The DPB is a living, for which my children and I have been very grateful. But it does not afford an ability to save for these sorts of extra expenses. I was utterly dismayed to find out that the TIA had been canned.”

I cannot find a similar statement by Natasha Fuller, but absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

So, strictly speaking, Johnston at least raised the issue of her income and its insufficiency for funding training, so Bennett was compliant with the Privacy Czar’s advice.

Is this governmental bullying?

I believe so. The core issue here is the Training Incentive Allowance, but Bennett chose to release income details, and I am reminded of the “chilling effect” of the Electoral Finance Act. Remember that this sets a precedent, and a Minister could use the same justification for releasing income details of a wage earner or business owner.

Not PJ says

The details of my income are private because they’re a purely voluntary arrangement between me and my employer. They don’t concern anyone else. Those of Mses Fuller and Johnston on the other hand (and that of Ms Bennett, for that matter) concern everyone who has their pay packets raided by Inland Revenue to fund our gargantuan welfare state.

He has an excellent point, but I believe that the issue of restraint of governmental power is more important than the taxpayers’ right to know (I use that term very loosely) how much of their pay packet is going to Johnston and Fuller. In all situations the government has far too much information, and the public has little or none (asymmetry of information): we must not allow the state to abuse that knowledge/power more than they already do.

Is the income information actually relevant information?

Bennett is effectively saying “These women are receiving $X, therefore they don’t need the Training Incentive Allowance”. That is financial naivety of the highest order, and it is worrying when someone when someone who is supposed to be running the country thinks so simplistically.

The income information is not relevant information because it does not take into account the personal circumstances of these women: i.e., they may have medical or other problems that chew up a chunk of their income for reasons beyond their control. The release of effectively meaningless information supports my contention that this is governmental bullying.

The Privacy Act is dangerous and this case sets a precedent

Most people think that laws such as the Privacy Act and the Bill of Rights are good because they define their rights. They are in fact dangerous, because they restrict our rights to those which the government allows us to have. The advice to ministers from the Privacy Czar is a good example of this: if an individual raises issues in public then the door is wide open for the government to release private information. For example, a businessman could go to a newspaper and say “Inland Revenue is demanding weekly payments towards unpaid taxes that I cannot afford because my income is low. This is unreasonable and they’re pushing me towards bankruptcy”. Once he’s done so the door is wide open for the Minister of Inland Revenue Rape and Pillage to release that businessman’s income details and say “Of course he can afford the repayments demanded by Inland Revenue”.

Conclusions

New Zealand is a screwed up country (like all socialist democracies) and there is no “right answer” to the questions about privacy for beneficiaries and so on, because when everything is wrong then obviously nothing is right. In other words, when the foundations (the welfare state) are crooked the house (the answers to questions about the welfare state) will also be crooked.

I believe that the two primary issues here are:

  1. Governmental abuse of its ability to gather information at gun point
  2. Destruction of the right to privacy via the Privacy Act

What are your thoughts regarding this thorny situation?

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July 19, 2009

• Govt makes it harder for beneficiaries to get off the benefit

Filed under: Welfare state — Tags: , , , , , — Kiwi Polemicist @ 4:36 pm

The comments button is at the bottom right of this post.

I believe that the state should not be involved in welfare in any way whatsoever. However, if a state is daft enough and immoral enough to get involved in welfare then it makes sense for it to provide assistance to those beneficiaries who wish to earn a wage and get off the benefit. Quite apart from the intangible gains for the beneficiary (e.g. independence), assisting beneficiaries who wish to get off welfare is usually cheaper than continuing to pay that welfare.

Stunt_Dummy_Man2

Caution: the person who dreamed up this policy is hard at work on his next Bright Idea

Until now WINZ (Work and Income New Zealand, the state welfare agency) has provided the Training Incentive Allowance (TIA), which paid for course fees and related costs when a course would supposedly lead to employment. However, the NZ Herald is reporting that the TIA will now only be paid for courses that are NZQA level 3 or less. I’m not 100% certain, but as far I can tell that’s equivalent to 7th form/year 13 (the highest high school level. Finding out what these levels mean in reality is difficult). There are ten levels and level 7 is a Bachelor’s degree – remember that you need a degree to be a nurse these days. From my own experience I can tell you that Level 3 qualifications are only good for the most basic unskilled manual jobs.

