On the first of October this year the elderly were given “free” public transport throughout New Zealand¹. Winston Peters used this as an election bribe in 2005 and Labour needed his support to stay in power so Peters was able to deliver on his promise (at the taxpayers’ expense, naturally). Thus the welfare state expanded.
No politician will take way “free” public transport for the elderly, because to do so would be political suicide: thus the welfare state endures.
There was another interesting effect arising from the giving of “free” public transport: Grey Power complained that the West Coast of the South Island had no public transport at all², and that it wasn’t fair that other people got “free” public transport whilst those on the West Coast – who pay the same taxes – got nothing. This is not an unreasonable complaint, but it does show one of the fallacies inherent in a welfare state.
The welfare state is is supposedly all about fairness and equality – Socialist/Marxist concepts – but it can never deliver those things. Public transport is a perfect illustration of this: everyone pays the same taxes, but those in rural areas do not receive the same level of service as those in the cities. Thus people in rural areas suffer unfairness in two ways; they don’t receive the same return on their tax dollars, and they don’t have the same level of public transport as city folk do.
There are three morals to this story:
1) the welfare state almost always expands (at the taxpayers’ expense), but very rarely shrinks.
2) Socialism/Marxism claims to cure inequality but in attempting to do so creates new inequalities.
3) life isn’t fair, and forcibly taking money from one person and giving to another will never alter that.
1. by a strange coincidence this “free” public transport was made available five weeks before an election. The fact that Labour did not acknowledge Peters’ role in this was indicative of the rift between them.
2. apart from long distance buses, which are unsubsidised and not part of the welfare scheme