According to WINZ people who have already started a course that’s level 4 or higher will still get the TIA:

Before 28 May 2009, approved courses did not have to be below level four of the National Qualifications Framework. Training Incentive Allowance can continue to be paid to clients who were undertaking a level four course and receiving Training Incentive Allowance for that course on 28 May 2009 and the course of study is continuing after 28 May 2009:

* until they complete study for their current qualification or

* until 31 December 2011

whichever is the earlier.

That’s good for those people who have already started courses, but this change was announced in the May budget so people planning to do a course have only had three months warning that their plans are scuttled. It appears that many haven’t even been given that.

Welfarism is a disease that has wrecked our country (click here for more on that) and the TIA was one way of reducing welfarism. Does the government actually want to keep people on the benefit or in low-paid work?

This new policy is penny wise and pound foolish.

What do you think about this new policy of stopping assistance for qualifications of Level 4 or higher?

Click here for an update to this post.

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July 10, 2009

• The problem with democracy – Part One

Filed under: Government/State, Politics, Welfare state — Tags: , , , , , — Kiwi Polemicist @ 8:33 pm

Over the past ten years I have spent a lot of time walking around areas where the majority of the population is dependent on welfare and I have observed the following:

  • allowing children to play on the road is a common practice and apparently it’s best to start them young: why else would toddlers be playing on the road?
  • staying at home and playing a TV or stereo at full volume all day is also a common practice.
  • sitting in a garage with a supply of beer and cigarettes is a popular pastime, especially when it includes the thunderous TV or stereo mentioned above and the garage is fitted out as a lounge.
  • lack of respect for other people’s property rights is shown by the number of people who take supermarket trolleys home and/or apply graffiti to every available surface. Supermarkets regard vehicles designed for trolley recovery as essential equipment.
  • the shopping areas are always filthy.
  • the kids are usually deserving of a muzzle and leash. Certainly the shopkeepers wish that they were muzzled and leashed, not to mention handcuffed.
  • most of the population smokes, despite the fact that they are supposed to be poor and cigarettes are expensive.
  • shops that specialise in alcohol are a dime a dozen, despite the fact that alcohol is a luxury and these people are supposed to be poor.
  • dishonesty is rife. In a welfare-dependent area I have seen two men enter a property at night and steal a pot plant. In a wealthy area I have seen a boat and equipment worth thousands parked beside the road. It was obviously there long term, it was undamaged, and there was no security (with the possible exception of a trailer lock). The mast, ropes, etc were all in plain view and I found this quite shocking because I am used to welfare dependent areas where such things would be destroyed or stolen in a blink.
  • people have no hesitation when it comes to asking me for money, even kids munching on McDonalds (see my earlier post on that)
  • it is common to see people who adopt (or natively possess) the thug persona and have antisocial body language. Think of a Black Power member without the patch and you’ll get the idea.
  • personal safety is greatly reduced. I know a woman who was mugged in daylight in a welfare dependent area, but when I go to wealthy areas it is common to see woman out alone after dark.
  • it is normal to see people standing around eating junk food. About five years ago I saw a woman feeding bananas to her four well-behaved children, and this combination of factors was so astonishing that the scene was seared into my memory. Mind you, she wasn’t your typical local.
  • basic good manners are scarce. E.g., if you tell someone that they’ve left their car lights on they’ll just turn them off without even a nod of thanks and possibly without even looking at you [1].

I’ll get back to those observations, but first consider this: the problem with democracy – one of the many problems – is that it lets the majority steal from everyone else. How does this work?  Let’s say that the Purple Party desires power and they know that under a democratic system they have to woo the majority before they can have that power. So they do some market research and find out that what the majority of the population really wants is a free lollipop every day: this majority either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that someone has to pay for the lollipops, they just want “free” lollipops. So the Purple Party starts its electoral campaign and says “Vote for us and we’ll give everyone a free lollipop every day”. This strategy works because a great many voters are so stupid and selfish that their voting decision comes down to “Which party will give me the most lollipops?”. Election day comes around and, sure enough, the majority think only of themselves and vote for the party that will steal money from everyone else in order to satisfy their desires. That’s how the Lollipop Mob comes to rule the country. Democracy is mob rule, and the mob appoints a few people to go to Wellington and do their stealing for them because theft is legal if you’re a member of parliament [2].

New Zealand has long been a welfare state, and those policies have made so many people dependent on welfare that it is political suicide to not give them what they want. Therefore the rough, hedonistic, dishonest, rude, ignorant, uncaring and incompetent members of society that I have observed in welfare dependent areas (yes, some aren’t like that) are typical examples of the mob that is ruling New Zealand.

Furthermore, any politician that this mob votes for has to conform to that mob’s standards, so we get rough, hedonistic, dishonest, rude, ignorant, uncaring and incompetent members of parliament. That’s why we get rude, ignorant and dangerous ex-beneficiaries like Sue Bradford in parliament, not to mention slightly more polished ones like Paula Bennett.

Have a look at what Hans-Hermann Hoppe has to say about this (you can jump to the blue bit if you wish, but the preamble is well worth reading):

Theoretically speaking, the transition from monarchy to democracy involves no more or less than a hereditary monopoly “owner” (the prince or king) being replaced by temporary and interchangeable monopoly “caretakers” (presidents, prime ministers, and members of parliament). Both kings and presidents will produce bads, yet a king, because he “owns” the monopoly and may sell or bequeath it, will care about the repercussions of his actions on capital values.

As the owner of the capital stock on “his” territory, the king will be comparatively future-oriented. In order to preserve or enhance the value of his property, he will exploit only moderately and calculatingly. In contrast, a temporary and interchangeable democratic caretaker does not own the country, but as long as he is in office he is permitted to use it to his advantage. He owns its current use but not its capital stock. This does not eliminate exploitation. Instead, it makes exploitation shortsighted (present-oriented) and uncalculated, i.e., carried out without regard for the value of the capital stock.

Nor is it an advantage of democracy that free entry into every state position exists (whereas under monarchy entry is restricted by the king’s discretion). To the contrary, only competition in the production of goods is a good thing. Competition in the production of bads is not good; in fact, it is sheer evil. Kings, coming into their position by virtue of birth, might be harmless dilettantes or decent men (and if they are “madmen,” they will be quickly restrained or if need be, killed, by close relatives concerned with the possessions of the dynasty).

In sharp contrast, the selection of government rulers by means of popular elections makes it essentially impossible for a harmless or decent person to ever rise to the top. Presidents and prime ministers come into their position as a result of their efficiency as morally uninhibited demagogues [3] [who are willing to bribe the mob with lollipops bought with stolen money]. Hence, democracy virtually assures that only dangerous men will rise to the top of government.

In particular, democracy promotes an increase in the social rate of time preference (present-orientation) or the “infantilization” of society. It results in continually increased spending and taxes, paper money and paper money inflation, an unending flood of legislation, and a steadily growing “public” debt. By the same token, democracy leads to lower savings, increased legal uncertainty, moral confusion, lawlessness, and crime. Further, democracy is a tool for wealth and income confiscation and redistribution. It involves the legislative “taking” of the property of some (the haves) and the “giving” of it to others (the have-nots).

And since it is presumably something valuable that is being redistributed–of which the haves have too much and the have-nots too little–any such redistribution implies that the incentive to be of value or produce something valuable is systematically reduced. In other words, the proportion of not-so-good people and not-so-good personal traits, habits, and forms of conduct and appearance will increase, and life in society will become increasingly unpleasant. (I recommend that you read the entire article)

So, if democracy is a rotten egg, who can lay a better one? I believe that there aren’t any fresh eggs, i.e. all systems of governance by humans stink abominably, and therefore all we can do is pursue the least of the evils [4]. As you can see from the quote above, Hoppe gives some very good reasons for believing that you and I would be better off with an absolute monarch rather than the mob rule of democracy. When I first heard this idea it melted a few of my cerebral wires (I’m all for personal freedoms), but if you set aside your preconceptions and look at Hoppe’s article objectively you’ll find a lot of merit in his argument that absolute monarchy is a lesser evil than mob rule/democracy.

What are your thoughts regarding democracy and the alternatives?

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Related posts:

Poisonous are the fruits of welfarism

Slices of life from Auckland Hospital

I highly recommend the book Life at the bottom : the worldview that makes the underclass by Theodore Dalrymple.

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1. To be fair, these people are partially exculpated (freed from blame) by the fact that welfarism encourages such characteristics. Also, similar behaviour can be seen amongst those who are very wealthy and have a lot of free time, e.g. pop stars and those who have no need to work due to inherited wealth.

2. Very often the Purple Party will bring in policies that encourage welfare dependence in order to enlarge the mob that votes for them, both now and in future generations. It’s a symbiotic relationship: the Lollipop Mob gets the “free” lollipops that they want and the Purple Party gets the power that they want (although ultimate power remains with the mob).

3. Demagogue: a political agitator who appeals with crude oratory to the prejudice and passions of the mob (Collins English Dictionary). “Passions” means desires or lusts, including lust for lollipops.

4. The anarchocapitalists say that we do not need a state, monarchy, or any other form of governance: I am not yet fully persuaded that such a system would be workable and stable. I suspect that human nature would lead to the formation of states or their equivalent.

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April 8, 2009

• Police want drinking age raised

The comments button is at the bottom right of this post.

A Police Association survey has shown that 72% of the statist thugs in blue want the drinking age raised to 20.

There are two main issues here:

  1. the state has no right to tell people when they are old enough to drink: think “Nanny State”
  2. the drinking age isn’t the problem

Let’s look further at #2. I believe that the problem with alcohol abuse – which is not a problem that the state should be attempting to solve – arises from people being raised to be nihilistic hedonists. Translation: people are raised to believe that there is no meaning or purpose to life beyond personal pleasure so they go and get drunk. Universal welfare is also a problem, permitting people to be be permanently drunk without the penalties that a drunken worker would experience. You can even get an Invalids Benefit on grounds of alcoholism.

The ironic thing is that the secular humanism taught in schools encourages nihilistic hedonism so the state is trying to fix a problem which it has aided and abetted.

The state cannot solve the drinking problem, nor should it attempt to.

Related posts:

The minimum drinking age

The pointless death of an undercover policeman (arguments for drug legalisation, which also apply to alcohol)

A biblical perspective on home schooling and state schooling

Do you think that we should have a minimum drinking age or not? Do you think that raising the drinking age will help?

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March 28, 2009

• Government dropping DPB work rule

The comments button is at the bottom right of this post.

The National government had planned to get beneficiaries (welfare recipients) on the Domestic Purposes Benefit to work part time when their youngest child turned six. In earlier posts I said that this idea would backfire and it placed homeschooling beneficiaries in grave danger of having to send their children to the state brainwashing camps called state schools.

Now the government has dropped the plan, for a daft reason:

…yesterday Social Development Minister Paula Bennett confirmed it was on the backburner because people were being made redundant and jobs were in short supply.

I believe that this is a good move, for two reasons:

  • as I said in my earlier post, beneficiaries would have just had more children to to avoid the work rule, resulting in more fatherless children, more life-long problems for those children, more crime, more costs for taxpayers, and more multigenerational welfare dependency
  • those beneficiaries who wish to homeschool will be free to do so. Not only will those children be free of state indoctrination, but it is reasonable to assume that the sort of parents willing to do the hard yards of homeschooling are less likely to raise future beneficiaries

Why do I agree with this move when I believe that the state should not provide welfare? Because the DPB work rule would have simply increased the number of people dependent on welfare: dropping the rule is the lesser of the evils.

Related posts:

Paula Bennett claims ownership of all New Zealand children

A biblical perspective on home schooling and state schooling

What do you think about the dropping of the work rule?

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